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Critically Endangered Hummingbird Found on Proposed OCP Pipeline Route in Ecuador

by Dr. Rob Williams

Quito, Ecuador 15th January 2001

Black-breasted PufflegThe Critically Endangered Black-breasted Puffleg Eriocnemis nigrivestis, a hummingbird on the brink of extinction, has been found on the proposed route of the new oil pipeline in Ecuador.

On 12th January 2000, Dr Rob Williams of Biosphere Consultants and Tatiana Santander of CECIA were undertaking surveys to locate remaining breeding areas for the Black-breasted Puffleg, which now only occurs on the north slope of Volcán Pichincha west of Quito, Ecuador. The survey team was checking all previously known localities for the bird, most which have now been deforested for cattle grazing and charcoal production.

They found the Black-breasted Puffleg on the route of the proposed OCP (Oleoducto de Crudos Pesados) oil pipeline at an altitude of 3240 m on a ridge called Cruz Loma. The proposed pipeline and accompanying road would destroy much of the remaining vegetation along the ridgetop and would probably lead to the extinction of the species at that site. The Black-breasted Puffleg is very local and rare, and apparently relies on stunted ridgetop vegetation. This means that very little habitat remains within its range. Surveys in the last four months have found the species at only one other location, where a single male and female have been seen and forest clearance for cattle threatens the remaining habitat.

With the state of current knowledge, the forest on Cruz Loma is probably an important area for the long-term survival of the species. It is hoped that the petrol companies will ensure that intensive studies of the species are undertaken to fully assess the status of the Black-breasted Puffleg in the area and ensure that the construction of the pipeline does not prove to be the end of the Black-breasted Puffleg -- Hummingbird of Quito.

Dr Nigel Collar of BirdLife International commented: "This beautiful, tiny hummingbird is endemic to northern Ecuador and is so rare that nothing must be allowed to put it at further risk. It is already classified as Critically Endangered, the highest category of threat on the official world Red List, and is thought to have a range of less than 80 km2 and a population under 250 individuals. No amount of oil can wash away the revulsion and sadness that people will feel, today and tomorrow, if this pipeline wipes out the area where the species has been found."

Contacts re. the threats posed by the OCP pipeline and the Black-breasted Puffleg:

Paul Coopmans (Fundación Condor)

Paul Greenfield (Fundación Jocotoco)

Dr Rob Williams (Biosphere Consultants)

Dr Ian Davidson (Director of the Americas for BirdLife International)

Dr Nigel Collar (BirdLife International Research Fellow)

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