Friday, August 26, 2005

Eastern Towhees

Bay Weekly, a local online paper for the Chesapeake Bay area, has a short column this week on the eastern towhee, one of the area's characteristic birds:

As with many songbirds, the vocalizations of towhees break down into two categories: songs and calls. Songs are used by males to establish territory and to attract a mate. (Though the females of some other species, such as cardinals, are also known to sing.) Calls are used by both sexes for a variety of purposes such as alarm and communication between adults and young.

The name towhee comes from the sounds of the birds’ two-syllable call, with the accent on the second syllable. But what may sound like towhee to you, might sound like chewink to a New Englander, and in some regions chewink is the bird’s colloquial name.
For more of this column by Gary Pendleton, see Onomatopoeia in the Blackberry Bush.