Black-headed Saltator occurs from northeastern Mexico south to Panama. On the Caribbean slope, it is distributed from southern Tamaulipas (Mexico) south through southeastern Mexico, including the Yucatán Peninsula, Belize, eastern Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica to central Panama, where it occurs east to western Kuna Yala (Miller et al. 1957, Binford 1989a, Ridgway and Gwynne 1989, Stiles and Skutch 1989, Howell and Webb 1995, Jones 2004, ; there also is a single sight record from eastern Panama in Darién (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989). Black-headed Saltator is present on the Pacific slope of southern Mexico (Guerrero to Chiapas) south through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, to central Costa Rica; it also is local on the Pacific slope of western and central Panama (Miller et al. 1957, Binford 1989a, Ridgway and Gwynne 1989, Stiles and Skutch 1989, Howell and Webb 1995,
Black-headed Saltator primarily occurs in the lowlands, up to 1800 m in Mexico (Howell and Webb 1995), and up to 1330 m in Costa Rica (Stiles and Skutch 1989).