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Purple-backed Sunbeam Aglaeactis aliciae
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This species is listed as Endangered because it has a single, very small population which is inferred to be declining owing to considerable ongoing habitat degradation through burning for cattle pasture and clearance of its favoured alder woodland habitat to make way for eucalyptus plantations.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

12-13 cm. Large, principally brown hummingbird. Earth-brown head and mantle, iridiscent amethyst on lower back and rump and golden-green uppertail-coverts. Largely darkish brown underparts, except white lores, throat and upper breast. White-tipped bronze tail. Female has iridescence on upperparts reduced or lacking. Similar spp. Shining Sunbeam A. cupripennis has largely rufous-brown underparts and face. Range of White-tufted Sunbeam A. castelnaudii does not overlap and that species has tawny tail, some rufous on underparts and white feather tuft on central breast.Voice A thin, high tsuit tsEEt tsuit tsEEt tsuew.

Distribution and population
Aglaeactis aliciae is only known with certainty from a tiny area in the upper Marañón drainage of La Libertad, west Peru (F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2012). Though there were historical records from Succha and nearby Soquián in La Libertad, the only location that produced regular records in the period 1979-2005 was El Molino, also in La Libertad (J. Hornbuckle in litt. 1999, Hunnybun 1999, T. S. Schulenberg in litt. 1999, Lambert and Angulo 2007), where (at least until 2003) the species was described as "locally common" (D. Geale in litt. 2005, Lambert and Angulo 2007), although available habitat at this site covers less than one km2. However, in 2006 field surveys found the species to be widespread and locally common within its reported historical range on the east bank of the Marañón, and, indeed, elsewhere (e.g. on the west bank of the Marañón and in the upper Chusgon Valley). The distance between the most northerly and southerly points where the species was found was 35.5 km (Lambert and Angulo 2007). There is also an unconfirmed sighting from the Llanganuco area in Ancash (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996), c. 140 km south of the La Libertad sites; and within the Chusgón Valley, there is an additional area of 155 km2 within which the species could potentially occur (Lambert and Angulo 2007).

Population justification
The population is estimated to be small, as the species is only known from c. 178 km2 of habitat. It is placed in the band 1,000-2,499 mature individuals, equating to 1,500-3,749 individuals in total, rounded here to 1,500-4,000 individuals.

Trend justification
This species is suspected to be undergoing a slow to moderate and on-going decline, owing to continuing habitat degradation within its range.

It is known from the temperate zone (2,900-3,500 m) with vegetation comprising montane shrubs and Alnus and Eucalyptus trees (B. P. Walker in litt. 1995), where it is found in the understorey of alder woodland (G. Engblom in litt. 2005). It feeds on mistletoe parasitising alders and other trees, e.g. Tristerix longebrachteatum (T. Züchner in litt. 1999, Clements and Shany 2001), and in patches of flowering uñico Oreocallis grandiflora (Lambert and Angulo 2007). It has also recently been reported to feed and roost in introduced Eucalyptus trees, although the species's degree of tolerance of Eucalyptus plantations (especially as breeding habitat) is unknown (F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2005, D. Geale in litt. 2005). However, the unconfirmed sighting in the Llanganuco area was in the Polylepis zone at 3,600-4,000 m. Juveniles and immatures have been taken in February, March and June.

The village of Molino is in a heavily populated area (B. P. Walker in litt. 1995) and, given its restricted range, this species is probably very vulnerable to habitat destruction. Perhaps the greatest concern is the felling of alder for replacement with eucalyptus plantations which provide better timber for the mining industry (G. Engblom in litt. 2005). Alder woodland and montane shrubland is also impacted by cutting for firewood and small scale burning to improve pasture for grazing livestock (F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2005, Lambert and Angulo 2007). Similar habitat loss is occurring throughout the region (G. Engblom in litt. 2005).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. In 2009-2010, CORBIDI carried out an awareness campaign, the first for this species and one of the few conservation actions directed to this hummingbird (F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed

Survey the Chusgón Valley and more widely in the Pataz area to investigate the possibility of the existance of additional subpopulations. Determine the distribution of A. cupripennis to judge whether there are distributional gaps between the two hummingbirds where A. aliciae might occur (T. S. Schulenberg in litt. 1999). Research the species's ecological requirements (T. Züchner in litt. 1999), in particular assessing the suitability of Eucalyptus plantations as habitat (Lambert and Angulo 2007). Investigate the species's taxonomic relationship with A. cupripennis. Safeguard remaining habitat. Pressure local authorities to include species-specific material in school syllabuses and to initiate a second awareness campaign. Create a reserve for this species (F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2012).

Clements, J. F.; Shany, N. 2001. A field guide to the birds of Peru. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Collar, N. J.; Gonzaga, L. P.; Krabbe, N.; Madroño Nieto, A.; Naranjo, L. G.; Parker, T. A.; Wege, D. C. 1992. Threatened birds of the Americas: the ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Fjeldså, J.; Kessler, M. 1996. Conserving the biological diversity of Polylepis woodlands of the highland of Peru and Bolivia. NORDECO, Copenhagen.

Hunnybun, M. 1999. A birding trip to Peru.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Lambert, F. R.; Pratolongo, F. A. 2007. Distribution, status and notes on the ecology of Purple-backed Sunbeam Agaeactis aliciae in north Peru. Cotinga 28: 21-26.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from the Threatened birds of the Americas: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 1992). Please note taxonomic treatment and IUCN Red List category may have changed since publication.

Detailed species account from the Threatened birds of the Americas: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 1992). Please note, taxonomic treatment and IUCN Red List category may have changed since publication.

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Recuento detallado de la especie tomado del libro Aves Amenazadas de las Americas, Libro Rojo de BirdLife International (BirdLife International 1992). Nota: la taxonomoía y la categoría de la Lista Roja de la UICN pudo haber cambiado desde esta publicación.

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Isherwood, I., Mahood, S., Sharpe, C J, Stuart, T., Temple, H., Khwaja, N. & Symes, A.

Angulo Pratolongo, F., Engblom, G., Geale, D., Hornbuckle, J., Schulenberg, T., Walker, B. & Züchner, T.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Aglaeactis aliciae. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Purple-backed sunbeam (Aglaeactis aliciae) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Endangered
Family Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)
Species name author Salvin, 1896
Population size 1000-2499 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 180 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species