The Spotted Towhee - A Colorful Sparrow

by Dave Hanks

To most people, sparrow means a small, brown, drab bird. But some members of the Sparrow family are very colorful. Such is the Spotted Towhee. It has a black head, a black back trimmed with white blotches, rust-colored sides, a white belly, and a bright-red eye. These colors combine to make this bird very striking.

My young daughter was the first to discover this bird in our yard, on an April morning now long past. Its flame red eye especially caught her attention. We also were struck by the contrast between its rust-colored sides and white belly. The way those colors shone in the sunlight, left an impression on us all.

This species likes to stay on the ground close to cover where, at the slighted provocation, it can disappear quickly under bushes. Towhees scratch through the ground litter, with both feet at once, when looking for food. This behavioral trait gives the bird a saucy, perky demeanor.

Length = 8 ˝ inches Voice = a rising “tow-hee” or whining “chee-ee”

A Spotted Towhee, with flame red eye,

looks at me as I pass him by.

Hopping and scratching with both of his feet,

stirring the leaf litter for something to eat.

Rust-colored sides, in the sunlight glow,

a perfect contrast to white-belly below.

He's a perky, saucy, colorful beast,

and he tugs at my heart-strings to say the least!

This is a very attractive and loveable bird and it always stirs up feelings of excitement and warmth whenever we spot it! Idaho also has a Green-Tailed Towhee which, in addition to a greenish back and tail, has a bright, brick-red crown. All towhees are ground feeders and skitterish. Both Idaho species visit our yard in April and May.

(Scratching the leaf litter)