Distribution in the Americas
The Giant Conebill is a very local, common to uncommon bird restricted to the dwindling Polylepis woodlands of the high Andes. Found in patchy, discontinuous populations along higher elevations of the mountain range (2700-4850 m), from southern Colombia, through Peru and Bolivia to northwestern Chile (Vuilleumier 1984, Hilty and Brown 1986, Fjeldså and Krabbe 19990, Schulenberg et al. 2007), and the Andes of northwestern Argentina, where only recently reported (Mazar Barnett et al. 1998). Oreomanes fraseri occupies the zoogeographic regions identified as the Northern and Central Andes as defined by Stotz et al. (1996).
The Giant Conebill is restricted to Polylepis woodlands, a distinct, high-elevation forest type that occurs above cloud level (3,500–4,500 m). Polylepis woodlands often occur as islands of woody vegetation surrounded by paramo, grasslands, or shrub communities and span from western Venezuela south to northern Argentina and Chile (Simpson 1979). The most extensive tracts of this threatened ecosystem exist upon steep slopes in the Corillera Blanca and in adjacent mountains of west-central Peru. The largest Polylepis trees in these forests are 18 m tall, while mosses and lichens grow on the branches in more humid, northern areas. Epiphytic mistletoes (e.g. Tristerix chodatianus) are conspicuous amongst Polylepis trees, while the habitat as a whole is discontinuous, patchy and separated by puna vegetation, or scrubs on arid shrub-covered slopes (Lloyd and Mardsen 2008).
Within Polylepis woodlands, O. fraseri prefers interior forest as opposed to edge forest, and is found more commonly in areas with more mature trees (Cahill and Matthysen 2007).
Giant Conebills were recently recorded for the first time in the Andes of northern Argentina (Mazar Barnett et al. 1998), representing a possible range expansion.