Ovenbirds are New World birds found only in the neotropics. They belong to the order Passeriformes and family Furnariidae. There are 55 genera of ovenbirds and 236 species. Ovenbirds can be found in almost all habitats from rocky intertidal zones to deciduous forest, desert and high alpine areas. They are important members of all bird communities in South America and in some regions they account for 25 percent of all bird species.
Ovenbirds are small to medium sized birds (10 to 26 cm long, 8 to 109 g). Their plumage is primarily shades of brown; however, they often have complex patterns of spots and stripes. Some species have wingbands, tail patches or more brightly colored throat patches. They have very diverse bill and tail structure. Bill shapes and sizes reflect foraging habits. Ovenbird tails are often stiffened and have bare feather tips, modifications that aid the birds in climbing. Males and females look similar, although males may be slightly larger.
Ovenbirds are monogamous, and pairs often remain together from year to year. They are well known for their diverse and often complex nest structures. In fact, the name ovenbird comes from the oven-like structure of some species’ nests.
Although ovenbirds as a group occupy a wide range of habitats, many individual species have very restrictive habitat requirements. Because of these requirements their ranges are often small and fragmented. This, combined with anthropogenic habitat destruction has lead to population declines in many ovenbird species.
- Sibley, C., J. Ahlquist. 1990. Phylogeny and Classification of Birds, A study in Molecular Evolution. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- Dickinson, E. 2003. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, 3rd edition. London: Christopher Helm.
- Skutch, A. 1996. Antbirds & Ovenbirds, Their Lives and Homes. Austin: University of Texas Press.
- Remsen, J. 2003. Family Furnariidae (Ovenbirds). Pp. 162-357 in J del Hoyo, A Elliott, D Christie, eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.
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