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Ovenbird Baby
Ovenbird Baby

Ovenbird Habits

Ovenbirds live in pairs throughout the year, and many stay with the same mate for life. Although rather wary by nature, the ovenbird has adapted to living near human populations and pairs of ovenbirds have become a familiar sight. They will build their nests on fence posts and under the eaves of houses when a suitable tree cannot be found. The ovenbird has drab and dull-colored feathers, or plumage, chestnut-brown back, head, and wings, and a pale cream-colored chest. The ovenbird is active by day. At night, it roosts in a tree. The ovenbird's feet are well adapted for grasping the slender twigs and grass it uses to build its nest. Each foot has four toes in the front and one in back. The bird walks slowly, often holding one foot up in the air between steps.
It is distributed across Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Argentina, in open country and flood plains. Common near human settlements. In South America, the ovenbird is called el hornero, "the house builder," and belongs to one of the largest families of birds. The ovenbird can be recognized by its distinctive song and is seen in settlements and on the edges of towns. Although populations have been affected by land clearances in some areas of the ovenbird's natural habitat, conservation measures do not appear to be necessary as this species has adapted well to man's intrusion on its habitat.

Ovenbird Communication

Most species of ovenbird sound similar. Their calls have been described as unmusical and harsh. Their calls are loud, but simple, and composed of buzzy notes of varying speeds that rise and fall in pitch. Pairs will sing in duets to defend territories and strengthen the pair-bond. Chicks use a begging call to solicit feeding by adults.
Ovenbirds have numerous displays that they use in attracting mates and defending territories. Displays include: exposing bright throat patches, raising crown feathers and lifting their wings to show their wingstripes.

Ovenbird Breeding

Very little is known about the breeding and nesting habits of the ovenbird, since it is difficult to examine its nest without destroying it in the process. Still, it is known that during the wet winter months, the male and female work together to build the nest, after selecting a suitable nest site, usually in a tree or on a fence post, they begin building their hollowed-out nest with clay, strengthening it with grass and plant fibers.
When the clay has been baked hard by the sun, the birds continue to add clay and plant fibers to the edges of the nest and build up the walls until it has a dome shaped roof. The birds finish the nest by constructing a narrow, curving entrance chamber. The female lines the inner nesting chamber with grass and feathers. After mating, the female lays three to five white eggs. Because of the warmth trapped inside the clay nest, the eggs hatch very quickly, after approximately 20 days. The chicks grow their feathers, or fledge, in 18 days and remain with their parents for up to three months.

Ovenbird Food & Feeding

The ovenbird pecks at the ground in search for food in the same manner as many bird species. It tends to stay within the same small area when it forages. The ovenbird spends much of its day searching for the ground-dwelling insects, invertebrates, larvae and spiders that make up the largest proportion of its diet. During feeding, the bird hides among the scrub and grass.

Ovenbird Key Facts

              Height: Length: 7-8 inches
              Weight: Up to 2 oz
             Sexual maturity: Unknown
             Mating: Late winter; nest building during wettest months of the year
             Gestation: Incubation period: Up to 20 days. Fledging period: Up to 18 days
             Number of young: Eggs: White, 3-5 per clutch. Number of broods: 1 per year
            Habit: Rather shy. Lives in pairs year-round; pairs often mate for life
            Diet: Ground-dwelling insects, worms, and grubs
            Lifespan: Oldest on record is 7 years old



  • The ovenbird's nest is made from between 1,500 and 2,000 separate lumps of clay. It weighs 7-12 pounds.
  • The warm conditions inside a nest are inviting to a number of insects, including a species of bedbug.
  • Other members of the ovenbird family are known by the colorful names of plainsrunner, castlebuilder, leafgleaner, and thistletail.
  • The Ovenbird gets its name from its covered nest. The dome and side entrance make it resemble a Dutch oven.
  • Studies estimate that half of all adult Ovenbirds die each year.

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