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:


Don’t they look like flying fish??…here, they were quite a distance away.

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…


My first picture…


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.


Rosefinch Male…

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.


Rosefinch female…note the forked tail…

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 migrant female Rosefinch…somewhere in the hills of Southern India.


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.






  • Thank you for the rosy start to the new year, Aditya. I am of the opinion that most “common” birds are uncommonly beautiful. 🙂
    Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2019.

  • This is good learning. Great research well done.Looking for more blogs keep going. R P.

  • Great post Aditya, Interesting how when we catch flight shots on these small birds their wings are always seem tucked in. I notice the same with our birds. which gives the same fish appearance. Birds are also the main pollinators in our country, pollinating bees were introduced from England for the introduced flowers and fruit trees. Love your movie footage, it always gives a more real view of the bird’s characteristics.

    • It is interesting to know that the birds were the main pollinators in Australia for a long time. Nothing else can highlight their importance in the environment more than this. Thanks for sharing.

      Nice to know that you liked my videos. Thanks for the kind words.

  • Great photos and post.

  • These are pretty. They remind me of the purple finches found in US. Just to mention that for me, the 2 videos don’t work, Could be my computer or my (rubbish) internet connection, though. All the best for 2019 RH

    • Thank you for visiting and for the New Year wishes. Wishing you a wonderful 2019. It will be nice to know if Purple Finches migrate as well.

  • Forget the comment on the videos, they have now loaded. It was my computer / connection!

  • Hi Aditya, it is a beautiful blog. Thanks for posting. There are lot of birds that we didn’t notice or if notice one don’t know which bird it is, only like the beauty of the bird. It is duty of all the birders to write about the birds so that new birders can identify the bird. Any how thanks for posting. Waiting for more articles.

  • I am also yet to see a male Rosefinch down south :-). Loved the videos included in the post.

    • Thanks for visiting and for the kind words. It would be interesting to know what was the largest flock size of these birds. Down South of course.

  • Good to see your blogs. Have been birding since a few years I am really enjoying it now.

    • Thanks for your visit and for the appreciation. Great to be sharing this wonderful activity with you.

  • its a beautiful animals

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.