One day while walking along the trail in Garret Mountain Reservation, Woodland Park NJ, I noticed a bird that seemed unfamiliar. As has become my practice, I immediately started snapping photos. Identification can always happen at home. I have learned the hard way that some birds don’t wait around for you to get the best angle. This is especially true when you spot them in a wild habitat and not in your yard where a bird feeder provides a nice distraction.
This time my plan of action lucked out and I was able to get a few semi-descent photos of the bird in question before he disappeared into the trees, not to be spotted again. Once I was able to examine the photographs of this little guy in more detail, I was able to determine that I had spotted an Ovenbird. Not common enough to have earned a spot in my Birds of New Jersey Field Guide, the Ovenbird can be found in most of the Northern United States and parts of Canada. At about 5 ½ to 6 inches, the Ovenbird is a Warbler. Compared to many other Warblers, with their bright yellow feathers, the Ovenbird’s appearance is muted. A matted brown body allows him to blend in well with trees and the forest floor, where he spends much of his time foraging. He does however, have a very prominent stripe on his head. Almost orange in color, the stripe is flanked on either side by dark brown or black stripes which serve to further accentuate this feature. The feathers on his white belly are streaked with brown, very similar to those of a thrush.
The Ovenbird gets its somewhat odd name from the style of nest it builds. The female builds a nest on the forest floor. The nest is then roofed with dry leaves and other vegetation, leaving only a small slit for a door. This unique nest style has been compared to a Dutch oven, hence the name, Ovenbird. Personally I am not sure I see the similarity. But maybe they mean a colonial Dutch baking oven rather than a heavy duty pot with two handles, which is what I think of as a Dutch oven. If you want to see for yourself, there is a clear photo of an Ovenbird nest at https://natlands.org/mariton-another-reason-to-stay-on-the-trails/