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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Rufous-sided Towhee -- Pipilo erythrophthalmus

RANGE: Breeds from southern British Columbia to southern Maine south to southern Baja California, Guatemala, northern Oklahoma, eastern Louisiana, and southern Florida. Winters from southern British Columbia, Utah, Colorado, the southern Great Lakes area, and along the Atlantic Coast south throughout the breeding range.

STATUS: Common and widespread.

HABITAT: Generally inhabits dense brushy fields and pastures, edges of woods, open woodlands, hedgerows, roadside thickets, and clearings. In the West, inhabits sagebrush, willows, and chaparral above the deserts.


NEST: Builds a bulky nest, usually in a depression in the ground but sometimes up to 3 feet above the ground in low shrubs such as coffeeberry or sagebrush. Conceals and protects nest with overhanging bushes, logs, vines, or a clump of grass.

FOOD: Mostly eats vegetable material (about 70 percent of diet) gleaned from the ground; most important items are acorns, weed seeds and small fruits. Also eats insects, spiders, and snails.

REFERENCES: Baumann 1959, Bent 1968a, Davis 1960.

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