Tibetan Snowfinch

Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla henrici inhabits eastern Tibetan Plateau from Qinghai Lake to central and eastern Tibet and western Sichuan. Breeds on rocky, barren ground and in alpine meadows from above timberline to snowline, to 4600 m. Hops and runs quickly; flies powerfully. Monotypic. Long-winged, long-tailed, with large white patch on otherwise mostly black wing (brown tertials and scapulars). Earth-brown above, mainly unstreaked on head and neck; blackish streaking on mantle and back. Small, sometimes (in winter) diffuse black bib, bounded by white submoustachial stripe; black lore; white supercilium. On folded wing, white patch appears as long panel, but in flying birds white patch predominates over black parts of outstretched wings. Rump and uppertail coverts black at center, white at sides; tail mainly white, with two black central tail feathers and black tips to all rectrices. Underparts greyish-white, with dark-brown flanks. Female duller than male and has smaller, less distinct bib. Juvenile has more uniform brownish head and upperparts. Tibetan snowfinch has a paler, less contrasting grey-brown head and less white on wing (white broken by broad black bases of secondaries in open wing). Juvenile Tibetan also recognized by wing pattern and paler head. Very similar white-winged snowfinch (ssp. groumgrzimaili and kwenlunensis) is paler overall and has more sandy-brown upperparts, a more uniformly grey head, and a faint or absent white submoustachial stripe and supercilium. Other snowfinches easily identified by different head, wing and rump pattern. Bill horn in non-breeding birds; during breeding season, black with basal half of lower mandible yellow; iris brown. Feet black. Abrupt, nasal calls. Flocks twitter constantly. — Craig Brelsford


shanghaibirding.com has research on most of the 13 species in the family Passeridae in China. Click any link:

Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii
Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla henrici
White-winged Snowfinch M. nivalis
Black-winged Snowfinch M. adamsi
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis
Pere David’s Snowfinch P. davidiana
Blanford’s Snowfinch P. blanfordi
Russet Sparrow Passer cinnamomeus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow P. montanus
Saxaul Sparrow P. ammodendri
Spanish Sparrow P. hispaniolensis
House Sparrow P. domesticus


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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