Saturday, February 18, 2012

Abert's Towhee at the Arizona Botanical Gardens

An Abert's Towhee hanging around the Arizona Botanical Gardens, Phoenix; 12/21/2011.
While visiting the Arizona Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, I kept hearing a rather loud rustling in the desert brush. I knew there was a bird scratching around, but it was difficult to spot through the thick brambles. In one such instant, while I was peering through the brush, suddenly this long-tailed good-sized bird popped out, raised its tail high and jumped up on a nearby wooden bench (Above). It was an Abert's Towhee. After this, I saw several more skulking around the brush. Like many birds, they feed off the ground by scratching away dead leaves. The interesting thing is they don't paw at the ground with one foot at a time like most ground-feeding birds; instead they use both feet smultaneously by leaping forward and scrape away the dead leaves with a sudden lunge backwards to expose the bare ground underneath where they hope to find seeds and insects. This odd jumping behavior was very comical to watch, but definitely explained all the scratching noise coming from the underbrush. This one particular had its tail raised high and I assumed it was also part of their typical behavior, but I researched several sources and could not find any mention of raised tails as a specific behavior for these Towhees.
Another photo of the "high-tailed" Abert's Towhee.
Abert's Towhees are found mainly in Arizona, but also just across its state borders into parts of neighboring states: California, Nevada, and New Mexico. They do not migrate and stay year round in this small geographical area.
The only other time I saw an Abert's Towhee was in Phoenix sitting on a neighbor's fence two years earlier; 12/29/2009.

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