Five-striped Sparrow

Amphispiza quinquestriata

  • Version: 2.0 — Published February 20, 2019
  • Kathleen D. Groschupf

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Figure 1. Year-round range of the Five-striped Sparrow.
Five-striped Sparrow (28 December).

Adults are distinctively marked sparrows with five white stripes on head (superciliaries, malars, and chin). Black spot between gray chest and white belly. Crown plain, purplish-grayish-brown; dorsum unstreaked chocolate. Tail and wings dark brown, bend of wing whitish, no wing bars. Maxilla black, mandible bluish. Sexes alike.

© David Stejskal , Arizona , United States , 28 December 2016

The Five-striped Sparrow is a poorly known Mexican species that inhabits arid to semiarid thornscrub and tropical deciduous forest, occurring almost entirely within the Sierra Madre Occidental in northwestern and western Mexico. Northern populations extend from southeastern Arizona and northern Sonora south to at least Sinaloa and western Durango, and southern populations occur from Nayarit and Zacatecas to Jalisco. This distinctively marked sparrow breeds with the start of summer rains, nesting in shrubs or low to the ground in grass clumps. Males have a large vocal repertoire, with up to 200 different songs in some individuals. During the nonbreeding period, this species is secretive and difficult to locate. The generic placement of the Five-striped Sparrow has been an historic enigma; early systematic studies placed it in Zonotrichia, Amphispiza, and Aimophila, though recent phylogenetic research has placed it in the genus Amphispiza.

The Five-striped Sparrow has been studied in Arizona and Sonora, but very little is known of southern populations or nonbreeding ecology throughout its range. First documented in Arizona in 1957, it is unclear whether this was the result of a recent range extension or if the species occurred historically in the U.S. and was not discovered until observers searched appropriate habitat. At the northern limit of its breeding range, the Five-striped Sparrow breeds regularly in isolated canyons of southeastern Arizona, although the population is small; only 47–54 singing males were annually detected in surveys during the early 1990s (1).

Recommended Citation

Groschupf, K. D. (2019). Five-striped Sparrow (Amphispiza quinquestriata), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.