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USFWS proposes to list Honduran Emerald as endangered (deadline for comments March 4)

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[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 1 (Wednesday, January 2, 2013)]

[Proposed Rules]

[Pages 59-72]







Fish and Wildlife Service


50 CFR Part 17


[Docket No. FWS-R9-ES-2009-0094; 450 003 0115]


Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing the

Honduran Emerald Hummingbird


AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.


ACTION: Proposed rule; 12-month finding.




SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to

list as endangered the Honduran emerald hummingbird (Amazilia luciae)

under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). This

species is endemic to a small area in Honduras, and the population is

estimated to be less than 1,000 and decreasing. Its suitable habitat

has decreased in the past 100 years and continues to diminish. This

document also serves as the completion of the status review (also known

as the 12-month finding). We seek information from the public on the

proposed listing for this species.


DATES: We will consider comments and information received or postmarked on or before March 4, 2013.


ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:

Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov.

Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R9-


U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing,

Attn: FWS-R9-ES-2009-0094, Division of Policy and Directives

Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS

2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

We will not accept comments by email or fax. We will post all

comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we

will post any personal information you provide us (see the Information

Requested section below for more information).


FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Janine Van Norman, Chief, Branch of Foreign Species, Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, VA

22203; telephone 703-358-2171. If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-877-8339.




Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (16 U.S.C.

1531 et seq.) requires that, for any petition to revise the Federal

Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants that contains

substantial scientific or commercial information that listing the

species may be warranted, we make a finding within 12 months of the

date of receipt of the petition (``12-month finding''). In this

finding, we determine whether the petitioned action is: (a) Not

warranted, (b) warranted, or © warranted, but immediate proposal of a

regulation implementing the petitioned action is precluded by other

pending proposals to determine whether species are endangered or

threatened, and expeditious progress is being made to add or remove

qualified species from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened

Wildlife and Plants. Section 4(b)(3)© of the ESA requires that we

treat a petition for which the requested action is found to be

warranted but precluded as though resubmitted on the date of such

finding, that is, requiring a subsequent finding to be made within 12

months. We must publish these 12-month findings in the Federal


In this document, we announce that listing this species as

endangered is warranted, and we are issuing a proposed rule to add this

species as endangered to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened

Wildlife. Prior to issuing a final rule on this proposed action, we

will take into consideration all comments and any additional

information we receive. Such information may lead to a final rule that

differs from this proposal. All comments and recommendations, including

names and addresses of commenters, will become part of the

administrative record.


Petition History


On October 28, 2008, the Service received a petition dated October 28, 2008, from Mr. David Anderson of Louisiana State University on behalf of The Hummingbird Society of Sedona, Arizona; The Hummingbird Conservancy of Butte, Montana; Clos LaChance of San Martin, California; Honduran Environmental Network for Sustainable Development of La Ceiba, Honduras; Fundaci[oacute]n Parque

Nacional Pico Bonito of La Ceiba, Honduras; EcoLogic Development Fund of Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Crowell and Moring, LLP of the District of Columbia, requesting that we list the Honduran

emerald hummingbird as endangered under the Act. The petition clearly identified itself as a petition and included the requisite identification information required at 50 CFR 424.14(a). In response to the petitioners' request, we sent a letter to Mr. Anderson dated December 5, 2008 acknowledging receipt of the petition. The petition also included a letter from the Honduras Ambassador, Roberto Flores Bermudez, to Secretary Salazar, dated January 23, 2009, in support of this petition. We alsoreceived subsequent letters supporting the petition to list this species from the Francis Lewis

High School Key Club on February 12, 2009, the Lehman College Key Club on February 26,

2009, and the Ecologic Development Fund on April 8, 2009.


Previous Federal Actions


On June 23, 2010, we published a 90-day finding (75 FR 35746) on the petition announcing that

we would initiate a status review to determine if listing this species is warranted. This proposed

listing determination constitutes our 12-month finding on the petition to list this species as



Peer Review


We are seeking comments from independent species experts to ensure that our listing proposal is

based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses. We have invited these peer

reviewers to comment on our specific assumptions and conclusions in this listing proposal. Because we will consider all comments and information received during the comment period, our final determination may differ from this proposal.


Information Requested


We intend that any final actions resulting from this proposed rule will be based on the best

scientific and commercial data available. Therefore, we request comments or information from the Government of Honduras, the scientific community, or any other interested parties concerning this

proposed rule. We particularly seek clarifying information concerning:


(1) Information on the species' taxonomy, distribution, habitat

selection (especially breeding and foraging habitats), diet, and

population abundance and trends (especially current recruitment data)

of this species.

(2) Information on the effects of habitat loss and changing land

uses on the distribution and abundance of this species and its

principal food sources over the short and long term.

(3) Information on whether changing climatic conditions (i.e.,

increasing intensity of hurricanes or drought) are affecting the

species, its habitat, or its food sources.

(4) Information on the effects of other potential factors,

including live capture and collection, domestic and international

trade, predation by other animals, and diseases of this species or its

principal food sources over the short and long term.

(5) Information on management programs for hummingbird

conservation, including mitigation measures related to conservation

programs, and any other private or governmental conservation programs

that benefit this species.

(6) Genetics and taxonomy.

(7) The factors that are the basis for making a listing

determination for a species under section 4(a) of the Act (16 U.S.C.

1531 et seq.), which are:

(a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or

curtailment of its habitat or range;

(b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or

educational purposes;

© Disease or predation;

(d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or

(e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued



Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as full references) to allow us toverify any scientific or commercial information you include. Submissions merely stating support foror opposition to the action under consideration without providing supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in making a determination. Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the ESA directs thatdeterminations as to whether any species is an endangered or threatened

species must be made ``solely on the basis of the best scientific and

commercial data available.''


Public Hearing


At this time, we do not have a public hearing scheduled for this

proposed rule. The main purpose of most public hearings is to obtain

public testimony or comment. In most cases, it is sufficient to submit

comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal, described above in the

ADDRESSES section. If you would like to request a public hearing for

this proposed rule, you must submit your request, in writing, to the

person listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section by

February 19, 2013.


Species Information




This species was first taxonomically described by Lawrence in 1867

and placed in the Trochilidae family as Amazilia luciae (UNEP-WCMC

2009a, p. 1). Common names for the species include Honduran emerald

hummingbird, Ariane De Lucy (French), and colibr[iacute] esmeralda

Hondure[ntilde]a (Spanish). The Honduran emerald hummingbird is also

known by the synonyms Polyerata luciae and Thaumatias luciae

(Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna

and Flora (CITES)). BirdLife International (BLI) and CITES both

recognize the species as Amazilia luciae (BLI 2008, p. 1). Therefore,

we accept the species as Amazilia luciae, which also follows the

Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS 2009). ITIS is a database

maintained by a partnership of U.S., Canadian, and Mexican federal

government agencies, other organizations, and taxonomic specialists to

provide taxonomic information.




