Rare bird found in Santa Marta

“The mountainous area around Santa Marta, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, is a biological hotspot of sorts, filled with bird species that are found nowhere else.

“It’s just chock-full of these rare endemic birds,” said Michael Parr, vice president of American Bird Conservancy, which works to protect wild birds and their habitat in the Americas. Among the species found there is a hummingbird, the Santa Marta sabrewing.

Rare birds in isolated habitats can be a recipe for extinction, and while there had been a few unconfirmed sightings of the sabrewing in recent years, the bird’s existence had not been documented for decades. Until March 24, that is, when a researcher studying migratory birds, Laura Cárdenas, caught one in a mist net, banded it and took its picture before releasing it. It’s the first photograph ever of a Santa Marta sabrewing.

“She had a little bit of luck,” Mr. Parr said. “The bird just flew into the net, completely by chance.”

The photograph was taken in the El Dorado Preserve, 1,700 acres of land in the mountains that was purchased by the conservancy and other groups in 2006. More than 360 bird species have been found there, including the hummingbird and 10 others that are listed as threatened.

The eventual goal is to expand the reserve to about 7,000 acres in an area that has been badly deforested. “It’s the very best piece of remaining habitat,” Mr. Parr said.

The sighting shows that “the ecosystem is more intact than you might have feared,” he added.”- NYT

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