Birdhouses 101 - Towhee



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Towhee

About The Towhee

TowheeThe Rufous-sided Towhee is 7 to 8 long. It has a small pointed black bill, reddish brown eyes, and long black-colored tail feathers with white corners that are visible in flight. The male Towhees are recognizable by their black upper parts and hoods, their rusty orange flanks and their white bellies. Female Towhees are of similar color but their upper parts are of a duller slate gray or brownish shade.

The Rufous-sided or Spotted Towhee can be seen in British Columbia east to Maine and south to California, Louisiana, Florida and Guatemala during the breeding season. During winter, the birds move south from British Columbia, Nebraska, and southern New England.

The Towhee Nesting Preferences

Rufous-sided Towhees prefer to build nests and dwell in thickets and at the edges of brushy woodlands, gardens and shrubby park areas. During the breeding season, the female single-handedly builds a cuplike nest using grass, twigs, weeds, barks, and stems usually at the bottom of a bough of a tree or shrub or near the ground in a well-covered area. While the female does all the building, the male brings her the materials for the nest. The Towhees nest can be difficult to locate because it is hidden from view. The female does not fly to it directly but lands on the ground near it and walks toward it behind the brush.

The female lays 2 to 6 greenish or cream-colored eggs with brown speckles which she alone incubates for 12 to 13 days while the male brings her food and protects the nest. Although the male Towhee hardly goes near the nest during incubation, once the eggs are hatched it helps to feed the young Towhees until they are ready to leave the nest 10 to 12 days after hatching.

Building a Birdhouse For The Towhee

TowheeBirdhouses are specific to the species for which they are built. In the case of the Towhee which nests on the ground, no specific birdhouse has been created. It seems that for this species of birds the use of nest boxes has been overlooked as a habitat supplement. Those who still want to invite these birds to their yards may use birdhouses designed for other species that are similar to Towhees. The important thing is to bear in mind that putting up quality breeding habitat is the best way to insure the future of wildlife. Providing food and other amenities are good but what is vital is the creation of a stable and secure place in which wildlife can live and reproduce.

The Towhee Mating Habits

Breeding for the Towhees occur mid-April to late-May. During the breeding months, the male Towhees arrive at the breeding site first and wait for the females to come. While waiting they begin singing to announce their presence and defend their territory that is normally around 1 to 2 acres. Once the females arrive and the male Towhee finds a partner, it stops singing and starts its familiar chewink call to communicate. Monogamous and highly territorial, the male Towhee bird protects the nest and his partner as well as his territory from predators and other nesting birds.

The Towhee Feeding Preferences

TowheeTowhees are primarily seed and berry eaters although, if they find them on the ground, insects are also devoured heartily. A ground feeding bird, the Rufous-sided Towhee noisily hop-and-scratch to uncover their preferred food from underground. These may include beetles, snails, small amphibians and various wild berries. You can entice towhees to your backyard by using a ground feeder filled with millet and sunflower seeds but hidden near underbrush. Bear in mind that one slight movement will send these birds scampering away.

Interesting Towhee Facts

Aside from the Rufous-sided Towhee which is also known as the Spotted Towhee, there are actually other species of the Towhee bird that can be found in North America and these are: Aberts Towhee, California Towhee, Canyon Towhee, Eastern Towhee, Green-tailed Towhee and Spotted Towhee.

The Rufous-sided Towhee is also known as Pipilo erythrophthalmus which means red-eyed chirper in reference to the birds red eyes and the common calling sound it makes that sounds like chewink. In fact, in some regions, this bird is called chewink.

Readers Comments


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Jackie   3/8/2008)
Thanks - You answered all my questions - very thorough!


Katie Curtis  4/23/2008)
We have had a Western Towhee that spends his days hitting the windows of the house and has recently moved to the mirrors of the cars. Hitting and hitting them. We assume he is defending his territory. He makes quite a mess every year.


Becky West  5/17/2008)
This is our first year of hosting such adorable birds. The babies hatched yesterday and they all seem fine. Thanks for providing such useful information.


Jake Jacobs  5/19/2008)
We have a Towhee here at our home in Western Washington who is also jumping into the windows for no apparent reason. Can anyone explain this odd behavior? I am trying to capture video of this odd behavior but no good footage yet.


Jane Rosen  7/17/2008)
Towee flew into my window yesterday, full force, and died within 90 seconds. The windows provide a very good reflection of the surrounding forest...too good. I find that humming birds and towhees both fly into them regularly, I think because they think they are flying into the trees they see reflected there. Ive put up a small cross made with masking tape on the outside of the windows. Will see if this decreases the number of bird impacts here.


Robert Pattison  )
Saw for first time since last spring!


Robert Pattison  )
Saw for first time since last spring in SE Utah!


MJargo k  )
re question by Jake Jacobs, May 2008. We have had a towhee male that for the last two spring seasons has "attacked" himself in our shiney hubcaps. So we cover those up at night so he doesn't see them in daylight, which he thinks starts at 4AM in Okanagan British Columbia. Then he proceeded to "attack" himself in the garden shed window, it must be a male mating thing, he doesn't realize that he's his own best threat. He would literally hop up and down at himself repeatedly, did not seem to harm him but at same time I did not want to encourage it either. it made a mess of our chrome hubcaps and our garden shed window. This behaviour was entirely different than accidental flying in to window. This was very deliberate, as if a mirror (hence the reason we covered everything up so he couldn't see himself)


Pam   )
We have just discovered this beautiful bird feeding on our deck this winter. We live in Southern Kentucky.


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