The Honduran emerald hummingbird is in the family Trochilidae (BLI

2008, p. 1; Sibley and Monroe 1993, 1990). The species is a medium-

sized hummingbird with an average length of 9.5 centimeters (3.7

inches) (BLI 2008, p. 2). There are more than 325 hummingbird species

and they exhibit a wide range of flight-related morphology and

behavior, based on ecological factors (Altshuler and Dudley 2002, p.

2,325). As do all hummingbirds, the Honduran emerald hummingbird

exhibits slight sexual dimorphism, which is demonstrated in the

coloring of its plumage. The male has an iridescent blue-green throat

and upper chest and occasionally has a grey mottled coloring. Its back

is an emerald green color, the ventral (underneath) side of the bird is

pale grey with mottled green sides, and the tail is bright green with a

bronze hint on the upper tail coverts (BLI 2008, p. 1). The bill is

black with a red mandible and dark tip, and has a slightly longer, more

decurved (downward curving) bill than the closely related species A.

candida (Monroe 1968, p. 182). The plumage of the female is less

brilliant (BLI 2008, p.2). The tail of the female contains a grey tip, and the band of

distinctive color on the throat of the female hummingbird is narrower,

with pale edges (BLI 2008, p. 2; Monroe 1968, p. 183). Juveniles have

grayish throats spotted with turquoise (BLI 2008, p. 2).




Limited information is available on the Honduran emerald

hummingbird's behavior and life history (Anderson 2010, p. 2). In 1988,

a bird was observed defending a territory of 10 m\2\ (108 ft\2\),

suggesting that the species may be territorial (Collar et al. 1992, p.

493; Howell and Webb 1989, p. 643), as are many hummingbird species.

This species has been observed feeding at heights between 0.5 to 10 m

(2 to 32 ft) (Howell and Webb 1989, p. 643).

As with all hummingbird species, the Honduran emerald relies on

nectar-producing flowers for food, but also relies on insects and

spiders as sources of protein (BLI 2008, p. 3; Collar et al. 1992, p.

494). Hummingbirds are known to ``disperse'' rather than ``migrate'' in

the sense that they do not follow routine, standard, round-trip

movements; they follow sources of food availability (Berthold et al.

2003, pp. 40-41).




Between 1988 and 1996 there was a notable decrease in reported

occurrences of Honduran emerald hummingbirds (Portillo 2007, p. 48;

Collar et al. 1992, p. 494; Stattersfield and Capper 2000, p. 311). In

1988, the species was known to be common in Olanchito and Coyoles (BLI

2000, p. 311). In 1991, BirdLife International reported that between 22

and 28 individuals were found in 2.5 km\2\ (618 ac) of habitat in

Olanchito (See Figure 1 for a map of the region.). In 1996, the

Honduran emerald hummingbird was found in less than 1 km\2\ (247 ac) of

habitat in the Agalta valley (Olancho Department), northeast of Gualaco

(Stattersfield and Capper 2000, p. 311).

In 2007, the total population was estimated to be between 200 and

1,000 individuals (Anderson et al. 2007, p. 1). As of 2012, BLI

estimated that the population is between 43 and 999 birds with a

decreasing trend (citation p. 1). In the Yoro Department, several

attempts have been made to conduct a census of the Honduran emerald

hummingbird population. The best estimate by local biologists suggests

that in the protected area the population is approximately 250

individuals (Perez and Thorn pers. comm. 2012).


Historic Distribution


The Honduran emerald hummingbird is the only known endemic bird

species in Honduras (Anderson and Devenish 2009, p. 258; Portillo 2007,

p. 17; Thorn et al. 2000, p. 3; Collar et al. 1992, p. 493; Monroe

1968, p. 182). Based on specimen data, the species (Amazilia luciae)

was originally known to occur in four departments (which are similar to

``States'' in the United States): Cort[eacute]s and Santa Barbara in

the west and Yoro and Olancho in the northeast (see Figure 1). The

historical locations where this species has been documented, along with

the date it was documented, are below.


Catacamas, Olancho Department (1937 and 1991) (Howell and Webb

1992, pp. 46-47; Monroe 1968, p. 182). Cofrad[iacute]a, Cortes

Department (1933) (Monroe 1968, p. 182); Coyoles, Yoro Department

(1948 and 1950) (Monroe 1968, p. 182); El Boquer[oacute]n, Olancho

Department (recorded September 1937) (Monroe 1968, p. 182);

Olanchito, Yoro Department (1988) (Howell and Webb 1989, pp. 642-

643); Santa B[aacute]rbara, Santa B[aacute]rbara Department (1935)

(Monroe 1968, p. 182).


Between 1950 and 1988, there were no recorded observations of the

Honduran emerald hummingbird. In 1988, the species was described as

common in Olanchito and Coyoles, which are located 16 kilometers (km)

(9 miles (mi)) apart (BLI 2008, p. 2). In 1991, between 22 and 28

individuals were found in a patch of habitat measuring 500 by 50 meters

(m) (1,640 x 164 feet (ft)) near Olanchito (Howell and Webb 1992, pp.

46-47). In 1996, the bird was found in the Agalta Valley on less than 1

km\2\ (247 acres (ac) or .39 mi\2\) of suitable habitat (BLI 2008, p.



Current Distribution


Between 2007 and 2008, this species was detected in five valleys of

Honduras (See Figure 1; Anderson 2010, p. 4). The Honduran emerald

hummingbird has been rediscovered in western Honduras in two valleys in

the Santa Barbara Department: the Quimist[aacute]n Valley (in the

R[iacute]o Chamelec[oacute]n watershed) and Tencoa Valley (R[iacute]o

Ul[uacute]a watershed), where it had not been recorded since 1935.

Until its rediscovery, it was thought that habitat loss had restricted

the species to isolated patches of arid thorn-forest and scrub of the

interior valleys of northern Honduras. In the Tencoa Valley,

researchers found individuals in five fragments, each separated by at

least 5 km (3 mi). These fragments were between 5 and 60 ha (12 and 148

ac) each. We estimate that the population in the Santa Barbara

Department is approximately 200 km (124 mi) west of the nearest known

population in the Agu[aacute]n Valley (Anderson 2010, p. 5). Searches

in Cort[eacute]s were unsuccessful at locating this species (Anderson

2008; Petition 2008). It is unclear if the western and eastern

populations of this species are interbreeding (Anderson 2010, p. 5).

