email a friend
printable version
Pampas Meadowlark Sturnella defilippii
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
Please email us with any relevant information

This species has a small and declining population within a restricted range. Landscape conversion for agriculture is causing rapid declines in the area of suitable habitat, with inevitable impacts on population size. However, recent surveys have found higher densities than previously thought within breeding areas. It currently qualifies as Vulnerable, although future increases in the rate of decline could result in uplisting to Endangered.

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

Taxonomic note
Leistes militaris, Red-breasted Blackbird (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been placed in the genus Sturnella following Short (1968). Consequently S. militaris, Pampas Meadowlark (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) takes the name S. defilippii. In Collar et al. (1992, 1994), S. militaris was wrongly assigned to the Pampas Meadowlark.

Sturnella defilippi Stotz et al. (1996), Sturnella militaris Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993), Sturnella militaris Collar et al. (1994)

21 cm. Striking icterid. Male upperparts and most underparts black, edged brown. Bright red supraloral stripe, throat and breast. Cream eyebrow. Black underwing-coverts. Female much browner and more streaked, with pinky-red centre to belly and buffy throat. Similar spp. Long-tailed Meadowlark S. loyca has pale underwing-coverts, longer tail, and browner coloration. White-browed Blackbird Leistes superciliaris has much shorter bill. Voice Short, buzzy series of high-pitched notes. Dull, raspy jzeet call.

Distribution and population
Sturnella defilippii was formerly common and widespread in east-central Argentina and Uruguay (Cotinga 1995, Azpiroz 2005), but always rare in south Brazil (four winter records from Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul). Since 1900, its range has decreased by 90%, with most of this decline occurring between 1900 and 1950 (Tubaro et al. 1994, Tubaro and Gabelli 1999). In 1992-1993, the extent of occurrence in Argentina was estimated at 8,000 km2, the area of occupancy at 150 km2 and the population at c.7,500 birds (Tubaro and Gabelli 1999), whilst in Uruguay the breeding population was estimated at 78-90 pairs in the Arerunguá area (Azpiroz 2005). In 2004, a detailed study estimated the extent of occurrence in Argentina at 4,810 km2, and hence a range contraction of 30% within 10 years, although more intensive sampling revealed higher densities than previously estimated, with an area of occupancy of 512 km2 and a minimum population size of 28,000 individuals (Gabelli et al. 2004). These are concentrated in south-west Buenos Aires and adjacent La Pampa, with records in Entre Ríos, San Luis, Córdoba and Corrientes (Tubaro and Gabelli 1999, R. Fraga in litt. 2012).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number over 28,000 individuals, based on recent estimates from studies in Argentina and Uruguay, the only known breeding areas.

Trend justification
Repeat surveys have used different methodologies, so accurate trends cannot be estimated. However, the Extent of Occurrence is thought to have declined by 30% owing to habitat conversion between 1992 and 1999, suggesting that populations could be declining at a moderately rapid to rapid rate.

It inhabits natural grasslands (vegetation height of 29-45 cm), including land abandoned for 5-15 (or more) years (Tubaro et al. 1994). Some birds breed and winter in planted pastures and cultivated fields with a similar vegetation structure (Tubaro and Gabelli 1999). However, a study in Buenos Aires province found that 90% of reproductive groups were present in natural grasslands with high vegetation cover (Fernandez et al. 2004). It can coexist with cattle, but apparently avoids planted pasture, as well as areas where grazing is more intensive and vegetation height is consequently lower (Tubaro and Gabelli 1999). Breeding occurs between mid-October and November, and 3-4 eggs are laid (Azpiroz 2005). The diet includes seeds, insects and shoots. There is some northwards movement in winter, but it is primarily resident (Tubaro and Gabelli 1999).

