Family Tanagers (Thraupidae)

Least Concern

Plumbeous Sierra-finch (Geospizopsis unicolor)


French: Haplospize gris-de-plomb German: Bleiammertangare Spanish: Yal plomizo

Emberiza unicolor

d’Orbigny and Lafresnaye

, 1837,

Cordillera de Tacora, Tacna, Peru


Geographical variation complex. Races fall into three main groups, differing primarily in plumage tones, but also in genetic distance#R: N “geospizopsis group”, males of which are generally paler, females darker, boldly streaked and with strong buff wash below; single-taxon C “inca group”, male with darkest plumage, female grey and male-like; and S “unicolor group”, males intermediate in plumage, females duller brown and more obscurely streaked than N females. Proposed race grandis (described from Páramo de Santa Isabel, in C Andes of Colombia) supposedly larger than geospizopsis, but much overlap in measurements; treated as a synonym of latter. Seven subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • G. u. nivaria (Bangs, 1899) – N Colombia (Santa Marta Mts) and NW Venezuela (Mérida Andes).
  • G. u. geospizopsis (Bonaparte, 1853) – Northern Plumbeous Sierra-finch – Andes of C & S Colombia (C & E ranges), Ecuador and N Peru.
  • G. u. inca (J. T. Zimmer, 1929) – Peruvian Plumbeous Sierra-finch – Peru S to W Bolivia (La Paz).
  • G. u. tucumana (Chapman, 1925) – C Bolivia (Cochabamba) S to NW Argentina (Jujuy S to La Rioja).
  • G. u. unicolor (d’Orbigny & Lafresnaye, 1837) – Southern Plumbeous Sierra-finch – Chile (Arica–Parinacota S to Magallanes) and W Argentina (Mendoza S to Santa Cruz).
  • G. u. cyanea (Nores & Yzurieta, 1983) – highlands of Córdoba, in NC Argentina.
  • G. u. ultima (Ripley, 1950) – highlands of Tierra del Fuego.
  • Descriptive notes

    14·5 cm; average 21·9 g. A medium-sized, stocky emberizid with relatively small bill. Male nominate race has lead-grey head and upperparts, throat and underparts only... read more


    Song a short sneezy “djeeeer”; song of S group, rarely given, is much more musical and attractive,... read more


    Open and grassy alpine habitats, ranging from wetter páramo in N, and bofedal... read more

    Food and feeding

    A seed specialist; will also take invertebrates, particularly to feed to young. Forages on ground; in páramo, also flies up to... read more


    Season Nov–Jan in C Chile and Jan–Mar in N Argentina (Tucumán); fledglings Feb–Jul in Peru, and males in breeding condition Jul–Oct in... read more


    Most populations resident; those in far S of range not well known, but presumably move to slightly... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common throughout its very extensive range. Occurs in various protected areas, such as national parks and national reserves, in most paarts of range... read more

    Recommended citation

    Jaramillo, A. (2020). Plumbeous Sierra-finch (Geospizopsis unicolor). 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 17 February 2020).