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Boulder’s Ruofus Sided Towhee: Bird Beauty


Ruofus Sided Towhee                           pic Lenny Lensworth Frieling

I think it is a rule of Boulder birding that cool birds have cool names. For example, the Rufus Sided Towhee.   (“roofus” for pronounciation). The Rufous-sided Towhee, now often referred to as the Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), is a striking bird known for its bold plumage and melodious calls. Males are especially conspicuous with their black upper parts and white bellies, separated by rufous flanks, giving them their name. Females have a similar pattern but are generally browner. These birds inhabit brushy forests and edges across eastern North America, where they forage on the ground, flipping leaf litter with their strong feet to uncover insects, seeds, and fruits. The Eastern Towhee’s song, a rich “drink-your-tea,” is a familiar sound in their habitats, contributing to the bird’s charisma and the enjoyment of birdwatchers. Their presence underscores the importance of maintaining underbrush habitats for the diversity of bird species. Although best known in the edges of forests across eastern North America, they are quite at home in our Boulder backyard.

They can be ID’s from the way they bounce around. Generally ground-feeders, their long tails stick up and bounce along as they feed on seed from the ground. Their striking coloring is distinctive and spectacular, with their beauty belying their diminutive size. That’s my fancy way of saying these little guys are REALLY cute! We have had a family of them living in the backyard for a number of years. They recently re-appeared after being in hiding for a couple of months.

There is something very special about such a fantastic bird being so close at hand. Although they can be easily mistaken for a a number of different birds depending on the angle they are seen at, the way they move is distinctive. I have mistaken them for everything from a robin (except the ruofus are much smaller), for a junko, which have the right dark head but the rest is wrong, and for other small colorful birds. The ruofus are perhaps 6″ from tail to beak. They are quite hard to photograph since they seem to not know how to stand still. They are in constant bouncing motion. I used my favorite bird photo trick to get this shot. I kept pushing the shutter button often and over many days. Then comes the photo sorting process.

The diet of the ruofus sided towhee consists primarily of bugs and seeds. They are seen poking in the underbrush with their characteristic tail-bobbing as they poke around in search of the bite-sized bugs.

This picture is perhaps the best of well over 100 attempts to capture the quick little guy. It might have actually been over 200 attempts but who’s counting? it’s a good thing that “film” is now “free,” as is developing Returning from a vacation with 5 or more roles of 36 pictures each, and paying for a small print of each easily resulted in almost 200 prints. AND a bill of $100 or so for the processing. With my love of large prints, ending up with a pile of small snapshots is just the beginning of the picture process. Once sorted, I might find a couple of pictures that I like. If I find ONE that I really like, I consider it a good day of bird pics. These pictures include everything from “etching-style” to photographs. Asking them politely to smile and hold still is not particularly effective. Luck on the other hand is a wonderful photo tool! Having “rolls of film” which permit thousands of pictures to be captured and stored on a single “roll” is of immense value! If I take enough pictures of the bird, I find that at least one or two is likely to work. Or not. Capturing one of the elusive fliers requires some skill and a LOT of luck.This picture is one of perhaps 50 attempts. I was quite pleased to get this single decent picture as one of over 50 attempts. Even the single decent photo took a large number of attempts to get a single picture that I am proud of.

Painting en plein air is generally done quickly. The lighting changes quite fast, and the birds do NOT hold still and pose for us.

Lenny Lensworth Frieling

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Leonard Frieling Pen Of Justice Legal Blogger
  • Senior Counsel Emeritus to the Boulder Law firm Dolan + Zimmerman LLP : (720)-610-0951
  • Former Judge
  • Photographer of the Year, AboutBoulder 2023
  • First Chair and Originator of the Colorado Bar Association’s Cannabis Law Committee, a National first.
  • Previous Chair, Boulder Criminal Defense Bar (8 years)
  • Twice chair Executive Counsel, Colorado Bar Association Criminal Law Section
  • NORML Distinguished Counsel Circle
  • Life Member, NORML Legal Committee
  • Life Member, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar
  • Board Member Emeritus, Colorado NORML
  • Chair, Colorado NORML, 7 years including during the successful effort to legalize recreational pot in Colorado
  • Media work, including episodes of Fox’s Power of Attorney, well in excess of many hundreds media interviews, appearances, articles, and podcasts, including co-hosting Time For Hemp for two years.
  • Board member, Author, and Editor for Criminal Law Articles for the Colorado Lawyer, primary publication of the Colorado Bar Assoc. 7 Years, in addition to having 2 Colorado Lawyer cover photos, and numerous articles for the Colorado Lawyer monthly publication.
  • LEAP Speaker, multi-published author, University lectures Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, Denver University Law School, Univ. of New Mexico, Las Vegas NM, and many other schools at all levels.
  • http://www.Lfrieling.com
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