First Reported Hybridization of Female Canyon Towhee and Male Abert’s Towhee; First Reported Placement of Towhee Nest in Box; First Reported Helper at Towhee Nest

Articles | By Kathleen Groschupf | Accepted March 04, 2017

During the 2015 breeding season in southern Arizona, I observed and documented with photographs the pairing and nesting of a female Canyon Towhee (Melozone fusca) and a male Abert’s Towhee (Melozone aberti). The female built her first nest in a commercial finch nest box attached to a fence post and laid two eggs; one hatchling survived for 12 days before it died in the nest box. With their second nesting, the female laid three eggs in a nest built in a Catclaw Acacia tree (Senegalia greggii); the nestlings disappeared, presumably taken by a predator. During the pair’s third nesting attempt, in a nest placed high in a netleaf hackberry tree (Celtis reticulata), the pair fed at least two nestlings, and another Canyon Towhee also brought food to the nestlings, which eventually fledged. The trio of adult towhees foraged together during the fall and winter. In the 2016 breeding season, the helper Canyon Towhee paired with the female Canyon Towhee, and the male Abert’s Towhee paired with another Abert’s Towhee. Although hybridization of these two towhee species has been previously reported between a female Abert’s Towhee and a male Canyon Towhee (Johnson and Hopp 2010), this is the first report of a female Canyon Towhee breeding with a male Abert’s Towhee.