Spotted Towhee

Scientific Name: Pipilo maculatus

Pictures: (click for larger images)

A male Spotted Towhee in the Native Fragment who was calling from the underbrush, then was kind enough to hop up onto a branch and pose for me.  May 2005.  Photo by Jason Finley.
A Spotted Towhee at the Stone Canyon Creek behind the Anderson School.  He hopped boldly out of the bushes to kick around some ground right in front of me!  10/11/05.  Photo by Jason Finley.
Same Towhee as in the last picture.  Here he was momentarily regarding me from a perch.
Spotted Towhee Illustration.


A Spotted Towhee foraging by vigorously kicking up leaves at the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center, 5-22-05.  Check it out, he's really going to town on those leaves!  File is large as the clip is about a minute long: Spotted_Towhee.MOV

-Illustration by Robert C. Stebbins from "Birds of the Campus" (1947) by Dr. Loye Miller.
-Video by Bobby Walsh.

Description: Medium. 7-8.5" in length (beak to tail), smaller than a pigeon. Same shape as the California Towhee but much more colorful.  The male has a black head, back, and tail, with white spots on his wings. In the female, the black parts are brown.  Both have reddish sides, a white belly, and RED EYES!

Sound: Listen to a Spotted Towhee singing and calling!  Link is to the sound page for this bird from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds.

Commonality/Seasonality: Present year-round, but rare.  You'll usually only see one at a time.

Location: The main place to see them is the Native Fragment, and sometimes Sunset Canyon Recreation Center.  They're seen less frequently in the Botanical Garden, where their more common cousin, the California Towhee, can be found also.

Notes: More reclusive than the California Towhee, but they can be seen hopping around on the ground, kicking up leaves, looking for insects to eat.  They are quite magnificent to see in person.


Sometimes he is called San Diego Towhee and for a while even Spurred Towhee.  He certainly is spotted sharply black and white with rich mahogany red sides and flanks - and such a wonderful red eye.  With it all, he is a shy, brush-dwelling bird along the Arroyo.  He becomes more conspicuous when he begins giving his spring trill in early February from the top of a low tree, but he drops back into the thicket as soon as he is disturbed.  His song is a very simple performance, but he takes it quite seriously.  It will come to mean much to you by association, an authoritative announcer of California springtime.

-Miller, Loye.  "Birds of the Campus, University of California, Los Angeles," from University of California Syllabus Series, No. 300.  Text by Loye Miller, illustrations by Robert C. Stebbins.  Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1947.



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