California Towhee

Look For

The California towhee is a large and plainly marked ground-sparrow. It is about 9 inches in length. It is brown, plain-breasted, and dark-bellied.

Listen For

The California towhee’s song starts with metallic chips, speeds up, then drops in tone: chip-chip-chichichichi-drrdrrdrr, while their call is a metallic chip!

Find It

The California towhee is one of the most common and well-known birds in California. Unlike the Canyon towhee, the California is tolerant of rural development and urbanization. It can be found in California and southwestern Oregon. They prefer open arid scrub with scattered brush but generally arrive in wetter habitats than the canyon towhee. They like chaparral and underbrush in oak woodlands.

Feeding Behavior

The California towhee forages mostly on open ground by pecking and scratching in leaf litter under trees and shrubs. If you were to dissect a California towhee’s stomach you would find mostly seeds and other vegetable matter as well as the occasional insect. You can lure them into your backyard with millet, vegetables in your garden, seeds, and fruit in your orchards.

Nesting Behavior

A California towhee raises at least two broods per year. Their nests can be found in trees, shrubs, vines, and sometimes in artificial structures in a yard. You will rarely see their nest on the ground although they prefer low altitudes. They choose nesting sites with dense scrub or forests with adjacent openings for foraging. Nests are not well constructed but include dead grass, horsehair, dry plant stems, dried flowers, bark, and plastic ribbon. You can expect the California towhee to have two to five eggs per clutch. The female incubates anywhere from 11 to 14 days. Time of departure from the nest varies but is never longer than 11 days. Young birds cannot fly at fledging but are capable runners.

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