The Rufous Hornero, Furnarius rufus, is a large ovenbird from eastern South America. Also known as the Red Ovenbird, it is a common species of second-growth scrub, pastures and agricultural land, and the species is often seen near areas of human inhabitation. Its range includes south eastern Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and northern and central Argentina (down to northern Patagonia). The species is most closely related to the Crested Hornero of Paraguay and Argentina. There are four accepted subspecies.
The Rufous Hornero is a large ovenbird with a square tail and a straight bill. The plumage is overall reddish brown with a dull brown crown and a whitish throat. Both sexes look alike, and juvenile birds are slightly paler below. There is some clinal size variation from north to south due to Bergmann's Rule. Rufous Horneros feed on insects and other arthropods obtained by foraging on the ground while walking.
The nest of the Rufous Hornero is a common sight in Argentina
The Rufous Hornero breeds in the austral summer, laying eggs between September and December and raising nestlings between October and January. The species is monogamous and will maintain the pair bond for many years, even for life. The nest of the species is typical for the genus, a large thick clay "oven" placed on a tree, or more recently on man made structures such as fenceposts, telephone poles or buildings. Pairs remain together throughout the year and will work on the nest during that time; nests can be constructed in as little as 15 days but are usually completed in 2-3 months. Between 2-4 eggs are laid and incubated for 14-18 days. Chicks are fed for 23-26 days before fledging; young birds remain in the parental territory for around 6 months after fledging. Both parents undertake incubation and feeding responsibilities. The birds do not use the same "oven" for succeeding breeding-seasons, therefore it is quite common to see a number of structures - from two to three - close to each other (or even atop each other) at the same nesting area. However, a formerly unused nest can be repaired for a new breeding-season.
The Rufous Hornero has benefited from human changes to the environment and many live in highly modified habitat. Conversely, it can benefit various other species of birds, such as the Saffron Finch, who nest at its unused "ovens". It is a familiar sight over much of its range and has been adopted as the national bird of Argentina. It is not threatened by human activities and is listed as least concern by the IUCN.