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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Chewink \Che"wink\, n. (Zo["o]l.) An american bird ( Pipilo erythrophthalmus) of the Finch family, so called from its note; -- called also rufous-sided towhee, towhee, towhee bunting and ground robin. [Also spelled cheewink.]

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

marsh-robin, 1730, so called for the note of its cry.


n. Any of several species of birds of the genera ''Pipilo'' and ''Melozone''.


n. any of numerous long-tailed American finches


A towhee is any one of a number of species of birds in the genusPipilo or Melozone within the family Emberizidae (which also includes the buntings, American sparrows, and juncos).

Towhees typically have longer tails than other emberizids. Most species tend to avoid humans, so they are not well known, though the eastern towheeP. erythrophthalmus is bolder. This species, and some others, may be seen in urban parks and gardens.

There has been considerable debate over the taxonomy of the towhees in recent years. Two species complexes have been identified, the rufous-sided complex (involving Pipilo erythrophthalmus, P. maculatus, P. socorroensis, P. ocai and P. chlorurus), and the brown towhee complex (involving Melozone crissalis, M. fuscus, M. aberti and M. albicollis). The distinction of species within these is uncertain and opinions have differed over the years. Modern authorities distinguish all four species in the brown towhee complex, though M. fuscus and M. crissalis were formerly treated as a single species. Hybrids are frequent between some of the species, particularly between the Mexican races of P. maculatus ("olive-backed towhee", P. m. macronyx) and P. ocai.

Species list:

  • Abert's towhee (Pipilo aberti or Melozone aberti),
  • Bermuda towhee (Pipilo naufragus) — extinct,
  • California towhee (Pipilo crissalis or Melozone crissalis),
  • Canyon towhee (Pipilo fusca or Melozone fusca),
  • Green-tailed towhee (Pipilo chlorurus),
  • Collared towhee (Pipilo ocai),
  • Eastern towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus),
  • Spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus),
  • White-throated towhee (Pipilo albicollis or Melozone leucotis)

Usage examples of "towhee".

Half a dozen towhees flashed their russet sides as they flew into the bushes.