The Santa Marta sabrewing has only been recorded three times, the first being in 1946, the second in 2010, and now in 2022. A unique hummingbird that had been feared lost was spotted by a birdwatcher in Colombia after ten years.
Yurgen Vega, a member of the conservation groups Selva, ProCAT Colombia, and World Parrot Trust, discovered the hummingbird. The emerald green feathers, vivid blue throat, and curled black beak of the hummingbird that Vega witnessed served as indicators that it was a male. It was singing and vocalizing while hanging on a branch, a behavior that biologists believe is connected to romance and territorial defense.
Northern Colombia is home to the Santa Marta sabrewing (Campylopterus phainopeplus), a species of hummingbird in the Trochilidae family. It is one of 24 bird species unique to the altitudes of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Subtropical or tropical wet highland forests, subtropical or tropical high-altitude grassland and plantations are their native habitats. It was not observed between 2010 and 2022 and is now endangered owing to habitat destruction brought on by agricultural development.
The Santa Marta sabrewing is one of the top ten “most desired” birds in the conservation group RE: WILD’S SEARCH FOR LOST BIRDS, a global initiative to identify species that have not been spotted for more than ten years. It is classed as severely endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
There is a diverse range of fauna in northern Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, but according to biologists, barely 15% of the forest in the highlands is still intact. The unexpected discovery of the Santa Marta sabrewing is believed to contribute to the preservation of their surviving habitat, which will benefit the numerous species that can be found there and brings back hope.
The head of conservation research at Selva: Research for Conservation in the Neotropics, Esteban Botero-Delgadillo, stated that “this discovery underlines that we still know very little about many of the most endangered and rare species out there, and it is vital to invest more in knowing them better.”