Abert's Towhee

Melozone aberti

Order

PASSERIFORMES

Family

Emberizids (Emberizidae)

Code 4

ABTO

Code 6

PIPABE

ITIS

ILLUSTRATION

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PHOTOS

PHOTOS 1200

CONSERVATION STATUS

Least Concern

The Abert's Towhee has a fairly small range of 170,000 square kilometers. It occurs in riparian vegetation in desert habitats of Arizona and parts of adjacent Nevada, California, Utah, New Mexico, and Mexico. The global breeding population of this bird species is estimated to be around 800,000 individuals. At the current time, it is not believed that the population trends of this species will soon approach the minimum level which would indicate a potential decline. As a result of these population trends, Abert's Towhee at this time has a conservation rating of Least Concern.

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BIRDS AND BIRDING

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BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

SUMMARY

Overview

Abert's Towhee: Large, stocky, shy sparrow. Distinct black face, pale gray bill, gray-brown upperparts, paler gray-brown underparts, and rust-brown vent. Tail is long and darker than upperparts with rust-brown undertail coverts. Short flights, alternates rapid wing beats with wings pulled to sides. May be difficult to spot because it prefers to stay well-hidden under bushes.


Range and Habitat North America

Abert's Towhee: Found primarily in the Colorado and Gila River valleys in Arizona and parts of California, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico. Generally prefers desert riparian and desert wash habitats. Preferred habitat includes dense vegetation, including thickets of willow, cottonwood, mesquite, and saltcedar; also found in cities or suburbs in exotic plantings.


Range and Habitat Hawaii


Range and Habitat Palau

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INTERESTING FACTS

  • They are threatened by cowbird nest parasitism and habitat loss, although some have successfully colonized suburban environments in the Phoenix, Arizona area. They may also be seen on the campus of Arizona State University.
  • The Abert's Towhee has one of the smallest total distributions of any U.S. birds species, making it much sought after by birders who travel to the Southwest desert to observe it.
  • They are an inconspicuous bird because they forage in thick undergrowth and rarely fly any great distance.
  • A group of towhees are collectively known as a "tangle" and a "teapot" of towhees.

SIMILAR BIRDS

RANGE MAP NORTH AMERICA

About this North America Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across North America.

FAMILY DESCRIPTION



SONGS AND CALLS

Xeno-Canto Sound

Abert's Towhee B1

  • Title: Abert's Towhee B1
  • Recordist: Richard E Webster
  • Description: High-pitched "peep" calls and a squeal duet.
  • Location: AZ
  • Date: "7/18/2016"

Abert's Towhee B2

  • Title: Abert's Towhee B2
  • Recordist: Richard E Webster
  • Description: Typical song is a series of sharp descending notes.
  • Location: AZ
  • Date: "7/18/2016"

Abert's Towhee A1

  • Title: Abert's Towhee A1
  • Recordist: Andrew Spencer
  • Description: Squeal duet is a series of descending squeal notes.
  • Location: AZ
  • Date: "7/18/2016"

Abert's Towhee B3

  • Title: Abert's Towhee B3
  • Recordist: Richard E Webster
  • Description: Descending calls from a family group.
  • Location: AZ
  • Date: "7/18/2016"

Abert's Towhee B4

  • Title: Abert's Towhee B4
  • Recordist: Richard E Webster
  • Description: High-pitched "seep" contact calls.
  • Location: AZ
  • Date: "7/18/2016"

Similar Sounding Xeno-Canto

California Towhee B1

  • Title: California Towhee B1
  • Recordist: Richard E Webster
  • Description: Song is a series of squeaky "chip" notes on the same pitch.
  • Location: CA

Canyon Towhee XX1

  • Title: Canyon Towhee XX1
  • Recordist: Scott Olmstead
  • Description: Song is a fast, repeated "chili-chili-chili".
  • Location: AZ

Voice Text

"chip, chip, chip, chip, chip, chee, chee, chee, chee, chee"

Vocalization

Abert's Towhee: Song is a series of 4 to 6 repetitive "peek" or "chip" notes, accelerating and dropping in pitch at the end, "chip, chip, chip, chip, chip, chee, chee, chee, chee, chee." Call is a sharp, thin slightly nasal "peek", often repeated.

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Jane Wright

Artist

Michael Oberhofer

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RiparianX
Relating to or living or located on the bank of a natural watercourse (as a river) or sometimes of a lake or a tidewater. 
UnderpartsX

Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

Undertail covertsX
Small feathers that cover the areas where the retrices (tail feathers) attach to the rump.
UpperpartsX
Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
FaceX
The front part of the head consisting of the bill, eyes, cheeks and chin.
VentX
Birds do not have two separate cavities for excrement and reproduction like humans do. In birds, there is one single entrance/exit that suits both functions called the vent, cloaca or anus.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X