The Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythropthalmus) is a type of sparrow, which has declined in number by about 50% since the mid-1960s. Since both their summer and winter habitat use is affected by changes in the prevailing vegetation, it is possible that the declining populations are a result of factors in both breeding and nonbreeding seasons. The objective of the study was to describe the behavior, habitat use, and foraging habits of the Eastern Towhee during the winter at a site in central Kentucky. Nine Towhees were captured, radio-tagged, and tracked using homing and triangulation for a total of 528 locations from late November 2015 to early March 2016. Three towhees tracked in 2014-2015 were included in some analyses. The average (± SE) home range size (80% kernel isopleth) was 7.31 ± 0.22 hectares, and the average (± SE) core area (30% kernel isopleth) was 1.52 ± 0.94 hectares. The average overlap of home ranges between neighbors was 36.0% and 23.7% between neighbor core areas. The habitats of the study area were classified into four types: mowed, blackberry scrub, woody shrub, and wooded habitat. Woody shrub habitats were utilized most, with an average of 32.4% of home range area, and 37.8% of core area. Blackberry scrub habitats were also heavily utilized (29.5% of home range, and 28.1% of core areas). Towhees tended to gather in larger flocks when temperatures dropped below freezing. More work is needed to understand how habitat and weather conditions are related to overwinter survival.
Semester/Year of Award
David R. Brown
Open Access Thesis
IACUC Approval Number (if applicable)
Martin, Megan, "Winter Ecology and Behavior of Eastern Towhees at Taylor Fork Ecological Area" (2016). Honors Theses. 376.