Ovenbird: Migration Monday

Hello friends! It’s almost summer, so we will be wrapping up Migration Monday next week and starting a new summer feature. Today we will feature the Ovenbird.

Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla)


Ovenbirds are larger members of the Wood Warbler family. They are chunky songbirds who usually points their tails straight up. Ovenbirds have olive-green upperparts and dark streaking on their white underparts. They have a white eyering, rufous/black crown streaking on their heads, and pink legs. Ovenbirds are unusual from other wood warblers because they spend most of their times on the ground strutting deliberately with their short tails pointed up.

Ovenbird (Image by Cephas via wikipedia)


Long distant migrant. Summer (breeding): Eastern United State and Canada. Winter: Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, northern Venezuela, and Florida. Migration: Southeastern and Midwestern United States


Ovenbirds spend most of their time near the ground, making them hard to spot in the field. They breed in mixed or deciduous forests. In the winter they live in the tropics in habitats ranging from dry highlands to wet forests in lowlands.

Image by Greg Lavaty via houstonaududon.org


Ovenbirds forage through the leaf litter looking for insects and other invertebrates. In the winter they will add seeds to their diets. Sometimes they will forage higher in the trees or in mid-air.

An illustration of an Ovenbird Nest (Image via the Cornell Lab of Ornithology)


Males sing to attract females to their territories. The males defend their territories by dropping their wings, pointing up their tails, and stomping the ground with their feet. Female Ovenbirds build their nest on the ground in a dome shape with a side entrance. They were named “Ovenbirds” because their nests resemble dutch ovens.

Ovenbirds will lay 4-5 and have 1-2 broods per year. Sometimes Cowbirds paratisitze Ovenbird nests, but the chicks usually survive even with the cowbird intruders. The female incubates the eggs for 11-14 days and the chicks fledge 7-10 days after hatching. When the chicks fledge they can only flutter and hop, so the parents will continue to them for 10-20 days. Some years Ovenbirds can have up to 3 broods depending on spruce budworm outbreaks.

Songs and Calls:

A rapid and staccato “teacher” song. tea-cher, tea-CHER, TEA-cher! that gets louder over the first few repetitions.

Fun Facts:

  • Ovenbirds mainly migrate at night.
  • They are one of the few birds that will sing throughout the heat of mid-summer afternoons.
  • Males who live near each other will often sing together. One male will start singing immediately after the other finishes, making it sound like only on male is singing. They may alternate up to 40 songs.
  • Once Ovenbird chicks start to leave the nest, the parents will split the brood in order to care for them. The male keep his chicks in the territory while the female brings her chicks to an adjacent area. The chicks don’t fledge until they are around day 30 and will stay on the breeding territory after their parents leave for the wintering grounds.

Author: BirdNation

I am an avid birder, teacher, and nature lover. I primarily go birding in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but love to travel. I am currently a biology student with interests in conservation biology, ornithology, and environmental sciences. My dream is to go birding in all 50 states.

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