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Green-tailed Towhee

Pipilo chlorurus ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: EMBERIZIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

There’s nothing quite like the color that gives the Green-tailed Towhee its name—a deep olive lightening to yellow-green on the edges of the wings and tail. Set off by a gray chest, white throat, and rufous crown, this large sparrow is a colorful resident of the West’s shrubby mountainsides and sagebrush expanses—if you can see one. They spend their time scratching at leaf litter under dense cover, occasionally popping into view to whistle a song or give a querulous mewing call.

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Songs

Males sing a long, jumbled series of clear whistles and trills lasting about 2.5 seconds. A singing male at the height of the breeding season may sing up to 12 songs per minute.

Calls

Green-tailed Towhees have a distinctive mewing call that is thin, high, and rises in pitch. Both sexes use this call to stay in contact while foraging, upon leaving the nest, or while in flight. When alarmed, they make a sharp, repeated tick note.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

Green-tailed Towhees can be secretive and hard to see. They live among low shrubs, so one of the best ways to find them is to visit a shrubby mountainside or sage flat during spring or early summer. Males will spend long periods perched at the tops of shrubs and singing. Their bright reddish-brown crowns (often peaked up into a short crest) are conspicuous, and the yellow-green wings and tail are distinctive. Listen, too, for their thin, ascending mew calls.