Family New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)

Least Concern

Olive Sparrow (Arremonops rufivirgatus)


French: Tohi olive German: Olivrückenammer Spanish: Cerquero oliváceo

Embernagra rufivirgata


, 1851,

Brownsville, Texas, USA


Races form three groups, “rufivirgatus group” (rufivirgatus, ridgwayi and crassirostris), brighter-plumaged “Yucatán group” (verticalis and rhyptothorax), and even brighter and shorter-tailed “Pacific group” (superciliosus, sinaloae, sumichrasti and chiapensis); these sometimes considered to represent three separate species, but morphological differences are relatively slight and “their songs and calls are all similar”#R; own analysis indicates “Yucatán group” to be moderately distinct#R. Race ridgwayi weakly differentiated, and possibly an intergrade between nominate and crassirostris; verticalis intergrades with crassirostris in Campeche and with rhyptothorax in C Yucatán. Nine subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. r. sinaloae Nelson, 1899 – W Mexico from C Sinaloa S to Nayarit.
  • A. r. sumichrasti (Sharpe, 1888) – W coast of Mexico from Jalisco, Colima, Michoacán and Guerrero S to Isthmus of Tehuantepec (Oaxaca).
  • A. r. chiapensis Nelson, 1904 – C valley of Chiapas, in S Mexico.
  • A. r. superciliosus (Salvin, 1865) – Pacific Sparrow – Pacific coast of Nicaragua and Costa Rica S to Santo Domingo.
  • A. r. rufivirgatus (Lawrence, 1851) – Olive Sparrow – extreme S USA (S Texas) and NE Mexico from N Coahuila (Sierra Santa Rosa#R) and Nuevo León S to S coastal Tamaulipas.
  • A. r. ridgwayi (Sutton & Burleigh, 1941) – S interior of Tamaulipas, E San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo and N Veracruz.
  • A. r. crassirostris (Ridgway, 1878) – Atlantic coast of SE Mexico from C & S Veracruz S to E Puebla and N Oaxaca.
  • A. r. verticalis (Ridgway, 1878) – Yucatan Sparrow – E Tabasco and Yucatán Peninsula (SE Mexico) S to N Guatemala (Petén) and N Belize.
  • A. r. rhyptothorax Parkes, 1974 – N Yucatán Peninsula.
  • Descriptive notes

    13·5–15 cm; 15–30 g (Texas). A fairly stout, dull olive-green sparrow. Nominate race has head dull grey, dull brown lateral crownstripe, thin brown eye... read more


    Song a monotonous series of accelerating chipping notes, “chip chip chip chip chip-chip-chip-... read more


    Tangles of thorny shrubs, e.g. mesquite (Prosopis), Texas ebony (Pithecollobium... read more

    Food and feeding

    Few data on diet; known to consume small insects, spiders (Araneae), seeds, and occasionally fruits. Forages principally on ground and low... read more


    Nests with eggs mid-Mar to early Sept in Texas (lower Rio Grande Valley), but most nest May–Jun and Aug–Sept, and apparently... read more


    Generally sedentary; some may move during very cold seasons, or because of drought.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Often common or very common in appropriate habitat; common to fairly common in most of Mexico, but uncommon in NE Coahuila (San Juan de Sabinas).... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. (2020). Olive Sparrow (Arremonops rufivirgatus). 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 25 February 2020).