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OVENBIRD

Photo Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Seiurus aurocapillus

OTHER NAMES:  Golden-crowned thrush and golden-crowned accentor

DESCRIPTION:  The ovenbird is a small member of the warbler family.  It is olive brown above with a crown of orange extending from its bill to the nape with two lateral brownish-black bands on both sides of the crown.  Lower parts are white with black triangular spots (streaks) on its breast, sides and throat.  It has pinkish legs and a white ring around the eyes.  The bird is 4 to 6 inches in length with a wingspan of 7 to 10 inches.  The female ovenbird is similar to the male and the young without the orange crown.

DISTRIBUTION:  Ovenbirds are migratory and range from Canada to Alabama in the summer to Florida and South America in the winter.

HABITAT:  The ovenbird prefers mature deciduous woodlands or mixed deciduous and coniferous forests.  The bird normally winters in primary and second growth forests.

FEEDING HABITS:  The ovenbird is somewhat unique among songbirds in that it walks on the ground and feeds on crickets, ants, spiders, caterpillars, aphids, earthworms, moths, slugs and beetles that it finds when turning over leaves with its bill.  It also occasionally feeds on seeds and fruit.

LIFE HISTORY AND EGOLOGY:  Ovenbirds are more often heard than seen.  The bird often perches on low horizontal branches or on fallen trees and emits a chant that sounds like “teacher, teacher, and teacher”.  During courtship, the birds begin to sing and the male dashes about, rises high and flutters down toward his prospective mate who sits in silence.  The male then drops beside her and gives a series of hops and droops his head and tail while elevating his wings.  The ovenbird receives its name from its oven like nest.  The nest is normally always on the ground and is formed from dry leaves, decayed moss and grasses.  The nest is covered by a dome of leaves, twigs and grasses and resembles a Dutch oven.  A small entrance, just large enough to admit the bird, is left on one side.  The female builds the nest.  The female lays 4 to 6 eggs during the months of May-July that are white and irregularly spotted with reddish-brown near the large end.  The eggs are subject to predation by snakes, squirrels and skunks.  Incubation is done by the female and eggs hatch in 11-14 days.  The young bird’s eyes are closed at birth and open by the 5th day.  Both male and female feed the young.  First flight is in 8 to 11 days.

REFERENCES:

Van Horn, M.A. and T. Donovan. 1994. Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus).  In The Birds of North America, No. 88 (A. Poole, and F. Gill, eds.).  The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C.

AUTHOR: Joel Glover, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

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