BIRD OF THE WEEK: 8/22/2014
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Seiurus aurocapilla
POPULATION: 22 million
HABITAT: Breeding: mature forests of North America; Winter: mixed forests of south U.S., South America, and Caribbean
The Ovenbird gets its name from its unique nest, which looks like a domed oven. This inconspicuous, ground-nesting warbler is best-known for its emphatic and distinctive song—a series of progressively louder phrases often described as “teacher, teacher, teacher."
Like the Wood Thrush and Kentucky and Cerulean Warblers, Ovenbirds require undisturbed expanses of forest for successful breeding. Although more flexible in habitat requirements on their wintering grounds, Ovenbirds and other neotropical migratory species benefit from habitat conservation in these regions as well.
Interestingly, Ovenbirds and other warblers of the forest floor use different habitat. While Ovenbirds use uplands and areas of some moderate sloping, Worm-eating Warblers can be found using steeper slopes, while Kentucky Warblers use low-lying areas.
Ovenbirds spend much of their time walking (never hopping) along the forest floor, where they forage through the leaf litter for insects, spiders, snails, worms, and even small lizards. Since they nest on the ground, habitat fragmentation makes them especially vulnerable to brood parasites such as Brown-headed Cowbirds, and nest predators such as raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, and snakes.
Neotropical migrants, including Ovenbirds, face a gauntlet of threats as they migrate. A study found that Ovenbird, along with White-throated Sparrow, is one one of the species most often killed by window collisions. (Fortunately, there are things you can do to help stop birds hitting windows; find out more on our Bird-Smart glass page.
Feral and free-roaming pet cats are also a threat to these ground-nesting birds.
ABC and partners continue to work toward solutions, such as our Migratory Bird Program, that will keep Ovenbirds and other migrants returning each spring. For example, wintering Ovenbirds find refuge at Guatemala's Sierra Caral Reserve and Nicaragua's El Jaguar Reserve, both supported by ABC.
We're focusing first on the birds in greatest need of conservation, but this effort is just as much about people. With precedent-setting collaboration that spans the hemisphere and leads to the needed research, strategies, conservation action, and outreach, we'll reach our goal to save migration—and birds like the Ovenbird. Learn more.