Four (Clements et al. 2009) or five (Paynter 1970, Eitniear 1997) subspecies usually recognized, which can be arranged in two groups:
torquela group ("Cinnamon-rumped" Seedeater): The wings of the definitive male do not have wing bars; the rump and underparts are cinnamon or buff.
nominate torqueola: See Detailed Description. Occurs in southwestern Mexico from Jalisco to Oaxaca (Paynter 1970).
atriceps: Sometimes included within torqueola (Hellmayr 1938, Clements et al. 2009). Similar to torqueola, but the back rarely if ever becomes completely black; instead, most of the back is grayish brown to olivaceous brown (Howell and Webb 1995, Eitniear 1997). Occurs in western Mexico from Sinaloa to northern Jalisco (Paynter 1970).
morelleti group ("White-collared" or "Morrellet's" Seedeater): The male in definitive plumage has white wingbars; the rump is white or gray, and the underparts are white or whitish buff.
sharpei: The black breast band of the male is reduced to black mottling at the sides of the breast. Back grayish brown, mottled with black. Occurs from extreme southern Texas south to eastern San Luis Potosí and northern Veracruz (Paynter 1970).
morelleti: Black breast band of male is complete; black on back is more extensive; and has white crescent below eye. Underparts and rump white. Occurs along Caribbean slope from Veracruz south to western Panama (Paynter 1970). Intergrades with sharpei from southern Veracruz south to Guatemala (Howell and Webb 1995, Eitniear 1997).
mutanda: Males show a variable amount of black on the throat, although this feature is not present in all individuals (Hellmayr 1938, Meyer de Schauensee 1952), and at some localities black-and white-throated birds are equally common (Monroe 1968). Consequently, this subspecies is not recognized by some authorities (Hellmayr 1938, Meyer de Schauensee 1952). Occurs on the Pacific coast from Chiapas, Mexico, south to El Salvador (Paynter 1970).