BLI estimates that its range is 400 km\2\ (154 mi\2\). However, local

experts believe its actual extent of occurrence is closer to 150 km\2\

(58 mi\2\) (Perez and Thorn pers. comm. 2012). Even with the

rediscovery of the species in Santa Barbara and the extension of its

range in Olancho, the species' habitat has been reduced (See Figure 1;

Perez and Thorn pers. comm. 2012).

This species tends to be found generally along the same latitude.

This phenomenon is not surprising; it is supported by research

conducted by Tingley et al. in 2009, which found that 90.6 percent of

bird species in this study tracked their Grinnellian niche (pp. 19,637,

19,640), which is a niche driven by factors such as climate, latitude,

and elevation. The Honduran emerald hummingbird is found in habitat

that appears to contain similar ecological conditions such as rainfall,

humidity, types of species, and temperature. This hummingbird species

is well known in the Agu[aacute]n Valley, Yoro Department, in the areas

of Olanchito and Coyoles, and is reported as relatively common, but

only within its remaining native habitat (Gallardo 2010, p. 186; Thorn

et al. 2000, pp. 22-23). Recently it was observed in San Esteban in the

Agalta Valley and in the Telica Valley, both in the Olancho Department

(Anderson and Hyman 2007, p. 6). However, aspects of this species'

behavior are unclear, such as how far individuals disperse, what

habitats are important for dispersal, and how the populations are

linked genetically (Perez and Thorn 2012 pers. comm.; Anderson et al.

2010, p. 7).


Agalta Valley


The Agalta Valley is a remote region in the mountains of eastern

Honduras containing over 1,000,000 hectares (2,471,054 ac) of land

characterized as dry basin. Here, the Honduran emerald's habitat

primarily is on large, privately owned cattle ranches that have

restricted access (Anderson et al. 2010, p. 3). The species has been

known to occur in this valley since the mid-1990s (Anderson et al.

1998, p. 181).


Agu[aacute]n Valley


The Honduran emerald's habitat formerly encompassed a large extent

of the Agu[aacute]n Valley, a once pristine plain of nearly 4,662 km\2\

(1,800 mi\2\). Ninety percent of its original habitat no longer exists

in its original form due to the conversion of its habitat to banana

plantations and cattle pasture. Much of the Honduran emerald species'

habitat is on privately-owned land and is often planted with non-native

grasses for cattle foraging (Perez and Thorn 2012, pers. comm.;

Anderson pers. comm. 2008 in Petition 2008, p. 11). In some cases, it

is even planted with invasive grass species

(http://www.birdlist...._ecosystems.htm, accessed May 22, 2012). Today, due to

decades of unregulated and expanding cattle ranching, the hummingbird's

dry forest range is limited to a few small, isolated islands of

habitat. Its increasingly smaller ecosystems are surrounded by human-

dominated landscapes. One estimate indicated that between 2,428 and

3,237 ha (6,000-8,000 acres) of suitable habitat remains in the

Agu[aacute]n Valley, most of which is privately owned (Gallardo 2010,

p. 186); however, other estimates indicate that the species has even

less suitable habitat available than the above estimate (Perez and

Thorn 2012 pers. comm.). Efforts by Pico Bonito National Park

Foundation (Fundaci[oacute]n Parque Nacional Pico Bonito (FUPNAPIB) and

others have succeeded in preserving important parts of the bird's

habitat, however, even the area designated as protected is experiencing

habitat degradation.

The Agu[aacute]n River Valley is one of the last remaining areas

that contains suitable and optimal habitat for the Honduran emerald

hummingbird (Anderson and Hyman 2007, pp. 1-4). The lands along the

Agu[aacute]n River have periodically been devastated by banana

diseases, floods, and hurricanes, particularly Hurricane Fifi in 1974

and Hurricane Mitch in 1998 (NOAA 2012, p. 2; Winograd 2006; USGS 2002,

p. 5). This valley is on the south side of the Nombre de Dios mountain

range, primarily in the Yoro Department (Gallardo 2010, p. 185). The

Agu[aacute]n River Watershed is 10,546 km\2\ (4,072 mi\2\ or 2,605,973

acres), is delimited by the tributaries of the Agu[aacute]n River, and

extends across the departments of Yoro, Colon, Atl[aacute]ntida, and

Olancho (WWF 2008, p. 12, See Map 5, Map of Honduras, Agu[aacute]n

Valley at http://www.regulations.gov, docket no. FWS-R9-ES-2009-0094,

Supporting Maps). This valley experiences a unique microclimate in

which most of the rain falls between June to November (Gallardo 2010,

p. 185). The land in the Agu[aacute]n Valley is rich, fertile, and

highly coveted, particularly in a country with a high poverty index

that relies strongly on its land for agriculture (WWF 2008, p. 2).

In the last approximately 100 years, the Agu[aacute]n region has

experienced three periods of agricultural economic growth (WWF 2008, p.

11). Thorn forests were initially cleared in the Agu[aacute]n Valley to

create banana and plantain plantations and rice farms, as well as

pasture for cattle (Stattersfield and Capper 2000, p. 311). However,

after an outbreak of Panama disease occurred in bananas, the

Agu[aacute]n Valley was largely abandoned, and much of the land

reverted to pasture or forest. As a result of the agricultural reforms

of the 1960's and 1970's, Honduran campesinos (farmers) received

farmland in the Agu[aacute]n Valley and proceeded to clear and develop

the Valley that was previously forested into an agricultural region. In

the late 1970s, lands were again cultivated with disease-resistant

varieties of bananas. Now, only a single forest remnant larger than 100

ha (247 ac) that is suitable for this species is known to exist in this

Valley (Anderson 2010, p. 6).


Western Honduras


Sites occupied by the Honduran emerald in western Honduras are best

described as semi-deciduous woodland, a habitat that has not previously

been associated with the species. When hummingbirds do not find

suitable available habitat, research indicates that they tend to

abandon a territory and move to more productive patches (Feinsinger and

Colwell 1978; Kodric-Brown and Brown 1978 in Justino et al. 2012, p.

194). Canopy height in this area averages 15 m (49 ft), dominated by

semi-deciduous broad-leaved tree species, principally Eugenia

oerstediana, Bursera simaruba, and Tabebuia rosea, that form a

relatively closed tree canopy. Common understory species are Agave

parvidentata, Tillandsia fasciculata, Bromelia pinguin, Bromelia

plumieri, and Acanthocereus pentagonus (Anderson 2010, p. 5).

