Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Plume Zoom 5, answer revealed

I almost hated to wait until Wednesday to post the results of this week's Plume Zoom, since the answer is obviously not suspenseful to ANY of you who ventured your guess this week. Congratulations to all of you, nicely done.
The mystery bird is, of course, the Eastern Towhee. According to the Cornell Lab's All About Birds site, the Eastern Towhee became its own species in 1995. Until then it was "lumped in" with its western cousin, the Spotted Towhee. I think before the division they were simply called Rufous-sided Towhees.

Ground feeder and hopper extraordinaire, one of the identifying behaviors of the Towhee is the way it hops backward and scratches the ground to uncover its food. Other ground feeders do this, too, but the Towhee being larger than Juncos or most other sparrows, they make a little more of a show of it. They can be rather easily identified by ear as they sometimes say their name - "tow-HEE!" I find in the spring and summer months I hear them happily "tow-HEE"ing away, and making lots of racket working their way through the leaves, only to have a difficult time actually locating them. They also make a sort of "cheWINK" sound, and let us not forget their trademark song of "Drink your TEEEEEEEE!"

Three Towhees all lined up. So far this winter I think I've counted as many as 8 Towhees at one time.

The females are differentiated from the males in appearance by having brown feathers where the males have black feathers. I happen to like the female's coloration - I think it's quite pretty. Like this little girl here.
Looks like I'm going to have to step it up a notch for the next round and give you all a bit more of a challenge!


psychelyn said...

lovely pictures. i love nature too :)

RuthieJ said...

Do you see the towhees year round in Ohio? They have become very scarce in Minnesota and I haven't seen or heard one in years. A mighty handsome bird!

Shellmo said...

What a fun bird to watch! Looking forward to the next challenge!

Kallen305 said...

I have never seen one of those with my own two eyes. They look so colorful against the white snow.

Heather said...

Yes, the Towhees are a fun bird, and very easy to spot against the snow.

Ruthie - Yes, I do see the Towhees year-round here in Ohio. That's too bad that their numbers have dwindled in MN. I hope they come back around for you soon!