A Flash of Pink in the Snow: The Brown-capped Rosy-Finch
Snow lines the upper parts of the Sandias. Up at the crest, there is barely a green plant, excluding the evergreen trees standing proudly despite the ice. A few birds hop from the branches of the evergreens, like the Mountain Chickadee, or even the yellow Pine Siskin. However, if one looks closely, a splash of pink may cross the snowy background. The raspberry pink bellies of the Brown-capped Rosy-Finch draw the eyes of many birders across the country, and the Sandia Crest happens to be a wonderful place to catch a glance of the bird. Alongside the Browned-capped Rosy-Finch, the Black Rosy-Finch and the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch have also been known to spend their winters with us on the crest.
The Brown-capped Rosy-Finch spends its time in the highest points of the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer. The bird seems to thrive in the snowfields and ice of the peaks. In the winter, they are far less elusive. They have even been known to travel down to feeders of mountain communities at lower elevations and the occasional valley feeder.
The rosy-finch eats like its relative, the House Finch. Millet, Nyjer seed and sunflower—both shelled and unshelled—are sought after by these birds. While it is rare to see them at feeders in Albuquerque, the upper heights may see sightings of the bird at a seed feeder with Nyjer or sunflower seeds. Feeders at the Sandia Crest are often filled with sunflower chips to cater to all the Rosy-Finches that stay with us for the winter.
The Brown-capped Rosy-Finch will nest in crevices or holes in cliffsides. Their nesting sites may remain snow covered until late June, and as such, the birds seek out a sheltered place to nest. Some have been known to nest in abandoned mines in the Rocky Mountains. Nests are built with care by the female of the pair. She may use mosses, grasses, roots and other such materials. Often, nests are lined with feathers, animal fur and, if they can find it, cotton to help keep the female, and the eggs warm against the elements.
The Brown-capped Rosy-Finch is one of the many flashes of color birds provide us in the winter. Their raspberry color is welcome among the dormant plants and animals waiting for the first sign of spring. Though they do not stay with us through the spring and summer, we can always count on their raspberry flashes to return to the Sandia Crest by the next winter.