White-winged snowfinch

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White-winged snowfinch
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Suborder: Passeri
Infraorder: Passerida
Superfamily: Passeroidea
Family: Passeridae
Genus: Montifringilla
Species: M. nivalis
Binomial name
Montifringilla nivalis
(Linnaeus, 1766)

The white-winged snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis), or just snowfinch, is a small passerine bird. Despite its name, it is a sparrow rather than a true finch.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

It is a resident breeding species on bare mountains, typically above 1,500 metres (4,900 ft), across southern Europe (Pyrenees, Alps, Corsica, Balkans) and through central Asia to western China. It nests in crevices or rodent burrows, laying 3–4 eggs.


The white-winged snowfinch is a large stocky snowfinch at 16.5–19 centimetres (6.5–7.5 in) in length. It has brown upperparts, white underparts and a grey head. There is a long narrow white wing panel. In summer, the bill is black, and there is a black bib. The bib is lost in winter and the bill becomes yellow. Sexes are similar.

In Tarn, France in December showing winter colours including an orange beak

In flight, it shows black wings with huge white wing panels, and a white edged black tail. This bird has a chattering song with many trills, and variety of rolling or creaky calls.


Eggs from the collection of the Museum de Toulouse

The white-winged snowfinch's food is mainly seeds with some insects. It is fearless, and will forage around ski resorts. It is hardy, and rarely descends below 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) even in hard winter weather.


There are four subspecies. The darkest-coloured subspecies, M. n. henrici of Tibet and western China has earth-brown upperparts and crown, and greyer underparts. It is sometimes split as Henri's snowfinch or Tibetan snowfinch (M. henrici). However, the name Tibetan snowfinch, confusingly, more often refers to the black-winged snowfinch (M. adamsi).


External links[edit]