Bird of the Month
Common Name: Spotted Towhee
Scientific name: Pipilo maculatus
Spotted towhees are smaller than a robin, standing at 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.
Spotted towhee's main diet is seeds but they also eat insects and fruit. They eat insects including ground beetles, weevils, ladybugs, darkling beetles, click beetles, wood-boring beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, moths, bees, and wasps. They also eat acorns, berries, and seeds including buckwheat, thistle, raspberry, blackberry, poison oak, sumac, nightshade, chickweed, and crops such as oats, wheat, corn, and cherries. In fall and winter, these plant foods make up the majority of their diet.
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. Having a seed cylinder with mealworms and berries is a good way to attract these birds to your yard.
In the Truckee Meadows and surrounding areas, look for spotted towhees in open, shrubby habitat with thick undergrowth. Spotted Towhees are also at home in backyards, forest edges, and overgrown fields. Their warm rufous flanks match the dry leaves they spend their time hopping around in. The birds can be hard to see in the leaf litter, so your best chance for an unobstructed look at this bird may be in the spring, when males climb into the shrub tops to sing their buzzy songs. 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.