Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Judd Patterson
Photo Copyright Judd Patterson

The spotted towhee, Pipilo maculatus, is a long-tailed sparrow that breeds in thickets, brush, and other areas of dense shrubby growth in temperate and subtropical western North America, the highlands of Mexico, and in parts of Guatemala. It winters in the American West, the Midwest, and in parts of Mexico and Guatemala. In Utah, the spotted towhee is common throughout the state on the lower slopes of mountains. It is especially common along the Wasatch Front, where individuals remain year-round. Breeding occurs along stream sides, primarily in the northern valleys of the state.

The diet of the spotted towhee varies by season. During the breeding season, it prefers animal matter (eg. insects, spiders, millipedes), but during other periods of the year, it consumes mostly plant material (eg. acorns, seeds, fruits). It forages for food along the ground in areas with adequate cover. Individuals scratch the ground to displace leaves and loose soil, or less commonly, they will forage above ground, plucking insects and fruits off of trees. Pairs form on breeding grounds, and then a nest is built either on, or just above, the ground. The female incubates her clutch of three to five eggs for about two weeks. The young are born blind and nearly naked, and both parents feed the young. Hatchlings leave the nest after ten days, but they are unable to fly for about another week. The parents continue to feed the young for about a month after they young have left 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.

  • Greenlaw, J. S. 1996. Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus). Birds of North America 263.