Photo by Charles Martinez
This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the brown-capped rosy-finch.
With this column it is our intention to introduce the wide variety and beauty of birds which can be observed without leaving our area. Some are found living among us every day while sightings of others, like the brown-capped rosy finch, can be an uncommon treat.
These sparrow-sized, attractive birds are colored cinnamon brown with rosy pink patches on the rump, belly and wings. Males are more brightly colored than females and juveniles. Dark feathers on the crown provide the brown cap in their name.
The brown-capped rosy-finch has one of the smallest breeding ranges of any bird in North America, almost all of which is restricted to Colorado. In summer they live high above timberline in windswept areas of rock cliffs, where they build their nests in protected crevices.
Here they feed on seeds and insects along the edges and on top of receding snow fields. The extreme conditions of their summer range has made learning their secrets a challenge. Starting in September, family groups begin banding together in flocks which in winter can number between 25 and 600 birds.
When winter storms push these rosy-finches to lower elevations, we have a chance to find them feeding along roadsides or on other open ground. Nomadic flocks can descend on bird feeders in a feeding frenzy to build up fat stores which fuel their bodies through the cold night. In extreme conditions they depend on protected roost sites found in cliffs, caves or old buildings where they can huddle together to share heat.
Due to population declines, Colorado Parks and Wildlife listed this bird as “a species of greatest conservation need” in the State Wildlife Action Plan. The use of miniature tracking devices offers hope in understanding how to help their survival.
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