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Abert's towhee

Melozone aberti

Description:

This video was taken in Tucson, Arizona, USA, around February 15th sometime in the morning. The bird, which is sitting on top of the telephone pole, is almost the size of a Mourning Dove, and looks similar to an Abert's Towhee (or a brown Cardinal without the crest): overall drab browny color with thick conical bill and a long tail that seems to flick upwards occasionally. The song reminds me a little bit of a Curve-Billed Thrasher, but I could see clearly that was not the type of bird calling. I could also tell it was not a Mockingbird mimicking a Thrasher's calls, since the same exact phrases were repeated without much variation (plus I could see the bird and it was not a Mockingbird). Any ideas?

2 Species ID Suggestions

apeachg
apeachg 8 years ago
Abert's Towhee
Pipilo aberti
apeachg
apeachg 8 years ago
Abert's towhee
Melozone aberti


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8 Comments

apeachg
apeachg 8 years ago

It turns out it was a young Abert's towhee that had been copying part of a Curve-Billed thrasher's song...I think he got it right eventually :)

luvnature
luvnature 8 years ago

I also live in Tucson. I listened to video. To me it sounds like a Cardinal or a Pyrrhuloxia. Go read about Pyrrhuloxia: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Pyrrh...
While the do have a crest they will hold it down a lot.
The second photo looks like an Abert's Towhee.
It could be an immature Cardinal, if not Pyrrhuloxia.

Ava T-B
Ava T-B 9 years ago

I couldn't have said it better about Harper. :)

apeachg
apeachg 9 years ago

And I too love Charley Harper, he was an absolute genius and really had a skill for expressing the true spirit of animals in his wonderfully simplistic artwork :)

apeachg
apeachg 9 years ago

You're right about the song not being right, but I can't match it to any other species. I've come to the conclusion that it might be an Abert's Towhee (looks more similar to the pictures than the Canyon, I think) learning its species-specific song, and is at the "subsong" stage where they practice and often "get it wrong" by using other species' song components, which they must learn to eliminate as they refine their own song. However, I think that the time of year was wrong for juveniles to be around, so I'm a bit hesitant about the validity of my hypothesis.

Ava T-B
Ava T-B 9 years ago

Picture # 2 looks a lot like a California Towhee, but the song is wrong (I think).
I like your Charley Harper profile picture. He was an amazing nature artist!

apeachg
apeachg 9 years ago

Karen -
Apologies for the quality of the video, don't think there's much I can do there. However, I do make sure that the photos I upload are of good quality, as I realize how frustrating it can be to try to identify something from a blurry picture. The video is mostly just for hearing the bird's song, which is probably its most defining characteristic, as a picture has been impossible to acquire. I will try to find a means of recording better-quality videos in future, but in the mean time this is the only thing I have of a bird that's driving me crazy with searching!

KarenL
KarenL 9 years ago

Hi apeachg & welcome to Project Noah!
Unfortunately there just isn't enough detail here in this photo for us to be able to identify the birds. Usually we request you delete spottings that can't be identified but we appreciate that you have taken the trouble to record the birds' song & that may enable one of our bird experts to identify this for you.
Please can you make sure that we can see sufficient detail in your future photos. I know how frustrating it can be trying to get a good photo of birds - many of my photos don't make it either!

apeachg
Spotted by
apeachg

Tucson, Arizona, USA

Spotted on Feb 21, 2012
Submitted on Feb 21, 2012

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