Wild Profile: Meet the ovenbird

Published: August 18, 2020

A male ovenbird perched on a log, singing By Ray Hennessy/Shutterstock

The enigmatic ovenbird has the distinction of being the only bird named for the shape of its nest, a domed structure with an opening on one side, like an old-fashioned bread oven. You may not spot the bird, or its nest, but you’ll probably hear its song. Male ovenbirds call well into summer, performing the recognizable, rapid-fire melody in bursts: “tea-cher, tea-cher, tea-cher, tea-cher!”

Check out our birdsong cheat sheet.

Ovenbirds mostly stick to the forest floor, strolling along looking for beetles, caterpillars, and ants. (They’re careful, meticulous “gleaners.”) With olive-brown feathers, they blend in well with the leaf litter. An ovenbird’s kettle-sized round nest is equally camouflaged; the female bird builds it over four or five days out of dead leaves and twigs.

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A nest on the ground is particularly vulnerable to predators, so baby ovenbirds leave as soon as they can walk, usually six to 10 days after they hatch. Mom and Dad split up at this point—sigh, the magic is gone—each taking half of the brood. Male ovenbirds take two or three of the kids, but stick close to the nesting territory, feeding them for the next few weeks. Mother ovenbird moves her half further away.

Canada has more than 10 million ovenbirds, but, because of climate change, their range is moving north. Experts predict that they’ll lose more than 50 per cent of their current habitat in the next few decades. Birds such as the peregrine falcon, the American bittern, and the common raven, are unfortunately facing a similar fate.

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