Archived 2010-2011 topics: Honduran Emerald (Amazilia luciae): downlist to Endangered?

Link to BirdLife species factsheet for Honduran Emerald

Honduran Emerald Amazilia luciae is currently listed as Critically Endangered under criterion B1a+b(i,ii,iii,v) on the basis that its Extent of Occurrence (EOO) was estimated at 12 km2, within which its habitat is severely fragmented and its population is suspected to be in decline owing to continued habitat loss and fragmentation caused primarily by conversion of land to pasture and cultivation (Anderson et al. 1998, M. Bonta in litt. 1999).

Recent records signifying the rediscovery of the species in Santa Barbara department (Anderson et al. 2010) have extended the species’s known current range into western Honduras, whilst improved knowledge and mapping of its range in central-northern and central-eastern Honduras have further increased the area over which the species is thought to be extant. The species has also been shown to inhabit semi-deciduous woodland in western Honduras, indicating that it is not restricted to thorn forest as previously thought, increasing the area of suitable habitat (Anderson et al. 2010).

Updated BirdLife range map for Honduran Emerald

Following edits to the species’s range map, its EOO is now estimated to be 400 km2 (calculated from the areas over which the species is considered probably extant). This suggests that the species is no longer qualifies as Critically Endangered under the B criterion, although the species is still suspected to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat loss. It is therefore proposed that the species be downlisted to Endangered under criteria B1a+b(i,ii,iii,v) and C2a(i), on the basis that it has an EOO estimated at less than 5,000 km2, in which its population, until further information is available, is still estimated to number fewer than 2,500 individuals, with all sub-populations numbering no more than 250 individuals, and its habitat is severely fragmented, with continuing declines suspected in its EOO, Area of Occupancy, area, extent and/or quality of habitat and number of mature individuals. The population is still suspected to be declining at a rate of 30-49% over 10 years (estimate of three generations).

Comments on this proposed category change are invited and further information on this species is requested, including an up-to-date estimate of the population size, which is currently put at 250-999 individuals, and details of the severity of threats, including the likely rate of habitat loss.

Anderson, D. L., Bonta, M. and Thorn, P. (1998) New and noteworthy bird records from Honduras. Bull. Brit. Ornithol. Club 118: 178-183.

Anderson, D. L., House, P., Hyman, R. E., Steiner, R., Hawkins, H. R., Thorn, S., Rey, M. J., Espinal, M. R. and Marineros, L. E. (2010) Rediscovery of the Honduran Emerald Amazilia luciae in western Honduras: insights on the distribution, ecology, and conservation of a ‘Critically Endangered’ hummingbird. Bird Conserv. Int. 20: 255-262.

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3 Responses to Archived 2010-2011 topics: Honduran Emerald (Amazilia luciae): downlist to Endangered?

  1. Assumptions as to the range and extent of suitable habitat of the Honduran Emerald must be treated with caution, and are probably not reflected accurately in the distributional map. Suitable habitat occurs in forest fragments the majority of which are likely <100 ha in size, almost all of which occur on private lands, such that individual fragments are at high risk of being lost. Second, suitable habitat occurs in widely scattered valleys, and a casual assumption that the spaces intervening the points on the map may contain suitable habitat is in error. Those spaces are in fact filled with unsuitable habitats (montane regions, agriculture, populated areas). Third, there is no measure of population size, or of minimum viable population size, for any of the populations. Habitat/populations in each of the three regionsof occurrence (eastern Honduras, NE, W) is threatened by unique sociopolitical realities, and there is no way to predict how long habitat will persist in these regions, how much habitat is needed to sustain a population in each region, or how long until the amount of habitat crosses an unknown threshold below which that population will cease to be viable. Fourth, there are multinational projects awaiting biological approval (clearance that the HOEM will not be affected) in both E and W Honduras and these would, by all accounts, decimate HOEM habitat. Downlisting the conservation status of the HOEM could actually prove disastrous by providing political leverage to the corporations wishing to push these projects forward. Downlisting could actually be the first major step leading to extinction of the species. Given the lack of data on fundamental life history, distribution of habitat, and population size, and in light of the political pressure to permit projects that would risk the remaining habitat, it is premature and woefully risky to downlist the species until better data and protection are procured. Downlisting should be made based on the availability of sound data, not based on the absence of such data.

  2. Robert Hyman says:

    While I have only been researching this bird and working on its conservation since 2006, I completely agree with the comment posted by David L. Anderson. There is a very good reason why this species has been listed as Critically Endangered and any change would be a step backwards.
    Continued further research is need before any change of this nature occurs. Robert

  3. Joe Taylor says:

    Please note that a provisional decision has been taken to downlist this species to Endangered, as proposed in the forum topic. In response to the comments received so far, it is important to recognise that the Extent of Occurrence (EOO) is a measure of the spread of extinction risk, and not a measure of the actual area occupied by the species. Indeed, the range map shown above is based on a very precautionary interpretation of the Red List guidelines and arguably some of the mapped areas should be treated as contiguous. The calculated EOO is considerably in excess of the 100 km2 threshold, thus, while the species remains highly threatened, to be consistent with the assessment of species everywhere, it warrants downlisting. It should also be noted that the Red List categories provide a measure of extinction risk rather than conservation priority.

    Joe Taylor, Stuart Butchart & Andy Symes,
    BirdLife International

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