Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Jim Parrish
Photo Copyright Jim Parrish

The green-tailed towhee, Pipilo chlorurus, is a large secretive sparrow that utilizes different habitats throughout its range. At low elevations, it is found in diverse shrub communities or in pinyon-juniper forests. At higher elevations, it is frequently found in disturbed forests and along forest edges. It breeds at various elevations throughout the American West, and winters in Texas, southern California, the American Southwest, and in northern and central Mexico. The green-tailed towhee is a common breeder in northeastern Utah; it also breeds in foothills and mountains throughout the state. In Utah, it usually nests in shrubby areas covered in dense vegetation at elevations between 5,000 feet and the timberline. During migration, it is also seen in valleys at lower elevations.

Green-tailed towhees forage for food under dense cover either on the ground or in low vegetation. They scratch the ground to expose small seeds and insects, which they then pluck off the ground. Less often, they will take insects or fruits directly off vegetation. Pairs form on the breeding grounds, and then a large thick-walled cup nest is built. Three or four eggs are incubated by the female for about twelve days. The young are born blind and mostly naked. The female keeps the hatchlings warm, but both parents feed the nestlings. The young leave the nest after about two weeks. Because they cannot fly when they leave the nest, it is fortunate that the young have well developed legs that allow them to run quickly along the ground. The parents continue to feed the young for at least two weeks after the young leave the nest.


  • Behle, W. H., Sorensen, E. D. and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, Occasional Publication No. 4. Salt Lake City, UT.

  • Dobbs, R. C., P. R. Martin, and T. E. Martin. 1998. Green-tailed Towhee (Pipilo chlorurus). Birds of North America 368.