The California Towhee, (Melozone crissalis), is a bird of the family
Emberizidae, native to the coastal regions of western Oregon and
California in the United States and Baja California Sur in Mexico.
The taxonomy of this species has been debated. At the higher level, some authors place the towhees in the family Fringillidae. Within the group, there has been debate about whether the distinction between this species and the similar Canyon Towhee, Melozone fuscus, should be at the specific or subspecific level. The two populations are quite isolated from each other, and molecular genetics seems to have settled the matter in favour of two distinct species for the present. On the other hand there seems to be little distinction between the northern and Baja Californian populations within M. crissalis.
The California Towhee's coloring is dull brown overall with light rust undertail coverts and buff or rust colored streaks at the throat. There is little sexual dimorphism. It is around 20–25 cm in length, and has a noticeably long tail. Its appearance suggests a large, plain sparrow.