My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Ovenbird, Seiurus aurocapilla

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Ovenbird, Seiurus aurocapilla

The Ovenbird is a small songbird of the New World warbler family (Parulidae). This migratory bird breeds in eastern North America and winters in Central America, many Caribbean Islands, Florida, and northern Venezuela.

Ovenbirds are large wood warblers and is sometimes confused by the untrained for a thrush. Adults measure 11–16 cm (4.3–6.3 in) long and span 19–26 cm (7.5–10 in) across the wings. They weigh 19 g (0.67 oz) on average, with a range of 14–28.8 g (0.49–1.02 oz). Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 6.8 to 8.3 cm (2.7 to 3.3 in), the tail is 5 to 5.8 cm (2.0 to 2.3 in), the bill is 1.1 to 1.3 cm (0.43 to 0.51 in) and the tarsus is 2 to 2.3 cm (0.79 to 0.91 in). They tend to be heavier in winter and particularly at the start of their migration. They have olive-brown upper-parts and white underparts heavily streaked with black; the flanks have an olive hue. A white ring surrounds the eyes, and a black stripe runs below the cheek. They have a line of orange feathers with olive-green tips running along the top of their head, bordered on each side with blackish-brown. The orange feathers can be erected to form a small crest. The eyes and the upper part of the thin pointed beak are dark, while the lower beak is horn-colored and the legs and feet are pinkish.

Males and females look alike. Immature birds have tawny fringes to the tertiary remiges and sometimes buff-tipped outer primary wing coverts. Most conspicuously, the olive-green tips of the crown feathers, which are hardly visible in adult birds, are far larger in extent in immatures and cover the orange crown-stripe almost or completely.

Their breeding habitats are mature deciduous and mixed forests, especially sites with little undergrowth, across Canada and the eastern United States. For foraging, it prefers woodland with abundant undergrowth of shrubs; essentially, it thrives best in a mix of primary and secondary forest. Ovenbirds migrate to the southeastern United States, the Caribbean, and from Mexico to northern South America. The birds are territorial all year round, occurring either singly or (in the breeding season) as mated pairs, for a short time accompanied by their young. During migration, they tend to travel in larger groups however, dispersing again once they reach their destination.

Ovenbirds forage on the ground in dead leaves, sometimes hovering or catching insects in flight. This bird frequently tilts its tail up and bobs its head while walking; at rest, the tail may be flicked up and slowly lowered again, and alarmed birds flick the tail frequently from a half-raised position. These birds mainly eat terrestrial arthropods and snails, and also include fruit in their diet during winter.

The nest, referred to as the “oven” (which gives the bird its name), is a domed structure placed on the ground, woven from vegetation, and containing a side entrance. Both parents feed the young birds. The placement of the nest on the ground makes predation by chipmunks a greater concern than for tree-nesting birds. Chipmunks have been known to burrow directly into the nest to eat the young birds.

On to my photos:

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Ovenbird

Oven bird

Oven bird

Oven bird

Oven bird

Oven bird singing on the run

Oven bird singing on the run

Oven bird

Oven bird

This is number 105 in my photo life list, only 245 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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10 responses

  1. I never knew that chipmunks would eat baby birds-they’ve dropped a few notches on my list of favorite animals. I’ve also wondered for years why these were called oven birds, so I learned a lot this morning.

    June 18, 2013 at 6:16 am

    • Chipmunks are rodents, cute rodents, but rodents never the less. Like all rodents, they’ll eat just about anything that doesn’t eat them first.

      I’m learning a lot doing this series, I wish now that I had started on it years ago.

      June 18, 2013 at 9:24 am

  2. Thanks for the great info! We hear oven birds all the time in the northwoods but I don’t know if I’ve ever actually seen them. Also, I didn’t know about their nests. I will have to pay closer attention and see if I can find one sometime.

    June 18, 2013 at 8:02 am

    • Thanks Amy, the oven birds are like so many of the small, rather nondescript birds that can be heard, but are seldom seen. I know now why you always see serious birders with a pair of binoculars with them. 😉

      June 18, 2013 at 9:31 am

      • I think it must be hard to be a serious birder and a serious photographer, having cameras and binoculars around your neck! LOL With my eyes I have an awful time using binoculars. I’ve yet to find a pair I can use with my glasses on and when I take my glasses off, I have to close one eye to see through them! I’m starting to seriously wonder if I’m a candidate for lasik.

        June 18, 2013 at 10:10 am

      • I seldom carry both my binoculars and camera, I usually use my telephoto lens as a monocular to ID birds at a distance.

        June 19, 2013 at 2:45 am

  3. Wonderful pictures and what a great name – ovenbird!

    June 19, 2013 at 7:58 am

    • Thanks, but I had nothing to do with naming them. 😉

      June 19, 2013 at 9:26 am

  4. hear them..never see them. Amazing how close they look to a Hermit Thrush. This really helps me. Perhaps one day I’ll actually see one. TEACHER TEACHER TEACHER. 🙂

    June 23, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    • I thought that it was a hermit thrush at first, but it was too small, so I kept sticking the Sigma through the bushes to come up with those.

      June 23, 2013 at 10:23 pm