Eastern Towhees: What Characters!

When birders say, “oh that is one of my favorite birds!,” it is often an odd statement. We have so many “favorite birds” as to make that statement ubiquitous. However, here goes – the Eastern Towhee is one of my favorite species of birds. To me, they seem elegant and comical at the same time. Often they “look” annoyed at my intrusions, no matter how far away I stand. They flee at the slightest provocation, and yet most of the time they manage to often sport an air of superiority. They are gorgeous birds and yet unfailingly adorable. When they jump down from a branch and start hopping with both feet as they begin to scratch for food, it is hard to hold back giggles. Fortunately, my apartment complex leaves some areas of unraked leaf cover and brush. The towhees (and several other kinds of birds) love these!

Most birders know that Towhees are sparrows. In “technical” terms they are emberizids.



“…the family that includes buntings, cowbirds, grosbeaks, American orioles, and some sparrows.” Source: EncartaDictionaries

I found the following statement interesting when I looked up the species on BNA Online.

“Despite its popularity and wide occurrence across eastern North America, many details of the Eastern Towhee’s natural history remain poorly known. Its songs and singing behavior have received significant attention. Because the bird spends much of its time near or on the ground in dense habitats and scrubby growth, however, it is usually difficult to study.”

Learn more about Eastern Towhees on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds species page. The males have the black coloring and the females have the brown.

DSCN2660 Male Eastern Towhee

DSCN7213 Female Eastern Towhee

DSCN9133 Female Eastern Towhee

DSCN9319 Female Eastern Towhee

DSCN9199 Female Eastern Towhee

DSCN3126 Male Eastern Towhee

DSCN9471 Male Eastern Towhee

DSCN9146 Female Eastern Towheejpg


  1. shirley wendell says:

    Love Towhees. Beautiful little birds. I like to watch them scratch up stuff on the ground.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. twohawksnyc says:

    The writing, video, and pics all wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Freddi Carlip says:

    You described them beautifully Elly. I love watching them. The will be back here in the spring and bring me joy when they arrive. Thank you for another wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. CrabtowneMd says:

    Elly, Your photos are superb. I love the one with the acorn. Towhees are so much fun to watch the way they scratch and hop about reminds me of a dancer doing the Scottish fling!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jane Keutzer (jebbynurse) says:

    Beautiful pics of these pretty, plumb birds1

    Liked by 1 person

  6. MoHawk says:

    They are adorable and comical! I couldn’t agree with you more, Elly. I live in Ohio but visit my mom on Cape Cod several times a year. It was here where I saw these little performers for the very first time in my life. I was inside my mom’s house and kept hearing scratching sounds in the leaf litter just outside her front door. Quietly peeking through the screen, I watched their little hop-scratch dance. Stifling giggles, just as you experienced, I watched the activity and thought how very intent they were on their mission! Too darn cute!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Deb says:

    Great shots and very interesting information about the Towhees! Lucky you to be able to observe them. I’ve had only rare visits at my place. Thanks for sharing with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Amanda Frost says:

    I’m used to the western “Spotted Towhee.” The spots on the wings are a beautiful addition. I think the male and female are similarly colored, as I’ve never seen a brown one here in California. I too like their scrabbling for food on the ground.

    Liked by 1 person

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