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Black-masked Finch Coryphaspiza melanotis

Extensive habitat loss indicates that this species is likely to be declining rapidly, and it consequently qualifies as Vulnerable.

Taxonomic source(s)
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at:
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.

13.5 cm. Boldly patterned finch. Male has black crown, face, cheeks and auricular. Off-white eyebrow and underparts. Black patches on breast sides. Greyish nape grading into warm brown back, both finely streaked. Olive wings with yellow on carpal. Blackish tail with broad, white tips, visible in flight. Bicoloured bill with blackish maxilla and orange mandible. Female is generally drabber, greener on wings and lacks black on head. Similar spp. Female resembles Emberizoides grass-finches, but its shorter tail is white tipped. Voice Very high-pitched, insect-like prrirítch.

Distribution and population
Coryphaspiza melanotis occurs in extreme south-east Peru (Madre de Dios), across north Bolivia (Beni and La Paz [Armonía 1995]) to Brazil (Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Goiás, Distrito Federal [Forrester 1993], Minas Gerais and São Paulo) and south through east Paraguay (Itapúa, San Pedro and Canindeyú to Isla Yacreta, with a historical record from Caaguazú [Hayes 1995, A. J. Lesterhuis in litt. 2007]) to north-east Argentina (Corrientes, Misiones, Chaco and Santa Fe [Chebez 2008]). There is an isolated population on Marajó Island in the mouth of the Amazon. It has recently become very local and rare, with a global stronghold in west Beni and adjacent La Paz (Parker 1989, Brace et al. 1997), possibly contiguous with populations in north Beni and Peru (Parker and Bailey 1991, Mitchell et al. 1997). In Brazil, it is known from four areas, but potentially notable populations occur in some large national parks. It has recently been recorded from only one site in Argentina (D. Finch in litt. 1998) and three in Paraguay (Lowen et al. 1996, Clay et al. 1998, H. del Castillo and R. P. Clay in litt. 2000, A. J. Lesterhuis in litt. 2007), where the stronghold appears to be Laguna Blanca, San Pedro (A. J. Lesterhuis in litt. 2007).

Population justification
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band 10,000-19,999 individuals. This equates to 6,667-13,333 mature individuals, rounded here to 6,000-15,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
A rapid and on-going population decline is suspected, in line with rates of habitat loss and fragmentation within the species's range.

In Bolivia and Brazil, it inhabits tall, sometimes seasonally wet, grasslands, to 1,200 m (Stotz et al. 1996, Brace et al. 1997). In Beni, immatures have been seen in heavily grazed grassland with numerous trees and bushes (Parker 1989), and areas of tussocky grass 50-125 cm tall with scrubby mounds (Mitchell et al. 1997). In Paraguay, it has been seen in campo sujo comprising pristine tussocky grasses, with small areas of bare ground, scattered bushes and yata'i Butia sp. palms (Lowen et al. 1996, Clay et al. 1998). There is evidence that it tolerates some grassland burning (Lowen et al. 1996, L. P. Silveira in litt. 1999), at least if the grass grows back to its full height (R. C. Brace in litt. 1999). Breeding is probably September-December (Lowen et al. 1996, Clay et al. 1998).

