Family New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)

Least Concern

Rusty-crowned Ground-sparrow (Melozone kieneri)


French: Tohi de Kiener German: Rostnacken-Grundammer Spanish: Toquí nuquirrufo

Pyrgisoma kieneri


, 1850,

Am[erica] occ[identale] = San Blas, Nayarit, Mexico


Formerly considered close to, and even conspecific with, M. biarcuata, but differs in both adult and juvenile plumages. Geographical variation appears slight, but poorly documented; race grisior often considered synonymous with nominate. Proposed race obscurior (described from a single specimen taken SW of Sola de Vega, in SW Oaxaca) appears to differ little from rubricata, with which it is synonymized. Three subspecies provisionally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. k. grisior van Rossem, 1933 – extreme SE Sonora and N Sinaloa, in W Mexico.
  • M. k. kieneri (Bonaparte, 1850) – extreme S Sonora, Sinaloa, W Durango, Nayarit, W Jalisco and Colima, in W Mexico.
  • M. k. rubricata (Cabanis, 1851) – C & SW Mexico from S Guanajuato and Michoacán E to Morelos, SW Puebla, Guerrero and W Oaxaca.
  • Descriptive notes

    15–17·5 cm; 31·9–41·3 g. A fairly large sparrow with dark breast spot. Nominate race has blackish lower forehead, greyish forecrown and rusty... read more


    Song a few doubled notes running into accelerating series of chipping notes, “tsi tsi sssit s... read more


    Arid to semi-arid brushy woods, thorn-forests, and arid subtropical oak (Quercus) and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Seeds and arthropods. Forages on and near ground, sometimes also in low shrubbery. Can be difficult to see. Often scratches at ground with... read more


    Breeding recorded in Jun and early Jul. Nest a large bulky cup, usually with base of dried leaves, supplemented with dried grasses, lined... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Status uncertain, apparently uncommon; race rubricata very uncommon in Guerrero and Oaxaca, but in Morelos said to be the... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. (2020). Rusty-crowned Ground-sparrow (Melozone kieneri). 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 28 February 2020).