Meet the Rosy Finch (and Learn the Best Place to See One)
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To spot a rosy finch, birders should visit the western mountains. Learn about the best place to find the three types of rosy-finches found in North America.
According to the Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America, the three species of rosy-finches (black, gray-crowned and brown-capped) have separate ranges in summer but they may overlap in winter. Rosy-finches breed in high mountain elevations throughout western North America.
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Black-Crowned Rosy Finch
Courtesy Martina Nordstrand
Black rosy-finches have black bodies with rosy colored bellies and wing patches. Like other finches, these birds will stop by feeders in western mountain towns. To attract black rosy-finches, fill your feeders in the late afternoon to give birds energy before chilly nights. Psst—here’s how to help birds in cold winter weather.
“On the last day of our trip to the Southwest, we stopped at Sandia Crest in New Mexico. Frost covered the landscape and birds swarmed the feeding station. A black rosy finch landed in front of us, perching on a perfectly frosted branch. I took the shot (above) just as the sun came out from the clouds. It was an ideal end to an amazing trip to the Southwest!” says Martina Nordstrand of Indian Trail, North Carolina.
Learn how to attract and identify purple finches.
Gray-Crowned Rosy Finch
Courtesy Jerrty Taylor
Gray-crowned rosy-finches are rugged birds that are found from Alaska to the mountaintops of northern New Mexico. They are the most widespread of the three rosy-finches. Their bodies are not as darkly colored as black rosy-finches.
In Yosemite National Park, the gray-crowned rosy-finch forages in the inhospitable, snow-laden mountains.
“Every winter we have anywhere from 200 to 400 gray-crowned rosy finches come to our backyard at the base of the Crazy Mountains north of Big Timber, Montana, to enjoy the black oil sunflower seed we provide. They are pretty friendly and provide me with hours of finch photo opportunities each winter. I was having fun trying to capture them in flight and was pleased to see the wing patterns and action in this photo (above),” says Jerrty Taylor.
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Brown-Capped Rosy Finch
The brown-capped rosy finch has the most limited range of the three species. The Kaufman Field Guide range map shows this species is primarily spotted in Colorado and nearby areas.
Watch your feeders in winter for a common redpoll.
Where to Find Rosy-Finches
The Sandia Crest House in the Sandia Mountains outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the Cibola National Forest, is known as one of the best sites for birders to see all three species of rosy-finches during their non-breeding season, from early winter to early spring.
“It was very exciting to see great numbers of rosy-finches hanging around the feeders at the Crest House. I happened to catch this black rosy finch (above) stretching its wing out in a very unique pose. The snow-filled branches in the background bring out the colors of this beautiful bird!” says Gary Botell.
Next, learn how to tell the difference between a pine siskin vs a goldfinch.