Family New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)

Least Concern

Rufous-collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis)


French: Bruant chingolo German: Morgenammer Spanish: Chingolo común

Fringilla capensis

Statius Müller

, 1776,

Cape of Good Hope; error = Cayenne, French Guiana


Geographical variation occurs in size and coloration, although size variation not so pronounced as in some other New World sparrows; excluding very pale insularis (S Caribbean), birds from furthest S parts of range (australis) are palest and those from highlands of Venezuela (macconnelli) darkest; morphologically the most divergent is the large and very long-winged australis. Numerous races have been proposed, but many are poorly differentiated; orestera may be better treated as a synonym of costaricensis, and mellea perhaps better subsumed into hypoleuca; at present, perezchinchillorum (described from Cerro Marahuaca, in S Venezuela) and bonnetiana (Sierra Chiribiquete, in S Colombia) subsumed into roraimae, and markli (lowland NW Peru) into huancabambae. Proposed race novaesi sometimes recognized for population along R Tocantins, in Pará, E Amazonian Brazil, and arenalensis for those in Catamarca (NW Argentina). Comprehensive revision of subspecific taxonomy required, especially as genetic data have recovered three distinct lineages within this species that do not correspond to current racial limits#R#R. Twenty-five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • Z. c. septentrionalis Griscom, 1930 – highlands of S Mexico (Chiapas) S to Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua#R#R.
  • Z. c. costaricensis J. A. Allen, 1891 – Costa Rica and W Panama (E to Veraguas); Santa Marta Mts (N Colombia) and Andes from Venezuela (S from C Lara) S to Ecuador.
  • Z. c. antillarum (Riley, 1916) – Cordillera Central, in Dominican Republic.
  • Z. c. orestera Wetmore, 1951 – Cerro Campana (extreme SW Panamá Province), in C Panama.
  • Z. c. insularis (Ridgway, 1898) – Curaçao I and Aruba I, in Leeward Antilles.
  • Z. c. venezuelae Chapman, 1939 – N & C Venezuela (Coastal Range from Yaracuy E to Miranda, and Anzoátegui E to Sucre; Quiribana de Caicara, in NW Bolívar).
  • Z. c. inaccessibilis Phelps, Sr & Phelps, Jr, 1955 – headwaters of R Yatúa, on Cerro de la Neblina (S Amazonas), in S Venezuela.
  • Z. c. roraimae (Chapman, 1929) – C & E Colombia (scattered localities from Sierra de la Macarena and Sierra Chiribiquete E to Inírida#R); E & S Venezuela (NW Amazonas and tepuis and Gran Sabana of SE Bolívar) and adjacent W Guyana and N Brazil.
  • Z. c. macconnelli Sharpe, 1900 – summit of Mt Roraima, in SE Bolívar (SE Venezuela).
  • Z. c. capensis (Statius Müller, 1776) – lower R Oyapock, in NE French Guiana; presumably also adjacent NE Brazil (Amapá).
  • Z. c. huancabambae Chapman, 1940 – arid subtropics of N & C Peru (Piura, Cajamarca, Amazonas and San Martín S to Junín).
  • Z. c. illescasensis Koepcke, 1963 – Cerro Illescas (Piura), in NW Peru.
  • Z. c. peruviensis (Lesson, 1834) – arid coastal Peru from La Libertad S to Tacna, and inland on W slope of Andes.
  • Z. c. carabayae Chapman, 1940 – E slope of Andes from C Peru (Junín) S to Bolivia (La Paz and Cochabamba).
  • Z. c. pulacayensis (Ménégaux, 1909) – #RPulacayo and Pampas de Pazña, in L Poopó region (Oruro Department), in W Bolivia.
  • Z. c. tocantinsi Chapman, 1940 – lower Amazonia (along R Tocantins and probably along lower Amazon E from Monte Alegre), Brazil.
  • Z. c. matutina (M. H. C. Lichtenstein, 1823) – NE & C Brazil (from Maranhão S to N & C Mato Grosso and Bahia) and adjacent E Bolivia (Santa Cruz).
  • Z. c. subtorquata Swainson, 1837 – SC & SE Brazil (from S Mato Grosso and Espírito Santo) S to E Paraguay, NE Argentina (Misiones) and Uruguay.
  • Z. c. mellea (Wetmore, 1922) – C Paraguay (W side of R Paraguay) and N Argentina (Formosa).
  • Z. c. hypoleuca (Todd, 1915) – E & S Bolivia (E Cochambama, Santa Cruz, Chuquisaca, Tarija, possibly also C La Paz) and llanos of N Argentina (Salta and La Rioja S to San Luis, Córdoba and S Buenos Aires).
  • Z. c. antofagastae Chapman, 1940 – Tarapacá and Antofagasta, in N Chile.
  • Z. c. chilensis (Meyen, 1834) – C Chile (sea-level to puna zone) from Atacama S to Guaitecas Is, and W Argentina on E slopes of Andes (Mendoza and Neuquén, and Río Negro).
  • Z. c. sanborni Hellmayr, 1932 – High Andes of Coquimbo and Aconcagua (Chile) and San Juan (W Argentina).
  • Z. c. choraules (Wetmore & J. L. Peters, 1922) – lowlands and foothills of W Argentina in Mendoza, E Neuquén and Río Negro.
  • Z. c. australis (Latham, 1790) – S Chile (S from Aysén) and S Argentina (S from S Neuquén and Río Negro); migrates N probably as far as N Bolivia.
  • Descriptive notes

    11·8–13·4 cm; 16·8–31 g. A medium-sized sparrow with often peaked-looking crown, and a medium-sized conical bill. Nominate race has grey head... read more


    Song simple, a series of whistles and a terminal trill. Can be sweet and plaintive, e.g. “see... read more


    Open spaces, from sea-level to high elevation, c. 4600 m. Often on roadsides, in parks, and near... read more

    Food and feeding

    Little information on diet; probably feeds on seeds, fruit and arthropods, depending on season and availability. Forages principally on or... read more


    Breeds at all times of year throughout range, but with defined seasons locally, and nesting cycles may be defined by climatic cycles: in El... read more


    Mostly resident. Patagonian race australis migratory, moving N in May after breeding and... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Often common or abundant in appropriate habitat. No indications of any decrease in numbers, and no obvious threats.

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. & Jaramillo, A. (2020). Rufous-collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis). 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 24 February 2020).