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Abert's Towhee

Melozone aberti

Length: 9.5 inches Wingspan: 11.5 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Plain dusty brown overall, dark face, pale bill, orangish undertail coverts

Abert's Towhee - Melozone abertiThe Abert's Towhee has one of the smallest home ranges of any bird found in North America.  They are mostly found in southern and western Arizona, with a range that barely overlaps into adjacent states.  They are relatively common within this range and often are not that difficult to observe, but given the small geographic location where their found, coupled with their lack of wandering outside of this range, they are a highly sought after bird for many birders.  They are very similar in overall structure to the California Towhee and Canyon Towhee.  Their range does overlap some with the Canyon Towhee, but there are plumage differences between the two, and the Abert's Towhee is more likely to be found near water sources.

Habitat: Found in brushy thickets, particularly those near sources of water such as riparian thickets or the edges of ponds and lakes.  They will also use the understory of riparian forests, and have adapted fairly well to urban development in some locations, utilizing the brushy parts of parks and other bits of undeveloped habitat.

Diet: Feeds heavily on insects in the summer months. Also feeds heavily on seeds, with a higher proportion of seeds consumed in the winter months.

Behavior: Most foraging is done on the ground, although they will sometimes forage close to the ground in bushes and shrubs.

Nesting: The nest of an Abert's Towhee is a cup of grasses, herbaceous weeds, strips of bark, and stringy vine material, lined with fine grasses and softer vegetative material.  The female alone incubates the eggs, but both the male and female feed and tend to the young after hatching.  Pairs of Abert's Towhees may mate for life, rarely straying more than a few hundred yards away from a central home breeding location.

Interactive eBird Map: Click to access interactive eBird map for Abert's Towhee

Song: The song of an Abert's Towhee is a series of high-pitched notes, followed by a series of harsher, staccato, chattering trill notes.

Migration: Considered a permanent resident throughout its range.  They are not known to wander outside their already established range.

Similar Species: Similar to Canyon Towhee, California Towhee

Feeders: Will sometimes attend feeders for millet and various other seeds

Conservation Status: Abert's Towhees have one of the smallest home ranges of any species found in the United States, but within their range they remain relatively common, and some indications are that populations have increased in recent decades.  The IUCN lists the Abert's Towhee as a species of "Least Concern". 

Further Information:

Photo Information: December 7th, 2010 - Gilbert Water Ranch, Gilbert, Arizona - Terry Sohl


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Abert's Towhee - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Abert's Towhee Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Abert's Towhee 1 - Pipilo abertiAbert's Towhee 2 - Pipilo abertiAbert's Towhee 3 - Pipilo abertiAbert's Towhee 4 - Pipilo abertiAbert's Towhee 5 - Pipilo aberti