Eastern Towhee

Pipilo erythrophthalmus

When I was a wee lad of eleven years old, I had a budding interest in birds. In those days, there was no Spotted Towhee, nor an Eastern Towhee. Rather, there was a bird identified as “Rufous-Sided Towhee”. It was the most compelling bird I found in my yard. It was not long before my interests drifted away from birds, before eventually finding its way back into my life. When I finally regenerated my love of birds in the late 1990s, There was no longer a Rufous-Sided Towhee. In 1995, Taxonomists separated this bird into two distinct species. And born were the Spotted Towhee in the west, and the Eastern Towhee in the east.

Eastern Towhees are mostly solitary. They use threat displays to ward off other towhees. Males may lift, spread, or drop their wings or fan their tails, to show off the white tail spots. Male towhees will defend territories many times larger than required to provide food.

Taxonomists have identified four subspecies of Eastern Towhee.

  • P. e. erythrophthalmus breeds north and west to southern Canada’s Great Lake region, south to Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. They spend winters from the southern part of the breeding range south to the Gulf of Mexico from northeast Texas east to central Florida.
  • P. e. canaster lives from Arkansas and Louisiana, Tennessee east to the Atlantic Coast and south to the Gulf Coast and the Florida panhandle. Some individuals migrate south in winter.
  • P. e. rileyi is resident from the Florida panhandle northeastward through Alabama,Georgia, South Carolina, to coastal North Carolina. Some individuals migrate a short distance southward in winter.
  • P. e. alleni resident on the Florida peninsula, but not on the Florida Keys.

In 2023, I met my first Eastern Towhee in Dayton Ohio. In 2023, on the recommendation of good friends, I was exploring the 189 acre Cox Arboretum MetroPark when I met a curious female (I believe) bird. 

Range Map for Eastern Towhee
Range Map

5 Photos

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