First Ever Photograph Confirms Colombian Hummingbird

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Santa Marta Sabrewing. Photo: © Laura Cárdenas


The first ever photo of a living Santa Marta Sabrewing is the first confirmation of the continued existence of this spectacular hummingbird in over 60 years. Stunningly, the area where the bird was found – the El Dorado Bird Reserve in the Santa Marta Mountains of northern Colombia – had been slated for development in 2006 for vacation homes, but was spared by a last minute land purchase through funding from American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Conservation International (CI), in cooperation with the Colombian conservation organization Fundación Pro Aves who expertly manages several bird reserves in Colombia.

The photograph was taken at El Dorado on 24 March by Laura Cardenas at about 6,200 feet elevation. Cardenas was monitoring migratory birds in the 1,600-acre reserve as part of a research project. This particular bird was caught in a mist net, banded, photographed, and released unharmed.

The Santa Marta Sabrewing, classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as Endangered, is endemic to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and is at high risk of extinction.

There have been occasional unconfirmed sightings by birders visiting the reserve and its environs since 2000. These sightings were typically single birds feeding in the forest canopy.

“This confirmation of the Santa Marta Sabrewing further emphasizes the national and global importance of the El Dorado Nature Reserve for endemic birds and wildlife. ABC was excited to have been able to help in the purchase of the land for the reserve in 2006, and this latest development demonstrates that the timing of that purchase perhaps could not have been better,” said George Fenwick, President of ABC.

El Dorado is also the sole location for the Globally Endangered Santa Marta Parakeet, for which it has earned recognition by the Alliance for Zero Extinction as one of 595 sites around the world whose protection is critical in order to prevent an imminent wave of extinction. Another 17 bird species, 11 threatened birds species and five threatened amphibians can also only be found there. The site is also a vital stopover point for declining neotropical migratory birds that breed in the United States and Canada, such as the Cerulean and Golden-winged Warblers.

This is not the only time in recent years that an exciting scientific discovery has been made at a bird reserve in Colombia. In 2009, the Santa Marta Foliage-gleaner, a species new to science, was discovered in El Dorado; a new tapoculo subspecies was discovered at the Colibri del Sol Bird Reserve in the same year; and a new antpitta subspecies, the Yariguíes Slate-crowned Antpitta, was discovered at the Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve, where a new species of moustached butterfly was also found. Also during March, ProAves discovered a new, brightly colored Mountain-Tanager near the Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve.

 

 

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American Bird Conservancy conserves native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats while building capacity of the bird conservation movement. ABC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization that is consistently awarded a top, four-star rating by the independent group, Charity Navigator.