Juan Fernandez Firecrown Sephanoides fernandensis

Chilean name: Picaflor de Juan Fernández
Male  Juan Fernandez Firecrown, Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, Juanuary 2007 - click for larger image Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile
January 2007

The Juan Fernandez Firecrown is endemic to Robinson Crusoe Island situated about 700 kilometres off the coast of Chile. It is found in forest, woodland and gardens which are situated mainly on the western side of the island. 

Female  Juan Fernandez Firecrown, Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, January 2007 - click for larger image The male and the female look so different that they were assumed to be two separate species for some time until they were observed mating and sharing a nest.

The male is a deep chestnut with black wings and a reddish-yellow crown patch which is only visible from certain angles. The female has greeny-blue upperparts, a blue crown patch and white underparts with greeny-blue spots on the throat and flanks.

It is a relatively large hummingbird and tends to perch rather than hover when feeding. Presumably, its isolation and the absence of too many predators allowed it to develop in this way.
Female  Juan Fernandez Firecrown, Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, January 2007 - click for larger image It is classified as critically endangered by Birdlife International because of the very low population and the fact that it is only found in an area of about 11 square kilometres on the island. Local estimates put the population at about 200 individuals in 2007.

It feeds mainly on nectar and, while it does feed from some introduced plants such as eucalyptus, it depends mainly on the endemic plants of the island such as the Juan Bueno tree Raphithamnus venustus with its purple trumpet-like flowers and the famous Col de Juan Fernadez bush Dendroseris litoralis.
Female  Juan Fernandez Firecrown, Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, January 2007 - click for larger image What appears to be happening at the moment is that introduced plants such as the blackberry and murtillo are invading the areas of native plants and eliminating them. To a large extent these invasive plants are being spread by another introduced species the Austral Thrush Turdus falcklandii. The islanders are aware of this problem and organise outings to try to limit the spread of invasive plants. One such outing took place while I was on the island.
Male  Juan Fernandez Firecrown, Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, January 2007 - click for larger image I didn't see any nests but a series of information boards says the following: Nests are 7 cm high and 6.5 cm broad while the egg cavity is 3.2 cm in diameter and 2.8 cm deep. It is constructed with sticks and the exterior is covered in moss while the interior is lined with strands of fern. Nests are built at between 5 and 7 metres above the ground on the edge of a tree-fall and near running water. The clutch consists of 2 white eggs 18mm by 11mm.
Male  Juan Fernandez Firecrown, Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, January 2007 - click for larger image Like most hummingbirds they are very territorial and I was lucky enough to hear and record the male's song .
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