Five-striped Sparrow

Amphispiza quinquestriata



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Five-striped Sparrow (Sonora, Mexico).

Presumably subspecies A. q. septentrionalis. Resident in northwestern Mexico, from northern Sonora east to Chihuahua and south to, at least, Sinaloa; a low density of individuals occurs north into southeastern Arizona, at least in summer. Pale overall; central breast spot small.

© Gordon Karre , Sonora , Mexico , 13 May 2016

Geographic Variation

Plumage color darkens from north to south; the size of the central breast spot increases along this same axis, but body size decreases along it.


Two subspecies, following Hellmayr (18), diagnosed on the basis of plumage color and pattern and body size.

  • A. q. septentrionalis (van Rossem, 1934). Apparently resident in northwestern Mexico, from Sonora and Chihuahua, south to at least Sinaloa [type locality = “Hacienda de San Rafael” (~26 km northeast of Alamos), Sonora]; a low density of individuals occurs north into southeastern Arizona, where (along with northernmost Sonora) migratory status in less clear. Pale overall; central breast spot small; large (male wing > 67 mm, tail > 67 mm).

  • A. q. quinquestriata (Sclater and Salvin, 1868). Resident in western Mexico, including, at least, Nayarit, Jalisco, Zacatecas, and Aguas Calientes [type locality = Bolaños, Jalisco, per 18]. Similar to A. q. septentrionalis, but darker overall, central breast spot larger, and smaller in size (male wing < 68 mm, tail < 65 mm).

Related Species

Among the passerines with 9 primaries (sensu Klicka [19]), the Emberizidae (as defined broadly; i.e., formerly) is closely related to the Cardinalidae (New World grosbeaks and buntings), Thraupidae (tanagers), and Icteridae (New World blackbirds and orioles). Within the Emberizidae, the sparrows and towhees of the New World form a clade that are related relatively distantly to Old World buntings, most of which are in the genus Emberiza (20, 21). Accordingly, the New World sparrows are now placed in their own family, the Passerellidae (22).

Molecular phylogenetics have shifted generic assignment for various species either placed formerly in Amphispiza (e.g., Artemisiospiza; 23) or Aimophila, the latter involving a single species, now Amphispiza quinquestriata (24). Because A. bilineata, the Black-throated Sparrow, is the only other species in Amphispiza, it is by definition the extant sister to A. quinquestriata. This species pair, in turn, is sister to a clade that includes 2 species: Chondestes grammacus (the Lark Sparrow) and Calamospiza melanocorys (the Lark Bunting) (24).

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.