Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sandia Crest

Sandia Crest, New Mexico

My fiancée and I decided to spend the Martin Luther King day weekend (Jan. 17-19th) observing the Rosy-finches at Sandia Crest New Mexico. Rosy-finches are birds of high mountains in western North America and eastern Asia. In North America, Rosy-finches primarily breed in alpine tundra above the timberline at high elevations. In the past ornithologists recognized just one species of Rosy-finch but now recognize four species, three of which occur in North America. Traditionally many birders had to travel to different regions to see these three species, but relatively recently birders discovered that all three species winter in the Sandia Mountains of northern New Mexico. Earlier this decade birders set up feeders at the Crest House, a restaurant and gift shop at the highest point in the Sandias (10,678 feet). Here birders can take a relatively easy drive (if the weather is nice) up into the mountains and see Rosy-finches coming right into a feeding station! In addition local birders and ornithologists began a banding program at Sandia Crest, which has expanded into looking at stable isotope data and now even radio tracking individual birds. Here are some of the photos I took at Sandia Crest.

This is the most wide-spread of the three Rosy-finches in North America, the Gray-crowned Rosy-finch, which breeds in Mountainous areas of much of Northwest North America, stable isotope studies have shown Gray-crowned Rosy-finches wintering at Sandia Crest come down from as far away as Alaska

And here we have the most range restricted, the Brown-capped Rosy-finch; breeding mostly in Colorado small portions of adjacent Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico, this species is one of only a handful of species entirely endemic to the United States

Here is the Black Rosy-finch this species breeds in much of the middle Rocky Mountains, in Utah Wyoming, Idaho and Southern Montana, stable isotope studies have shown that the majority of Black Rosies wintering at Sandia Crest breed in a small area of northern Utah, this is also a United States endemic

Here are some pics from the rosy-finch banding

A Black Rosy is banded

and had its wing cord taken

A close-up Brown-capped Rosy-finch

A newly banded Black Rosy

Here my fiancee, Nikki releases a newly banded Brown-capped rosy-finch

Here all three species of Rosy-finch feed on the deck of the Crest house. Hopefully the information gleaned from the Rosy-finch banding project will aid in the conservation of these beautiful mountain wanderes!


  1. A birding blog!? Not that I'm surprised or anything...Can I start a bear blog, where I talk about bears and how I miss trapping them?

  2. haha you should, you could talk about individual bears that you loved, the lost art of the post bear trapping nap, how to make a good home for stray ornithologists, it would be a good blog