Family Finches (Fringillidae)

Least Concern

Trumpeter Finch (Bucanetes githagineus)

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Taxonomy

French: Roselin githagine German: Wüstengimpel Spanish: Camachuelo trompetero
Taxonomy:

Fringilla githaginea

M. H. C. Lichtenstein

, 1823,

Deram, Upper Egypt

.

Geographical variation slight, not always constant, and largely clinal. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • B. g. amantum (E. J. O. Hartert, 1903) – Canary Is (Gomera and Tenerife E to La Graciosa, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura), also recorded on Alegranza, Montaña Clara and El Hierro; possibly extinct on Tenerife#R.
  • B. g. zedlitzi (Neumann, 1907) – SE Spain, and N Africa (Morocco E to S Tunisia and Libya, S to Mauritania, N Mali, N Niger, N Chad and NW Sudan).
  • B. g. githagineus (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823) – Egypt and NC & NE Sudan.
  • B. g. crassirostris (Blyth, 1847) – S & E Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan; E Lebanon, C Syria, E & S Israel, Jordan, NE Egypt (Sinai), S Iraq, Kuwait and Arabian Peninsula; and Iran E to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and N & W Pakistan; winters also to S Pakistan (Sind, Makran Coast) and NW India (Rajasthan and Haryana).
  • Descriptive notes

    12·5–15 cm; 16–25 g. Medium-sized to large, stocky, large-headed finch with large, blunt bill and short tail. Male nominate race breeding has forehead to cheek, chin and throat bright red to reddish-pink (appears as frontal band on lower forehead), lores washed ash-grey, upper forehead to nape, side of neck and face pale ashy grey, tinged slightly browner or pinkish on face and streaked finely darker on crown; narrow white eyering; upperparts (including lesser and median upperwing-coverts) sandy brown with slightly darker feather centres, rump and uppertail-coverts pink; tail dark brown or grey-brown, broadly edged pink; median upperwing-coverts fringed pale pink, greater coverts drab brown with pink fringes, broadly fringed pink, rest of wing dark brown, finely edged pale pink on primary coverts and secondaries and deeper pink on primaries and finely tipped whitish-buff, tertials browner and fringed pinkish-buff; side of throat and breast pinkish-buff, tipped or spotted brighter pink, lower breast and belly pinkish-buff with paler or greyer feather bases, flanks paler brown, tinged pink, undertail-coverts whitish, washed pale pink; iris dark brown or black; bill bright orange-red; legs flesh-brown. Non-breeding male in fresh plumage (winter) lacks pink on forehead and face and is paler or duller grey-brown or sandy brown on head, mantle, back, underparts and edges of wing-coverts and flight-feathers; edges of greater coverts and primary coverts and flight-feathers narrowly tinged pinkish, tips of secondaries and primaries more broadly pale buff; bill yellow. Female is like non-breeding male, but paler or duller sand-brown, rump, uppertail-coverts, tips of wing-coverts and edges of flight-feathers variably pale buff or pinkish-buff to pinkish-orange; may show tinge of pink on lores, lower ear-coverts, chin, throat and breast, rest of underparts sandy buff, lightly streaked more heavily buffish; bill pale yellow to yellowish-horn with pinkish or orange tinge, during breeding lower mandible usually yellow or orange-yellow. Juvenile is browner or more sandy than female (but many indistinguishable), lacking pink, all upperwing-coverts and edges of flight feathers fringed pale brown or buff-brown (often forming pale or bright panel on closed wing), bill dull brown or greyish-horn. Races vary little: crassirostris is slightly larger and darker than nominate on head and upperparts, lacks pink fringes on hindneck, mantle and scapulars, has narrower pinkish or reddish-pink edges of flight-feathers and tail feathers, underparts washed rose-pink or reddish; zedlitzi male is pale sandy grey, tinged rose-pink (especially on rump and underparts), female has pale to bright reddish-pink edges of scapulars, greater coverts and flight-feathers and pale cream to yellowish belly; amantum has short, thick bill wider or swollen at base, grey head and face with reddish-pink forehead, dull grey-brown or sandy-tinged hindneck to mantle and scapulars, male variably (depending on wear) tinged deep pinkish-red to ruby or orange-red, female bill straw-yellow.

