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Sierra Madre Sparrow Xenospiza baileyi
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This species is classified as Endangered owing to its extremely small range, within which it occurs at just two locations and is subject to continuing declines in the size of its range, habitat quality and population size. Further information may lead to its uplisting to Critically Endangered,

Taxonomic source(s)
AOU. 1998. Check-list of North American birds. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Stotz, D. F.; Fitzpatrick, J. W.; Parker, T. A.; Moskovits, D. K. 1996. Neotropical birds: ecology and conservation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Ammodramus baileyi Stotz et al. (1996)

12 cm. Rufous, grey-and-white sparrow. Rufous upperparts (scaled buff when fresh) streaked black. Dark brown wings and tail edged rufous. Greyer on nape. Grey streaking on central crown. Blackish-brown lateral crown-stripes. Grey supercilium and ear-coverts. Blackish eye-stripe, moustache and malar stripes. Whitish underparts (washed buff when fresh), heavily streaked black. Grey bill. Pinkish legs. Juvenile duller with greyish-buff supercilium and yellowish bill. Similar spp. Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia is larger and less rufous, with a longer round-tipped tail (notched in Xenospiza), and lacks the bright yellow wing bend of this species. Voice Song a varied series (7-12, occasionally as few as four) of chip notes with buzzes. Nasal nyew or thin sii call, very similar to Song Sparrow.

Distribution and population
This species was known from disjunct areas in north Jalisco, south Durango, and around the Distrito Federal-Morelos border, Mexico, but is now confined to the latter two areas, over 800 km apart. In this very small area, it is most regularly recorded from around El Capulín-La Cima and Santa Ana Tlacotenco, but there are other recent records from north-east of Volcán Yecahuazac, east and north of Volcáns San Bartolito and Comalera, north of Volcán Tuxtepec, west of Volcán Tulmiac, north of Acopiaxco (Cabrera 1999, Cabrera and Escamilla 2000) and north-east of Coexapa (H. Gómez de Silva in litt. 1999, Oliveras de Ita et al. 2001, Oliveras de Ita and Gómez de Silva 2002). A record at Los Dinamos, Distrito Federal in 1993 (Wege and Long 1995) refers to a misidentified juvenile Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia (H. Gómez de Silva in litt. 1999). The species went unrecorded in Durango from 1951 until it was rediscovered there in 2004 (J. M. Lammertink in litt. 2009). A recent survey concluded that the species is now confined to just two locations: Ejido Ojo de Agua-El Cazador, southern Durango, where there are at least three breeding pairs concentrated in an area of 0.5 ha within an 80 ha marsh; and the fragmented grasslands of "sur del Valle de México" centered around La Cima and Milpa Alta, Distrito Federal, where there are perhaps 5,380-6,150 adults equating to 2,300 breeding pairs (Oliveras de Ita and Gomez de Silva 2007, M. A. Cruz-Nieto in litt. 2008). The northern population was found to be restricted to a single locality, having disappeared from three historical sites (Oliveras de Ita and Rojas-Soto 2006).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals, based on a 1997 estimate of 5,380-6,150 adults occupying the key site for this species. There were reportedly a small number of individuals at other locations. This estimate equates to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals. Densities of 2.9 territories/ha have been recorded at La Cima (Oliveras de Ita et al. 2001).

Trend justification
Global population trends have not been accurately estimated but the area of suitable habitat at the principal site for the species, where over 90% of the global population occurs, has declined by c. 50% in the last 10 years. In addition the species has disappeared from three out of four historic localities in the north of its range (Oliveras de Ita and Gómez de Silva 2007). Overall, the species is estimated to be declining rapidly. It is in danger of being extirpated from further portions of its range (Aguirre et al. 2012).

It inhabits medium to tall bunch-grass meadows (zacatón) mostly at elevations of 2,800-3,050 m, but populations in Durango were as low as 2,285 m. Specifically, its preferred habitat is primary tall fodder grass areas dominated by Muhlenbergia macroura, M. affinis, Festuca amplissima and Stipa ichu which are subject to agriculture and cattle activities. It feeds in agricultural fields and birds have been seen singing from the tops of zacatón clumps in a heavily grazed and poorly drained field. It lays a brood of 2 to 4 eggs. Nesting success is c.36% at La Cima, with nests constructed low down in bunch-grass tussocks (Oliveras de Ita et al. 2001).

