WatchList Species Account for Abert’s Towhee (Pipilo aberti)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Abert's Towhee

Photo: Tom Grey

Abert's Towhee is a sedentary species with a very small total distribution that lives in dense brush and woodlands along rivers and streams in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, with small extensions into surrounding states and into a small portion of northern Mexico.


The species prefers streamside habitat in brushy understory of cottonwood-willow and mesquite bosques, but has adapted to some urban and shrubland habitats created by humans, such as exotic shrubs along irrigation ditches. It is also found in exotic salt cedar in the lower Colorado River valley. It can range as high as 4,200 feet.


This large, plain towhee spends most of the day on the ground, foraging for insects and seeds, or perching in low shrubs or branches; its flights are usually short and low. Rain during its March to September breeding season brings about a peak in breeding within two weeks.


Since few breeding bird surveys cover its habitat, population trends are unknown, but some estimates show that Abert's Towhee populations have declined by as much as 50%, due to habitat loss. Protection and restoration of riparian and streamside habitats is necessary for the long-term health of its populations; once cattle were removed from the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, for example, the bird’s populations there increased dramatically. Measures to benefit the endangered southwestern Willow Flycatcher will also benefit this towhee.