How to Identify a Spotted Towhee

Once grouped with its eastern counterpart in a species called the rufous-sided towhee, the spotted towhee now has its own name and identity.

What Does a Spotted Towhee Look Like?

spotted towheeCourtesy Gary McMillan
Towhees have red eyes and a combination of black, white and reddish coloring

Distinctive markings: A male spotted towhee has a black head, back and tail with a white belly, orange-red sides and multiple white wing marks. A female looks similar, but has gray or brown accents instead of black. Both males and females have red eyes.

Meet the towhees: The birds scratching up a storm in your backyard.

Spotted Towhee Facts

Bnbbyc16 Whitney Reary 001Courtesy Whitney Reary
This species was formerly known as the rufous-sided towhee
  • Scientific Name: Pipilo maculatus.
  • Family: Sparrow.
  • Length: 8-1/4 inches.
  • Wingspan: 10-1/2 inches.
  • New Identity: Older field guides show the rufous-sided towhee as a single widespread species. Researchers split this species into the eastern towhee and spotted in 1995.

Learn more about western birds and their eastern counterparts.

Nest and Eggs

Spotted Towhee

Roland Jordahl

This bird builds a nest on or near the ground using leaves, stems, pine needles and more. The female lays two to six gray, white, pinkish or greenish speckled eggs.

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Spotted Towhee Song

black birdCourtesy Gregory Vinyard
A male towhee found lunch among the leaf litter 

This species sings a wide variety of songs, which typically feature high-pitched introductory notes followed by a trill. The bird also makes a buzzy rapid trill.Listen to the spotted towhee’s song.

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Bird songs provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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What Do Spotted Towhees Eat?

fall bird feeder, Autumn birds love to eat suet.

DanielLacy/Getty Images

Their diet primarily consists of insects, spiders, caterpillars, seeds, berries; sometimes small lizards or snakes. Backyard favorites include oats or flaxseed scattered on the ground, as well as suet. Psst—here’s the best way to attract birds that don’t visit bird feeders.

Learn how to identify a chipping sparrow and a song sparrow.

Range Map and Habitat

spotted towhee

Courtesy Neal Zaun

Look for these birds in old pastures, woodland edges and brushy backyards in states west of the Mississippi River. Birds & Blooms reader Neal Zaun writes, “The spotted towhee inhabits many areas of western North America. The species tends to prefer forest edges, thickets and shrubby park areas.”

Spotted Towhee Bird Species

Range maps provided by Kaufman Field Guides, the official field guide of Birds & Blooms.

Next, meet the white crowned sparrow and white throated sparrow.

Originally Published: February 08, 2022

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