Sierra Madre Sparrow

Central America


Xenospiza baileyi


  • There is widespread anthropogenic burning of habitat, mostly to promote new growth of grazing pasture for sheep and cattle.
  • There is also conversion to agriculture (mainly oats), bunch-grass is sometimes cut for thatch and brushes and a degree of urban encroachment is occurring.
  • Most remaining habitat is close to volcanic rock outcrops or on slopes where it is difficult to operate a tractor.

The Sierra Madre sparrow (Xenospiza baileyi), also known as Bailey's sparrow, is an endangered, range-restricted, enigmatic American sparrow. It is endemic to Mexico and is threatened with extinction through habitat loss.

The species is endemic to some mountain ranges in and near the Sierra Madre Occidental, Mexico. It is restricted to bunchgrass and marshland habitat in volcanic mountain ranges, at altitudes of 2,300–3,050 metres (7,550–10,010 ft); the lower part of the range is occupied by the northern, and the higher part by the southern population. Habitat information for the northern population is scant, with pine, oak, and Arbutus (probably Arizona Madrone, A. arizonica) trees being mentioned. Better details are available for the more extensively studied southern population. The dominant bunchgrass species are Festuca amplissima, Peruvian feather grass (Stipa ichu), a muhly grass (Muhlenbergia affinis), and Muhlenbergia macroura. Small woods of Montezuma Pine (Pinus montezumae) and (probably) Lumholtz' Pine (P. lumholtzii) occur on elevated terrain.

It is highly threatened due to clearance of its habitat for creating pastures. Its conservation status on the IUCN Red List is Endangered. This is because the species occurs in less than 5000 km², and its range, available habitat, and population size are shrinking (BirdLife International 2004). Despite the rediscovery of the northern population, no more than a handful of individuals are known to remain, and further research to locate additional subpopulations is urgently needed. In any case, the species will probably be uplisted to Critically Endangered soon; of the 4 subpopulations known, only one (near La Cima) seems reasonably numerous.