Family New World Sparrows (Passerellidae)

Least Concern

Canyon Towhee (Melozone fusca)


French: Tohi des canyons German: Braunrücken-Grundammer Spanish: Toquí pardo

Pipilo fusca


, 1827,

Temascaltepec, México, Mexico


Molecular analysis indicates that present species and M. albicollis are sister-taxa. Formerly treated as conspecific with M. crissalis. Geographical variation rather weak, and largely clinal, with much intergradation. Proposed race aimophila (described from Fort Davis, Texas) treated as a synonym of texana. Ten subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. f. mesoleuca (S. F. Baird, 1854) – S USA from Arizona E through New Mexico and W Texas, and N Mexico S to N Sonora (except NW coast) S to 30° N and NW Chihuahua S to 31° N.
  • M. f. mesata (Oberholser, 1937) – SE Colorado, NE New Mexico and NW Oklahoma.
  • M. f. texana (van Rossem, 1934) – W & C Texas S to N Mexico (NW Coahuila).
  • M. f. intermedia (Nelson, 1899) – C & S Sonora S to N Sinaloa (El Fuerte and Yecorato).
  • M. f. jamesi (C. H. Townsend, 1923) – Tiburón I, off CW Sonora, Mexico.
  • M. f. perpallida (van Rossem, 1934) – WC Mexico in Sierra Madre Occidental and E foothills (from Chihuahua S through Durango to Nayarit, N Jalisco and SW Zacatecas).
  • M. f. potosina (Ridgway, 1899) – C Mexico from N Coahuila, W Nuevo León and SW Tamaulipas S to E Zacatecas, W & C San Luis Potosí, NE Jalisco, Guanajuato and C & S Querétaro.
  • M. f. fusca (Swainson, 1827) – Nayarit S to Colima, E through Jalisco and Michoacán, to Morelos, Mexico City and NC Guerrero.
  • M. f. campoi (R. T. Moore, 1949) – Hidalgo, Puebla and W Veracruz, in E Mexico.
  • M. f. toroi (R. T. Moore, 1942) – Tlaxcala E to W Veracruz, S to Puebla and N Oaxaca.
  • Descriptive notes

    18·5–22 cm; 36·6–52·5 g. Large, long-tailed sparrow with mostly greyish-brown plumage. Nominate race is grey-brown above, very slightly... read more


    Song a musical tinkling, typically a series of 6 or 7 evenly spaced double syllables, “chilli... read more


    Rocky semi-arid montane shrubland; found in scrub oak (Quercus), pinyon pine (Pinus... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet principally seeds; also takes small animal items, including insects, millipedes (Diplopoda), spiders (Araneae) and snails (Gastropoda... read more


    Season Mar to early Jul (rarely Sept); often double-brooded. Partners remain together all year and defend territory throughout year. Nest... read more


    Sedentary; some slight elevational movements in winter.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Fairly common to locally common. Some local populations extirpated through development, especially along rivers in SW USA.

    Recommended citation

    Rising, J. (2020). Canyon Towhee (Melozone fusca). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 23 February 2020).