Birds of the Mid-Atlantic #17: Ovenbird
I saw my first ovenbird a little more than two years ago, during my first real spring migration. I was walking the trail from the Nature Center down to the picnic areas when I heard a loud, two-syllable song coming from the left side of the trail - teacher! teacher! teacher!. At the time I was just starting to learn bird songs, and I recognized this as a possible ovenbird song. Knowing that ovenbirds tend to forage on the ground, I searched for it there. Well, my search of the ground turned up no ovenbird. As I was going to leave in frustration, some movement caught my eye, and I spotted a small, brown bird perched on a bare branch at about eye-level.
Sure enough, it matched my ovenbird illustrations: brown back, white breast spotted with brown, big white eye-ring, and orange crown. (This last is the "aurocapillus" of its species name.) The eye-ring and lack of white eyebrows will distinguish an ovenbird from both waterthrushes. Having played hard-to-get, it then obliged with several renditions of its song while I watched through my binoculars at reasonably close range. (Slow movement and standing perfectly still has its benefits.)
Ovenbirds are fairly common in the Mid-Atlantic from the middle of spring through early fall. In Maryland they have been found breeding in all counties and geological provinces. Their nest is a small "oven" of twigs and leaves built on the ground. (See nest illustrations here and here.) While widespread, the ovenbird is confined to forests with sufficient understory to hide a nest. Forest size is important as well, since ovenbirds prefer larger tracts where they are less likely to fall victim to brown-headed cowbirds and various nest predators.
I will leave with the thoughts of Robert Frost, who wrote a poem on The Oven Bird:
|THERE is a singer everyone has heard,|
|Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,|
|Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.|
|He says that leaves are old and that for flowers|
|Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.||5|
|He says the early petal-fall is past|
|When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers|
|On sunny days a moment overcast;|
|And comes that other fall we name the fall.|
|He says the highway dust is over all.||10|
|The bird would cease and be as other birds|
|But that he knows in singing not to sing.|
|The question that he frames in all but words|
|Is what to make of a diminished thing.|
(Thanks to NY State Bird Songs for the link.)
Note: Ovenbirds in North America are wood warblers. They are not related to the ovenbird family of Central and South America.
Crossposted at A DC Birding Blog and Blue Ridge Gazette.
Labels: Birds of the Mid-Atlantic