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What is an Ovenbird?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2016
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An ovenbird, formally known as Seiurus aurocapilla, is a type of forest dwelling bird which is found widely distributed along the Eastern part of North America, into the West, and in Central America. Ovenbirds live on the forest floor and build characteristic nests which resemble dutch ovens, hence the English common name. In some parts of the United States, the ovenbird is also called a teacher bird, because its calls resembles the sound “teacher, teacher, teacher.” The small brown birds are often confused with sparrows, although they are actually in the warbler family.

The ovenbird is very small, usually not more than five inches (13 centimeters) in length. Ovenbirds have a creamy black streaked underbelly and an olive green back, with distinctive orange stripe on the top of the head. Males and females resemble each other physically, and both sexes sing while they are courting. The song of the ovenbird usually involves taking turns, with one partner singing a few bars and the second partner picking up the tune and elaborating on it. Ovenbirds also engage in a brief hopping dance while they are courting.

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Ovenbirds nest on the ground, building mounded grass nests which are sunk into the earth. A small door on the nest allows one bird to slip in, and the female lays eggs in the nest in the late Spring. four to six white spotted eggs are laid, and will hatch in approximately two weeks. Male and female raise the chicks, bringing food back to the nest and showing them how to fly. In 10-12 days, the young will be active and flying.

In the winter, ovenbirds move to the southern end of their range. Like other migratory bird species, the ovenbird does not have a long life expectancy. The oldest recorded ovenbird reached seven years of age. The birds are perfectly capable of flying, but seem to prefer a ground bound life, perhaps as a protection from predator species such as hawks and eagles. Ovenbirds themselves eat worms, insects, small seeds, and fruits.

The charming song of the ovenbird is an endearing thing to hear in North America in the spring, as well as in Central America and the American South in the Winter. In Spanish, the birds are known as pizpita dorada, and in French as paruline couronnee. The shy ovenbird is rarely seen except by patient woodsmen, although their song ripples through some regional forests in the late Spring.

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