Sillem’s Rosefinch

Sillem’s Rosefinch Carpodacus sillemi In 1929, Dutch ornithologist Jerome Alexander Sillem collected two specimens of an unknown finch-like bird near the Karakoram Pass in extreme southwestern Tibet. In 1992, those specimens were recognized as coming from a new species, then called Sillem’s Mountain Finch. In 2012, French photographer Yann Muzika photographed Sillem’s Mountain Finch in Yeniugou in western Qinghai. It was the first time the bird had been documented in the wild since 1929. In 2016, a study determined that the species is a rosefinch, sister species to Tibetan Rosefinch C. roborowskii. Sillem’s Rosefinch is probably scarce and localized throughout its range, which may include much of the country above 4500 m (14,760 ft.) between Yeniugou and the Karakoram Pass to the west some 1500 km (930 mi.). Sillem’s may often associate with other high-altitude finches. Specimens collected in 1929 were part of a mixed flock including mountain finches, and the Sillem’s that Muzika saw were with Tibetan Rosefinch and Brandt’s Mountain Finch Leucosticte brandti. Birders should look for a plain, brownish-grey finch with long wings that extend almost to the tail tip. The species is probably sexually dimorphic, with male having a tawny head (browner around face), brownish-grey upperparts, pale rump, and dull blackish-brown tail and wings fringed pale grey. Underparts off-white with yellowish-buff wash on flanks. Female paler greyish-brown and streaked above; underparts off-white with faint grey streaks on upper breast. In Muzika’s photos, male Sillem’s has short, greyish-black bill; in photo of bird considered to be a female Sillem’s, bill yellow. Compared to female Tibetan Rosefinch, female Sillem’s has shorter bill and longer wings and is paler grey and less streaked. Feet black. Vocalizations undescribed. — Craig Brelsford

THE ROSEFINCHES OF CHINA covers all species in the genus Carpodacus in China. Click any link below:

Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus
Scarlet Finch C. sipahi
Streaked Rosefinch C. rubicilloides
Great Rosefinch C. rubicilla
Red-mantled Rosefinch C. rhodochlamys
Himalayan Beautiful Rosefinch C. pulcherrimus
Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch C. davidianus
Pink-rumped Rosefinch C. waltoni
Pink-browed Rosefinch C. rodochroa
Dark-rumped Rosefinch C. edwardsii
Spot-winged Rosefinch C. rodopeplus
Sharpe’s Rosefinch C. verreauxii
Vinaceous Rosefinch C. vinaceus
Pale Rosefinch C. synoicus
Tibetan Rosefinch C. roborowskii
Sillem’s Rosefinch C. sillemi
Siberian Long-tailed Rosefinch C. sibiricus
Chinese Long-tailed Rosefinch C. lepidus
Pallas’s Rosefinch C. roseus
Three-banded Rosefinch C. trifasciatus
Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch C. thura
Chinese White-browed Rosefinch C. dubius
Red-fronted Rosefinch C. puniceus
Crimson-browed Finch C. subhimachalus

See also:

Taiwan Rosefinch Carpodacus formosanus


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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