Family Cardinals (Cardinalidae)

Least Concern

Varied Bunting (Passerina versicolor)


French: Passerin varié German: Vielfarbenfink Spanish: Azulillo morado

Spiza versicolor


, 1838,

near Temascaltepec, Mexico


Has hybridized with P. ciris. Races dickeyae, pulchra and purpurascens all suggested by various authorities as being too weakly differentiated to be tenable. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. v. dickeyae van Rossem, 1934 – S USA (C & S Arizona, S New Mexico) and W Mexico (Sonora and WC Chihuahua S to Colima); N populations migrate to S of range.
  • P. v. versicolor (Bonaparte, 1838) – S USA (SE New Mexico; S Texas from Big Bend to Rio Grande Valley) and S through C Mexico to Oaxaca; N populations migrate to S of range.
  • P. v. pulchra Ridgway, 1887 – S Baja California (Mexico).
  • P. v. purpurascens Griscom, 1930 – S Mexico (Chiapas) and S Guatemala (Motagua Valley).
  • Descriptive notes

    11–14 cm; male average 13 g, female average 12·8 g. Male nominate race has forehead and area between bill and eye down to chin blackish, crown bright violet-blue... read more


    Song a rich series of short, rapidly repeated phrases or syllables, lasting for 3–6 seconds;... read more


    Dry scrubland, thorn-scrub, acacia (Acacia) thickets and similar; in Mexico found in... read more

    Food and feeding

    In summer, mixed animal and vegetable diet. Invertebrate prey includes caterpillars, small grasshoppers (Orthoptera), beetles (Coleoptera... read more


    Season mid-Apr to mid-Jul; said to be single-brooded in S Arizona, but in Texas apparently double-brooded. Male strongly philopatric. Pair-... read more


    Sedentary in S of range, although some of those breeding in S Baja California (race pulchra... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Classified as “Declining” in USA (Yellow WatchList priority species for conservation). Locally common to uncommon. Has decreased in some parts of... read more

    Recommended citation

    Brewer, D. (2019). Varied Bunting (Passerina versicolor). 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 20 August 2019).