    Drawing by Norman Arlott
    Descriptive notes:

    12·5–15 cm; 16–25 g. Medium-sized to large, stocky, large-headed finch with large, blunt bill and short tail. Male nominate race breeding has forehead to cheek, chin and throat bright red to reddish-pink (appears as frontal band on lower forehead), lores washed ash-grey, upper forehead to nape, side of neck and face pale ashy grey, tinged slightly browner or pinkish on face and streaked finely darker on crown; narrow white eyering; upperparts (including lesser and median upperwing-coverts) sandy brown with slightly darker feather centres, rump and uppertail-coverts pink; tail dark brown or grey-brown, broadly edged pink; median upperwing-coverts fringed pale pink, greater coverts drab brown with pink fringes, broadly fringed pink, rest of wing dark brown, finely edged pale pink on primary coverts and secondaries and deeper pink on primaries and finely tipped whitish-buff, tertials browner and fringed pinkish-buff; side of throat and breast pinkish-buff, tipped or spotted brighter pink, lower breast and belly pinkish-buff with paler or greyer feather bases, flanks paler brown, tinged pink, undertail-coverts whitish, washed pale pink; iris dark brown or black; bill bright orange-red; legs flesh-brown. Non-breeding male in fresh plumage (winter) lacks pink on forehead and face and is paler or duller grey-brown or sandy brown on head, mantle, back, underparts and edges of wing-coverts and flight-feathers; edges of greater coverts and primary coverts and flight-feathers narrowly tinged pinkish, tips of secondaries and primaries more broadly pale buff; bill yellow. Female is like non-breeding male, but paler or duller sand-brown, rump, uppertail-coverts, tips of wing-coverts and edges of flight-feathers variably pale buff or pinkish-buff to pinkish-orange; may show tinge of pink on lores, lower ear-coverts, chin, throat and breast, rest of underparts sandy buff, lightly streaked more heavily buffish; bill pale yellow to yellowish-horn with pinkish or orange tinge, during breeding lower mandible usually yellow or orange-yellow. Juvenile is browner or more sandy than female (but many indistinguishable), lacking pink, all upperwing-coverts and edges of flight feathers fringed pale brown or buff-brown (often forming pale or bright panel on closed wing), bill dull brown or greyish-horn. Races vary little: crassirostris is slightly larger and darker than nominate on head and upperparts, lacks pink fringes on hindneck, mantle and scapulars, has narrower pinkish or reddish-pink edges of flight-feathers and tail feathers, underparts washed rose-pink or reddish; zedlitzi male is pale sandy grey, tinged rose-pink (especially on rump and underparts), female has pale to bright reddish-pink edges of scapulars, greater coverts and flight-feathers and pale cream to yellowish belly; amantum has short, thick bill wider or swollen at base, grey head and face with reddish-pink forehead, dull grey-brown or sandy-tinged hindneck to mantle and scapulars, male variably (depending on wear) tinged deep pinkish-red to ruby or orange-red, female bill straw-yellow.

    Drawing by Norman Arlott
    Descriptive notes:

