What Is the Hook-Billed Hermit Hummingbird?

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The hook-billed hermit hummingbird (Glaucis dohrnii) is a small, endangered species of hummingbird native to just a few scattered areas of eastern Brazil. Increasingly few hook-billed hermit hummingbirds remain and little is known about this rarely-encountered bird's habits and behaviors. Deforestation of its native lands has led to the hook-billed hermit hummingbird's status as one of the rarest bird species within its Brazilian Atlantic Forest habitat.

Appearance

Hook-billed hermit hummingbirds, despite what their name might suggest, have a relatively straight, long bill with very little curve. These birds are identified by their small size -- slightly over 4 1/2 inches in length from head to tail -- and their coloration. Mature birds generally are dully colored, with a metallic green back, metallic bronze tail, a pinkish brown underbelly and a dark face.

Habitat and Geography

This species is historically native to eastern Brazil, in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest region. As of 2012, however, its population has been limited to just two Brazilian states -- Bahia and Espírito Santo. Within these areas where the bird has been identified, the population is small and scattered, with only three sites within Bahia reported and just one record in Espírito Santo. Hook-billed hermit hummingbirds prefer humid forests along waterways in the forest interior, particularly favoring streams bordered by flowering species of the Heliconia genus of plants. Occasionally this species has been seen feeding on the nectar of ornamental flowers in open areas near the forest edge.

Ecological Role

Because the hook-billed hermit hummingbird is so rarely observed, its habits are not well-defined. However, hummingbirds in general are important pollinators of flowering plants like those in the Heliconia genus that this species prefers. In fact flowering Heliconia species in tropical areas like Brazil rely entirely on hummingbirds for their pollination, according to the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve. Hook-billed hermit hummingbirds therefore play a valuable role as pollinators within their ecosystem.

Population

As of 2012 The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species estimates that between 250 and 999 mature hook-billed hermit hummingbirds live in the wild, with a potential total of 350 to 1,500 individuals when immature birds are included. This estimate, however, is not based on population counts due to the rarity of encountering this species in the wild. Instead the population estimates are based on established records, local descriptions of abundance, population density of similar birds and the size of their range.

Threats

Habitat loss is the major threat to hook-billed hermit hummingbird populations and the reason behind the species’ decline. Deforestation and fragmentation of this bird’s native range in eastern Brazil, including fires, road construction, logging and clearing for farmlands, has scattered populations of the species and caused their decline, and in some cases, extermination from previously inhabited territories. Hook-billed hermit hummingbirds have been identified in two nature reserves in Brazil, but these reserves offer little protection from fire, construction and settlers, and do not include the type of habitat that the species finds suitable.

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