Montifringilla is a genus of passerine birds in the sparrow family Passeridae. It is one of three genera containing the snowfinches. As the English and scientific names suggest, these are high-altitude species, found in the mountain ranges of southern Eurasia, from the Pyrenees east to the Himalayas, Tibet and western China.[1]

Montifringilla nivalis04
White-winged snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Passeridae
Genus: Montifringilla
Brehm CL, 1828
3 species


Snowfinches are stocky sparrows 13.5–17 centimetres (5.3–6.7 in) in length, with strong conical bills. They have pale brown upperparts, white underparts and extensive white panels in the wings, which transform them in flight. Adults may have black markings on the chin or around the eyes. Sexes are usually very similar, although the male white-winged snowfinch has a distinctive grey head. Young birds are a drabber version of the adult.[2]

They have simple repetitive songs, given from a rock or during the elaborate circling display flight. The call is a simple chip or similar.[3]


Most snowfinches breed above altitudes of 3,500 metres (11,500 ft), but the white-winged snowfinch can occur from 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) upwards. These hardy birds inhabit bare open mountain grassland. Snowfinches are not migratory but may move to lower altitudes or human habitation in winter, when these highly gregarious birds form large flocks. Snowfinches are primarily ground-feeding seed-eaters, though they also consume small arthropods, especially when breeding. They are typically fearless, and will forage around ski resorts, human habitation and rubbish tips.[2]

They nest in rock crevices, or more typically in holes left by rodents or (and even more often) pikas (Ochotonidae). The typical clutch is from three to six eggs.[4]

Systematics and taxonomy

The genus Montifringilla was introduced by the German ornithologist Christian Ludwig Brehm in 1828.[5] The type species was subsequently designated as the white-winged snowfinch.[6] The name of the genus combines the Latin words mons, montis "mountain" and fringilla "finch".[7]

Species and systematics

The genus contains three species:[8]

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Niverolle Montagne noire Francer Montifringilla nivalis White-winged snowfinch southern Europe (Pyrenees, Alps, Corsica, Balkans) and through central Asia to western China
Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla henrici Tibetan snowfinch Tibet
A Tibetan Snowfinch juvenile - Tso Moriri, Ladakh, Jammu Kashmir India Montifringilla adamsi Black-winged snowfinch China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan

Four species of snowfich are now separated in the genus Pyrgilauda, based on the genetics and the different vocalizations and ecological preferences. Similarly, the white-rumped snowfinch is placed in a monotypic genus Onychostruthus.[9]


Many sparrow-larks (Eremopterix) were once placed in a genus Pyrrhulauda, causing much confusion in the taxonomy of the unrelated snowfinches

The junior synonyms of Montifringilla have a convoluted history. Pyrgilauda is probably the most confused case among them: It was first established by Charles Lucien Jules Laurent Bonaparte as a junior synonym of Pyrrhulauda, and attributed to the brothers Edouard and Jules Verreaux. But Pyrrhulauda – established by Andrew Smith before Bonaparte – actually refers to certain sparrow-larks, today all placed in Eremopterix. J. Verreaux indeed seems to have been the first to formally use Pyrgilauda for a particular snowfinch species, but that was only in 1871, when he described the small snowfinch. It was widely used for the southern snowfinch species in the late 19th and early 20th century, and continues to be used by some authors today.[10]

According to Article 11.6.1. and 50.7. in the third and fourth editions of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, the genus Pyrgilauda was thus validly established by Bonaparte as a possible snowfinch genus name – even though he did not intend to – because many authors after J. Verreaux used it for these birds, and not for the sparrow-larks. Bonaparte had correctly used Montifrigilla for the white-winged snowfinch – the only snowfinch known then – however, and thus Pyrgilauda had remained an unused "shell" of a taxon until someone placed a species in it. That was done by J. Verreaux, and thus many erroneously attributed authorship of the genus to him, although as per the ICZN Code Article 69.3. he technically just fixed its type species as the small snowfinch. Another error occurred in 1982, when G. N. Kasin believed Pyrgilauda had been established twice, and thought the snowfinch genus name – which he believed to have been established by Verreaux in 1870 – was the junior homonym of Bonaparte's sparrow-lark synonym. He set up Stepaniania to replace it. But with Bonaparte's name (as co-opted by Verreaux and later authors) being a valid junior subjective synonym and not preoccupied, Stepaniania itself becomes a junior objective synonym of Pyrgilauda.[11]

The name Orospiza has a similar history to Pyrgilauda. Bonaparte merely remarked it had been used by "some" (aliquī) unspecified authors,[12] while many subsequent sources attributed it to Johann Jakob Kaup. But that is a misunderstanding, and the only technically valid (though synonymous) name for the snowfinch genus proposed by Kaup was Chionospina. Thus, in the case of Orospiza Bonaparte is again the valid author, though Thomas Horsfield and Frederic Moore were the first to set a type species. As M. nivalis was still the only known snowfinch in 1858 when they did this, Orospiza is a junior objective synonym of Montifringilla.[13]

