EASTERN TOWHEE; photo credit; Terry W Johnson
I am always trying to learn more about the wildlife and plants that live in my yard. From time to time, in my quest for knowledge, I stumble across a link between one of my backyard neighbor’s link with historical figures, places or events. Whenever I uncover such a link, it is like finding a precious gem. One such recent discovery relates to the eastern towhee.
In 1586, William White became the first European to see and illustrate the eastern towhee. History tells us the reason why White was in North America was he came to serve as governor of Sir Walter Raleigh’s ill-fated colony located on Roanoke Island. By the time a ship carrying supplies to the colony in 1590, the 112-121 residents of the settlement had mysteriously vanished.
Much later, in 1731, the artist and naturalist Mark Catesby named the bird towhee after hearing towhees give their familiar towhee call.
Knowing this, whenever I now hear or see an eastern towhee, I will think about the bird’s odd brush with history.