Meet the Juan Fernández Firecrown: A Stunningly Isolated Bird with a Fiery Crown

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The Juan Fernández firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis) is a hummingbird exclusively found on Isla Róbinson Crusoe, one of the three islands comprising the Juan Fernández archipelago.

Among hummingbirds, this species exhibits remarkable sexual dimorphism. While females of most hummingbird species possess vibrant colors, they lack the ornamental plumage seen in males.

However, the Juan Fernández firecrown defies this norm. The male measures 11.5 to 12 cm in length, weighing around 10.9 g. His predominantly cinnamon orange body is complemented by dark gray wings. Notably, he boasts a striking black bill and a captivating golden crown.

In contrast, the female is smaller, measuring 10 cm in length and weighing approximately 6.8 grams. Her belly showcases a white base adorned with green and black speckles. She flaunts an iridescent blue crown and exhibits blue-green upperparts.

Presently, Juan Fernández firecrowns can only be found on the remote Robinson Crusoe Island, part of the Juan Fernández Archipelago, situated along Chile’s Pacific coast. This island, designated as an Alliance for Zero Extinction site, serves as the sole habitat for the species’ global population.

These medium-sized birds inhabit forests, thickets, and local gardens. During the summer months, male firecrowns can often be spotted in the archipelago’s sole town, San Juan Bautista, as they feed on the endangered “cabbage tree.”

While they primarily feed on nectar from various plants, these hummingbirds also consume insects, especially during the nesting season when additional protein is required for the rapid growth of their young.

For breeding, the female firecrown lays two eggs in a small cup-shaped nest located approximately 3-4 meters above ground level. Typically, these nests are constructed in Chilean myrtle trees.

Unfortunately, the population of this species has experienced a consistent decline. An October 2002 census revealed fewer than 200 individual birds, with only 60 females identified. However, further scientific census methods are necessary to provide a more accurate assessment. The Juan Fernández firecrown is categorized as Critically Endangered by Birdlife International.

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