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California Towhee

Melozone crissalis

Length: 9 inches Wingspan: 11.5 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Grayish-tan overall, rufous undertail coverts

California Towhee - Melozone crissalisThe California Towhee is a bird of southern Oregon, California, and Baja Mexico.  It and the Canyon Towhee were once considered a single species, the Brown Towhee, but their geographic ranges do not overlap, and there are plumage, voice, and genetic differences, They are very plain in plumage overall, except for a brighter rufous patch on the undertail.  Both males and females are essential identical in appearance.

Habitat: Found in a variety of brushy habitats, including coastal scrublands, riparian thickets, dry chaparral, brushy forest forest edges, and urban parks.  They have adapted fairly well to a human presence and have learned to utilize brushy habitats in and around urban areas.

Diet: Feeds on seeds and insects.  Insects make up a large portion of the diet in the summer months, particularly when young are being fed.  However, seeds make up the majority of the diet in most seasons.  They will also sometimes feed on fruits and berries.

Behavior: Does the majority of its foraging ont he ground, searching for seeds and insects, scratching on the ground and in the leaf litter.

Nesting: The nest is a cup of sticks, grasses, and strips of bark, lined with fine grasses, animal hair, and plant down.  The female alone incubates the eggs, but both the male and female will feed and tend to the young.

Song: The song of a California Towhee is a series of notes that accelerate in pace throughout the song.

Migration: Considered a permanent resident throughout its range.  Individual birds rarely move far from where they breed.

Interactive eBird Map: Click to access an interactive eBird map of California Towhee sightings

Similar Species: Similar to Canyon Towhee, Abert's Towhee

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

Conservation Status: Populations have undoubtedly declined along the West Coast as urban development has destroyed some of their former habitat.  However, they are still widespread and common in much of their range, and the IUCN lists the California Towhee as a species of "Least Concern"

Further Information: 1) WhatBird - California Towhee

2) Wikipedia - California Towhee

3) Audubon Guide - California Towhee

Photo Information: December 18th, 2008 - San Francisco, California - Terry Sohl


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

Additional California Towhee Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
California Towhee - Pipilo crissalis California Towhee - Pipilo crissalisCalifornia Towhee - Pipilo crissalisCalifornia Towhee - Pipilo crissalis