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California Towhee

Silhouette TowheesTowhees
California TowheeMelozone 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 Towhee
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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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 fence posts and eaves. Another clue is car mirrors and window sills 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

  • Toquí 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