Thursday, December 8, 2011

One tough Ovenbird!

Photo:  Jennifer Kleinrichert

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.

The jungles of Tikal in Guatemala, as seen from the summit of Temple IV. I was last here in 2010, when I made this photo, and we saw Ovenbirds strolling about these tropical forests. I would think Jennifer's Ovenbird would find Tikal a more hospitable climate than central Ohio in December. It would definitely be amongst more of its peers.

Photo: Jennifer Kleinrichert

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.


Elaine said...

Great pictures. Thanks for posting.

Heather said...

Incredible. It seems that it's normal habit of skulking so as to be seen by only the most diligent of seekers has been dropped for the time-being. Hope little OVEN stays safe and warm!

Steve said...

What a great post for a great bird! Thanks for being a voice for all the cool plants and critters of Ohio. Hope you got to see the little bird on your lunch. :)

Anonymous said...


Take a moment to visit Karl Overman's website. Then go to North American Birds/Ovenbird. You will find an interesting account of his out of season/ out of habitat encounters with this species.

Karl is an expert birder. But what is so unbelievable it that he has written records for every birding outing he has taken since he began birding (about age 10?). He has thousands of pages of notes covering 40+ years.

Check it out. I think you and your readers will find it interesting.


Jim McCormac said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone, and the tip about Karl's website, DD!