While there is a report of an eastern towhee that has successfully wintered close to North Gower, Ontario, there have yet to be any reported sightings of this large sparrow on eBird so far this month.  As the temperatures continue to increase, we hope to see more of this ground-feeding bird as they move into the southern regions of Ontario and in our neck of the woods in eastern Ontario.

This bird was once confused with its western ‘twin’ the Rufous-sided Towhee and while they have been observed interbreeding in the central plains; they are now two separate species.

 

Where to Find the Eastern Towhee

Dense shrub cover and forest edges are where you are likely to find these sparrows while they winter in the southeastern United States.  As spring moves in they begin to head north into north-eastern US states, southern Ontario, Quebec and a portion of southern Manitoba.  These ground-feeders can often be found on the forest floor in heavy leaf litter, scratching for insects and budding plants in the spring.

Identification

These birds sport a stout frame, often appearing somewhat chunky and astute.  They feature a strong, triangular bill that is used for cracking seed and long, rounded tail.  The male’s plumage is particularly striking, bearing stark black feathers on their backs with vibrant reddish-brown sides and white on their bellies.  The females look similar in comparison, but instead of black colouring, sport a rich brown plumage.

Vocals

The male sounds denote a “drink your tea” rhythm that lasts only a second, but can sometimes begin with two notes of the “drink” beginning.   As far as calling goes, the two-parted “tow-hee” call plays a big part in the origin of this bird’s name.  Both sexes can also perform a “chewink” and “joree” sounding call in which the exact tones will actually vary based on geographical location.