Hopping around in our backyard, with his tail held high, was a bird I had never seen before. His cap of rust red was fluffed up in a slight topknot, creating a jaunty aspect. On his face showed two striking white lores (mustaches) and a white throat.
Who was this visitor? His shape reminded me of a towhee so I started there in my bird guide. Yes, it is a Green-tailed Towhee, a beautiful little bird.
Generally found in arid brushy habitats, this is a member of the sparrow family. Green-tailed Towhees are said to be shy and secretive, so this was a particularly brave individual, coming right into the open. These towhees forage for seeds and insects, scratching at the soil and leaves beneath dense shrubs.
In courtship the Green-tailed Towhee male bows to the female, drooping his wings, with his tail pointed straight up. He offers her a bit of nesting material. If she accepts his proposal, she builds a carefully hidden nest in dense foliage, quite low to the ground. She brings twigs, stems and grasses for the outer nest, and lines the inner cup with small roots and hair. According to All About Birds, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, horse, cow, and even porcupine hair has been found in Green-tailed Towhee nests.
In winter these beautiful towhees will flock with other sparrows, finding safety in the larger groups from predators such as hawks and falcons.