The Honduran emerald hummingbird prefers arid interior valleys of

thorn forest and shrub. The Agu[aacute]n River Valley area rarely

receives more than 76 cm (30 inches) of rain per year (Perez and Thorn

2012, pers. comm.; Gallardo 2010, www.birdsofhonduras.com). Due to the

arid climate, many of the plant species are adapted to retain water and

are succulents or contain spines as protection from herbivores. Many of

the plants lose all their leaves in the dry season, and Honduran

emerald habitat may appear almost lifeless. Typical plants within its

habitat are cacti, acacias, and other succulents. In Honduras, this

habitat occurs primarily along the gulf of Fonseca, in the Agalta

Valley in the Olancho Department, and the Agu[aacute]n Valley in the

Yoro Department. Most of the hummingbird's occurrences have been noted

at elevations below 410 m (1,345 ft); however, one occurrence was

recorded at 1,220 m (4,003 ft) (BLI 2008, p. 3; et al. 1994, p. 119;

Collar et al. 1992, p. 494).

In the Coyoles area in the Agu[aacute]n Valley, the thorn forest is

primarily comprised of Mimosaceae (herbaceous and woody species),

Cactaceae (cactus species), and Euphorbiaceae (herbs, shrubs, trees,

and some succulent species) (Collar et al. 1992, p. 494). Thorn et al.

(2000, p. 23) observed that habitat with abundant flowers, red in

particular, appear to be a critical characteristic for suitable

habitat. A list of plant species associated with Honduran emerald

hummingbird habitat is below, as well as a key that indicates whether

the plant is (1) commonly found in its habitat, (2) associated with

feeding or nesting, (3) a cactus or orchid species, and (4) found in

Western Honduras (Anderson 2010, p. 5; Anderson 2009, p. 235; House

2004, pp. 14-16; Thorn et al. 2000).

In Yoro (see Figure 1), the Honduran emerald hummingbird visited

the species Pedilanthus camporum, which produces flowers year-round,

and Nopalea hondurensis, which flowers generally between February and

April, 90 percent of the time observed. In western Honduras, 90 percent

of foraging observations were on Aphelandra scabra and Helicteres



Three species of arborescent (tree-like) cacti have been associated

with the Honduran emerald habitat: Pilosocereus maxoni, Stenocereus

yunckeri (endemic), and Opuntia hondurensis (endemic) (House 2004, p.

15). The trees and shrubs found in one study of its habitat were almost

100 percent deciduous (House 2004, p. 15). Although epiphytes are

usually rare in this habitat type, some epiphytes are well adapted to

the extremes of this environment. Large clusters of three species of

orchids: Myrmecophila wendlandii, Laelia rubescens, and

Encyclia nematocaulon were found on some cacti (House 2004, p. 16). In

larger, more mature trees, some bromeliads were found. The flowering of

Opuntia hondurensis coincides with the nesting period of the Honduran

emerald (House 2004, p. 23).


Conservation Status


The Honduran emerald hummingbird is listed as endangered by the

IUCN (2012). This species was downlisted to endangered from critically

endangered following its recent discovery in the western part of

Honduras, which increased its known range (BLI 2012, pp. 1-2). Its IUCN

classification is based on its very small and severely fragmented range

and population. However, this status under IUCN conveys no actual

protections to the species. The Honduran emerald hummingbird has been

listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in

Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since October 22,

1987, at which time all hummingbird species not previously listed in

the Appendices were listed in Appendix II. CITES controls international

trade in animal and plant species affected by trade. Appendix II

includes species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction,

but may become so unless trade is subject to strict regulation to avoid

utilization incompatible with the species' survival. International

trade in specimens of Appendix II species is authorized through a

system of permits or certificates under certain circumstances. CITES,

of which Honduras is a Party, is an international agreement through

which member countries, called Parties, work together to ensure that

the international trade in CITES-listed animals and plants is not

detrimental to the survival of wild populations by regulating their

import, export, and reexport. This process includes verification that

(1) trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the

wild, and (2) that the material was legally acquired (www.cites.org).


Factors Affecting the Species




The factors affecting the Honduran emerald hummingbird's habitat

are interrelated. A species may be affected by more than one factor

acting in combination with other factors. In some cases, it is not

necessarily easy to determine which factor is negatively affecting a

species. The most obvious factor that affects this species is a

significant loss of habitat (90 percent) over the past approximately

100 years due to land conversion to plantations, agriculture, and

cattle pastures (Perez and Thorn 2012, pers. comm.). This loss of

habitat interacts with other factors in affecting the Honduran emerald

hummingbird's habitat, and these factors are discussed in detail below.


Habitat Loss


The country has been steadily losing thorn forest cover,

particularly since the early 1960s, often due to the conversion of

thorn forest areas to cattle pastures and plantation agriculture such

as banana and oil palm plantations (World Wildlife Fund [WWF] 2008, p.

11; Anderson pers. comm. 2008 in Petition 2008, p. 11; Portillo 2007,

p. 75). In the Agu[aacute]n Valley, as of 2000, this species' suitable

habitat had reduced in size to an estimated 8,495 hectares (ha) (20,092

ac) from 16,000 ha (39,537 ac) in 1977 and 30,000 ha (74,132 ac) in

1938 (See Table 1; Thorn et al. 2000, p. 25).

The carrying capacity of suitable habitat that remains for this

species is unknown. In other words, it is unclear how many hummingbirds

the remaining suitable habitat can maintain. Nectar is the primary

source of carbohydrates for hummingbirds, and pollen is the primary

source of protein for hummingbirds (Ara[uacute]jo et al. 2011, p. 827;

Hegland et al. 2009, p. 188). Although studies of nutritional

requirements have been conducted with respect to other hummingbird

species, the home range required to support the breeding, feeding, and

nesting requirements for each pair of Honduran emerald hummingbirds is


In 2000, a survey was conducted for the Honduran emerald

hummingbird which found that it occurs in dry tropical forest (Anderson

and Hyman 2007, pp. 1-4; Thorn et al. 2000, pp. 1-5). However, the

species has recently been discovered in Western Honduras in an area

with different ecological characteristics (see habitat description

above), where it had not been recorded since 1935 (Anderson et al.

2010, p. 1). It is unclear whether this species is moving westward in

reaction to loss of habitat in eastern Honduras; some species of

hummingbirds will make these types of moves in search of new habitat

(Justino et al. 2012, pp. 194-195).

Conversion of this species' habitat to coffee, bean, and corn

plantations has occurred in many areas, particularly in the Santa

Barbara Department (See Figure 1; Perez and Thorn 2012, pers. comm.).

In the Agu[aacute]n Valley, 10,319 ha (25,500 acres) now consist of

banana plantations in an area known as the Barisma farm (Dole 2011, p.

67). Habitat suitable for Honduran emerald hummingbirds continues to be

cleared by private landowners in order to plant pasture grass for

grazing cattle (Hyman 2012 pers. comm.). In the Yoro Department, there

are only four large patches of suitable habitat for this species

remaining (Perez and Thorn 2012, pers. comm.; Anderson 2010.). The four

largest fragments are between 360 and 476 ha (890 and 1,176 ac), for a

combined total of 1,704 ha (Anderson 2010, p. 6).

