Amazonian Royal Flycatcher with orange feathered plumes
Credit: Klemens Steiof, via Flickr

The Amazonian Royal Flycatcher (sometimes referred to as the Amazon Royal Flycatcher) is one of the most amazing creatures to behold the world over. Its stunning beauty is startlingly linked to the gathering of the thousands of tourists that visit the American continent every year. This simple peace of art is defiantly a quasi-magical agent of tourist attraction.

The Onychorhynchus coronatus coronatus is in fact, a passerine bird descending from the tyrant family. Moreover, the bird is thought to be closely related to the Northern Royal Flycatcher, the Pacific Royal Flycatcher and the Atlantic Royal Flycatcher, the only three other Royal Flycatcher species known to modern biological science.

Great news, the Amazonian Royal Flycatcher is considered to be of least concern by BirdLife International. That means that the chances of the extinction of the creature are similar to the human's. In this article, we are going to take a detailed look at the amazing bird's behavior, habitat, range, adaptations and physical characteristics.

Range and Habitat

The bird lives in some of the warmest forests and woodlands on earth, a considerable part of the Amazon basin that reaches across eastern portions of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas, Brazil and northern portions of Bolivia and of Brazil as well.

The beautiful creature occurs in humid and deciduous lowland forests up to 1,200 m and although several sightenings of the animals have been recorded in many degraded habitats, it is thought that it may forage in a wide range of habitats.

The Amazonian Royal Flycatcher breeds in some of the most intact, moister forests on earth. In most of their breeding seasons, the birds don't get much farther south than their breeding grounds.

Amazing sunset at the Amazon rainforestCredit: Nguyen Ngoc Chinh, via Flickr

Feeding Habits

The bird forages from the understorey to subcanopy, and is often recorded within low-level mixed-species flocks. It hunts for anthropods by perching quietly, a remarkable stelght mode master. Like many flycatcher, it occasionally darts out from branches at speed to catch flying insects or pluck from leaves. The bird is of high importance in the amazon rainforest food web because it helps control its rising insect population.

AthropodsCredit: Ramiro Lozano


While most bird species only have one sex that displays vibrant colors (often the male), both sexes of the Amazonian Royal Flycatcher display large feathered plumes on top of their heads. While the male's is orange red, the female's is usually yellow. The birds only spread their feathered crests during the breeding season or when handled by human beings.

The Amazonian Royal Flycatcher nests are built by the female. These are constituted of 2 meter long suspended pensiles hanging from tree branches above shady streams 2 to 6 meters above water (or ground). The royal female attends to the nestlings, feeds them and protects them on a very busy schedule.

The nestCredit: jennsinasac

Physical Characteristics

Relatively small, Amazonian Royal Flycatchers are about six and a half inches (16.5 cm) long with a spectacular, yet rarely seen feathered crest. The bird is characterized by its widely uniform and dull brown upperparts, its rufous rump and beautiful tail.

The throat is somehow white, the rest of the underparts beings almost orange. In most of the time, the bird leaves its crest in a flat position. However, when raised, the royal crest shows an interesting combination of black, blue and scarlet colors creating a magnificent reflection of light throughout the bright colors.

Amazonian Royal FlycatcherCredit: Tom Ambrose, via FlickrThreats

The bird's habitat is sadly decreasing in space at high speed. Statistics show that western Ecuador, between the years 1958 and 1988, have lost more than 57% of its below 900 m green land just in a single decade.

Therefore, and since the Amazon royal flycatcher only forages below the 900 meters level, the bird might be at great danger. This rapid desertification of the bird's habitat is powerfully linked to the persistent grazing by goals and cattle which also seems to prevent forest regeneration. One sure thing, the royal flycatcher's habitat's loss is ongoing at an exponential pace, and there doesn't seem to be a dead end in its way.

Even highly protected areas, areas like Cordillera de Molleturo Protection Forest, are encountering some serious problems of the kind. Particularly, Machalilla National Park and the Tumbres Reserved Zone are affected by multiple illegal settling, rapid deforestation,  livestock-grazing and habitat clearance by people with land right.

Another major factor threatening the habitat of the Amazonian bird are the uncontrolled forest fires started by land owners in the purpose of clearing land for agriculture or clearing vegetation to kill ticks and enhance pastures for grazing, which are particularly frequent in the Cordillera Chongon-Colonche.

Forest FireCredit: oktav dsaint, via FlickrConservation Actions Underway

Ongoing conservation actions can be noticed in six different locations: Río Palenque Scientific Centre, Jauneche Biological Reserve Station, Machalilla National Park, Cerro Blanco Protection Forest and Manglares-Churute Ecological Reserve, Ecuador, and Tumbes Reserved Zone, Peru, and probably also within Cordillera de Molleturo Protection Forest, Cañar, Ecuador (the seventh).

The Pro-Forest Protected had achieved some remarkable work, restiring approximately 150 ha of the bird's habitat in the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest. Furthermore, more than three thousand school children have received field identification cards and posters of threatened bird species including the Amazonian Royal Flycatcher, in the Cerro Blanco buffer zone.

Chongón-Colonche, a 776 km² partially forested protected forest, is thought to be able to support the species. However, the reforestation in this case focuses on non-native and commercially valuable trees such as Cedrela odorate and Prosopis juliflora and has no significant intention in maintaining the existing native forest. Native forest remnants have been successfully identified in six different properties and have been worked on lately in the purpose of protecting ravines with springs, our bird's favorite habitat.

Save the forestCredit: Cam Self, via Flickr

Conservation Actions Proposed

  • Survey areas of known and potential occurrence of the royal flycatcher.
  • Exclude roaming livestock from known sites.
  • Prevent further loss and degradation of habitat within the six protected areas.
  • Map forest within the Cordillera Chongón-Colonche to identify sites for future and prospective protection.