Animals

Ovenbirds of South America

by Marcia Malory

Ovenbirds are members of the family Furnariidae, passerines that live in Mexico and Central and South America.

Most ovenbirds live in forests, but some live in the Andes mountains and others live near the coast.

Some ovenbirds build large, elaborate clay nests that look like ovens. That is how the family got its name.

Ovenbirds eat invertebrates, including spiders and insects, and small seeds. They find their food by foraging among leaf litter.

Rufous hornero (rufous ovenbird) and nest, photo by Tim in BrazilThey range between 3 ½ and 14 inches long.

Most ovenbirds have wings that are short and rounded.

Their feathers are usually a shade of brown.

27 species of ovenbird are in danger of becoming extinct.

A North American passerine that is also known as an ovenbird belongs to a different family.

Rufous Hornero

The rufous hornero (Furnarius rufus) lives in the eastern parts of South America.

"Hornero" is Spanish for "baker".

This bird is also known as the rufous ovenbird, the red ovenbird and, in Brazil, João de Barro.

The rufous hornero is the national bird of Argentina.

It has reddish-brown feathers. Its crown is dull brown and its throat is white. Males and females are similar looking.

Adults can be 6 to 10 inches long.

These birds are monogamous.

A pair of rufous horneros will build an oven-shaped nest out of mud and dung, which is baked hard by the tropical sun, and reinforced with straw, grass or hair.

Nests are often built on large tree branches, but they can also be found on tree stumps, rocks or on the ground. Sometimes nests are built on structures made by humans, such as houses and telephone poles.

Rufous hornero nests are large. They weigh about 7 or 8 pounds.

A nest can take from two weeks to several months to complete.

The nest has one entrance, which leads into an entrance hall. This leads to a nesting chamber.

The interior of the nesting chamber is decorated with soft material, such as grass, leaves or wool.

Eggs are laid between September and December (spring in South America).

A clutch contains 2 to 5 eggs.

Both male and female incubate the eggs and fed the young.

The rufous horneros will abandon the nest after one season. However, the nest will remain intact for years and other birds may take it over after it has been abandoned by its original inhabitants.