Rufous Hornero (Furnarius rufus)
Rufous Hornero, Emas, Goiás, Brazil, April 2001 - click for larger image Brazil

The Rufous Hornero is one of the Ovenbirds and is from the same family as the Woodcreepers. It looks a bit like a thrush but is very plain with a dirty white supercilium and a rather long, slightly curved bill.

It is very common in open country in the southern half of South America east of the Andes and is the national bird of Argentina.

Rufous Hornero Nest, Emas, Goiás, Brazil, April 2001 - click for larger image

They are often seen on the ground collecting mud or dung to build their remarkable nests. These look for all the world like miniature versions of the type of oven (or "horno") that you see outside many houses in rural South America. Hence the name "Ovenbirds" in English and "Hornero", the Spanish for baker.

These nests are built in prominent positions in trees or on any suitable man-made object such as telephone or electricity posts.

Rufous Hornero, Emas, Goiás, Brazil, April 2001 - click for larger image The nests consist of two chambers so that the 3 to 4 chicks are protected from predators and the wind - in most cases the entrance faces away from the prevailing wind.

Like most non-tropical birds in South America, eggs are laid in about September and the building of the mud nest depends on there being sufficient rain to produce the mud but rain that is not so heavy that it washes away the nest as it is being built. Watch a nest being built here.

Rufous Hornero, Barra do Quaraí, Brazil, August 2004 - click for larger image A pair of Rufous Hornero will only use their nest for one season but, because the sun-baked mud is extremely hard, it can last for several years and abandoned nests may be used by a variety of other birds - so always check them out.

There is a story that they stop nest building on Sundays - so they must be related to the Wee Frees of Scotland.

There are illustrations in Ridgely & Tudor, Volume 2, Plate 2; and Sick, Plate 27.

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