White-winged Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis


Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 520,000-1,600,000 breeding pairs, equating to 1,560,000-4,800,000 individuals (BirdLife International 2004). Europe forms 25-49% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 3,180,000-19,200,000 individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Distribution and population

Montifringilla nivalis has an extremely large range extending from southern Europe from northern Spain, Pyrenees, the Alps and Corsica east to Greece, southern and eastern Asia Minor, Caucasus, and Iran east to Afghanistan, Tien Shan (Kazakhstan) south to northern Pamirs (northern Tajikistan), eastern Tien Shan, northwestern China (northern Xinjiang) and Altai to central Mongolia, as well as the mountains of southern Xinjiang (Kunlun, Altun Shan and Nan Shan), in southwestern China.


The species inhabits barren rocky ground with cliffs, also meadows above tree line and up to snow-line, frequently near buildings where these present at high altitudes; 2000–5300 m. In winter it feeds on mainly seeds, including undigested seeds in droppings of horses, but also takes scraps at ski resorts; at other times of year insects, grasshoppers (Orthoptera), flies (Diptera) and beetles (Coleoptera), and spiders (Araneae). Study in Switzerland in winter suggested that seeds of alpine plants are preferred over those of grasses (Gramineae). Nestlings fed almost exclusively with animal food. Food items collected mostly on ground but some insects caught in flight. Forages in pairsand small groups; inlarger flocks outside breeding season. The breeding season is May–Jul/Aug; two broods. Usually breeds in small loose colonies of 2–6 pairs, also solitarily; defends small territory. Pronounced circling display-flight with slowly fluttering wings. Bulky nest of dry grass and moss, lined with feathers and fine plant material, placed in crevice in rock face or hole in building, occassionally in burrow of small rodent; sometimes in artificial structure, e.g. cable-car pylon (in French Pyrenees), or in nestbox; clutch 4-5 eggs. Incubation by female, period 12–14 days; chicks fed by both parents, nestling period 18–22 days; fledglings fed by both sexes for c. 12–15 days after leaving nest.


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Derhé, M. & Ekstrom, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Montifringilla nivalis. Downloaded from on 02/12/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 02/12/2022.