Why they're called Ovenbirds.


I often hear Ovenbirds in the woods around here. Some say they sound like "tea-cher, tea-cher, Tea-cher, TEa-cher, TEA-cher, TEA-cher!" Their song is certainly repetitive, and it has a distinctive way of gathering decibels as it goes. Occasionally I see them, hopping hastily along the ground, following logs as they hunt for tiny critters in the leaf litter.

Tragically, I've also seen them in the fall after they've struck windows during their migration.



The one pictured above was stunned by the collision, but flew off after a moment of recuperation. One wonders whether migratory warblers have concussion protocols. Hopefully it was able to continue on its journey to its winter feeding grounds -- perhaps a shade-grown coffee plantation in Costa Rica. They are large for a warbler, and I think they look like a small wood thrush with a mohawk.

So, you may ask, why are they called "oven" birds?



It's because their nests are structured like outdoor bread ovens. The other day we flushed a momma ovenbird, who skittered off the little-used trail we were on. She did a broken-wing act, trying to draw us from the nest location. I wasn't fooled, so I carefully searched the ground for a nest. I have a neighbor who built a pizza oven on a trailer out of mud and straw. The nest had exactly the same contours as the oven, but was extremely well camouflaged. It looked like nothing more than a slightly domed section of leaf duff, as if the leaves had fallen on a rock or branch that held them a few inches off the ground. I had to look very closely at the entrance to see the precisely-woven nest within, cradling 5 speckled eggs.


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