Rosy-Finches spend summers breeding around steep cliffs and snowfields on Montana’s highest peaks and typically swoop down to our valleys and foothills in the winter. It is not unusual for folks living in rural areas near Montana’s many mountain ranges to see large flocks of these beautiful mountain finches at their feeders, especially after big snow storms or during cold snaps. But interestingly, so far this winter, very few Rosy-Finches have been seen in Montana.
From December 2020 to February 2021 Montana birders reported about 75 Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch observations, and from December 2021 to February 2022 about 98 Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch observations were reported on eBird. So far, during the same time period in 2022-2023 (Dec. 1 through Feb. 10), only 6 Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches observations have been reported. What’s going on with Rosy-Finches this winter? Where are they? Are we experiencing a sudden range-wide decline of Rosy-Finches or have populations that typically spend the winter in Montana temporarily shifted to neighboring states for some reason? At this point it’s too early to tell.
We’re hoping that observation data submitted to the Rosy-Finch Project and other citizen science platforms such as eBird will help us answer these questions. If you happen to see Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches or the even less common Black Rosy-Finches at your feeders or on your property, please report the sightings! Reporting such observations on eBird is great, but keep in mind that it’s not too late to contribute to the Rosy-Finch Project by carrying out an opportunistic survey when Rosy-Finches show up at your feeders.
If you’d like to contribute or learn more about the Rosy-Finch Project which tracks their numbers and distribution across the western U.S., please visit the project website, sagelandcollaborative.org/rosy-finch. You can help even if you rarely or never see Rosy-Finches at your feeders! For more information, please contact Bo Crees, Montana Audubon’s Avian Specialist, at [email protected].