Friday, March 22, 2013

Abert's Towhee in Arizona

While not a "little" brown bird, the Abert's Towhee is still a non-descript brown bird. I came across several during my morning walks in Arizona a few weeks ago.

At first glance I thought maybe they were female cardinals but the coloring was off (note the somewhat hard to see black face). The tail also seemed a bit long (compared to a cardinal's) and they didn't have crests. Glad I snapped photos of them, it helped me ID them.

And, I must say I think that's one of the greatest things about digital cameras. You can snap photos of something to examine more closely later without worrying about the cost of film, bad exposure, etc.

Back to these interesting birds...Abert's Towhees are primarily found in a very small geographic range in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. In fact, it has the smallest distribution of any bird in America! Small populations can also be found in southwestern Utah and in parts of southern California and the Baja Peninsula.

The bird's population has battled with loss of habitat but several citings listed them as beginning to colonize in the Phoenix suburbs, which is exactly where I found these six birds: North Scottsdale on a small, private golf course.

Like other towhees, they tend to scratch around on the ground stirring up insects - their primary diet:

The Abert's Towhee is non-migratory and stays on its territory with its mate all year round. Nesting begins in late March and they raise two broods during the season.

You know what a group of towhees is called? A "Tangle" or "Teapot!"


  1. And you caught him eating insects! I hope the species is able to thrive and survive.

  2. Though they are brownish in coloring I think they are gorgeous. Brilliantly colored birds might draw attention but I find that I look the longest at birds with subtle colors and plumage patterns.

    This bird is beautiful.

  3. I initially thought it was a female cardinal too, in the small picture but blowing it up, I see now that it isn't.

  4. What a great catch! I particularly like the 2nd photo w/insect in beak & light in eye.. Thanks for the info too! Glad you had an interlude of warmth in AZ!

  5. Nice shots..this is a great looking big brown bird. :)

  6. So it's not an LBJ but a BBJ! We spent winters in AZ a few years ago and saw this bird...pre-digital camera though... I used to be happy if I just SAW a new I feel bad if I can't get a picture.

  7. Just had one in my backyard in Apache junction.. love the little sound they make.