towhee [key], common name for a North American bird of the family Fringillidae (finch family). Towhees are also called chewinks, for their call, and ground robins, because like robins they are ground feeders—often detected by the rustling noise they make searching through dry underbrush for insects. In the male red-eyed towhee, found E of the Great Plains and in parts of Canada, the upper parts are glossy black and the underparts white with patches of chestnut-brown on the sides. The white-eyed towhee is found in the South, and the inconspicuous brown and Abert's towhees in the West. The green-tailed towhee is a western mountain bird. The various species of towhees all belong to the genus Pipilo. Towhees are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Fringillidae.
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