The Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) is a large, striking sparrow found throughout western North America. Adults measure 7-8.5 inches in length and weigh 1-1.6 ounces. This species exhibits sexual dimorphism, with males having bold black and white plumage, bright red eyes, and a prominent white spot on each wing. Females have more subdued brown and black plumage and lack the white wing spots.
The Spotted Towhee is a resident species in much of its range, but some populations in the northern part of their range migrate southward during the winter. The species breeds in a variety of habitats, including forests, shrublands, and gardens, and is generally a year-round resident in areas where winters are mild.
This bird is often found foraging on the ground, where it uses its strong, curved bill to scratch through leaf litter in search of insects, seeds, and berries. The Spotted Towhee is known for its distinctive song, which consists of a series of short, clear whistles that are often compared to the phrase “drink your tea”.
In addition to its distinctive appearance and vocalizations, the Spotted Towhee can also be identified by its behavior. During the breeding season, males are often seen perched on high points, singing and defending their territories against other males. Both males and females engage in “sunbathing,” a behavior in which they spread their wings and tail feathers while perched, presumably to warm themselves and rid their feathers of parasites.
The Spotted Towhee is a common and easily recognizable bird that is popular with birdwatchers and backyard bird enthusiasts. Its striking appearance, distinctive song, and interesting behaviors make it a fascinating subject of study for both amateur and professional ornithologists.