New species of hum­ming­bird re­vealed by team in Ecuador

Shanghai Daily - - ANIMAL PLANET - (AFP)

A TEAM of or­nithol­o­gists in Ecuador has iden­ti­fied a new species of hum­ming­bird — a lovely blue-green crea­ture that lives in a cold, bar­ren high­land area and is in dan­ger of ex­tinc­tion.

Team leader Fran­cisco Sornoza saw one of the birds through binoc­u­lars a year ago and had a hunch it was a pre­vi­ously un­known species.

The bird is about 11 cen­time­ters long and has a stun­ning, deep blue neck, a white breast with a black stripe and green­ish-blue head and body feath­ers.

It has been given the name Oreotrochilus cyanolae­mus, or blue-throated star. The dis­cov­ery was an­nounced in a jour­nal called “The Auk: Or­nitho­log­i­cal Ad­vances.”

The bird lives at an al­ti­tude of 3,000 to 3,700 me­ters in an area near the Pa­cific coast that strad­dles the prov­inces of Loja and El Oro.

Re­searchers es­ti­mate there are only 300 of th­ese birds and say its habi­tat is shrink­ing dra­mat­i­cally. Min­ing in the area also threat­ens it.

“It is a species that is in se­vere dan­ger,” said Sornoza, who works at the Na­tional Bio­di­ver­sity In­sti­tute.

Ecuador is small but very rich in bio­di­ver­sity. For in­stance, it is home to 132 species of hum­ming­bird.

Th­ese birds are very well doc­u­mented so the dis­cov­ery of a new one is ex­tremely rare. This is the first such find in 30 years, said Sornoza.

Also on the team with Sornoza were re­searchers Juan Freile of the Ecuado­ran Com­mit­tee of Or­nitho­log­i­cal Registries, Swede Jonas Nils­son of the bird ob­ser­va­tory Wild Su­maco, Den­mark’s Niels Krabbe from the Uni­ver­sity of Copen­hagen and Elisa Bonac­corso, a Venezue­lan who teaches at San Fran­cisco Uni­ver­sity in Quito.

Hum­ming­birds are dis­tin­guished by their col­ors and the shape of their beak.

“Each one rep­re­sents the col­ors of the jew­els you can see in the world: di­a­mond, ruby, amethyst,” said Sornoza, who has stud­ied birds for 30 years and is so crazy about them he im­i­tates bird song.

Hum­ming­birds are tough lit­tle crea­tures, he adds — their hearts beat 1,600 times a minute by day but that goes down to 200 at night to help them sur­vive the cold, said Sornoza.

The new species has a slightly curved beak that helps it get at the flow­ers of the chuquiragua, a plant Ecuado­ran high­landers use to brew tea.

It can eat up to two times its weight in nec­tar.

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