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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Five South American Birds Get Protection

WASHINGTON (CN) - One Ecuadorean and four Columbian bird species have been granted endangered listing status under the Endangered Species Act after decades of delay.

Ornithologists with the International Council for Bird Preservation petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1980 and in 1991 to list dozens of species of imperiled foreign birds as threatened or endangered, the action noted.

The birds languished in limbo under successive "warranted but precluded by higher listing priorities" determinations until the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) joined the effort and sued the agency in 2004 and 2006 for "unreasonable delay," according to the CBD's International Birds Initiative statement and press release in response to the recent listing action.

"Although the Fish and Wildlife Service had determined by 1994 that most of the species warranted protection, the agency never responded to the listing petitions. After a quarter-century, legal protection had been provided for only a handful of the species, and at least five of the 73 had gone extinct," the CBD claimed in its statement.

The five listed species are a fraction of the 30 species the USFWS acknowledges still warrant protection. The CBD maintains 73 birds were petitioned, including the five listed birds, the blue-billed curassow, brown-banded antpitta, Cauca guan, and gorgeted wood-quail in Columbia, and the Esmeraldas woodstar hummingbird in Ecuador.

The newly listed five species were selected due to the similarity of their listing priority numbers, habitat needs and threats. "Combining species that face similar threats within the same general geographic area into one proposed rule allows us to maximize our limited staff resources, thus increasing our ability to complete the listing process for warranted-but-precluded species," the action noted.

The birds face threats from habitat destruction and fragmentation, predation, inadequate regulations and small isolated populations. Overexploitation by humans also threatens the gorgeted wood-quail, Cauca guan and blue-billed curassow, the agency said in its press release.

The blue-billed curassow is a long-lived three-foot tall tree-dwelling bird that is mainly black with bright blue at the base of its bill. It is estimated that this species has lost 88 percent of it habitat and half its population within the last 30 years, the action said. Deforestation and hunting are its biggest threats.

The brown-banded antpitta is a seven-inch long nearly-flightless ground bird. It is estimated that has lost nine percent of its population over the past ten years through deforestation and hunting.

The Cauca guan is a 30-inch long forest bird that has lost 30 percent of its habitat over the past 30 years. This species has been forced into higher elevations due to deforestation. Illegal coca and opium cultivation has destroyed much of the birds' habitat.

The gorgeted wood-quail is about 10 inches long. The USFWS estimates that there are fewer than 500 birds remaining. Their habitat has disappeared due to logging and conversion to agriculture.

Ecuador's Esmeraldas woodstar is a two and a half-inch long hummingbird. There may be fewer than 400 remaining. Its range has been reduced by 99 percent due to "conversion of primary forests for numerous human activities," the action said.

"Addition of a foreign species to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife places restrictions on the importation of either the animal or its parts. Listing can also generate conservation benefits, such as increasing awareness of the species, prompting research efforts to address their conservation needs, or funding conservation in range countries," the agency said in its press release.

The listing was effective Nov. 29.

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