South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Spotted Towhee

Pipilo maculatus

Length: 7 inches Wingspan: 10.5 inches Seasonality: Summer / Migrant
ID Keys: Black upperparts with white spots, black hood, rufous sides, white underparts, red eye.  Compare to similar Eastern Towhee, which lacks spots.

Spotted Towhee - Pipilo maculatusThe Spotted Towhee and the Eastern Towhee were formerly considered separate races of the same species, the Rufous-Sided Towhee (a name which is no longer used).  The two are very similar, but differ in range, as the Spotted Towhee is mostly a western U.S. bird while the Eastern Towhee is an eastern U.S. bird.  The Eastern Towhee also lacks the Spotted Towhee's white spots on its back and wings.  The two species may interbreed where their ranges overlap. 

Habitat: Prefers brush and thickets, usually as the understory to a forest/woodland.

Diet:  Insects, fruits and berries, seeds, nuts, occasionally small reptiles, amphibians, and snakes. 

Behavior: Does most of its foraging on the ground, often scratching through leaf litter in search of insects and other food.  They will also forages low in trees or in the forest undergrowth.

Nesting: June and July

Breeding Map: Breeding bird survey map shows combined map for both the Spotted Towhee and the Eastern Towhee, as they were only recently split into separate species from the previous Rufous-Sided Towhee classification.  The Spotted Towhee is the one most likely to breed in the state, especially West River. 

Song: Long, buzzy chee-weeee.  Variable.

Migration: Some to the south and west of South Dakota may be permanent residents, but South Dakota birds generally migrate south in the fall.

Bird Feeders: Will attend for a suet/seed mixture.

Similar Species: Eastern Towhee

Conservation Status: Widespread and common.

South Dakota Hotspot: Common in the western part of the state, but in the eastern part of the state, Newton Hills State Park in Lincoln County (southeastern corner of South Dakota) is an excellent spot to look for both Spotted and Eastern Towhees in the summer.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Spotted Towhee

2) Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Spotted Towhee

3) eNature: Spotted Towhee

Photo Information: April 19th, 2007 - Point Reyes National Seashore, California - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Spotted Towhee photos.

 

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Spotted Towhee - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer resident in the western part of the state.  Uncommon migrant in the east, and an uncommon summer resident in the far southeastern part of the state.