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Feathered Friends – Green-tailed Towhee - For The Birders
Green-tailed Towhee by Kenneth Cole Schneider via Flickr CC

Feathered Friends – Green-tailed Towhee

Green-tailed Towhee by Kenneth Cole Schneider via Flickr CC
Green-tailed Towhee by Kenneth Cole Schneider via Flickr CC

This article originally appeared in the October-December 2014 Vermilion Flycatcher, the quarterly magazine of Tucson Audubon.
As the weather cools in Tucson listen for the distinctive cat-like “mew” call of a Green-tailed Towhee that has come to stay through the winter months. This very attractive bird has a striking white and black striped face and prominent rufous cap, which it will sometimes raise inquisitively. Its body feathers are a lovely matte gray that blends into green wings and tail, though the green can be hard to see. This is not an uncommon bird here in the winter but it is not often seen since it habitually skulks in the undergrowth. A wash that
is lined with mesquite trees with thick vegetation and dense undergrowth is the perfect place to look for this lovely winter visitor. Their loud mewing call is the best way to find them but listen also for rustling in the undergrowth. They search for food on the ground under dead leaves by hoping forward and then scooting backward to turn over the foliage. They do this over and over again and this hunting method is fascinating to watch. If your yard has dense undergrowth or you live near a wash you could have some Green-tailed Towhees as your guests this winter and you can enjoy their interesting behavior and big personalities. You can make your yard attractive to this species by
planting bushes for them to perch in and stand under with a top layer of native trees over the bushes. Having a portion of your yard where you leave leaf litter on the ground gives them a place to look for food.

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