Spotted Towhee Migration: What You Need to Know

Last Updated on April 4, 2023 by Susan Levitt

Spotted Towhees are a beautiful species of bird that are found throughout North America. During certain times of the year, these birds undergo a migration that can be fascinating to witness. In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about Spotted Towhee migration, including their behavior, patterns, and how you can observe them.

What are Spotted Towhees?

Spotted Towhees, also known as Rufous-sided Towhees, are medium-sized birds that are part of the sparrow family. They are recognizable by their striking plumage, which includes black heads, white bellies, and rusty-red sides. These birds are found across North America, from southern Alaska to Mexico.

Spotted Towhee Migration Patterns

Spotted Towhees are known to undergo a migration twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. During these migrations, these birds will travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to reach their breeding or wintering grounds. In the spring, they typically migrate north to breed, while in the fall, they move south to avoid the colder weather.

When do Spotted Towhees Migrate?

Spotted Towhees typically begin their spring migration in late February or early March, with some birds starting as early as January. They will then continue their journey northward until they reach their breeding grounds, which can be as far north as Alaska. In the fall, Spotted Towhees will begin their migration southward in late September or early October. They will continue south until they reach their wintering grounds, which can be as far south as Mexico.

How do Spotted Towhees Migrate?

Spotted Towhees are diurnal migrants, which means they travel during the day. During migration, these birds will fly at relatively low altitudes, usually no more than a few hundred feet above the ground. They will often travel in flocks, which can number in the thousands. Spotted Towhees navigate using a combination of visual landmarks and the Earth’s magnetic field.

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Where Can You See Spotted Towhee Migration?

Spotted Towhees can be seen during migration in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and shrublands. Some of the best places to observe Spotted Towhees during migration include:

National parks and wildlife refuges

Nature preserves and sanctuaries

Birding hotspots and migration watch sites

Backyards and parks, especially near wooded areas

How to Spot Spotted Towhees During Migration

Spotting Spotted Towhees during migration can be a challenge, as they can be elusive and often blend in with their surroundings. However, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of seeing them, including:

Listen for their distinctive call, which sounds like “chewink” or “drink your tea.”

Look for movement in the underbrush or low trees, where these birds often forage for food.

Use binoculars or a spotting scope to scan the area for any signs of activity.

Threats to Spotted Towhees During Migration

Like many bird species, Spotted Towhees face a variety of threats during migration. These threats include habitat loss, predation by domestic and feral cats, collisions with buildings and other structures, and exposure to pesticides and other toxins. To help protect Spotted Towhees during migration, you can:

Support conservation organizations that work to protect bird habitats and reduce threats to migratory birds.

Keep cats indoors during migration season.

Reduce or eliminate pesticide use in your yard and garden.


Spotted Towhees are a beautiful and fascinating species, and their migration patterns provide a unique opportunity to observe them in action. By understanding when and where these birds migrate, as well as their behavior and threats, you can better appreciate their significance and take steps to protect them.

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What do Spotted Towhees eat during migration?

Spotted Towhees typically forage for insects, seeds, and fruits during migration. They will often search for food in the underbrush and low trees.

How long do Spotted Towhees migrate for?

Spotted Towhees can migrate for several weeks or even months, depending on the distance they need to travel and the weather conditions.

Can Spotted Towhees be seen during migration in urban areas?

Yes, Spotted Towhees can be seen during migration in urban areas, especially if there are wooded areas nearby. However, they are more commonly observed in natural habitats such as forests and shrublands.

Are Spotted Towhees endangered?

Spotted Towhees are not currently considered endangered, but their populations are declining in some areas due to habitat loss and other threats.

How can I get involved in Spotted Towhee conservation efforts?

You can get involved in Spotted Towhee conservation efforts by supporting organizations that work to protect bird habitats and reduce threats to migratory birds, volunteering at local wildlife refuges and nature centers, and reducing your use of pesticides and other toxins in your yard and garden.

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