Monday, April 2, 2012

Spotting a Towhee

Ground cover is vitally important to backyard birds, more so than many birders realize. At the old house, the only cover I was able to have was a brush pile in the backyard and some widely spaced mugo in the front yard; not nearly enough to make ground-feeding birds feel secure. As a result, I rarely had any ground-feeding birds make appearances.

This house is a different story entirely. The landscaping is mature, including plenty of low shrubs and ground cover - too mature, in some places, which is a problem I plan to work on this spring and summer. In the meantime, however, the birds enjoy it, and I enjoy their company. One such visitor a few weeks ago was a spotted towhee, a large, colorful sparrow that had discovered the cache of sunflower hearts I toss outside my office window periodically - right underneath a low bush that provides a safe, sheltered feeding spot. While the bird didn't stay for long, its hopping, scratching behavior was clearly evident in the disturbed soil, and the brief glimpse I caught showed off its red eye, rusty flanks, and striking plumage.

Other birds have taken advantage of the cover as well - dark-eyed juncos were frequent guests throughout the winter (and only migrated away in the last few days), and the house sparrows are year-round visitors, as are the California quail, though recently they've dispersed for nesting. I can hardly wait to see what birds might be spotted next - whether they have spots on their plumage or not.


Hide said...

Do towhee's stay in Utah over the summer, or are they just passing through?

Melissa said...

They do stay in Utah year-round, actually, though not up near Wyoming, where they're only summer residents.