Several hummingbird species have persisted in fragmented tropical

landscapes (Stouffer & Bierregaard 1995 in Hadley and Betts 2009, p.

207). However, hummingbird persistence at the landscape scale does not

indicate that the population is at the same level it was prior to

deforestation (Hadley and Betts 2009, p. 207). Flight paths used by

another hummingbird species to travel between suitable habitats

indicate that gaps in suitable habitat alter hummingbird movement

pathways (Hadley and Betts 2009, p. 209). In agricultural landscapes,

hummingbirds were observed traveling longer distances and took more

circuitous routes than in forested landscapes. Overall, movement paths

were strongly linked with areas that contained higher forest cover

(2009, p. 209). The flight of hummingbirds is one of the most

energetically demanding forms of animal locomotion (Buermann et al.

2011, p. 1671). Due to habitat loss, Honduran emerald hummingbirds

expend more energy to travel between and find suitable habitat that

provides substrates for breeding, feeding, and nesting.


Palm Oil Production


Palm oil plantations in the Agu[aacute]n River Basin have replaced

pasture lands that were left behind after the banana plantations

diminished from their initial success during the first part of the

twentieth century (WWF 2008, p. 30). The palm oil production in the

Agu[aacute]n River Basin is concentrated between Sava and Tumbaderos

(WWF 2008, p. 17, see Figure 1) and covers 28,082 ha (69,392 ac). The

area includes plantations, processing plants, nurseries, palm oil

collecting sites, and other infrastructure. Honduras' palm oil industry

exported product worth over 21 million U.S. dollars in 2004, and

Honduras is expected to increase its biofuels production (Silvestri

2008, p. iii). Other countries are encouraging Honduras to increase

production of palm oil which would likely affect the Agu[aacute]n River

Basin (Silvestri 2008, pp. 47; WWF 2008, pp. 37-38). These changes in

land use, from production of bananas to pastures, and then to palm

oil plantations, have had an environmental cost (WWF 2008, pp. 30, 53-

54) such as land degradation through deforestation and exposure to

fertilizers and pesticides, which are discussed below.

To provide perspective on the magnitude of the production in this

valley, the Agu[aacute]n Valley Palm Producers Association (APROVA) is

a cooperative of 154 oil palm farmers (USDA 2012, pp. 1-3). In 2009,

APROVA opened its first palm oil processing plant, which processes up

to five tons of palm oil per day (USDA 2012, pp. 1-3); there are now

five processing plants. As of 1938, within the Agu[aacute]n Valley

30,000 ha (74,131 ac) were tropical dry forest (Tierra America 2012,

pp. 1-2). By 1977, suitable habitat for the Honduran emerald

hummingbird had been reduced to 16,000 ha (39,537 ac), and in 2000,

only 8,495 ha (20,991 ac) remained. Of that area, only 3,900 hectares

(9,637 ac) can be considered well preserved enough to sustain

significant populations of the Honduran emerald (Mej[iacute]a pers.

comm. in Tierra America 2012).


Table 1--Land Reduction in the Agu[aacute]n Valley


Agu[aacute]n Valley Year Hectares Acres


Tropical Dry Forest.............. 1938 30,000 74,131

Tropical Dry Forest.............. 1977 16,000 39,537

Tropical Dry Forest.............. 2000 8,495 20,991


Source: Thorn et al. 2000.


Land Ownership


Because very little of this species' habitat is publicly owned, it

is more difficult to provide protections to this species (approximately

84 percent of its suitable habitat is privately owned) (Steiner 2012

pers. comm.; FAO 2010, p. 238). In many cases, the only sites in

Honduras that have maintained a viable ecosystem in somewhat of a

natural state are places with irregular topography. Subsequently, these

have become protected areas or private nature reserves (Portillo 2007,

p. 75). Much of this species' original habitat, thorn forest, has been

cleared for housing, towns, agriculture, and cattle grazing

(Stattersfield and Capper 2000, p. 311; Thorn et al. 2000, p. 4). This

species' remaining habitat in the Agu[aacute]n Valley (Yoro Department)

and Agalta Valley (Olancho Department) is primarily privately owned as

large haciendas (plantations or farms), where cattle grazing, clearing

for cattle, and plantation agriculture continues to occur

(Stattersfield and Capper 2000, p. 311). In the lower river valley,

agricultural cooperatives are raising citrus fruits, corn (maize),

rice, and African palm for oil (WWF 2008, p. 12). Because most of this

species' habitat is unprotected, the species is likely to continue to

experience habitat degradation through conversion of its habitat to

other uses such as cattle grazing and agricultural plantations.


Pesticides and Fertilizers


WWF notes that production yield level can only be increased with

the use of agrochemicals such as fertilizer and more pesticides, which

in turn all have an environmental impact. Before palm oil tree canopies

are developed and sunlight is penetrating the ground, weeds are

aggressive and frequent weed control is needed. Mechanical weed mowers

hauled by agricultural tractors are used to keep weeds at a manageable

height in between rows. Before the canopy is fully developed, areas

around young plants are kept free of competing weeds mostly by chemical

herbicides and by manually removing them (WWF 2008). Currently, these

plantations are approximately 161 km (100 miles) north of the Honduran

emerald hummingbird habitat, and are not known to directly affect this

species (Hyman 2012, pers. comm.). However, it is likely that expansion

of palm oil plantations in the Agu[aacute]n River Basin will occur

(Silvestri 2008, p. 48). Additionally, the significant amount of

inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides required by palm oil

plantations, produce chemical residues that are discarded in several

ways. All of these waste products have different fates, depending on

their chemical and physical origin (WWF 2008, unpaginated), affecting

Honduran emerald hummingbird habitat in various ways.




There are plans to pave the road between Olanchito and San Lorenzo,

an approximately 46-km [28.6-mi] stretch that currently passes through

the Agu[aacute]n Valley which will further impact this species' habitat

(Hyman 2012; pers. comm.; World Bank 2011, pp. 1-3; Hyman 2007, p. 10;

Anderson pers. comm. 2008 in Petition 2008). Honduras is ranked among

the countries with the lowest development of road networks in Central

America (Acevedo et al. 2008, p. 1). The agricultural sector is the

most important of the Honduran economy (Acevedo et al. 2008, p. 1);

however, this sector is limited by difficulties of transportation and

access to many of the productive areas of the country due to poor road

infrastructure (Quintero et al., 2007, pp. 15-18; Winograd 2006).

