Thursday, 8 December 2011

Canyon Towhee

The Canyon Towhee or Brown Towhee, Melozone fusca (previously Pipilo fuscus), is a bird of the family Emberizidae. It is native to lower-lying areas from Arizona, southern Colorado, and western Texas south to northwestern Oaxaca, Mexico, mostly avoiding the coasts.

The taxonomy of the group of towhees to which this species belongs is debated. At the higher level, some authors place the towhees in the family Fringillidae. Within the genus, there has been dispute about whether the Brown Towhee is a distinct species from the California Towhee, Melozone crissalis, found in coastal regions from Oregon and California in the United States through Baja California in Mexico. At present, molecular genetics seems to have settled this issue in favour of separation of the species.

The Canyon Towhee's natural habitat is brush or chaparral. Its skulking habits and nondescript appearance mean that it is not one of the better known birds. It is around 20–25 cm long and plump, and has a noticeably long tail. It is earthy brown in color, with somewhat lighter underparts and a somewhat darker head with a rufous cap (except that birds in central Mexico have the cap the same color as the back); there is also a slightly reddish area beneath the tail. There is little sexual dimorphism.
The Canyon Towhee feeds on the ground or in low scrub rather than in the tree canopy. Near human habitation, it is often seen in parking lots, where it feeds on insects on the cars' grills and takes cover under the cars when disturbed.