North Carolina Mountain Birds: Eastern Towhee

Last month, we featured one of our sparrows as part of our 12 Months of Birding at the Inn series on the blog in 2014. This month, our sparrow love continues, with our July pick: the Eastern Towhee.

The Eastern Towhee is a year-round resident here in Pisgah National Forest east of Black Mountain, NC. They’re more often heard than seen, although you may catch a flash of reddish orange and black scurrying on the ground around the Pool Garden and the birdfeeders as that’s where the Eastern Towhees like to scoot out from under the burning bush hedge to graze. Eastern Towhees prefer to forage on the ground, often in leaves, and also through dense shrubs. They’re omnivores with a varied diet of seeds, insects, snails, fruit (blueberry thieves), grasses and also spring flower buds.

Eastern Towhee, time for your close-up! [photo: Wikipedia]

The Eastern Towhee is pretty easy to identify. It’s a medium-sized, chunky bird with reddish orange sides and a white belly. Males are jet black on their heads going down their chests, as well as on their  backs. Trade the black for brown with the same orange and white pattern on the sides and belly and you have the female Eastern Towhee.

Stocky bird standing in the snow

Female Eastern Towhee at the Inn on Mill Creek

To see if Eastern Towhees are common in your neck of the woods, visit

31 thoughts on “North Carolina Mountain Birds: Eastern Towhee

    • Glad you were able to ID your Eastern Towhee! They are really fun to watch. Ours love the sunflower seeds that fall from our feeders and we throw extra seed out for them as well.

  1. I have one here in far western North Carolina that comes and pecks at the same window every day. He has been doing it for the last five months. Really strange. he will show up at various times throughout the day.

    • Our guess is that he sees his reflection and is defending his territory… against himself! We have Cardinals that do the same thing.

    • Have a Towhee pecking windows every am. The owls I put out to get rid of a killer cardinal do not deter the Towhee. I am in Highlands for the summer—any suggestions welcomed!!!

      • Hi Jere – they are likely pecking at their reflection and the only way to deter it that we know of is to get rid of the reflection, either with window screen, tape, decals, or curtains… something you can cover the window reflection with if possible. It might be only for a short period of time where they are feeling territorial. Hope they don’t go on for too long!

  2. I have a male and female pair here in Black mountain, NC. This is the first year I have seen them. I have found them fascinating. As you said, they are very loud. I find that the male specifically loves to sweep his tail in the leaves and underbrush. I really enjoy watching them. We live in a very wooded area and have feeders in both the front and back yards. I’m so glad to know what they are called now.

  3. I have a pair and the female is nesting in a nearby azalea bush. Oddly though, a male cardinal is also bringing her worms. I am also able to witness the male Towhee ward off a curious or menacing chipmunk. Very entertaining. I look forward to watching through my living room window the fledglings.

  4. We have one that comes to our window everyday – have had a beautiful male and female cardinal at our window for a long time also. Another of God’s wonderful creation for us to enjoy. We live in Fletcher NC..

  5. Husband saw & took picture of bird eating from our feeder. Never seen before. Had our indoor cat’s attention also! We’re in Marshfield WI, (central WI) A little far from home!

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