Tuesday’s much cooler temperatures and high winds were not ideal conditions for spring birding. This didn’t stop a new spring migrant and first time yard species from showing up at my feeder. Looking out the back window over my backyard I noticed a female Eastern Towhee on the ground foraging amongst the leaves under a row of Cedar trees. The bird then hopped along the grass and ended up underneath one of my feeders where it found some millet on the ground that had been scattered by Mourning Doves. I have never had one of these birds in the yard before and in fact had not seen one since I was a boy, so it was a pleasant surprise. I watched the bird feed for several minutes and when frightened it would retreat to the cover of the thick cedars and dense shrubs across the back of my yard. I looked out periodically throughout the afternoon and could see it either feeding beneath the feeder or foraging under the cedars.
The Eastern Towhee is typically found along forest edges, woodlands, and thickets where there is plenty of dense cover and leaf matter on the ground for them to forage in. Their diet consists of insects, seeds and fruit; which they scratch up from within the leaves using their feet. The back of my yard where this bird was first spotted matches this habitat perfectly. Towhees build a nest on the ground amongst the fallen leaves, with the female doing all of the construction.
It is likely that this bird will move on in search of a less busy area to build a nest, but was a nice surprise and one to cross off my yard list. If you tend to only feed the birds throughout the winter months, I recommend keeping your feeders full at least through spring migration. This Eastern Towhee is a perfect example of a bird that you may not otherwise see, but could visit your backyard feeder looking to replenish energy after a long flight.