Chasing the elusive Green tailed Towhee in NJ

In reality the Green Tailed Towhee we went out to see this morning was neither elusive, nor was there any real need to chase it. The bird has been seen in Collingswood, New Jersey for several weeks now at some VERY lucky homeowner’s feeders. Notwithstanding these two facts, the Green Tailed Towhee is in fact extremely rare in New Jersey. State records for this bird are few and far between and it’s easy to see why, just by looking at the bird’s distribution map. This post should really have been titled: Looking for the seriously lost and confused Green tailed towhee – I went for the catchier and more intriguing title, please forgive me.

Patrick and I headed out to Collingswood early this morning filled with the hope of seeing a very cool little bird. We got to the house at around 8 and stood around scanning for the Towhee. Patrick had seen it briefly before in another state and this would be a lifer for me. Initially we were just seeing Juncos, White throated Sparrows and House Sparrows, but then something zoomed in and Patrick got right onto it – BINGO Green Tailed Towhee.

You’ll be forgiven for thinking that this is just another sparrow-looking bird, especially when you take a quick glance in bad lighting conditions.

After about an hour or so the light got much better and I managed to shoot some decent shots although the (*&^%&*(^%% Towhee kept hopping around.

After taking lots more photos of the Green tailed towhee we jumped in the car and headed back home. We decided to make a pit stop at the Pole farm and then near my house for Eared Grebe at the Round Valley Reservoir. I had been a couple of weeks ago, but struck out on the Grebe. Luckily our rare state bird mojo paid off and we got some great looks at it. All were scope views, so no photos. Fantastic morning of birding!
PS: Interesting facts about Green tailed towhee from Whatbird.com:
The Green-tailed Towhee is the only entirely migratory towhee. It is also the smallest towhee.
Their scientific name roughly translates to “colorful chirper,” and their common name attests to the bright yellow-green of their tail. A group of towhees are collectively known as a "tangle" and a "teapot" of towhees.


N8 said...

Great bird. Great pics. What more can you ask for?

Owlman said...

Spot on N8, it was a great short morning trip. We had some great looks at Rough legged hawk (including a magnificent dark phase flyover) and a VERY co-operative Red shouldered hawk at the Pole farm BTW. Both Patrick and I missed the flight shot of the dark phase and we were kicking ourselves ;-)

Marty said...

Nice shots of the towhee. I got to see it early on, thinking it would NEVER stick around as long as it has. Who knew?

Owlman said...

Hi Marty,

When did it first show up? Patrick and I were chatting about it today trying to remember when exactly it was first seen. When you went were there hoardes of people in the yard?

Peggy said...

These are really nice photos...we have been trying to get some good ones of him in the snow. FYI he arrived on New Years Day. It is his one month anniversary in our yard.

Patrick Belardo said...

Q, you're shots are much better than mine. By some miracle, I got a shot of the Rough-legged Hawk.

Vickie said...

What a beautiful little bird. It was nice to see the looks that would not grab you and then to see how striking it is in the right light. Enjoyed.

mon@rch said...

Nice Bird!

Owlman said...

Peggy, thanks again for sharing your yard with all of us. Seeing this bird so close up was a real privilege. I can only imagine how excited you were when you found him and ID'ed him as a Green tailed towhee - wow! I'd also loved to have seen all the flocks of people who came out to see him. Actually I can't believe we were lucky enough to see him after a month of the first sighting - INCREDIBLE. Thanks again for an awesome life bird!

Patrick, that may be but your red shouldered hawk shots must rock! The Towhee was tough to shoot ‘cos he kept hopping around each time I had him in focus. I think I just shot more photos and therefore have a few decent ones ;-) Can't wait to see your RSH pics.

Vickie, thanks! At least I now have an excuse to post some of my bad pictures too, I'll just blame it on the light ;-)

Mon@rch, he's an awesome little bird with incredible coloring. I'm so glad his GPS was THIS off.

Diane C. said...

Nice pics of your rare green tailed towhee, I like its red crown. Amusing collective names tangle and teapot!

Larry Jordan said...

Awesome captures of the little hopper Owlman! I love the final shot where he's cocking his head and the portrait shot above that one.

Looks like a great birding day was had by all. Thanks for letting us in on the excitement.