Another new bird at the feeders this winter, a gray-crowned rosy finch!
This bird is not listed as unusual for Montana or Wyoming in winter, but it is a yard first for many bird feeding enthusiasts in the area. Rosy finches are common in open rocky hillsides and cliffs, but they are being seen in all parts of the region. Rosy finches are about the size of a Red Crossbill. They are a chunky bird measuring 6.25” with a 13” wingspan. They are dark brownish overall with pink highlights and a gray crown. The bill is yellow in winter and black in breeding season. There are three populations of gray-crowned rosy finch: coastal, interior and Bering Sea. The three populations vary by head pattern and body color, but songs, though, infrequent, are similar.
They migrate North to breed in the High Arctic and alpine tundra of Canada and Alaska. The nests are usually placed in a crack in the cliff and occasionally on the ground. They are lined with grass, hair, wool, and feathers.
Gray-crowned rosy finches form mixed flocks of up to several hundred to roost communally in caves and old mine shafts. They often are seen with juncos, House Sparrows and Pine Siskins. They eat insects and seeds. They are enjoying nyjer, sunflower chips and black oil sunflower at the bird feeders this winter. So keep feeding those birds, you never know what will show up next! Happy Bird Feeding!
Kathy Haigh and her husband, John, own and operate the Wild Birds Unlimited, located at 111 S. 24th Street, Billings and at www.wbu.com/billings.