The eastern towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) belongs to the order Passeriformes, family Passerellidae. They are named after their distinct call which sounds like someone is saying 'drink your tea'. The eastern towhee call is also known as the 'chewink' call. These birds are often mistaken with another species in this family known as the spotted towhee of Western North America. Both North American birds, eastern towhee along with the spotted towhee, were previously referred to as the rufous-sided towhees. They are ground birds and look for a bushy undergrowth and ground cover where they can forage for food.
Their breeding seasons vary according to their geographic location. Females build their nests near the ground with twigs, barks, and leaves. They lay between two and six eggs and brood once to thrice in a year. International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN Red List has listed Eastern Towhee as species of Least Concern.
The eastern towhee is a bird that belongs to the genus Pipilo. Depending upon the location, these birds are non-migratory or partially migratory in nature.
They are one of the largest New World sparrows belonging to the class Aves. They belong to the order Passeriformes, of the family Passerellidae.
There are around 11,000,000 eastern towhees present in the world.
They are found in Eastern North America, mainly in the southeastern parts of Canada and to the east of the United States. They reside in the southwest of Ontario and Quebec, southern Saskatchewan, southern Florida, eastern Texas, and some parts of Mexico. The birds living in the north usually migrate in the winters while those residing in the south are permanent residents or non-migratory. Pipilo erythrophthalmus is a migratory subspecies while the California towhee is one of the resident subspecies. These birds are found in the Appalachians in the north which has a height of over 6500 ft (2000 m). However, they prefer the warmer and drier regions, which are on the south-facing side of the mountains.
Their habitat mainly includes shrublands and woodlands. Woodlands generally comprises grasses, shrubs, and trees. Shrublands are dominated by shrubs along with herbs, grasses, and other vegetation. They also live in open fields and forest edges with plenty of leaf litter.
They usually live in solitary. However, during breeding seasons and migration, they are found in groups or pairs.
These birds have a life expectancy of 12 years.
The breeding season of eastern towhees depends upon their location. The birds residing in the north usually start breeding between April and November. In the south, the breeding season is from March to late summers. They have a fixed breeding ground. They are monogamous and have a single partner throughout their life. The female starts building the nest close to the ground with leaves, twigs, barks, and other items. The male often assists in the nest-building process. It takes about three to five days to finish building the nest. The female bird lays around two to six eggs and incubates them for 12 to 13 days. The eggs are greyish, pinkish, or creamy white in color with spots. They brood up to three times a year. The young birds fledge when they are about 10 to 12 days old but still depend on parental care for about a month.
International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN Red List has listed the eastern towhee as a species of Least Concern. Despite their conservation status, their numbers have declined in recent years because of the destruction of habitat and climate change. The growth of shrublands into forests has made their territory unsuitable.
The eastern towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) has a body length of 7.5 in (19.05 cm) with a wingspan of 7.9-11.8 in ( 20-30 cm ). They exhibit sexual dimorphism as the males and females look different from each other. However, they have some marked similarities which include white chests, yellowish rumps or lower back, and orange sides. The head, upper body, and tail are black in males and brown in females. The males have spotted white corners on the tail that are visible during flight. The young of these North American birds are brown throughout. They also have a thick bill which they use to forage for food. Their eye color changes from light or reddish-brown in young birds to dark red in adult eastern towhees. In the southeastern part of their habitat and Florida, they are seen having white or pale yellow eyes.
Yes, they are considered to be cute. Their cuteness usually stems from their appearance and the sound of their call. They are large birds with strikingly colored feathers. They have black or brown colored upper body with orange sides.
They usually communicate through their distinct calls. The pitch of the call usually varies based on the occasion. Mating calls are often low-pitched. While fleeing from predators, their calls sound sharp. Males use threat displays to warn off other towhees from their territory. These include raising their wings or flashing their black tails with white corners.
The wingspan of eastern towhee range from 7.9-11.8 in ( 20-30 cm ) and their body length on average is 7.5 in (19.05 cm). They are larger than LeConte's sparrow (4.7-12 cm) which is one of the smallest New World sparrows.
The exact speed of their flight is not known. While chasing, their wings beat uninterruptedly. Their flight is usually very fast and steady.
They weigh around 1.1-1.9 oz (32-53 g).
Scientists do not have specific names for the male and female eastern towhee birds. They are commonly referred to as male eastern towhee and female eastern towhees.
A baby eastern towhee is commonly referred to as nestling.
Their diet mostly consists of seeds, fruits, and a variety of insects. They are ground birds and spend most of their time foraging for food buried under leaf litter. They also eat snails, spiders, bees, moths, grasshoppers, and beetles.
They aren't dangerous to humans. However, the male birds often guard the territories and showcase a variety of threat displays. They behave aggressively towards other male birds to keep them off the territory or to show their strength.
Yes, they can make a good pet. To attract these birds, you must create a suitable habitat for them to stay on the backside of a house or any other place. It should consist of leafy undergrowth and shrubs. Plenty of food like seeds, flower buds, and fruits should be fed to them. A birdbath along with a dripper or any source of moving water should be kept nearby.
Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.
Brown-headed cowbird often lays its eggs in eastern towhee's nest. Unlike other birds, they cannot tell them apart and raises the nestlings like one of their own. The brown-headed cowbird swaps one of Eastern Towhee's eggs with its own, which makes it even harder for the Eastern Towhees to recognize. In Southern Carolina, it has been seen that the brown-headed cowbird lays eggs in five out of 19 of the eastern towhee's nests.
The famous eastern towhee song sounds like a distinct 'drink your tea'. It lasts for about one second. The first note 'drink' is usually very sharp while the last note 'tea' is a melodious trill. Their call often sounds like a short 'chewink'. They usually make a sharp call to guard their territories or while fleeing from predators. Their calls to attract mates are less high-pitched.
Eastern towhees are noticed first by the sound of their calls. These calls do not last longer than a second but are extremely melodious. It is a two-part song that sounds like someone saying 'drink your tree'. Their unique calls make them special.
You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our eastern towhee coloring pages.