Birds Flora Fauna Ecosystems

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Green-backed Firecrown
Sephanoides sephaniodes

Green-backed Firecrown
Picaflor Rubí
Sephanoides galeritus
Length: 110mm. Sexes unlike. Male: bill black; iris very dark brown; upper parts of head ruby red with iridescence ranging from purple to a very deep bronze, like a flame; sides of head, nape, hind neck, back, uppertail coverts and rectrices bright bronzed green; behind the eyes it has a small white spot. Throat and foreneck white with small bronzed green spots; sides of breast and flanks bronzed green; mid-breast and abdomen buffy whitish; undertail coverts pale brown with a green sheen and buffy whitish margins to feathers. Wing coverts bronzed green; primary and secondary remiges blackish. Legs blackish.
Female slightly smaller and paler than male; it lacks the ruby red in head. Male juveniles resemble females. Habitat and behaviour: readily recognised by its bright plumage; it inhabits the edge of woods and bushy areas of the Andean Patagonian region and surroundings; it frequents banks of mountain streams. Despite feeding from a large variety of flowers, it is commonly seen feeding on Chilco or native fuchsias (Fuchsia magellanica) and Quintral (Tristerix tetrandus), that blooms throughout the year; in spring and summer it preys on mites and their sugary juices found in willow groves; in winter it feeds on small arachnids and other food found in the introduced fir trees.
During winter and autumn it stores a thick layer of fat under the skin, an energy reserve indispensable to endure the harsh winter cold temperatures, so common in this region. It spends the night in hidden and warm places but when temperatures drop to -5°C it falls into a torpor that may last several days. When temperatures rise again, the bird comes to life and can be observed sunbathing or feeding as usual. The Green-backed Firecrown can be found solitary, in pairs or in groups in places where food is abundant; on those occasions, they utter their frequent high-pitched whistles. Fighting and chasing among males is almost constant as males strongly defend their territories.
Nests are located in dark and humid places and are built with lichen, moss and soft plant materials as lining; females lay two white eggs.
Range: distributed from Neuquén to Tierra del Fuego all along the Andean region on the Patagonian west; occasionally dispersing to the east, probably following the course of rivers and streams. The authors have seen two specimens of this species in Trelew and Puerto Madryn, Chubut. It has also been recorded in the southwest of the province of Buenos Aires. In addition, it is found in Chile, from Atacama to the Chilean Tierra del Fuego.
Illustrated Handbook of the Birds of Patagonia
Kindless: Kovacs Family

Photographs: Mariano Diez Peña

Birding Patagonia • Birdwatcing in Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina and Chile.
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Photographs on the website: Mariano Diez Peña