Buffy-fronted Seedeater Sporophila frontalis


Justification of Red List Category
This species is Vulnerable because the population is likely to be small and rapidly declining as a result of deforestation (compounded by its dependence on bamboo) and trapping (Collar et al. 1992). It can appear numerous at bamboo flowering events, but these concentrations of birds may represent a high proportion of the population.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 3,750-14,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
A rapid and on-going population decline is suspected owing to rates of habitat loss and capture for the bird trade.

Distribution and population

Sporophila frontalis has become very patchily distributed in south-east Brazil, with a few records in north-east Argentina and east Paraguay. In Brazil, it is most abundant in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, with records in Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo (Simon 2004) and Paraná (Mitroszewski et al. 2004, Carrano et al. 2004) and several recent records in Bahia from near Una Biological Reserve (A. C. De Luca in litt. 2007), Serra das Lontras (Silveira et al. 2005), Boa Nova (E. R. Luiz in litt. 2007) and Serra Bonita private reserve in Camacan (L. F. Silveira in litt. 2012). It is rarer in Santa Catarina (records in 1991 and 1992 [F. Olmos and P. Martuscelli in litt. 1995, do Rosário 1996], and 200 birds in flowering bamboo in a private forest in São José dos Campos in 2009 [L. F. Silveira in litt. 2012]) and Rio Grande do Sul (no records since the 19th century). There are four records for Misiones, Argentina, none of them documented: Iguazú in 1978 (A. Tarak per Olrog 1979), 2004 (Savigny 2010) and 2008 (Areta et al. 2009), and Obraje Esmeralda in 1993 (E. Krauczuk per Chebez 1994). The only record for Paraguay is a specimen collected at the end of the 19th or beginning of the 20th century. In Brazil, hundreds to thousands were noted at single sites in 1883, 1952 and 1985, and it is still periodically fairly common to common at several sites. However, it is not regularly recorded at any one site, and these large counts may represent a high proportion of the population. The population has been greatly reduced since the late 19th century, and it is now more frequently seen in cages than the wild.


It is a nomadic bamboo specialist, inhabiting forest interior, borders, second growth and cultivated land adjacent to forest. Breeding has been recorded in the austral winter and spring (July-September) when nests have been found (Areta et al. 2013) and males are territorial and very vocal in or near bamboo flowerings.


Over 90% of this species's Atlantic forest habitat has been lost (Areta et al. 2013). Rapid and continuing forest clearance has extended the intervals between major bamboo flowerings and nestings, and its nomadic habits suggest that existing reserves may afford inadequate protection (Areta et al. 2013). Persecution for the pet trade is severe, with lots of 100-200 birds recorded on sale at certain times in Rio de Janeiro.

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
This species is considered Vulnerable at the national level in Brazil (Silveira & Straube 2008, MMA 2014), and protected under Brazilian law. It regularly occurs in (at least) Tijuca, Serra dos Órgãos and Itatiaia National Parks, Serra do Mar, Desengano and Ilha do Cardoso State Parks, Ubatuba Experimental Station, Brazil (Wege and Long 1995). It has also been recorded in Serra das Lontras National Park, Serra Bonita Reserve, and Carlos Botelho, Serra do Mar and Serra do Caraça State Parks, Minas Gerais, and Serra da Cantareira, Intervales, and Curucutu State Parks, São Paulo (L. F. Silveira in litt. 2012). Argentine records are from Iguazú National Park and Esmeralda Provincial Park (Chebez 1994, Areta et al 2009, Savigny 2010). However, because the species follows bamboo flowerings, no population is adequately protected within a park (Areta et al. 2009, 2013).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Develop a long-term study of bamboo specialist birds in Atlantic forest. Assess the distribution of suitable bamboo stands. Protect stands of even secondary forest outside reserves to facilitate its nomadic movements. Effectively protect existing reserves, especially against trappers during bamboo flowerings. Completely ban the capture of wild birds. Develop a CMS agreement for nomadic bamboo species.


13 cm. Large, forest seedeater. Olivaceous upperparts with greyer head. Whitish-buff forecrown and narrow postocular streak. Whitish throat. Dull olive underparts with yellowish-buff belly centre. Two buffy wing-bars and patch at base of primaries. Stout, yellowish bill. Immature male browner above, without pale front. Similar spp. No similar forest species within range. Voice Loud and clear jet cheh-cheh-chéw.


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

Martuscelli, P., Cockle, K., Luiz, E., Silveira, L.F., Develey, P., Bodrati, A., De Luca, A., Olmos, F.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Sporophila frontalis. Downloaded from on 31/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 31/03/2023.