Photo Credit: Carrie Threadgill
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Pipilo erythrophthalmus
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Breeding for Eastern Towhee occurs from mid-April to late-May in the northern portion of the range and extends to mid-August in the southern states. The male Towhee will establish a territory of 1-2 acres (0.4-0.8ha.). He will begin singing his mating song that resembles “Drink Your Tea.” His singing will eventually attract a female and they will become a monogamous pair for the season. After pairing the male stops singing “Drink Your Tea” and begins communicating with calls resembling “Chewink, Jo-ree,” or “towhee.” The male brings nest-building materials to the female Towhee and she assembles the nest by herself in the thick brushy habitat either on the ground at the base of a tree or near the ground in a tangle of vines or limbs. The nest is the typical cup structure observed during winter when foliage is absent if it is built above ground. When on the ground the nest is a depression scratched into the soil. The hen will lay two to six eggs. They are pale pinkish with brown specks. The hen alone incubates the eggs. The nest is in such thick cover the hen must walk to it. The male contributes by bringing his mate food and defending the territory. The eggs require incubation for 12-13 days. Once the eggs hatch the hen feeds the newly hatched a diet of insects while they are still on the nest. The young birds fledge and are ready to leave the nest 10-12 days after hatching. After the young depart the nest both parents feed the young while training them to forage for food on their own. The family unit remains together until fall. The Eastern Towhee normally raises two broods per year and sometimes three in the south.
Habitat for the Eastern Towhee and all wildlife is declining not only due to the general loss of natural areas due to urbanization, but because even rural landscapes tend to be more neatly manicured in modern society. People want things to look “nice” so they “clean up” ultimately degrading wildlife habitat without realizing it.
AUTHOR: Steve Bryant, Certified Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries