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Hummingbird discovered in 2005 close to extinction

  • @mjpmccarthy

It was only discovered in 2005 – and now it has been added to the list of the world's most endangered birds.

The gorgeted puffleg, a brilliantly coloured hummingbird from Colombia, may be on the way out before the scientific world has had a proper chance to take its existence in.

It is one of 192 bird species named yesterday as "critically endangered", the highest risk category on the Red List of species threatened with extinction, published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

According to the latest Red List update, carried out for the IUCN by BirdLife International, some 12 per cent of all bird species – a total of 1,227 – are threatened with extinction around the world. The critically endangered total of 192 is two more than in 2008, and while some species have been downgraded from the highest threat level, a dozen very rare birds have been added to the list.

The gorgeted puffleg, Eriocnemis isabellae, a spectacular creature characterised by a green and blue throat patch, is on the list because its tiny fragment of habitat, just 1,200 hectares in the cloud forests of the Serrania del Pinche mountain range, is being destroyed for coca farming.

Other species newly moved on to the critically endangered list include the Sidamo lark of Ethiopia, which faces becoming the first African bird of modern times to become extinct, because of changes in land use, and the hooded grebe which is found only in a few lakes of southern Argentina and Chile.

But some species have been "downlisted" from critically endangered to endangered after conservation work put their populations on a more stable basis. They include the Lear's macaw, a spectacular blue parrot from Brazil, the Chatham petrel from New Zealand, and the Mauritius fody, a stunning scarlet and brown weaver bird from the Indian Ocean which has been rescued after the relocation and establishment of a new population on to a predator-free island.