(1088) Metaponia pusilla.
The Gold-Fronted Finch.
Passer pusillus Pall., Zoogr. Rosso-Asiat., ii, p. 28 (1811) (Erzeroum). Metaponia pusilla. Blanf. & Oates, ii, p. 230.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. Forehead and anterior crown crimson-gold ; head, throat and upper breast black, the black obscured in freshly-moulted plumage by grey fringes to the feathers ; back, scapulars and rump brownish black, the feathers edged with yellow; shorter upper tail-coverts golden-yellow, tipped whitish and with a central dark patch; longer tail-coverts blackish with white edges; tail black, edged with yellow at the base and with white at the tips ; lesser and median wing-coverts like the back but with broader, brighter yellow margins ; greater coverts black with broad yellowish-white tips ; primaries and outer secondaries black, edged with golden-yellow • inner secondaries broadly edged with white; lower plumage from the breast yellow or yellow-white, streaked with blackish; under wing-coverts and axillaries bright yellow.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill black or horny-black ; legs and feet black.
Measurements. Total length about 125 mm.; wing 70 to 76 mm.; tail 54 to 57 mm.; tarsus 16 to 17 mm.; culmen 7 to 8 mm.
Young bird like the adult with the head and breast like the back; the yellow edging to the feathers is replaced with fulvous and the central black by dark brown.
Distribution. Caucasus, mountains of Central Asia, Persia, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Ladakh and Tibet.
Nidification. The Gold-fronted Finch breeds in the Himalayas from the end of May (26.5 Rattray, Murree) to the early part of August, on the eighth of which month B. B. Osmaston found eggs in Ladakh at 11,000 ft. It breeds as low down as 6,000 feet in Kashmir and up to 12,000 feet in Tibet and in Lahul, where Whistler took nests at this elevation. The nest is a lovely little compact cup of fine grasses, roots and fibres, well lined with wool or hair, or both. It may be placed either in a Juniper-tree well raised from the ground or in a rose- or briar-bush within two or three feet of it. The eggs number four, occasionally three or five. In appearance they can hardly be distinguished from those of the preceding species but are decidedly smaller. Fifty eggs average 17.3 x 12.6 mm.: maxima 19.0 x 13.9 mm.; minima 15.4 X 12.2 and 16.3 x 11.5 mm.
Habits. This little Finch is found up to 14,000 feet or higher in Summer, descending to 6000 feet in Winter, sometimes wandering even 2000 feet lower than this in the coldest months. It is gregarious when not breeding and, in its ways, seems to be very like the Twites.