Family Tanagers (Thraupidae)

Least Concern

Grassland Yellow-finch (Sicalis luteola)


French: Sicale des savanes German: Kurzschnabel-Gilbtangare Spanish: Chirigüe sabanero

Emberiza luteola


, 1789,

no locality = Suriname


Previously considered conspecific with S. raimondii owing to similarities in plumage, but the two occur sympatrically in coastal S Peru and behave as biological species; moreover, raimondii now found to be more closely related to S. lutea and S. auriventris#R. Has been suggested that races may constitute up to three separate species, nominate, flavissima and chapmani forming one (yellowish-rumped) species, chrysops, mexicana, eisenmanni and bogotensis another (more olive-rumped), and luteiventris a third (duller and with olive flanks); arrangement here allows for these three groups but also separates out bogotensis in line with other recent treatments. Study of variation in plumages, vocalizations and genetics is needed. Eight subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. l. mexicana Brodkorb, 1943 – C Mexico (Pacific slope in Puebla and Morelos).
  • S. l. chrysops P. L. Sclater, 1862 – Northern Yellow-finch – S Mexico (Caribbean slope in Veracruz and Chiapas), Belize#R, S Guatemala (Baja Vera Paz, Sacatepéquez), and Mosquitia region of E Honduras and NE Nicaragua.
  • S. l. eisenmanni Wetmore, 1953 – NW Costa Rica (Guanacaste) and C Panama (Coclé).
  • S. l. bogotensis Chapman, 1924 – Montane Yellow-finch – Andes of Venezuela and E range in Colombia S through highlands of Ecuador to S Peru (Arequipa).
  • S. l. luteola (Sparrman, 1789) – Grassland Yellow-finch – Colombia (lower elevations of W Andes, valleys of R Cauca and R Magdalena, and llanos of Arauca, Casanare, N Meta and N Vichada), Venezuela (Falcón, Monagas and Bolívar), Guyana and adjacent N Brazil (R Branco region); from 2004 also present in Trinidad#R.
  • S. l. flavissima Todd, 1922 – Suriname S to mouth of R Amazon (Brazil).
  • S. l. chapmani Ridgway, 1899 – lower R Amazon in Brazil (C Pará).
  • S. l. luteiventris (Meyen, 1834) – Misto Yellow-finch – S Brazil (Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul), Uruguay, lowlands of N & C Argentina (Santiago del Estero and Corrientes S to Chubut) and C Chile (S Coquimbo S to Valdivia); winters also N to S Peru (Cuzco and Puno), C & E Bolivia (La Paz, Beni and lowland Santa Cruz), C Brazil (Mato Grosso E to Bahia).
  • Introduced (nominate race) in Lesser Antilles.

    Descriptive notes

    9·8–12·5 cm; 14·6–17·9 g. A small, compact yellow-finch with short and rounded bill, moderately long wings and distinctly notched tail... read more


    Song, from perch and in flight, a canary-like series of trills, each at slightly different... read more


    Grasslands and agricultural areas, also grassy edges of marshes and other wetlands. Prefers taller-... read more

    Food and feeding

    Seeds, probably also arthropods. Forages mostly on ground. Feeds on seedheads of grasses by flying up and alighting on them, causing stem... read more


    Season Feb–Jun, but may breed in all months, in N of range, and males in breeding condition in Jun in Panama and in May in Colombian... read more


    Resident in N & W of range. S populations (luteiventris) mostly migratory, some birds... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to abundant in S cone of South America; fairly common to uncommon and more local in N of range. Race mexicana rare and local; ... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J., Jaramillo, A. & de Juana, E. (2020). Grassland Yellow-finch (Sicalis luteola). 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).