Who’s Looking For The Teacher?

You’re walking through the woods on a late spring day and a loud bird song bursts from forest.  It sounds as if the bird is repeatedly saying ‘tea-cher,’ getting louder with each note.  You pause to look for the bird, thinking it may be the size of a robin, a blue jay, or maybe something bigger because it is so loud, but you don’t see anything.

The song starts again, and there on the forest floor, you see a small light brown bird with dark brown streaking on its breast singing ‘tea-cher, teacher’. That bird is only about half the size of a robin. It’s an ovenbird, a bird known for an over-sized voice and a unique nest that looks like an old-fashioned outdoor oven, after which the bird is named.

By Cephas (Own work) [GFDL (httpwww.gnu.orgcopyleftfdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-sa3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Ovenbird, by Cephas (Own work) [GFDL (httpwww.gnu.orgcopyleftfdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby-sa3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The female ovenbird builds her domed shaped nest on the forest floor.  She builds it from the inside out using pieces of bark, small twigs, grasses, dead leaves and even hair.  She leaves a side entrance so she and her mate can care for the young birds once they hatch.  After she has finished weaving the nest, the female ovenbird drops small twigs and sticks on top of the nest to hide it from predators such as garter snakes, eastern chipmunks, and raccoons.

Kent McFarland
Ovenbird nest, photo by Kent McFarland

The next  time you walk through the forest, listen for these birds. If you do spot one or see a bird quickly fly off of the forest floor, be careful where you step. Look closely to see if you can find that unique dome-shaped nest on the ground.  If you are lucky enough to spot one, view from a distance for just a minute and then move on so the parent can get back to the nest.

Featured image by Tim Lenz, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Sources and where to learn more about ovenbirds:

Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds

The Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University: Visual Resources for Ornithology

Xeno-Cantohttps://nysparksnaturetimes.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/xc118066-ovenbird-d-parker-2011.mp3

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