Towhees are an extremely widespread bird species and can be found all over the continental United States and Canada. The Rufous-Sided Towhee is a common variety in Oregon and can be easily spotted by its tri-coloring of black on the head and upper body (dark brown on females), rust-colored wings and a white chest and belly. Both males and females have bright red eyes. This is a foraging species and will often be heard before it is seen as it will kick and dig vigorously in underbrush. Their preferred foods are seeds, insects and fruits. They will occasionally appear in back yards to snap up grain that has fallen from bird feeders meant for other species. The name “towhee” was given to the bird by an 18th century naturalist who felt that the word imitated the bird’s ascending call.
All over the North American continent, towhees can be found in wooded areas, usually hiding and foraging in dense understory or overgrown fields. They can regularly be found along the Aquarium’s nature trail where similar conditions exist. The birds breed from British Columbia east to Maine, and south as far as California and Florida.