    12·5–15 cm; 16–25 g. Medium-sized to large, stocky, large-headed finch with large, blunt bill and short tail. Male nominate race breeding has forehead to cheek, chin and throat bright red to reddish-pink (appears as frontal band on lower forehead), lores washed ash-grey, upper forehead to nape, side of neck and face pale ashy grey, tinged slightly browner or pinkish on face and streaked finely darker on crown; narrow white eyering; upperparts (including lesser and median upperwing-coverts) sandy brown with slightly darker feather centres, rump and uppertail-coverts pink; tail dark brown or grey-brown, broadly edged pink; median upperwing-coverts fringed pale pink, greater coverts drab brown with pink fringes, broadly fringed pink, rest of wing dark brown, finely edged pale pink on primary coverts and secondaries and deeper pink on primaries and finely tipped whitish-buff, tertials browner and fringed pinkish-buff; side of throat and breast pinkish-buff, tipped or spotted brighter pink, lower breast and belly pinkish-buff with paler or greyer feather bases, flanks paler brown, tinged pink, undertail-coverts whitish, washed pale pink; iris dark brown or black; bill bright orange-red; legs flesh-brown. Non-breeding male in fresh plumage (winter) lacks pink on forehead and face and is paler or duller grey-brown or sandy brown on head, mantle, back, underparts and edges of wing-coverts and flight-feathers; edges of greater coverts and primary coverts and flight-feathers narrowly tinged pinkish, tips of secondaries and primaries more broadly pale buff; bill yellow. Female is like non-breeding male, but paler or duller sand-brown, rump, uppertail-coverts, tips of wing-coverts and edges of flight-feathers variably pale buff or pinkish-buff to pinkish-orange; may show tinge of pink on lores, lower ear-coverts, chin, throat and breast, rest of underparts sandy buff, lightly streaked more heavily buffish; bill pale yellow to yellowish-horn with pinkish or orange tinge, during breeding lower mandible usually yellow or orange-yellow. Juvenile is browner or more sandy than female (but many indistinguishable), lacking pink, all upperwing-coverts and edges of flight feathers fringed pale brown or buff-brown (often forming pale or bright panel on closed wing), bill dull brown or greyish-horn. Races vary little: crassirostris is slightly larger and darker than nominate on head and upperparts, lacks pink fringes on hindneck, mantle and scapulars, has narrower pinkish or reddish-pink edges of flight-feathers and tail feathers, underparts washed rose-pink or reddish; zedlitzi male is pale sandy grey, tinged rose-pink (especially on rump and underparts), female has pale to bright reddish-pink edges of scapulars, greater coverts and flight-feathers and pale cream to yellowish belly; amantum has short, thick bill wider or swollen at base, grey head and face with reddish-pink forehead, dull grey-brown or sandy-tinged hindneck to mantle and scapulars, male variably (depending on wear) tinged deep pinkish-red to ruby or orange-red, female bill straw-yellow.

    Voice

    Song, from ground and during song flight, a drawn-out nasal and slightly rising wheezing "cheeeee...", "zeeeeer zeee-er" or "eeeeeeeeee", or "t-yu t-yu t-yu zi dzzzaaaaaaaaar choo choo choo choo", and often followed by slightly discordant phrases like sound of tin-trumpet and interspersed with metallic clicks, buzzes and short whistles. Call a short or abrupt "chee", "chit", "chik", "kek", "tset" or "chee-chup", often as contact note; in flight a low-pitched "dzit" or "zik" and a soft "weechp".

    Habitat

    Desert, semi-desert and desert edges, vast open steppe areas, including dry desolate hills with sparse low scrub, edges of cultivation, mountain slopes, treeless stony plains, cliffs, ravines, gorges and wadis, in C Sahara also in villages and gardens; generally avoids open areas of sandy desert, but frequent at oases. Mostly below 1700 m; to 1900 m in Afghanistan and to 3000 m in N Pakistan (Chitral). In non-breeding season found in similar habitat at lower levels, including down to coastal areas; in Nile Valley (Egypt) occurs in cultivated fields.

    Food and feeding

    Mostly small seeds, shoots and buds of grasses and low ground-loving plants, including Salvia (especially Salvia aegyptiaca in Morocco) and Nicotiana glauca (on Canary Is), also docks (Rumex), glasswort (Salicornia), crucifer (Schouwia), mugwort (Artemisia), grasses (Gramineae) and cereals, also berries and possibly buds and seeds of Salvadoria persica. Also some insects and larvae, mostly of grasshoppers (Orthoptera). Nestling diet seeds, either green or as regurgitated pulp. Forages on ground, where it creeps, runs, hops and shuffles (squats on tarsi), often rapidly; becomes upright when alarmed. Extracts seeds from bent-over grassheads, also digs into soft sandy soil and pecks grains from camel dung; in Egypt feeds on spilt grain along roadsides. Perches on rocks, boulders and roadside wires. In pairs and in small to large flocks of up to 20 individuals; in non-breeding season gathers in larger flocks, often comprising juveniles, exceptionally of several hundreds or occasionally more than 1000 individuals; in Canary Is associates with flocks of Linaria cannabina and Spanish Sparrows (Passer hispaniolensis). Frequently flies a good distance to drink, especially in late afternoon or evening.

