Eastern Towhee

Pipilo erythrophthalmus
Eastern Towhee specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (7-8 ½ inches) songbird, the male Eastern Towhee is most easily identified by its black head and body, black breast, pale belly, and rufous flanks. Female Eastern Towhees are similar but paler, with the black replaced by brown. Most individuals have red eyes, although birds from Florida and Georgia tend to have white eyes instead. The Eastern Towhee breeds across much of the eastern United States and southern Canada west to Nebraska and Saskatchewan. In winter, many northern birds move south to the southern part of this species’ range as well as east Texas, Oklahoma, and southern Louisiana, where this species does not breed. Southern birds generally migrate short distances, if at all. Eastern Towhees breed in a variety of woodland habitats, particularly in heavily-vegetated undergrowth near forest edges or clearings. This species utilizes similar habitats in summer as in winter. Eastern Towhees mainly eat a variety of plant and animal foods, including fruits, berries, and insects. In appropriate habitat, Eastern Towhees may be seen foraging for food on the ground or, less frequently, in the canopy. Birdwatchers may also listen for this species’ song, a trilled “drink-your-teeeeee” or “towhee towheeeee,” from which this species derives its name. Eastern Towhees are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Common summer resident, uncommon winter resident, in wood margins and deciduous forests. The female is brown above where the male is black. Breeds from May to July.

Specimen Information

This is the record for the bird in the rear on the left.
Date:  5/30/1911
Collected By:  NR Wood
Locality:  Washington, DC (SI grounds)
Sex:  Male, Juvenile
Catalog ID:  222479
The bird at the front on the right is a female; the bird at the top is a male.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31105 Pipilo erythrophthalmus (Eastern Towhee)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31106 Pipilo erythrophthalmus (Eastern Towhee)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC31107 Pipilo erythrophthalmus (Eastern Towhee)