Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rare finch sighting brings excitement to Minnesota birders

A Gray-crowned Rosy-finch sits on the snow at Bowen's Lodge in Deer River on Jan. 16, 2024. It has a cinnamon-colored breast with white and black markings on the head and a yellow beak.
Lorie Shaull
A Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch sits on the snow Jan. 16, 2024, at Bowen's Lodge on Lake Winnibigoshish, near Deer River.

A wandering Gray-crowned Rosy-finch has found its way to a feeder at a Lake Winnie resort. Typically, these birds are found in the mountains of the West.

DEER RIVER — A songbird rarely seen in Minnesota is drawing avian enthusiasts from all over after it was spotted visiting a feeder at a Lake Winnibigoshish resort.

The Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch typically lives in the mountains of the western U.S., according to the Cornell Lab or Ornithology, and is the highest-altitude nesting bird in North America. Featuring pink and brown plumage, the birds are hardy — foraging with ease on steep slopes and in high winds or snowstorms.

This particular rosy-finch is frequenting bird feeders at Bowen’s Lodge, and birders are noticing. KAXE Staff Phenologist John Latimer was lucky enough to see the bird himself last week, and others are sharing their sightings in the KAXE-KBXE Season Watch Facebook group.

A Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch sits on a platform feeder at Bowen Lodge on Jan. 16, 2024.  It is a songbird with a cinnamon-colored breast and back, a rosy tinge to the wings, and a grey and white head.
Lorie Shaull via KAXE-KBXE Season Watch Facebook group
A Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch sits on a platform feeder at Bowen Lodge on Jan. 16, 2024.

Why is it here?

According to a post by bird enthusiast Jack North, just two other sightings of the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch have ever been recorded in Itasca County, both in the 1970s.

How it ended up here right now is an open question.

“That will remain a mystery,” Latimer said. “Whether it came on the head of a weather system or if it’s just a finch that got its directions confused and went marching about looking for food, one never knows.

“But it’s a pretty reliable source of food up there: they have a wonderful spread of suet and seeds. A bird at Bowen’s Resort is a well-fed bird.”

How to see it

The folks at Bowen’s Lodge gave permission for KAXE to publicize the sighting and offered to let interested visitors come see the finch.

“Just follow the road to the end and the feeder is right there,” Latimer said. “You can stop there and have a look.”

“I would say, ‘Don’t be a bother,’ but most of you birders know better than to be a bother,” he continued.

Do you have sightings to share? Join our KAXE-KBXE Season Watch Facebook group!

Charlie Mitchell (she/they) joined the KAXE team in February of 2022. Charlie creates the Season Watch Newsletter, writes segment summaries for the website, and coordinates our Engaging Minnesotans with Phenology project. With a background in wildlife biology, she enjoys learning a little bit about everything, whether it's plants, mushrooms, aquatic invertebrates, or the short-tailed shrew (did you know they can echolocate?).