Abert’s Towhee (Pipilo aberti) is a southwestern desert specialty closely associated with the Colorado River and its tributaries. It is easy to overlook due to its understated colors, its preferences for feeding on the ground and under bushes, and its limited range. I saw my lifer when I was still a New Jersey birder on a quick side trip to the Salton Sea that I tied to a business trip in San Diego.
Within its range it is rather common, and see them on most visits to parks around Phoenix, They’ve even moved into our urban back yard where they work hard to get their share of the handouts my wife provides for the thrashers and mockingbirds.
The best place to see one (or many) that I know of is the Gilbert Water Ranch, where I spend a lot of time taking photos like these three images taken February 2, 2012 after the gate was unlocked.
They have a distinctive “peep” call a little like a whistle, and they give it a lot even from cover so they are easy to locate once you know what to listen for.
For these photos I simply set up my usual avian rig (Nikon D300, AF-S 300/2.8 lens with TC20E III 2x converter, tripod with gimbal head) near a spot with good morning light where the White-crowned Sparrows were coming to feed and waited.