As its name implies, this species is common on shallow, rocky canyon slopes and rimrock in the Southwest. It is similar to the California, and the 2 were formerly considered the same species—the brown towhee. Length 8".
Plumage is pale gray-brown, fading to whitish on belly, with cinnamon-buff undertail coverts. Rufous-brown cap, buffy eye ring, buffy throat framed by necklace of black streaks typically forming black spot at base of throat. Juvenile: lacks rufous crown, has narrow buff wingbars, and is faintly streaked below.
Three United States subspecies show weak and clinal variation in measurements, overall coloration, and prominence of the rufous cap. Two small, dark subspecies inhabit central and southwestern Texas (texanus) and the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts of Arizona,