Size: 7-8.5" (18-22cm). A long-tailed bird, slightly smaller than a Robin. Males have a black "hood" on head, extending down the back. Belly white, sides rufous (hence it's old common name: rufous-sided towhee). Two white wing bars and white spots on the shoulder (hence its current common name). White spots on the tail are easily identified in flight and are a good key to identification of this species in the field. Females are similar but with brown heads and back. Less white on the tail.
Similar Species- Robins are larger with solid chestnut breast and belly. Black-headed Grosbeaks are stockier with orangish breast and white belly. Orange extends on to back. No white on the tail.
Song a three-parted Chup-Chup-Zeeeeeee. With the last part trilled. Very distinct. Call is a one-noted, harsh Zreeee.
Breeds from southern British Columbia, east to southwestern Maine, and south to Baja California, Guatemala, western Texas, northern Oklahoma, northern Arizona, and portions of southeastern United States. Winters north to southern British Columbia, Utah, Colorado, portions of Midwest, and Massachusetts, and south to Guatemala.
Builds cup-shaped nest on ground. Nesting female may fake injury to distract predator. Individuals forage in leaf litter, using double-scratch motion. Massachusetts study reported density of about 1-3 territories/ha. Species is one of the neotropical migrants thought to be declining in Idaho.
|Status:||Protected nongame species|
Saab, V. and C.R. Groves. 1992. Idaho's migratory landbirds: description, habitats, and conservation. Nongame Wildlife Leaflet #10, Idaho Dept. Fish & Game, Boise. 16pp.