Nine Critically Endangered Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are some of the smallest birds in the world. In fact, the smallest bird species is the Bee Hummingbird which measures 5 cm. Comprising the family Trochilidae, hummingbirds are also the only group of birds known to fly backwards. They can float in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings at 12-90 times per second. This rapid wing beats create hum, thus the name.

Those are some of the amazing fun facts about this marvelous bird. However, a sad truth about hummingbirds is that some species have been listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN. This means that these birds are at extreme risk of facing extinction, way beyond being endangered. Here are the nine species of hummingbirds identified as Critically Endangered.

Black-breasted Puffleg

Measuring only 8.5 cm in length, the Black-breasted Puffleg is found only in Ecuador, specifically on the Northwestern slopes of the Pichincha volcano. This little bird prefers high altitudes, spending the rainy season above 10,000 feet and the rest of the year — when certain preferred plants flower — residing between 9,006 and 10,000 feet. It has entirely blackish upperparts, dark blue uppertail-coverts and blackish underparts, with violet-blue throat and undertail-coverts. (image source)

This species is suspected to have suffered ongoing declines at a rate of 10-19% over ten years, owing to widespread and continuing habitat loss within its range. Presently, its population is made up of no more than 250 individuals.

On June 23, 2005, the bird was adopted as the emblem of the city of Quito.

Short-crested Coquette

Found only in Mexico, the Short-crested Coquette is also known as Coqueta de Guerrero or Coqueta Cresticorta. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist montanes and plantations. Measuring only 7 cm, this bird has bronze-green upperparts with rufous crown and crest. It also has a glistening green throat. (image source)

 It is threatened by habitat loss. Population estimates are from 250-999 mature individuals.

Dusky Starfrontlet

The Dusky Starfrontlet is endemic to Cordillera Occidental of Colombia. It was first discovered on Paramo de Frontino, but its status remained mysterious for a long time since it was only known from a few species found in museums. In 2004, the bird was rediscovered in the Colibri del Sol Bird Reserve. It is about 14 cm long. It is dark, nearly black, with a metallic green sheen. (image source)

The combined area of all potentially suitable sites of the bird is thought to be less than 25 km2. It population is unlikely to exceed 250 individuals. The presence of mining companies in the Paramo de Frontino area which contains rich deposits of gold, zinc, and copper is pointed to a major threat to the birds. Other threats include deforestation and human colonization.

Colorful Puffleg

The Colorful Puffleg is one of the world's most enigmatic hummingbirds. Endemic to a tiny area in the northern Andes of Colombia, this resplendent hummingbird remained undiscovered until April 1967, when photographer John Dunning was mist-netting below Cerro Munchique, and caught what he described as a "miraculous" bird. (image source)

Measuring only 8.0 cm, it is a spectacular multi-coloured hummingbird. It has black bill and pink feet. It has glittering green frontlet and gorget, glittering blue belly and glittering red and coppery-gold undertail-coverts. The population of this bird is estimated at around 50-250 adult birds.

In 2005, Swarovski donated funds which allowed the American Bird Conservancy and Fundación ProAves to create a reserve for this species.

Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird

Endemic to Colombia, the Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird has a bright plumage with blue undersides and green undersides and black wings. The forked tail is blue-black. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical mangrove forests and subtropical or tropical dry shrubland. It measures 9 cm in length. It has nearly straight bill with black and red tip. It is shining green above and has glittering blue underparts. It also has blue-black forked tails. (image source)

It is threatened by habitat loss. It is known locally on the Caribbean coast of Colombia (Atlántico, Magdalena and La Guajira), most records originating in Isla de Salamanca National Park or Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta. The population size is low and it appears to move locally according to season. There are about 50-249 individuals mature individuals.

Juan Fernández  Firecrown

The Juan Fernández Firecrown is found only on Isla Robinson Crusoe in a three-island archipelago belonging to Chile. It is non-migratory and shares the island with the smaller Green-backed Firecrown. It measures 13 cm and is bright rufous-orange, with dusky flight feathers. It also has reddish-yellow crown, generally appearing dark. (image source)

Factors that threaten the bird include destruction of native flora by man, invasion of exotic species, predation by domestic and feral cats, and erosion by actions of introduced rabbits and goats. In 2002, the bird’s population was estimated to be 200 individual birds and of these only 60 are females. However, more thorough surveys conducted in 2005 and repeated in 2006, coupled with quantitative modeling, estimated population densities in different habitats and concluded that the global population is considerably larger around 2500-3,000 individuals.

Gorgeted Puffleg

Endemic to Colombia, the Gorgeted Puffleg was discovered in 2005 but it was only confirmed as new in 2007. It can only be found in the cloud forests of the Serrania del Pinche (Choco region) in southwestern Colombia. This bird measures between 90 and 100 millimeters (3.5 to 4 inches) in length. Its name is taken from the “gorget” located on the throat of the male which is a patch of iridescent green and brilliant blue feathers, and from the puffs of white feathers at the thighs. (image source)

Gorgeted pufflegs are threatened by the conversion of their habitat into agricultural fields particularly for coca farming. Around 1,235 acres of forests are being destroyed each year. Their total population size is unknown. Three birds (one male and two females) were mist-netted in 2005 and a total of six further males were caught in 2006.

Turquoise-throated Puffleg

The Turquoise-throated Puffleg is also known as Godin’s Puffleg. Measuring 10-11 centimeters, the bird’s plumage is predominantly green with a turquoise tinted throat. The upperparts and the main part of the underpants are shimmering golden green. (image source)

The bird is known from only six 19th century specimens, and may be extinct. Any remaining population assumed to be tiny, with no confirmed records since the 19th century. It is a hummingbird from Ecuador and Colombia.

Honduran Emerald

As its name suggest, the Honduran Emerald is endemic to Honduras, inhabiting subtropical or tropical dry forests and subtropical or tropical dry shrubland in the upper Rio Aguan valley, Department of Yoro. This green, medium-sized hummingbird  measures 9.5 cm. It has glittering blue-green throat and upper chest. (image source)

The bird is threatened by habitat loss and deforestation. Remaining population size is from 250-999 mature individuals. Exploration of the less-accessible interior of Honduras has revealed a wider distribution than thought at the time of its "rediscovery." This has downlisted the bird from its Critically Endangered status to Endangered.

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