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HandWiki. American Sparrow. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 25 June 2024).
HandWiki. American Sparrow. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 25, 2024.
HandWiki. "American Sparrow" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 25, 2024).
HandWiki. (2022, November 28). American Sparrow. In Encyclopedia.
HandWiki. "American Sparrow." Encyclopedia. Web. 28 November, 2022.
American Sparrow

American sparrows are a group of mainly New World passerine birds, forming the family Passerellidae. American sparrows are seed-eating birds with conical bills, brown or gray in color, and many species have distinctive head patterns. Although they share the name sparrow, American sparrows are more closely related to Old World buntings than they are to the Old World sparrows (family Passeridae). American sparrows are also similar in both appearance and habit to finches, with which they sometimes used to be classified.

passerellidae passeridae sparrow

1. Taxonomy

Phylogeny based on a 2016 study by Bryson and colleagues.[1][2]

The genera now assigned to the family Passerellidae were previously included with the buntings in the family Emberizidae. A phylogenetic analysis of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequences published in 2015 found that the Passerellidae formed a monophyletic group that had an uncertain relationship to the Emberizidae.[3] Emberizidae was therefore split and the family Passerellidae resurrected.[4][5] It had originally been introduced, as the subfamily Passerellinae, by the German ornithologist Jean Cabanis in 1851.[6]

The International Ornithological Congress (IOC) recognizes these 136 species in the family, distributed among 27 genera in the following sequence.[4] One extinct species, the Bermuda towhee, is included. The North American and South American classification committees of the American Ornithological Society (AOS) do not recognize all of these species, use some different common names, and assign other species to different genera. The AOS also organizes the list in a different sequence.[7][8]

Genus Calamospiza

  • Lark bunting, Calamospiza melanocorys

Genus Passerella

  • Red fox sparrow, Passerella iliaca
  • Sooty fox sparrow, Passerella unalaschcensis
  • Slate-colored fox sparrow, Passerella schistacea
  • Thick-billed fox sparrow, Passerella megarhyncha

Genus Melospiza

  • Song sparrow, Melospiza melodia
  • Lincoln's sparrow, Melospiza lincolnii
  • Swamp sparrow, Melospiza georgiana

Genus Zonotrichia

  • Rufous-collared sparrow, Zonotrichia capensis
  • Harris's sparrow, Zonotrichia querula
  • White-crowned sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys
  • White-throated sparrow, Zonotrichia albicollis
  • Golden-crowned sparrow, Zonotrichia atricapilla

Genus Junco

  • Volcano junco, Junco vulcani
  • Dark-eyed junco, Junco hyemalis
  • Guadalupe junco, Junco insularis
  • Yellow-eyed junco, Junco phaeonotus
  • Baird's junco, Junco bairdi

Genus Passerculus

  • Savannah sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis

Genus Ammodramus

  • Seaside sparrow, Ammodramus maritimus
  • Nelson's sparrow, Ammodramus nelsoni
  • Saltmarsh sparrow, Ammodramus caudacutus
  • LeConte's sparrow, Ammodramus leconteii
  • Henslow's sparrow, Ammodramus henslowii
  • Baird's sparrow, Ammodramus bairdii
  • Grasshopper sparrow, Ammodramus savannarum
  • Grassland sparrow, Ammodramus humeralis
  • Yellow-browed sparrow, Ammodramus aurifrons

Genus Xenospiza

  • Sierra Madre sparrow, Xenospiza baileyi

Genus Spizelloides

  • American tree sparrow, Spizelloides arborea

Genus Spizella

  • Chipping sparrow, Spizella passerina
  • Field sparrow, Spizella pusilla
  • Worthen's sparrow, Spizella wortheni
  • Black-chinned sparrow, Spizella atrogularis
  • Clay-colored sparrow, Spizella pallida
  • Brewer's sparrow, Spizella breweri

Genus Pooecetes

  • Vesper sparrow, Pooecetes gramineus

Genus Chondestes

  • Lark sparrow, Chondestes grammacus

Genus Amphispiza

  • Five-striped sparrow, Amphispiza quinquestriata
  • Black-throated sparrow, Amphispiza bilineata

