The Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapilla, is a small songbird of the New World warbler family (Parulidae). This migratory bird breeds in eastern North America and winters in Central America, many Caribbean Islands, Florida, and northern Venezuela.
The genus Seiurus is currently treated as monotypic, containing only the Ovenbird; it is genetically distinct from all other species in the family Parulidae, probably the first genus to evolve separately from the rest of the family.
Before the recent genetic studies were carried out, the waterthrushes were also included in Seiurus. These are now treated separately in the genus Parkesia as they are not very closely related to the Ovenbird.
The species name aurocapilla is a noun phrase, so the original spelling is retained, not changed according to the gender of the genus name; Linnaeus originally named it Motacilla aurocapilla, and the ending is not to be changed to -us as commonly cited in the past. Etymologically the scientific name aurocapilla comes from Latin meaning "golden haired" and Seiurus from Greek seio, the verb to shake, and urus, from tail.
Ovenbirds are large wood warblers and is sometimes confused by the untrained for a thrush. Adults measure 4.3–6.3 in long. They have olive-brown upperparts and white underparts heavily streaked with black; the flanks have an olive hue. A white ring surrounds the eyes, and a black stripe runs below the cheek. They have a line of orange feathers with olive-green tips running along the top of their head, bordered on each side with blackish-brown. The orange feathers can be erected to form a small crest. The eyes and the upper part of the thin pointed beak are dark, while the lower beak is horn-colored and the legs and feet are pinkish.
Males and females look alike. Immature birds have tawny fringes to the tertiary remiges and sometimes buff-tipped outer primary wing coverts. Most conspicuously, the olive-green tips of the crown feathers, which are hardly visible in adult birds, are far larger in extent in immatures and cover the orange crown-stripe almost or completely.
The main song of the Ovenbird is a series of strident, relatively low-pitched, bisyallabic motives repeated without pause about eight times and increasing in volume. Usually, the second syllable in each motive is sharply accented: "chur-tee’ chur-tee’ chur-tee’ chur-tee’ chur-TEE chur-TEE chur-TEE!"
Ovenbirds forage on the ground in dead leaves, sometimes hovering or catching insects in flight. This bird frequently tilts its tail up and bobs its head while walking; at rest, the tail may be flicked up and slowly lowered again, and alarmed birds flick the tail frequently from a half-raised position. These birds mainly eat terrestrial arthropods and snails, and also include fruit in their diet during winter.
The nest, referred to as the "oven" (which gives the bird its name), is a domed structure placed on the ground, woven from vegetation, and containing a side entrance.
The Ovenbird is vulnerable to nest parasitism by the Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater), which is becoming more plentiful in some areas. However, the Ovenbirds' numbers appear to be remaining stable.
It is the subject of a poem by Robert Frost, "The Oven Bird", published in his poetry collection Mountain Interval in 1916. Robert Bly also makes reference to "the nimble oven bird" in his short poem "The Slim Fir Seeds."