Canyon Towhee

Look For

This bird is 8 ¾ inches in length. The canyon towhee has a faint rusty cap, is slightly paler overall, and barely smaller than the california towhee, which shows rust on the throat. Canyon usually shows a spotty necklace, central breast spot, and whitish belly. They have no sexual color dimorphism.

Listen For

The canyon towhee’s song is a loud and ringing series of notes: chee-chee-chee-chee-chee-chee-chee. Their mating call is different. It is a woodpecker-like, nasal kyerr.

Find It

The canyon towhee is the most versatile of all towhees. It exhibits wide geographic and ecological amplitude although you will not find them in heavily populated urban areas or wet riparian forests. They like open, arid scrub with scattered brush. Canyon towhee inhabits the Desert Southwest east of California. The canyon towhee is a ground-dwelling bird that runs away from danger rather than flying away.

Feeding Behavior

The canyon towhee consumes mostly seeds and gravel. Now you are probably wondering, why do they eat gravel? Well, they swallow gravel daily to grind the seeds in their stomach to aid digestion. The canyon towhee looks for food using the “double-scratch” technique. This technique is characterized by jumping up and kicking both feet back simultaneously. They do not utilize this technique as much as other towhees and therefore are not as noisy.

Nesting Behavior

Nest sites are in trees, shrubs, or vines. Per usual, the nest is built by the female and constructed with grasses and gray plant stems. On average the canyon towhee lays about three eggs and has two to three broods per year. Although the canyon towhee has been studied extensively, much of its life history, including nesting and rearing of young, is unknown.


The canyon and California towhees were once lumped together as the brown towhee, which is a descriptive name but kind of boring compared to their names now.

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