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Part of the sparrow family, these birds can be spotted across the southern and southwestern side of North America.

Unusual for a towhee, the Green-tailed Towhee is completely migratory, with all individuals making nocturnal migrations each year. Individuals may spend several days to a week at each stopover site along the way. Green-tailed Towhees occupy a variety of habitats at various elevations. Regrowing vegetation in areas disturbed by fire or logging is often utilized.

In addition to defending its territory from other Green-tailed Towhees, the male towhee may also act aggressively toward Fox Sparrows, and it is thought that it may be due to competition for singing perches. Canyon and Spotted Towhees don’t seem to provoke an aggressive response.


Description of the Green-tailed-towhee


The Green-tailed Towhee has a gray head with a rufous crown, greenish upperparts, wings, and tail, a gray breast, and a white throat.  Length 7 in.  Wingspan 10 in.

Green-tailed Towhee from the side

Photographs © Alan Wilson.

Green-tailed Towhee


Sexes similar.

Seasonal change in appearance



Fall immatures resemble adults, but have grayer backs.


Green-tailed Towhees inhabit brushy areas of mountains, including stream sides.


Green-tailed Towhees eat insects and seeds.


Green-tailed Towhees forage on the ground, scratching in leaf litter.


Green-tailed Towhees breed across much of the western U.S. They winter the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. The population appears to be stable.

Fun Facts

Like other towhees, Green-tailed Towhees hop-scratch in the leaves using both feet.

Vagrant Green-tailed Towhees occasionally are found in the eastern U.S. during fall.


The song consists of several notes followed by trills.  A “mew” call is also given, as is a buzzy flight call.


Similar Species

  • The combination of green upperparts, gray underparts, and white throat is unique.


The Green-tailed Towhee’s nest is a cup of grass, twigs, bark, and weeds and is lined with finer materials. It is placed on the ground or low in a shrub.

Number: Usually lay 3-4 eggs.
Color: Pale blue with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 12 days and fledge at about 11-12 days, though remaining dependent on the adults for some time.


Bent Life History of the Green-tailed-towhee

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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