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Recent Sighting:

Eastern Towhee Pipilo erythrophthalmus

Order: Passeriformes — Family: Emberizidae

Identification

A distinctive rufous, white and black bird The male has a black hood, upperparts and tail, which contrast with a white belly, white tertial edges and outer tail feathers. The sides of the body are rufous. The amount of white in the wings and tail of the Eastern Towhee varies geographically, with northern birds showing more and the amount declining as you move southward. However, the most distinctive variation in the different subspecies is in the color of the eyes. Northern birds have bright red eyes, birds on the Florida Peninsula show nearly white ones and the subspecies that inhabits northern Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas may have eyes of red, white or orange. The female is similarly patterned but she replaces the black areas of the male with brown coloration. Juveniles are dark, brownish and heavily streaked with two obvious buff wing bars. Their long-tailed, fat-necked shape identifies them as towhees and they have distinctive orange under tail coverts.

Voice

In the spring and summer it is often very conspicuous, singing loudly, often from a high perch. Its song is a cheerful ‘drink-your-tea’, with the last note higher and trilled. The most common call notes are a ‘to-weee’ and a slurred ‘chewink’.

Length

8.5in

Behaviour

Throughout much of the year, the Eastern Towhee demonstrates a remarkable ability to stay out of sight, remain undetected and to quietly slip away when seen. The exception to this is during the spring and summer when the males become conspicuous songsters.

Migration

Breeds throughout most of the eastern U.S. with much of the southeastern population being resident year-round. Birds that breed in the northern U.S. and southern Canada migrate to the southeastern U.S. to winter. Spring movement is from early March to about mid-May, and the fall movement is from mid-September to late October.

Habitat

The habitat of the Eastern Towhee varies geographically, but always includes areas of dense brush.

Food

Insects, spiders, snails, seeds, berries, small fruits and occasionally small reptiles.

Population trends

Has declined by approximately 90 percent in the northeast in the past 50 years. However, the population appears to be stable throughout the remainder of its range.

Where in US

Breeds throughout most of the eastern U.S. with much of the southeastern population being resident year-round. Birds that breed in the northern U.S. and southern Canada migrate to the southeastern U.S. to winter.

Nests

The nest is usually placed from 1-5 ft. up in the undergrowth or brush tangles of woodlands, wood edges or thickets, but occasionally nests on the ground. It consists of a cup made of leaves, grasses, bark strips and rootlets, lined with finer grasses and hair.

Eggs

Usually 3-4 eggs, but as few as 2, or as many as 6. These are creamy-white to pale gray in color and are spotted with brown, or reddish-brown, and usually more heavily concentrated on the larger end. Double-brooded in the north and often treble-brooded in the south.

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