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California Towhee

Pipilo crissalis

The California Towhee lives in western California, southern Oregon, and Baja California. These birds are as comfortable in rugged rural brush and chaparral as they are in urban parks or suburban gardens. Like other towhees, these birds are rarely found singly, but always in pairs year round.

These birds are intimately familiar to me and have been since my earliest childhood. As a common yardbird, I’ve been able to observe them at home and many of my favorite birding locations in San Diego County.

Many years ago, because of their similarity, these and three other towhees, the Abert’s, Canyon and White-Throated Towhee (from southern Mexico) were lumped together as “Brown Towhee.” This quartet looks and sounds similar to each other, but each has its own geographic distinction. The debate has been waged for a hundred years, but seems to be settled by the use of genetic analysis.

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