Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the October 29, 2017 Newsletter, a special on-the-road edition with notes taken in mid October near Tepotzlán, Morelos state, MÉXICO
Elevation about 5315 ft (1620m), at 18°59′07″N 99°05′59″W

During my mid-October visit with a friend outside Tepotzlán, in the state of Morelos just south of Mexico City, during a morning walk through the orchard a small flock of sparrows perched conspicuously preening in the early light. One is shown below:

Stripe-headed Sparrow, AIMOPHILA RUFICAUDA

From a distance, at first I thought it was a White-crowned or White-throated Sparrow, commonly seen during North America's winters. However, something seemed out of order. The bird's black eyestripe was far too broad.

It was the Stripe-headed Sparrow, AIMOPHILA RUFICAUDA, occurring along southwestern Mexico's Pacific Slope south to northwestern Costa Rica. Its distribution map shows a narrow lobe of its territory protruding eastward in from the Pacific Slope, coinciding with the high-elevation Central Volcanic Belt cutting east/west across Mexico just south of Mexico City.

It other words, this is a species of limited occurrence in Mexico, not even coming close to the Yucatan. Back in my volcano-camping days I saw them fairly regularly, though, so my impression is that within their limited, high-elevation distribution area they are fairly common.

Their habitat is described as arid to semiarid brushy scrub and semiopen areas, which is exactly where we found ours, plus they are said to occur in pairs or small groups, just like ours.

The Stripe-headed Sparrow's similarity to the North's White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows, both migratory species, is incidental, since they belong to completely different genera, and the Stripe-headed is a permanent resident wherever it occurs.