It was late afternoon on Sunday, January 13th 2013. I’m working in my shop when my wife, Amanda, comes rushing in yelling, “Come quick! There is a rare bird at the feeder and I don’t know what it is!” I ran inside the house and looked out the kitchen window but did not notice anything unusual. She directed my attention to the display on our camera where she had some great close up pictures of the bird. Instantly I recognized the bird as a type of towhee. After checking the bird book, I was able to conclude that this bird was indeed an adult male Spotted Towhee. I’m very proud of my up and coming birder wife! She had learned from previous sightings that pictures are worth their weight in gold when it comes to convincing her husband about a bird that was seen (she still swears she saw a Snowy Owl a few years back behind our house but I’m not sure I can believe her!). With the towhee, she made sure to get a picture of the bird and THEN come and get me.
This is the first time we have seen a Spotted Towhee in Minnesota. He has been coming to our feeding station at our home for over a month. During this time, we have had the joy of learning a lot about what the towhee seems to like:
– Brush Piles: Last fall I was clearing out some buckthorn in our woods and placed it in a large pile. My intent was to burn the brush pile but I ran out of time. Now I’m glad I didn’t! This brush pile proved to be one of the towhee’s favorite hang out spots and he was likely to be found there any time there was danger or between feedings.
– Food: His food of choice is white millet and black-oil sunflower seed scattered on the ground. Some days he seems to feed heavily on the millet and other days more sunflower seed with no real preference observed.
– Habitat: When not spending time in the brush pile, the towhee loves to hang out in the newly planted conifers around the yard. Last fall, my company, Aqua Eden, installed a backyard water feature surrounded by conifers, mulberries, and crab apples. I started to scatter seeds under the conifers and he seems to enjoy scratching deep in the leaves and the fallen pine needles for food.
Just as interesting as the towhee was to meet and visit with the different birders that have come to see the towhee. From teenagers to people in their 80’s, it’s been a joy to talk and share birding stories. I wished I would have started a log book of all the bird watching visitors we’ve had…there were at least 60 different people with the farthest being from Ohio!
Spring is nearing and I’m afraid our days are numbered with our beloved towhee. Before long, he’ll be headed home…probably back out west. Even though the bird will leave, the memories and new friends will never be forgotten.
Jake Langeslag “The Pondologist™”