occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDS: western and north-central Alaska (north to the Seward Peninsula and Brooks Range), central Yukon, British Columbia, and southwestern Alberta south to southern Alaska (including St. Matthew, Nunivak, and the Pribilof and Aleutian islands), and through the Cascades, Sierra Nevada, and Rocky Mountains to northeastern Oregon, east-central California (to Tulare County), central Idaho, and northwestern Montana, also in the Commander Islands (AOU 1983). WINTERS: Aleutians, southern mainland Alaska (rarely), British Columbia, southern Alberta, and southwestern Saskatchewan south to eastern California, central Nevada, central Utah, northern New Mexico, and northwestern Nebraska (AOU 1983).
Length: 16 cm
Weight: 27 grams
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Barren, rocky or grassy areas and cliffs among glaciers or beyond timberline; in migration and winter also in open situations, fields, cultivated lands, brushy areas, and around human habitation (AOU 1983). Subspecies GRISEONUCHA and UMBRINA breed on sea cliffs and feed on beaches and maritme tundra; other subspecies breed in alpine habitat.
Nests usually in rock crevices or holes in cliffs. Nests in buildings and other structures on Amchitka Island, Alaska (Johnson 1983).
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Migrates elevationally as well as geographically.
Comments: Forages on the ground for seeds. In the spring gleans wind-transported insects from the snow. Later in the season may glean insects from vegetation or may chase flying insects and catch them in the air.
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300
10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals
Comments: Hundreds of 1000s.
Males typically outnumber females in breeding and wintering populations. During breeding season male defends "territory" around female wherever she moves (Ryser 1985). Forms large flocks (up to 1000+ individuals) when not breeding.
Life History and Behavior
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
In some areas, clutch size is 4-5, and incubation, by female, lasts 12-14 days; young leave nest at about 20 days. In the Aleutians, eggs are laid in late April-July, clutch size is 3-6, fledging occurs at 15-22 days, and there may be two broods per year (Johnson 1983). Young are tended by both sexes.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Leucosticte tephrocotis
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Leucosticte tephrocotis
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5B,N4N : N5B: Secure - Breeding, N4N: Apparently Secure - Nonbreeding
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Populations and large and widespread. No threats are known.
Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)
Comments: Apparently stable.
Degree of Threat: C : Not very threatened throughout its range, communities often provide natural resources that when exploited alter the composition and structure over the short-term, or communities are self-protecting because they are unsuitable for other uses
Comments: Subspecies TEPHROCOTIS and DAWSONI- sealing of mine shafts used for winter roost sites; Aleutians- local populations may be small and subject to local extinctions. Very large scale open mining in breeding areas could affect some populations.
Biological Research Needs: Taxonomic research needed. May have multiple species in the 6 known taxa in North America.
Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed
Comments: Many populations are in designated Wilderness Areas and National Parks.
Gray-crowned rosy finch
The gray-crowned rosy finch, or gray-crowned rosy-finch, (Leucosticte tephrocotis) is a species of passerine bird in the family Fringillidae native to Alaska, western Canada, and the north-western United States. Due to its remote and rocky alpine habitat it is rarely seen. There are currently six recognized subspecies. It is one of four species of rosy finches.
The gray-crowned rosy finch was first classified by English ornithologist William John Swainson in 1832. This bird has been thought to form a superspecies with three other rosy finches (also known as mountain finch): black rosy finch (L. atrata) and the brown-capped rosy finch (L. australis), all of which were classified as the same species as the Asian rosy finch (L. arctoa) from 1983-1993. Recent mitochondrial DNA evidence shows the rosy finches are all indeed very closely related and can be easily confused with one another. Along with four Asian rosy finches, the three North American rosy finches form the mountain finch genus Leucosticte. Alternative common names include: Roselin à tête grise (in French), Schwarzstirn-Schneegimpel (in German), and Pinzón Montano Nuquigrís (in Spanish).
