Snow sparrow

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Snow sparrow
Snow Sparrow (Montifringilla nivalis) in plain dress in summer

Snow Sparrow ( Montifringilla nivalis ) in plain dress in summer

Order : Passerines (Passeriformes)
Subordination : Songbirds (passeri)
Superfamily : Passeroidea
Family : Sparrows (Passeridae)
Genre : Snow Sparrows ( Montifringilla )
Type : Snow sparrow
Scientific name
Montifringilla nivalis
( Linnaeus , 1766)

The snow sparrow ( Montifringilla nivalis ), formerly known as the snow finch , is a species of bird from the sparrow family (Passeridae). He only lives in high alpine , rocky areas.


The snow sparrow reaches a length of 16.5 to 19 centimeters and is therefore significantly larger than the house sparrow . The wings are white, only the hand wings and the thumb wing are black. The tail is white with a thin black ribbon, only the two innermost tail feathers are black. This creates a high-contrast, eye-catching flight image that is similar to that of the snow bunting . The legs and iris are black. The top is matt earth brown, the hull is continuously white on the underside. The head is gray. In summer the beak and throat are black. In winter the dark throat spot is covered by light feather edges. The beak is ivory in color in winter. Females are slightly paler in color than males.


The snow sparrow has a diverse repertoire of vocalizations. He calls among other rough "zjiiih" wailing-meowing "mjäh" short "ti ti IG" and when energized, often similar to the crested tit rolling "tir'r'r'r" or clattering "tjett-tjett-tjett -tjett ". The singing is variable, hesitant and jerky. It contains recurring, dry trills, sometimes also chirping prelude.

Habitat and Distribution

Distribution of the snow sparrow:
  • Year-round occurrence
  • Wintering areas
  • The snow sparrow is a resident bird and occurs in rocky mountain regions at altitudes between 1900 and 3100 meters. It stays at these heights even in winter and only comes down to 1000 meters in exceptional cases.

    Its distribution area extends from the Pyrenees , the Alps , the Italian Abruzzo and the Balkans to Greece , eastern Turkey and the Caucasus . The subspecies Montifringilla nivalis henrici , which is sometimes considered a separate species , occurs in China .

    Way of life and food

    The snow sparrow feeds mainly on insects and seeds . In winter sports areas he is very trusting and often comes near people to pick crumbs.


    Snow Sparrow eggs

    The nest is built in crevices or rodent burrows. The clutch consists of four to five eggs and the incubation period is around two weeks. Both parents take care of the rearing of the young. There can be up to two broods per year.


    • Svensson, L .; Grant, PJ; Mullarney, K .; Zetterström, D .: The new cosmos bird guide - all species of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH & Co., Stuttgart, 1999. ISBN 3-440-07720-9

    Web links

    Commons : Montifringilla nivalis  - album with pictures, videos and audio files