The Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) is a large sparrow that forages in the leaf litter in disturbed forests and dry forest edges. Towhee populations are declining as forests mature and brushy edges revert to forest. It is listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in one or more states in BCR 14.

Habitat Needs

The seedling and sapling stages, preferably from 2 to 10 feet in height, of oak, oak-pine or pine communities is the preferred habitat. It will use larger diameter stands if the basal area of the larger trees is at or below 30 square feet per acre. It will also use shrubby old fields with drier soils and ericaceous plants such as laurel on drier sites, and pitch pine-scrub oak stands.

Its territory size varies but is usually 5 acres or less.

Habitat Management Practices

Maintain a sparse overstory with a dense understory of seedlings and saplings less than 10 feet tall in oak, oak-pine, pine and pitch pine-scrub oak stands. Make this condition available across space and time so that at least 25 acres (five territories) is always in the appropriate habitat condition for every 100 acres in the above types.

When assessing properties for habitat potential, look for soils that are excessively to moderately well-drained, sandy to sandy-gravelly such as Adams, Boscawen, Caesar, Champlain, Colton, Croghan, Deerfield, Duane, Hinckley, Hoosic, Machias, Masardis, Merrimac, Quonset, Sheepscot, Stetson, Suncook, Sunday, Warwick, Windsor. There are others depending on location in in BCR 14.

Silvicultural Practices

  • In even-aged stands with diameters at 10 to 12 inches, consider a heavy thinning to create a dense seedling and sapling understory.
  • In stands with larger diameters, consider either a shelterwood system or group selection with the groups limited to no more than 2 acres.
  • Stands on these soils can be operated at any time of year. However, usually soil scarification helps with oak and pine regeneration. The optimum time to work in these stands is after nesting season since towhees nest on or near the ground. Avoid entry during nesting season—April to June.

Additional Information