The blue-throated hillstar hummingbird (Oreotrochilus cyanolaemus) is a newly discovered species of hummingbird located in the Ecuadorian Andes. These unique birds have several fascinating adaptations to survive at altitudes higher than 3,500 meters, where the air is thinner, temperatures are lower, and the environment is oxygen-poor.
To conserve energy, these birds don’t hover often, instead opting to hop between chuquiraga plants, using their large feet to latch on to branches while drinking pollen and eating the insects they can find. To account for the thin air during the rare occasion that Oreotrochilus cyanolaemus take flight, they have lengthened tails and wings to provide extra lift. During the especially cold nights in their habitat, the blue-throated hillstar will enter a state of hibernation called torpor, slowing their metabolism and allowing their heart rate to drop.
According to evolutionary biologist Elisa Bonaccorso of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador and her team, the blue-throated hillstar hummingbird is in grave danger; she estimates that there are only 750 individuals left in the wild. They are spread out in groups over a 100 square kilometer area that is rapidly shrinking due to the expansion of cattle grazing and god and copper mining in this area by local communities.
At this rate, the future is not bright for this brand new species of hummingbird. There have been no efforts at conservation thus far, but a conservation action plan is currently being designed by the town of Sabadel as part of a nature tourism initiative.
Currently, our blue-throated, Ecuadorian friends are classified as critically endangered. I hope to keep you, the reader, updated on future conservation efforts to help save these unique birds.
For the original article on this topic, click here.
To look at Bonaccorso and her team’s study, click here.