Only slightly smaller than a robin, this black, white, and rufus bird is nonetheless technically a large sparrow. The male has a black hood, black and white back and wings, white front, and dark orange sides. The female is a brown and paler orange version. The bill is conical.
The Eastern Towhee lurks in brushy undergrowth, turning over leaf litter in search of food. It hops rapidly back and forth on both feet to scare up bugs. It will also eat seeds, berries, and organisms like snails. A ground nester, the Eastern Towhee female builds a nest in a bed of fallen leaves. The bird’s characteristic song is sometimes interpreted as “Drink your Tea!”
What brings it to the SBG?
Food, cover, nesting sites. The Eastern Towhee thrives in brushy thickets like those lining the SBG habitat. Food comes from seeds and from insects attracted to the SBG's native plants, and nesting sites are available in the low shrubby growth in and around the gardens.
When can I see it?
Spring, summer, fall. Some populations reside year-round in southeastern US locales, but in central Pennsylvania they are migrants, leaving in fall for destinations that may be as far away as Texas.