So many years hiking in the north woods of Michigan, so many years hearing this tiny bird's huge voice, and so many years not even asking: What is that bird? It's embarrassing.
The Ovenbird is a warbler that doesn't have warbler in its name. Maybe it's because it doesn't have the bright blues and yellows that the warblers are known for. Or more likely, it was named after the shape of its nest (looks like a Dutch oven).
A secretive bird that moves around in the leaves on the forest floor looking for snails and bugs, the Ovenbird is very hard to spot, especially after the ground cover begins to fill in. As it forages it looks like a tiny Robin doing an imitation of a barnyard chicken. Two or three quick steps, with the head pumping forward and back, then it cocks its head to the side, then a few more steps, etc.
Though it may be hard to see, you can't miss its voice. The Ovenbird totally dominates the soundscape of the forest with its strident warble. I've heard it described as a loud "teacher, teacher, teacher," but to me it sounds more like "chur-tee, chur-tee, chur-tee." (either I'm dyslexic, or the bird is....)
I've seen Ovenbirds often around Hyde Park and other Chicago neighborhoods. If you see something rustling in the leaves under some shrubs, take a close look, and you might catch a glimpse of this secretive bird.
Dan's Feathursday Feature is a weekly contribution to the COS blog featuring the thoughts, insights and pictures of Chicago birder, Dan Lory on birds of the Chicago region.