Rosy-Finches and More at Sandia Crest

I awoke on the morning of the trip up to Sandia Crest, one of the featured sites in Birding Hot Spots of Central New Mexico, to discover it had snowed during the night. A light snowfall would hopefully bring in the Rosy-Finches – and make it easier to walk from the parking lot into the Crest House.

The snow plows had already cleared off the uphill lane and were heading back down as we made our way up the Sandia Crest Highway.

Over 20 Central New Mexico Audubon Thursday Birders huddled in the Crest House sipping coffee and hot chocolate. Steller’s Jays

Steller's Jay

and Mountain Chickadees were busy at the feeder.

Mountain Chickadee - photo by Joe Schelling

We didn’t have long to wait before a mixed flock of Rosy-Finches approached – landing first in the branches of the adjacent conifers, and then dropping down to mob the feeder.

Rosy-Finches at feeder

A few hopped down on the snowy deck.

Black Rosy-Finch

About 75% were Black Rosy-Finches. The rest, with the exception of one or two Gray-crowned, were Brown-capped.

The volunteer banders with Rio Grande Bird Research have reported that very few Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches have been present this winter, which is unusual. According to the records on the Rosy-Finch website, it often is the most prevalent species.

“I’m watching for the finches with radio transmitters,” Jason shared. He had been present on Sunday when transmitters were placed on five different birds, in an attempt to determine where the rosies roost at night. “There’s one on top of the feeder now,” he gestured. Sure enough, I could see the light-weight antennae wire just above its back.

Normally, the flock will feed for a while – and then take off. It might be another 20 – 30 minutes before they return. We were lucky on this morning that they lingered longer than normal and returned more quickly.

When the finches are at the feeder, the other birds hang back in the trees. During the finches’ absence, we were treated to a Red-breasted Nuthatch,

Red-breasted Nuthatch - photo by Joe Schelling

Dark-eyed Juncos, and White-breasted Nuthatches, in addition to the Mountain Chickadees and Steller’s Jays.

Watching the Rosy-Finches is always one of the highlights of my winter – and this morning was no exception.


3 thoughts on “Rosy-Finches and More at Sandia Crest

  1. You sure do make me homesick for New Mexico. It is very interesting how the species mix changes from year to year, The Hepburn’s race of Gray-crowned were numerous for a couple of years, and so far there have been noe this winter. Makes you wonder about the cause.

    • I looked at the distribution of sightings on eBird for this winter and compared with distribution the last 10 years. I thought maybe they were somewhere else, but the Gray-crowned are not being reported anywhere. There has been an unusual sighting in upstate NY! Hepburn’s is only being reported in AK.

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