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Canyon Towhee

Melozone fusca ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: EMBERIZIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Canyon Towhees keep a low profile across their range in the Desert Southwest. These big, warm-brown sparrows are common on the ground and underneath shrubs in a variety of scrubby habitats, but they easily blend into the background. Look for a fairly long-legged, long-tailed sparrow that’s the same color as the dirt, with warm rusty brown under the tail. They look very similar to the widespread California Towhee (the two were once considered the same species), but their ranges don’t overlap.

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Backyard Tips

Canyon Towhees like to feed on the ground and may also come to platform feeders. They are among the few birds that readily take milo (sorghum); they also eat millet and black-oil sunflower seeds. Landscaping your yard with low-growing, native shrubs and grasses will provide cover and possible nest sites for Canyon Towhees. 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.

Find This Bird

Within their range, look for Canyon Towhees low in foliage or on the ground in arid, brushy environments as well as in yards. A rustling in the leaf litter may alert you to the presence of Canyon Towhees foraging with their double-scratch technique, or you may hear them calling from elevated perches on trees, fences, or roofs.

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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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