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Eastern Towhee

Scientific name: Pipilio erythophthalmus

You might hear this perky sparrow, before you see it. “Drink your teeeeee” is its characteristic call. Listen for yourself below and see if you can pick up the two notes and then the rising trill at the end. If you would like to learn more about how and why birds sing, read this interesting article.

Its rusty-red sides, are called a rufus color in the birding world.  Note its strong conical bill for opening seeds. The distinctive black upper body in the male is instead a rich brown in the female. A long tail completes the picture.

As this photo illustrates, the towhee is often found busily foraging under dense bush, or in leaf litter.


1 ounce


7 to 9 inches

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Insects, seeds, fruit and even flower buds!


Open woods, undergrowth, bushy areas. They will be found scratching in their search for bugs on the ground.

Life Cycle

These birds nest on the ground, making them very vulnerable to cats and dogs, as well as wildlife.

Ecosystem Connections

The cowbird will parasitize the nest, replacing a towhee egg with one of its own.

Human Connections

Please do not let your cats run free outdoors.  As these birds nest on the ground, they are very vulnerable.

How You Can Help

Free-ranging domestic cats kill between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds annually in the lower 48 states, according to a report of Smithsonian scientists. Locally, many cats are increasing being eaten by coyote and other predators. Note the prevalence of “missing cat” signs,

Did You Know?

American songbirds, such as the eastern towhee have declined in population by almost 50% from 1966 to 2015.  To learn more, the please read this   article in National Geographic Magazine.

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