Saturday, May 15, 2010

Spotted Towhee

There are many things I love about my 'home and native land'--the way people so many people call out thank you on the bus here in Vancouver comes to mind--but probably one of the best things is that I have a 90% chance of seeing one of a pair of these beauties on my short walk from bus to office in the morning.  There's a hedge just outside my building and invariably a towhee is hopping around in there.  Given the fairly obvious difference in head color (females are brown, males glossy black), I feel quite confident in identifying which of the pair I am seeing.  I keep hoping to see some streaky babies...I can't imagine a better addition to my Towhee sightings!

Unlike most of the birds that pose protracted identification challenges for me, the Spotted Towhee is really quite easy--especially for a sparrow (think of distinguishing Cassin's and Botteri's.... or the various subspecies groups of Dark-eyed Juncos).  Even in flight, Spotted Towhees are recognizable by their big white tail spots, visible from afar.

Their call could potentially be confused with that of the Catbird, but because the latter are very rare here on the West Coast, I assume Spotted Towhee unless proven otherwise (I suppose that is a sign that I am no longer quite a beginner--I have lost the conviction that I am seeing something incredibly rare every day!).

Maybe the ease with which I can identify Spotted Towhees is the true source of my partiality for this large sparrow, but I like to think that it's more due to the bird's good looks and the attention it pays me at the beginning of my day.

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