The Great Florida Outdoors

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When I was hiking recently near Lettuce Lake Park, I came across this fine creature:

What I found most fascinating was that it was walking along, not hopping, and feeding and exploring on the ground. At least at that moment in time, I found it refreshing to not get a neck sprain and eye damage from peering upwards into the sun to identify a bird going from branch to branch.

What is this bird?
1. Wood Thrush
2. Cerulean Warbler
3. Ovenbird
4. Swainson’s Warbler
5. Prothonotary Warbler

When learning to read the Florida landscape, birds are a key species to observe and learn their habits. When you see a bird, how do you identify it? The bird above is the Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla). The four keys to identification:

  • Size & Shape
  • Color Pattern
  • Behavior
  • Habitat

Part of pattern recognition in nature is to be able to compare it to other birds that you might be familiar with already. Look at the bird’s size, shape, and coloration.

The ovenbird is slightly larger than a yellow warbler and smaller than an eastern bluebird or a song sparrow. It is a chunky, larger-than-average warbler, with a round head, fairly thick bill for a warbler, and a jaunty tail often cocked upward.

Although it lacks vibrant colors, it compensates with its high-powered voice. The ovenbird is olive-brown above with black streaks on white breast with a bold white eye ring. The bird has an orange crown bordered by black on either side.

What about its behavior?
Ovenbirds spend much of their time foraging along branches and on the ground, strolling with a herky-jerky, wandering motion that is unlike most terrestrial songbirds. Territorial males tend to be very vocal, often singing from tree branches, occasionally quite high up.

The ovenbird is one of the few songbirds that habitually sings in the heat of midafternoon. Listen for its loud song that builds in volume: “tea-cher, TEA-cher, TEA-CHER!”

Is this a migratory bird?
Yes. The habitat varies. During breeding, it lives in the mature forests of North America. During winters, it lives in mixed forests of the south U.S., South America, and the Caribbean.

Other tips:
Read and subscribe to abcbirds.org (American Bird Conservancy)
Use apps like eBird and listen to the audio recordings (Cornell)
Explore web sites like All About Birds (Cornell)

Get out and enjoy the Great Florida Outdoors!

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