Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 燕雀

Category I. Scarce passage migrant, more numerous in autumn, rare in winter. Occurs in dry open-country habitats throughout HK.


Alt Text

Apr. 2023, Roman Lo. Male.

14-16 cm. Elongate white rump in all plumages. Males occurring in HK generally have buff-fringed blackish head, crown, face and mantle feathers; on this bird, however, the paler tips have nearly all fallen away leaving only the pure black. Also has orange throat, chest and flanks with some black spots on the latter and largely yellow bill.

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Mar. 2013, Michelle and Peter Wong. Female.

Females have greyish head with dark sides to crown, dull orange-buff sides to chest, broad whitish/orange-buff tips to greater coverts, grey-brown mantle with buff fringes and largely white underparts.


A very distinctive upslurred and nasal wheeze is given, both from perched birds and in flight. The more common flight call is a short ‘chup’. Both calls are audible on this recording.


Approximately half of records have occurred on the island of Po Toi, a migration watchpoint, while many of the remainder have occurred at Long Valley and the Mai Po area. Other records occur across HK, including other offshore islands.


Figure 1 indicates that Brambling is a scarce passage migrant. Main autumn passage occurs from the last week of October to the last week of November, with numbers peaking in the first half of November. The earliest on record occurred on 12 October while migrants appear to cease passing through at the end of November. The highest count is of three birds during 28-29 October 2008. Since 1999 there have been four winter records of singles from 16 December to 25 February (though the latter could be an early migrant).

Spring passage has been noted from 11 March to 28 April, with most records in the final week of March and first half of April, peaking in the first week of that month. The highest count is of seven birds on Po Toi during 2-3 April 2013, with five also at Mai Po on the later of these dates.

Prior to 1999 there were 15 records (of 17 birds) during the period from 1981 to 1997, though it was considered possible that a few related to ex-captive individuals as it was a species known in the wild bird trade. In addition, the migration season timing of records, especially in spring, was considered unusual given the understanding at the time that HK was at the southern extremity of the wintering range. However, the pattern of records since and the knowledge that Brambling is a winter visitor to much of China, including areas further west, and the northern Philippines, albeit scarce this far south, has removed any doubt as to the origin of HK birds that do not show obvious signs of previous captivity.


Birds are often seen in trees or other elevated perches on the edge of open areas. Has been observed feeding on the seeds of the Horsetail Tree Casuarina equisetifolia.


Monotypic. Breeds from Scandinavia east across Siberia, northern Kazakhstan and northwest Mongolia to the Sea of Okhotsk area down to far northeast China; winters from western Europe and the Mediterranean east through southwest Asia to Pakistan and the Himalayas, and in Japan, the Korean Peninsula and China, excluding high plateau and desert areas (Clement and Arkhipov 2020, Liu and Chen 2020).


IUCN: Least Concern. Population trend decreasing.

Figure 1.

Clement, P. and V. Arkhipov (2020). Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA., R.S. and H.J. Goodhart (1955). Field observations from the Colony of Hong Kong. Ibis 97: 311-340.

Liu, Y. and Y. H. Chen (eds) (2020). The CNG Field Guide to the Birds of China (in Chinese). Hunan Science and Technology Publication House, Changsha.

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