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Friday, April 29, 2016

California Towhee Guarding a Chick

The California towhee (Melozone crissalis) may not be a colorful bird, but it's full of personality. 

A large member of the sparrow family, CA towhees are found throughout western California, a small area of Oregon, and down into Baja Mexico. They are truly residents of the California floristic zone. 

A pair of CA towhees lives in our yard and raises their chicks here every year. This monogamous species doesn't waste a lot of energy on fancy feathering. Their relationship is based on displayful dancing and successful co-parenting.

The CA towhee's call sounds like the piercing "beep" of a smoke-detector alarm when it needs a battery replaced. The towhee uses that call to keep in contact with a distant mate or, in this case, to communicate to a chick: "Stay hidden!" The closer I got to the chick, the closer together the alarm calls.

CA towhees nest in chaparral and they urge their chicks out of the nest as soon as possible. Frequently, chicks are just barely feathered. The youngster will stay hidden or sit motionless on a small branch until a parent comes to feed it or move it. A fledgling bird may not have fallen out of a nest, its parent may have moved it out for its own safety. A nest can attract predators. 

This chick was so well hidden we didn't see it, but the action of the parents told us it was there. Take a moment to watch the birds around you. If you pay attention their behavior may surprise you. They are intelligent creatures with purposeful actions.

More Earth Minutes with birds:

Ruffled Feathers - What's That Bird
Bewick's Wrens Build a Nest 
LA River through Atwater
Walk the Beach at Malibu, CA
Birding Descanso Gardens
Bird on a Frozen Big Bear Lake 
Birds and Marine Mammals of CA Channel Islands 
Mamukala Wetland, Kakadu National Park Northern Australia
Sulphur-crested Cockatoos on the Defense 

Earth Minutes with Birds and other Wildlife 

Visit Each Week for a New Earth Minute 

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