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Canyon towhee facts for kids

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Canyon towhee
Pipilo fuscus2.jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Melozone fusca map.svg
  • Melozone fuscus
    Pipilo fuscus
Canyon towhee in Cochise County, Arizona

The canyon towhee (Melozone fusca) is a bird of the family Passerellidae.


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. 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). This species weighs from 36.5 to 67 g (1.29 to 2.36 oz), though on average weigh only around 45 g (1.6 oz). 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). 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

Canyon Towhee
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.

Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern.
  • 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.
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