Juan Fernández Firecrown

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Common Name: Juan Fernández Firecrown
Scientific Name: Sephanoides fernandensis

Size: 3.9 - 4.7inches (10-12 cm)

Habitat: South America; endemic to Isla Róbinson Crusoe, one of a three-island archipelago belonging to Chile, and is non-migratory. It inhabits remnant native forests, on which it appears to be completely dependent for breeding (there is a strong negative correlation between the presence of non-native vegetation and the location of nests), but also utilizes non-native plant communities during the non-breeding season, feeding on introduced plants, such as Eucalyptus globulus and garden flowers.

Status: Critically Endangered. Global Population: 2,500 - 3,000 mature individuals and decreasing. The clearance and degradation of vegetation by humans since the late 16th century and the impacts of herbivorous mammals (especially rabbits introduced in the 1930s) has limited the availability, quantity and quality of food resources. Habitat quality is also being degraded by the spread and dominance of invasive plants, most prominently by elm-leaf blackberry (Rubus ulmifolius), maqui (Aristotelia chilensis) and murtilla (Ugni molinae). Introduced predators, such as rats, cats and coatis, have been implicated in the mortality of some birds and may be responsible in part for its decline. Cats have been documented killing firecrowns in town during the non-breeding season. As is true with many island species, firecrowns are easily approached, thus rendering them highly susceptible to predation. Additionally, during its nocturnal torpor, this species is presumed to be very vulnerable to predation. Males are able to defend territories with highly productive resources, but the smaller females are possibly being indirectly outcompeted by the smaller Green-backed Firecrown (S. sephaniodes). Preliminary analyses of the population have revealed some genetic variation, but significantly less than in S. sephaniodes

Diet: Flower nectar, often taken from the flowers of native Juan Bueno (Rhaphithamnus venustus) and Dendroseris litoralis. It also feeds on introduced Eucalyptus and Abutilon. Both genders defend their foraging territories. This usage of non-native plants is especially common in the austral autumn and winter when only one native species (Raphithamnus venustus) flowers. This hummingbird is also insectivorous and will take small insects from leaves or in flight.

Breeding: The male is 12 cm long and weighs 11 g. Its color is mostly cinnamon orange, excepting dark grey wings, black bill, and iridescent gold crown. The female is 10 cm long and weighs 7 g. Its underparts are white with a dappling of very small green and black areas; the crown is iridescent blue, and upperparts are blue-green.The female lays two white eggs in a small cup-shaped nest typically 3–4 m above ground, nearly always in Luma apiculata.

The sex ratio is heavily skewed, with three males to every female. It may experience competition with S. sephaniodes, especially over access to Dendroseris litoralis flowers post-breeding.

Cool Facts: This bird is endemic to the island where Alexander Selkirk was marooned in the early 1700s. His story was later the basis for the novel "Robinson Crusoe" by Daniel Defoe. The Juan Fernández Islands were designated as a national park in 1935 (protected from 1967) and an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1977. The Chilean government began restoring habitat in 1997, and the islands have been nominated for World Heritage listing. Conservation is being led by the Juan Fernández Islands Conservancy, with support from the American Bird Conservancy, Conservation International, the Hummingbird Society, the Jeniam Foundation, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Key activities which have already taken place are: the hiring of two island residents as project coordinators; control of invasive plants and herbivores (including volunteer programs for island residents to participate in invasive plant removal), which appears to increase nesting success of the species; invasive predator control (including cat control in the town on Robinson Crusoe); habitat restoration in native forest; a community outreach program aimed at engaging local people and including environmental education programs for local schoolchildren; as well as population surveys and monitoring of active nests, phenology and reproductive success.

The call of the male is a loud, raspy staccato of rising and falling pitch.

Found in Songbird ReMix Hummingbirds of South America (female in Songbird ReMix Freebies)

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