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Green-tailed Towhee - BirdForum Opus

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Photo © by Craig Thayer
Tucson, Arizona, November 2017
Pipilo chlorurus


The smallest Towhee at 16-18.5 cm (7.25 in) in length, 25cm (10 in) wingspan, and 22-40 g weight
A russet cap with olive-green upper parts is diagnostic for birds within its breeding range. Bright white throat with dark malar stripe, gray breast and face, whitish belly.

Juveniles are streaked overall, with buffy underparts and brownish upperparts; faint wing bars.

Photo © by digishooter
Mount Pino, Kern County, California, USA, August 2008

Similar Species

Its closest relative is the Collared Towhee, but their ranges do not overlap other than rarely at the southern edge of Green-tailed's wintering range in southern Mexico; it differs in having black cheeks and a black throat band. Olive Sparrow is also superficially similar and can also overlap in winter in northeastern Mexico. At first glance within range, various sparrows come to mind, especially those with reddish or rufous caps, but note the olive wash on the back and tail and lack of stripes on the crown.


Western United States in summer, mainly in the interior, but reaches the Pacific coast in southern California; also breeds in the far north of Baja California in Mexico. Migrates to Mexico and border areas in the far south of the United States in winter.

Accidental vagrant in the eastern United States, southern Canada and Cuba.


This is a monotypic species[1].


Low brush in montane areas.


Stays close to the ground, with males flitting from bush top to bush top when singing to advertise their territory. Often moves along the ground rather than flies, to escape detection. Secretive, often difficult to spot. Generally solitary, but may form loose mixed flocks in winter.


Bursts of rapid wing beats, alternating with body gliding, producing wavy flight pattern.


Seeds, fruit, insects, larvae. Scratches with both feet simultaneously to uncover insects in leaf litter, similar to other Towhees. Will visit seed feeders.


Monogomous. They may have two broods each year.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Alsop, FJ III. 2001. Smithsonian Birds of America. New York: DK Publishing: ISBN 0-7894-8001-8
  3. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved Nov 2017)

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