Ovenbird -- 橙顶灶莺 (Seiurus aurocapilla)

Ovenbird perched on branch
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Ovenbird fact file

Ovenbird description

GenusSeiurus (1)

The birds (Seiurus aurocapilla) is a small, inconspicuous bird which gains its common name from the traditional oven-like shape of its nest (3). It has a grey-olive head and upperparts, which contrast with its white underparts, white eyering and grey-white lores. The white breast and sides are heavily marked with large black streaks and spots (2) (3) (4) (5). The ovenbird’s most distinctive feature is its rufous-orange crown, which is bordered by bold, black lines (3) (4) (5) (6). This species has pink legs, brown eyes and a dark brown bill, which is paler on the underside (2).

The male and female birds are very similar in appearance, although the plumage of the female is slightly duller (2) (4). The juvenile ovenbird has cinnamon-brown plumage (2) and indistinct markings on its underparts (5).

The territorial song of the ovenbird is a loud, ringing ‘teacher-teacher-teacher(2), which is sung by neighbouring males in unison (3). Vocalisations are used by the male during courtship and are made from an elevated perch, usually around a metre from the ground (2).

There are three recognised subspecies of ovenbird, Seiurus aurocapilla aurocapilla, Seiurus aurocapilla cinereus and Seiurus aurocapillus furvior, which differ in range and colouration. S. a. aurocapilla has a bright green mantle and upper tail, and the sides of its neck are tawny. S. a. cinereus is similar, although it is usually paler and greyer on the upperparts and neck, while S. a. furvior has thicker stripes on the crown than the other subspecies (2).

Length: c. 15 cm (2)
Male weight: 17.8 - 28 g (2)
Female weight: 18.4 - 26 g (2)

Ovenbird biology

The diet of the ovenbird mainly consists of invertebrates, including ants, flies, beetles, butterfly and moth larvae. It also feeds on seeds (2).

The southward migration to the ovenbird’s wintering grounds begins in September, with most individuals arriving at their destination around late September or early October. In April or May the ovenbird migrates back to its breeding grounds, where the male establishes a territory and defends it from intruders by chasing and vocalising. Both sexes are territorial during the breeding season (2).

The male and female ovenbird form a monogamous pair bond, which is retained until the hatchlings have fledged the nest. The dome-shaped nest is situated on the ground and is built solely by the female. The outer structure of the nest is made of grass, stems and bark and the nest is lined internally with deer or horse hair. A single clutch of between three and six eggs is laid in May or June. The eggs are white, slightly glossy and speckled with hazel, lilac-grey or red-brown, and are incubated by the female for around 12 days. During this time the female does not leave the nest and may be fed sporadically by the male. Once hatched, the young are fed by both the male and female and fledge the nest seven to ten days after hatching (2)


Ovenbird range

The birds has a large range, which stretches south from Yukon in northern Canada, through the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean, to Panama, Venezuela and Colombia (2) (5) (6) (7). As a migratory species, the ovenbird winters in the southern areas of its range and breeds in the north (2). It is sometimes found as a vagrant in Ecuador, Greenland, Ireland and the United Kingdom (7).


Ovenbird habitat

The ovenbird generally inhabits large areas of mature, deciduous or coniferous woodland (2) (3) (4). This species is usually found on or close to the forest floor (4) (6), as well as around streams and pools (4)


Ovenbird status

The ovenbird is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Ovenbird threats

The birds is widespread and has a large, stable population, so is not currently considered to be threatened. However, in some areas habitat loss and fragmentation have led to frequent failed nesting attempts and increased brood parasitism, which have decreased the abundance of certain ovenbird populations. The growth and development of urban areas has also increased the frequency of ovenbird mortalities, with more collisions occurring between ovenbirds and buildings (2)


Ovenbird conservation

There are not known to be any specific conservation measures currently in place for the birds. However, iincreasing the size of the ovenbird’s habitat, minimising fragmentation and implementing appropriate forest management practices could boost the populations of this species (2).

Further research is needed into the ovenbird’s migration, habitat needs, territoriality and nest predation to better inform conservation strategies (2)


Find out more

More information on the ovenbird and its conservation:



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Brood parasite
An animal that lays its eggs in the nests of members of its own or other species; the host then raises the young as its own.
Deciduous forest
Forest consisting mainly of deciduous trees, which shed their leaves at the end of the growing season.
To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Immature stage in an animal’s lifecycle, after it hatches from an egg and before it changes into the adult form. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but are usually unable to reproduce.
The space between a bird’s bill and eyes.
In birds, the wings, shoulder feathers and back, when coloured differently from the rest of the body.
Having only one mate during a breeding season, or throughout the breeding life of a pair.
An organism that derives its food from, and lives in or on, another living organism at the host’s expense.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a group that occupies and defends an area.
An area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a group.
An individual found outside the normal range of the species.


  1.  IUCN Red List (May, 2012)
  2. Van Horn, M.A. and Donovan, T.M. (2011) Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus). In: Poole, A. (Ed.) The Birds of North America Online. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca. Available at:
  3. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds - Ovenbird (May, 2012)
  4. Raffaele, H., Wiley, J., Garrido, O., Keith, A. and Raffaele, J. (2003) Birds of the West Indies. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
  5. Curson, J., Quinn, D. and Beadle, D. (1994) New WorldWarblers. Christopher Helm, London.
  6. Howell, N.G. and Webb, S. (1995) A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  7. BirdLife International (May, 2012)

Image credit

Ovenbird perched on branch  
Ovenbird perched on branch

© Jim Zipp / www.ardea.com

Ardea wildlife pets environment
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