Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Pipilo maculatus
Population size
40 mln
Life Span
11 yrs
33-49 g
17-21 cm
28 cm

The Spotted towhee is a large American sparrow. It has a long, dark fan shaped tail with white corners on the end, bright red eyes, and dull pink legs. Adult males have a generally darker head, upper body, and tail with a white belly, rufous sides, white spots on their back, and white wing bars. Females look similar but are dark brown and grey instead of black.


Spotted towhees breed across north-western North America. Some birds migrate eastwards to the central plains of the United States, mostly the northwestern-central Great Plains. In other areas, some populations may move to lower elevations in the winter. Spotted towhees live in dry upland forests, chaparral, thickets or shrubby areas, parks, and suburban gardens. In the southwest of their range, towhees are largely dependent on Coastal sage scrub, as it provides cover from predators.

Spotted Towhee habitat map


Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Spotted towhees are shy and solitary birds. They are active during the day spending much of their time in search of food. They forage on the ground or in low vegetation, with a habit of noisily rummaging through dry leaves searching for insects. When flushed, they hide deep into the foliage, wait quietly for some time and then return to forage. Spotted towhees also frequently visit feeders if those are present in their woodland habitat.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Spotted towhees are omnivores. During the breeding season, they mainly eat insects, ground-dwelling beetles, spiders, and other arthropods. In the fall and winter, they focus on foraging for acorns, seeds oats, and berries.

Mating Habits

spring, summer
12-14 days
30 days
3-5 eggs

Spotted towhees are monogamous (one male to one female) and territorial. Their breeding season occurs in spring and summer. They nest either on the ground or low in bushes, seldom more than 1.5 m (4.9 ft) above the ground. The female builds the nest over a period of about five days. It is bulky and sturdily made of leaves, strips of bark, twigs, forb stalks, and grasses, lined with pine needles, shredded bark, grass, and sometimes hair. At least two broods, consisting of 3 to 5 eggs, are laid per season. The eggshells are grayish or creamy-white, sometimes with a tinge of green, with reddish-brown spots that can form a wreath or cap. The female incubates the eggs alone for 12 to 14 days. The chicks are altricial; they hatch blind, naked, and helpless. They leave the nest at 10 to 12 days but remain with their parents until 30 days of age.


Population threats

Spotted towhees are not endangered at present; however, in less developed areas these birds are vulnerable to predation by ground-dwelling snakes because their nests are built on the ground.

Population number

According to Partners in Flight resource, the total breeding population of the Spotted towhee is 40,000,000 birds. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Until 1995 the Spotted towhee and the Eastern towhee were considered a single species that was called the Rufous-sided towhee.
  • An old name for the Spotted towhee is the Oregon towhee.
  • Spotted towhees can sometimes be seen sunning; they lie down on the grass spreading their feathers and soak in the sun rays.
  • Spotted towhees like to bathe and often do this in dew on vegetation.
  • When disturbed at her nest, a female Spotted towhee will run away rather than fly.
  • During the conflict between two towhees, one bird may pick up a piece of twig or leaf and carry it around. It is suggested that it can be a sign of submission.


1. Spotted Towhee on Wikipedia -
2. Spotted Towhee on The IUCN Red List site -

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