California Towhee

Scientific Name: Pipilo crissalis

Pictures: (click for larger images)

California Towhee on the ground near some picnic tables in the UCLA Botanical Garden.  3/8/05
The Towhee then hopped up onto the table!  3/8/05
This California Towhee can be heard most mornings in the Botanical Garden.  I caught him here hopping around on the ground near the desert area.

California Towhee Illustration.

-Photos by Jason Finley
-Illustration by Robert C. Stebbins from "Birds of the Campus" (1947) by Dr. Loye Miller.

Description: Medium. 9" in length (beak to tail), smaller than a pigeon. A brown bird with a short triangle-shaped beak.  Face and head can be tinged with a slight, warm orange.  Darker brown spots may be visible on throat.  Has a warm orange (cinammon) butt!  (the feathers on the underside of its rump)

Sound: Listen to a California Towhee singing and calling!  Link is to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's sound page for this bird.

Commonality/Seasonality: Present year-round, but not in great numbers.  You'll usually only see one at a time.

Location: UCLA Botanical Garden, and the Native Fragment.  Probably a few other places too, but you won't see this one hopping around in the open in the middle of campus.

Notes: Can be located by its distinctive call.  I often hear one calling in the morning from a tall pine tree in the UCLA Botanical Garden, and in a tree near Hilgard & Le Conte.When they come down out of their trees, they can be seen hopping around on the ground, kicking up leaves, looking for insects to eat.


Historical Dr. Loye Miller wrote about the "Anthony's Brown Towhee" as it was known back then:

The Brown Towhee is much less secretive than his spotted brother and comes about the buildings quite freely, hopping across the walks or in and out of the shrubbery with little attempt at concealment.  You may find him almost anywhere if cover is not too far away.

-Miller, Loye.  "Birds of the Campus, University of California, Los Angeles," from University of California Syllabus Series, No. 300.  Text by Loye Miller, illustrations by Robert C. Stebbins.  Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1947.



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