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Seiurus aurocapillus

The ovenbird is a common species of small songbird. It measures 4.3 to 5.5 inches (10.9 to 13.9 cm) in length and has a wingspan of 7.5 to 10.2 inches (19 to 26 cm). It has an olive brown back and a white underside with bold, dark streaked spots. It possesses an orange crown bordered by black stripes and a white eye-ring. Young ovenbirds are similar to adults, but less brightly colored. These birds are easily recognized by their loud song, a ringing “teacher, teacher, teacher”. The ovenbird gets its name from the shape of its nest, which has a dome shape and side entrance that make it resemble a Dutch oven. The nest is built on the forest floor and made of dried grass, leaves, moss, and hair.


Ovenbirds breed in mature deciduous and mixed deciduous and coniferous forests in North America. During winter, they migrate south to primary and secondary growth tropical forests. In its breeding grounds, the ovenbird shares space with other warblers inhabiting the forest floor. The ovenbird uses the uplands and moderately sloped areas while the worm-eating warbler uses the steep slopes. Ovenbirds need a large quantity of leaf-litter to forage for food and build nests.


The ovenbird is a ground forager—it picks insects, spiders, snails, and worms off leaf litter and fallen logs on the forest floor. Intelligent predators, these birds will learn where prey are in highest density and strategically visit them over and over again in search of food.

Ovenbird nests built one on top of the other share a tight, sheltered spot.

Ovenbird nests built one on top of the other share a tight, sheltered spot.

Photo credit: Vince Alongi

Ovenbirds are vulnerable to predation by cowbirds that lay their eggs inside the nests of other bird species. Forest fragmentation is a great threat to ovenbirds that need large continuous forests to survive. Destruction of both its breeding and wintering habitats has a great impact on the ovenbird population.

Did you know?

The oldest known ovenbird was only seven years old.  Life is not easy for a small migratory bird—it has been estimated that half of all adult ovenbirds die each year.

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