Two Towhees

Reminder:  You can enlarge any of the photos in this blog by clicking on it.  Click again for a full-screen image.

Today will be the last day of images posted from the Elkhorn Ranch.  As always, Louisa and I had a splendid time here but we must return home tomorrow.

There are two species of towhees living at the elevation of the ranch in the Baboquivari Mountains.  One of them is the Canyon Towhee (formerly known as the “Brown Towhee”) and the other species is the Green-tailed Towhee.  These are fairly nondescript sparrow-like birds, easy to see and difficult to photograph.  They are secretive and very rarely appear out in the open.  Photographing them is always a matter of sitting in a likely area, waiting, and hoping for the best.

The Canyon Towhee is pale brown with a rufous area underneath its tail.

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The Green-tailed Towhee is similar looking but has a burnt orange cap on its head and some pale green accents on its neck and shoulders and its tail.

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What I find intriguing about these birds is that they are specialists when it comes to habitat.  Canyon Towhees love rocky hillsides and brush.  One can find them in the Baboquivaris and at Sabino Canyon in the rocky banks of washes (dry creek beds).  One never sees them outside of these very restricted locations.  Green-tailed Towhees have similar tastes in habitat.  But, bizarrely, although they are fairly common in the Baboquivaris, one never sees them at Sabino Canyon in what is to my eye identical terrain.  There is obviously something about the habitat at Sabino Canyon, something so subtle that I cannot discern it, that makes it inhospitable to Green-tailed Towhees but welcoming to Canyon Towhees.  Go figure.

Photos taken with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO + 1.4X Extender, ISO 640, aperture preferred setting.  The first photo was taken at f8 @ 1/250, the second at f8 @ 1/400.


One response to “Two Towhees”

  1. Liesl Kii says :

    How different these towhees look from our Eastern Towhees! Here they have a black head, back and tail and red breast – they positively glow next to your more neutral Canyon Towhees. And now I have learned the word “rufous.”

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