Rapid and widespread conversion to cattle-ranching, arable and plantation agriculture are primarily responsible for long-term declines. It is now restricted to areas least suitable for agriculture , although the rate of grassland conversion within occupied areas continues to outstrip the rate of grassland regeneration by three to one (Gabelli et al. 2004). Other factors may interact with habitat loss, including high rates of nest predation (Cozzani et al. 2004), although recent studies in Uruguay suggest that this may have only a limited effect (A. Azpiroz in litt. 2007). Trampling by cattle (Gabelli et al. 2004), and brood parasitism by Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis (Cozzani et al. 2004, Gabelli et al. 2004) could also influence productivity, although parasitism appears to be rare (Cozzani et al. 2004, A. Azpiroz in litt. 2007). Maintenance of moderate grazing regimes appears to favour the species (Zalba et al. 2008). Competition with Long-tailed Meadowlark S. loyca and White-browed Blackbird Leistes superciliaris could negatively influence this species (Tubaro and Gabelli 1999), although studies have found no evidence that presence of either species affects site selection (Gabelli et al. 2004). Capture for trade is not currently extensive (Tubaro and Gabelli 1999), but, in 1988, over 100 birds were seen in local markets (Bertonatti and Tubaro 1993).

Conservation Actions Underway
It is protected under Brazilian and Uruguayan law and from trapping in Argentina. Studies have clarified its distribution , numbers and habitat requirements (Tubaro et al. 1994, Tubaro and Gabelli 1999, Fernandez et al. 2004, Gabelli et al. 2004, Azpiroz 2005). In northern Uruguay, educational visits to schools were carried out in association with surveying in 2003 (Azpiroz 2005). Conservation Actions Proposed
Manage agricultural land to ensure that habitat loss does not exceed habitat gain. Survey south Córdoba and south-east San Luis to locate any remnant populations. Monitor the population. Assess the impact of inter-specific competition. Determine the threat posed by high nest failure rates owing to predation, trampling and brood parasitism by Shiny Cowbird.

Azpiroz, A. 2003. Status and distribution of Pampas Meadowlark (Sturnella defilippii) in northern Uruguay.

Azpiroz, A. B. 2005. Conservation of Pampas Meadowlark Sturnella defilippii in Uraguay. Cotinga 23: 71-73.

Bertonatti, C.; Tubaro, P. 1993. Nuestro Libro Rojo, No. 32: loica pampeana Sturnella defilippi. Vida Silvestre 34: 21-22.

Collar, N. J.; Crosby, M. J.; Stattersfield, A. J. 1994. Birds to watch 2: the world list of threatened birds. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

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.

Cozzani, N. C.; Sánchez, R.; Zalba, S. M. 2004. Nidificación de la Loica Pampeana (Sturnella defilippi) en la provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina. Hornero 19(2): 47-52.

Fernández, G. J.; Posse, G.; Ferretti, V.; Gabelli, F. M. 2004. Bird-habitat relationship for the declining Pampas meadowlark populations in the southern Pampas grasslands. Biological Conservation 115: 139-148.

Gabelli, F.M.; Fernández, G.J.; Ferretti, V.; Posse, G.; Coconier, E.; Gavieiro, H.J., et al. 2004. Range contraction in the pampas meadowlark Sturnella defilippii in the southern pampas grasslands of Argentina. Oryx 38: 164-170.

Short, L. L. 1968. Sympatry of Red-breasted meadowlarks in Argentina, and the taxonomy of meadowlarks (Aves: Leistes, Pezites, and Sturnella). American Museum Novitates 2349.

Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1993. A supplement to 'Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world'. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Tubaro, P. L.; Gabelli, F. M. 1999. The decline of the Pampas Meadowlark: difficulties of applying the IUCN criteria to Neotropical grassland birds. Studies in Avian Biology 19: 250-257.

Tubaro, P.; Gabelli, F.; Gallegos-Luque, D. 1994. Red Data Bird: Pampas Meadowlark. World Birdwatch 16: 18-19.

Zalba, S. M.; Sánchez, R.; Cozzani, N. C. 2009. Priorities for the conservation of an endangered grassland bird: clues from its nesting biology. Ornitologia Neotropical 20(1): 35-46.

Further web sources of information
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
Gilroy, J., Harding, M., Pople, R., Sharpe, C J, Khwaja, N.

Azpiroz, A., Fraga, R.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Sturnella defilippii. 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 - Pampas meadowlark (Sturnella defilippii) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Icteridae (New World blackbirds)
Species name author (Bonaparte, 1850)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 16,600 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species