Common Name

Spotted Towhee

Species Name

Pipilo maculatus 

©2007 Don Enright


17-23 cm length | 20-30 cm wingspan | 32-49 g weight 

A large, stocky sparrow with a long, fan-shaped tail and a short, thick bill. 

Black on top with bright “rufous” – rust coloured – sides and white below. The wings are spotted and have white “wing bars” or stripes at the tops of their wings. They have red eyes, a dark bill and pinkish legs. The female is brown-grey above as opposed to black. The Eastern Towhee looks the same except that it does not have white spots on its wings. 

Habitat / Behaviour

Omnivore | Woodland, scrubland | Year-round in Vancouver | Lives up to 11 years 

They inhabit the thickets, shrub land and areas of low vegetation in and around wooded areas. They are also a frequent visitor to backyard bird feeders. 

The spotted towhees mostly forage on the ground but also glean within the branches and foliage of low vegetation. On the ground, they do a characteristic backwards hop-scratch, noisily rustling through dry leaves. They eat a variety of plant and animal matter including grain, seeds, grasses, fruit, spiders, millipedes, centipedes, snails and insects. Typical insect prey are beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, ants, wasps, bees, moths and caterpillars. 

The common name ”towhee” is an onomatopoeic reference to one of the bird’s calls. Its song is a buzzy trill, while its call is a cat-like mew.