Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)

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Spotted towhees are a common, large species of sparrow. They have a thick, pointed bill, short neck, plump body, and long, rounded tail. Spotted towhees have a distinct rufous flank and a white belly. Males have jet black upper-parts, throat, and wings. The wings have characteristic bright, white spots. Females have the same colour pattern; however, instead of jet black they are a lighter grey-brown colour. Spotted towhees also have bold red eyes. When in flight, the distinct white corners on their black tails are visible.

Spotted towhees are often found within dense shrub thickets including forest edges, parks, gardens, and tangled brushy patches. Towhees spend much of their time rummaging through leaf litter and creeping through dense shrubbery as they forage for food. During breeding season spotted towhees eat a variety of ground and shrub dwelling insects including leaf litter arthropods. They also eat a variety of plant sources including berries and seeds, which makes up most of their diet in the fall and winter.

Spotted towhees are common within southern BC and are known to breed within the southern third of the province. Within Canada, the population is limited to the southern portions of BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. Coastal populations are present year-round, whereas interior populations remain in Canada during the breeding season, and migrate south for the colder months. On the coast, spotted towhees are more common within the Coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone than the Coastal Western Hemlock biogeoclimatic zone. Populations of spotted towhees are relatively stable and they are not listed as a species of concern in BC.

For more information, visit the BC Breeding Bird Atlas and All About Birds by the Cornell Lab.

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