For somewhat different reasons, Orites is a junior objective synonym of Montifringilla. First proposed for the long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus) in Moehring's Geslachten der Vogelen in 1758, that widely ignored work was suppressed as a source of taxa by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature in 1987. Consequently, later attempts to re-establish that name as a junior synonym of Aegithalos are preempted by the erection of Orites for the white-winged snowfinch by Eugen von Keyserling and Johann Heinrich Blasius in 1840. Meanwhile, Kaup's Chionospina was misspelled "Chionospiza" by George Robert Gray. As it, too, is a junior objective synonym of Montifringilla, Ludwig Reichenbach's subsequent valid establishment of that name is still inconsequential – except for purely taxonomic purposes, as it makes neither Kaup nor Grey the valid author of Chionospiza, but Reichenbach.[14] And finally, Onychostruthus had to be established because Onychospiza, Nikolai Przhevalsky's 1876 name for the proposed monotypic genus of the white-rumped snowfinch, was preoccupied. It had been given by Rey to the chestnut-eared bunting (today Emberiza fucata) in 1872 already, as an unnecessary correction – and thus junior objective synonym – of Bonaparte's original Onychospina.[13]


  1. ^ Clement, Harris & Davis 1993.
  2. ^ a b Cramp 1977, Clement, Harris & Davis 1993, Svensson et al. 1999
  3. ^ Clement, Harris & Davis 1993
  4. ^ Clement, Harris & Davis 1993, Svensson et al. 1999
  5. ^ Brehm, Christian Ludwig (1828). "Montifringilla". Isis von Oken (in German). 21. Col. 1277.
  6. ^ Mayr, Ernst; Greenway, James C. Jr, eds. (1962). Check-list of birds of the world. Volume 15. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 26.
  7. ^ Jobling, J.A. (2018). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). "Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  8. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2018). "Old World sparrows, snowfinches, weavers". World Bird List Version 8.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  9. ^ Qu, Y.; Ericson, P.G.; Lei, F.; Gebauer, A.; Kaiser, M.; Helbig, A.J. (2006). "Molecular phylogenetic relationship of snow finch complex (genera Montifringilla, Pyrgilauda, and Onychostruthus) from the Tibetan plateau". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 40 (1): 218–226. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.02.020.
  10. ^ Bonaparte 1850, pp. 511–512, Mlíkovský 1998, Lei et al. 2005
  11. ^ Bonaparte 1850, p. 538, Mlíkovský 1998, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature 1999, uBio 2005
  12. ^ Bonaparte 1850, p. 538.
  13. ^ a b uBio 2005.
  14. ^ Horsfield & Moore 1858, Smith 2001, uBio 2005


External links

Afghan snowfinch

The Afghan snowfinch (Pyrgilauda theresae) is a passerine bird of the sparrow family Passeridae, endemic to the northern parts of the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan. There are no major threats to the species despite its restricted range, so it is assessed as least concern on the IUCN Red List. This species is mostly a seed-eater, supplementing its diet with some insects. It builds its nest in the burrows or hollows of ground-dwelling rodents, lined with hair or feathers.

Black-winged snowfinch

The black-winged snowfinch (Montifringilla adamsi), or Adams's snowfinch, is a species of bird in the sparrow family.

It is found in China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical dry shrubland. It is commonly resident in the Tibetan plateau region of north-western Nepal, where it spends the summer at elevations of 4,200–5,100 metres (13,800–16,700 ft) and the winter at 2,530–3,445 metres (8,301–11,302 ft), on open stony hillsides, on plateau and near villages.

Blanford's snowfinch

Blanford's snowfinch (Pyrgilauda blanfordi), or plain-backed snowfinch, is a species of bird in the sparrow family.

It is found in China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Its natural habitat is temperate grassland.

Its common name commemorates the English zoologist William Thomas Blanford.


The brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) is a small passerine bird in the finch family Fringillidae. It has also been called the cock o' the north and the mountain finch. It is widespread and migratory, often seen in very large flocks.

Cock o' the North

Cock o' the North may refer to:

Cock o' the North (locomotive), a railway locomotive

Cock o' the North (music), a traditional Scottish bagpipe tune

Cock o' the North (liqueur), a whisky-based alcoholic liqueur

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla), a bird, also known as cock o' the north

Cock o' the North (greyhounds), a UK greyhound race


The genus Fringilla is a small group of finches from the Old World, which are the only species in the subfamily Fringillinae. The genus name Fringilla is Latin for "finch".The four species are:

The common chaffinch is found primarily in forest habitats, in Europe, North Africa, and western Asia; the blue chaffinch is an island endemic; and the brambling breeds in the northern taiga and southern tundra of Eurasia.The three species are about the same size, 15 centimetres (5.9 in) in length, and are similar in shape. They have a bouncing flight with alternating bouts of flapping and gliding on closed wings. They are not as specialised as the other finches, eating both insects and seeds. While breeding, they feed their young on insects rather than seeds, unlike the other finches.In 2016 it was proposed that the extremely rare Gran Canaria subspecies F. teydea polatzeki be treated as a separate species, thus creating a fourth species, F. polatzeki.

