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Rare hummingbird last seen in 2010 rediscovered in Colombia | Environment

Written by Javed Iqbal

A rare hummingbird has been rediscovered by a birdwatcher in Colombia after disappearing for more than a decade.

The Santa Marta sawfly, a large hummingbird found only in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, was last seen in 2010, and scientists feared the species might be extinct as the tropical forests it inhabited have largely been cleared for agriculture.

But ornithologists are celebrating the rediscovery of Campylopterus phainopeplus after an experienced local bird watcher caught one on camera. This is only the third time the species has been documented: The first was in 1946 and the second in 2010, when researchers took the first pictures of the species in the wild.

Yurgen Vega, who saw the hummingbird while working with conservation organizations Self, ProCAT Colombia and World Parrot Trust to research endemic birds in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, he said he felt “overcome with emotion” when he saw the bird.

“The signing was a complete surprise,” he said. “When I first saw the hummingbird, I immediately thought of the Santa Marta sawfly. I couldn’t believe it was waiting there for me to take out my camera and start shooting. I was almost convinced it was the species, but feeling so overcome with emotion, I preferred to be cautious; it could have been the Lazuline sawing, which is often confused with the Santa Marta sawing. But when we saw the pictures, we knew it was true.”

The Santa Marta sawfly is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and features on the conservation organization’s Top 10 “Most Wanted” list Re: wild‘s Search for Lost Birds, a worldwide effort to find species that have not been seen in more than 10 years. The bird is so rare and elusive that John C Mittermeier, the director of endangered species distribution at the American Bird Conservancy, likened the sight to “seeing a phantom.”

Vega the hummingbird was a male, identified by its emerald green feathers, light blue neck and curved black bill. It was perched on a branch, vocalizing and singing behaviorists believe is associated with courtship and defense of territory.

That Sierra Nevada in Santa Marta in northern Colombia is home to a wealth of wildlife, including 24 bird species found nowhere else. But scientists estimate that only 15% of the mountain’s forest is intact. It is hoped that the surprising sight of the Santa Marta saw will help protect their remaining habitat, benefiting many different species found there.

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“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,” said Esteban Botero-Delgadillo, director of conservation science at Selva: Research to Conservation in the Neotropics. “It is knowledge that drives action and change – it is not possible to preserve what we do not understand.

“The next step is to go out there and look for stable populations of this species, and try to better understand where it occurs and what the most critical threats are in situ. This of course has to involve people from local communities and local and regional environmental authorities, so that together we can begin a research and conservation program that can have a real impact.”

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Javed Iqbal

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