Spotted towhee (Jan. 16)

Pipilo maculatus

Spotted towhees are wintertime visitors to south-central Kansas and easily recognized by their unique coloration.

The robin-sized birds are also easily recognized by their special method of scratching up seeds.

Rather than lightly pulling back at ground litter, towhees put their whole body into the ordeal, scooting back several inches with every scratch.

“A songbird version of the moon walk” is how one local birder described it.

Towhees spend much of their time under a low overstory, such as low cedar limbs, and seldom venture far into the open.

Kansas has two species of towhees, eastern and spotted. Most seen in the Wichita area are eastern. spotteds are easily distinguished by white spotting on the tops of their wings, while easterns are black.