Common Name: Colorful Puffleg
Scientific Name: Eriocnemis mirabilis
Size: 3.1 inches (8 cm)
Habitat: South America; Columbia. This species was until recently only known from Cerro Charguayaco, north-east of Cerro Munchique on the Pacific slope of the west Andes in Cauca, south-west Colombia. It has now been found elsewhere in Munchique National Park, Serrania del Pinche and at El Planchón in the Cordillera Occidental.
Studies suggest that it favors the understory to mid-levels (to c.5 m) of lower montane, wet forest, feeding in the forest interior and edges. It is unclear whether the patchy distribution of both sexes throughout the year is due to seasonal altitudinal movements or the paucity of field studies at the type-locality. It has now been recorded from 2,200-3,000 m at least. It feeds on the nectar of Burmeistera killipii, Burmeistera ceratocarpa, Clusia spp. and Palicourea angustifolia.
Status: Critically Endangered. Global Population: 250-999 Mature individuals with a declining trend. In the 1960s and 1970s, the local economy was based on the fruit crop "lulo", which was grown under the forest canopy, and hence deterred logging. However, a fungal disease and lepidopteran pest destroyed the crop in the 1980s, and logging returned. An old mule-track below their favored forage/nesting area has recently been cleared and widened, and small-scale logging has begun in the immediate vicinity. The Serrania del Pinche and Munchique National Park are threatened by habitat clearance for illegal coca cultivation; fires lit to clear forest at lower elevations spread to higher areas destroying sensitive habitats. Other areas of forest which potentially hold the species are threatened with clearance by slash and burn.
Conservation measures currently underway: The type-locality is in Munchique National Park, but logging occurs within the park boundaries. The replanting of lulo fruits is being encouraged, with workshops targeting local communities located in impact zones. These are designed to involve communities in conservation efforts and enable technology transfers in integrated pest-management practices. Funding from Swarovski Optik allowed the purchase of 5,000 acres of forest which could potentially hold the species. There are plans to extend the reserve by planting key tree species. The Hummingbird Conservancy is supporting research on the ecology and population dynamics of this species both in Munchique and Serrania del Pinche.
Diet: Flower nectar; it feeds on the nectar of many Epiphytes (such as bromeliads). Preferred flowers include those from Burmeistera killipii, Burmeistera ceratocarpa, Clusia spp. and Palicourea angustifolia.
Breeding: Spectacular, multi-colored hummingbird. Fairly short, black bill. Pink feet. Male has glittering green frontlet and gorget, otherwise dark shining green. Glittering blue belly and glittering red and coppery-gold undertail-coverts. Enormous white leg-puffs fringed cinnamon. Dark, bronzy, forked uppertail, coppery-gold undertail. Female is very different. Dark shining green above and sides. White median throat and underparts, spotted green with indistinct glittering reddish, golden, and bluish spots on belly, flanks and undertail. Bronze-green tail tipped blackish. Small white leg-puffs.
Because of the rarity of this bird, no studies have been conducted on breeding habits.
Cool Facts: The Colorful Puffleg was once thought extinct, until it was rediscovered in November 1997, when a female Colorful Puffleg was discovered feeding on Clusia ssp. It wasn’t until July 1998 that a male was seen feeding on several Cavendishia sp.