Juan Fernandez Firecrown
Sephanoides fernandensis
Juan Fernandez Firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis) About 350 miles west of the coast of Chile there is a small group of Islands called the Juan Fernandez Islands. One of these islands is about 40 square miles of rugged, rocky landscape and is known as Isla Robinson Crusoe. It was on this island where Alexander Selkirk was marooned in the early 1700s. His story was later the basis for the novel "Robinson Crusoe" by Daniel Defoe. Just getting to the island is quite an accomplishment and perhaps I will add a story about that at a later time. For the ornithologist, one of the most interesting things about Isla Robinson Crusoe is its endemic and endangered hummingbird, the Juan Fernandez Firecrown. This spectacular hummingbird occurs no where else on earth. It is a large hummingbird, about five inches long and is thought to number only about 500 individuals. The bird can be fairly common in the only town on the island, San Juan Bautista where it feeds on native and introduced flowering plants. This is one of the most attractive hummingbirds I've ever seen; the male is brick red with green wings and a crown that glows emerald green to ruby red depending upon the angle of the light. I visited this island for three days in February, 2000, with my friend Victor Emanuel. The photos on this page were taken with a Canon EOS 3 and an EF 300mm F4 IS lens and flash on Fuji Velvia pushed one stop. See below for more photos of this species and click here for shots of the Green-backed Firecrown which also occurs on this island.
The Juan Fernandez Firecrown has huge feet for a hummingbird, and certainly puts those feet to good use! Almost like a an Olympic athlete working on hanging rings, the bird often grips the petals of a flower with its feet and hangs there to feed. Sometimes, as if showing off its agility, a bird will dangle by one foot like the individual at right. The green crown seen on a shot at right shown here, can also look brilliant red, depending upon the angle of the light.
The female Juan Fernandez Firecrown is green and white with white outer tail feathers. For many years this was thought to be a different species, but finally people started seeing the red colored birds paired up with the green birds and the mystery was solved.