Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Canyon Towhee

You have to creep like a cat to see them...the Canyon Towhees.

Not all birds are bright, brilliant and beguiling. Some species are shy, dun colored and receding. They live in the understory and they prefer it that way, too. When they do show themselves, it's a treat.

The Canyon Towhee is a larger member of the sparrow family.

Well-adapted to the sunbaked southwestern states, the Canyon Towhee thrives in a scrub and cactus environment.

Foraging for seeds around rocks and in the desert leaf litter, they pose little contrast to the desert to go unseen.

Their boldest distinguishing mark is a rust colored under tail, but that, too, remains hidden at ground level.

Their conical bill gives them away as a seedeater.

To uncover the seeds the desert floor provides, the Canyon Towhee grabs a two-footed hold of the ground litter and makes a big backwards leap.

This scraping action reveals seeds and insects hiding beneath. It's this bird's way of smartly picking up a meal.

Unfortunately, this scraping takes place undercover, mostly out of sight.

It's a foraging trait the Canyon Towhees practice well.

Luckily, Canyon Towhee population numbers have remained strong over the past fifty years, despite a human desire for desert living. Sadly, as humans encroach on the desert, they bring their cats with them...many going feral. It's the feral cats that are placing a downward pressure on many bird populations.

Unfortunately, even the secretive haunts of the Canyon Towhee won't protect them from a hunting cat.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)


Cornel Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
The Sibley's Guide to Birds