01.03.21: Towhee on the ground

A male Eastern Towhee looks for food on the ground in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

A male Eastern Towhee looks for food on the ground in Sharon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

Watching a bird that’s often heard, not seen

The Eastern Towhee is an example of a bird that is heard but often not seen.

I have a small collection of photos of Eastern Towhees in my files, even though I hear the Towhee’s song often when I go into the woods. The song sounds like the bird is saying“tow-hee” or“drink your tea,” with the emphasis on the last syllable.

So knowing the bird is nearby isn’t the issue. Seeing it is a different matter.

Towhees spend most of their time on the ground, looking for food in the underbrush or concealed in thick growth of bushes. They pop into the open occasionally to sing, but the view of this open space is often obscured by tree limbs or leaves.

That makes capturing clear photos of towhees difficult.

But I got lucky this time.

I was photographing a variety of birds visiting a feeder on a cold winter morning, standing motionless on a nearby trail, when this male towhee hopped out of the underbrush nearby to look for food on the ground around the feeder. I quickly moved the camera and got the shot before the bird jumped back into the underbrush.

Towhees are members of the sparrow family, although they are larger than the typical sparrow. The males are black on top with brownish-orange sides and white underneath. Female Towhees have a rich chocolate brown on top instead of the black feathers found on the males.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Dec 19, 2015 9:24 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • Lens: EF600mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x 
  • Focal length: 840mm
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/1000 second
  • ISO: 5000

Towhees spend most of their time on the ground, looking for food in the underbrush or concealed in thick growth of bushes.