Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Introducing the Gorgeted Puffleg

Two ornithologists have announced the discovery of a new species of hummingbird, the Gorgeted Puffleg (Eriocnemis isabellae). Alexander Cortés-Diago and Luis Alfonso Ortega found the pufflegs in the Serrania del Pinche, a mountain range in south-west Colombia. The new hummingbird appears to be endemic to the Serrania del Pinche's cloud forests.

“We were essentially following a hunch,” said Alexander Cortés-Diago of The Hummingbird Conservancy (Colombia) and co-discoverer of Gorgeted Puffleg. “We had heard that a new species of plant had been discovered in the region in 1994. This discovery and the isolation of the Serrania led us to believe there could also be new species of vertebrates.”

“Though we expected to find new species of amphibians and new ranges for birds, the discovery of a new hummingbird was completely unexpected.”

The highly distinct new species is characterised by an enlarged, bicoloured iridescent throat patch (hence ‘Gorgeted’) in males and white tufts above the legs which are characteristic of ‘Puffleg’ hummingbirds.
Cortés and Ortega suspect that other new species may be present in the same area. They are working through their respective organizations - the Hummingbird Conservancy and Fundación Ecohabitat - to protect the cloud forest. One proposal is designation as an Important Bird Area.

Gorgeted Puffleg / Photo by Alexander Cortés