There is widespread anthropogenic burning of habitat, mostly to promote new growth of grazing pasture for sheep and cattle (Oliveras de Ita et al. 2001). There is also conversion to agriculture (mainly oats), bunch-grass is sometimes cut for thatch and brushes and a degree of urban encroachment is occurring. Most remaining habitat is close to volcanic rock outcrops or on slopes where it is difficult to operate a tractor (Oliveras de Ita et al. 2001). However, rock extraction at La Cima suggests that many of these areas are likely to be converted to agriculture (Oliveras de Ita et al. 2001). La Cima has been planted with pines and, if these survive, the sparrow will be extirpated from this site (M. Grosselet in litt. 2011). Autopsies on two individuals showed that organ systems had collapsed as a result of mycotoxins from contaminated grain (Oliveras de Ita et al. 2001). There is a high level of nest failure owing to heavy predation which may be exacerbated by habitat fragmentation (P. Escalante in litt. 2006). Loss of water sources owing to extraction for livestock and human uses poses an additional threat (Aguirre et al. 2012).

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
Surveys have found new localities, identified the important areas for protection, investigated the breeding ecology and censused the population at La Cima (Cabrera 1999, Cabrera and Escamilla 2000, Oliveras de Ita et al. 2001). CONABIO, UNAM and CORENA have been working on a community-based species conservation project since 2008 with the support of Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. The project is focused on preserving and restoring habitat with the involvement of landowners and managers. In 2011 members of the community were trained for bird monitoring in order to participate in 2012 in an effort conducted by CONABIO to assess the current population status of the species (H. Berlanga et al. in litt. 2012).

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed

Monitor remaining populations (L. Cabrera in litt. 2000). Survey suitable habitat in Durango. Integrate local people in developing appropriate grassland management strategies, including fire management (L. Cabrera in litt. 2000). Ensure that grain storage prevents potential infection by micotoxins (Oliveras de Ita et al. 2001). Protect remaining habitat fragments.

Aguirre, C., Cruz Nieto, J., Cruz, M.A., Torres G., L.F., Torres G., F.A., Escarcega Bencomo, M. 2012. Revisión de la especie Xenospiza baileyi población norteña. In: ProNatura (ed.), Actualización de las especies de aves globalmente amenazadas para la Lista Roja 2012. Capítulo México, pp. 28-30. ProNatura and BirdLife International.

Cabrera, L. 1999. La avifauna del sur del valle de Mexico: applicacion de un enfoque sinecologico-paisajistico para su conservacion. Thesis. M.S., Ecologia y Ciencias Ambientales.

Cabrera, L.; Escamilla, M. 2000. Caracterizacion del habitat y patrones de distribucion del Gorrion Serrano (Xenospiza baileyi) en el sur del valle de Mexico.

Collar, N. J.; Gonzaga, L. P.; Krabbe, N.; Madroño Nieto, A.; Naranjo, L. G.; Parker, T. A.; Wege, D. C. 1992. Threatened birds of the Americas: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

de Ita, A. O.; de Silva, H. G. 2007. Territoriality and survivorship of the Sierra Madre Sparrow in La Cima, México. Biodiversity and Conservation 16(4): 1055-1061.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Oliveras de Ita, A.; Gómez de Silva, H. 2002. Nueva localidad para el Gorrión Serrano (Xenospiza baileyi). Ornitologia Neotropical 13: 203-204.

Oliveras de Ita, A.; Gómez de Silva, H.; Grosselet, M. 2001. Population dynamics and natural history of the Sierra Madre Sparrow Xenospiza baileyi at La Cima, Mexico. Cotinga 15: 43-47.

Oliveras de Ita, A.; Rojas-Soto, O. R. 2006. A survey for the Sierra Madre Sparrow (Xenospiza baileyi), with its rediscovery in the state of Durango, Mexico. Bird Conservation International 16: 25-32.

Wege, D. C.; Long, A. J. 1995. Key Areas for threatened birds in the Neotropics. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Further web sources of information
Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This species has been identified as an AZE trigger due to its IUCN Red List status and limited range.

Click here for more information about the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE)

Detailed species account from the Threatened birds of the Americas: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 1992). Please note taxonomic treatment and IUCN Red List category may have changed since publication.

Detailed species account from the Threatened birds of the Americas: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 1992). Please note, taxonomic treatment and IUCN Red List category may have changed since publication.

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Recuento detallado de la especie tomado del libro Aves Amenazadas de las Americas, Libro Rojo de BirdLife International (BirdLife International 1992). Nota: la taxonomoía y la categoría de la Lista Roja de la UICN pudo haber cambiado desde esta publicación.

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Capper, D., Mahood, S., Pople, R., Sharpe, C J & Ashpole, J

Benitez, R., Cabrera, L., Cruz-Nieto, M.á., Escalante, P., Grosselet, M., Gómez de Silva, H., Lammertink, M., Oliveras de Ita, A., Sánchez-González, L.A., Berlanga, H. & Rodríguez, V.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Xenospiza baileyi. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Sierra Madre sparrow (Xenospiza baileyi) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Emberizidae (Buntings, American sparrows and allies)
Species name author Bangs, 1931
Population size 2500-9999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 70 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species