Baby Towhee

Adult California towhee

Yesterday morning in a burst of energetic inspiration I spent nearly three hours trimming back all manner of growth in the garden. Trumpet vine largely, which is gorgeous and unruly. Also spent leaves from the hollyhock, and those flowers on the butterfly bushes past their prime and a few roses needing deadheading, though that’s a daily task. Looking around quite satisfied with my efforts I turned on the hose to offer a parting light spraying, a kind of benevolent and sacred gesture, setting the garden in good stead for the heat that would soon follow. I chose to ignore a modest hole in my hose, which I attempted to fix with duct tape. Hahaha. I pointed the fine spray in the direction of the butterfly bushes, knowing they would appreciate the extra attention. Glancing down at the muddy patch I’d inadvertently created imagine my surprise to see this!


What? What? A fledgling?? What?

Listening to its little peep I knew at once that it was a towhee fledgling. And, in fact, it brought to mind that I’d vaguely been aware all week that I’d been listening to this very sound in the garden and half heartedly asking myself if it was a towhee or not, as it seemed to be more persistent and somehow lighter. I’d even thought to explore, but had not yet, thinking perhaps it was not a towhee, but some other bird with which I was not familiar. But here was my answer, miraculously at my feet. For while there is a towhee family that lives in my garden and has for years, I’d never ever seen one of their fledglings before. Had I not heard the little voice of this wee creature I would not even have recognized what it was. For California towhees are dark brown, plain birds, and, very obscure. I’m betting that people who do not observe their gardens closely would not even know towhees were living on their property, as they tend to live close to the ground, fly under bushes, stay largely out of sight, except for sudden bold flights directly across one’s path, but instantly in hiding. They are incredibly well camouflaged. And other than the sudden darting on wing they blend into the background very nicely.

So it was very out of character, I would have thought, for a fledgling to appear in such an unguarded open place. But lucky me!

I said a prayer under my breath and ran to get my iPhone. Here’s what I captured.

I took comfort that the parents had made themselves known to me, and they did not seem alarmed, so I continued to snap away!

As you might imagine, I rather thought that would be the end of my sighting. Right? But no. An hour later I reemerged into the garden and this little fellow was sitting in a plum tree, peep peep peeping! I’m thinking by now this is rather extraordinary. Remember, I’m capturing this on an iPhone. My camera is several inches away!


The adventure did not end in the plum tree. No. Because by now my mother instincts have kicked in and I confess I am no mother bird. I lose all objectivity when it comes to fledglings, well documented on this very blog in relation to my friendship with scrub jays. So now I’m invested. So when I came out later in the afternoon, looking about for this little baby bird, I was horrified that the peep peeping was coming from my neighbor’s yard. And they have cats. And a new rambunctious terrier from the pound! That drama was rectified after finding not only my new charge, but a sibling. In a tree. Up high. (And, yes, one of their cats was already spying on them.) I forced myself into the house muttering a necessary mantra, “I am not a mother bird. I am not a mother bird.” Went and watched a movie. Whew!

But here’s the best part. At dusk I was out in the garden again, looking (of course) and was utterly amazed to find this.

This morning I went out and was gratified to hear the baby towhees making their way around the neighborhood, getting to know their new world. Parents were nearby attending their exploration. Blessings on their journey.

Love and birdie blessings,
Kathryn xoxox

Book News: Most exciting news is that Barnes and Noble buyers have placed a substantial order of copies of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy to place in their brick and mortar stores! Send me pics if you see one, will you?? ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, September 1st an excerpt of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy will be published in Maine’s Still Points Arts Quarterly. Thank you.

12 Responses to “Baby Towhee”

  1. How sweet, mom! I hope it’s okay. Lovely that you’re having such special Summer experiences. Thanks for sharing. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Antonia xoxo

  2. Hi, Antonia! I was just out in the garden and saw the mama towhee with her two babies. One tried to fly into a little tree and could not quite manage it so returned to his mom. I swear they are bigger than yesterday already! Love, Mom xoxo

  3. Sweet baby, adorable video. thanks for sharing your divine encounters.

  4. Good morning, Katalina! Thank you! Glad you enjoyed! Yes, they are divine encounters. Indeed! Kathryn xoxox

  5. Loved this. In Ohio we have Rufus (red) sided Towhees. Rare to sight, usually edge of forest areas. I’ve never seen them in the yard.
    Hugs, cousin Julie

  6. Hi, Julie, Isn’t this baby precious? Glad you enjoyed. Yes, the rufus sided towhees are much more colorful. I’d love to have them here. Kathryn xoxo

  7. Baby is not really feathered..I am surprised it is out of its nest already!
    Glad for your sharing your delight…contagious.

  8. Hi, Alice! Yes, I know. It’s alarming how early and vulnerable they leave their nests. I am happy to report that while I have not seen this baby (or his/her sibling) I have been hearing one or other or both in the deep foliage of the plum tree. Baby peep. ๐Ÿ™‚ Kathryn xoxo

  9. good early morning, Kathryn…what a delightful tale and i am glad to now know the name of these little birds i am finding here and there. they sound as trusting as the baby blue birds i discover. i keep them in the hydrangeas where somehow they seem to make enough noise to allow mama to find them and have a bath together in the fountain. ๐Ÿ™‚

    that is one lovely red rose on your header and your photos of YOU are divine. Just as i had imagined you. many blessings as we continue thru this season of sunshine. xox

  10. Good morning to you, L’Adelaide! Thank you for your kind words! I’m wondering if your baby blue birds are scrubjays? Mama and papa scrubjays are very diligent parents. Nothing casual about them at all, scolding anything that endangers their fledglings! Glad yours are safe in the hydrangea. Sounds lovely. Kathryn xoxo

  11. Just saw a baby towhee come out of a rodent trap….it looked healthy and followed the adult Towhee back into the bushes….I just watched in amazement….forgot I had my phone in my hand…sorry no pics…….

  12. Hi, Gayle, and welcome! Wha ta lucky baby towhee! Thanks for sharing! Kathryn xoxo

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