The Bird Word: A Bird by Any Other Name Is Still a Towhee

By Kimberly Mason

I took a break from wild bird feeding for a few years because as a single mother I had to make sure I had my own little chickadees fed. Now that the last teenaged bird has flown from the nest,

I’m glad to have the time, money and the quiet that is required to enjoy the peaceful pastime of bird watching.

Keeping up with the voracious appetites of my local flock isn’t as expensive as feeding a teenager, but there are times when it seems my grocery list for the birds is longer and filled with more variety than my own.

While I was away from birding, one of my favorite sparrows, the Rufous-sided Towhee had a name change. The Rufous-sided Towhee is now known as the Spotted Towhee. Apparently, those in the know in the bird world decided that the Eastern Towhee and Spotted Towhee were two separate species and their names should reflect that fact.

But for me, I miss the beauty of the name as it rolls off my tongue.

The Spotted Towhee is a large sparrow and very hard to miss as he scratches his way around in the underbrush searching for food, using an interesting two-footed hop and scratch move, doing the “Towhee Dance.”

Towhees like tangled thickets and overgrown gardens and they seem to make as much noise as any squirrel moving through the brush.

Foiling the Foraging Squirrels and Raccoons

A bird feeding friend in Toledo bought a new bird feeder with perches that collapse under the weight of the heavier birds and squirrels to keep them from eating all of the sunflower seeds before his little Mountain Chickadees can feed.

He said he thought he had foiled the greedy squirrels until he saw that they had fooled him. Hanging by their toes, the squirrels had no problem reaching in for their fill.

Not to be outsmarted by a squirrel, he drilled a hole in the bottom of a stainless steel bowl and dropped it over the top of the tube feeder. He said it’s provided a bit of entertainment, watching the squirrels slip and slide around on the bowl, trying to figure out a way to get around it.

I’m tempted to sneak over to his house and hang a climbing rope from the tree alongside his new feeder — though I wouldn’t be surprised if the clever squirrels haven’t thought of that very idea themselves, they just haven’t found the right rope.

I’ve heard some of you complain that the raccoons have been raiding your nuts feeders at night. I’ve had the same problem in the past, but now I only put out enough nuts for my jays to eat up during the day. It seems to have eliminated the problem.

Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer who enjoys watching and photographing the wildlife in action in her own backyard in Cinebar. Contact her via e-mail at