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Canyon Towhee

Pipilo fuscus


This fairly dull-looking bird is muted brown in color, with a rusty crown and a large dark spot on the breast. It is 8-10 inches long, and has a wingspan of 10-12 inches. Both sexes are similar in both coloration and size.

canyon towhee

Distribution and Habitat

The canyon towhee is a resident of the American Southwest into central Mexico. Although it is adaptable to a variety of habitats, from canyonlands to open woodlands, it requires an abundance of brush for both food and shelter.


It is believed that canyon towhees mate for life. The nest is a cup of twigs, grass and stems constructed either on the ground or as high as 35 feet up a dense shrub or tree. Two to six blue-green eggs spotted with brown and black are laid per clutch, and are incubated by the female alone for about 11 days. Once hatched, the young are cared for by both parents until they are able to fend for themselves. It is not uncommon for a breeding pair to produce two or three broods a year.


Seeds make up the majority of the canyon towhee's diet, followed by grain and insects as well as the occassional fruits and berries. Almost all foraging is done on the ground, usually by scratching at the ground to uncover edible tidbits.

Other Information

Breeding pairs generally stay together year-round. If they become separated while foraging, one of the birds will fly to the top of a shrub and wait until it is joined by its mate. Once reunited, the pair face each other, posturing and bobbing their heads while producing a flurry of loud squeals to affirm their bond.

Canyon towhees maintain year-round territories, from which they actively evict other towhees. They are generally tolerant of other species, however, and it is not uncommon for a canyon towhee to feed the young of other species.

The canyon towhee song is a short call followed by mellow trilling.

Canyon towhees do not migrate, and individual birds rarely stray more than a few miles from where they were hatched.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Passeriformes
family Emberizidae
genus & species Pipilo fuscus

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The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Birds >> Order Passeriformes

This page was last updated on June 26, 2017.