April Birding at Hallam Lake-VIRTUAL
Virtual Morning Birding Mini Lesson: Rosy-Finches
Keeping in touch with your birding friends and local birding community is more important than ever. One way that ACES is supporting this connection is by providing brief Virtual Morning Birding mini lessons in lieu of our usual Tuesday outings.
Late spring is an excellent time to focus on rosy-finches because they tend to visit certain feeders in our valley and region more reliably at this time of year, providing easy viewing of this species that is otherwise difficult to see. Our virtual field trip takes us to neighborhoods in West Buttermilk and Brush Creek and to a residence in Summit County to see flocks at feeders.
Please enjoy the spectacle of the rosy-finches in the video with this lesson along with the fun facts below. Video footage and photos were generously provided by Luka Smalls (6th grader and new eBirder), Diane Wallace, the Poschman Family, and Scott Toepfer. Thank you!
THE THREE SPECIES OF ROSY-FINCHES
(Please get out your field guide or visit All About Birds)
- Brown-capped (our locally-breeding rosy-finch; it is basically endemic to Colorado with small portions of its range extending into WY, UT, and NM)
- Gray-crowned (breeds in coastal and interior ranges of the Northwest; individuals of Coastal and Interior populations)
- Black (breeds in mountain ranges of Great Basin). Portions of Gray-crowned and Black Rosy-Finch populations migrate as far as Colorado in winter where they mix with flocks of Brown-capped Rosy-Finches.
HIGH ELEVATION HABITAT
The rosy-finches breed at the highest altitudes of any North American bird species. These hardy birds inhabit the extreme environment of the high peaks where they nest in crevices in rock faces well above treeline. The male defends a floating territory around his mate, rather than a fixed piece of real estate.
In summer, rosy-finches typically forage on windblown insects, spiders, and seeds found on the surface of snowfields and at edges of the snowpack where these morsels become exposed as the snow recedes. In winter, severe weather drives flocks of rosy-finches to lower elevations where they find seeds in snow-free landscapes; but when possible, they stay high and feed where wind exposes low-growing, seed-laden plants on ridges.
LOCAL VIDEO FOOTAGE OF ROSY-FINCHES
Watch this video compilation made within the past week from local feeders. Use your field guide and the video functions (pause, slow motion, etc.) to get great looks at field marks for brown-capped and gray-crowned (both coastal and interior population individuals can be seen).
*Black rosy-finches are the least abundant in our local winter flocks. If anyone spots one in the videos and photos provided with this lesson, let Rebecca or Phebe know and you’ll be eligible for a PRIZE! Notice bill color: most have acquired a black bill color, which is part of their breeding season appearance; a few still show the yellow bill of their non-breeding appearance. Notice the short, white feathers (tiny pompoms) that protect the nostrils.
There is a lot to be learned about rosy-finches. Few studies have focused on these birds largely because of their remote, inaccessible habitat.
- Watch ACES, Wilderness Workshop, and Roaring Fork Audubon’s Naturalist Nights lecture on Brown-capped Rosy-Finch research, presented January 16, 2020.
- Read Audubon Magazine article “As the Rockies Melt, This Rare Nesting Bird Will Have Nowhere to Go” by Jeff Fair about Carl Brown who studies black rosy-finches in Wyoming. See nestlings being fed in the video within this online article.
CITIZEN SCIENCE OPPORTUNITY
If you see any rosy-finches with colored and/or aluminum leg bands, please note the following data and email to Aaron Yappert (RosyFinchReports@gmail.com wildlife biologist researching Brown-capped Rosy-Finches in Colorado). This study is looking at the movements of rosy-finches to learn more about how extensively they move about in winter and where they breed in summer.
Please include the following data:
- 1 – Which leg(s) have which bands
- 2 – Species
- 3 – Date, time of day, and location of observation
- 4 – Please include any photos
Through Pitkin County Library, access Cornell Lab’s Birds of the World using your library card. Enjoy comprehensive information on all three species of rosy-finches.
ADDITIONAL LOCAL BIRD HIGHLIGHTS
Please let us know what you are seeing in the field and outside your windows. We love hearing from you! Please email Phebe at firstname.lastname@example.org or eBird your lists!
- Turkey vultures and ospreys are back in the lower Roaring Fork Valley. Check the osprey cam on the Emma nest!
- Mountain bluebirds can be seen in flocks in open areas.
- Fox sparrows are back and can be seen and heard in extensive willow thickets.
- Cassin’s finches are visiting seed feeders.
Thank you for accessing this Virtual Morning Birding session! We will continue to offer these virtual sessions and update you in regards to our in-person outings as we learn more in light of COVID-19. The next Virtual Morning Birding is planned for Tuesday, May 5th.
About the instructor: Rebecca Weiss is a Naturalist specializing in birding, botany, and interpretive program development. She first came to ACES as a Summer Naturalist in 1993, later directed the Naturalist Field School and worked with ACES’ Naturalist Programs. She currently guides for ACES’ Birding Program outings and is involved with the center’s interpretive and custom programs. Rebecca is also a professional writer, developing trailside natural history interpretive signs in the Roaring Fork Valley and elsewhere in Colorado, as well as other writing projects. Rebecca is the author of Birds of Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. She holds a BS in Biology and an MA in Environmental Education, and loves exploring the natural world with her husband, Austin, and their children Anders and Elsie.