    Breeding

    Season Feb–Jun; two broods in Canary Is, Caucasus, Israel, Morocco and C Asia. Monogamous. Solitary or loosely colonial. Pair formation from break-up of flocks at start of breeding season. Male performs song flight, rising rapidly with vigorous wingbeats in wide circles, changing direction erratically, and descending in long glide; courtship includes also bill-touching by the two partners, and displaying male may stand upright with plumage sleeked, crest feathers raised, wings lowered (exposing pink rump) and tail partly spread, belly and flanks feathers also ruffled, while hopping from side to side, calling loudly, in front of female. Nest built by female, mostly a loose collection of twigs, plant stalks, down and fibres, grass, animal hair and occasionally feathers, placed in shallow depression in ground, under rock, shrub or grass tussock, or up to 6 m above ground in pipe or wall of house, derelict building or old tomb, sometimes below ground in wall of deep well; nests in cavity between rocks may have small stones placed at entrance. Clutch 4–6 eggs, pale blue, sparsely spotted or speckled with rust-brown to purple-black; incubation by female (male also has brood patch), period 11–14 days; chicks fed and cared for by both parents, nestling period 12–14 days; young frequently leave nest before able to fly, independent 11 days after fledging.

    Movements

    Resident, nomadic and partially migratory. Post-breeding movements dispersive or nomadic, and within breeding range or slightly beyond. Scale of movement usually determined by availability of food or water; seasonal or erratic in appearance, numerous in some years (leading to temporary colonization of some areas) and absent in others, and may not breed regularly in some areas; occasionally or exceptionally irruptive, and has occurred in large flocks in non-breeding areas e.g. Malta, and in smaller numbers N to C Europe. In Canary Is, race amantum a rare non-breeding visitor to El Hierro. E birds more migratory: post-breeding movements in Lebanon mid-Aug to early Sept, and in Israel altitudinal movements to lower areas Sept–Nov and return to Mt Hermon and Negev Desert Mar–May; in Iran and Afghanistan either resident or moves locally S to Gulf coast or longer distance to Makran coast of Pakistan and NW India, where widespread and occasionally abundant in winter in Rajasthan (and less numerous or infrequent in Punjab and Gujarat); regular but scarce post-breeding visitor to Jordan, E Gulf states and N Yemen, occasional in Oman (where possibly a scarce resident), and scarce winter visitor United Arab Emirates late Oct–Mar and Djibouti Dec–Mar. Scarce and irregular during post-breeding dispersal mostly mid-May to Jul in S Italy, Sicily, Malta, Greece, Cyprus and N Israel. Vagrant in C Europe N to British Is, Fennoscandia and Germany; in E to S Kazakhstan and in S to Cape Verde Is.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common to locally common. European breeding population (in Spain) c. 1000 pairs#R, and up to a further 50 pairs in S & E Turkey. Scarce or rare resident in Lebanon; in Syria first bred in 2003 and 2004 following large influx in area. Has increased in Israel since 1970s with spread of agricultural developments, providing water in previously arid desert areas; population now estimated at several thousands, but varies annually. Has bred in Armenia and probably also in Kuwait. Increased wintering numbers in S Spain in late 1960s led to first breeding in 1971, and has since spread E along coastal mountain chain#R; in N Africa, breeding range extended N in Morocco and Tunisia in second half of 20th century; first recorded in S Turkey in 1974 and subsequently increased along S coastlands, and has bred also SE Anatolia. High number of records in Spain away from the breeding areas suggest recruitment from the North African population#R, what may account for the relatively high genetic diversity found in the Spanish population#R.

    Recommended citation

    Clement, P. (2019). Trumpeter Finch (Bucanetes githagineus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/61379 on 24 May 2019).