Abert’s Towhee (Melothria aberti) is a distinctive bird species found in the southwestern United States and parts of northern Mexico. It is a medium-sized bird, with an average length of 8.3 inches and a weight of around 1.4 ounces. The male and female have a similar appearance, with a dark head, white or buff underparts, and rusty brown flanks. The distinguishing field mark of this species is the black mask around the eyes, which extends down the throat.
During migration, Abert’s Towhees are generally non-migratory, with only a few records of long-distance movements. They are found year-round in their breeding range, which includes Arizona, New Mexico, and southwestern Colorado. During the winter, they may move to lower elevations or areas with more cover, but they generally stay within their breeding range.
In terms of habitat, Abert’s Towhees prefer desert scrub, chaparral, and other arid habitats, often near water sources. They are known to frequent thickets and brushy areas, where they forage for insects, seeds, and berries on the ground. They also have a distinctive call, which is a sharp “chink” or “tink” note, often given from a hidden perch.
Abert’s Towhees are monogamous and breed between March and July, with peak nesting activity in May and June. They build nests on the ground, often hidden in a shrub or under a rock, using grasses, leaves, and twigs. The female lays 2-4 eggs, which she incubates for around 12-13 days. The young are able to leave the nest after around 9-12 days, but they continue to be fed by their parents for several weeks.
Overall, Abert’s Towhees are a fascinating and unique bird species, known for their striking black masks and distinctive call. While they are not known for long-distance migration, they are an important part of the ecosystem in their range, and are well adapted to the arid habitats they call home.