Eastern Towhee

Eastern towhee; Bill Thompson/USFWS
Bill Thompson/USFWS

Category
Birds

Description

This medium-sized songbird is a little smaller than a robin. The head and neck are black (males) or brown (females) and resemble a hood. The bill is thick and cone-shaped. The eyes are red – an unusual color among sparrow-like birds. The back and wings are black (males) or brown (females). The tail is long and dark with white outer edges. The belly is a contrasting white, while the sides are rusty-orange. Eastern towhees are easily confused with the spotted towhee. This is not surprising given that, until recently, the two were considered races of the same species (and were previously known as rufous-sided towhees). Unlike the spotted towhee, the eastern lacks white spots on the wings. Otherwise the two species are similar in appearance and behavior. Towhees also resemble small American robins at first glance, but robins have a narrow, yellowish bill, a plumper body shape and a much greater area of orange-red on the chest and belly.

Size

Approximately 6.8 to 8.2 inches long. Wingspan of 8 to 11 inches.

Habitat

Eastern towhees are normally found in thickets, shrublands, scrub oak and second-growth forest. They are uncommon in residential neighborhoods, but may be found in areas with dense shrub cover. They are found mainly in the eastern third of the state.

Life History

At feeders, eastern towhees feed on black-oil sunflower seeds, millet and milo placed on the ground or on low platform feeders. Away from feeders, the eat a wide variety of seeds and ground-dwelling insects.

Wildlife Watching Tips

Towhees are usually found alone or in small flocks of less than eight birds. They feed on the ground, usually under the cover of trees and shrubs. They kick and scratch the ground and fallen leaves searching for insects and seeds. At feeders, they prefer to feed on seeds that have been scattered over the ground or placed on a low platform feeder near dense cover.

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