One of the birds that is most often heard before it is seen is the Green-tailed Towhee. Hiding in its preferred dense shrub habitat, only its mewing calls may give it away until the male hops out to perch and sing in the open.
This large sparrow is a colorful bird with a green-yellow wash on its back, wings and long tail. Its head and breast are gray, and it sports a bright rufous cap on its head. In Colorado, it is a common summer bird, but its secretive ways mean it is not well understood. Like its cousin the Spotted Towhee, this bird uses a double-scratch, two-footed hop in the leaf litter to uncover the seeds and small insects in its diet.
The Green-tailed Towhee breeds here in dry, shrubby habitats of Gambel oak, mountain mahogany, serviceberry, chokecherry and snowberry. It is also found in sagebrush, but typically avoids forests. It is seen here from late April until early October, when it heads back to its winter homes in our southern states, Mexico and Baja California.
According to Colorado Partners in Flight, up to 40 percent of the entire Green-tailed Towhee population breeds in Colorado, giving us an enormous responsibility to protect these birds and the shrubby habitat they depend upon to survive.
Bird of the Week is brought to you by Audubon Rockies and Weminuche Audubon Society.