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Ovenbird

(Seiurus aurocapillus)
Banded September 12, 1997 - Carmel, Indiana

General Information

The portly looking Ovenbird gets its name from the shape of its domed nest resembling a Dutch Oven. This resident of Central America, northern South America and the West Indies breeds in eastern and the north central regions of North America. More often heard than seen, its loud ringing call increases in volume, sounding like "tea-cher TEA-cher TEA-CHER."

 

Ovenbird

Ovenbird
Figure 1 - Ovenbird

 

Ovenbird
Figure 2 - Ovenbird

 

The heavily marked breast is reminiscent of the markings on the Wood Thrush, a much larger bird (see Photo menu).

The bold white eye ring and rufous crown stripe bordered on each side by a broad black stripe is distinctive.

Head and face
Figure 3 - Head and Face

 

Upper Wing
Figure 4 - Upper Wing

 

Upper parts are olive green. Flight feathers are blackish-brown edged with olive green.

The indented leading edge seen near the ends on some of these primary flight feathers is termed emargination. In some groups of birds, such as the flycatchers, the presence or absence of emargination on certain feathers is a useful tool to separate species in the hand.

 

Flight Feathers
Figure 5 - Flight Feathers

Tertials
Figure 6 - Tertials

 

On a young bird, a rusty color on the tips of the Tertial feathers is often seen. This wears off during the first winter.

Underwing Coverts

Underwing Coverts
Figure 7 - Underwing Coverts

 

 Breast and Stomach
Figure 8 - Breast and Stomach

 

Breast and Stomach

Young Ovenbirds have tapered rather than truncated tail feathers. The faint dark bands that cross these tail feathers are growth bars. Darker bands represent slower growth, and lighter bands in between represent faster growth. If the growth bars on adjacent feathers are aligned, the adjacent feathers were grown at the same time. This could indicate the feathers are the first set of tail feathers grown in the nest, or it could indicate simultaneous replacement of tail feathers after an accidental loss.

 

Growth Bars on Rectrices
Figure 9 - Growth Bars on Rectrices

Nesting Behavior

Sexes are similar. Ovenbirds prefer to nest in deciduous woodlands with a well developed leaf litter layer. The domed nest with a side entrance is built on the ground by the female. Four to 5 eggs are incubated by the female. The young are tended by both parents and leave the nest in 8 to 10 days.

Banding Recoveries

According to data from the Bird Banding Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, a total of 162,186 Ovenbirds have been banded since 1955. Of these, 264 have been recovered, a recovery rate of 0.16%.

Conservation Status

Ovenbirds feed on insects, spiders and other invertebrates found on or near the forest floor. They no doubt play an important role in the ecology of North American forests, and add a pleasant touch of sound and color to our world. Unfortunately, Breeding Bird Census data and Christmas Bird Count Data show that populations of Ovenbirds are declining.

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