Fringillidae (Finches and Allies)
Rosy Finch,Leucosticte arctoa. (Fig. 11.64) Male length 6 in (15.5 cm), female length 6 in (15 cm); male weight 9/10 oz (26 g), female weight 7/8 oz (25 g). Fairly common summer resident in the White Mountains, from above timberline to the summit, at 14,246 ft (4,340 m) elevation. The species does not nest in the Inyo Mountains, where breeding habitat is lacking.
The Rosy Finch is the only species of bird strictly confined to the Alpine Zone in these mountains during the summer. These birds prefer to feed at the edges of snowfields and cirques, and in alpine rocklands or other areas with much exposed bare ground. Seeds and insects, even those frozen in snow, are taken. Strong fliers, Rosy Finches are highly mobile and forage over wide reaches of the Alpine Zone. Nests are placed in damp cracks below cliffs or in rock piles. In winter, flocks have been encountered in the pinyon-sagebrush zone near old mines. There they roost for the
night in protected niches in the walls of abandoned vertical shafts. References: Grinnell and Storer (1924), Johnson (1965).
Cassin's Finch,Carpodacus cassinii . (Fig. 11.65) Male length 5 3/4 in (14.75 cm), female length 5 3/4 in (14.5 cm); male weight 1 oz (27.3 g), female weight 1 oz (26.6 g). Common summer resident in the White-Inyo Range, between 6,750 and 10,500 ft (2,060 and 3,200 m).
In the White and Inyo mountains, Cassin's Finches have been recorded most commonly in the aspen-willow association and in both Bristlecone and Lodgepole pines. They prefer open forest growth in cool, dry places. Locally, they may nest in cool portions of the pinyon zone, particularly where trees are large and mixed with Mountain Mahogany. This finch takes seeds from the ground and nips buds of aspen and conifers. Females of all ages and males up to approximately 14 months old are similar in appearance, with a streaked gray and brown plumage. Older males contrast strikingly, with their vivid hues of pinkish and rose-red. Studies in other areas have shown that the population size of Cassin's Finches fluctuates annually, presumably in response to the abundance of tree buds. Furthermore, males usually outnumber females. Like most true finches, this species demonstrates no real territorial system. Instead, the male defends the space around his mate wherever she goes rather than the area of the nest site. References: Mewaldt and King (1985), Samson (1976).
House Finch,Carpodacus mexicanus. (Fig. 11.66) Male length 5 1/4 in (13.25 cm), female length 5 in (13 cm); male weight 5/8 oz (18.4 g), female weight 5/8 oz
(19 g). Uncommon and local summer resident in the White-Inyo Range; occurs from the lowlands to 9,000 ft (2,740 m) elevation.
Although this species is common around lowland ranches and urban plantings, it is sparse in the mountains proper. Most records are from the pinyon-juniper belt. Springs are especially favored because they can fulfill the species' daily water requirements. Desert cactus fruits, when available, also provide some moisture. House Finches feed on a variety of seeds and small fruits. Nests are commonly placed in steep canyon walls or bluffs. Because they prefer warm and sunny environments, there is minimal overlap in the region between this species and its congener, the Cassin's Finch. References: Thompson (1960), Weathers (1983).
Red Crossbill,Loxia curvirostra. (Fig. 11.67) Male length 53/4 in (14.75 cm), female length 5 3/4 in (14.5 cm); male weight 1 1/8 oz (33 g), female weight 1 1/5 oz (34 g). Irregular permanent resident in the White-Inyo Range; recorded from 6,750 to 10,500 ft (2,060 to 3,200 m). Numbers fluctuate annually; usually the species is either uncommon or relatively common.
This erratic species has been recorded uncommonly from the ranges, where its presence and numbers depend on conifer seed production, which also varies annually.
Trees producing requisite seeds include Singleleaf Pinyon, Limber Pine, Bristlecone Pine, and Lodgepole Pine. Lodgepole Pine, an important food source for crossbills in the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Mountains, is presumably of slight importance in the White-Inyo Range because of its very local occurrence there. This finch is usually first detected overhead by its kip-kip or jip-jip call notes. With good fortune, one may encounter a feeding group in a conifer top. The birds quietly work over terminal cones but then burst away without notice in a flurry of call notes. Breeding may occur in any season if seeds are abundant. In the White Mountains, family groups were recorded in the pinyon zone in early June. By the third week of June, these groups had coalesced into larger flocks. References: Beedy and Granholm (1985), Grinnell and Storer (1924).