Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)

Eastern Towhee

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Emberizidae | [latin] Pipilo erythrophthalmus | [UK] Eastern Towhee | [FR] Tohi a flancs roux | [DE] Rotel-Grundammer | [ES] Rascador nororiental | [NL] Roodflanktowie


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Pipilo erythrophthalmus NA s Canada, c, e USA to n Mexico
Pipilo erythrophthalmus alleni
Pipilo erythrophthalmus canaster
Pipilo erythrophthalmus erythrophthalmus
Pipilo erythrophthalmus rileyi

Physical charateristics

Smaller and more slender than a Robin, this towhee rummages noisily among the dead leaves. It is readily recognized by its rufous sides.b Male: Head and chest black; sides robin red, belly white. It flashes
i large white patches in the tail corners. In the western race, back heavily spotted with white. Eyes usually fiery red (but white in birds of southern Atlantic Coast and Florida).
Female: Similar, but dusky brown where male is black. Juvenile, summer: Streaked below, like a large sparrow, but with the flash pattern in the tail.

wingspan min.: 20 cm wingspan max.: 20 cm
size min.: 17 cm size max.: 21 cm
incubation min.: 12 days incubation max.: 13 days
fledging min.: 10 days fledging max.: 12 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 6  


North America : South Canada, Central, East USA


Open woods, undergrowth, brushy edges, chaparral.
Habitat varies with region, but always in brushy areas. In the East, typically in understory of open woods. In the West, often in chaparral, mountain manzanita thickets, scrub oak, pinyon-juniper woods with dense understory.


Male defends nesting territory by singing, often from a high perch. In courtship, male may give a soft “whispered” version of song, may chase female, or may rapidly spread tail to show off white spots.
Site is on the ground under a shrub, or in low bushes, usually less than 5′ above the ground. Nest (built by female) is an open cup of grass, twigs, weeds, rootlets, strips of bark, lined with finer materials, sometimes including animal hair.
Eggs: 3-4, sometimes 5, rarely 2-6. Creamy white to very pale gray, with spots of brown often concentrated at larger end. Incubation is mostly or entirely by female, about 12-13 days.
Young: Both parents bring food for the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 10-12 days after hatching, may remain with parents for some time thereafter. Often 2 broods per year, sometimes 3 in southern part of range.

Feeding habits

Mostly insects, seeds, berries. Diet varies with season and region. Eats many insects, especially in
summer, including beetles, caterpillars, moths, true bugs, ants, and many others, also spiders, snails, and millipedes. Rarely may eat small salamanders, lizards, or snakes. Also eats many seeds, plus acorns, berries, and small fruits.
Behavior: Forages mostly on the ground, frequently scratching in the leaf litter by jumping forward and then scratching back with both feet at once. Also sometimes forages up in shrubs and low trees.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Eastern Towhee status Least Concern


Southern Canada to Guatemala, Florida. Migrant in North. Migration:
Many southern birds are permanent residents; most in North are migratory. “Spotted” Towhees from Northwest spread eastward in winter onto Great Plains and rarely stray east to Atlantic Coast.

Distribution map

Eastern Towhee distribution range map

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