Wild Birds Unlimited Newsletter
~ For those passionate about birding and nature ~
May 1st, 2016                                                                                               Volume 05.16
Nature News
High Desert Bird of the Month
Spotted Towhee

Scientific name: Pipilo maculatus
How to identify:  
Spotted Towhee's have a thick, pointed bill, short neck, chunky body, and long, rounded tail. Males have jet-black upperparts and throat while their wings and back are spotted bright white. The flanks are rufous red with a white belly. Females have the same pattern but are warm brown where males are black.
Look for Spotted Towhees in open, shrubby habitat with thick undergrowth. Spotted Towhees are also at home in backyards, forest edges, and overgrown fields.
Where to find one:
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. 
How to attract one to your yard:
Spotted Towhees eat mainly 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.  Having a seed cylinder with mealworms and berries is a good way to attract these birds to your yard. 
Interesting fact:  
Male towhees have been recorded spending 70 percent to 90 percent of their mornings singing attempting to attract a mate.

For more information on Spotted Towhees, visit one of the three Moana Nursery store locations:  1100 W. Moana Ln. & 11301 S. Virginia St., Reno and 7644 Pyramid Hwy., Sparks. 

Carmel Ruiz-Hilton is Manager of Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shops at Moana Nursery in Reno/Sparks.

Go to the WBU site for more Bird of the Month newsletters & articles. 
Moana Rewards Members Special!
15% off all seed cylinders, and stackables.  
Offer excludes suet and seed cakes.
Not a member?  Come in and ask us to sign you up!

Great gift idea just in time 
for Mother's Day!

25% off All Advanced Pole Systems and hardware.
Includes basic and deck hardware set-up kits.

Check out all current sales and promotions on the Moana Nursery website
Fun Facts About Towhees

Towhees are usually shy sulkers and rush for cover at the slightest disturbance.

There are six species of Towhees in North America; Spotted, Eastern, Green-tailed, Canyon, Abert's and California. Only the Eastern Towhee is found east of the Mississippi River.

Towhees are members of the Sparrow Family.

Towhees are ground feeders and use a hop-and-scratch foraging method. While jumping forward with its head and tail up, it kicks its strong legs backwards to uncover its food. They use this same technique in the leaf litter on the forest floor or underneath feeders where the seeds are clearly visible.

In 1586 John White became the first European to discover and draw the Eastern Towhee. He had come to North Carolina as the governor of Sir Walter Raleigh's doomed colony on Roanoke Island.

The name "towhee," a simulation of the bird's call, was coined in 1731 by the naturalist and bird artist Mark Catesby.

The Eastern Towhee is sometimes called the "chewink" bird, in recognition of its call, and it is also known as the "ground robin" for its foraging habits.

The Eastern Towhee and the Spotted Towhee were both named the Rufus-sided Towhee until 1995 when they were determined to be genetically separate species.  

Banding studies have shown that Eastern Towhees can live more than 12 years in the wild, but an average lifespan is about four to six years.

Northern populations of the Eastern Towhee are migratory; southern populations are year-round residents.

Well hidden in thick cover, the nest of a towhee can be hard to find. Female towhees never land directly on it; instead they land away from the nest and walk through the thick brush to reach it. 

Eastern Towhees raise two broods of three to four young each year. The female incubates the eggs for 12-13 days then both parents feed the young. The young birds fledge in 9-11 days and will stay with the parents for another month.

The typical Eastern Towhee has red eyes, but in Florida and southern Georgia a pale-eyed population exists that has light yellow eyes. 

Eastern Towhees will eat peanuts, cracked corn, millet and sunflower seeds from a ground feeder that is placed near dense underbrush.

The Spotted Towhee is often heard before it is seen. It is a shy bird that spends much of its time noisily scratching for food in the dead leaves underneath dense brush.

Spotted Towhees can occasionally be seen lying down out in the open, sunning themselves with open wings and spread feathers.

The Spotted Towhee seems to be somewhat hardier than the Eastern Towhee, as it withstands lower temperatures.

Spotted Towhees raise one brood of three to five young each year. The female incubates the eggs for 12-14 days then both parents feed the young. The young birds fledge in 9-11 days and will stay with the parents for around 30 days.

About 30% of the Spotted Towhee's food is insects and the rest is seeds and berries.

Spencer Baird was the first person to describe the Abert's Towhee in 1852. He named it for Lt. James William Abert, a U.S. Army Topographical Engineer, who obtained the specimen during a survey of New Mexico. 

Abert's Towhees average two successful broods a year despite living in a harsh hot and dry environment, but it may take as many as six nesting attempts to produce the two broods.

The Abert's Towhee has one of the smallest ranges of any U.S. bird species, being found only in the Colorado and Gila River Valleys of Arizona and parts of California, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico.

California Towhees aggressively defend their territories year-round and often battle their own reflections in windows, car mirrors and other reflective surfaces.