Genus Artemisiospiza

  • Sagebrush sparrow, Artemisiospiza nevadensis
  • Bell's sparrow, Artemisiospiza belli

Genus Rhynchospiza

  • Tumbes sparrow, Rhynchospiza stolzmanni
  • Stripe-capped sparrow, Rhynchospiza strigiceps

Genus Peucaea

  • Stripe-headed sparrow, Peucaea ruficauda
  • Black-chested sparrow, Peucaea humeralis
  • Bridled sparrow, Peucaea mystacalis
  • Cinnamon-tailed sparrow, Peucaea sumichrasti
  • Rufous-winged sparrow, Peucaea carpalis
  • Cassin's sparrow, Peucaea cassinii
  • Bachman's sparrow, Peucaea aestivalis
  • Botteri's sparrow, Peucaea botterii

Genus Aimophila

  • Rufous-crowned sparrow, Aimophila ruficeps
  • Rusty sparrow, Aimophila rufescens
  • Oaxaca sparrow, Aimophila notosticta

Genus Torreornis

  • Zapata sparrow, Torreornis inexpectata

Genus Oriturus

  • Striped sparrow, Oriturus superciliosus

Genus Pipilo

  • Green-tailed towhee, Pipilo chlorurus
  • Collared towhee, Pipilo ocai
  • Spotted towhee, Pipilo maculatus
  • Eastern towhee, Pipilo erythrophthalmus
  • Bermuda towhee, Pipilo naufragus (extinct)

Genus Melozone

  • White-throated towhee, Melozone albicollis
  • Canyon towhee, Melozone fuscus
  • California towhee, Melozone crissalis
  • Abert's towhee, Melozone aberti
  • Rusty-crowned ground sparrow, Melozone kieneri
  • Prevost's ground sparrow, Melozone biarcuatum
  • Cabanis's ground sparrow, Melozone cabanisi
  • White-eared ground sparrow, Melozone leucotis

Genus Arremonops

  • Olive sparrow, Arremonops rufivirgatus
  • Tocuyo sparrow, Arremonops tocuyensis
  • Green-backed sparrow, Arremonops chloronotus
  • Black-striped sparrow, Arremonops conirostris

Genus Arremon

  • Pectoral sparrow, Arremon taciturnus
  • Half-collared sparrow, Arremon semitorquatus
  • Sao Francisco sparrow, Arremon franciscanus
  • Saffron-billed sparrow, Arremon flavirostris
  • Orange-billed sparrow, Arremon aurantiirostris
  • Golden-winged sparrow, Arremon schlegeli
  • Black-capped sparrow, Arremon abeillei
  • Chestnut-capped brushfinch, Arremon brunneinucha
  • Green-striped brushfinch, Arremon virenticeps
  • Black-headed brushfinch, Arremon atricapillus
  • Costa Rican brushfinch, Arremon costaricensis
  • White-browed brushfinch, Arremon torquatus
  • Sierra Nevada brushfinch, Arremon basilicus
  • Perija brushfinch, Arremon perijanus
  • Grey-browed brushfinch, Arremon assimilis
  • Caracas brushfinch, Arremon phaeopleurus
  • Paria brushfinch, Arremon phygas
  • Sooty-faced finch, Arremon crassirostris
  • Olive finch, Arremon castaneiceps