Existing roads have been negatively impacted by hurricanes,

flooding, and neglect after the crash of the banana industry. The

Agu[aacute]n and Agalta valleys, which contain this species' preferred

habitat, are some of the most productive agricultural areas of the

country, and this change in land use has decreased the available

suitable habitat for the Honduran emerald hummingbird (Acevedo et al.

2008, p. 1). These agricultural areas of the country are in the

departments of Atlantida (Agu[aacute]n Valley) and Olancho (Agalta and

Guayape valleys) and include bananas, coffee, palm oil, corn, beans,

edible vegetables, fruits, and other crops. The improvement and

development of roads to transport agricultural products to economic

hubs is being considered by the Government of Honduras, which may

affect the Honduran emerald hummingbird's habitat.

Growth in this economic sector is impeded by the lack of access to

the most productive agricultural areas of the country due to poor road

infrastructure. The road improvement project (Central Road, Route no.

23) is funded by the World Bank ``Second Reconstruction and Improvement

Project Road,'' (World Bank 2011, pp. 1-3; Proceso Digital 2010). The

road improvement project will likely bring more traffic, which will

increase land speculation and settlement of homes along the road,

ultimately impacting surrounding Honduran emerald habitat (Perez and

Thorn 2012, pers. comm.; Steiner and Coto 2011). Roads through prime

Honduran emerald habitat, which is presently being affected by

cultivation of bananas and plantains, link the river valley to the

ports at Tela, La Ceiba, Trujillo, and Puerto Cort[eacute]s.

This road construction project to widen the main highway between

Olanchito and Yoro, spanning 57 km (35

mi) has been in the planning stages for several years. A project has

been contingent on several factors, such as a loan from the World Bank

and implementation of measures to mitigate the impact on the

environment. A 2007 World Bank report indicated that during the project

planning stage, the scope of the project changed so that the road

segment passing through vital habitat for the Honduran emerald

hummingbird was not implemented (Quintero 2007). In this report, the

World Bank indicated that a Payments for Environmental Services plan,

if successfully implemented, could lead to the long-term protection of

an additional 1,000-2,000 hectares (2,474-4,942 ac) of Honduran emerald

habitat on private lands. This, in turn, would address environmental

concerns associated with the proposed paving of the Olanchito-San

Lorenzo road (Quintero et al. 2007, p. 15). However, the status of this

road project remains unclear.

The Agalta Valley is traversed by a highway that has been proposed

to be repaved (Hyman 2012, pers. comm.; Inter American Development Bank

2012). This region is an area with a high rate of poverty--this highway

is, in part, intended to improve the economic conditions in this

region. This region contains approximately 50,000 human inhabitants.

The highway will complete the second paved transit route between the

Pacific and Atlantic oceans in Honduras. The road is being improved in

order to provide a better link between Tegucigalpa and the Atlantic

coast of Honduras and will better connect the Departments of Francisco

Moraz[aacute]n, Olancho, and Col[oacute]n. It is unclear how this

highway will affect the remaining 5,000 hectares (12,355 ac) of this

species' habitat (Bonta 2011, pers. comm.) in this valley.

Although this species exists in the Agalta Valley, very little

information regarding the factors affecting this species in this area

are known. Reports indicate that areas that contain suitable habitat

characteristics for the Honduran emerald hummingbird are being cleared

for rice cultivation (Hyman 2012, pers. comm.; Bonta 2011, pers.

comm.). Several of the remaining habitat patches are connected by

narrow corridors of habitat along property lines and waterways, but

most of the patches of remaining habitat are ``islands'' within cattle

pasture, which comprises approximately 90 percent of the Valley's area

(Bonta 2011, pers. comm.). It is unclear whether the species migrates

between the Agalta and Agu[aacute]n valleys.


Hydroelectric and Development Projects


The construction of several development projects could possibly

affect this species' habitat (Bonta 2012, pers. comm.) in the Agalta

Valley. At least two hydroelectric projects have become operational in

recent years (Bonta 2012, pers. comm.). These projects could likely

result in more infrastructure development in the Valley which could

also affect the Honduran emerald habitat. Additionally, several

agricultural development projects may be underway in the Agalta Valley

(Bonta 2012, pers. comm.). Bonta indicates that the following projects,

which can be located at http://www.hondurasopenforbusiness.com, are

likely to affect the Honduran emerald habitat.

AGR112: Production of Transgenic Certified Maize,

AGR126: Cultivation of Pi[ntilde][oacute]n, Jatropha

curcas, for biodiesel (5,000 hectares in the Agalta Valley),

AGR401: Cultivation of Pi[ntilde][oacute]n (5,000 hectares

in the Agalta Valley),

AGR402: Cultivation of Pi[ntilde][oacute]n,

FOR204: Teak (Tectona grandis) plantation: 20,000 hectares

in three valleys; estimate of 4,000 to 8,000 hectares in the Agalta


Although highway construction, agricultural development, and

resulting infrastructure is likely to occur in the Agalta Valley, it is

unclear how these activities would negatively affect the Honduran

emerald hummingbird in this valley.


International Trade


Data obtained from the United Nations Environment Programme-World

Conservation Monitoring Center (UNEP-WCMC) show that, since its listing

in CITES Appendix II in 1987, only two Honduran emerald hummingbird

specimens have been recorded in international trade, involving two

bodies of unknown origin from Germany to the United States in 1996

(UNEP-WCMC 2009b). Therefore, international trade is not a factor

influencing the species' status in the wild. Nor are we aware of any

other information that indicates that collection or overutilization of

the Honduran emerald hummingbird is affecting this species.


Disease and Predation


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007, p. 51)

suggests that the distribution of some disease vectors may change as a

result of climate change. However, after conducting a status review of

the Honduran emerald hummingbird and consulting with experts, we have

no information at this time to suggest that any specific diseases are

or may become problematic to this species.


Small and Declining Population


The population of the Honduran emerald hummingbird is small and

very likely declining (BLI 2012, pp. 1-2; Stattersfield and Capper

2000, p. 311). In 2007, the information available indicated that this

species had experienced a population decline since the 1960s and

consisted of fewer than 2,000 individuals distributed within two, and

possibly a third, valleys (BLI 2008, p. 2; Anderson and Hyman 2007, p.

6). In 2012, BLI stated that the population estimate was between 250

and 999 birds, within an estimated area of occupancy (AOO) of 12 km\2\

(4.6 mi\2\) within an overall range of 400 km\2\ (154 mi\2\). However,

local experts believe its actual extent of occurrence is even smaller--

closer to 150 km\2\ (58 mi\2\) (Perez and Thorn pers. comm. 2012).

