Honduran hummingbird to get endangered species status

Habitat loss puts brilliant bird at risk of extinction

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing endangered species status for the Honduras emerald hummingbird. Photo via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Although it doesn’t live in the United States, the Honduran emerald hummingbird may get protection under the Endangered Species Act, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers listing the small bird as endangered. The emerald hummingbird is the only bird species endemic to Honduras, living in a few isolated patches of dry thorn forests and scrub habitat.

As a practical matter, the listing would restrict the importation of either the animal or its parts. Listing can also generate conservation benefits, such as increasing awareness of the species, prompting research efforts to address their conservation needs, or funding conservation in range countries.

Based on existing scientific information, the species is in danger of extinction because of its very small and fragmented range and population. The studies suggest that the population continues to decline. The USFWS made its determination in response to a petition filed by several groups in 2008 seeking protection for the bird.

Nearly ninety percent of the hummingbird’s original habitat may no longer exist in its original form due to land conversion. Much of the remaining habitat is on privately-owned land, which is often planted with non-native grasses for cattle foraging or with agricultural plantations. The Honduran emerald hummingbird’s range is limited to a few small, isolated islands of habitat in the northern, eastern and western parts of the country, surrounded by human-dominated landscapes. As a result of this continued habitat loss, these hummingbirds must expend more energy to travel between and find suitable habitat that provides substrates for breeding, feeding and nesting.

The proposed rule published in the Federal Register on January 2, 2013. The Federal Register publication of the rule is available online at http://www.fws.gov/policy/frsystem/default.cfm by clicking on the 2013 Proposed Rules under Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.

Written comments and information concerning the proposed listing can be submitted by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS-R9-ES-2009-0094]; or
  • U.S. mail or hand delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS-R9-ES-2009-0094]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

The Service is also seeking comments from independent species experts and peer reviewers. Any final action resulting from this proposed rule will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available and be as accurate and as effective as possible. The Service particularly seeks clarifying information concerning:

  • Taxonomy, distribution, habitat selection (especially breeding and foraging habitats), diet, and population abundance and trends (especially current recruitment data) of this species.
  • Effects of habitat loss and changing land uses on the distribution and abundance of this species and its principal food sources over the short and long term.
  • Whether changing climatic conditions (i.e., increasing intensity of hurricanes or drought) are affecting the species, its habitat, or its food sources.
  • Effects of other potential factors, including live capture and collection, domestic and international trade, predation by other animals, and diseases of this species or its principal food sources over the short and long term.
  • Management programs for hummingbird conservation, including mitigation measures related to conservation programs, and any other private or governmental conservation programs that benefit this species.
  • Genetics and taxonomy.
  • Factors that are the basis for making a listing determination for a species under section 4(a) of the ESA, which are:
    • The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range;
    • Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
    • Disease or predation;
    • The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    • Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.

Comments on each proposed rule must be received within 60 days, on or before March 4, 2013. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.


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