Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2024-13

Common name:

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

Scientific name: Leucosticte australis
Date: 3/23/2024
Time: 1:15pm~
Length of time observed: Off and on for about an hour total
Number: 1
Age: ?
Sex: ?
Location: Alta Town Office Feeders
County: Salt Lake
Latilong: 40�'25.8"N 111�'14.2"W
Elevation: 8,700ft~
Distance to bird: 10m at closest
Optical equipment: Nikon 10x42 Binoculars
Weather: Overcast, 36F, snowing and breezy
Light Conditions: flat light but OK
Description:        Size of bird: medium sized passerine
(Description:)       Basic Shape: finch like
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: all brown
(Description:)            Bill Type: stout, grainivore
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
We had arrived specifically to look for Brown-capped Rosy-Finch since one was caught and banded by UDWR staff and others on Wednesday 3/20. It was lightly snowing and a bit breezy and overcast, which is actually perfect conditions for finding and viewing Rosy's. There was a flock of 30 or so feeding on the feeders when we arrived, but quickly they were joined by more. The Rosy's were extra spooky due to the wind and would flush from the feeders every couple minutes, but quickly descend again. After less than 10 minutes we spotted a Brown-capped! It immediately stood out as it had an all dark blackish crown with no gray or silver, unlike all the Gray-crowned and Black Rosy-Finches present. Overall it was brown on the body similar to the Gray-crown, with a slight pink cast on the wings and flanks. Photos show the brown is a slightly paler shade of brown than the Gray-crowned, but I didn't notice that in the field. This Brown-capped appears to be a different individual than the Brown-capped captured and banded here on 3/20, it was not banded and had a yellow basic plumage bill, unlike the 3/20 BCRF which had a black alternate plumage bill. Based on the amount of pink was in this bird, it is either an adult female or second year male, adult males would have more pink and immature females less. We remained for about an hour watching the finches, the flock grew into the hundreds with a constant turn over of new finch joining, others leaving, as the snow intensified and we spotted the BCRF at least 6 more times, but all the finches were very spooky and wouldn't stay still for long.
(see photo)
Song or call & method of delivery: Heard typical calls of Rosy-Finches as they would fly around, never certain which birds they were coming from
Behavior: Feeding in a large mixed flock of Rosy-Finches on sunflower seed feeders I put up specifically to attract Rosy-Finches.
Habitat: Upper montane mixed aspen and conifer forests, with cliffs nearby, and bird feeders
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Black Rosy-Finch have a blackish rather than brownish body. Some immatures can appear rather dull, but in my experience are more mousey gray, rather than the brown of a Brown-capped. Also all Black Rosy-Finches have a bright silvery gray, high contrast cap.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch are more difficult to distinguish. The coastal 'Hepburn's' race is distinctive with its all gray head, including cheeks, but the 'Interior' races pose a real identification challenge. However, in my experience from watching these finches at close range for over 10 years at this location, all 'Interior' Gray-crowned, even immatures, have a bright silvery gray crown and nape, with black limited to a small area on the forehead. In immatures the gray is duller, and the may have some blackish in the crown, but the nape is still very grayish. In addition to the cap pattern, Gray-crowned adults are also have a richer chestnut rufous brown tone, especially to the breast and back, whereas Brown-capped are a dull lighter brown, appearing frosted because of pale feather edging.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I've seen BCRF 3 times in the alpine of Colorado in summer, about 20 individuals, and this is my 3rd time seeing one at this location. I have observed thousands of Gray-crowned and Black Rosy-Finches over the years and participated in banding them here as well, although all I do is hold them, photograph them or release them as my banding experience is limited. I have never help band a BCRF.
References consulted: Sibley app, Macaulay Library photos
Description from: Notes taken at the time of the sighting
 From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Bryant Olsen
Observer's address: 84102
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Max and Mike Malmquist were with me, later Janice Gardner joined us and saw the bird, Max got a good photo of the BCRF
Date prepared: 3/23/24
Additional material: Photo
Additional comments: eBird checklist: