MILESTONE: New Research Fuels Race to Save One of Mexico's Rarest Birds

The Critically Endangered Short-crested Coquette was recently found to use more types of habitat than previously believed. Photo by Greg Homel

The Critically Endangered Short-crested Coquette, Lophornis brachylophus, occurs in more diverse habitats than previously thought and was found at some new locales, according to new research that came out in January 2020. A team led by Dr. Carlos Almazán of the Autonomous University of Guerrero found that this hummingbird, which is found only in the Sierra de Atoyac in Guerrero, Mexico, occurs in semi-deciduous forest and cloud forests with pine trees.

This is the first time the species has been detected in forests with pine, and new locations were discovered within its distribution at this Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) site. (The coquette is the reason the Sierra de Atoyac is included as an AZE site, a biodiversity conservation area that holds one or more extremely threatened species that occurs nowhere else on Earth.)

The research will direct future conservation efforts to save the coquette and its habitat — actions that are urgently needed given that the species is only known from one extremely small area that is quickly being degraded.

With American Bird Conservancy (ABC) support, the Almazán team has been researching the coquette for over a year as part of a study to learn more about the bird's basic ecology and geographic distribution, and to reach out to local communities about conserving its habitat.

It was recently observed and documented that Short-crested Coquettes pierce fruit to access nectar. Photo by Miguel Ángel Pañaloza

A follow-up project will build upon this work to engage with local ejidos, communities that combine communal and individual land use under the traditional Mexican land tenure system. The hope is that these efforts result in voluntary protected areas that safeguard coquette habitat. This project, which includes both Almazán's team and the local NGO Institute for the Management and Conservation of Biodiversity (INMACOB), will also work with communities to develop income-generating projects geared to provide them with financial sustainability, while reducing pressures on the habitats where the coquette lives.

“It's an ambitious project,” notes Amy Upgren, the ABC lead for the project. “But if we can partner with ejidos to successfully create protected areas while fostering revenue-generating opportunities, the long-term prospects for both people and the Short-crested Coquette will be improved.”

The research led to another interesting discovery: The team observed that the diminutive hummingbird pierces fruit to access nectar.

“We are still learning a lot about the coquette,” notes Almazán, “and we look forward to continued collaboration with ABC to study and conserve this important species.”

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Media Contact: Jordan Rutter, Director of Public Relations, 202-888-7472 | jerutter@abcbirds.org | @JERutter
Expert Contact: Amy Upgren, Alliance for Zero Extinction Program Officer, 540-253-5780 | aupgren@abcbirds.org

American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).

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