List of birds of Bulgaria

This list of birds of Bulgaria includes all bird species which have been seen in the country. Birds marked with (W) are species which spend the winter in Bulgaria but do not breed there, birds marked with (V) are vagrant species and birds marked with (I) are introduced species. It includes 400 bird species from 21 orders, 63 families and 198 genera.

The varied natural habitat, relief and climate and relatively untouched environment are among the main reasons for the many bird species in the country. The numerous islands and wetlands along the Danube including the Persina Natural Park and Srebarna Nature Reserve, as well as the lakes and swamps along the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast, support many species of diving and aquatic birds such as ducks, swans, pelicans, grebes, spoonbills and many others. The eastern Rhodopes are among the strongholds of birds of prey in Europe, with most of the species in the continent nesting in that area. The mild climate in the extreme south offers good conditions for many Mediterranean birds as well as for wintering species from the north.

List of birds of China

This is a list of the bird species recorded in China. The avifauna of China include a total of 1314 species, of which 52 are endemic, two have been introduced by humans, and 56 species listed are accidental. Of these, 87 species are globally threatened.

This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families and species) and nomenclature (common and scientific names) follow the conventions of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, 6th edition. The family accounts at the beginning of each heading reflect this taxonomy, as do the species counts found in each family account. Introduced and accidental species are included in the total counts for China.

The following tags have been used to highlight several categories. The commonly occurring native species do not fall into any of these categories.

(A) Accidental - a species that rarely or accidentally occurs in China

(E) Endemic - a species native or restricted to China

(I) Introduced - a species introduced to China as a consequence, direct or indirect, of human actions

List of birds of Greece

This is a list of the bird species recorded in Greece. The avifauna of Greece include a total of 453 species according to the Hellenic Rarities Committee of the Hellenic Ornithological Society (Ελληνική Ορνιθολογική Εταιρεία). Of them, four have not been recorded since 1950 and two have been introduced by humans.This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families and species) and nomenclature (English and scientific names) are those of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, 2018 edition.The following tags have been used to highlight several categories of occurrence. Species without tags are regularly occurring residents, migrants, or seasonal visitors which have been recorded since 1 January 1950.

(*) Rare in Greece; reports of these 120 species require submission to the Hellenic Rarities Committee for inclusion in the official record.

(B) Species which have not occurred in Greece since 1 January 1950.

(C) Species that do not occur naturally in Greece, although breeding populations have been introduced by humans.

List of birds of Kyrgyzstan

376 bird species have occurred in the Kyrgyz Republic.


Pyrgilauda is a genus of passerine birds in the sparrow family Passeridae. They are found in the Himalayas, Tibet and western China.

The genus was introduced by the French naturalist Jules Verreaux in 1871 with Père David's snowfinch as the type species. The name is a portmanteau of the genera Pyrgita Cuvier 1817, "sparrow", and Alauda Linnaeus, 1758, "lark".The genus contains four species:

These species are sometimes included in the genus Montifringilla.

Père David's snowfinch

Père David's snowfinch (Pyrgilauda davidiana), also known as the small snowfinch, is a species of bird in the sparrow family.

It is found in Mongolia, southern Siberia and northern China. Its natural habitat is temperate grassland.

Rufous-necked snowfinch

The rufous-necked snowfinch (Pyrgilauda ruficollis) is a species of bird in the sparrow family.

It is found in Tibet and adjacent areas of central China; it winters south to Uttarakhand, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. Its natural habitat is temperate grassland.

Sibley-Monroe checklist 17

The Sibley-Monroe checklist was a landmark document in the study of birds. It drew on extensive DNA-DNA hybridisation studies to reassess the relationships between modern birds.


Snowfinches are a group of small passerine birds in the sparrow family Passeridae. At one time all eight species were placed in the genus Montifringilla but they are now divided into three genera:

Montifringilla (3 species)

In Europe, the name snowfinch is sometimes used for the white-winged snowfinch specifically

Pyrgilauda (4 species)

White-rumped snowfinch, Onychostruthus taczanowskii


Sparrows are a family of small passerine birds. They are also known as true sparrows, or Old World sparrows, names also used for a particular genus of the family, Passer. They are distinct from both the American sparrows, in the family Passerellidae, and from a few other birds sharing their name, such as the Java sparrow of the family Estrildidae. Many species nest on buildings and the house and Eurasian tree sparrows, in particular, inhabit cities in large numbers, so sparrows are among the most familiar of all wild birds. They are primarily seed-eaters, though they also consume small insects. Some species scavenge for food around cities and, like gulls or rock doves will happily eat virtually anything in small quantities.

Tibetan snowfinch

The Tibetan snowfinch or Henri's snowfinch (Montifringilla henrici) is a species of bird in the sparrow family.

It is found in Tibet. Its natural habitat is high altitude dry shrubland. It is sometimes considered a subspecies of the white-winged snowfinch.

White-rumped snowfinch

The white-rumped snowfinch (Onychostruthus taczanowskii) is a species of passerine bird in the sparrow family Passeridae. It is the only member of the genus Onychostruthus. It is sometimes placed in the genus Montifringilla.

It is found in Tibet and central-northern China. Its natural habitats are rocky areas in mountainous regions.

White-winged snowfinch

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

Sparrows (family: Passeridae)

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