Species often tend to have a higher risk of extinction if they

occupy a small geographic range, occur at low density, occupy a high

trophic level (position in food chain), and exhibit low reproductive

rates (Purvis et al. 2000, p. 1949). Small populations can be more

affected by factors such as demographic stochasticity (variability in

population growth rates arising from random differences among

individuals in survival and reproduction within a season), local

catastrophes, and inbreeding (Pimm et al. 1988, pp. 757, 773-775). A

small, declining population makes the species vulnerable to genetic

stochasticity (random changes in the genetic composition of a

population) due to inbreeding depression and genetic drift (random

changes in gene frequency). This, in turn, compromises a species'

ability to adapt genetically to changing environments (Frankham 1996,

p. 1,507) reduces fitness, and increases extinction risk (Reed and

Frankham 2003, pp. 233-234). Alternatively, species can adapt to

changes in their environment and expand their range (Pateman 2012, pp.

1,028-1,030), although this does not appear to be the case with the

Honduran emerald hummingbird.

The range and abundance of the hummingbird has been significantly

curtailed. Because the Honduran emerald hummingbird is currently found

in only three valleys, and has undergone a restriction in range and a

decline in population size, any threats to the species, alone or in

combination, are further magnified. In order for a

population to sustain itself, there must be enough reproducing

individuals and habitat to ensure its survival. Limited-range species

are susceptible to extirpation, particularly when a species' remaining

population is already small or its distribution is too fragmented. In

addition, while this hummingbird may be either tolerant of fragmented

thorn forests or appear to be tolerant of fragmented thorn forests,

these fragmented areas likely do not represent optimal conditions for

the species. The fragmentation of the habitat and increased distance

between suitable patches of habitat causes the species to expend more

energy and resources in search of its nutritional requirements (Justino

et al. 2012, pp. 194-195; Hadley and Betts 2009, p. 207). When habitat

is degraded, there is often a time lag between the initial conversion

or degradation of suitable habitats and the extinction of endemic bird

populations (Brooks et al. 1999a, p. 1; Brooks et al. 1999b, p. 1140).

Individuals of species may be more visible or appear to be more

numerous when their habitat has disappeared; when in fact their

population is decreasing because they have fewer resources or are

expending more energy to reach the resources they need to survive.

Remaining fragments of forested habitat will likely undergo further

degradation due to their altered ecological dynamics and isolation

(through infestation of gap-opportunistic species such as bamboo, which

alter forest structure and cause a decrease in gene flow between

populations) (Tabanez and Viana 2000, pp. 929-932).

The combined effects of habitat fragmentation and other factors on

a species' population can act synergistically (Gilpin and Soul[eacute]

1986, p. 31). For example, an increase in habitat fragmentation can

separate populations to the point where individuals can no longer

disperse and breed among habitat patches, causing a shift in the

demographic characteristics of a population and a reduction in genetic

fitness (Gilpin and Soul[eacute] 1986, p. 31). This is especially

applicable for a species such as the Honduran emerald hummingbird that

was once more widespread; it has lost a significant amount (90 percent)

of its historical range due to habitat loss and degradation.


Extreme Weather Events


Small, declining populations can also be especially vulnerable to

environmental disturbances such as flooding, drought, or hurricanes

(O'Grady 2004, pp. 513-514). The Honduran emerald hummingbird relies on

specific habitat to provide for its breeding, feeding, and nesting. In

2012, Honduras was determined to be one of the countries most affected

by climate change due to its geographic location which is in the direct

path of many tropical storms and hurricanes (Harmeling 2012, pp. 5-6).

Research and modeling have explored how changes in climate might affect

areas such as Honduras (Gasner et al. 2010, p. 1250, Winograd 2002, p.

11). The term ``climate change'' refers to a change in the mean,

variability, or seasonality of climate variables over time periods of

decades or hundreds of years (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

(IPCC) 2007, p. 78). Forecasts of the rate and consequences of future

climate change are based on the results of extensive modeling efforts

conducted by scientists around the world (Solman 2011, p. 20; Laurance

and Useche 2009, p. 1,432; Nu[ntilde]ez et al. 2008, p. 1; Margeno

2008, p. 1; Meehl et al. 2007, p. 753).

Climate change models, like all other scientific models, produce

projections that have some uncertainty because of the assumptions used,

the data available, and the specific model features. The science

supporting climate model projections as well as models assessing their

impacts on species and habitats will continue to be refined as more

information becomes available. While projections from regional climate

model simulations are informative, various methods to downscale

projections to more localized areas in which the species lives are

still imperfect and under development (Solman 2011, p. 20; Nu[ntilde]ez

et al. 2008, p. 1; Marengo 2008, p. 1).

Honduras appears to have entered a more active period of hurricane

activity (Pielke et al. 2003, p. 102). Studies of natural events in the

last 100 years indicate that Honduras is highly vulnerable to an

increase in frequency and intensity in the future not only hurricanes,

but also landslides, flooding, and drought ([scedil]ekercio[gbreve]lu

et al. 2011; Gasner et al. 2010, p. 1250; Winograd 2006, p. 1). Due to

its location and the biophysical traits of the region, Honduras is

likely to be affected every 3 to 4 years by climate-related events,

such as drought-related fires, floods, and landslides (Winograd 2006,

p. 1). Winograd notes that 50 percent of Honduras is at risk of

landslides, 30 percent is at risk of severe droughts, and 25 percent is

at risk of flooding, particularly agricultural areas.

Arid-zone species are assumed to be more resilient to high

temperatures and low humidity ([scedil]ekercio[gbreve]lu et al. 2012,

p. 5). However, species such as the Honduran emerald hummingbird are

exposed to very dry conditions and are likely dependent on seasonal

rains, as well as seasonal and permanent waterholes and rivers

(Schneider and Griesser 2009 in [scedil]ekercio[gbreve]lu et al. 2011,

p. 5). Even small temperature increases can greatly increase the amount

of birds' evaporative water loss ([scedil]ekercio[gbreve]lu et al.

2011, p. 5). Warmer weather due to climate change is expected to impact

the ability of birds in arid regions to sustain their water balance.

Climate models are not always able to predict the possible effects

of ecological interactions, adaptation, or how species, particularly

pollinators, might disperse in response to climate change (Buermann et

al. 2011, p. 1671; Burkle and Alarc[oacute]n 2011, p. 528; Pearson and

Dawson 2003, p. 361). Honduras is clearly in the path of hurricanes

(Winograd 2006, 2002; Pielke et al. 2003, pp. 101-103). However,

additional research is still needed to determine how changes in climate

may affect species such as the Honduran emerald hummingbird (Hegland et

al. 2009, p. 184).


Conservation Measures in Place


Several mechanisms are in place that are intended to provide

protections to this species. These protections include involvement by

nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), wildlife protection laws, and a

reserve designated to protect its habitat. These mechanisms are

described below.


