- Minnesota Breeding Bird Distribution
- Breeding Habitat
- Population Abundance
- Literature Cited
A regular breeding resident and migrant in forest habitats. The Ovenbird was an abundant species during the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas (MNBBA).
The Ovenbird is broadly distributed across the boreal forests of Canada, from northeastern British Columbia through the Maritime Provinces. In the United States it is found from eastern Montana and the western Dakotas south to Arkansas and east to northern Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. Despite its wide range, the birds are uncommon to absent in large areas of the midwest corn belt and eastern Dakotas. The densest populations are found where extensive forest habitat remains, including the Great Lakes states (Figure 1).
Assigned a Continental Concern Score of 9/20 by Partners in Flight.
A long-distance migrant that winters primarily in Central America.
A ground gleaner that feeds on invertebrates.
Domed cup nest placed on the forest floor; its resemblance to a dome-shaped Dutch oven is the source of the bird’s common name.
The Ovenbird is common and widely distributed throughout Minnesota’s northern forests and riparian woodlands. Its Teacher Teacher Teacher song is one of the loudest, most emphatic, and most easily identified wood warbler songs in North America. In the early 1900s, Roberts (1932) wrote:
It was formerly an abundant breeding bird everywhere in the forested portions of the state but is much less common of late years in the southern woodlands where it has almost disappeared as a summer resident from localities where it was once abundant. . . . It is still a common bird in the northern forests where conditions have altered little, but it is apparently decreasing even there.
On the prairies in woodlands that bordered the region’s lakes and streams, the Ovenbird was “much less frequent and chiefly a migrant.” Nesting was either confirmed or inferred from 8 counties (Aitkin, Becker, Cass, Hennepin, Isanti, Marshall, Stearns, and Wabasha) and from Itasca State Park.
Forty years later, Green and Janssen (1975) reiterated Roberts’s (1932) comment regarding the species’ decrease in abundance in southeastern Minnesota. Because Roberts’s account did not include breeding records or summer accounts from the western agricultural region of the state (other than from the aspen parklands in eastern Marshall County), the authors believed that the Ovenbird’s former status in the region was uncertain. There were, however, recent summer reports from counties in both western and southern Minnesota.
A few years later Janssen (1987) characterized the species’ breeding range as occurring primarily in northern, east-central, and southeastern Minnesota. Scattered summer records from as far west as Nicollet and Brown Counties along the Minnesota River valley, and from Nerstrand Woods State Park in Rice County and Camden State Park in Lyon County suggested that the species was a “casual breeder” in some areas of south-central and southwestern Minnesota. Janssen included a statewide distribution map that identified 15 counties where nesting had been confirmed since 1970. Hertzel and Janssen (1998) later added an additional 9 counties to the list, all within the species’ primary breeding range.
Field biologists with the Minnesota Biological Survey (MBS) have documented 3,409 breeding season locations for Ovenbirds during the course of their statewide fieldwork. The vast majority of records were from the northern forests of the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province, yet records also were distributed throughout the Eastern Broadleaf Forest Province, the Tallgrass Aspen Parklands Province, and the Minnesota River valley west to Yellow Medicine County. A few records were scattered across southwestern Minnesota.
MNBBA participants reported a total of 5,755 Ovenbird detections from 45.7% (2,180/4,769) of the surveyed atlas blocks and from 52.1% (1,217/2,337) of the priority blocks. Breeding evidence was confirmed in 89 surveyed blocks (Figures 2 and 3; Table 1). The birds were detected in 75 of Minnesota’s 87 counties and were confirmed nesting in 20 counties. Six counties where they were confirmed nesting were additions to the list published by Hertzel and Janssen in 1998: Carlton, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, Pine, Polk, and Stearns. The Ovenbird was the 11th most frequently detected bird during the MNBBA.
The distribution and relative abundance of Ovenbirds documented by the MNBBA were very similar to that documented by the MBS. They remained most abundant in the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province but were present also throughout the Eastern Broadleaf Forest and the Tallgrass Aspen Parklands Provinces. In western Minnesota they were distributed along the entire length of the Minnesota River valley and were well distributed in northern Kandiyohi County. Scattered observations again occurred in pockets of suitable habitat in southwestern Minnesota.
The MNBBA predicted breeding distribution map reemphasized the importance of the northern forest region to the species (Figure 4). Although breeding densities are predicted to be highest in the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province, the birds also are well represented in the Hardwood Hills Subsection of the Eastern Broadleaf Forest Province in west-central Minnesota and in scattered pockets surrounding the Twin Cities metropolitan region. The only regions that appear totally inhospitable to this common forest bird are the Twin Cities and much of the intensively cultivated landscapes of south-central and southwestern Minnesota and the southern portions of the Red River valley.
Historically, the Ovenbird’s distribution in the state appears to have changed little in the past century. Although its status in the western prairies may have been uncertain in the mid-20th century, both the MBS and MNBBA demonstrate that suitable habitat is currently present in the wooded floodplains along the entire length of the Minnesota River valley as well as in other scattered pockets embedded within the agricultural landscape. The species’ relative abundance in the forested regions of the state has likely declined as woodlands have given way to development and agriculture, especially in central and southeastern Minnesota. Nevertheless, the Ovenbird remains present even in these regions. Indeed, throughout North America, the breeding range of this northern forest species has remained remarkably stable (Porneluzi et al. 2011).
*Note that the definition of confirmed nesting of a species is different for Breeding Bird Atlas projects, including the definition used by the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas, compared with a more restrictive definition used by the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union. For details see the Data Methods Section.