Black-and-tawny seedeater (Sporophila nigrorufa)

Male black-and-tawny seedeater, in hand
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Black-and-tawny seedeater fact file

Black-and-tawny seedeater description

GenusSporophila (1)

The name of this small bird describes the male of the species very well; it has a black back, crown and hindneck, and bright tawny, or brownish-orange, underparts. The wings and tail are blackish-brown, with a slight white edging. The cheeks are paler in colour and the bill is black. Females possess a larger bill than males, with paler plumage and less distinct patterns (2) (3). Their song is a simple series of four to six high-pitched, whistled notes (3). The scientific name, Sporophila, originates from Greek, meaning spore- or seed-loving, and refers to their preferred diet.

Length: 10 cm (2)

Black-and-tawny seedeater biology

As its name suggests, this small bird’s diet consists primarily of grass seeds. The tall grass of their habitat also provides them with cover, as they use their large feet to scratch the ground to search for food (4). Often the males can be seen perched on small trees, singing in order to defend a small area, or territory. It is thought that the black-and-tawny seedeater may be a nomadic or migratory bird, as it has been observed in certain areas only during the dry season (3).


Black-and-tawny seedeater range

Occurs in eastern Bolivia, and south western Brazil. In Bolivia it is currently known from seven sites in eastern Santa Cruz, and in Brazil it occurs at three locations in Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul (2) (3).


Black-and-tawny seedeater habitat

The black-and-tawny seedeater inhabits seasonally flooded, tall grasslands, with scattered bushes and trees (2) (3).


Black-and-tawny seedeater status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2006 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Black-and-tawny seedeater threats

The greatest threat to the black-and-tawny seedeater is habitat loss. Extensive areas of grassland have been converted for agriculture. Intensive cattle-grazing and trampling by livestock may also impact potential breeding sites (3).


Black-and-tawny seedeater conservation

Whilst the black-and-tawny seedeater doesn’t currently receive any known conservation attention, it does occur in the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park in Bolivia, and the Pantanal Matogrossense National Park in Brazil. However, domestic animals in both these parks pose a threat, and therefore removal of them from these areas is likely to benefit the seedeater (3).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on this species see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2007)
  2. Ridgely, R.S. and Tudor, G. (1989) The Birds of South America. Vol. 1: The Oscine Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. Birdlife International (May, 2007)
  4. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.

Image credit

Male black-and-tawny seedeater, in hand  
Male black-and-tawny seedeater, in hand

© Jon Hornbuckle

Jon Hornbuckle


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