In this article we will learn about the bird towhee. This group of songbirds are comprised of nine species divided in two species complex, the rufous-sided complex and the brown towhee complex. These birds belong to the family Passerellidae, which is also referred to as 'new world sparrows'. Towhee pronunciation is like saying the word 'toe', followed by 'he'.
Due to the research conducted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, we know more about these fascinating birds including the fact that they have red eyes. All species of the towhee are North-American birds, being endemic to the continent. The eastern towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) is the most popular and largest of the towhee species, and you will learn a lot more about them in this article.
Read on to learn interesting facts about different towhees like the eastern towhee and green-tailed towhee.
Towhee is a type of bird. This bird is classified under the family Passerellidae.
What class of animal does a towhee belong to?
Towhee belongs in the class of other birds. More specifically, the towhee belongs to the class Aves, which is a group of warm blooded birds. They further belong to order Passeriformes, family Passerellidae. There are two kinds of genus of towhee, Genus Melozone and Genus Pipilo.
How many towhees are there in the world?
The exact population of towhees is not known, although most species have a stable population. The Socorro towhee is unfortunately listed as Endangered by the IUCN due to decreased populations caused by invasive species and diseases.
Where does a towhee live?
Towhee lives in all sorts of habitats from forests to woodlands to even some urban cities. In terms of altitude, the Eastern Towhee can live from sea level to as high as 6,500 ft, although they prefer warmer weather.
What is a towhee's habitat?
All species and subspecies of the Towhee live in North-America. These birds lay their nests either in bushes or even at the ground level under shrubs. These birds spend most of their time near the ground level foraging for food so they prefer to have a habitat with thick undergrowth. They even climb on to low hanging branches to feed on insects and fruits. With many species and wide regions where they may live, Towhees prefer varied habitats. The eastern towhee, which is regarded as the most common towhee, is found at forest edges, woodlands and fields. Habitats with dense shrubs and a lot of leaf litter is ideal for these birds.
Who do towhees live with?
Towhees are mostly solitary in nature and prefer to live alone. Male towhees fan their tails, droop their wings or flick their tails to convey that other towhees are not welcome. Research has also shown that male towhees tend to defend their territories much more than what's needed to provide for food.
How long does a towhee live?
An eastern towhee can live up to 12 years. A spotted towhee (Piplio maculatus) in comparison lives at most, for 11 years. All species have a varying life span but are in the vicinity of a decade.
How do they reproduce?
The breeding months for eastern towhees spans from spring into the summer, although depending on the area, this period can change. The female spends about three to five days to make the nest. The number of eggs in a clutch can range between two to six. The egg can take between 12-13 days to incubate. After the hatching of the eggs, the young ones are fed by the parents. The parents take care of the young ones for about a month. Although, the spotted towhee juvenile leaves the nest after just 10-12 days.
When it comes to spotted towhees, they make their nest very close to the ground or on it. The spotted towhee nest is built by the female over the course of five days. At least two broods are laid per season, which consists of three to five eggs. The spotted towhee eggs are slightly oblong in shape and appear to be creamy white or greyish in color.
What is their conservation status?
Most species of the Towhee are listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The Sorocco towhee (Pipilo Socorroensis) is the only endangered towhee with a declining population. This species is under threat from invasive and other problematic species, genes and diseases.
Towhee Fun Facts
What do towhees look like?
A male spotted towhee has a black upper body and throat. Males also have wings that have white spots that match their white belly. Females are identical except that they are grayish brown instead of black.
The eastern towhees is one of the larger species of Towhee with a length as long as 9 in and a wingspan of up to 20 in. They have rufous sides, a dark tail and a white belly. While the males have black upperparts, the females are brown like the female Spotted Towhee.
All Towhee species are types of new world sparrows that come in different colors.
How cute are they?
Towhees are adorable birds that can be colorful and really cute. Their size and appearance make them very beautiful to look at. They are generally a little shy, so you may need to be at the right place at the right time to witness them in real life.
How do they communicate?
Towhees use whistles or nasal sounds to communicate. These sounds are distinct and can vary according to different geographical areas. Their name itself, 'Towhee', is an example of onomatopoeia which means that their name resembles the towhee sounds that these birds make (tow-hee). The eastern towhee bird call is also referred to as the "chewchink".
The spotted towhee call sounds like a cat's meow. There are calls that are softer lisps that are used between mating pairs.
How big is a towhee?
Eastern towhees are between 6-9 in long, with their wingspan measuring between 9-11.8 in. Albert's towhees are between 8.3-9.8 in long. with their wingspan measuring between 10.4-11.6 in. Other than the mentioned species, there is also the green tailed towhee which is a small towhee at just 7.5 in long. A spotted towhee is roughly the same size as a Robin.
How fast can a towhee fly?
Towhee can fly at a relatively fast speed. However, there is no exact estimation of a towhee's speed.
How much does a towhee weigh?
Eastern towhee, which is a larger species of towhee can weigh between 0.1-1.1 lb (32-50 g). The average weight for towhee is about 0.9 lb (40 g).
What are their male and female names of the species?
There are no unique names for the males and females of the towhee bird. Since they are birds, you can call the females hen and the male cock.
What would you call a baby towhee?
A baby towhee has no unique name. However, as they are birds, they can be referred to as nestlings.
What do they eat?
Towhees are omnivorous as they eat both plants and animals. A towhee may eat seeds and fruits. As for animals, towhee can eat small snakes, lizards and insects like worms and snails.
Are they friendly?
Towhees can be friendly if you offer them food in your backyard perhaps. California towhee is especially known to come close to humans to forage. Other species are generally more shy and avoid humans.
Would they make a good pet?
Towhee do not make for great pets. These birds are not very social and can even be territorial in some ways. In fact, it is not legal to own towhees as pets as they are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which prohibits their capture or harm.
Did you know...
There are about eight species in this family (Albert's towhee, California towhee, Canyon towhee, White-throated towhee, green-tailed towhee, collared towhee, Eastern towhee and spotted towhee). There is one more species, the Bermuda towhee, that is now extinct.
You can attract a towhee by placing feeders close to the ground with their favorite food.
The wastern towhee and the spotted towhee were once collectively considered a species called 'Rufous-sided towhee'.
Towhees have to protect themselves from predators who may feed on them and their eggs. Racoons, chipmunks and snakes like bullsnakes and rat snakes are known to feed on their eggs. Among predatory birds, eastern towhee is threatened by birds like Cooper's hawk and Northern goshawk.
There is a record of the eastern towhee being spotted in Europe: in 1966 in Great Britain a single eastern bird was spotted. This is odd considering that these birds are strictly endemic to North-America.
The brown-headed cowbirds lay their eggs secretly in eastern towhee's nests and fool them into raising their chicks. Other species such as the Albert's towhees too are often a victim of cowbird nest parasitism.
The Albert's towhees are named after the famous American ornithologist James William Albert.
The eastern towhee song, sung by the male, is known to sound like drink-your-tea! It spans about 1 second. The first part (drink) is sharp and the last note (tea) is a trill.
How do towhees forage?
The various species of towhee, such as the eastern towhee, forage to source their food. These birds use a scratching technique to forage on the ground in which they kick back their feet together in order to dig into the soil. These birds can also sometimes be found using the gleaning technique, when foraging above the ground level.
When was the towhee discovered?
According to sources, it was in 1586 that John White (Painter and cartographer) became the first European to discover the eastern towhee.
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