Spotted Towhees


A very sporty looking member of the bird world, the Spotted Towhee is easy to notice with its colorful plumage.

Click here to watch a singing member of this species:

In The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior, “New World Sparrows” author John B. Dunning Jr. advises that they are seed eaters and insect eaters. When only seeds are available, the intestines of towhees studied here in California lengthen in the non-breeding season. “Longer intestines mean that the birds retain food for a long time, an advantage when dealing with relatively hard-to-digest plant material, such as seeds.” 

But what astonished me is that the bills of the Spotted Towhee get shorter with winter.  “It is thought that the seed diet of towhees in winter requires that they eat more grit, and the combination of grit and hard seeds grinds down the bill to a shorter average length than found in the same birds in summer.” (p. 525 of the First Edition, published in 2001)  

A good friend of mine is studying Latin, which drove my curiosity about the Latin name for this species:  pipilo maculatusMerriam Webster indicates that “pipilo” probably comes from the New Latin word pipilare which means “to chirp.”  Maculatus refers to the state of being spotted.

What members of the sparrow family do you have in your neighborhood?

Published by Mashabu

Earnest observer of our natural world.

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