White-winged Snowfinch

The White-winged Snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis), sometimes known as just Snowfinch, is a small passerine bird that is actually a sparrow rather than a true finch. It is a resident breeding species on bare mountains (typically above 4750 feet) across southern Europe and through central Asia to western China. It nests in crevices or rodent burrows.

White-winged Snowfinch is a large stocky sparrow at 6.5 to 7.5 inches in length. It has brown upperparts, white underparts and a gray head. There is a long narrow white wing panel. In summer, the bill is black, and there is a black bib. The bib is lost in winter and the bill becomes yellow. Sexes are similar. In flight it shows black wings with huge white wing panels, and a white edged black tail. This bird has a chattering song with many trills, and variety of rolling or creaky calls.

White-winged Snowfinch’s food is mainly seeds with some insects. It is fearless, and will forage around ski resorts. It is hardy, and rarely descends below 3000 feet even in hard winter weather. It lays 3-4 eggs in a crevice or rodent burrow. There are four subspecies.