Rufous hornero (Furnarius rufus)

Also known as: Red ovenbird
GenusFurnarius (1)
SizeLength: 18-20 cm (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Given that Argentina’s national bird is arguably the plainest and least rufous of the horneros (Furnarius spp.), its common name is somewhat misleading (2) (3). The upperparts to its plumage are rufous brown, while the crown is greyish, the flight feathers are dusky, and the tail is rufous. Underneath, it is a slightly paler buffy-brown, with a whitish throat. While it may not be particularly striking, this lively and abundant bird is one of the most familiar species in many parts of southern South America (2).

The rufous hornero occurs in northern and eastern Bolivia, southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and northern and central Argentina (2).

Mainly found in open or semi-open habitats below 2,500 metres (2).

Otherwise known as the true ovenbirds, the horneros are widely known for their elaborate oven-shaped mud nests, frequently seen adorning fence posts and telephone poles (2) (3) (4). Although these are only used once, they can take several years to disintegrate, and are often appropriated by other birds after the horneros vacate (2). In addition to their architectural skills, male and female pairs are known for their highly coordinated duets (2) (5). Breeding pairs remain together throughout the year, and begin the arduous task of building the nest several months before egg-laying. Around three to four eggs are laid between August and December and are incubated by both parent birds for 16 to 17 days before hatching. Similarly, both sexes feed the nestlings, which fledge the nest at 24 to 26 days old (6).

The rufous hornero is a ground forager, with most of its prey consisting of insects and their larvae, as well as other invertebrates (6), and occasionally vegetable matter such as seeds and fruit (7). In common with other ovenbirds, the rufous hornero is comparatively fearless of humans (8), and is often seen in built up areas, strutting along the ground or perched on a commanding vantage point (2).

The rufous hornero remains common and widespread, with a population that faces no major threats and appears to be increasing (2) (9).

There are no conservation measures in place for the rufous hornero, but it almost certainly occurs in numerous protected areas across its range (10).

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  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2014)