Brown-capped Rosy-finch Leucosticte australis


Justification of Red List Category
The species is thought to have declined by 95% between 1970 and 2014. This equates to a decline by 51.5.% over three generations (10.5 years). Consequently, the species is listed as Endangered.

Population justification
The population is estimated at 45,000 mature individuals (Rosenberg et al. 2016), equating to 67,500 individuals in total.

Trend justification
Between 1970 and 2014, the species is suspected to have declined by 95% (Rosenberg et al. 2016). This equates to an annual decline of 6.6%, or a decline of 51.1% over 3 generations (10.5 years).

Distribution and population

The species is endemic to a small range in the Rocky Mountains from southern Wyoming to Colorado and north-central New Mexico (U.S.A.). While breeding in mountainous areas above the treeline, the species migrates downhill and sometimes southward during the non-breeding season, depending on weather conditions (Johnson et al. 2000).


The species occurs in mountainous areas above the treeline (3,350-4,330 m), where it occupies tundra, snowfields, glacier edges, rocky areas, cliffs and slopes. During the non-breeding season, it migrates downhill to broad, grassy valleys. There, it occupies a variety of habitats, including meadows, alpine slopes around the snowline, but also in disturbed areas along roadsides, fields, parkland, around cattle troughs or even at edges of cities (Clement 2018). Depending on availability, it feeds mainly on seeds, insects and spiders (Johnson et al. 2000).


The remoteness and inaccessibility of the breeding grounds make it unlikely that human disturbance will pose a threat to the species. However, its climate sensitivity, manifested in altitudinal movements in relation to weather conditions, make it extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts (Conrad 2015), including the spread of montane forest to higher elevations, which could eventually lead to the disappearance of the species’s favoured tundra habitat (Rosenberg et al. 2016).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
The species is protected under the Migratory Bird Protection Act. It occurs in several protected areas, both during breeding season and non-breeding season.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Investigate the impact of climate change on population size, trends and distribution range.


c.15 cm. Medium-sized, stocky finch. Male with black crown; cinnamon-brown on breast, neck and lower face; brown with black streaks on the back; underparts, tail-coverts and bend of wing with dark red; medium-sized seed-eating bill. Female resembles male, but much lighter. Similar spp Sometimes confused with Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch (Leucosticte tephrocotis), but the latter usually darker brown, with less red on underparts; different calls. Voice Song a long series of tuneless chew notes, sometimes with other call notes (peee... peent... weu...); call similar to other rosy-finches; often heard during flight, with low and descending chew; loud chirp during flight, when perched or as alarm or mobbing call.


Text account compilers
Hermes, C., Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Westrip, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Leucosticte australis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/11/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/11/2019.