The Eastern Towhee is a stocky, nearly robin-sized bird. Males are strikingly marked by bold sooty black on head, neck back, wings and tail against a bright white belly and reddish-orange (rufous) sides. Females have the same color pattern, but in duller shades of brown where the male is black. White tail corners flash in flight.
The Eastern Towhee is more often heard than seen. Its call is a musical whistle of “Drink Your Teeee” and loud call notes of
“Chewink” or its own name “Tow hee”.
Eastern Towhees are birds of the forest undergrowth. They flit thru open woodlands and brushy edges. Much of their time is spent on the ground scratching in leaf litter using both feet at the same time, in a kind of backward hop. You are likely to have this great bird in your yard if you have a less manicured area where shrubs are allowed to stay in a more natural state.
Nests are built by the female on the ground or near the ground in tangles of vines or bushes. Nestlings are cared for by both parentsand fledge in 10 to 12 days.
Eastern Towhees provide an important service by feeding on moths, caterpillars, ants, wood borers, sow bugs, snails, beetles and other destructive pests. They also eat berries and seeds.
The Eastern Towhee’s range is the eastern half of the United States from the gulf coast north to Canada. Click image for more info.
The Eastern Towhee was considered the same species as the Spotted Towhee until 1995. Where they overlap in the Great Plains Hybrids occur.
It has red eyes across most of its range, but the towhees in Florida and South Georgia have straw-colored eyes. It is thought that this reflects the fact that the pale-eyed form was isolated when Florida was an island during the Pleistocene era.
A group of towhees are collectively known as a “tangle” and a “teapot” of towhees.