Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Winter Visitors

Spotted Towhee photographed by Bill Ravenscroft

Spotted Towhees have found their way into Texas.  This cold snap not only has brought us much needed rain but new migrants.  The Spotteds come from the west.  But when you live on the I-35 corridor, west meets east to great advantage.

Male and females of this species are very similar.  Eastern Towhees demonstrate more sexual dimorphism.  Remarkable, to me at least, towhees are in the sparrow family.  At first glance, it just doesn’t seem possible.  The coloration and pattern of the feathers are not similar to other sparrows.  This is a large bird in comparison to the other sparrows.  Its tail is longer than the normal sparrows’.  However, its bill shape is conical just like the other sparrows, and its behavior and feeding pattern mimics many sparrows.

These are shy and skittish birds.  Most of the time one must seek them in underbrush and thicket habitat.  They scratch underneath shrubbery for insects and seeds.  And if you are a photographer, you must be quick, and good, and persevere.

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