Living Bird Magazine
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Parulidae
The Ovenbird's rapid-fire teacher-teacher-teacher song rings out in summer hardwood forests from the Mid-Atlantic states to northeastern British Columbia. It’s so loud that it may come as a surprise to find this inconspicuous warbler strutting like a tiny chicken across the dim forest floor. Its olive-brown back and spotted breast are excellent disguise as it gleans invertebrates from the leaf litter. Its nest, a leaf-covered dome resembling an old-fashioned outdoor oven, gives the Ovenbird its name.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Male Ovenbirds spend much of the summer singing a very loud, ringing ‘tea-Cher, tea-Cher, tea-CHER, Tea-CHER, TEA-CHER’ that makes these birds pretty easy to locate (although it can take some patience to actually get them in view). Look for Ovenbirds in closed-canopy forests, the larger the better. As you carefully track down the source of the song, watch both in areas of open ground on the forest floor and on low branches up to as high as the lower canopy. When they’re foraging, Ovenbirds are usually on the ground and are not overly shy. With care, you can often watch them meandering about looking for food on the ground.
- Chipe Suelero (Spanish)
- Paruline couronnée (French)
- Cool Facts
- On its breeding ground, the Ovenbird divides up the forest environment with the other warblers of the forest floor. The Ovenbird uses the uplands and moderately sloped areas, the Worm-eating Warbler uses the steep slopes, and the Louisiana Waterthrush and the Kentucky Warbler use the low-lying areas.
- The Ovenbird gets its name from its covered nest. The dome and side entrance make it resemble a Dutch oven.
- The Ovenbird female weaves the cup, side entrance, and roof of her domed nest from the inside as a single, integrated piece. Then she drops leaves and twigs on top to hide it. If the chicks inadvertently dismantle the dome as they grow, the female ignores the damage.
- The Ovenbird’s very loud song has attracted attention for years. Robert Frost's 1916 poem "The Oven Bird" begins, "There is a singer everyone has heard, / Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird, / Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again."
- The Ovenbird chants 4 to 6 of its song's tea-cher phrases per second. Each tea-cher is made up of 3 to 5 separate notes. The number of notes in each part of the phrase and how they're sung are highly variable from individual to individual. Our ears have trouble distinguishing all of the notes, but Ovenbirds recognize each other's songs as unique calling cards.
- Neighboring male Ovenbirds sing together. One male starts singing, and the second will join in immediately after. They pause, and then sing one after the other again, for up to 40 songs. The second joins in so quickly that they may sound from a distance as if only one bird is singing. Ovenbirds rarely overlap the song of their neighbors.
- The Ovenbird's abundance, wide distribution, and relative ease of observation have made it a model songbird in scientific studies for nearly a century. Ovenbird studies have helped scientists understand the effects of logging and habitat fragmentation on migrating songbirds.
- The oldest known Ovenbird was at least 11 years old when it was recaught and rereleased in Connecticut, the same state where it had been banded as a young bird.