Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Parulidae
Genus: Seiurus
Swainson, 1827
Species: S. aurocapilla
Binomial name
Seiurus aurocapilla
(Linnaeus, 1766)

Motacilla aurocapilla Linnaeus, 1766
Seiurus aurocapillus

The Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) is a small songbird of the New World warbler family (Parulidae). This migratory bird breeds in eastern North America and moves south in winter.[1]



The genus Seiurus is currently treated as monotypic, containing only the Ovenbird; it is genetically distinct from all other species in the family Parulidae, probably the first genus to evolve separately from the rest of the family.[2]

Before the recent genetic studies were carried out, the waterthrushes were also included in Seiurus;[3][4] these are now treated separately in the genus Parkesia as they are not very closely related to the Ovenbird.[2]

The species name aurocapilla is a noun phrase, so the original spelling is retained, not changed according to the gender of the genus name; Linnaeus originally named it Motacilla aurocapilla, and the ending is not to be changed to -us as commonly cited in the past.[5]


Adult with raised "crest"; Léon-Provancher marsh, Québec (Canada)

Ovenbirds are 14 cm (5.5 in) long and weigh 18 g (0.63 oz) on average, though they tend to be heavier in winter and particularly at the start of their migration.[6] They have olive-brown upperparts and white underparts heavily streaked with black; the flanks have an olive hue. A white ring surrounds the eyes, and a black stripe runs below the cheek. They have a line of orange feathers with olive-green tips running along the top of their head, bordered on each side with blackish-brown. The orange feathers can be erected to form a small crest. The eyes and the upper part of the thin pointed beak are dark, while the lower beak is horn-colored and the legs and feet are pinkish.[1]

Males and females look alike. Immature birds have tawny fringes to the tertiary remiges and sometimes buff-tipped outer primary wing coverts. Most conspicuously, the olive-green tips of the crown feathers, which are hardly visible in adult birds, are far larger in extent in immatures and cover the orange corwn-stripe almost or completely.[7]

The main song of the Ovenbird is a series of strident, relatively low-pitched, bisyallabic motives repeated without pause about eight times and increasing in volume. Usually, the second syllable in each motive is sharply accented: "chur-tee’ chur-tee’ chur-tee’ chur-tee’ chur-TEE chur-TEE chur-TEE!" Male Ovenbirds utter a sweet chattering song in the air at twilight, after the manner of the skylark,[8] incorporating portions of the main song into a jumble of sputtering notes and mimicry as they dive back to earth. The call is a variably pitched, sharp "chik!" Some variations recall the common call note of a Downy Woodpecker. If the bird is excited, it may repeat this call several times.[1] The fight call is a high, rising siiii.

Ovenbird song recorded in Minnesota

Range and ecology

Their breeding habitats are mature deciduous and mixed forests, especially sites with little undergrowth, across Canada and the eastern United States. For foraging, it prefers woodland with abundant undergrowth of shrubs; essentially, it thrives best in a mix of primary and secondary forest. Ovenbirds migrate to the southeastern United States, the Caribbean, and from Mexico to northern South America. The birds are territorial all year round, occurring either singly or (in the breeding season) as mated pairs, for a short time accompanied by their young. During migration, they tend to travel in larger groups however, dispersing again once they reach their destination.[1]

In winter, they dwell mainly in lowlands, but may ascend up to 1,500 m (4,900 ft) ASL e.g. in Costa Rica. The first migrants leave in late August and appear on the wintering grounds as early as September, with successive waves arriving until late October or so. They depart again to breed between late March and early May, arriving on the breeding grounds throughout April and May. Migration times do not seem to have changed much over the course of the 20th century.[9]

This bird seems just capable of crossing the Atlantic, as there have been a handful of records in Norway, Ireland and Great Britain. However, half of the six finds were of dead birds. A live Ovenbird on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly in October 2004 was in bad condition, but died despite being taken into care.[10]

Ovenbirds forage on the ground in dead leaves, sometimes hovering or catching insects in flight. This bird frequently tilts its tail up and bobs its head while walking; at rest, the tail may be flicked up and slowly lowered again, and alarmed birds flick the tail frequently from a half-raised position. These birds mainly eat terrestrial arthropods and snails, and also include fruit[11] in their diet during winter.[1]

The nest, referred to as the "oven" (which gives the bird its name), is a domed structure placed on the ground, woven from vegetation, and containing a side entrance. Both parents feed the young birds. The placement of the nest on the ground makes predation by chipmunks (Tamias) a greater concern than for tree-nesting birds. Chipmunks have been known to burrow directly into the nest to eat the young birds.[3]

The Ovenbird is vulnerable to nest parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater), which is becoming more plentiful in some areas. However, the Ovenbirds' numbers appear to be remaining stable. Altogether, it is not considered a threatened species by the IUCN.[12]

In literature

It is the subject of a poem by Robert Frost, "The Oven Bird", published in his poetry collection Mountain Interval in 1916.


