A widespread, abundant denizen of parks and gardens through most of coastal California, this species often occurs in pairs year-round, like the canyon and the Abert’s towhees. The California and the similar canyon were formerly conspecific, though they have never been known to overlap in range, even as vagrants. Polytypic. Length 9".
Brownish overall; crown slightly warmer brown than rest of upperparts. Buff throat bordered by a distinct broken ring of dark brown spots; no dark spot on breast, unlike the canyon. Lores same color as throat, contrast with cheek; warm cinnamon undertail coverts . Juvenile: faint cinnamon wing bars; faint streaking below.
Six subspecies in United States show weak and clinal variation in size and overall coloration. Generally, size decreases