In summer as in winter, the snowfinch inhabits the Alps. Mostly it is found above the tree line and advances to altitudes of more than 3,200 m. Even at this altitude, evidence of breeding has been found. Austria is home to some 1,800-2,300 snowfinches, of which about 10% have their breeding area in the Ötztal Alps. Its habitat is primarily rocky, barren terrain with alpine turf and screes.
The snowfinch is slightly bigger than the sparrow and its beak is more narrow and pointed in comparison. Outside of breeding season, the snowfinch is found in flocks of several animals time and again. The male is coloured grey-brown on the head and back, on the stomach white to greyish-white. The female’s underbelly in contrast is more a brownish-white. It is notable that the snowfinch’s wings are so long that they protrude beyond the centre of the tail. These long wings enable the snowfinch to execute highly agile flight manoeuvres. In winter, the bird saves its energy and sings only quietly or not at all. The rest of the year, however, its chirping cannot be ignored.
Prof. Ambros Aichhorn from Salzburg has studied the snowfinch’s nest-building and breeding behaviour intensively. Only the females build the nest from dry grass stalks, mostly in caves within 5-8 days. The male remains nearby, but defends the nesting site. The breeding hollow is lined with snow grouse feathers. The white eggs are incubated for about two weeks. After the chicks hatch, the male will bring food for the offspring. At three weeks, the chicks fledge and leave the nest hole.
The number of snowfinches in Europe is described as stable. Thus the snowfinch is not regarded as endangered.