Eye on conservation: Refuge brightens future for rare hummingbird

Honduran Emerald, August 10, 2006, by Dominic Sherony (Wikimedia Commons).
Honduran Emerald, August 10, 2006, by Dominic Sherony (Wikimedia Commons).

Tiny, iridescent Honduran Emerald is the only endemic bird species in Honduras. A vibrant flash of blue, green, and turquoise, it went unrecorded for almost 40 years, from 1950 to 1988, and is now listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently listed the Honduran Emerald as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Watch a slow-motion video of Honduran Emerald in flight.

Thanks to the Research Association for Ecological and Socioeconomic Development (ASIDE), American Bird Conservancy, and other groups, the hummingbird will benefit from the protection of 147 acres in the Agalta Valley, in the Department of Olancho, northeast of Tegucigalpa.

Officially designated as the El Ciruelo Wildlife Refuge by the Honduran Forestry Department, the property will preserve an expanse of the dry tropical forest that the hummingbird needs to survive. “We are still in the early stages of this project in the Agalta Valley but are thrilled by the early conservation success that the new El Ciruelo Wildlife Refuge represents,” said John Tschirky, who manages the project for ABC.

Cattle ranching is widespread in the Agalta Valley. As a result, the land is changing from dry forest to grasslands. Increasing summer temperatures, declining rainfall, and soil exhaustion reduce the quantity and quality of milk from cows. Many ranchers compensate for the shortfall by clearing forest for additional pasture.

ABC and ASIDE are working to develop a payment-for-ecosystem-services program that will give private landowners an incentive to maintain and even improve tropical dry forests on their lands. Conservation of the forests will benefit not just the hummingbird, but also declining migratory birds, such as Wood Thrush and Golden-winged Warbler, along with rare plants and other wildlife.

ASIDE has completed an ecological evaluation to determine which of the remaining dry-forest areas are most crucial to the hummingbird. Supported by ABC, the organization has also established a nursery to supply native trees for reforestation and as an alternative source for fuel wood and fence posts.

A version of this article appeared in the February 2016 issue of BirdWatching magazine.

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This story was provided by American Bird Conservancy, a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas.

Read other articles by American Bird Conservancy.

Read more about ABC’s Honduran Emerald Project.

 

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