The Honduran Emerald is a vibrant flash of blue, green, and turquoise. But this tiny, iridescent hummingbird may be most remarkable for its rarity: Unrecorded for almost 40 years, from 1950 to 1988, it is now listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
But the future now looks a little brighter for the rare hummingbird that lives only in Honduras. Thanks to Honduran organization La Asociación de Investigación para el Desarrollo Ecológico y Socio Económico (ASIDE), American Bird Conservancy, and other groups, the bird will benefit from the protection of 147 acres in Honduras' Agalta Valley.
Officially designated as the El Ciruelo Wildlife Refuge by the Honduran Forestry Department, the property will preserve an expanse of the dry tropical forests the Honduran Emerald 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 this project for ABC.
Cattle ranching is widespread in the Agalta Valley, and as a result the land is rapidly 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 this by clearing forest for additional pasture. To protect the remaining forests, ABC and ASIDE are working to develop a Payment for Ecosystem Services program to private landowners with an incentive to maintain and even improve tropical dry forests on their lands.
Conservation of these forests would benefit not just the Honduran Emerald, but also declining migratory birds that winter in the area, such as the Wood Thrush and Golden-winged Warbler, along with many rare plants, reptiles, and other wildlife.
ASIDE has completed an ecological evaluation to understand which of the remaining dry forest areas are most crucial to the hummingbird. With support from ABC, the organization has also established a nursery to supply native trees for reforestation efforts and to serve as an alternative source for fuelwood and fence posts.