Eastern TowheePipilo erythrophthalmus

adult male
Richard Crossley/VIREO
adult female
Rob Curtis/VIREO
juvenile
Johann Schumacher/VIREO
adult male
Greg Lasley/VIREO
Eastern Towhee

Description

7-8 1/2" (17-22 cm). Male has black hood, back, and wings. Tail black with white edging on outer feathers; breast and belly white with bright rufous sides. Female has same pattern, but is brown where male is black. Both sexes have red eyes.

Voice

The song varies, often with a few introductory notes and usually ending with a long trill, such as drink-your-teeaaa or to-wheeeee. Call is an inquisitive meewww?

Listen

nasal calls #2
five song types of one male
nasal calls #1
nasal calls #3
four song types of one male
classic song (drink your tea)
song variant
chip calls

Habitat

Forest edges, thickets, woodlands, gardens, and shrubby park areas.

Range

Breeds from southern Saskatchewan east to Maine and south to the Gulf Coast and Florida. Winters across much of eastern United States north to Nebraska and southern New England.

Discussion

The name "Towhee," an imitation of this bird's call note, was given in 1731 by the naturalist and bird artist Mark Catesby, who encountered it in the Carolinas. This species, also known as the Red-eyed Towhee, was once combined with the western Spotted Towhee as a single species, the Rufous-sided Towhee. They are now considered distinct species and vary considerably in voice and appearance. The two species are known to interbreed where they come in contact. Towhees often feed on the ground, scratching noisily in the dry leaves.

Nesting

3-6 white eggs, with reddish-brown and lilac spots, in a loose cup nest built in a dense bush, close to or on the ground if sheltered by tall planting.

Similar Species

adult male

American Robin

9-11" (23-28 cm). Gray above, brick red below. Head and tail black in males, dull gray in females. Young birds are spotted below.

adult male, interior

Spotted Towhee

7-8 1/2" (17-22 cm). Male head, chest, rump, and tail black; back and wings black, with many white spots; sides rufous; midbelly white. Female: brown replaces black of male.

adult male, breeding

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

8" (20 cm). Starling-sized. Heavy pinkish-white bill. Male black and white with conspicuous rose-red patch on breast and underwings.

adult male

Black-headed Grosbeak

7 1/2" (19 cm). Starling-sized. Heavy pinkish-white bill.

adult male

Orchard Oriole

7" (18 cm). Bluebird-sized. Adult male has chestnut body and black head, back, wings, and tail. Female yellow-green; immature male similar to female, but has black throat.

adult male

Brambling

5 3/4-6" (14.5-15.5 cm). Breeding male has black head and back, tawny-orange breast and shoulders, spotted flanks, white belly; in fresh fall plumage, the head, back and chest are flecked with buff.

Vireo

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