Comprehensive Guide to selected species of:
Birds of the Boreal Forest « back to Guide
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch Leucosticte tephrocotis
Family: Finches, Fringillidae
Audio: Martyn Stewart, © Naturesound.org
An estimated 58% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.
Description 5 3/4-6 3/4" (15-17 cm). Dark brown back and underparts; black forehead; gray nape and crown; pink shoulder and rump. Face gray in coastal birds, brown in interior populations. Female is similar, but less colorful.
Habitat Alpine tundra and high snowfields; winters in nearby lowlands.
Nesting 3-5 white eggs in a bulky nest placed in a rock cavity.
Voice Flying flocks give harsh cheep, cheep notes.
Range Breeds from Alaska to California. Descends to lower elevations near breeding areas in winter.
Discussion During breeding, both the male and the female Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch grow a pair of "gular pouches," opening from the floor of the mouth, which they use to carry food to the young. This species feeds mainly on minute alpine plant seeds and insects wind-borne from lower elevations. The Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch is found farther to the west than the similar Brown-capped Rosy-Finch and Black Rosy-Finch. The ancestors of the rosy-finches came from Asia. The mosaic distribution of forms in the West may result from the splitting of one population during glacial periods, or from multiple invasions from Asia.