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White-winged Snowfinch - BirdForum Opus

Revision as of 17:20, 2 December 2023 by Njlarsen (talk | contribs) (taxon, refs, GS)
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Winter plumage
Photo by Momo
Chandolin, Switzerland, January 2007

Alternative names: Common Snowfinch; Eurasian Snowfinch

Montifringilla nivalis


17 - 17.5cm. A large and long-winged Snowfinch.

  • Conspicuous white panels on tail and wings in flight, narrow long wing-panel on ground
  • Grey head with black bib in summer
  • Dull earth-brown mantle
  • Dirty white underparts
  • Bill black in summer, ivory in winter

Sexes are similar. The subspecies differ mainly in size and plumage tone, nivalis being the darkest.

Similar species

Breeding plumage
Photo by axel1950
Nufenenpass, Switzerland, June 2010

See Black-winged Snowfinch and Tibetan Snowfinch.
May be mistaken for a Snow Bunting in flight but note much darker body plumage and less white in wing.


Found in mountain ranges from Western Europe (northern Spain) to the Alps, Italy, Greece, Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan to China and Mongolia.
Common but usually local.


Photo by Momo
Chandolin, VS, Switzerland, March 2007

Seven subspecies recognized:

Both Tibetan Snowfinch and Black-winged Snowfinch have been included in this taxon in the past. All three form a superspecies.


Occurs on barren rocky ground with cliffs and alpine meadows from the tree-line up to the snow-line. Often near buildings in high altitude ski resorts. Found at 2000 - 5300m.


Feeds on seeds and insects. Nestlings are fed with insects.
Usually seen in pairs or small groups, in winter in larger flocks.
Breeding season from May to August, mostly two broods. Breeds in loose colonies. The bulky nest is made of dry grass and moss and placed in a rock crevice or in a hole in a building or an artificial structure like a cable-car pylon. Sometimes the nest is also placed in a rodent burrow. Lays 4 - 5 eggs.
A resident species with some altitudinal movements in winter.

Subspecies leucura
Photo by okan kocyigit
Honaz Mountain/Denizli, Turkey


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2022. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2022. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, and D Christie, eds. 2009. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8496553507

Recommended Citation

External Links

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