Conservation status Reasons for sharp decline in Texas are poorly understood. Still widespread and common in Mexico and Central America, and has probably increased in some areas with clearing of forest.
Family Tanagers
Habitat Weedy places, tall grass, brush. In Texas, found mainly in weedy overgrown fields or brushy open woods, typically close to water; may roost in tall marsh growth. Farther south in tropics, found in a wide variety of open habitats, from marshes and open grassy fields to brushy edges of woods.
This tiny finch is abundant in Mexico and Central America, but it has had a checkered history in our area. In extreme southern Texas, the seedeater was common as recently as the 1940s, but by the mid-1970s it had all but vanished north of the border. In recent years it has reappeared in small numbers in the Falcon Dam area. Flocks of Morelet's Seedeaters feed low in rank weedy places, calling to each other in soft voices. They may roost in tall marsh growth along the Rio Grande. The surprisingly clear whistled song of the male is not often heard in our area.

Feeding Behavior

Forages in low growth or sometimes on the ground, clambering about among grasses and weeds, and plucking seeds from grass stalks. Occasionally will feed higher in dense bushes or low trees. Except in nesting season, almost always forages in flocks.


Probably 2-4. Pale blue to pale gray, with spots of brown often concentrated at the larger end. Incubation is probably by female only, about 13 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 9-11 days after hatching.


Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 9-11 days after hatching.


Seeds and insects. Diet probably includes many small seeds, especially those of grasses. Also probably feeds on a variety of small insects.


Often nests in small colonies, with several pairs fairly close together. Male sings to defend nesting territory. Nest: In Texas, nests have been found in shrubs or in large weeds such as giant ragweed, usually 3-5' above the ground. Nest (probably built by female) is a small and compact open cup of grass, small twigs, rootlets, plant fibers, and plant down, sometimes with the addition of spiderwebs or animal hair.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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Apparently a permanent resident throughout its range. When the species was more common in Texas, the birds apparently would move around somewhat in flocks during the winter.

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Songs and Calls

Song a variable twee twee twee, chew chew; also a high tik-it.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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