Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow


The Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow or White-faced Ground-Sparrow, Melozone biarcuatum, is an American sparrow which breeds at middle altitudes from southern Mexico to western Honduras and in Costa Rica. The isolated Costa Rican form may be a separate species, M. cabanisi.

This bird is found typically at altitudes between 600 and 1600m in the undergrowth and thickets of semi-open woodland, coffee plantations, hedgerows and large gardens. It is usually in pairs, but is a shy species best seen at near or dusk.

This species’ English name commemorates French naturalist Florent Prévost , and the scientific name of the Costa Rican subspecies refers to German ornithologist Jean Cabanis.

Prevost's Ground-Sparrow


Breeding / Nesting:

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 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 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.

  • 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 (cheek) stripe, and a black central breast patch.

Young birds are browner above, have yellower underparts, and a duller indistinct head pattern.


Call / Vocalization:

Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow 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.


Diet / Feeding:

The Prevost’s Ground-Sparrow feeds on the ground on seeds, fallen berries, insects and spiders.



  • Stiles and Skutch, A guide to the birds of Costa Rica, ISBN 0-8014-9600-4


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