Canyon Towhee

Melozone fusca
Range Map

The Canyon Towhee is a year-round resident of southwestern USA and Mexico. They live in scrub along dry watercourses and upland desert scrub at lower desert elevations, and upward into higher-elevation pine-oak or even coniferous forests.

Older references list the scientific name of this bird as Pipilo fuscus, but the genus name has recently changed to Melozone. The status of “Brown Towhees” has long been debated. Some scientists would have us lump the California Towhee and the Canyon Towhee into a single species. It seems the introduction of genetic information supports the argument for separating them into their own distinct species.

To date, most of my meetings with Canyon Towhees have been in Arizona, though they range across New Mexico and West Texas, and south deep into the Mexican interior plateaus. While I visited the Kickapoo Caverns region in south-central Texas, I met one of these birds.

Today’s science recognises 10 subspecies of Canyon Towhee:

  • M. f. mesoleuca lives in Arizona, New Mexico, west Texas, and Northern Mexico.
  • M. f. mesata lives in Colorado, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.
  • M. f. texana lives in Texas and Northern Mexico.
  • M. f. intermedia lives in central and southern Mexico.
  • M. f. jamesi lives only on Tiburón Island (Mexico).
  • M. f. perpallida lives in west central Mexico.
  • M. f. potosina lives in central and northeastern Mexico.
  • M. f. fusca lives in southern Mexico.
  • M. f. campoi lives in southeastern Mexico.
  • M. f. toroi lives in southern Mexico.

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