EASTERN TOWHEE(Pipilo erythrophtalmus)
DESCRIPTION: The Eastern Towhee is a large robin-like sparrow. The head, throat, conical bill, upper body and tail are black in the male. The black throat has a ‘V’ shape. The tail and wings have white markings, visible in flight. The under parts are white with rufous sides. The eyes are dark red and the legs are pink. In females and immatures the black is replaced with brown, and they have less white markings on the wings. This bird measures around 22 cm (9 inches) long.
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Pipilo-erythrophthalmus
NAME: The English name ‘Towhee’ is an onomatopoeia for one of the bird’s calls. The Latin genus name ‘Pipilo’ means ‘to chirp’, and the species name ‘erythrophtalmus’ is Greek for ‘red eye’. However that species has white eyes in its southeast range.
HABITAT: Forest edges or dense shrub thickets.
DIET: Forages by scratching the leaf litter for insects, arthropods, seeds, snails, etc. Also feeds on berries when available. Attracted to seed bird feeders.
NESTING: Nest built on or near the ground. If on the ground it is camouflaged in leaf litter up to the cup rim. Between two and five creamy-pinkish eggs are laid, incubated by the female for the most part. Both parents feed the chicks.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeding range covers the eastern side of the USA and tiny southern parts of the Canadian provinces east from Manitoba. In the Maritimes there’s a small breeding population in southern New-Brunswick. Year-round resident in the south eastern USA.
ON PEI: The eastern towhee does not breed on Prince Edward Island. Sightings are listed as ‘occasional’, ‘rare’ or ‘accidental’ depending on the seasons.
CONSERVATION: There has been some decline in the population as more development is encroaching on suitable habitat for the eastern towhee, but not to the point where it would be a species of concern. One way to attract it is by having some dense shrubs with lots of leaf litter along a wood edge.
NOTES: These birds hop rather than walk, and when scratching the leaf litter they use their two legs at once.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Spotted Towhee, American Robin
REFERENCES: https://www.thespruce.com/eastern-towhee-profile-386227
https://www.mba-aom.ca/jsp/toc.jsp (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)
http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/easterntowhee.htm (New Hampshire PBS)
https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/eastern-towhee (Missouri Department of Conservation)

Eastern Towhee, male - Quabbin Reservoir, Mass. May 14, 2011 - Bill Thompson, USFWS
Eastern Towhee, male – Quabbin Reservoir, Mass. May 14, 2011 – Bill Thompson
Eastern Towhee female - St. George Island, FL - Apr. 2, 2018 - photo by Roberta Palmer
Eastern Towhee female – St. George Island, FL – Apr. 2, 2018 – Roberta Palmer