Canyon Towhee
Canyon towhee in Cochise County, Arizona

The canyon towhee (Melozone fusca) is a bird of the family Passerellidae. Until 1989, the Canyon Towhee and the California towhee were considered to be a single species which was called the Brown Towhee.[2]


The taxonomy of the group of towhees to which this species belongs is debated. At the higher level, some authors place the towhees in the family Fringillidae[citation needed]. Within the genus, there has been dispute about whether the canyon towhee is a distinct species from the California towhee (Melozone crissalis) found in coastal regions from Oregon and California in the United States through Baja California in Mexico. At present, molecular genetics seems to have settled this issue in favour of separation of the species.


It is 19 to 25 cm (7.5 to 9.8 in) long, and has a noticeably long tail, at 8.2 to 11 cm (3.2 to 4.3 in).[3] This species weighs from 36.5 to 67 g (1+14 to 2+14 oz), though on average weigh only around 45 g (1+12 oz).[4] Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 8.2 to 10.1 cm (3.2 to 4.0 in), the bill is 1.4 to 1.7 cm (0.55 to 0.67 in) and the tarsus is 2.3 to 2.7 cm (0.91 to 1.06 in).[3] It is earthy brown in color, with somewhat lighter underparts and a somewhat darker head with a rufous cap (except that birds in central Mexico have the cap the same color as the back); there is also a slightly reddish area beneath the tail. There is little sexual dimorphism.

Distribution and habitat

Notice the natural camouflage.

The towhee is native to lower-lying areas from Arizona, southern Colorado, New Mexico and western Texas south to northwestern Oaxaca, Mexico, mostly avoiding the coasts. Its natural habitat is brush or chaparral.


The towhee feeds on the ground or in low scrub rather than in the tree canopy. Near human habitation, it is often seen in parking lots, where it feeds on insects on the cars' grilles and takes cover under the cars when disturbed.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2021). "Melozone fusca". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2021: e.T22721331A138530434. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-3.RLTS.T22721331A138530434.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ American Ornithologists' Union (1989). "Thirty-seventh Supplement to the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds". Auk. 109: 532–538.
  3. ^ a b Sparrows and Buntings: A Guide to the Sparrows and Buntings of North America and the World by Clive Byers & Urban Olsson. Houghton Mifflin (1995). ISBN 978-0395738733.
  4. ^ CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses by John B. Dunning Jr. (Editor). CRC Press (1992), ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5.
  • Zink, R. M.; Dittmann, D. L. (1991). "Evolution of brown towhees—mitochondrial-DNA evidence". The Condor. 93 (1). Cooper Ornithological Society: 98–105. doi:10.2307/1368611. JSTOR 1368611.
  • Johnson, R. R., and L. T. Haight. 1996. Canyon Towhee (Pipilo fuscus). In The Birds of North America, No. 264 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
  • Howell, Steve N. G.; Sophie Webb (1995). A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-854012-4.

External links