Identification and Pictures
Spotted towhees are smaller than a robin, about
8 inches. Like many songbirds the male has striking
plumage. His head and upper parts are black. They
have a thick pointed, black bill, and fire red eyes. The
sides are rufous, and the breast and belly are white.
White spots stand out on the black back, and
wings. The long tail is black with large white spots at the
corners which are visible in flight. The female is similar, but has brown where the
male has black. The young are streaked below.
Photos by Keith
Lee. The camera I use is the Canon
Spotted towhee and Eastern towhee until
recently were considered one species. The birds were
also called Rufous-sided towhees.
Their song is a long buzzy chweeee. In
some areas the bird is called a chewink because of the sound
of their alarm. Other
sounds are shenk, chup-chup zedededee, and a cat-like meew call.
Spotted towhees can be found in much of the
western half of North America. In the far west they are
year round residents, and in other areas they migrate south for
winter. They like open woods with thick under growth, forest
edges, and canyons. They are often found in
residential shrubbery. They spend much time hopping
around in leaves in the undergrowth, and can be hard to see but
their rustling gives them away.
Breeding and Nesting
spring males can be seen on a perch singing, as they try to
attract a mate, and defend their territories. The female
picks the nest site, and builds a nest of grass, leaves, and
bark lined with pine needles, hair, and other materials. Nests are
usually built on the ground or in low bushes. She will
lay 3 to 5 whitish or slightly greenish eggs with reddish brown
spots and incubate them for 12 to 14 days. Both parents
will feed the young birds which may leave the nest in around
10 days but will not fly for 5 to 6 days more. The
parents will feed the young for another 30 days. Their
nests are sometimes parasitized by Cowbirds.
Spotted towhee's main diet is seeds but they also eat insects,
and fruit. Although they do search for food in trees
they mainly forage on the ground. They scratch the
ground by kicking both feet backward at the same time to
uncover food. These birds prefer to forage in bushes with
leaves on the ground, making quite a racket as they rustle
through the leaves. If you have
a seed feeder near bushes towhees may search for seeds fallen,
or sprinkled on the ground.
For more on food and feeding click
For more on feeders click here.
To learn about other favorite
birds click here.