Spotted Towhee

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Spotted towhee glamor.jpg

@Steven Ting  

Spotted Towhee Eggs.jpg

@Paul Young

Latin: Pipilo maculates

Family: Sparrow (Emberizidae)


    Length: 6.7-8.3 in (17-21 cm)

    Wingspan: 11 in (28 cm)

    Weight: 12.1.7 oz (33-49 g)

Habitat: Year round resident of the Pacific Northwest. Found in open woods, undergrowth, and brushy edges.
Spotted Towhee Drawing.jpg

Behavior: Spotted Towhees rummage in the leaf litter or creep through thick shrubs. Towhees tend to hop wherever they go, moving deliberately and giving themselves plenty of time to spot food items. They scratch at leaves with a characteristic two-footed backward hop, then pounce on anything they’ve uncovered. During conflicts between two towhees, you may see one bird pick up a piece of twig, bark, or leaf and carry it around. This seems to be an indication of submission. Disturbed or alarm-calling towhees flick their wings while perched, sometimes flashing the white corners in the tail.

Feeding: Forages in the ground, often scratching in leaf litter. Sometimes forages in shrubs and low trees.

Diet: Feeds mostly on seeds, berries, and insects. During breeding season, they eat mainly insects, including beetles, caterpillars, moths, weevils, ladybugs, spiders, snails, and millipedes. They also eat acorns, berries, seeds, and crops such as oats, wheat, corn and cherries. These foods make up most of the food source during the fall and winter.

Nesting: They form nests on the ground, on a shrub, or in low bushes. Usually found less than 5 feet about the ground, the nest is an open cup of grass, twigs, weeds, rootlets, and strips of bark which is lined with finer materials such as animal hair or grasses. The finished nest is about 4.5 in. across, with an inner cup 2.5-4 inches across and 2.5 inches deep. They often choose fairly exposed areas over sites deep inside a thicket.

Young: There may be 1-3 broods a year. There are 2-6 eggs in a brood. The eggs are creamy white to very pale gray with brown, purple or gray spots. Eggs are 0.8-1 in. in length and 0.7 in. in width. The eggs incubate for 12-14 days, by the female. The young leave their nest 9-12 days after hatching

Song: They have a fairly simple song.  A drier, faster version of the Eastern Towhee's drink-your-tea song, lasting about 1.5 seconds. The song starts with 1-8 short notes and then a fast trill.Simple buzzy trill. "Chezheeeee" or "chzchzchzchzchz." Spotted towhee's make a catlike mew call, about half a second long. Pairs sometimes exchange soft, lisping calls to stay in contact. 



1. Spotted Towhee; Guide to North American Birds, National Audubon Society;

2. Spotted Towhee; All About Birds by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology;