Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee Female (Pipilo maculatus)

In the same family as Sparrows and Juncos, Towhees are the largest birds of the group.  The Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) is our western Washington representative.  The bird originally called the Rufous-sided Towhee was divided into Eastern Towhee (P. erythrophthalmus) and the Spotted Towhee.  White spotted markings on the wings distinguish the latter.  Our local oreganus race shows the least white spotting among regional groups.  Draw a line from the western border of Minnesota south to roughly define the territories of the two species.  Both Easterns and Spotteds may have the unusual fiery red eyes.

Spotted Towhee Male with House Sparrow

They are midway in size between Sparrows and Robbins.  Male Spotted Towhees have black markings and females dark brown.  Pronounce their name TOE-hee or TOE-ee.  These are very congenial citizens around the feeders that never use their size to intimidate other birds.  They also seem less wary than other birds.  If I am working in the yard, they will go about their business nearby without apparent concern.

Spotted Towhee with House Sparrow

Like Juncos, they feed and nest on the ground but also adapt to elevated feeders.  When hiking in shrubby or light forest habitat, you might hear them loudly scratching in the leaf litter.  At the feeders, they are not choosy and take to suet and various seeds.  A group of Towhees is called a "tangle" or a "teapot."  Don't ask me why.

Spotted Towhee with Mourning Dove