Black-breasted puffleg

Black-breasted puffleg
Eriocnemis nigrivestis

Photo by Murray Cooper (Mongabay)

Common name:
black-breasted puffleg (en); beija-flor-de-peito-negro (pt); érione à robe noire (fr); zamarrito pechinegro (es); schwarzbauch-höschenkolibri (de)

Order Apodiformes
Family Trochilidae

This species is endemic to north-western Ecuador, only being found on the northern and north-western ridge-crests of Volcán Pichincha, and in the Cordillera de Toisán above the Intág valley, both located north of Quito.

These birds are 8-9 cm long and weigh 4-4,5 g.

The black-breasted puffleg is found in humid and wet cloud forests located in the crests of mountain ridges, including elfin forests and forest borders. They occur at altitudes of 1.700-3.500 m.

They feed mainly on the nectar of various plants, namely of Palicourea huigrensis, but also take some small insects and spiders.

These birds breed in October-March. They are polygynous and the males have no further part in the breeding process after mating. The female lays a clutch of 2 eggs, which she incubates alone, but there is no available information regarding the incubation and fledging periods.

IUCN status – CR (Critically Endangered)
This species has a very small and fragmented breeding range. The global population is currently estimated at just 140-180 individuals, making it one of the rarest birds in the world. The black-breasted puffleg is believed to have been much more common in the past, and is currently suspected to be declining by 10-20% per decade, owing to widespread and continuing habitat loss within its range. The deforestation rates for high-Andean mountain forests has accelerated in recent year, mainly for timber and charcoal, facilitating the introduction of cattle and the eventual spread of the agricultural frontier for ranching and to a lesser extent production of crops. Copper mining concessions and invasions of landless farmers are further encroaching the remaining patches of favourable habitat available within the species’ range. Since 2005 this species became the emblematic bird of Quito, which lead to the purchase and protection of areas of favourable habitat.

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