Genus Pezopetes

  • Large-footed finch, Pezopetes capitalis

Genus Atlapetes

  • Rufous-capped brushfinch, Atlapetes pileatus
  • Moustached brushfinch, Atlapetes albofrenatus
  • Merida brushfinch, Atlapetes meridae
  • Ochre-breasted brushfinch, Atlapetes semirufus
  • Tepui brushfinch, Atlapetes personatus
  • White-naped brushfinch, Atlapetes albinucha
  • Santa Marta brushfinch, Atlapetes melanocephalus
  • Pale-naped brushfinch, Atlapetes pallidinucha
  • Yellow-headed brushfinch, Atlapetes flaviceps
  • Dusky-headed brushfinch, Atlapetes fuscoolivaceus
  • Choco brushfinch, Atlapetes crassus
  • Tricolored brushfinch, Atlapetes tricolor
  • White-rimmed brushfinch, Atlapetes leucopis
  • Yellow-breasted brushfinch, Atlapetes latinuchus
  • Black-fronted brushfinch, Atlapetes nigrifrons
  • Antioquia brushfinch, Atlapetes blancae
  • Rufous-eared brushfinch, Atlapetes rufigenis
  • Apurimac brushfinch, Atlapetes forbesi
  • Black-spectacled brushfinch, Atlapetes melanopsis
  • Slaty brushfinch, Atlapetes schistaceus
  • White-winged brushfinch, Atlapetes leucopterus
  • White-headed brushfinch, Atlapetes albiceps
  • Pale-headed brushfinch, Atlapetes pallidiceps
  • Bay-crowned brushfinch, Atlapetes seebohmi
  • Rusty-bellied brushfinch, Atlapetes nationi
  • Cuzco brushfinch, Atlapetes canigenis
  • Vilcabamba brushfinch, Atlapetes terborghi
  • Grey-eared brushfinch, Atlapetes melanolaemus
  • Bolivian brushfinch, Atlapetes rufinucha
  • Fulvous-headed brushfinch, Atlapetes fulviceps
  • Yellow-striped brushfinch, Atlapetes citrinellus

Genus Oreothraupis

  • Tanager finch, Oreothraupis arremonops

Genus Chlorospingus

  • Common bush tanager, Chlorospingus flavopectus
  • Tacarcuna bush tanager, Chlorospingus tacarcunae
  • Pirre bush tanager, Chlorospingus inornatus
  • Dusky bush tanager, Chlorospingus semifuscus
  • Sooty-capped bush tanager, Chlorospingus pileatus
  • Yellow-whiskered bush tanager, Chlorospingus parvirostris
  • Yellow-throated bush tanager, Chlorospingus flavigularis
  • Ashy-throated bush tanager, Chlorospingus canigularis


  1. Bryson, R.W.; Faircloth, B.C.; Tsai, W.L.E.; McCormack, J.E.; Klicka, J. (2016). "Target enrichment of thousands of ultraconserved elements sheds new light on early relationships within New World sparrows (Aves: Passerellidae)". The Auk 133 (3): 451-458. doi:10.1642/AUK-16-26.1.
  2. Species in three monotypic genera were not sampled in the study: the Sierra Madre sparrow (Xenospiza baileyi), the Zapata sparrow (Torreornis inexpectata) and the tanager finch (Oreothraupis arremonops)[3]
  3. Barker, F.K.; Burns, K.J.; Klicka, J.; Lanyon, S.M.; Lovette, I.J. (2015). "New insights into New World biogeography: An integrated view from the phylogeny of blackbirds, cardinals, sparrows, tanagers, warblers, and allies". Auk 132 (2): 333-348. doi:10.1642/AUK-14-110.1.
  4. Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds (2020). "New World Sparrows, Bush Tanagers". IOC World Bird List Version 10.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 29 May 2020. 
  5. Chesser, R. Terry; Burns, Kevin J.; Cicero, Carla; Dunn, John L.; Kratter, Andrew W; Lovette, Irby J; Rasmussen, Pamela C.; Remsen, J.V. Jr et al. (2017). "Fifty-eighth supplement to the American Ornithological Society's Check-list of North American Birds". Auk 134 (3): 751-773. doi:10.1642/AUK-17-72.1.
  6. Cabanis, Jean (1850–1851) (in German, Latin). Museum Heineanum : Verzeichniss der ornithologischen Sammlung des Oberamtmann Ferdinand Heine, auf Gut St. Burchard vor Halberstadt. Volume 1. Halbertstadt: R. Frantz. p. 131. 
  7. "Check-list of North and Middle American Birds". American Ornithological Society. July 2019. 
  8. Remsen, J. V., Jr., J. I. Areta, E. Bonaccorso, S. Claramunt, A. Jaramillo, J. F. Pacheco, C. Ribas, M. B. Robbins, F. G. Stiles, D. F. Stotz, and K. J. Zimmer. Version 11 February 2020. A classification of the bird species of South America. American Ornithological Society. retrieved February 12, 2020
Subjects: Zoology
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