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Dry-Forest Sabrewing: New Hummingbird Species Discovered

A new hummingbird species, called the dry-forest sabrewing, has been discovered in the tropical forests of eastern Brazil.

A young male of the dry-forest sabrewing (Campylopterus calcirupicola) captured in the Fazenda Corredor, municipality of Bocaiúva, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Image credit: Leonardo Esteves Lopes.

A young male of the dry-forest sabrewing (Campylopterus calcirupicola) captured in the Fazenda Corredor, municipality of Bocaiúva, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Image credit: Leonardo Esteves Lopes.

Dr. Leonardo Lopes, an ornithologist at the Federal University of Viçosa in Florestal, Brazil, and his colleagues placed the new species in Campylopterus, a genus of over ten hummingbird species from Central and South America, commonly known as sabrewings.

The sabrewings are very large for hummingbirds, typically 5-6 inches (12-15 cm) long.

The dry-forest sabrewing — scientifically named Campylopterus calcirupicola — has a total length of 5.5 inches (13.9 cm) and a mass of 6 grams, and closely resembles another member of the genus, the grey-breasted sabrewing (C. largipennis).

“The bird’s bill is long and slightly decurved; the tail is rounded, with 10 rectrices, the central pair being bright bronze green, the same color shown in the sub-central pair,” Dr. Lopes and co-authors said.

“All of upperparts, upper and lower wing coverts are bright bronze green, with the pileum darker with coppery reflections; post-ocular white spot; remiges are bluish black with a metallic shine; underparts are uniform light grey except abdomen whitish; undertail coverts are light grey.”

“Sexes are alike, but males in definitive plumage have the shafts of the three outer primaries, which lack part of the outer vane, broad and flattened, and strongly bent distally; and bill slightly shorter and straighter than that of female.”

The dry-forest sabrewing (Campylopterus calcirupicola). Watercolor painting by Walter Gam.

The dry-forest sabrewing (Campylopterus calcirupicola). Watercolor painting by Walter Gam.

The dry-forest sabrewing inhabits dry forests on limestone rocky outcrops or on limestone-derived soils.

The altitudinal range of the bird is between 1,510 and 2,890 feet (460-880 m).

“The diet of the species is poorly known, but it was recorded visiting flowers of native and exotic species: Justicia sp., Spathodea campanulata, Carica papaya, Camptosema sp., Delonix regia, Inga laurina, Salvia sp., and Malvaviscus arboreus,” the researchers said.

Given the several threats faced by the habitat to which the dry-forest sabrewing is endemic, the team proposes to consider it as Vulnerable under the IUCN criteria.

Campylopterus calcirupicola is uncommon to locally fairly common, with a patchy distribution across eastern Brazil,” the authors explained.

“Indirect evidence suggests that this species has undergone significant population reduction in the near past and that this decline will continue in the near future due to decline in area of occupancy and habitat quality. For example, 11.5% of the dry forests of northern Minas Gerais were lost between 1986 and 2006, and the dry forests of the Paranã River basin suffered a 66.3% decrease in extent between 1977 and 2008.”

“Therefore, given the several threats faced by the habitat to which Campylopterus calcirupicola is endemic, we propose considering this species as Vulnerable under the A4 criterion.”

“We suggest searching for the species in areas of potentially suitable habitat in Goiás, Minas Gerais, and Bahia, and an increase in the size and number of protected areas with suitable habitat is also strongly encouraged.”

The new species is described in a paper published in the May 15, 2017 issue of the journal Zootaxa.

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Leonardo Esteves Lopes et al. 2017. A cryptic new species of hummingbird of the Campylopterus largipennis complex (Aves: Trochilidae). Zootaxa 4268 (1): 001-033; doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.4268.1.1