The Ovenbird is one of the most recognizable songbirds of Maine’s forest due in large part to its loud, emphatic song – “teacher, teacher, teacher!”. In contrast to its vociferous singing, this warbler is a secretive ground-nesting songbird whose domed nest is well-camouflaged within the leaf litter of deciduous forests. Although Ovenbirds sing their familiar refrain during the mornings and evenings, these birds perform a second song (known as the “flight song”) as part of courtship during the twilight hours and at night. The flight song is highly variable, but typically begins with a few soft chip notes given from the perched male. This is followed by a rambling song (which may include a “teacher” phrase) given as the bird ascends into the air to hover and perform a courtship display. The nests of the Ovenbird are typically constructed in areas with deep leaf litter well away from forest edges. Nests are an oven-like dome constructed by the female from leaves, plant stems, bark, and animal hair (for lining). Female Ovenbirds incubate the eggs and brood recently hatched young while the male guards the nesting territory and gives alarm calls if a potential predator approaches. Both parents feed their young (primarily caterpillars and ground beetles) and approach/depart the nest on foot to avoid detection.
Safe Dates: May 25th to August 1st (applicable for S or H codes, and use codes in the “Probable” breeding category with caution if outside these dates).
Breeding Evidence: Although there are many behaviors and vocalizations to look and listen for when observing Ovenbird during the daylight hours, listening for the flight song is the most likely evidence of breeding that will be heard during your crepuscular/nocturnal efforts. Ovenbird flight songs are given as part of a courtship display (code C). If the typical Ovenbird song (“teacher, teacher, teacher!”) is heard during a survey, use code S and upgrade to S7 if heard in the same block 7 or more days later.