  1. ^ a b c d e Stiles & Skutch (1989), Curson et al. (1994)
  2. ^ a b Lovette, I. J. et al. (2010). A comprehensive multilocus phylogeny for the wood-warblers and a revised classification of the Parulidae (Aves). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 57 (2): 753-770. Abstract
  3. ^ a b Curson et al. (1994)
  4. ^ Sibley, D. (2000). The Sibley Field Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-45122-6. 
  5. ^ David, N., & Gosselin, M. (2002). Gender agreement of avian species names. Bull. Brit. Orn. Club 122 (1): 14–49 [Seiurus aurocapilla, item #169, p. 38].
  6. ^ e.g. a male wintering on Grand Cayman weighed 20.5 g (0.72 oz): Olson et al. (1981)
  7. ^ Stiles & Skutch (1989)
  8. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Oven-bird". New International Encyclopedia. 1905. 
  9. ^ Henninger (1906), Stiles & Skutch (1989), OOS (2004)
  10. ^ Rogers, M. J. et al. (2005). Report on rare birds in Great Britain in 2004. British Birds 98: 628–694 [Ovenbird, p.688].
  11. ^ E.g. of Cymbopetalum mayanum (Annonaceae): Foster (2007).
  12. ^ Curson et al. (1994), IUCN (2008)


  • BirdLife International (BLI) (2008). Seiurus aurocapillus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 6 November 2009.
  • Curson, Jon; Quinn, David & Beadle David (1994): New World Warblers. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-3932-6
  • Foster, Mercedes S. (2007): The potential of fruiting trees to enhance converted habitats for migrating birds in southern Mexico. Bird Conservation International 17(1): 45-61. doi:10.1017/S0959270906000554 PDF fulltext
  • Henninger, W.F. (1906): A preliminary list of the birds of Seneca County, Ohio. Wilson Bull. 18(2): 47-60. DjVu fulltext PDF fulltext
  • Ohio Ornithological Society (OOS) (2004): Annotated Ohio state checklist. Version of April 2004. PDF fulltext
  • Olson, Storrs L.; James, Helen F. & Meister, Charles A. (1981): Winter field notes and specimen weights of Cayman Island Birds. Bull. B.O.C. 101(3): 339-346. PDF fulltext
  • Stiles, F. Gary & Skutch, Alexander Frank (1989): A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Comistock, Ithaca. ISBN 0-8014-9600-4

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ovenbird — Ov en*bird , n. (Zo[ o]l.) (a) Any species of the genus {Furnarius}, allied to the creepers. They inhabit South America and the West Indies, and construct curious oven shaped nests. (b) In the United States, {Seiurus aurocapillus}; called also… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ovenbird — [uv′ən bʉrd΄] n. 1. any of a large family (Furnariidae) of Neotropical passerine birds; esp., any of a genus (Furnarius) that builds a two chambered, dome shaped, ovenlike nest from clay and dried leaves ☆ 2. any of various other birds that build …   English World dictionary

  • ovenbird — /uv euhn berrd /, n. 1. an American warbler, Seiurus aurocapillus, that builds an oven shaped nest of leaves, twigs, etc., on the forest floor. 2. any of several South American passerine birds of the genus Furnarius of the family Furnariidae,… …   Universalium

  • ovenbird — tikrieji krosniai statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Furnarius angl. hornero; ovenbird vok. Töpfer, m rus. настоящий печник, m pranc. fournier, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas – krosniniai siauresnis terminas – blyškiakojis… …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • ovenbird — geltongalvis sejūras statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Seiurus aurocapillus angl. ovenbird vok. Ofenvogel, m; Pieperwaldsänger, m rus. золотоголовый дроздовый певун, m pranc. paruline couronnée, f ryšiai: platesnis terminas …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • Ovenbird (disambiguation) — Ovenbird is a small songbird of the New World warbler family. It may also refer to: Ovenbird (family) a large classification of birds in the Furnariidae family The Oven Bird, a 1916 poem by Robert Frost The Oven Bird: American Women on Womanhood …   Wikipedia

  • Ovenbird (family) — Ovenbirds Scaly throated Foliage gleaner, Anabacerthia variegaticeps Scientific classification Kingdom …   Wikipedia

  • ovenbird — noun Etymology: from the shape of its nest Date: circa 1825 1. any of various chiefly South American small brown passerine birds (family Furnariidae, especially genus Furnarius) 2. an American warbler (Seiurus aurocapillus) that builds a dome… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • ovenbird — noun a) Any of several birds b) Any of several small birds that build dome shaped nests; the long tailed tit, willow warbler and chiffchaff …   Wiktionary

  • ovenbird — n. any of many South American small brown passerine birds; American warbler that builds a nest on the ground in the shape of a dome …   English contemporary dictionary

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