If you live along the California coast, be sure to look for the California Towhee. These birds have grayish-brown feathers with rust-colored accents around the beak, eyes and underpants. Perhaps the easiest way to spot one is to listen: They’ll sit for long periods of time on their perches, calling and chipping.
The California Towhee lives in the mild, Mediterranean climate of the California chaparral (shrub lands) along the coasts and foothills. They can be found in open areas of oak woodland, as well as junipers and sage scrubs.
The California Towhee Both Hops & Runs
The California Towhee is one of few songbirds that both runs and hops. They can be seen searching the ground, shrubs and grasses for seeds, beetles, grasshoppers, spiders and berries. Like other towhees, the California Towhee has a distinctive ground move: it hops backward to remove the top layer of leaf litter, and then lunges forward to snap up the exposed bug.
The way any bird moves on the ground tells us something about their preferred habitat. Ground hoppers spend much of their lives in trees and shrubs, while runners spend most of their time on the ground.
The California Towhee spends a lot of time foraging in both spaces. But they're not what you’d call graceful in flight. As the Cornell Lab of Ornithology puts it, they seem to exert a lot of “wingpower."
When babies leave their nest, they do so just eight days after hatching, before they can fly well. They are fast on the ground, however, and the parents stay close until the juveniles are mature enough to live on their own.
The California Towhee in Your Backyard
The California Towhee has adapted well to human development, and can be seen in towns, backyards and parks. Sprinkle your wild bird food of choice on the ground, or try filling a platform feeder with Lyric Supreme Mix, with 11 ingredients it is sure to have seeds towhees love.