Posted on Leave a comment

Project Chicamocha

The conservation of two Critically Endangered dry forest birds; Niceforo’s Wren and Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird

Principal Investigators: Jorge Parra & Nicolas Davila

The birds from Colombia are seriously threatened, mainly by habitat destruction.  Little is known about the food requirements, specific behavior, area of occupancy and other ecological characteristics of many threatened species.  The aim of this project is to study ecological, ethnological, and phylogenetic aspects of some seriously threatened hummingbirds, in terms of conservation priorities in our country.  Localities with recent records will be visited during dry and rainy stations, to identify the food and habitat requirements and to make observations of breeding behavior.  New information on each species will be contributed, which will help channel funds towards the conservation of the appropriate threatened habitats.  Also, blood samples and a few of tissue samples will be collected to sequence mitochondrial and nuclear DNA to clarify the taxonomic status of two of the birds in this project.

Corporación Sentido Natural wants to focus this project in the study of the three hummingbirds endangered and endemic from Colombia.  the Blossomcrown Anthocephala floriceps (VU), the Santa Marta Sabrewing Campylopterus phainopeplus (EN), and the Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird Lepidopyga lilliae (CR), are the priority of this study.  The Blossomcrown includes two subspecies separated by two mountain systems approximately separated by 500 Km of distance; possibly each subspecies corresponds to different species, which would correspond to the necessity to protect both habitats of the actual subspecies.  On the other hand the Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird Lepidopyga lilliae probably corresponds to a hybrid between the Sapphire-throated Hummingbird L. coelogularis and Shining-green Hummingbird L. goudoti . The Santa Marta Sabrewing, does not have taxonomic problems, but as the two above birds, their ecological and habitat requirements are little known.

The study area corresponds to three important ecosystems in Colombia.  The National and Natural Park Island Salamanca and Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, north of Colombia (to study the Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird); southeast and north of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta: Cuchilla San lorenzo and San José (to study Santa Marta Sabrewing and the subspecies floriceps of the Blossomcrown); and the oriental slope of Central Cordillera and surroundings of volcano Tolima (to study the subspecies berlepschi of the Blossomcrown).

The new knowledge and data will be important to determine the habitat preferences and threats of this hummingbirds, therefore this project will reforce the conservation frame and lineaments of the candidate areas to protect birds (AICAS in spanish), or the existing areas as National and Natural Parks.  In the same way, the genetic results would clarify current doubt with these birds, and for the future the results could be used with SIG tools to look for more important areas and to delimit the extent of occurrence or furthermore area of occupancy of the hummingbirds.  We hope that the local communities will participate, to share knowledge and solutions to the conservation of the hummingbirds and other fauna of interest, and of the habitat as the main goal.  In addition of this study, records and observations of other birds will enrich much more the ornithological knowledge in Colombia.

What Do You Do?

Right now we are working in a project which objective is to generate an inventory of (my focus) avifauna in Southwestern Natural National Park Cocuy, an area little known.  The project also includes an inventory of ants, plants as Melastomataceae and Rubiaceae.  We pretend to give novel information that will benefit the conservation of this important ecological area.

Also “Sentido Natural“ is supporting a project of nocturnal austral migratory birds, which pretend to determine the main routes, a subject little known in austral birds.  For more information of this project you may contact: Jen Johnson at:

Partial Migration in Central and S. America

I propose to study the behavioral ecology of partial migratory birds in South America, which has one of the highest incidences of partial migration in any major avian migration system.  South America’s migrants breed within the continent’s south-temperate latitudes (e.g., Argentina) and migrate north towards and into the Neotropics (e.g., Bolivia) to over-winter.  Comprised of over 200 species, this is the major avian migratory system in the Southern Hemisphere.

A better understanding of the ecological and behavioral processed behind partial migratory patterns of these birds will provide clues on how and why these species move between ecosystems seasonally, ultimately permitting more informed conservation planning for migratory birds in these regions. The dry forest habitats in which this research will unfold are the most threatened in the Neotropics, such that results of this research will not only offer a better understanding of how losses of these ecosystems may affect migratory bird species, but by providing information on how these migrant species use these habitats throughout the annual cycle, will lend an increased scientifically-generated basis to the case to preserve these unique habitats.

Research will be conducted in eastern Bolivian savanna and woodland habitat, where many partial migratory species both breed and winter, depending on the population.  Collaborators in Argentina will collect data on the same species on their breeding grounds.

2 Bolivian biology thesis students and 2 field assistants will be accompanying me in Bolivia.  I will also have 2 collaborators in Argentina, who will be simultaneously collecting similar data in Argentina on the same species, since many species breed in Argentina and winter in Bolivia.

Project Chicamocha – Columbia

Niceforo´s wren and Chestnut-bellied hummingbird are both Critically Endangered species, endemic to the dry valleys of the Eastern Cordillera of Colombia.  Although extremely poorly known, their current distributions are likely to be highly restricted and their remaining forest habitats are under intense anthropogenic pressure.  In order to develop an urgently needed and effective conservation strategy for these two species, this student initiative aims to establish their current status through: accurate determination of their distributions; identification of their principal habitat and resource requirements; clear delineation of current threats; and the collection of relevant data in order to clarify both species taxonomic status.

Our team of student fieldworkers will determine the major threats to these species and their habitats and what people know about them through informal interviews.  Quantitative surveys (line transects, mist-netting, plot grid) will be undertaken to asses population dynamics and where possible individuals will be caught using mist nets for marking and collecting relevant data to assess species taxonomic status.  Detailed ecological studies (habitat characterization, breeding biology, diet and movements) will be carried out at two study areas.  During fieldwork, data on other bird species will be collected to identify Important Bird Areas.

This project will produce vital information on the population status and distribution of these two species, as well as conservation activities and environmental education aimed to awake the ecological awareness in the local community.


Jorge Parra & Nicolas Davila
Departamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias
Universidad de Los Andes Bogotá D. C., Colombia
Dirección: Calle 71 A # 89 – 77 Apt: 212 Bogotá

Teléfono: + 57 – 1 – 2243129
Fax: + 57 – 1 – 3348553


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.