Rosy-finches at New Mexico’s Sandia Crest

We didn’t have to wait for the show. The Rosy Finches were already scarfing up seed from the snow-covered deck outside the Crest House when the 20 Thursday Birders arrived. Within the first few minutes, we all got good lucks at all three species of Rosy Finches.

We were struck by their coloration. The pink, rosy feathers on many of the birds seemed bolder than we remembered from prior years. Perhaps this was because drabber first year birds were beginning to molt to breeding plumage.

For about 15 minutes, the finches alternately fed on the deck seed and popped up to perch on the railing. Then they were gone.

The Mountain Chickadees moved into have their turn at the feast. They were joined by a couple of Red-breasted Nuthatches and an occasional Grey-headed Junco and White-breasted Nuthatch. Stellar’s Jays took their turn on the suspended feeder.

And, an Abert’s Squirrel wanted his share of the seed.

After an interval of about 15 to 20 minutes, we noticed the finches swirling and dipping as they re-approached the Crest House. They first lighted in the branches of one of the conifers, and then began making their way to the deck.

Starting during the winter of 1999-2000, the finches have been able to obtain seed from the feeder placed on the deck of the Crest House. The feeder went up this winter on Oct. 31 – and almost immediately birds began to arrive. It was as if they were waiting in expectation.

This is the fifth year the rosy finches have been banded. During the 2006-7 season, 773 rosy finches were banded, including 22 re-captured birds. The banding project’s original goal was to determine whether the same birds were returning each year. Last season the banding team took a feather from each bird as it was banded. Through isotope analysis of the feathers, they are able to determine where the birds originate.

Next month the rosies will return to their breeding grounds in the Rocky Mountains, along the Northwest coast from Oregon to Alaska, and inside the Arctic Circle. By the end of March they all will be gone.

The Crest House, with its access to the Albuquerque Airport and paved road to the mountains has enabled birders from around the world to see the Rosy Finches up close and personal from the warmth of the Crest House. Birders from as far away as Ottawa, Canada joined us in pressing our faces close to the large windows that bordered the deck.

For more information on the Rosy Finches, visit Ken Schneider’s Rosy Finch web page.

2 thoughts on “Rosy-finches at New Mexico’s Sandia Crest

  1. I just moved to Gallup New Mexico. Some small birds were already living in the back yard, so to encourage them to stay I bought a bird feeder and some throw-around bird seed. They are scarfing up the food on a daily basis. I have never counted more than 18 or so, and one of them has quite a bit of red on it. Does anyone know what species they are? Is there some especially good food that I can buy for them?

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