Yesterday, December 7, Jennifer Kleinrichert, who is an environmental educator at Inniswood Metro Gardens in Westerville, Ohio, got a tip from Jen Snyder about an odd bird at Inniswood. Jennifer went to the locale, glanced out the window of the Innis House and spotted an early Christmas present: an Ovenbird, Seiurus aurocapilla!
One does not expect to see an Ovenbird in Ohio in December. These odd ground-walking thrushlike warblers are quite common as breeders in Ohio and throughout much of eastern North America, but sensible warblers that they are, most beat feet to the tropics to ride out the winter.
As can be seen from the parts of this map that are dipped in orange, Ovenbirds largely vacate the United States and Canada in winter, with most departing the Midwest by early October. The motherlode of Ovenbirds end up in the tropics of Central America and southern Mexico, although they also radiate throughout the Caribbean, and a very few even make it to northern South America. Southern Florida is the only place in the United States that one can go and expect to find Ovenbirds in winter.
Surprisingly, early winter Ohio Ovenbirds are not unprecedented. In fact, there have been perhaps 15 December records in the past 50 years, and at least three of those birds stuck it out for the entire winter. Nonetheless, a wintertime Ovenbird is still quite the rarity and a fantastic find.
Congratulations to Jennifer for finding this bird, and photo-documenting it. I appreciate her sharing her images with us, too. It'll be interesting to see how long this wayward eskimo wannabe Ovenbird sticks around.