Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Morning coffee with an eastern towhee hopping through the yard, although I have him fooled. He keeps remarking "drink-your-teeeeeaaa." And we all know that we have not been big tea drinkers in this country since the Boston Tea Party. (The Continental Congress actually passed a resolution against the consumption of tea. "Tea must be universally renounced," wrote John Adams to his wife in 1774.)

So, as a nation, we've been coffee drinkers ever since. We might want to modify the towhee mnemonic to be "drink-caw-FEEEEEEE."

When I grew up, this bird was known as the rufous-sided towhee, but that changed in 1995 when it was split into two species. In my half of the country it became the eastern towhee; in the west, it's now known as the spotted towhee. The two ranges meet in the middle: Kansas, Nebraska, etc. where they can hybridize. Then are the hybrids "rufous-sided towhees"?

Be that as it may. In 1731, famed naturalist Mark Catesby encountered the bird on his historic trip through the Carolinas back before there were any Holiday Inns or Stuckey's. In fact, fast food was something you had to shoot, skin and fricassee. It took awhile. Catesby gave the bird the familiar name "towhee" honoring the its call note: a rather loud whistled, "TOW-heeeee."

No comments: