Canyon Towhee

Pipilo fuscus

Photo © by Michael Plagens taken at Usery Park on 16 April 2006

While I was relaxing on a boulder near Wind Cave, Usery Park, this normally wary bird popped in close for a photo. Location Maricopa County, Arizona, USA.

Distinguishing Characteristics: Mostly plain gray and brown color. Reddish cap. Speckles, sometimes faint, forming a necklace below neck. Sturdy sparrow-beak. Long tail. A bit smaller than robin-sized.

These large sparrows are especially common on well-vegetated bajadas and along steep canyons in the foothills of the mountains surrounding the Sonoran Desert. In the early morning and at dusk they finally show themselves from a tree or boulder and give their distinctive call. Otherwise they are wary and mostly very obscure. They hunt for insects and hidden seeds by kicking leaves and pebbles while skulking behind desert trees and dense shrubs.

During the winter months or severe, extended droughts Canyon Towhee's may move into gardens in the cities and join their cousins, the Abert's Towhee.

Year-round Resident - Spring-Summer Breeder

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More Information:

Sonoran Desert Field Guide
Sonoran Desert Places
Sonoran Desert Naturalist Home Page


Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2009