This hummingbird—like so many of South America's hundreds of hummingbird species—has a name that is both charming and descriptive. The male's unique tail features two long, wire-like outer feathers ending in bluish-purple disks. The birds waves these spatules around during communal courtship displays, which females visit to select a mate.
The species occurs only in the Rio Utcubamba Valley, in the Andes of northern Peru. Here, in a bid to prevent the species' extinction, ABC and Asociación Ecosistemas Andinos (ECOAN) helped establish the Huembo Reserve in 2005.
Since the Marvelous Spatuletail is so rare, it has been classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature; it's also considered an Alliance for Zero Extinction species. The main threat to the spatuletail is habitat destruction, caused by illegal wood-cutting and burning for agriculture. Other threats include illegal hunting and invasive plants, which crowd out native flowering plants that provide food.
The Huembo Reserve also helps other rare species, including the Little Woodstar and Speckle-chested Piculet. It also provides habitat for migratory birds like Swainson's Thrush.
Beyond birds, communities also benefit: Local people work with ECOAN to plant trees on the reserve and nearby private lands, while a demonstration project with shade bananas, shade coffee, and passion fruit shows local farmers the methods and benefits of sustainable farming.
In fact, conservation of the Marvelous Spatuletail has led to community pride that's contagious. Now, people across the region participate in conservation activities to help this and many other species.
The Huembo Reserve now features several special ways to welcome guests: a trail system with a panoramic views, several hummingbird feeding stations that permit easy viewing, and a four-bedroom lodge. You can go and see the spatuletail for yourself! To arrange a trip, please visit Conservation Birding for more information.
Huembo is just one of more than 70 reserves ABC and partners have created to protect rare birds, from the Marvelous Spatuletail to the Blue-billed Curassow and Stresemann's Bristlefront. The reserves are found in 15 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean; to date, they have attracted well over 25,000 visitors, including birders, photographers, and trekkers whose entrance and accommodation fees help to finance reserve management and protection. (Learn about the 10th anniversary of our Latin American Bird Reserve Network.)
In his recent book, Steven Johnson coins the term “Hummingbird Effect” to make the point that innovation in one realm can trigger unpredictable and unexpected advancement in others. We not only agree, but have dozens of examples of how great American bird conservation projects make considerable, sometimes unexpected contributions to other important causes including amphibian conservation, human health, food safety, climate change, water conservation, and home energy savings. Help us keep the hummingbird effect going!