Family New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)

Least Concern

Black-chinned Sparrow (Spizella atrogularis)


French: Bruant à menton noir German: Schwarzkinnammer Spanish: Chingolo barbinegro

Spinites atrogularis


, 1851,



Probably closely related to S. pusilla, with which it shares many similarities in song and habitat, and S. wortheni, to which it is very similar in general appearance; mitochondrial DNA indicates that present species and S. pusilla are sister-taxa (S. wortheni may be closer to S. breweri). Present species is the only member of genus that exhibits sexual plumage dimorphism. Race caurina often synonymized with cana. Four subspecies generally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. a. caurina A. H. Miller, 1929 – coast ranges of WC California from Contra Costa County S to San Benito County, occasionally N to S Oregon, in W USA; non-breeding range poorly known (one record from Santa Cruz I, in California).
  • S. a. cana Coues, 1866 – inner coastal mountains of C & SW California (from Monterey County S on W slopes of S Sierra Nevada) and extreme NW Mexico (N Baja California); non-breeding Baja California Sur.
  • S. a. evura Coues, 1866 – SE California, S Nevada, SW Utah, C & SE Arizona, C & S New Mexico, W Texas and extreme N Mexico (NE Sonora); non-breeding range poorly known.
  • S. a. atrogularis (Cabanis, 1851) – C plateau of Mexico from Durango, S Coahuila and W Nuevo León S to C Oaxaca.
  • Descriptive notes

    14–15 cm; 9–14·8 g. A small, slim sparrow with long, notched tail. Male nominate race has grey head, with lores, area around base of bill and throat black... read more


    Song a clear ascending or descending trill, “sweet sweet sweet te te te te”;... read more


    Large tracts of undisturbed dry chaparral in foothills, and similar brushy habitats, commonly in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet not well known. In winter principally seeds; in summer larval insects. Forages in variety of forbs, including pinyon (Pinus... read more


    Season middle to late Apr to early Jul, most activity mid-May to mid-Jun; probably single-brooded, perhaps occasionally two or three broods... read more


    Populations N of C Mexico migratory. Those breeding W of the Sierra and into N Baja California move... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Classified as “Highest Concern” in the USA (Red WatchList priority species for conservation). Generally uncommon and local; may be common in some... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. (2020). Black-chinned Sparrow (Spizella atrogularis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 29 February 2020).