Ovenbird

photograph by Brian Willson

Editors note: When Brian suggested this photo for a new installment of his Maine Bird Report column here on The Maine, I wrote back that I had never heard of an ovenbird. Brian was good to respond with the following:

This might be the first time you’ve heard OF an ovenbird, but I bet it’s not the first time you’ve heard one.

They’re rather common woodland warblers that arrive — with the rest of our warblers — in early May, stay to nest, then return far south in the fall. They’re pretty shy. That’s mainly because they build their nests on the forest floor. Their nests are made of leaves and twigs and have a side-opening reminiscent of a dutch oven. Hence…

The call of an ovenbird is pretty loud — and gets louder. “Teacher-teacher-TEACHER-TEACHER!” You can hear ’em in the woods just about any day in spring before they quiet down come fledgling time.

If you stand still near an ovenbird nest in the woods, one is liable to flit up to a branch nearby to check you out before walking very purposefully, pace after pace, along the branch away from you. It’s both cool and bizarre behavior.

That little orange crest you see in the photo isn’t always visible. It only appears when the bird is alarmed or feeling cocky. Although they’re not bright or showy otherwise, ovenbirds are, I think, pretty friggin’ cute.