California Towhee

Another denizen of chaparral, dense scrub and similar dry habitats of the Pacific Seaboard from Southern Oregon through Baja is the California towhee (Melozone crissalis). This bird also ventures into brushy places in backyards and parks.

Leonard and I saw this California towhee along the Bench Trail at The Pinnacles National Park CA. Previously known as a brown towhee, California towhees were separated from canyon towhees creating two new species from what was formerly one species, the brown towhee. A synonym for M crissalis is Pipilo crissalis.

Monotypic, California towhees are an overall matte brown with a rusty patch under the tail (crissum, from which comes the specific epithet) and around the bill. A broken ring of dark spots surround the rusty patch on the throat.

California towhees run along the ground, always near the protection of shrubs and brush. They eat mostly seeds supplemented with insects, especially during the breeding season. They also eat berries and fruits.

Permanent residents, California towhees rarely move even short distances from their nesting area.

Leonard was familiar with this species from his youth, but it was my first California towhee sighting.

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2 Responses to California Towhee

  1. Lin Erickson says:

    I’ve not seen a California Towhee either…thank you for this post‼️


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