Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

Like the other Rosy-Finches, the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch is a bird of the high mountains; breeding above timberline. These birds favor alpine tundra near talus slops and cliff faces but winter at lower elevations. It is the southernmost of the three species and has the smallest distribution and is common in Colorado.
This beautiful shot contributed by Bill Maynard,
editor of the
American Bird Conservancy's publication "Winging It"
Look for samples of the publication on that last link!

This is the most distinctive of these related finches, with rosy colors covering more of its body than in other species, but it lacks the clear gray color on the head that is so characteristic of the other species. The Brown-capped has a cinnamon-brown on back, breast, neck and face, with a distinct black or dark-brown cap covering forehead, crown and back of the head. Like the others the pink/red is found on the belly, rump and in the wings. As with all Rosy-Finches, plumages similar throughout year, except reds are more intense in summer. Females are similar to males, but much grayer and overall-lighter in color.

This shot shows how dark a Black back is
compared to a Brown's.
I love the beautiful patterns...

The Brown-capped Rosy-Finch looks most like the Gray-crowned. However, because some Brown-caps are more gray than others, and some Gray-crowns (especially females), have less gray and become browner (sometimes with no gray), the two species can look very similar. As a result, many individuals have been misidentified even in the hand and even in museum collections and by experts. Juvenile birds are drab gray-brown all over, with pinkish in wings.

The nests are above timberline wherever cliffs, caves, rock slides, or old buildings provide nest sites, and where adequate feeding grounds on tundra, rock slides, snowfields, and glaciers are within commuting distance. Like other Rosy-finches, the Brown-caps build their nests in crevices where they stay completely in the shade. The nests are on the ground or in a crevice; consist of a tightly woven cup of fine grass, stems, and rootlets surrounded by thicker layer of woven coarse stems and roots and mud, and lined with softer grass, feathers, and hair. One Brown-capped Rosy-Finch nest was frozen in ice each night as water trickling through the site froze.

Brown-caps winter in open areas, including alpine tundra during fair weather, and in the high meadows and open grassy valleys and shrub-land between mountain ranges. These rosies occasionally occur a short distance east of foothills on plains, but not as far or as often as other species of Rosy-Finch. It occurs regularly on Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) in Colorado; infrequently in New Mexico as far south as Albuquerque (Sandia Mountains), but only once in last 50 yr on counts anywhere in Wyoming.

From Wikipedia

All Rosy-finches eat insects, spiders and other bugs and seeds; this one prefers new seed to year-old seed. At feeders, individuals eat many kinds of seeds, including millet, canary seed and corn, but have been said to reject sunflower seeds…not something I’ve seen here in Huerfano County, Colorado.

This bird may be declining slightly.
Data from the Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC) seem to indicate a steady decline over the last 30 years with average annual total counts about half in 1990 from 1970 counts (only 500 from 1000!)

The Brown-capped Rosy-Finch has a small range, only about 6000 square miles. It has an estimated population of 45,000 individual birds. It is not believed to meet population size or decline thresholds that would necessitate the species' inclusion on the IUCN Red-list. Because of its current population status, the
Brown-capped Rosy-Finch currently has an evaluation level of Least Concern ...and yet it may be declining.

The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America – David Allen Sibley
Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America – Ted Floyd
Western Birds – Roger Tory Peterson
Birds of North America-Online from Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Field Guide to Birds of North America – also from Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Science for a Changing World

Photos are mine... except where noted; including the lovely one contributed by Bill Maynard. Thanks Bill!

This is the third of a four-part series on Rosy-Finches


Anonymous said...


We're your neighbors [home at 8,200 feet near La Veta Pass] and we love your bird pictures and commentaries.

We were wondering about your elevation, since you see many more different kinds of birds than we do.

Just curious!

Mary Anne and Manuel

Beverly said...

What a shame you are Anonymous! Well, as neighbors, I'd think you'd know the elevation of La Veta, no? ...about 7000'.

Still, I used to live even closer to where you are, when I lived on the edge of the San Isabelle Nat'l Forest (my 40 acres was at 8500-9000') I learned quicky how much difference 1000' made!

Thank you for your kind words...

Mary Anne said...

Hi Beverly,

Sorry about the anonymous thing - I was just being lazy.

Yes, we know the La Veta elevation, but weren't sure if you were in town. Hope to run into you in Charlie's or the Main Street Diner!

Happy New Year, and hope to join you all on the bird count in coming years -

Mary Anne