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Merlin Bird ID

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    California Towhee

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    California Towhee

    Melozone crissalis
    • ORDER: Passeriformes
    • FAMILY: Passerellidae
    Basic Description

    Your first encounter with a California Towhee may be prompted by a tireless knocking at your window or car mirror: these common backyard birds habitually challenge their reflections. But California Towhees are at heart birds of the tangled chaparral and other hot scrublands of California and Oregon. You’re as likely to hear their bright chip notes along a secluded trail as on your way out your front door. If you live in the Southwest, look for this bird’s twin, the Canyon Towhee.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for California TowheeRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    If you live in California, there’s a good chance you can see a California Towhee on a walk around your neighborhood. Listen for a loud, sharp, metallic chip, then scan nearby shrubs, the ground below them, and exposed perches like fenceposts and eaves. Another clue is car mirrors and windowsills covered with bird droppings - a good sign that a California Towhee has become obsessed with chasing off its reflection and will return frequently.

    Other Names
    • Rascador Californiano (Spanish)
    • Tohi de Californie (French)

    Backyard Tips

    You can encourage California Towhees to come out in the open in your backyard by offering seed (including millet, which is unpopular with many other backyard birds). Towhees are ground foragers, so spreading seed on the ground or in trays Is more likely to attract them than hanging feeders. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

    • Cool Facts