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.
Its skulking habits and nondescript appearance mean that it is not one of the better known birds. It is 19 to 25 cm (7.5 to 9.8 in) long and plump, 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 colour, 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
The towhee is native to lower-lying areas from Arizona, southern Colorado, 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pipilo fuscus.|
- BirdLife International (2004). Pipilo fuscus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 10 May, 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern.
- Zink, R. M., and Dittmann, D. L. (1991). "Evolution of brown towhees—mitochondrial-DNA evidence". The Condor (Cooper Ornithological Society) 93 (1): 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., and Sophie Webb (1995). A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-854012-4.
- Page with photographs and recording from birdfotos.com
- North American Bird Sounds—Parulidae through Icteridae with recordings and a link to a photograph.