Six subspecies of the gray-crowned rosy finch are now recognized, though proposals for additional subspecies have been recognized.
- L. t. griseonucha (J. F. Brandt, 1842) Commander Island, and Aleutian Islands (including Shumagin Island and Semidi Island) east to Alaskan Peninsula; non-breeding south to Kodiak Island.
- L. t. umbrina Murie, 1944 Hall Island, St. Matthew Island and Pribilof Islands, in Bering Sea.
- L. t. littoralis S. F. Baird, 1869 also known as "Hepburn’s rosy-finch", "gray-headed rosy-finch", "gray-cheeked rosy-finch"), breeds in south-central Alaska east to western Canada (SW Yukon, NW British Columbia) and western United States from Washington and Oregon (along Cascade Mountains) to northern California (Mt Shasta); winters in southern section of breeding range East to central Montana, western Nevada, northern Utah and central New Mexico.
- L. t. tephrocotis (Swainson, 1832) also known as "brown-cheeked rosy-finch", breeds northern & central Alaska east to northwest Canada (central Yukon, British Columbia, western Alberta) and northwest United States (northwest Montana); winters from southern British Columbia east to southwest Saskatchewan and South Dakota, south to northeast California, Nevada, Utah, western Colorado and northern New Mexico.
- L. t. wallowa A. H. Miller, 1939 breeds northeast Oregon (Wallowa Mts); winters South to west-central Nevada and central-east California.
- L. t. dawsoni J. Grinnell, 1913 eastern California (Sierra Nevada and White Mts).
Within the finch family, the gray-crowned rosy finch is medium-large with a comparatively long notched tail and wing. Adults are brown on the back and breast and mainly pink on the rest of the underparts and the wings. The forehead and throat are black; the back of the head is grey. They have short black legs and a long forked tail. There is some variability in the amount of grey on the head. Adult females and juveniles are similar. Overall length is 140–160 mm (5.5–6.3 in), wingspan 33 mm (1.3 in), and weight 22–26 g (0.78–0.92 oz). L. t. wallowa has an almost entirely gray head. The Pribilof and Aleutian subspecies have a length of 170–210 mm (6.7–8.3 in) and weight of 42–60 g (1.5–2.1 oz), about twice the size of the other subspecies. The black rosy finch has a black instead of brown body and the brown-capped rosy finch is a lighter brown and lacks the gray face patch.
Distribution and habitat
The ancestor of the three species of North American rosy finches migrated from Asia. All rosy finches live in an alpine or tundra environment. The gray-crowned rosy finch has a wide range and large numbers throughout Alaska, and western Canada and the United States. L. t. griseonucha permanently resides in the Aleutian Islands and umbrina on the Pribilof Islands. A small number of gray-crowned rosy finches winters on the mainland in South-Central Alaska and visits feeders there. The other taxa: littoralis, tephrocotis, wallowa, and dawsoni are found from the Canadian and American Rockies and migrate south to the western United States. L. t. tephrocotis summers from Montana to the Yukon, while littoralis breeds closer to the coast, from northern California to west-central Alaska. Due to its remote habitat, few of its nests have been found, it is rarely spotted, and the population is stable. They are invariably found amongst rocks. The areas the subspecies breed in rarely overlap during breeding season. Males typically outnumber females throughout the year. An individual was seen north of Boonville, in Lewis County, NY beginning on Sunday, March 4 through at least Thursday, March 8. This is only the second confirmed report for New York State.
