Prevost's ground sparrow

Prevost's ground sparrow
A "Cabanis's" Ground-Sparrow in San Jose, Costa Rica
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Emberizidae
Genus: Melozone
Species: M. biarcuatum
Binomial name
Melozone biarcuatum
(Prévost & DesMurs, 1846)

Prevost's ground sparrow (Melozone biarcuatum), also known as the white-faced ground sparrow, is an American sparrow.


Its English name commemorates French naturalist Florent Prévost. The isolated Costa Rican form may be a separate species, Cabanis's ground sparrow (M. cabanisi); its scientific name refers to German ornithologist Jean Cabanis.[2]

Distribution and habitat

This bird breeds at middle altitudes from southern Mexico to western Honduras and in Costa Rica. It is found typically at altitudes between 600 and 1600 m in the undergrowth and thickets of semi-open woodland, coffee plantations, hedgerows and large gardens.[3]


Prevost's ground sparrow is on average 15 cm long and weighs 28 g. The adult has a stubby dark-grey bill, unstreaked olive-brown upperparts, a rufous crown and mainly white underparts. Young birds are browner above, have yellower underparts, and a duller indistinct head pattern.

The northern form has a simple head pattern in which the rufous of the crown extends down the sides of the neck as a half collar behind the white face.

In the Costa Rican subspecies, the rufous of the crown extends to behind the eye and is bordered on its anterior edge with black This black border is broken by a white eye ring. The forehead is white, bordered below with a thin black line, there is a black malar stripe, and a black central breast patch.


Usually found in pairs, the bird is a shy species best seen at or near dusk. They sometimes venture in the open in the early morning.[3]


The nest, built by the female, is a neat lined cup constructed less than 2 m up in a bush or large tussock. The female lays a clutch of two or three ruddy-blotched white eggs, which she incubates for 12–14 days. The male helps in feeding the chicks. This species is sometimes parasitised by the bronzed cowbird.


The bird feeds on the ground on seeds, fallen berries, insects and spiders.


Calls include a thin tsit or a clearer psee. The male’s song, given from a hidden perch in the wet season, is a whistled pst’t’t’t peer peer peer whee whee whee.


  1. BirdLife International (2012). "Melozone biarcuata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael (2003). Whose Bird? Men and Women Commemorated in the Common Names of Birds. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 73–74.
  3. 1 2 "Melozone biarcuata". Neotropical Birds. Cornell University. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
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