Suitable grasslands are being rapidly destroyed by mechanised agriculture, intensive cattle-ranching, afforestation, invasive grasses, excessive use of pesticides and annual burning (Stotz et al. 1996, Parker and Willis 1997). By 1993, two-thirds of the Cerrado region had been heavily or moderately altered (Conservation International 1999), with most of the destruction having occurred since 1950 (Cavalcanti 1999). Burning is a major problem in the Beni and fires started by ranch managers often get out of control. Although the species appears to show some tolerance to burning its preference for long grass habitats means this is presumably a significant threat (C. Hesse in litt. 2007). In Paraguay, the Laguna Blanca private nature reserve has failed to protect the species, which is threatened with the continuous conversion of natural grasslands into pastures with exotic grass species and Eucalyptus plantations. (H. del Castillo in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Underway
The species is protected by law in Paraguay where it is considered Endangered on a national level (H. Del Castillo in litt. 2012). It occurs in Brasília and Serra da Canastra National Parks (Brazil) (Forrester 1993, Silveira 1998), Laguna Blanca private nature reserve (H. Del Castillo in litt. 2012), Mbaracayú Forest Nature Reserve and Isla Yacyreta Private Reserve (Paraguay) (Lowen et al. 1996, Clay et al. 1998, A. J. Lesterhuis in litt. 2007) and Beni Biological Station (Bolivia) (Parker 1989, Brace et al. 1997). Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey the extensive gaps in its Brazilian distribution and suitable habitat in Paraguay (especially in the extensive southern grasslands) and Argentina. Secure additional private properties inside the Cerrado de Laguna Blanca IBA, Paraguay (H. del Castillo in litt. 2012). Assess its precise habitat requirements to develop suitable land-management practices and help focus surveys. Protect some of the key populations in Bolivia.

Armonía. 1995. Lista de las aves de Bolivia. Armonía, Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Brace, R. C.; Hornbuckle, J.; Pearce-Higgins, J. W. 1997. The avifauna of the Beni Biological Station, Bolivia. Bird Conservation International 7: 117-159.

Cavalcanti, R. B. 1999. Bird species richness and conservation in the Cerrado region of central Brazil. Studies in Avian Biology 19: 244-249.

Chebez, J. C. 2008. Los que se van. Fauna Argentina amenazada. 2. Aves. Editorial Albatros Saci, Buenos Aires.

Clay, R. P.; Capper, D. R.; Mazar Barnett, J.; Burfield, I. J.; Esquivel, E. Z.; Fariña, R.; Kennedy, C. P.; Perrens, M.; Pople, R. G. 1998. White-winged Nightjars Caprimulgus candicans and cerrado conservation: the key findings of project Aguará Ñu 1997. Cotinga: 52-56.

Conservation International. 1999. Açoes prioritárias para a conservaçao da biodiversidade do Cerrado e Pantanal.

Forrester, B. C. 1993. Birding Brazil: a check-list and site guide. Privately published, Irvine, Scotland.

Hayes, F. E. 1995. Status, distribution and biogeography of the birds of Paraguay. American Birding Association, Colorado Springs.

Lowen, J. C.; Bartrina, L.; Clay, R. P.; Tobias, J. A. 1996. Biological surveys and conservation priorities in eastern Paraguay (the final reports of Projects Canopy '92 and Yacutinga '95). CSB Conservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Mitchell, R. A.; Leigh-Hunt, S.; Stuart, T.; Chamberlain, T. 1997. San Joaquín '96: a biological expedition to the cerrado of Beni Department, Bolivia.

Parker, T. A. 1989. An avifaunal survey of the Chimanes ecosystem program area of northern Bolivia.

Parker, T. A.; Bailey, B. 1991. A biological assessment of the Alto Madidi region and adjacent areas of northwest Bolivia, May 18 - June 15, 1990. Conservation International, Washington, D.C.

Parker, T. A.; Willis, E. O. 1997. Notes on three tiny grassland flycatchers, with comments on the disappearance of South American fire-diversified savannas. Ornithological Monographs 48: 549-555.

Silveira, L. F. 1998. The birds of Serra da Canastra National Park and adjacent areas, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Cotinga 10: 55-65.

Stotz, D. F.; Fitzpatrick, J. W.; Parker, T. A.; Moskovits, D. K. 1996. Neotropical birds: ecology and conservation. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Text account compilers
Capper, D., Pople, R., Sharpe, C J, Stuart, T., Symes, A.

Brace, R., Clay, R., Finch, D., Herrera, M., Hesse, C., Lesterhuis, A., Silveira, L., del Castillo, H.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Coryphaspiza melanotis. Downloaded from on 17/04/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 17/04/2014.

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 - Black-masked finch (Coryphaspiza melanotis) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Emberizidae (Buntings, American sparrows and allies)
Species name author (Temminck, 1822)
Population size 6000-15000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 169,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species