The ‘Blanding’s finch was in a bush high on Harper’s Point in the Dinosaur National Monument. No longer referred to as a Finch or named after Blanding, the Green-tailed towhee (Pipilo chlorurus) can be difficult to see as it tends to stay in the shade at the base of sage bushes.
The bush was nearly at the most western point of Colorado I would go. Having driven up from Dinosaur, I had passed temporarily into the state of Utah. Parked in the car park at the end of the road, I had a magnificent view of the geological distortions of the national Monument. The Green-tailed towhee’s raspy trill providing a avian musical accompaniment to the grand vista.
The Green-tailed towhee doesn’t appear to have featured in Audubon’s Birds of America. It was left to John Cassin, that other great American Ornithologist to give this bird a presence in the then growing dramatis personnae of American birds. Called Blanding’s finch, the green-tailed appears in Cassin’s Birds of California, Texas, Oregon, British and Russian America, published between 1853 and 1855.
The Green-tailed towhee is the smallest towhee and the only one that is entirely migratory moving south to Mexico in the winter from the northern most part of it’s range in the US. I have seen them in California and Oregon before, but with a penchant for skulking beneath bushes, my Dinosaur bird gave me the best views.
Apparently a group of Towhees is referred to as either a ‘teapot of towhees’ or a ‘tangle’. A tangle I get as all the towhee’s I have seen have a preference for sitting in tangle bushes. Why ‘teapot of towhees’? Who knows bu it does have a certain ring!