A Secretive Visitor

As I walked to our barn yesterday afternoon, I caught a brief glimpse of a medium-sized songbird that scurried into one of our shrub lines, its cocked olive tail my only clue.  I immediately suspected that it was a green-tailed towhee, yet another first sighting on our Littleton farm.

Birders who live along the Colorado Front Range know that this bird is a common summer resident of the foothill shrublands, often heard but seldom observed.  Scratching for insects and seeds, it spends most of its time under the cover of shrubs and thickets; though males may sing from a perch to defend their territory, green-tailed towhees are less conspicuous than their spotted cousins.  After nesting and raising their young in foothill canyons or on sun-drenched slopes below 8000 feet, these towhees head for the Desert Southwest or Mexico for the winter months.

Today, I waited for our visitor to emerge from the shrubs but he remained partly concealed.  A flash of his rusty orange crown confirmed my identification but the summer may come and go before I get a good look at one of these secretive towhees.