Buntings and New World Sparrows (Emberizidae)

Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) - HBW 16, p. 596

French: Tohi à flancs roux German: Rötelgrundammer Spanish: Toquí Flanquirrufo
Other common names: Rufous-sided Towhee (when treated as conspecific with P. maculatus); White-eyed Towhee (Florida)

Taxonomy: Fringilla erythrophthalma Linnaeus, 1758, South Carolina, USA.
Relationships of genus not clear, although generally placed close to several other, similarly proportioned tropical American genera (e.g. some Aimophila, Atlapetes, Pyrgisoma and Melozone). Present species sometimes considered conspecific with P. maculatus erythrophthalmus, with which it hybridizes in Great Plains of USA. Races intergrade, making delimitation difficult. Geographical variation in biometrics, plumage colour and iris colour largely clinal: average wing length decreases slightly from NW to SE, and lengths of middle toe, tarsus and bill increase f.. View all taxonomy...

Taxonomy: Fringilla erythrophthalma Linnaeus, 1758, South Carolina, USA.
Relationships of genus not clear, although generally placed close to several other, similarly proportioned tropical American genera (e.g. some Aimophila, Atlapetes, Pyrgisoma and Melozone). Present species sometimes considered conspecific with P. maculatus erythrophthalmus, with which it hybridizes in Great Plains of USA. Races intergrade, making delimitation difficult. Geographical variation in biometrics, plumage colour and iris colour largely clinal: average wing length decreases slightly from NW to SE, and lengths of middle toe, tarsus and bill increase from N to SE; individuals N of a line joining C Alabama, N Georgia, NW South Carolina and SE North Carolina are red-eyed, whereas those S of it have white or pale straw-coloured eyes (a narrow cline in eye colour from S Alabama NE to SE North Carolina, with populations in Georgia and S South Carolina variable). Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution:

  • erythrophthalmus (Linnaeus, 1758) - breeds in S Canada (S Manitoba, S Ontario and extreme S Quebec) and E USA(N Minnesota E to N Vermont, C New Hampshire and SW Maine, S to NE Oklahoma, N Arkansas, S Tennessee, NE Georgia, NW South Carolina, C North Carolina and Virginia); non-breeding mainly from Nebraska, Wisconsin, S Michigan, extreme S Ontario, Pennsylvania, S New York and Massachusetts S to Oklahoma, CS & SE Texas, Gulf Coast and SC Florida.
  • canaster A. H. Howell, 1913 - NE Louisiana, NW Mississippi, SW Tennessee, N Alabama, N Georgia, C South Carolina and W North Carolina S to Gulf Coast (CS Louisiana E to NW Florida), EC Alabama, SE Georgia and coastal South Carolina.
  • rileyi Koelz, 1939 - SE Virginia, coastal North Carolina and coastal South Carolina S to SE Alabama, SE Georgia and N Florida; non-breeding also W & C Florida.
  • alleni Coues, 1871 - Florida.