|All photos with blue borders expand if clicked|
|Above photos taken 1/3/2016|
Spotted Towhees, members of the sparrow family, are said to be common in all areas of Oregon; however, I have only ever seen them a few times - on the Oregon coast, in Portland, and in the higher elevations of Northwestern Oregon. They live in forested areas with heavy underbrush, bushes, and in backyards. Once you realize you are not looking at a robin or an Oregon junco, you will be able to distinguish a Spotted Towhee easily from other birds. The bird is about 7 to 8.5 inches long with a black hood on its head and shoulders (brown if it is a female), a dark bill, dark red eyes, black back, white spots on its back, a wide rust stripe down its sides, a white belly, white spots on the corners of its tail, and white underneath the tail. Spotted Towhees are frequently digging, or kicking, at leaves and twigs on the ground while they are looking for insects or seeds, making a lot of noise. You can also see them hopping from branch to branch in trees, usually going up to the tree top, looking for insects.
The females builds a cup nest out of small roots, flower heads and twigs, placing it in the fork of a tree, and raising one to two broods per year. The eggs are bluish white or greenish white with brown markings. Incubation lasts 12-14 days with both the male and female participating. The fledglings are fed by both parents. The juveniles are brown with streaked chests. I would call them non-descript. These birds feed on seeds, fruit and insects; and I have seen them at the backyard bird feeder once. Note that they like sunflowers and mixed seeds and will eat seeds off the ground underneath a feeder. Rather than fly away from danger, you'll probably see Spotted Towhees walking away fairly rapidly.
Spotted Towhees were formerly called Rufous-sided Towhees, being lumped together with the eastern birds.
By Martha Van Natta
Additional information: see Wikpedia - Spotted Towhee