Family Tanagers (Thraupidae)

Least Concern

Slate-colored Seedeater (Sporophila schistacea)


French: Sporophile ardoisé German: Schieferspelzer Spanish: Semillero pizarroso

Spermophila schistacea


, 1862,

Lion Hill, Canal Zone, Panama


Thought to be highly variable, and possibly just polymorphic rather than polytypic; further research desirable. Birds from Belize to Nicaragua sometimes separated as race subconcolor, but this form is probably best considered a variant of nominate. Three subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. s. schistacea (Lawrence, 1862) – Belize and N & E Honduras through NE Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama to N Colombia and W slope of E Andes.
  • S. s. incerta Riley, 1914 – Pacific slope of Andes from W Colombia (Caldas) S to N Ecuador (S to Pichincha, also in Napo).
  • S. s. longipennis C. Chubb, 1921 – W, N & E Venezuela (E slope of Andes S from Mérida, Monagas E to Delta Amacuro, and Bolívar), Colombia (E slope of E Andes S to Meta), the Guianas, Brazil (Roraima, Amapá, N Pará and S Amazonas), N & E Peru (Loreto and Huánuco S to Madre de Dios) and NW Bolivia (Beni and Cochabamba).
  • Descriptive notes

    10·6–11·1 cm; 12–13·7 g (Brazil and Peru). Small passerine with large bill. Male nominate race has slate-grey head, upperparts, breast and flanks, white eyering, and white... read more


    Song variable, often begins with sharp notes and buzzes and ends with high-pitched lisping trill;... read more


    Edge of humid evergreen forest, second growth and plantations, especially where bamboo present.... read more

    Food and feeding

    Apparently feeds primarily on grass seeds, especially bamboo (e.g. Chusquea simpliciflora). Recently observed also to be using... read more


    Not well known. Nests in Feb and Jun–Sept (mostly Jul and Aug) in Panama, and Jun in Venezuela (middle R Orinoco region). Nest a thin-... read more


    Seemingly eruptive and nomadic. A specialist on seeding bamboo, an ephemeral resource; populations... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Status not well known. Rare to uncommon, but eruptive; can be locally common in some years, and absent in others. Also purportedly recorded in S... read more

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. & Jaramillo, A. (2020). Slate-colored Seedeater (Sporophila schistacea). 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 26 February 2020).