Ovenbird

Seiurus aurocapillus

SUBFAMILY

Parulinae

TAXONOMY

Seiurus aurocapillus Linnaeus, 1766, at sea off Haiti. Two subspecies.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Teacherbird; French: Paruline couronnée; German: Pieperwaldsänger; Spanish: Reinita Hornera.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

5.5-6.5 in (14-16.5 cm). Brownish upperparts, two black stripes on crown of head with a rusty orange patch between. White throat with brown stripes. Underparts are white with mottled-brown breast, somewhat similar in appearance to a wood thrush.

DISTRIBUTION

Breeds in the northern half of the United States from the eastern coast through the Midwest and into Montana, and well into Canada from the Atlantic Ocean to Alberta.

HABITAT

Mixed and deciduous woods lacking dense bushy undergrowth. BEHAVIOR

Instead of flitting from tree to tree in characteristic warbler fashion, it runs about the fallen leaves and tosses them aside in its search for hidden arthropods. It responds to the presence of an intruder, particularly when the latter is near the nest, by flying up, uttering "tick" calls or even by erecting the orange-colored feathers of its crown patch. It also sometimes mimics an injured bird to draw away the intruder. Its song is one of the best-known North American bird songs, and consists of a sequence of "teach-er, teach-er teach-er," which gets progressively louder. The popular name "teacherbird" derives from

the song, which is delivered from the ground or from low to fairly high-placed branches.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Mainly arthropods, earthworms, and snails.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Courtship involves in-flight singing, posturing, and pursuit by the males. The ovenbird makes its nests on the ground, using grass and stems topped with leaves for the roof, and grass and hair for the interior lining. The nest resembles a Dutch oven, and is responsible for the bird's common name. Typically lay three to six speckled eggs, which hatch about two weeks later.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. Their nests, however, are becoming more vulnerable to predators that prefer fragmented habitat, which is becoming more plentiful in their breeding grounds.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Particularly valued for their songs—they are seldom seen but frequently heard. ♦

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