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Morelet's Seedeater - BirdForum Opus

Male S. m. morelleti in breeding plumage
Photo © by Stanley Jones
Puntarenas, Costa Rica, March 2007

Alternate names: White-collared Seedeater, Sharpe's Seedeater

Sporophila morelleti


Female S. m. morelleti
Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Crooked Tree Village, Belize, 26 January 2011

Length: 9½–11¼ cm (3¾-4½ inches).
This is a small finch with a short, stubby dark bill and curved culmen and short tail. The breeding male has a dark head and back, a variable white collar and black breast band, variably buff belly, double white wing bars and white rump. The winter male keeps the blackish wings, whitish wing bars and white spot at the base of the primaries. Its crown is still mottled with dark, but is otherwise similar to female. Females are much less patterned, and are buffy brown above with two white wing bars.


The black bib/breast band and the white collar in the male varies between weak in subspecies sharpei and much stronger in e.g., moreletti[2]. The second has underparts white to pale buff.

Similar Species

Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater of West Mexico is similar but lacks wing-bars. Within its range, the male Ruddy-breasted Seedeater in breeding plumage has a two-toned plumage, gray above and ruddy below. Female and winter male Ruddy-breasted are more similar to female Morelet's, but Ruddy-breasted is smaller, with a paler bill and more contrasting wing edgings. It also lacks wing bars. The male Variable Seedeater is almost all black. Female Variable Seedeater does not have wing bars, and is more olive in color.


Molting male S. m. sharpei
Photo © by Raul_Padilla
Huejutla, Mexico, 24 March 2010

North America and Central America. Eastern Mexico and the far southern Rio Grande Valley in Texas; additionally along the Caribbean slope south to western Panama.


The former White-collared Seedeater has been split into this species and the Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater.


This is a polytypic species consisting of two subspecies[1]:

  • S. m. sharpei:Black breast band of the male is reduced to black mottling at the sides of the breast. Back grayish brown, mottled with black.
  • Southern Texas (lower Rio Grande Valley) to eastern Mexico (Veracruz)
  • S. m. morelleti:Black breast band of male is complete; black on back is more extensive; and has white crescent below eye.
  • Caribbean slope of southern Mexico (Veracruz) to extreme western Panama and Pacific slope from southern Mexico (Chiapas) south to western Panama (Chiriquí)

Proposed subspecies S. m. mutanda in which some males have a black throat is considered a synonym of nominate.


Open grassy areas, pastures, roadsides, weedy fields, moist savanna, and marshlands with tall reeds.



Eats mainly grass seeds, augmented with a few berries and insects. Will jump into air to catch flying insects.


Begins in late March and continues into summer in Southern Texas; begins in April in Northern Central America. Nest built by female, taking 5–6 days. Three to four eggs are pale blue to greenish blue with speckles, blotches, or spots of deep brown or black.


Song high-pitched and canary-like, a clear sweet sweet sweet cheer cheer cheer followed by various trills.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Birdforum thread discussing id of White-collared Seedeater
  3. Adel, F., K. J. Burns, J. C. Eitniear, and T. S. Schulenberg (2010). Morelet's/Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater (Sporophila morelleti/torqueola), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.whcsee.01
  4. Eitniear, J. C. (2018). Morelet's Seedeater (Sporophila morelleti), version 1.2. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.whcsee1.01.2
  5. del Hoyo, J. & Collar, N. (2018). White-collared Seedeater (Sporophila morelleti). 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 https://www.hbw.com/node/1344179 on 22 November 2018).
  6. Howell & Webb, 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198540124

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