Seiurus aurocapilla

Ovenbirds make their living at or near ground level in mature broad leaf of mixed woodlands, searching leaf litter for food, singing their Teacher-Teacher-Teacher songs and building the small domed nests that resemble the Dutch ovens for which they are named.

So unique are these warblers, they are the only member of the genus Seiurus within the family Parulidae. Even their choice of winter homes are in or near large mature forests. Despite the vulnerable location of their earthbound nests, predators have not diminished the population of these birds. Forest fragmentation is perhaps the most serious threat their homelands face.

On the North American mainland these birds winter in southern Mexico south to Panama. Another choice for wintering is Florida and south to the islands of the Caribbean. In summer they fly north, and while some will stay in the northeast USA, many will push on into Canada as far as northeastern British Columbia, east of the Rockies or east to the Atlantic coast.

Today’s science recognises three subspecies of Ovenbird. S. a. aurocapilla breed from northeastern British Columbia east to Canada’s Maritime Provinces and in the mid-western states of the USA from the Dakotas to Oklahoma, and east to the mid-Atlantic coast. S. a. cinereus breeds along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Montana, Colorado, and Nebraska. S. a. furvior breeds in Newfoundland (Canada).

I once caught glimpses of these elusive birds in 2005 while driving through Canada on my way to Alaska, but I failed to capture any images. It wasn’t until my trip to south Texas in 2020 that I managed to get satisfactory images. My return trip to Texas in 2021 was an even better experience for me.

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