California Towhee

California Towhee Picture

The California Towhee

A California Towhee is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify California Towhees. We have also put together a list of fun California Towhee t-shirts, California Towhee bird patches, bird houses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers and other fun bird watching items.

About California Towhees

This large sparrow is common from southern Oregon to Baja, perching in brushy places on wild hillsides to borders of city parks and gardens. They are known to challenge their reflection and habitually knock on your windows or car mirrors. In the southwest, you are likely to confuse them for their twin, the Canyon Towhee. Some of their distinctive features include:

Description and Identification

California Towhees are large, plump sparrows with the characteristic short, rounded wings, long tail, and thick bills. Both sexes are approximately 8 – 10 inches in length, with a wingspan of about 11 – 12 inches. Overall, these birds are light brown in colour with a light brownish red undertail and rust-coloured streaks at the throat. The taxonomy of this species has only recently been separated from Canyon Towhees, birds which were considered to be identical to Californian Towhees. 

California Towhee Color Pattern

They are primarily brown or gray with gray-brown upperparts and buff with brown streaking underparts. They also have a rusty patch under the tail and around the bill. Their legs and feet are pink-brown and have orange-brown eyes.

California Towhee Size

These large sparrows have long tails, rounded wings, and thick beaks ideal for seed cracking. They are bulkier and larger compared to other sparrows. California Towhees are larger than a spotted towhee but are dwarfed by a robin.

The relative size of both sexes

  • Length range: 8.3-8.9 in (21-25 cm)
  • Weight: 1.3-2.4 oz (37-67 g)
  • Wingspan range: 11.4 in (29 cm)
California Towhee
California Towhee

California Towhee Behavior

They run on the ground but stay close to low shrubs for protection. They perch on rooftops, shrubs, and fences as they chip for long periods. They take short flights with rapid wing beats. California towhees forage on the ground where they scratch under leaf-litters. They may mate for life and pairs remain intact all year long. The males aggressively defend their territories, attacking an intruder.

California Towhee Food

Like most sparrows, Californian Towhees feed on a variety of seeds, berries, garden produce, and insects. During the breeding season, they tend to consume more insects – most of which are beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, snails, and caterpillars. The winter seasons witness them mainly consume seeds of weeds, grasses, and herbs. The berries and garden produce that they can eat include elderberries, coffeeberries, poison oak, acorns, peas, plums, and apricots. 

They mostly feed on insects and seeds. In the winter, they feed mostly on seeds of grasses and other weeds. They feed on insects such as caterpillars and beetles, especially in the summer. They supplement their diet with berries and small fruits.

California Towhee Habitat

Their natural habitat is the brush or the chaparral. They are most frequently found in the dense chaparral scrubs that line coastal slopes and the foothills of southern Oregon and California. They also occur along streams and canyon bottoms adjacent to desert slopes, where they live in dense areas among a variety of evergreen shrubs and oaks. Californian Towhees have demonstrated the ability to adapt to changing surroundings well, visible from the growing numbers of the birds in the urbanised areas of Oregon and California. They can be found in city parks and shrubby backyards in suburban and city areas. These birds tend to maintain self-sustaining lives in warmer areas, as the climate secures the conditions required to acquire food. Despite their frequent appearances at feeding stations in urban cities, a lot more is yet to be learned about these sparrows.

California towhees are common in dense chaparrals scrub found in the foothills and coastlines of California and southern Oregon. They also frequent areas along streams and canyon bottoms. Urban development has made them move into backyards and city parks.

Range and Migration

California Towhees are dainty sparrows found along the western coast of North America. They are mainly found in the United States of America and Mexico, ranging from western Oregon (USA) till Baja California Sur (Mexico). These birds are non migratory but may engage in limited movement in search for food sources. Due to changing climatic conditions, slight shifts from sedentary lifestyles have been observed within some flocks. This has led to these birds being categorised as partially migratory in some cases.   

California Towhee Lifecycle

The females lay 3-4 eggs and incubate them for about 11 days. The young are fed by both parents and leave the nest after 8 days. They remain with their parents until they are able to fly on their own. They have a lifespan of 7 years.


Californian Towhees are some of the birds that might mate for life. The pairs remain in the breeding grounds throughout the year. The nests are built by the females under the supervision of the males. They are typically at a height of 3 – 12 feet above the ground, resting on shrubs or small trees. An outer cup is woven with twigs, grasses, dried flowers, and sometimes the plastic trash found in urban settlements. The nest is then further lined with animal hair, downy seeds, and strips of sagebrush barks. The end result is a bulky but firm nest in which the female incubates 2 – 5 eggs alone for 11 – 14 days.  


Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes

At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.

Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying California Towhees

The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing California Towhees are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.

California Towhee T-shirts

If you love the California Towhee you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.

California Towhee Iron On Patches

Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron on patches. Our bird watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen an identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.

The California Towhee is a great iron on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.

California Towhee Stickers

Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the California Towhee. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.

Bird Feeders for California Towhee

There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.

Best Bird Houses for California Towhee

There are many types of bird houses. Building a bird house is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 bird houses have become our favorites. Getting a bird house for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these bird houses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.

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