Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Ovenbird is “hot” at Songbird Prairie Bed and Breakfast
The ovenbird is a warbler that looks like a small speckled thrush. Thus deep forest bird only thrives where forest remain in large blocks, probably because if clearings are nearby, there are more nest predators and parasitic brown-headed cowbirds. Although spotting the forest dwelling ovenbird takes patience, the bird’s TEAcher-TEAcher-TEAcher-TEAcher song is distinctive and rings through the woods in spring and summer. A good look at the ovenbirds head will help you differentiate it from larger thrushes and same-sized water thrushes. The wide, white eye ring is the first clue. The water thrushes lack this, having instead a white stripe running from above the eye to the back of the head. Several species of brown-backed thrushes have eye rings that are not as pronounced. Thrushes hop and feed at one moment still, then dashing; the oven bird walks methodically. The ovenbird has neat “stripes” or spots running down its breast, while the thrushes are more randomly speckled underneath.
While not always visible, the ovenbird’s black-bordered, orange crown patch is diagnostic field mark.
Ovenbirds nest in mature deciduous or mixed deciduous and pine forests, but they can appear in any habitat during spring and fall migration. Most winter in Mexico and Central America and on the Caribbean Islands. Forests that host nesting ovenbirds have a thick layer of dry leaf litter beneath them, providing the birds with feeding and nesting opportunities. The ovenbird quietly chugs along the leafy forest floor, walking and looking for insects, spiders, and other invertebrates, such as earthworms and snails, among the leaves littering the ground. This bird is named for its domed nest, which usually sits on the ground, and is so well camouflaged with dead leaves that you can easily walk past with out noticing it. Although leaves help conceal the nest, the female ovenbird constructs the nest structure using grassed, bark and other materials. There is a side entrance for stealthy exit and entry. Inside, the female lays four or five eggs and incubates them for up to two weeks. Both parents, feed the young. They leave the nest after about a week, but they are still fed by the adults for about two weeks afterward.
If you have a well-treed backyard with ample leaf litter, you may spot a foraging ovenbird walking your woods during migration. If you hear the ovenbird’s loud song, watch for it on a low to mid-height perch or foraging on the ground. You will hear the teacher teacher teacher of the oven bird resounding through the woods here at Songbird Prairie Bed and Breakfast Inn and Spa.