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Melopyrrha nigra

Cuban Bullfinch

  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Thraupidae
  • Polytypic 2 Subspecies

Authors: Ayón Güemes, Xochitl, Edwin Ruiz Rojas, and Eduardo E. Iñigo-Elias

Melopyrrha nigra

Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Garden, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; 1 April 2011 © Jim Scarff

Despite its English name, the Cuban Bullfinch (Melopyrrha nigra) is not a strict Cuban endemic, as it also is found on the island of Grand Cayman, with only one known record from Little Cayman. The differences in plumage and size between the bullfinches of Cuba and Grand Cayman suggest a need for biomolecular and phylogenetic studies on the relationships of these two populations. The genus Melopyrrha is monotypic with two subspecies, M.n. nigra for Cuba, and M.n. taylori for Grand Cayman.  The species is common to uncommon in some areas in the Island of Cuba and the Island of Youth (formerly know as Pines), and several offshore cays where it has a patchy distribution and is locally common. On Grand Cayman the "Black Sparrow", as it is locally known, is common. Cuban Bullfinch prefers tropical dry forest and thickets, scrubby vegetation and forested areas, and is more common at sea level and up to 300 m. This is a small, round winged finch with a short, thick and strong curved bill with a convex culmen. Males are largely black with a heavy bill and a white wing patch, obvious both at rest and in flight, while females and immatures are duller, more charcoal (less shiny) black, and possess a smaller white wing patch. Two subspecies are recognized, the one on Grand Cayman characterized by its slightly larger bill size and the obviously paler olive gray plumage of females compared to the Cuban subspecies. Cuban Bullfinches feeds on seeds, small fruits, flower nectar, and insects. The breeding season lasts from March to August. The species constructs a large globular nest, and lays three to five eggs. The global population it is considered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as a: "Least Concern" species. However, in Cuba local biologist recently categorized the species as "Near Threatened" in the "Red Book of Cuban Vertebrates". Habitat loss and the taking of live birds for the historic and current illegal song and cage bird trade for both domestic and international markets may be affecting the survival of local populations across Cuba.

Recommended Citation

Ayón Güemes, Xochitl, Edwin Ruiz Rojas, and Eduardo E. Iñigo-Elias. 2013. Cuban Bullfinch (Melopyrrha nigra), Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online:

This map is based on the maps available from the NatureServe InfoNatura website. The data for these maps are provided by NatureServe in collaboration with Robert Ridgely, James Zook, The Nature Conservancy - Migratory Bird Program, Conservation International - CABS, World Wildlife Fund - US, and Environment Canada - WILDSPACE.

  • Migration/Movement:Resident (nonmigratory)
  • Primary Habitat:Tropical lowland evergreen forest
  • Foraging Strata:Understory/Canopy
  • Foraging Behavior:---
  • Diet:Omnivorous
  • Sociality:Pairs/Family Groups
  • Mating System:Unknown
  • Nest Form:Spherical
  • Clutch: 3 - 5
  • IUCN Status:Least Concern