The red eyes also separate these two species from most of the other towhees. Resident south to Guatemala. All rights reserved. Length 7.5". Hybrids occur in the Great Plains and winter to the south; often combine characteristics of both parents. Will hybridize with Easterns where ranges overlap. In the Pacific Northwest, towhees in the lowlands are likely to be permanent residents, but others will migrate. Andy McCormick, Volunteer and Former Board President of Eastside Audubon. Eastside Audubon   |   Email:   |   Phone: 425-576-8805, President’s Letter: Reconnecting in New Ways. Male: plumage like eastern towhee’s, except for white tips on median, greater coverts forming 2 white wing bars, variable white spotting on back and scapulars, lack of rectangular white patch at primary bases. The spotted and eastern towhees (formerly combined as the rufous-sided towhee) have a narrow hybrid zone in the central Great Plains. A few Eastern Towhees nest in northeastern Oklahoma; their song is “drink your teeeeee.” Spotted Towhees will often be heard calling a raspy trill or soft mewing sounds. Taking a short jump forward, the towhee scratches backward in a repetitive fashion, gleaning insects such as beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and arthropods such as millipedes and spiders (Bartos Smith and Greenlaw). Incubation lasts less than two weeks and both parents feed the nestlings. Call: a descending and raspy mewing in montanus; an upslurred, questioning queee in arcticus and coastal subspecies. Song and calls also show great geographical variation. Brendan Lally via Flickr Creative Commons. But I can’t find them in my current field guides. Sign up with your email address to receive the latest news and information about upcoming events. Family: Sparrow. Eastern Towhee has an isolated white patch on the flank (actually at the base of the primaries) but is otherwise black on the back. In winter, most Spotted Towhees east of the Cascades migrate south. The Spotted’s species epithet is maculatus, from Latin for spotted, referring to the white spots in the bird’s wings (Holloway). Jed Kim | November 20, 2015. The male and female Spotted Towhees are similarly marked but have color differences. The western Spotted Towhee differs from the Eastern Towhee’s call in the introduction. Subspecies are oregonus (Oregon to British Columbia), falcifer (coastal northwest California), megalonyx (coastal central to southern California), clementae (certain Channel Islands); arcticus (Great Plains), montanus (Rocky Mountains), falcinellus (south-central California to Oregon), curtatus (primarily in Sierra Nevada), and gaigei (resident in mountains of southeastern New Mexico and western Texas). Stable in most areas. Listen (NGPC audio) Juvenile is brown overall with dark spotting and streaking. Photos and sounds of the Spotted Towhee can be seen and heard at the Macaulay Library. Head is black and eyes are red. Juvenile: like juvenile eastern, but lacks white primary patch. Another island subspecies from Guadalupe Island, off Baja California, is extinct. In 1995, the American Ornithological Union split the Spotted Towhee from the Eastern Towhee (P. erythropthalmus). It makes a wide variety of call notes, from the telephone ring trill that can be confused with a Junco to a cat-like mew. Sound: The Spotted Towhee’s song is a two notes followed by a buzzing trill, or a flute-like drink-your-tea. Occurs east along Platte for uncertain distance. “Interior” birds have extensive white spotting above, prominent white tail corners; “Pacific” birds dark overall with white back spotting, reduced tail corners (variable). Photo by Mick Thompson. Nine subspecies show weak to moderate variation. Towhees forage on the ground, scratching with both feet at the same time. The spotted and eastern towhees (formerly combined as the rufous-sided towhee) have a narrow hybrid zone in the central Great Plains. A very few Spotted Towhees nest in the Black Mesa area of the Oklahoma Panhandle; their song is a “harsh buzzy trill” (Kaufman Field Guide 2000). [Spotted Towhee trill] A listener recently wrote us: “Years ago, some of the birds at my feeder were the Rufous-sided Towhee, Oregon Junco, and Red-shafted Flicker [Spotted Towhee trill; Northern Flicker wick-wick-wick call]. Towhees are large sparrows with long, rounded tails. In general, a female spotted differs less from a male than in the eastern. However, those on the Spotted are smaller than those on the Eastern. The Towhee’s vocalization has been described as a drawn-out buzzy trill, “chweeeee”,”tu-wheeze”, or a long drawn out “breee”(Davis 1958). “Predation by domestic cats is the number-one direct, human-caused threat to birds in the United States and Canada” (American Bird Conservancy). Black breast, white belly, rufous sides. But it also makes quite a racket foraging around in bushes and on the ground. The most migratory subspecies is arcticus. Tail is long and black with white corners. Photos and sounds of the Spotted Towhee can be seen and heard at the Macaulay Library. Usually 3-4 light colored eggs with brown spots are deposited. The Spotted Towhee rustles through leaf litter, attracting the notice of people who can be surprised when they learn that it is a bird making all that racket. Birds in the Great Plains have 1 to 8 introductory notes before the trill. Replaced by Eastern Towhee in east and southeast Nebraska. A Spotted Towhee calls. 2020 National Geographic Partners, LLC. Pannrose Pannrose Spotted Towhee. Spotted Towhees are common and current populations are stable. Spotted Towhee, however, has white wing bars and white spots on the scapulars which give the back and wings an overall white spotted look. They have coexisted with humans in various environments, but large-scale development has resulted in lost habitat for them. One website called it "industrious scratching," as the towhee uses both feet to kick back at the same time in a noisy commotion in search of seeds. Habitat: Brushy fields, thickets, woodland edges and clearings, second-growth forests, and city parks and residential areas with trees and tall shrubbery. Song: “interior” group gives introductory notes, then a trill. Female is similar but is dark brown where male is black. Wings are black with white spots. References available upon request from The young leave the nest in another 10-14 days but stay with the parents for a while longer (Kaufman). Common. Clementae extirpated from San Clemente Island, one of California’s Channel Islands, due to overgrazing by introduced goats; persists on Santa Catalina and Santa Rosa Islands. Distinctive Markings: Male has a black head, back and tail with a white belly, orange-red sides and multiple white wing marks. Occurs east along Platte for uncertain distance. The song of Spotted Towhees vary by population, but most Pacific NW birds start with a sharp note and then a long trill, for which they are named: tow-eeeeeee. The Spotted Towhee will often only have one … They may also only emit part of a trill instead of the full call. Migration: fall primarily September–October; spring March–early May; earlier in Pacific states than interior. Long-time birders will remember that prior to this split the Spotted and Eastern “red-eyed towhees” were together known as the Rufous-sided Towhee. We respect your privacy. Females’ head color varies as well. Photograph by Vickie Anderson, Nat Geo Image Collection, Distinguished from the eastern by white spotting on back, white wing bars, lack of patch at bases of primaries, and call. Some towhees in mountainous regions migrate altitudinally to lower elevation, and others withdraw to southern states (Bartos Smith and Greenway).