Family Tanagers (Thraupidae)

Least Concern

Black-faced Grassquit (Melanospiza bicolor)


French: Cici verdinère German: Jamaikagimpeltangare Spanish: Semillero bicolor

Fringilla bicolor


, 1766,

America = Bahama Islands


In HBW treated in Tiaris, but on molecular evidence sister to M. richardsoni#R#R. Eight subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. b. bicolor (Linnaeus, 1766) – Bahamas; Cayo Tío Pepe (NW of Isabela de Sagua), Cayo Paredón Grande#R and other small islands off N Cuba.
  • M. b. marchii S. F. Baird, 1864 – #RJamaica and Hispaniola, including nearby small islands.
  • M. b. omissa (Jardine, 1847) – Puerto Rico E through Lesser Antilles to Tobago, and mainland from N Colombia (Guajira Peninsula and W Santander; probably this race in N part of C Andes#R) E through coastal Venezuela to Sucre and Margarita I.
  • M. b. grandior (Cory, 1887) – San Andrés Archipelago (Providencia, Santa Catalina and San Andrés), in SW Caribbean.
  • M. b. sharpei (E. J. O. Hartert, 1893) – Leeward Antilles (Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire).
  • M. b. tortugensis (Cory, 1909) – Tortuga I, off N Venezuela.
  • M. b. johnstonei (Lowe, 1906) – La Blanquilla and Los Hermanos, off N Venezuela.
  • M. b. huilae (A. H. Miller, 1952) – Magdalena Valley, in C Colombia.
  • Descriptive notes

    10·2–11·5 cm; 7–13 g. Small, relatively short-tailed emberizid. Male nominate race has black head, throat and most of underparts, with dark greenish... read more


    Song an emphatic buzz, “tse-tsee-tsee-tsizzle-tsizzle”, or a weak, buzzing series,... read more


    Open, dry areas of acacia (Acacia) and cactus scrub with grasses and shrubs in forest... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds almost exclusively on seeds; in Netherlands Antilles also on fruit (or possibly seeds) of large candle cactus (Lemaireocereus... read more


    Breeds throughout year in West Indies, Apr–Jun in Cuba; in rainy season, Jun–Jan, in Tobago. Nests in small colonies or loose... read more


    Resident. Some limited dispersal; vagrant in SE USA (S Florida; fewer than ten records), apparently... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Often common in appropriate habitat. Fairly common in Colombia and Venezuela; very rare in Cuba, where found only on Cayo Tío... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. (2020). Black-faced Grassquit (Melanospiza bicolor). 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 21 February 2020).