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Eastern Towhee Pipilo erythrophthalmus


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Eastern Towhee, male
credit:  Bill Thompson of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Emberizidae, New World Sparrows view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has blackish hood, upperparts, and tail, with white edges to tertials and flight feathers, and white at base of primaries. Flanks are reddish orange, undertail coverts are buff, and underparts are otherwise white. Northern birds are larger than southern ones. Most birds have beady red eyes but those from Florida have a pale iris; intermediate eye colors are seen in some southern areas. ADULT FEMALE Recalls male, but black elements of plumage are brown. JUVENILE Brown and heavily streaked, with two buff wing bars.

Dimensions Length: 7-8 1/2" (17-22 cm)

Habitat Summer visitor to north of range but present year-round in south; favors dense scrub and brush.

Observation Tips Listen for rustle of feeding birds scratching through leaf litter. Singing males are often conspicuous.

Range Eastern Canada, Southeast, Texas, New England, Western Canada, Florida, Plains, Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic

Voice Song is whistled sweet-too, followed by a buzzing trill.

Similar Species Spotted Towhee P. maculatus (L 7.5-8.5_in) is similar, but has white spots on back and two white wing bars; a mainly western species whose range overlaps with Eastern in winter in west of range covered by this book.

Discussion Colorful, long-tailed bird. Scratches ground with both feet together, to expose seeds and insects. Sexes are dissimilar.