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Black-faced Grassquit - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Kent
U.S. Virgin Islands, August 2004
Melanospiza bicolor

Tiaris bicolor


10·2–11·5 cm (4-4½ in)
The male has a black head and breast, gray flanks and undertail coverts, and olive green upperparts; bill is black while the legs are reddish.

Photo © by AlanR
Aruba, April 2007

The female has upperparts that are similar to the male, and is slightly lighter on the underside than the upperside.

Judging from photos, the bill color is variable among subspecies.


Breeds from Bahamas throughout the Caribbean to northern Venezuela and large parts of Colombia.

Accidental vagrant to southern Florida.


This species has been placed in genus Tiaris in the past.


This is a polytypic species: eight subspecies are recognized[1]:

1st Year Male
Photo © by Stanley Jones
Rocklands Bird Sanctuary, Jamaica, November 2010
  • M. b. omissa: Puerto Rico, Tobago, Isla Margarita, northern Colombia and northern Venezuela
  • M. b. huilae: South-central Colombia (upper Magdalena Valley)
  • M. b. grandior: Islas Providéncia, Santa Catalina and San Andrés (western Caribbean Sea)
  • M. b. johnstonei: Isla La Blanquilla and Islas Los Hermanos (off Venezuela)
  • M. b. sharpei: Netherlands Antilles (Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire)
  • M. b. tortugensis: Isla La Tortuga (off Venezuela)


Black-faced Grassquit is found in areas with grass, and makes its nest in such an area. It will also live in gardens and forest edges, as long as seed-bearing grass is found nearby.



Both adults build a domed grass nest, lined with fine grasses, placed low in a bush or on a bank. The clutch contains 2-3 whitish eggs blotched with reddish brown. The young are fed by both parents.


The diet consits mainly of grass and weed seeds.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Rising, J. D. (2020). Black-faced Grassquit (Melanospiza bicolor), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.bkfgra.01

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