Posted by: atowhee | August 16, 2021


Salem, Oregon

A California man admits his passion for his little, drab neighbor (click here to read it). In this piece Jack Gedney writes, accurately, “What they rely on is familiairity, with which no bird is more overflowing.”

When we lived in San Francisco our home had a small back garden as large as a pool table. It had no shrubs for cover and only a single holly tree to feed waxwings one day each September. One next door neighbor had a small garden full of shrubs, and the pair of resident Cal Towhees based there came regularly to forage in our garden. So when I set up my blog it was named after them just as were my email handles. Even my tour business logo:

In SF the Sutro Heights Park was a block from our home. It had trees and coastal scrub habitat–fine for California Towhees, Spotted were more suburban there, over on Marin Headlands. One year a white towhee appeared in that park, mated and raised a clutch. During its second winter it fell victim to a wintering Cooper’s Hawk. The bold white made it too obvious in wet, dark days of January.

There are no California Towhees (yet) this far north. The last time they lived near me was when we were in Ashland. Now we have the more colorful Spotted Towhees in our garden. No better singers, no more flambouyant in behavior. Just as settled and satisfied. Here’s a male in an apple tree, taken by Albert Ryckman at E.E. Wilson WMA:

One Ashland reader responded thus: “I love my local towhees! All 3 species seen at home, with the GT Towhee being most likely on his way up the mountain during spring migration. I posted a photo of a CATO and someone commented something like: ‘So they are your favorite yard bird because of their beautiful plumage, beautiful song, or what?’ I answered that they were special for a number of reasons, such as:- approx. 5-acre territory (which would mean only 2, except for fledglings, on my property at a given time)- they seem to be tamer than most other species- something happened to one or more of them and I didn’t see any CATO for about 6 mos. until another moved in- they just seem to have a beauty of their own with the rust undertail coverts and the throat- and I know there are more reasons that I can’t think of right now. So they might be drab to some, but they aren’t dull to me.”

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