Family Tanagers (Thraupidae)

Least Concern

Black-eared Hemispingus (Sphenopsis melanotis)


French: Tangara barbouillé German: Schwarzohr-Finkentangare Spanish: Hemispingo orejinegro

Chlorospingus melanotis

P. L. Sclater

, 1855,



Usually treated as conspecific with S. piurae and S. ochracea (see latter species). Races berlepschi and castaneicollis differ in having more rufous-chestnut breast and vent (at least 2) and rufous-tinged greyish flanks (HBW indicates that nominate has no black chin but some birds photographed in Ecuador clearly do), and song appears to be different, with introductory notes (some upslurred and others overslurred, in opposite proportions to nominate) and with the chatter seeming to lack the steep downslurred notes typical of nominate (hence narrower frequency range and different-shaped notes: 2+1=3)#R; more research needed. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. m. melanotis (P. L. Sclater, 1855) – Northern Black-eared Hemispingus – Andes of W Venezuela (S Táchira) S on W slope of E Andes of Colombia (Santander and SE Boyacá S to head of Magdalena Valley, in Huila), also W Andes (E slope near Jardín, in Antioquia) and C Andes (Antioquia S to E slope in Nariño) of Colombia (probably also E slope of E Andes); also, E slope in Ecuador S to Tungurahua (Baños and Ambato) and in SE (Podocarpus National Park), including adjacent N Peru#R.
  • S. m. berlepschi (Taczanowski, 1880) – E slope of Andes in Peru from Amazonas S to N Cuzco.
  • S. m. castaneicollis (P. L. Sclater, 1858) – Southern Black-eared Hemispingus – E slope in SE Peru (from Puno) S to C Bolivia (W Santa Cruz).
  • Descriptive notes

    13–14 cm; 13–22 g. Bill relatively small and slender. Nominate race has crown and nape grey, side of head blackish, narrow greyish-white supraloral line (often obscure or... read more


    In SE Peru (Cuzco, 1500 m) at dawn, individuals (race berlepschi) sing duets, trios or... read more


    Mainly in undergrowth of humid montane forest, especially in Chusquea bamboo or along... read more

    Food and feeding

    Of 13 stomachs examined, eleven held only animal matter and two both animal and vegetable matter; contents included beetles (Coleoptera)... read more


    One bird in breeding condition in Sept in Colombia (Cundinamarca) and fledglings seen in Nov in Bolivia (Cochabamba). No other information.



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Uncommon to locally fairly common over most of range. Found in numerous middle-elevation protected areas scattered throughout range.... read more

    Recommended citation

    Hilty, S. (2019). Black-eared Hemispingus (Sphenopsis melanotis). 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 19 May 2019).