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White-collared Seedeater
Sporophila torqueola
– Family
Authors: Eitniear, Jack Clinton

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Male White-collared Seedeater, Laredo, TX, 11 February.
Figure 1. Distribution of White-collared Seedeater

The White-collared Seedeater is the northernmost species of its genus. Ranging from western Panama to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, it inhabits savanna, pastures, and brushy fields, frequently near water. Historically in the United States, this species was considered common and ranged widely throughout the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, but since the 1960s it has been found only in Zapata and Starr Counties, principally during summer and in small flocks. Habitat destruction and the use of agrochemicals are thought to be the main causes of this decline.

Males in their conspicuous black-and-white plumage are frequently observed singing from March to October. Females are more secretive, usually observed only when feeding or traveling to roosts. Although considered a seed specialist, in Texas this species feeds many insects to its young; fledglings, however, are fed exclusively grass seeds. This bird has been little studied in Texas, and its ecological requirements and population trends remain poorly known.

In Central America, several members of the genus Sporophila occur sympatrically. Definitive-plumaged males are easily distinguished, but juveniles and females are very similar in appearance, making identification difficult in the field.