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Species Guide
A photo of a Variable Seedeater (Sporophila corvina), male
Variable Seedeater, Male

Variable Seedeater

Sporophila corvina

The Variable Seedeater, Sporophila corvina, is a diminutive yet robust passerine, characterized by its conical black bill. Measuring a mere 10.5 cm in length and weighing around 11 grams, it presents a striking figure in its habitat.

Identification Tips

Males of this species exhibit considerable variation across the four recognized subspecies, with differences primarily in plumage. The nominate subspecies, S. c. corvina, boasts an entirely black plumage save for a modest white wing-speculum and linings. The other subspecies, S. c. hoffmannii, S. c. hicksii, and S. c. ophthalmica, display varying degrees of white on the collar, rump, and belly, with some intermixing of grey and black mottling or barring. Females are more uniformly olive-brown above and paler below, with white wing linings akin to the male. Juveniles resemble the adult female of their respective subspecies.


The Variable Seedeater is commonly found in semi-open areas such as forest edges, roadsides, low scrub, and gardens. It is also known to frequent pastures, weedy fields, and other grasslands.


This species has a broad range, extending from southern Mexico through Central America and into the Chocó region of northwestern South America.


The Variable Seedeater is often observed in flocks, sometimes mingling with other seedeater species. It is a bird of the lowlands and foothills, thriving up to elevations of 1,500 meters.

Song & Calls

The male's song is a melodic blend of warbles, whistles, and twitters, with a more elaborate rendition heard on the Pacific slope. Both sexes emit a harsh 'chur' call.


The female constructs a flimsy cup nest from coarse plant material, lining it with finer fibers. Nests are typically placed in trees, ranging from 0.4 to 6 meters above ground. Clutches usually consist of two or three pale grey eggs speckled with brown, incubated solely by the female for about 12 to 14 days.

Similar Species

While there are no similar species mentioned, the Variable Seedeater's own subspecies can be distinguished by the males' varying plumage patterns.

Diet and Feeding

Primarily granivorous, the Variable Seedeater's diet consists mainly of grass seeds, supplemented by other seeds, berries, and occasionally insects.

Conservation Status

The IUCN Red List classifies the Variable Seedeater as Least Concern, indicating a stable population without significant threats to its survival.

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