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California Towhee Pipilo crissalis in a garden
California Towhee Pipilo crissalis in a garden
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Emberizidae
Genus: Pipilo
Vieillot, 1816
See text.

A Towhee is any one of a number of species of birds in the genus Pipilo within the family Emberizidae (which also includes the buntings, American sparrows, and juncos).

Towhees typically have longer tails than other emberizids. Most species have rather skulking habits, so they are not well known, though the Eastern Towhee P. erythrophthalamus is bolder as well as more colorful. This species, and some others, frequent urban parks and gardens.

There has been considerable debate over the taxonomy of the towhees in recent years. Two species complexes have been identified, the rufous-sided complex (involving Pipilo erythrophthalmus, P. maculatus, P. socorroensis, P. ocai and P. chlorurus), and the brown towhee complex (involving Pipilo crissalis, P. fuscus, P. aberti and P. albicollis). The distinction of species within these is uncertain and opinions have differed over the years. Modern authorities distinguish all four species in the brown towhee complex, though P. fuscus and P. crissalis were formerly treated as a single species. Hybrids are frequent between some of the species, particularly between the Mexican races of P. maculatus ("Olive-backed Towhee", P. maculatus macronyx) and P. ocai.

Species list:

  • Green-tailed Towhee, Pipilo chlorurus
    Collared Towhee, Pipilo ocai
  • "Rufous-sided Towhee"--old name, now split into two species:
  • Eastern Towhee, Pipilo erythrophthalmus
  • Spotted Towhee, Pipilo maculatus
    • Olive-backed Towhee, Pipilo maculatus macronyx
  • Socorro Towhee, Pipilo socorroensis
  • "Brown Towhee"--old name, now split into two species:
  • California Towhee, Pipilo crissalis
    Canyon Towhee, Pipilo fuscus
  • Abert's Towhee, Pipilo aberti
    White-throated Towhee, Pipilo albicollis


  • Zink, R. M., & Dittmann, D. L. (1991). Evolution of brown towhees - mitochondrial-DNA evidence. Condor 93: 98-105.

External links

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.