Spotted TowheePipilo maculatus

adult male, interior
Rolf Nussbaumer/VIREO
immature female (1st spring) , Pacific NW
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
Laure W. Neish/VIREO
Laure W. Neish/VIREO
adult male, coastal California
Brian E. Small/VIREO
adult male, Pacific NW
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
Spotted Towhee
Spotted Towhee


7-8 1/2" (17-22 cm). Male head, chest, rump, and tail black; back and wings black, with many white spots; sides rufous; midbelly white. Female: brown replaces black of male. Eyes red; tail corners and outer feathers white. Juvenile streaked all over.


The song varies, long, buzzy cheweeeee. Call is an inquisitive meewww?


songs #4
songs #1
mew calls & chips
mew calls & chips
songs #3
songs #2
songs #5


Forest edges, thickets, woodlands, gardens, and shrubby park areas.


Breeds from British Columbia south to California and the Southwest, east to central Dakotas and western Texas. Winters from British Columbia, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Nebraska south to Baja California and east to Oklahoma and south-central Texas.


This species was recently combined with the Eastern Towhee as a single species, the Rufous-sided Towhee. They are now considered distinct species and vary considerably in voice and appearance. The two species are known to interbreed where they come in contact. Towhees often feed on the ground, scratching noisily in the dry leaves.


3-6 white eggs, with reddish-brown and lilac spots, in a loose cup nest built in a dense bush, close to or on the ground if sheltered by tall planting.

Similar Species

adult male

American Robin

9-11" (23-28 cm). Gray above, brick red below. Head and tail black in males, dull gray in females. Young birds are spotted below.

adult male

Eastern Towhee

7-8 1/2" (17-22 cm). Male has black hood, back, and wings. Tail black with white edging on outer feathers; breast and belly white with bright rufous sides.

adult male

Black-headed Grosbeak

7 1/2" (19 cm). Starling-sized. Heavy pinkish-white bill.

adult male

Orchard Oriole

7" (18 cm). Bluebird-sized. Adult male has chestnut body and black head, back, wings, and tail. Female yellow-green; immature male similar to female, but has black throat.

adult male


5 3/4-6" (14.5-15.5 cm). Breeding male has black head and back, tawny-orange breast and shoulders, spotted flanks, white belly; in fresh fall plumage, the head, back and chest are flecked with buff.


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