|Conservation status||Very common and widespread, numbers apparently stable.|
|Family||New World Sparrows|
|Habitat||Open woods, undergrowth, brushy edges. In the varied terrain of the West, this towhee often lives in chaparral, mountain manzanita thickets, scrub oaks, or pinyon-juniper woods with dense understory.|
Forages mostly on the ground, frequently scratching in the leaf-litter. Also sometimes forages up in shrubs and low trees.
3-5, sometimes 2-6. Creamy white to very pale gray, with spots of brown and gray often concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female, about 12-14 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 9-11 days after hatching, may remain with parents for some time thereafter. 1 or 2 broods per year, rarely 3.
Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 9-11 days after hatching, may remain with parents for some time thereafter. 1 or 2 broods per year, rarely 3.
Mostly insects, seeds, berries. Diet varies with season. Eats many insects, especially in summer, including beetles, caterpillars, moths, true bugs, and many others, also spiders, snails, and millipedes. Also eats many seeds, plus acorns, berries, and small fruits.
Male defends nesting territory by singing, often from a high perch. In courtship, male may chase female. Nest site is on the ground under a shrub, or in low bushes, usually less than 5' above the ground. Nest (built by female) is an open cup of grass, twigs, weeds, rootlets, strips of bark, lined with finer materials, sometimes including animal hair.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Some southern populations are permanent residents, but those from the northern interior are migratory, spreading eastward onto the Great Plains in winter. Occasional strays go all the way to the Atlantic Coast.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsThe song varies, long, buzzy cheweeeee. Call is an inquisitive meewww?
Learn more about this sound collection.
How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Spotted Towhee
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Spotted Towhee
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.