Monday, January 16, 2012
At one time, this beautiful bird was called a Rufous-sided Towhee. It is a rather secretive species related to sparrows. I had never seen one until we moved to the area nearly twenty years ago, but we have at least one pair around our home almost every year. Their two-note call is distinctive and easily imitated. I have been able to occasionally call one in when I've heard it in the distance by imitating them. This is a male. The female is patterned exactly the same but, where the male is black, the female is a warm brown. If you look carefully, you will see that his eye is actually red. They use a method of foraging called a hop-scratch where they jump on leaves with both feet at the same time, and then jump back, pulling the leaves with them to reveal insects and worms and the like underneath. They will visit our feeder once in a while, but prefer to eat seeds that have fallen to the ground rather than get on the feeder itself.