I grew up in New Jersey with towhees that had glowing red eyes. In fact, the earlier bird books called the species "Red-eyed Towhee."
The light was just right to display the eye color of this Eastern Towhee in northeastern Illinois.
Towhees are large-bodied members of the sparrow family. They have the habit of scratching the leaves noisily, using both feet at once. This is an Eastern Towhee male (red-eyed) that I photographed in Kane County, Illinois, in May, 2009. Notice its eyes:
A female, its probably mate, was also seen in Illinois on the same day:
Somehow I overlooked the fact that all Eastern Towhees do not have the same eye color. This male of the same species, was photographed in November, 2011 in our local south Florida wetlands. I was surprised to find that it had white irises:
A female was occupying the same territory that same month:
I learned that Eastern Towhees that breed in south Florida usually have very light eyes. They are also non-migratory, so we see them all year around. Populations to our north, into southern Georgia, show increasingly more red pigment in their iris.
This male appeared early in our neighborhood in March this year. Its eyes are a somewhat intermediate straw-yellow color:
This female with yellow eyes appeared in mid-July, probably a locally breeding bird.
In south Florida, during the winter, it is common to see a variety of eye colors (Male, February 29):
This female, seen in south Florida on January 23, has red eyes.
This juvenile Eastern Towhee, photographed in Florida this July 31, was in the company of two adults and also a juvenile Northern Cardinal that seemed to be following the towhee's parents. At first glance, its identity could be puzzling, but it is bigger and more heavily streaked than any other sparrow-billed bird.
For comparison, this is the closely related Spotted Towhee of the western USA. All of this species have red eyes. I saw this one in Santa Rosa, California on June 24, 2010:
Another Spotted Towhee, seen in Palo Duro Canyon, Taxas: