Once Feared Extinct, a Rare Hummingbird Is Rediscovered In Colombia

The rediscovered Santa Marta sabrewing.

The rediscovered Santa Marta sabrewing. Yurgen Vega / Selva / ProCAT

A rare hummingbird, not seen since 2010, has been rediscovered in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains.

Yurgen Vega, a local birdwatcher, told The Guardian that he felt “overcome with emotion” when he spotted a singing Santa Marta sabrewing, a male with characteristic emerald plumage, a blue throat, and black bill. Vega managed to photograph the bird, which was only been documented twice before, once in 1946 and once in 2010, when the species was first captured on film.

“The sighting was a complete surprise,” Vega said. “When I first saw the hummingbird, I immediately thought of the Santa Marta sabrewing. I couldn’t believe it was waiting there for me to take out my camera and start shooting.”

The Santa Marta sabrewing is listed as critically endangered, owing to widespread habitat loss. Scientists estimate that only 15 percent of the forest in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta remains intact, with large swaths of woodland destroyed by logging or cleared to grow coffee or cacao or to raise cattle. Climate change has further imperiled the forest by extending the dry season, raising the risk of wildfires, research shows. Conservationists hope the sabrewing’s discovery will spur officials to better protect what remains of the forest.

“This finding confirms that we still know very little about many of the most vulnerable and rare species out there, and it is imperative to invest more in understanding them better,” Esteban Botero-Delgadillo, director of conservation science with the environmental group Selva, told The Guardian. “It is knowledge that drives action and change — it is not possible to conserve what we do not understand.”


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