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Sillem's Mountain Finch (Leucosticte Sillemi)


A rare and strange bird

Only two specimens have ever been sighted of this little bird. And the man who observed and caught the two Mountain Finches was a Dutchman named Jerôme Alexander Sillem (1902-1986) who was to become the director of the Amsterdam bank Mees & Hope NV later. As a 27 year old he participated in an expedition in Asia. He had discovered the two birds on the Western Plateau in Tibet at an altitude of 5000 m (or 15,000 feet). Experts assume that Sillem's Mountain Finch is a bisexual species as it has some similitaries with another species called Leucosticte brandti pallidior that in fact embraces two genders. Thus the bearers of our name would be something really exceptional in the realm of nature!

When Jerôme Alexander discovered the birds a snow-storm was approaching. Probably, the birds had been driven down by the weather from even greater altitudes of the Tibetan Plateau. As the wing of the juvenile was not yet full-grown, it is unlikely that they had travelled far in horizontal direction. Their appearance is rather inconspicuous, pale and not very attractive. A personal impression can be gained at a visit to the zoological museum in Amsterdam where the bodies are kept (see link below). Rump and underparts are grey-white, with a slight buff tinge on the breast, the ground-colours of the flight-feathers are drab-grey. The tail is relatively short, and the bill is slender.

This is the Leucosticte Sillemi, the Sillemfinch, in a reconstruction drawing made by W. Maas in 1993 as an illustration to ta publication on thebird (supplied by Caroline Sillem).


see also:
Sillem's Mountain Finch
Tawny-headed Mountain Finch (Wikipedia)

©  Copyright 2012  Martin Sillem  -  Last update: 1 January 2008