Spotted Towhee

Scientific Name: Pipilo maculatus

Family: New World Sparrows

Description: A widespread towhee of the West, sometimes abundant in chaparral and on brushy mountain slopes. For many years it was considered to belong to the same species as the unspotted Eastern Towhees found east of the Great Plains, under the name of Rufous-sided Towhee. The Spotted Towhee differs in the heavy white spotting on its upperparts, and its songs and callnotes are more variable and much harsher in tone. It often is first noticed because of the sound of its industrious scratching in the leaf-litter under dense thickets.

Habitat: Open woods, undergrowth, brushy edges. In the varied terrain of the West, this towhee often lives in chaparral, mountain manzanita thickets, scrub oaks, or pinyon-juniper woods with dense understory.

Feeding Behavior: Forages mostly on the ground, frequently scratching in the leaf-litter. Also sometimes forages up in shrubs and low trees.

Diet: Mostly insects, seeds, berries. Diet varies with season. Eats many insects, especially in summer, including beetles, caterpillars, moths, true bugs, and many others, also spiders, snails, and millipedes. Also eats many seeds, plus acorns, berries, and small fruits.

Eggs: 3-5, sometimes 2-6. Creamy white to very pale gray, with spots of brown and gray often concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female, about 12-14 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 9-11 days after hatching, may remain with parents for some time thereafter. 1 or 2 broods per year, rarely 3.

Nesting: Male defends nesting territory by singing, often from a high perch. In courtship, male may chase female. Nest site is on the ground under a shrub, or in low bushes, usually less than 5' above the ground. Nest (built by female) is an open cup of grass, twigs, weeds, rootlets, strips of bark, lined with finer materials, sometimes including animal hair.

Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 9-11 days after hatching, may remain with parents for some time thereafter. 1 or 2 broods per year, rarely 3.

Conservation Status: Very common and widespread, numbers apparently stable.

Notes: Images captured in Pedernales Falls State Park.

ATTRIBUTION: All of the bird images in this post are copyrighted and are the exclusive property of Terry B. Kahler. Reproduction without explicit written consent is prohibited. Some of the information contained in this section was taken from the National Audubon Society website and is being used under their terms of use. Redistribution from this site is prohibited.

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