Black Rosy-Finch

Leucosticte atrata
Range Map

Rosy-Finches in winter often roam in mixed flocks with other finch species in alpine forests. In North America we find three species of Rosy-Finch: Gray-Crowned, Brown-Capped, and Black. DNA analysis shows all three are closely related and have an ancestral connection to four Asian Rosy-Finch species.

Taxonomists regard the Black Rosy-Finch as monotypic (i.e. no subspecies).

With spring breeding season, Black Rosy-Finches move to the highest elevations in the Rocky Mountains, well above the treeline. There, they build cup nests in cavities, within caves and old mine shafts. The sites chosen by these birds are so remote, researchers have only found them three times (as of 2002).

Given the remoteness of the nesting territory for Black Rosy-Finches, it is understandable that winter is when we usually see these birds.

My only meeting to date was at the crest of the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico, at 10,679′ elevation. It was mid-December, when even a warm sunny day can be freezing. The Black Rosy-Finches were in a mixed flock with Gray-Crowned Rosy-Finches, too far away for good close-up shots, and back-lit from a bright sun. I regret that the conditions prevented the intimacy I would have liked to enjoy. Ah well! I’ll take what I’m offered.

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