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Coal-crested finch

Charitospiza eucosma

Photo by Tancredo Maia (Flickr)

Common name:
coal-crested finch (en); mineirinho (pt); charitospize charbonnier (fr); monterita crestada (es); weißwangen-zwergkardinal (de)

Order Passeriformes
Family Emberizidae

This species is patchily distributed across north-eastern and central Brazil, in central Piauí, southern Maranhão and south-eastern Pará south through Goiás, western Bahia and central Minas Gerais to south-eastern Mato Grosso and central São Paulo. Also in north-eastern Bolivia, in Serranía de Huanchaca in Santa Cruz, and north-eastern Argentina.

These birds are 11-11,5 cm long and weigh 10-12 g.

The coal-crested finch is mostly found in cerrado dry savannas, also using savanna-grasslands transition habitatsand semi-open arid caatinga scrublands. They specialize in recently burned areas. This species is present at altitudes of 200-1.200 m.

They are omnivorous, mainly eating grass seeds and arthropods, but also fruits and flowers. They are known to consume grasses such as Echinolaena inflexa, Trachypogon spp. and Aristida spp. and the introduced Andropogon gayanus, as well as grasshoppers, crickets, ants, termites and insect eggs.

Coal-crested finches are socially monogamous, although there are some cases of polygyny. They ave two breeding seasons, responding to the local rainy seasons, in September-December and February-April. The nest is built by both sexes, consisting of an open cup made of dry grasses, small twigs, spider webs, fine roots and silk cotton. It is placed in a tree, 1-4 m above the ground. The female lays 1-3 pale blue-green eggs with brown spots, which she incubates alone for 10-12 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 10-15 days after hatching.

IUCN status – NT (Near-Threatened)
This species has a relatively large but patchy breeding range. Although the global population size has not been quantified, this species is described as uncommon and patchily distributed, and suspected to be declining at a slow to moderate rate. The main threat is habitat loss through conversion to agriculture for Eucalyptus plantations, soy beans and pastures for exportable crops, which is encouraged by government land reform and has had a severe impact on the cerrado habitats in Brazil. They are also trapped for the cage bird trade.

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