Great Rosefinch

Great Rosefinch   Carpodacus rubicilla


  • Carpodacus : Greek word  karpos- fruit; dakos –biter  { Fruit eater/biter}
  • Rubicilla : Caucasian for Great Rosefinch

 Vernacular Name: Tibetan: Awal-luk-si

Distribution in India: Resident of Northern Himalayas in India.

Description:  Size of 19-20 cm. It is a large, stout Rosefinch with large, conical bill and slightly notched tail. The male of nominate race has lowermost forehead/base of upper mandible and lores to behind eye dark crimson, rest of face deep red, finely spotted or streaked white; upper forehead to crown bright strawberry-red, finely streaked white, hindcrown to nape and upperparts bright red or crimson, feathers fringed browner and with blackish shaft streaks on upperparts; rump deep pink, uppertail-coverts brown, edged pale pink; tail blackish-brown, feathers finely edged browner or buffish-brown, outermost with white outer edge; upperwing blackish-brown, median and greater coverts like back, greaters also tipped pale pink, flight-feathers finely edged pale buff, tertials more broadly edged paler buff or whitish at tips; below, deep red to crimson with whitish feather centres, fine white tips on throat to side of upper breast; belly and flanks slightly paler with larger white centres, undertail-coverts whitish, tinged pink, with dark central shaft streaks; iris dark brown; upper mandible dark horn-yellow, lower mandible paler or greyer; legs dark brown. Female has head and upperparts grey-brown, streaked dark brown or blackish, finely streaked on crown, slightly paler on unstreaked lower back and rump, uppertail-coverts dark-centred; tail blackish-brown, outer feathers finely edged whitish, upperwing-coverts broadly pale grey-brown, flight-feathers edged paler brown, secondaries edged paler buff and tertials fringed slightly paler; lores and face browner than crown and finely streaked darker, underparts buffish, broadly streaked dark olive or olive-brown to lower breast, upper belly and flanks, belly to undertail-coverts whiter and more finely streaked; bare parts much as for male.

Habitat: It is found  in Alpine and subalpine areas with stunted and sparse vegetation, montane and submontane plateaux, usually above rhododendron zone at heights of 3330–5000 m in Himalayas. In winter can come down to 1500-2300m, though the males prefer to stay back at heights unless the weather is exceptionally cold.

Food Habits: It eats plant and tree seeds, buds, catkins, shoots, leaves, fruit and berries, also nectar; also insects and larvae and other arthropods. It makes daily descent of up to 2 km in early morning to feeding areas, returning to higher areas later in day. It forages on the ground between rocks, often at edges of snow patches, on cliffs and ledges in alpine vegetation, and in winter also in stunted low bushes and at edges of woodlands. It collects seeds from plants and flower heads and from snow on ground, bites through seedpods and picks out seeds from split case; swallows whole ovary and stamens of flowers; crushes berries of sea-buckthorn in bill, discards pulp and consumes only seed. It forages most often in pairs or small groups when breeding; in non-breeding season forms larger flocks.

Breeding Habits: They breed in May- Aug in India. They are monogamous; pair-bond strong. They are solitary, occasionally loosely colonial. The pair formation takes place during late winter and before break-up of winter flocks. The courtship involves sudden aerial chasing of female by male, often in haphazard or zigzag pattern, before landing on ground or rock and male giving loud song; displaying male has upright posture with head and bill pointed upwards, breast and belly feathers ruffled and tail slightly raised while bounding left and right in front of female on ground, also bobbing and bowing movements of male to female, also wings drooped or flicked out from body and tail held almost vertical. The nest is built by female, mostly from thin twigs, plants stalks and root fibres, grass, moss, animal hair, wool and feathers, placed in crevice in rock face or in low bush on cliff face. It lays a clutch of 4–5. The incubation is done by female alone for a period up to 16 days. The chicks are fed and cared for by both parents, mostly by female. The nestling period is 17 days and the young fed by parents for up to 3 weeks after leaving nest.