Family Tanagers (Thraupidae)

Least Concern

Dull-colored Grassquit (Asemospiza obscura)


French: Cici obscur German: Braungimpeltangare Spanish: Semillero oscuro

Emberiza obscura

d’Orbigny and Lafresnaye

, 1837,

Chiquitos, Bolivia


Formerly treated in Sporophila, but skeletal features, nest type, song and molecular data caused its transfer to Tiaris (but see Genus Asemospiza). Detailed study of geographical variation identified six diagnosable populations, namely: those in range of haplochroma (as listed below); population from extreme S Colombia and Ecuador (part of pauper); birds of dry N valleys of Peru, in valleys of R Marañón and R Huallaga (part of pauper); those in range of pacifica (as listed below); non-coastal regions in Peru, S to La Paz, in Bolivia (part of nominate); and E slope from N Bolivia S to N Argentina (part of nominate). Songs similar over entire range#R. Pending full revision, four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. o. haplochroma (Todd, 1912) – mountains of N Colombia (Santa Marta) and N Venezuela (Carabobo E to Monagas), also Andes S to Colombia (S in Cauca Valley to S of Cauca Province).
  • A. o. pauper (Berlepsch & Taczanowski, 1884) – extreme S Colombia (Nariño) S on W slope of Andes to NW Peru (to La Libertad and Cajamarca) and on E slope in N Peru (S to San Martín and Loreto).
  • A. o. pacifica (Koepcke, 1963) – coastal plain and slope in Peru from Ancash S to Arequipa.
  • A. o. obscura (d’Orbigny & Lafresnaye, 1837) – E slope of C Peru (from San Martín S, patchily, to Puno) and S through Andean slopes of Bolivia to NW Argentina (S to Tucumán); also, probably non-breeding, in E lowlands of Bolivia (Santa Cruz and Chuquisaca), W Paraguay, SW Brazil#R#R and N Argentina (Chaco).
  • Descriptive notes

    10·5–11·5 cm; average 11·2 g. A small songbird, moderately long-tailed and small-headed, with short conical bill with relatively straight culmen. Nominate race (in extreme S... read more


    Song buzzy and explosive, “zeetig, zeezeezig”, in Peru also described as similar to that of ... read more


    Edge habitats, including edge of open forest, shrubby clearings and roadside thickets, also gardens... read more

    Food and feeding

    Seeds; often takes seeds of grasses, particularly Panicum. Usually forages on ground or by bending down grass-heads or other... read more


    Season Jan–Feb in Bolivia and Argentina. Nest domed, with rounded side entrance, constructed from vegetable fibres, small overhang over... read more


    Resident in most of range. Lowland populations in E Bolivia appear to be present largely in non-... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Uncommon to locally common; rare in much of Peru. Has large range, within which no evidence of any large-scale population decline. In Venezuela, this... read more

    Recommended citation

    Jaramillo, A. (2020). Dull-colored Grassquit (Asemospiza obscura). 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).