Saturday 22 February 2014


Snow Finch (Montifringilla nivalis). Peña de Francia (Salamanca).  
14th November 2012. Ricardo Montero.


A Snow Finch (Montifringilla nivalis), the first one seen with certainty in Extremadura, was recorded on 19th February 2014 on the Jálama peak (Acebo, Cáceres) by Alberto Gil whilst he was undertaking a botanical study. The individual (not photographed) was present on patches of snow top of the peak, at about 1,500 metres above sea-level, the third highest point in the Sierra de Gata and on the border with Salamanca province. It was seen perched and in flight and giving its typical call. There were close-by four Alpine Accentors (Prunella collaris), which are scarce but not unusual in Extremadura in the winter.
The high montane habitat is poorly represented in Extremadura. Given its scarcity and difficult access, it is little visited by ornithologists, and therefore it is not unusual that it is Alberto Gil (see personal blog), an experienced naturalist with a wide knowledge of montane flora, who has provided us with most of the knowledge about alpine-zone bird species in Extremadura, especially in the breeding season (read more).
It is important to note that in the map for this species in the Atlas of Birds in Winter in Spain (PDF) there is a spot record in the centre of Cáceres. This is based on a record published in error in Ardeola and withdrawn shortly afterwards.
The Snow Finch is a high montane Palaearctic species. The nearest breeding populations are in the Cantabrian Mounatins, the Pyrenees and the Alps, where they occupy the highest zones, in alpine pasture or scrub, very close to the snow-line. Although the winter distribution is very similar to the breeding range, with a small descent because of snow coverage (about 400 metre descent in the Picos de Europa), wider movements have recently been shown for the population in the Alps (Switzerland and Austria) that have reached the eastern Pyrenees, with displacement of more than 1,000 km. In Span there are several records in the mountains of the Mediterranean arc, between Catalonia and Alicante. As well as on the Balearics. There are also records in the Sierra Nevada and in Portugal (four records, three of them on the coast, including one of Cape St. Vincent). Almost in Extremadura, there are at least five known records on the Salamanca slope of the Sistema Central, referring to groups of between 1 and 25 birds on the Sierras of Candelario, Lagunilla and Peña de Francia. The record posted here extends it presence to west, being perhaps the first in the Sierra de Gata, and suggests that the Snow Finch. Although scarce, may occur more often than thought in the Sistema Central. Determining the origin of this bird is complicated, since although the breeding area in the Cantabrian Mountains is closest, ringing data would not rule out either a Pyrenean or even an Alpine origin.
-Anuarios ornitológicos de Salamanca. SEO-Salamanca [PDF].
- Fernández-González, Á. & Fernández-Menéndez, D. 2012. Gorrión alpino. En Atlas de las aves en invierno en España 2007-201. SEO/BirdLife y Magrama [
- SEO/BirdLife. Base de datos de anillamiento.
Gorrión alpino [PDF].
- Noticiarios ornitológicos. Ardeola.