Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2015-09

Common name:

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

Scientific name: Leucosticte australis
Date: 1-12-20015
Time: 8:30amd, and later again at 12:30ish
Length of time observed: The first sighting I observed the bird for 5 minutes, the second only brief glimpses
Number: 1 I'm certain about, another possible
Age: adult, and possible immature [this record is just for the adult]
Sex: ?
Location: Alta
County: Salt Lake
Elevation: 8,500ft
Distance to bird: less than 3m
Optical equipment: Nikon 10x50 Binoculars
Weather: Snowing
Light Conditions: poor
Description:        Size of bird: Medium sized finch
(Description:)       Basic Shape: typical finch shape
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: overall very brownish, with a pinkish belly and wings coverts
(Description:)            Bill Type: Yellow,conical finch bill
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
I'll break this down into the morning and afternoon sightings

Morning: I had arrived at Alta to lead a bird survey, but knowing morning is the best time to see Rosy-Finches at the feeders, I made a quick check to see if anything was there. At this time it was lightly snowing. I got to the feeder at the Police offices, and there were many Rosy-Finches there. After taking some photos and looking for Blacks(which I found),one Rosy-Finch caught my eye,perched in an aspen right above the feeder. First thing I noticed was it appeared lighter brown,not as deep of a chestnutty color to it as the Gray-crowned, it also just had a frosted look to it. It also had very a bright pink belly,wing coverts and rump of an adult. So I started taking photos as well as looking in the binos at it, it had a very dull sooty blackish cap,lacking the bright silvery gray that Gray-crowned usually have. It was very tame, and perched fairly low in the tree, so I got great looks at it for several minutes, but was late for my survey so couldn't linger.

Afternoon: After the survey I promptly returned to the office feeders to look for more Rosy-Finches. The storm had intensified to near white-out conditions, which is actually the best time to see large numbers of Finches at the feeders, and I wasn't disappointed. A large flock of 100+ Rosy-Finches and a few Pine Grosbeaks were actively feeding. Because of the heavy snow, I went inside the office and observed and photographed them through the window. I scattered some seed right out side the door on the path way, and within minutes, finches were feeding en masse just feet outside the window. I watched and photographed them for over an hour. Briefly I caught a glimpse of a Rosy-Finch with no gray in the crown, but was never able to get a second confirming look, but upon review of the photos after I got home I had one photo with an apparent adult, and a possible immature Brown-capped Rosy-Finch
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: Typical Rosy-Finch calls heard, none for certain came from the birds in question
Behavior: 8:30am adult was perched in an aspen right above the feeder just loafing, the 12:30pm sighting the bird(s) were feeding at the feeders in a mixed species Rosy-Finch flock
Habitat: Mixed upper montane forest of Aspen-Spruce/Fir, on the edge of town, feeding at bird feeders I put up especially to attract Rosy-Finches. Alta is famous for its Rosy-finch flocks in winter
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 Black-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' pose a real identification challenge. However, in my experience from watching these finches at close range this winter, 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 chestnutty rufous brown tone,especially to the breast and back, whereas Brown-capped are a dull lighter brown,appearing frosted because of pale feather edging. Also adult Brown-capped have brighter pink markings,going farther up onto the belly than a Gray-crowned
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I've seen this species 3 other times in Colorado, including this past summer above Telluride in August,plus a previous sighting at this location 1 month earlier
References consulted: Sibley,2014, many online photos and articles,including 'Brown-capped Rosy-Finch:
Beware of Gray-crowned-like Males' Tony Leukering 2009
Description from: From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Bryant Olsen
Observer's address: 688 East 700 South #105, SLC, UT 84102
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Many others have reported seeing this species at this location since my original sighting on December 8th, a few have photos but only 1 other record submitted.
Date prepared: 1-29-2015
Additional material: Photos  
Additional_Comments: eBird checklist: and

From email message: 30 Jan 2015 from Bryant Olsen:
"... As far if they are the same birds,I don't know but some have suggested they are not, Ryans adult bird was called a female, my adult was called a male. Just to clarify, I submitting a record for 1 bird,the adult, the immature bird I'm not certain about as I didn't see it in the field and only found it later when looking through the photos, so just have the committee consider the adult bird...