Green-Tailed Towhee

Earlier this summer I had a new visitor to my bird feeder. It was bigger than a finch and smaller than a robin. It had a reddish tuft of feathers on it’s head like a bad toupee and the edges of its tail and feathers was yellowish-green. As it turns out, I was lucky to catch that glimpse of the green-tailed towhee because they are usually more secretive and stay hidden in bushes.

Photo Credit Francesco Veronesi

These birds migrate to the western mountains for breeding. They build their nests in dense thickets. The females are responsible for the construction that takes up to 5 days (which brings up the question, what are the males doing this whole time?). The finished nest is a deep cup about 6 inches wide and 3 inches deep made of stems, twigs, and bark. The females also take the time to line the inside with stems, grass, and hair. Some nests have even been found lined with porcupine hair!

Once the eggs are laid, the female defends it (again, where are the males?). When she spots a predator, females leave the nest and may run along the ground with her tail in the air. This mimics a chipmunk running, distracting the predator from the nest.  Brilliant!