Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Towhee in the Snow

Along the Riverway Trail in Radford a few mornings ago, I observed a towhee kicking a thin slush off some berries on the ground. I watched it eat a few of them, each one wrinkly and reddish and pecked up from some ratty leaves mixed in the snow. The berries had fallen from a Morrow's Bush-Honeysuckle.

The towhee would look at the ground and keep on kicking in the leaves. I saw it peck at a snail shell. The shell crunched into several pieces, and the towhee ate these like a starved, caged sparrow.

A couple of minutes later, a grayish cat slouched in from nowhere. The towhee fluttered to the top of a nearby hawthorn, chewinking, and making other slurred chip notes. After a moment or so, the towhee flew away past a short and wobbly stretch of rusty fence wire. I could hear it chewinking near the riverbank. The cat then began to ease away in the opposite direction towards some weeds and a ditch.

I then walked down the trail a while to my car and went home. I hope in a few days to write more about towhees.


  • 1. Photo of this male Eastern Towhee is by Stan Bentley. He gave me permission to use it in this blog entry. The red berries in the picture are the fruits of Flowering Dogwood, one of the highest energy berries available for birds in the fall.
  • 2. I wrote this entry in my journal several days ago when there was actually a little snow on the ground (a rather rare event the past couple of winters here in Radford). I had to get outside and play in the snow of course, traipsing to see what I could see. The towhee was silent and busy, and hungry, and easy to observe, until the cat showed up...then the towhee was quite vociferous for a few moments, and then invisible, but still complaining about the cat.
  • 3. As I mentioned in a blog entry last year, I grew up calling the towhee by the name of "joreen". Stan tells me that he grew up using the very similar name, "jorink" or "jarink". I have heard a couple of other people in the NRV use this name for towhees.
  • 4. I enjoy listening to towhees singing, and counter-singing during their declarations of territory in the spring. I have also learned that towhees will occasionally include the notes of other bird songs in their vocalizations, particularly the first note or two of a song. I have heard them imitating and including a song note or two from cardinals, the chip notes of both downy and hairy woodpeckers, and alarm chuck notes from robins, to mention a few.


Anonymous said...

Clyde, I, too have noticed towhees utilizing other bird twitters in their spring songs. It can make for a confusing awakening. Scott J-R

eileeninmd said...

Beautiful shot of the Towhee!

Carol said...

What a beautiful bird...I don't think we have them in our part of FL.