Atlantic royal flycatcher (Onychorhynchus swainsoni)

Synonyms: Onychorhynchus coronatus swainsoni
GenusOnychorhynchus (1)
SizeLength: 16 - 16.5 cm (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

This large-billed flycatcher is known for its spectacular crest, which is vivid scarlet in males, yellow in females, and ornately decorated with splashes of black and steel-blue tips (2) (3). Although the crest usually lies flat, protruding from the rear of the head, when fully extended it forms a large and impressive, forward-facing fan (3). The vivid colour of the crest stands out against the uniformly brown plumage of the upperparts and dull-yellow underparts. By contrast, the rump and tail are a bright cinnamon colour, and a small, whitish patch marks the throat (2).

Confined to the dwindling forests of sout-east Brazil, in the states of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Paraná. Although its range remains small and severely fragmented, recent discoveries from at least seven new sites in Paraná and four new sites in São Paulo provide fresh hope for the species (2).

This Brazilian endemic inhabits the understorey of lowland and lower montane Atlantic forest (2), up to 800 metres above sea level (3). At Intervales State Park, it is found most frequently in the proximity of small watercourses (2).

The Atlantic royal flycatcher is thought to feed on insects, particularly flying insects such as dragonflies (2) (3). This bird sometimes joins mixed-species flocks, and has been recorded associating with foliage-gleaners and fire-eyes (Furnariids) (2) (3).

A juvenile has been observed in January in Rio de Janeiro, suggesting that breeding occurs in the spring (September and October in the Southern Hemisphere) (2).

Like much of Brazil’s biodiversity, the Atlantic royal flycatcher population is thought to be undergoing a rapid decline as a result of extensive habitat loss, following widespread clearance, degradation and fragmentation of Atlantic forest (2).

This endemic bird is known to occur within several protected areas, including Monte Pascoal, Itatiaia and Serra da Bocaina National Parks, Intervales State Park, Ubatuba Experimental Station, the Guaricana Forest Reserves (Guaratuba and Morretes), Salto Morato private reserve (Guaraqueçaba), Pico do Marumbi State Park, Saint Hilaire-Lange National Park, Fazenda Monte Alegre private reserve, and a private reserve at Piquete. Further study of this bird, its distribution, ecology and the threats it faces would help clarify its status and conservation needs, and thereby help safeguard its future (2). Despite its highly fragmented and diminishing status, the Atlantic forest still maintains a rich array of biodiversity, including many endemic species, and as such, remains one of the highest priorities for conservation action around the world (4).

For further information on the Atlantic royal flycatcher see:

Authenticated (25/02/08) by Professor Luís Fábio Silveira, Department of Zoology, University of São Paulo.

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2008)
  2. BirdLife International (July, 2006)
  3. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2004) Handbook of the Birds of the World - Cotingas To Pipits And Wagtails. Vol. 9. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  4. Conservation International: Biodiversity Hotspots (June, 2008)