Family Old World Sparrows (Passeridae)

Least Concern

White-winged Snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis)


French: Niverolle alpine German: Schneesperling Spanish: Gorrión alpino

Fringilla nivalis


, 1766,



Has in the past sometimes been considered conspecific with M. adamsi and M. henrici. Races geographically isolated from one another; suggested that, in absence of gene flow, several are well towards achieving full species rank. Seven subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. n. nivalis (Linnaeus, 1766) – S Europe from N Spain, Pyrenees, the Alps and Corsica E to Greece.
  • M. n. leucura Bonaparte, 1855 – S & E Asia Minor.
  • M. n. alpicola (Pallas, 1811) – Caucasus, and N Iran E to Afghanistan.
  • M. n. gaddi Zarudny & Loudon, 1904 – Zagros Mts, in SW & S Iran.
  • M. n. tianshanica Keve-Kleiner, 1943 – W & C Tien Shan (Kazakhstan) S to N Pamirs (N Tajikistan).
  • M. n. groumgrzimaili Zarudny & Loudon, 1904 – E Tien Shan, NW China (N Xinjiang) and Altai to C Mongolia.
  • M. n. kwenlunensis Bianchi, 1908 – mountains of S Xinjiang (Kunlun Shan, Altun Shan and Nan Shan), in SW China.
  • Descriptive notes

    17–17·5 cm; 31–57 g. A large, plumpish, finch-like bird with relatively long wings and tail; bill stout and pointed, longer in summer (with change in diet... read more


    Song, by male from high perch or in display-flight, a complex mix of varied buzzy chirps, with much... read more


    Barren rocky ground with cliffs, also meadows above tree-line and up to snow-line, frequently near... read more

    Food and feeding

    In winter mainly seeds, including undigested seeds in droppings of horses, but also takes scraps at ski resorts; at other times of year... read more


    Season May–Jul/Aug; two broods. Usually breeds in small loose colonies of 2–6 pairs, also solitarily; defends small territory.... read more


    Mainly resident; some descent to lower altitudes in winter, particularly in E of range, but many... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common, but generally local. Has probably benefited from increased winter occupation of alpine resorts by humans. European population in 1980s was... read more

    Recommended citation

    Summers-Smith, D. & Bonan, A. (2020). White-winged Snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis). 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 on 25 February 2020).