As I was running on the coast this weekend, I followed a familiar route around E. Lakes. The course involves numerous undulating hills and despite the roller-coaster motion, one can enjoy scenic vistas of the lake and surrounding sand-dunes (though much of the dunes have now been destroyed to build subdivisions). I observed many familiar trees and shrubs. The rhododendrons were in abundant bloom.
I have chosen to showcase the Rufous-sided Towhee, however, because in our homeschool, song-birds are the focus of our nature study and I'm learning to identify them along side the kiddos.
The western variant of this widely distributed species was once called the spotted towhee because of the numerous white spots on its back. Open woods with brushy undergrowth provide cover for the towhee as it feeds among dead leaves, scratching the ground with both feet at once. Nuts, seeds and fruits make up most of its diet. It also eats some insects.
This towhee locates its bulky nest on the ground or low in a dense bush, no more than 5 feet above the ground. The nest is fashioned by the female with plant material and lined with fine grasses. She lays 3-4 grayish eggs that hatch in about 12 days. They typically raise 2 broods each season. Following the nesting season, they will move slightly south for winter or to the western lowlands.