Black Rosy-Finch - Leucosticte atrata
The Black Rosy-Finch is a medium-sized, slightly stocky finch of about 14 to 16 cm in length and 22 to 32 grams in weight, with a medium-sized bill for eating seeds. The sexes are similar in size and coloration, but the male plumage contrasts more and is more colorful. Males are a uniform dark brownish-black on the back, breast, neck, and face below the eye. The feathers of the belly, rump, upper- and under-tail coverts, and the bend of the wing (wrist) are broadly tipped with pink (more narrowly and reddish in summer). The forecrown is black; there is a silver-gray band around the hindcrown. The nasal tufts are white, and the tail is notched. The bill is yellow in winter and black during the breeding season. The legs are black and the under wings appear silvery during flight. Females are similar but with the body a lighter grayish-brown, the back more streaked, and the pink feathers reduced or absent; the gray on the hindcrown is often absent by midsummer. Juveniles are similar in appearance to females, but lighter (usually more gray-brown), and lacking the silver-gray hindcrown, black forehead, and pink on the feather margins (Johnson 2002).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
The Black Rosy-Finch is most likely to be confused only with other rosy-finches. The Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch is much lighter and brownish overall, with more extensive pink to red feather margins that contrast less with the brown plumage. The Brown-capped Rosy-Finch lacks the silver-gray on the head and is much lighter and browner-bodied (almost golden in males). Ranges of the three species rarely overlap during the breeding season (Johnson 2002).
Western Hemisphere Range
Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations:
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Map Help and Descriptions
(direct evidence "B")
(indirect evidence "b")
No evidence of Breeding
(regular observations "W")
(at least one obs. "w")
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
The Black Rosy-finch is mainly an altitudinal migrant, but many move south and east 200 to 450 km beyond the breeding range (Johnson 2002). Most Black Rosy-finches breeding in Montana move out of the state an undetermined distance during winter (Johnson 2002).
Habitat use in Montana has not been studied, but is similar to other regions (P. Hendricks, personal observation), where Black Rosy-Finches are known to nest in crevices in cliffs and talus among glaciers and snowfields above timberline (also possibly in abandoned buildings above treeline) and forage in barren, rocky or grassy areas adjacent to the nesting sites; in migration and winter they also occur in open situations, fields, cultivated lands, brushy areas, and around human habitation (American Ornithologists' Union 1983, Johnson 2002). They may roost in mine shafts or similar protected sites. During some winters individuals move out onto the shortgrass and midgrass prairies to feed (Hendricks and Swenson 1983, Johnson 2002).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at email@example.com
or (406) 444-3655.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
- Foresman, K.R. 2001. The wild mammals of Montana. Special Publication No. 12. Lawrence, KS: The American Society of Mammalogists. 278 p.
- Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
- Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana’s amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
- Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
- Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
Sparse and Barren Systems
Wetland and Riparian Systems
- Occasionally Associated with these Ecological Systems
Forest and Woodland Systems
Black Rosy-Finches forage on the ground for seeds. In the spring and summer they glean wind-transported insects from the snow. Later in the season they glean insects from vegetation and catch flying insects, as well as continuing to feed on seeds. Winter foods include seeds taken from the ground, from stalks protruding through the snow, and at bird feeders (Johnson 2002).
Males typically outnumber females in breeding and wintering populations. During the breeding season males defend a "territory" around the female wherever she moves (Ryser 1985, Johnson 2002). Black Rosy-Finches are commonly found in large flocks when not breeding, sometimes in flocks composed of other rosy-finch species.
Little information is available for Montana as few nests have been discovered. Nest dates for Montana may be similar to those for Wyoming which occur from July 1 to August 11 (Johnsgard 1986). Young have been observed in July just post-fledging (Davis 1961).
In general, clutch size is usually 4 to 5, sometimes 3 or 6 (based on 13 nests). Incubation, by the female alone, lasts 12 to 14 days. Both adults tend the young until they fledge at about 20 days of age. After nest departure the young remain with the parents for another 14 days (Johnson 2002).
No special management action appears to be required at this time.
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- American Ornithologists' Union. 1983. Check-list of North American birds. Sixth Edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
- Davis, C.V. 1961. A distributional study of the birds of Montana. Ph.D. dissertation. Oregon State University, Corvallis. 462 pp.
- Hendricks, P. and J. Swenson. 1983. Dynamics of the winter distribution of rosy finches, Leucosticte arctoa, in Montana. Canadian Field-Naturalist 97(3): 307-310.
- Johnsgard, P.A. 1986. Birds of the Rocky Mountains: with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Colorado Associated University Press, Boulder, CO.
- Johnson, R. E. 2002. Black rosy-finch (Leucosticte atrata). In: A. Poole and F. Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Number 678. The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA. 28 pp.
- Marks, J.S., P. Hendricks, and D. Casey. 2016. Birds of Montana. Arrington, VA. Buteo Books. 659 pages.
- Ryser, F.A. 1985. Birds of the Great Basin: a natural history. University of Nevada Press, Reno. 640 pp.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
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- Econ, Inc., Helena, MT., 1988, Wildlife monitoring report, 1987 field season, Big Sky Mine. March 1988. In Peabody Mining and Reclamation Plan Big Sky Mine Area B. Vol. 8, cont., Tab 10 - Wildlife Resources. Appendix 10-1, 1987 Annual Wildlife Report.
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- Humphris, Michael., 1993, Wildlife Monitoring Report. Spring Creek Coal Company 1993 Mining Annual Report. Appendix I. April 11, 1993.
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- Johnsgard, P.A. 1992. Birds of the Rocky Mountains with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. xi + 504 pp.
- Johnson, R. E. 1972. The biosystematics of the avian genus Leucosticte. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.
- Johnson, Richard E. 2002. Black Rosy-finch (Leucosticte atrata). Species Account Number 678. The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Retrieved 3/25/2008 from The Birds of North America Online database
- Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar’s Montana bird distribution, 6th edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, MT. 144 pp.
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- Sibley, D. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. 598 pp.
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- Skaar, P.D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman latilong: a compilation of data concerning the birds which occur between 45 and 46 N. latitude and 111 and 112 W. longitude, with current lists for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, impinging Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, MT. 132 p.
- Spring Creek Coal Company., 1992, Wildlife Monitoring Report. Spring Creek Coal Company 1992 Mining Annual Report. Appendix I.
- Swenson, J.E., K.C. Jensen and J.E. Toepfer. 1988. Winter movements by rosy finches in Montana. Journal of Field Ornithology 59(2): 157-160.
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