By Bob Walker
The Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) is one of our most common Los Alamos County birds, and it is a bird you can find in your yard or in our open spaces any time of the year. They are large members of the Sparrow family, only slightly smaller than an American Robin, whom they somewhat resemble. If you are unsure, check for the black beak or the deep red eyes, and you will know for sure you have a Spotted Towhee.
Spotted Towhees spend a lot of time on the ground, where they forage under shrubs for seeds, insects, and even berries. The foraging behavior is amusing, as they scratch around and hop back and forth to stir up debris on the ground in search of food. They are comfortable near human populations and will even build their nests on the ground. The picture below is one of a Spotted Towhee nest, found a few weeks ago by Los Alamos resident Coleen Meyer; the young had already fledged.
Spotted Towhees have one of the most distinctive and easily recognizable songs, which they broadcast from a high perch overhead.
They also frequently make a cat-like meowing call, so you should listen for both vocalizations the next time you hear a Spotted Towhee.