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New populations of critically endangered Honduran emerald hummingbird discovered

29/12/2008 23:20:59 December 2008. Recent sightings have added to our knowledge of the distribution of some of the world's rarest birds. In November a team of American and Honduran researchers and conservationists travelled to western Honduras to search for Honduran Emerald, a Critically Endangered species of hummingbird, endemic to Honduras. The principal cause of its decline is habitat destruction, with approximately 90% of its original habitat lost, and the remaining habitat occurring in isolated patches of arid thorn-forest and scrub of the interior valleys of northern Honduras.

The species was originally known to occur in four Honduran departments, Cortés and Santa Barbara in western Honduras, and Yoro and Olancho in north-eastern Honduras. Despite efforts to find the species in western Honduras, it had not been reported there since 1935. The team conducted searches in Santa Barbara and Cortés and found six sites inhabited by the Emerald, all in the department of Santa Barbara.

"Finding the species in western Honduras gives hope for the conservation of the species. This rediscovery not only increases both the known distributional range but also the population size of this species", said Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife's Global Research Coordinator.

Entre Rios seedeater
Another good news story from the Americas involves Entre Rios Seedeater Sporophila zelichi. Funded by the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, Aves Uruguay (BirdLife in Uruguay) has been focusing on locating the species in Uruguay through developing habitat models from known occurrences and using predicted locations to then search for the species in new areas. On the very first fieldwork trip Aves Uruguay found a male Entre Ríos Seedeater in an area with no previous records.

"This is a great result and goes to show how well this method of habitat modelling can work", said Dr Rob Clay, Senior Conservation Manager for the Americas. "This species suffers not only from habitat loss but also from trapping, as this attractive bird is popular as a cage bird."
Further work on this species is needed as the wintering grounds remain unknown but are likely to be in the Brazilian cerrado or Pantanal.

Both these birds are among 190 Critically Endangered species in need of a Species Champion as part of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

BirdLife Species Champions are a new global community of businesses, institutions and individuals who are stepping forward to provide the funding required to carry out the vital conservation measures BirdLife International has identified to help prevent bird extinctions.

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