Striped Sparrow Oriturus superciliosus Scientific name definitions

D. Alexander Carrillo Martínez, Zayra Arery Guadalupe Muñoz González, Cody Smith, David L. Slager, and Andrew J. Spencer
Version: 3.0 — Published February 9, 2024


Systematics History

The first reference of Striped Sparrow is from before 1803 as Tanagra superciliaris (J. M. Mociño, unpublished; see 8). The earliest published mention of the species is associated with William Swainson in 1837 with the name Aimophila superciliosa (9), and the official description was published in 1838 (10). In 1850, the species was described again by C. L. Bonaparte as Oriturus mexicanus (11); however, Bonaparte later recognized that his "new" species was, in fact, the Aimophila superciliosa described by Swainson (12, 13).

Ridgway (14: 224) determined that Striped Sparrow did not belong to Aimophila, because "... tail shorter than wing instead of longer, and wing much less rounded, the first primary longer than eighth instead of shorter than tenth, and second to sixth primaries longest and nearly equal," and proposed a change to Plagiospiza superciliosa. The genus Plagiospiza was later replaced with Oriturus, due to priority rules (13), and the Striped Sparrow has remained as Oriturus superciliosus ever since.

Phylogenetic studies have found that Striped Sparrow represents an early lineage of the North American "grassland" and "bushland" sparrows, with no close, extant relatives, confirming its separation from Aimophila (15, 16).

Geographic Variation

There is weak geographic variation in plumage coloration. Northern individuals were described by van Rossem (17) as tending to have redder and paler upperparts, completely gray central rectrices, and a whitish throat and central abdomen, with the rest of the underparts gray, while southern birds were described as having brownish upperparts, predominantly dark gray underparts, and central rectrices with olive or olive-brown outer edges. However, this geographic variation in color could be a result of discoloration of specimens reviewed by van Rossem (17) as a result of age. In 1952, Paynter (6) examined older specimens from Chihuahua, Sonora, Durango, Jalisco, and Veracruz, and compared them with recently collected specimens from Puebla. He found no evidence of geographic variation, even when comparing specimens of similar age from Chihuahua and Veracruz, the northern and southern extremes of the species' distribution, respectively.


Two subspecies recognized: O. superciliosus superciliosus and O. superciliosus palliatus (18). However, differences between the two subspecies are slight, and investigation by Paynter (6) suggested that differences may be nonexistent, and that the species may be best treated as monotypic (19). Populations from Aguascalientes, Durango, Jalisco, Nayarit, San Luis Potosi, and Zacatecas were reportedly intermediate between superciliosus and palliatus (17, 20).


Oriturus superciliosus palliatus Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

(van Rossem, 1938) [type locality = near Tutuaca, ~2,895 m, Chihuahua, Mexico] (17).


Western Mexico in Sierra Madre Occidental from eastern Sonora and southwestern Chihuahua south through eastern Sinaloa and western Durango to Nayarit and western Zacatecas (20, 2).

Identification Summary

Redder and paler coloration, central rectrices gray, throat and median abdominal region whitish, and lower abdomen light gray (17, 6).


Oriturus superciliosus superciliosus Scientific name definitions

Systematics History

(Swainson, 1838) [type locality = Mexico] (10).


Occurs in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, Sierra Madre Oriental, Balsas Basin, and Sierra Madre del Sur, from Jalisco, Aguascalientes, and Guanajuato east to Tlaxcala and west-central Veracruz, south to Michoacán, Morelos, Puebla, and disjunctly in central Oaxaca (20, 2, 21).

Identification Summary

Brownish or chocolate coloration, with the central rectrices olive or olive brown laterally, and the throat and abdomen gray (17, 6).

Related Species

Striped Sparrow is the sole member of the genus Oriturus Bonaparte 1850 (11). This species was originally described as a species of Aimophila, and was considered by many to be closely related to other members of this genus due to its similarity in appearance and morphology (13, 2, 22). One exception was Phillips (23), who believed Striped Sparrow was more closely related to Peucaea based on relative proportions in the length of the wings and tail; Storer (24) similarly found Striped Sparrow to be distinct from Aimophila when comparing the skulls of different species from the genus Aimophila (sensu lato).

Recent phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequence data (from both mitochondrial and nuclear genes) further support earlier studies suggesting it is not closely related to Aimophila. Rather, it appears that Striped Sparrow is sister to a relatively large clade that includes the genera Melospiza, Ammospiza, Centronyx, and the monotypic genera Xenospiza and Passerculus (15, 25); this clade may also include the monotypic genus Poocetes (16).


Vernacular Names

Spanish Name (Mexico)

"Zacatonero Serrano"

  • Zacatonero: Name given to the sparrows from the genera: Peucaea, Amphispiza, Artemisiospiza, Oriturus, and Aimophila. These are sparrows that can be found in "zacatonales" (mountain grasslands).
  • Serrano: From the "sierra" (mountains).

Also, "Zorzal Rayado" (26), "Zacatonero Rayado" (27).

English Name

  • Striped: With stripes, referring to the rufous crown, and the big white and black stripes on the head (supercilium and mask).
  • Sparrow: Name given to some sparrow-like birds from the families Passerellidae (New World Sparrows) and Passeridae (Old World Sparrows).

Scientific Names

Oriturus (Bonaparte, 1850) (11), synonymous of the genus Orites (Gray 1841), that comes from the Greek oritis (mountain-roaming, mountaineer); and oura (tail).

superciliosus / superciliosa; Swainson, 1838 (10), from the Latin supercilium (eyebrow).

Older Scientific Names

  • Aimophila (Swainson, 1838) (10), "Aimophila superciliosa", from the Greek aimos (copse, thicket); and philos (to love).
  • mexicanus (Bonaparte, 1850) (11), "Oriturus mexicanus", name for location: Mexico.
  • Plagiospiza (Ridgway, 1898 (14), "Plagiospiza superciliosa", from the Greek plagios (oblique); and spiza (finch).

Fossil History

No information. Some specimens of Oriturus superciliosus from the National History Museum, London (NHMUK), Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University (MCZ), Michigan State University Mammalogy, Ornithology and Vertebrate Paleontology Collections (MSU), and the University Museum of Zoology Cambridge (UMZC) are cataloged as "fossil specimens," but it seems to be an error in the databases.

Recommended Citation

Carrillo Martínez, D. A., Z. A. G. Muñoz González, C. Smith, D. L. Slager, and A. J. Spencer (2024). Striped Sparrow (Oriturus superciliosus), version 3.0. In Birds of the World (B. K. Keeney and P. G. Rodewald, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.
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