Photos Reveal Finch Species Long Thought Vanished on Tibetan Plateau

Photos taken in a remote region of the Tibetan Plateau have revealed the existence of a rare species of finch long thought to have vanished. During a trip to Xinjiang, China in June, a French photographer

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Sillem’s mountain finch

Photo by Yann Muzika
The Sillem’s mountain finch
snapped images of what ornithologists believe is a Sillem’s mountain finch (Leucosticte sillemi), a species that previously was known only by two specimens collected from the same region of China, located about 16,400 feet above sea level, in 1929. When the photographer, Yann Muzika, was unable to identify the bird, he sent the photographs to the UK-based Oriental Bird Club (OBC), where editor Krys Kazmierczak immediately thought of the mysterious finch. “The words ‘Sillem’s Mountain Finch’ simply popped into my head, and I sat there for a little while somewhat awestruck,” Kazmierczak wrote to OBC supporters. It wasn’t until 1992 that, based on the two specimens collected in 1929, a Dutch ornithologist determined that the finch represented a distinct species. Ornithologists say additional field research, perhaps including the collection of blood samples for DNA testing, will be required to confirm the bird’s identity.