A rare hummingbird has been rediscovered by a bird watcher in Colombia after being missing for more than a decade.
The Santa Marta sabertail, a large hummingbird found only in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia, was last seen in 2010, and scientists feared the species could become extinct as the tropical forests it inhabits are largely preserved for agriculture were cleared.
But ornithologists celebrate the rediscovery Campylopterus phainopeplus after being caught on camera by an experienced local bird watcher. It is only the third time the species has been documented: the first time in 1946 and the second time in 2010, when researchers took the first photos of the species in the wild.
Yurgen Vega, who spotted the hummingbird while working with conservation organizations Selva, ProCAT Colombia and World Parrot Trust to study endemic birds in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, said he was “overwhelmed with emotion” when he saw the bird saw.
“The sighting was a complete surprise,” he said. “When I first saw the hummingbird, I immediately thought of Santa Marta’s saber wing. I couldn’t believe it was there waiting for me to get my camera out and start taking pictures. I was almost convinced it was the way, but because I was feeling so overwhelmed with emotion, I chose to be cautious; It may have been the Lazuline saber, which is often confused with the Santa Marta saber. But when we saw the pictures, we knew it was true.”
The Santa Marta sabertail is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and is in the top 10 of the “Most Wanted” list by conservation organization Re:wild, a global effort to identify species Find one that hasn’t been seen for more than 10 years. The bird is so rare and elusive that John C. Mittermeier, director of the American Bird Conservancy’s Endangered Species Division, likened the sighting to “seeing a phantom.”
The hummingbird Vega saw was a male, recognizable by its emerald green feathers, light blue throat, and curved black beak. Perched on a branch, vocalizing and singing, behavioral scientists believe it is associated with courtship and defending territories.
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in northern Colombia is home to an abundance of wildlife, including 24 species of birds found nowhere else. But scientists estimate that only 15% of the forest in the mountains is intact. It is hoped that the surprise sighting of Santa Marta’s saber wing will help protect their remaining habitat, benefiting many different species found there.
“This result confirms that we still know very little about many of the most endangered and rare species out there, and it is imperative to invest more in understanding them better,” said Esteban Botero-Delgadillo, Director of Conservation Sciences at Selva: Research for conservation in the neotropics. “It is knowledge that drives action and change – it is not possible to preserve what we do not understand.
“The next step is to go outside and look for stable populations of this species to better understand where it occurs and what the most critical local threats are.” This of course needs to involve people from local communities and local and regional environmental agencies so that together we can start a research and conservation program that can have real impact.”