Spotted Towhee Photo by via Wiki Commons

Spotted Towhee

Look For

The spotted towhee’s wings and back of both male and female are spotted with white. They are longer tailed and larger than our other sparrow species. You are most likely to find them foraging on the ground.

Listen For

Their song is sweet-sweet teeeeaaa! But it’s less musical than an eastern towhee’s song.

Find It

The spotted towhee is a widespread and locally familiar bird of thickets in the northern Great Plains, middle elevations of mountains and plateaus, and Pacific coastal lowlands and offshore islands. They are common in willows, sagebrush, chaparral, and brushy woods. They will visit backyard feeders near appropriate habitat for seed bits scattered on the ground.

Feeding Behavior

The spotted towhee is an omnivore so they will eat pretty much anything! This bird enjoys animal matter in breeding season and plant matter in nonbreeding season. This towhee feasts on beetles, crickets, caterpillars, moths, millipedes, spiders, small seeds, acorns, and plump fruits. They rarely forage in the open so you are more likely to find them searching for food under covers like branches and foliage. They utilize a two-footed scratching maneuver while seeking food under loose ground matter.

Nesting Behavior

Spotted towhees do not do a very good job of hiding their nest from predators as they often pick relatively exposed areas rather than nesting deep within heavy thickets and tangles. Their nests may be elevated or on the ground. Spotted towhee clutch sizes are usually three to five eggs. Females are the only ones who incubate and this lasts anywhere from 12 to 14 days. Both sexes feed the babies during growth and for about a month after they fledge. Young towhees are unable to fly for six days after leaving the nest.


The spotted and eastern towhees were once considered a single species, called rufous-sided towhee.

7 thoughts on “Spotted Towhee”

  1. I have had a bird visitor; it kind of looks like this Towhee but it’s a bit different and I cannot find what it is. It has a similar body with yellow beak and similarly has white spots on Black wings. His head is black and he is bright orange upper chest but his lower body is white. Any idea what this is? Could it be related to the Towhee?

    1. Hi Itasara, I can’t answer your question without knowing where you saw it. Any chance you can get a photo of the bird? Even a blurry photo is better than no photo at all. Was it on the ground? In a tree? More information, please, but especially where you saw it. Dawn Hewitt, Bird Watcher’s Digest


        Not a great picture.. I have slats in the shades. If you can click on the pix they may get big enough to see more of the bird. Thanks so much for getting back to me. I saw this bird two days in a row on my birdhouse on the pole hanging in the front yard. My biggest problem is still the squirrels!

        They seem to be sideways.. not sure why and don’t see a way to fix it here.

          1. Thank you so much for your response. I live in upstate New York so they probably qualifies for Eastern US. I’ve never seen one like that one before. But I’ve been more pro avtive this spring about putting more bird houses out and feed out.

  2. Towhees have been feasting on maple tree seeds in our backyard for years. I thought they were orioles. I have only heard orioles sing a few beautiful notes then leave, too many other birds around, I suppose.

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