This beautiful hummingbird has only been photographed in the wild once before.
Conservationists now have reason to be hopeful that one of the most endangered species of “missing birds” on Earth may not be as doomed as previously believed.
In the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains of Colombia, a local birdwatcher recently captured images of the Santa Marta sabrewing (Campylopterus phainopeplus), an emerald green and electric blue hummingbird.
Yurgen Vega, who made the rediscovery while studying unique species in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, said in a statement, “This finding was a complete surprise, but a very welcome one.”
“A hummingbird caught my eye as I was leaving the area where I had been working. It was a Santa Marta sabre when I pulled out my binoculars, and by some unbelievable stroke of luck, the hummingbird had perched on a limb, giving me time to snap pictures and video.
The species is so elusive that only a few instances of it being found in the wild have been recorded, including when it was originally found by scientists in 1946 and again in 2010 when the first-ever images of the species in the wild were taken. Over the years, there have been a few rumored sightings, but none have ever been verified.
The Re:wild Search for Lost Birds initiative, which set out to identify 10 birds that haven’t had a documented sighting in ten years or more, was expanded to include the species out of concern that it might have gone extinct.
John C. Mittermeier, head of threatened species outreach at American Bird Conservancy, remarked that viewing images and videos of the Santa Marta sabrewing was “very amazing.”
“It’s like looking at a ghost. Last year, when we listed the top 10 most coveted lost birds, we hoped that the list would encourage birders to search for these particular species. And as this rediscovery demonstrates, extinct species can reappear unexpectedly. Rediscoveries like these, perhaps, will motivate conservation efforts.
Aside from the fact that they reside in the humid neotropical forests of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains at an altitude of between 1,200 and 1,800 meters, little is known about the Santa Marta sabrewing (4,000 and 6,000 feet).
Their vivid green feathers and iridescent blue neck let them stand out from other hummingbirds of a similar size. They whistle a characteristic song as well, which Vega heard while taking the most current pictures.
The species is still in serious jeopardy and is still categorized as “critically endangered” on the IUCN Red List, despite the promising nature of this sighting. The Santa Marta sabrewing population in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is thought to be extremely small and likely to be declining.