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13.5-15 cm. Stubby grey bill, grey head with broad black stripes on the crown sides and thinner stripes through the eye and below the cheeks, rufous nape and breast sides, upperparts are black-streaked buff-brown, two white wing bars, white throat, underparts are off-white, becoming brown on the flanks and with a black breast patch. Young birds have a duller, indistinct head pattern, with brown stripes and a buff ground colour. They lack the rufous collar, and have streaked underparts.
This is a very variable species. Most subspecies with a strong crest, and with variation on how strongly patterned and dark the face is. Another heavily variable trait is extent of streaking, and to some extent color of neck band and breast band.
Cultivated open areas, gardens, parks and scrubland to alpine meadows. Mostly above 600 meters above sea level, though it can occur even in coastal areas (e.g. Lima and most of Chile, where it is one of the commonest birds).
The female builds a cup shaped nest of plant material lined with fine grasses, in matted vegetation on the ground, low in a tree or bush, or in a niche in a wall. 2-3 brown-blotched greenish-blue eggs are laid, and are incubated by the female for 12-14 days. The male helps in feeding the chicks.
The diet includes seeds, fallen grain, insects and spiders. It is a ground feeder.
Song varies quite a lot geographically
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