The Common Rosefinch: Uncommonly Beautiful…!!!
I thought I would give the year a rosy start.
Recently, I saw a flock of migrants flying. This is what they looked like:
These are not ‘rosefishes’ – these are Common Rosefinches and can be seen in my country in the mighty Himalayas during the summers and in the plains during winters. This is the only Rosefinch that migrates long distances. All the other birds of its family are local hill migrants moving to lower altitudes in the winter. I have seen a couple of these in a wide variety of habitats including wetlands, grasslands, hilltops and in my city, Bangalore (South India), as well.
Where does the word ‘Common’ in their name come from? In my opinion, it comes from the fact that this bird is common to a number of countries.
Here is how my first sighting of this bird happened:
We were on a short morning trek somewhere in the Himalayas when our trekking guide pointed towards a ‘boy’ Rosefinch. A lady in our group at first couldn’t spot the bird but when she did, she screamed ‘aaaaah…..!!!’ in astonishment so loud that this and all the other birds in the vicinity flew away.
This is what she saw…
These are sparrow-like and sparrow-sized birds in their overall appearance.
As their name goes, boys have blushing red faces and red peeping from under the wings. Their front sides have color gradation from red, getting fainter down the belly. This contrasts with the brown wings and back tinged with pink. They get to wear their bright red dresses in their third year.
In contrast, the juniors and the girls forgo all the red and pink. So they have a browny look. When compared with sparrows, have minor differences like deeper forked tail, blunter grey beak and dull brown colour with faint stripes on the back and variable in the front.
These birds are usually found in bushes and among flowers. I have seen them meticulously go from flower to flower, kissing each one of them – in the process, pollinating them. Even the tiniest ones that grow on the hill slopes among grasses are not left behind. They also nibble on seeds and grass seeds.
A female Common Rosefinch at work. Note the pollen on its chin:
A juvenile male nibbling at the seeds…
There is a question that I have not been able to find an answer to – whenever I have seen these birds wintering in Southern India, I have never seen a male. Also, most of the time, I have seen these birds feeding and going about their lives alone or just a couple of them without their flock. That, too, is a mystery to me, keeping in mind these birds always migrate in a flock.
Since these birds are migrants, they face the same problems that other migrants face – loss of habitat, change in topography and climate change etc.
Also, dependence on flowering plants and grasslands is another factor since the latter are the first to disappear due to urbanization or get converted to farmlands. I have written about grasslands in my earlier post about Bushlarks.