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These birds have grey upperparts and white underparts with a white face, a grey crest, a dark forehead and a short stout bill; they have rust-coloured flanks. The song is usually described as a whistled peter-peter-peter
The habitat is deciduous and mixed woods as well as gardens, parks and shrubland in the eastern United States; they barely range into southeastern Canada in the Great Lakes region. They are all-year residents in the area effectively circumscribed by the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.