Male California Towhees will try to impress a female by approaching it with drooped and rapidly quivering wings.

The California Towhee was first named as a separate species in 1839. By 1886, it had been lumped in with the Canyon Towhee and both were re-named the Brown Towhee. In 1989, DNA studies once again separated the two species.

California Towhees are known to use the morning dew on plants as a source of water.

Female Green-tailed Towhees distract predators away from their nest by dropping straight down to the ground and running away in a mouse-like fashion.

Green-tailed Towhees are secretive birds that spend much of their time noisily scratching for food in the dead leaves underneath dense brush.

Unlike the other five species of North America towhees, the Green-tailed Towhee is the only towhee species that is completely migratory.

Upcoming Events
Lahontan Audubon Society

Wednesday, May 11
 Birds of the Truckee Meadows - Neighborhood Birds
Tuesday, May 17
 Birds & Books Reading Group - Summer World
Wednesday, May 18
 Birds of the Truckee Meadows - Birds of Lakes and Marshes
Friday, May 20
 Bird Bio Blitz - Great Basin National Park
 Spring Wings Bird Festival
Saturday, May 21
 Bird Bio Blitz - Great Basin National Park
 Spring Wings Bird Festival
Sunday, May 22
 Bird Bio Blitz - Great Basin National Park
Tuesday, May 24
 Program Meeting - Chris Vennum - Breeding Ecology of Swainson's Hawks - A Long-Term Study
Wednesday, May 25
 Birds of the Truckee Meadows - Raptors
Wednesday, June 1
 Birds of the Truckee Meadows - Mountain Birds
Thursday, June 9
 LAS Screening of The Messenger
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
 Birds & Books Reading Group - The House of Owls
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
 Program Meeting - Brigid Surber - Birds Influence Culture
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
 Program Meeting: Don Molde-Who Pays for Wildlife
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
 Program Meeting: Steve Jenkins-The Magic Migration by Monarch Butterflies
Animal Ark

May 7 @ 10:15 am - 2:30 pm
Come watch the fun as our predators break open their treat-filled piñatas! Great photo opportunities! Admission: $15 for Adults, $13.50 for Seniors, $12 for Children, Free for 2 & under Directions: From Reno, take Highway 395 North, right on Red Rock Road, go 11.5 miles, then right onto Deerlodge Road to our driveway at 1265 Deerlodge.

May 21 @ 8:30 am - 5:00 pm
Run through the beauty of nature at Animal Ark on this challenging 5K course, or enjoy a brisk morning walk. A fun, short Kids Run is available along with face painting and raffle prizes for the entire family. Ark Stampede Waiver Ark Stampede Registration Form 5K Entry Fee: $35 for Adults and $20 for Children 

May 29 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Reservations required due to limited seating. RSVP at 1-775-970-3431 May 29th is the day for the Indianapolis 500 and the Cheetah 500! Come see the world's fastest land mammal in action as our cheetahs run at top speeds - completely off-leash - around the Animal Ark run field! Admission: $40 for Adults, $35 for Seniors, $30 for Children (8-16 years)
May Nature Happenings
  • May 3: New Moon, May 17: Full Moon 
  • May 5 - 6: Eta Aquarids meteor shower 
  • May 14: International Migratory Bird Day 
  • Average temperature is 54.6° F and it's our third wettest month at 2.39 inches of precipitation. 
  • Dawn Chorus - it's a most delightful avian chorus as males sing their finest to start the nesting cycle. 
  • Orioles arrive to build beautiful woven grass nests in colonies in deciduous trees. 
  • Male Western Tanagers arrive and are often seen traveling in pairs. 
  • Warblers, Kingbirds and Mockingbirds delay their arrival until abundant flying insects are available. 
  • Spotted Towhees will sing from dawn to dusk in search of a mate. 
  • Green-tailed Towhees share the same habitat as Spotted Towhees. 
  • Hummingbirds arrive. Be sure to have their feeders up early in the month. 
  • Chokecherry, serviceberry, rocky mountain juniper, cottonwood are in bloom early in the month. 
  • Peak of Warbler migration happens early in month. 
  • Hermit Thrush and Black-headed Grosbeaks return. 
  • Peak of bird courtship. Listen for the morning chorus. 
  • Nesting materials are being collected. 
  • Orioles return and begin nesting. Be sure to have their feeders, nectar, fruit and jelly out early. 
  • Beaver kits and skunk litters are born. 
  • Mosquitoes can begin to be a problem. 
  • Refresh bird bath water often to deter them from breeding. 
  • Be on the lookout for tadpoles in ponds. 

Celebrating 10 years in Reno, NV! 
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Moana Nursery | 1100 W. Moana Lane | 11301 S. Virginia St. | 7655 Pyramid Hwy. | Reno/Sparks | NV | 89509