Rosy finches are very environment-specific. In the summer their breeding habitat is rocky islands and barren areas on mountains from Alaska to the northwestern United States. These mountain breeding areas tend to be snowfields and rocky scree. When not breeding they form large flocks of over 1000 individuals which are sometimes known to include snow buntings (P. nivalis), Lapland longspurs (C. lapponicus), and horned larks (E. alpestris), as well as other rosy-finch species. They descend in flocks as far as the fringes of the western plains beginning in autumn when the snows get deep. They return to alpine regions when snow is still deep in early spring. They may breed at a higher altitude than any other breeding bird in North America. Due to these extreme breeding altitudes, they are very difficult to observe during breeding times. They build a cup nest in mid-June at a sheltered, hidden location on the ground or on a cliff and are monogamous. They are known to use protected areas such as mine shafts and abandoned buildings for nesting. Both sexes collect the nesting material of grass, roots, lichen, moss, and sedge, but only the female builds the nest. Lining material consists of fine grass, hair, and feathers. The female lays 3–5 eggs which she incubates for approximately two weeks. Both sexes feed the chicks, which leave the nest after 2–3 weeks. Chicks continue to be fed by their parents for about two weeks after leaving the nest in late July or early August. A male will defend its female's territory during breeding season, not just the nest but wherever she goes. This behavior is common with the rosy finches.
These birds forage on the ground; many fly to catch insects in flight. During the summer they mainly eat insects, such as cutworms, that were caught in updrafts and frozen in snowfields. They also feed in the meadows near snowfields. In the winter they eat seeds from weeds and grasses such as Russian thistle (E. exaltatus), mustard, and sunflower (H. annuus). When breeding, both males and females develop throat pouches, known as gular pouches or gular skin, to carry food to their chicks, a trait seen in only one other North American genus, Pinicola. The three subspecies that live in mountain interiors have brown cheeks instead of gray cheeks. They show little fear of humans. They often feed in small flocks. Their call is a buzz-sounding "chew". They can be approached to within 1–2 m (3.3–6.6 ft).
- BirdLife International (2012). "Leucosticte tephrocotis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- "Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch". All About Birds (life), The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- "Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch". Birds of North America, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. doi:10.2173/bna.559. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- Wright, Rick. "Notes on Rosy-Finch Taxonomy, Distribution, and Identification". Arizona Field Ornithologists. Retrieved July 4, 2011.
- "Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch - Leucosticte tephrocotis". Montana Field Guide. Retrieved July 4, 2011.
- "Gray-crowned Rosy-finch (Leucosticte tephrocotis)". Internet Bird Collection. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- "Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch". Bird Web. Retrieved July 4, 2011.
- "Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch". All About Birds (identification), The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- "Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch". Bird-Friend. Retrieved July 4, 2011.
- "Gray-crowned Rosy-finch Leucosticte tephrocotis". BirdLife International. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- "Feedback: Bird Watchers All Atwitter Over Rare Bird In Lewis County". wwnytv.com. Retrieved March 8, 2012.
- "Black Rosy-Finch - Leucosticte atrata". Montana Field Guide. Retrieved July 4, 2011.
- "Black Rosy-Finch". Birds of North America, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. doi:10.2173/bna.678. Retrieved July 4, 2011.
- "Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch". All About Birds (sounds), The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Retrieved July 3, 2011.
- MacDougall-Shackleton, S. A., R. E. Johnson, and T. P. Hahn. 2000. Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte tephrocotis). In The Birds of North America, No. 559 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Prior to 1983, North American rosy-finches were regarded as three species (L. atrata, L. australis, and L. tephrocotis). AOU (1983) lumped these together with Asian species as L. arctoa. Subsequently, Sibley and Monroe (1990, who cited unpublished genetic, biochemical, and morphological data by French and Loskot) and AOU (1993, who stated that the 1983 merger was based on insufficient new information) again recognized three species of rosy-finches in North America, distinct from Old World L L. arctoa. Zink et al. (1995) concluded from limited mtDNA data that L. tephrocotis likely is specifically distinct from Old World L. arctoa.
The three North American species sometimes have been merged as L. tephrocotis, American rosy-finch. Unpublished work by Johnson (1972) recognized a fourth North American species (L. griseonucha, comprising nominal subspecies griseonucha and umbrina of the Pribilof and Aleutian islands), but this taxon has not been accepted as a full species in subsequent checklists. Nominal subspecies of L. tephrocotis generally have not been recognized in recent literature.