Endangered Listing Planned for Hummer

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the Honduran emerald hummingbird as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. There are fewer than one thousand of the birds left, perhaps as few as 200, according to a 12-month petition finding and status review.
     The striking hummer, slightly less than four inches in length, has an iridescent blue-green throat and upper chest, and is predominantly emerald green in color, the action states. It is also the only known endemic bird species in Honduras, and is now found only in two to three valleys, with its range estimated to be between 58 and 154 square miles, the action states.
     The birds have lost 90 percent of their arid thorn forest habitat over the past 100 years to the spread of oil palm and banana plantations, other agriculture and cattle pastures. Over 80 percent of the birds’ existing habitat is privately owned, which makes it challenging to provide protections to the species. The existing habitat is also fragmented into isolated areas. “Fragmentation of populations can decrease the fitness and reproductive potential of the species, which exacerbates other threats,” the agency said.
     The small and declining population also makes the species vulnerable to extreme weather events such as hurricanes, drought and flooding, but even “small temperature increases can greatly increase the amount of the birds’ evaporative water loss,” the action states. “Any loss of potentially reproducing individuals could have a devastating effect on the ability of the population to increase,” the action states.
     Honduras has improved its resource management laws and has started an initiative to recover denuded and degraded areas, but the country is still expanding its African palm oil production in response to encouragement from other countries, as well as its cattle ranches and banana plantations, the action states.
     The USFWS was originally petitioned in 2008 by The Hummingbird Society of Sedona,
     Ariz., The Hummingbird Conservancy of Butte, Mont., Clos LaChance of San Martin, Calif., the Honduran Environmental Network for Sustainable Development of La Ceiba, Honduras, Fundación Parque Nacional Pico Bonito of La Ceiba, Honduras, EcoLogic Development Fund of Cambridge, Mass., and Crowell and Moring LLP of the District of Columbia, requesting the endangered listing for the birds, the action states.The agency plans a peer review and requests comments and information by March 4 on its proposal before making a final determination.

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