Laws and Regulatory Mechanisms


Honduras has made significant progress in conservation of its

natural resources (Portillo 2007, p. 60; Vreugdenhil et al. 2002, pp.

6, 11, 20-25). In the past 30 years, protected areas have increased

from less than 20 protected areas to an estimated 600 areas with

protected status (Portillo 2007, p. 60). Significant progress was made

particularly between 1974 and 1987; meetings with regional authorities

were held regarding protected areas in order to promote the

conservation of the natural and cultural heritage of Honduras (Portillo

2007, p. 60). In 2003, the First Mesoamerican Congress on Protected

Areas was held in Managua. The System of Protected Areas is managed by

various entities such as NGOs, associations of municipalities or local

authorities, or by management agreements. However, in some cases, these

protected areas are not being managed effectively, as described below

(Portillo 2007, p. 63; Vreugdenhil et al. 2002, pp. 6, 11, 20-25).


NGO Involvement


In Honduras, several NGOs are participating in the conservation and

management of this species such as The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the

Honduran Biodiversity Research Coalition. The Honduran Emerald Reserve

was created by the Honduran Government in 2005 with support from TNC.

TNC has provided both technical and financial support to the government

and local community groups to complete a 10-year management plan for

the Reserve. Some aspects of TNC's involvement have included marking

the official reserve boundaries and providing training to partners in

the management of reserves and protected areas. The Honduran

Biodiversity Research Coalition is a group of scientists and

conservationists established in 2011 that undertakes and promotes

biodiversity research and conservation in Honduras.


Honduran Emerald Reserve


In 2009, the National Conservation and Forestry Institute (ICF)

began a management plan for a protected area specifically for the

Honduran emerald hummingbird. This was with the participation of

municipalities and Arenal Olanchito, the department of Yoro, SOPTRAVI

Honduras Armed Forces (HAF), the Ministry of Education through the

Regional Environmental Education Center, CREATE, the Ministry of

Tourism and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, SERNA

(Steiner and Coto 2011; Portillo 2007, p. 99). The Interagency

Technical Committee for Monitoring and Honduran Emerald Hummingbird

Habitat Management Area was formed. In 2010, the ICF, with financial

support from The Nature Conservancy, finalized the management plan for

the protected area (Resolution No. DE-MP-147-2010). This Reserve was

established in connection with funding from the World Bank to finish

building the main highway linking the capital with Olanchito, Yoro, via

Cedros Francisco Moraz[aacute]n (Steiner and Coto 2011) (refer to

section on Roads, above).

This reserve is located 34 km (21 mi) west of the city Olanchito in

the Agu[aacute]n Valley (see Figure 1). The reserve encompasses 1,217

ha (3,007 ac) and spans elevations between 220 and 800 meters (722 and

2,625 ft). There are 651 ha (1609 ac) of dry forest habitat remaining

that is suitable for the Honduran emerald hummingbird (Perez and Thorn

2012, pers. comm.; Thorn et al. 2000 in Anderson 2010, p. 6). The

Honduran Emerald Reserve is guarded by Honduran Air Force soldiers who

patrol the reserve and do not allow visitors into the Reserve without

prior permission (Hyman 2012b pers. comm.). However, cattle from

neighboring land owners are frequently found grazing uncontrolled on

the property on the Honduran emerald habitat (Steiner 2011, p. 1; House

2004, p. 30). Despite conservation efforts, land owners around the

protected area want to expand their properties and are cutting more of

the Honduran emerald hummingbird's suitable habitat in order to plant

grass for cattle grazing (Hyman and Steiner 2012 pers. comm.). Because

encroachment and livestock grazing continue to occur both around and in

the Reserve, and this species requires more suitable habitat than what

exists in the Reserve, this protected area is insufficient to provide

adequate suitable habitat for this species.

In conclusion, Honduras is improving its management of its

resources (FAO 2010). For example, in 2010, Honduras began an

initiative to recover degraded areas and denuded forests (Ecolex 2011).

However, most of the habitat required by the Honduran emerald

hummingbird is privately owned, and the thorn forests are being

converted to other uses that are not suitable for this species. Despite

the progress made in Honduras with respect to laws and regulatory

mechanisms in place to protect the Honduran emerald hummingbird, the

species continues to face habitat loss and degradation.


Finding and Proposed Listing Determination


An assessment of the need for a species' protection under the Act

is based on threats to that species and the regulatory mechanisms in

place to ameliorate impacts from these threats. As required by section

4(a)(1) of the Act, we conducted a review of the status of this species

and assessed the five factors in consideration of whether the Honduran

emerald hummingbird is threatened or endangered throughout all of its

range. These five factors are:

(a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or

curtailment of its habitat or range;

(b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or

educational purposes;

© Disease or predation;

(d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or

(e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued


We examined the best scientific and commercial information

available regarding the past, present, and future threats faced by the

species and consulted with species experts.

We found that habitat loss due to conversion to agriculture and

plantations is the main factor affecting this species throughout its

range (factor A) (Bonta 2012 pers. comm.; Perez and Thorn 2012 pers.

comm.). Hummingbirds require a constant source of energy, primarily in

the form of nectar. In order to meet its energy and nutritional

requirements, this species needs access to intact, suitable habitat

with a diversity of plant species that contain its energy sources

throughout the year.

The Honduran emerald hummingbird and its habitat are being affected

primarily by the clearing of dry forest for cattle grazing and

agricultural development. Habitat degradation and loss continues to

occur and affect the species throughout its range. Due to uncontrolled

clearing of land to pastures or plantation agriculture, the

hummingbird's dry forest habitat is now limited to a few small,

isolated ``islands'' of suitable habitat, which are surrounded by

banana plantations or cattle ranches (Perez and Thorn 2012, pers.

comm.). The Honduran emerald hummingbirds' current occupied and

suitable range has been highly reduced and severely fragmented. This

hummingbird species is expending more energy now in order to find food

sources to meet its energy needs, and its suitable habitat is becoming

more scarce and fragmented, causing these habitat islands to become

farther apart.

Historically, the Honduran emerald hummingbird existed in much

higher numbers in more continuous, connected habitat. Its suitable

habitat is becoming increasingly limited, and its suitable habitat is

not likely to expand in the future. Its population is estimated to be

between 200 and 1,000 individuals. Lack of a sufficient number of

individuals in a local area or a decline in their individual or

collective fitness may cause a decline in the population size, despite

the presence of suitable habitat patches. In cases where populations

are very small, effects on the species are exacerbated. Any loss of

potentially reproducing individuals could have a devastating effect on

the ability of the population to increase. The Agu[aacute]n Valley is

currently considered to contain the largest extent of thorn forest. The

four largest fragments are between 360 and 476 ha (890 and 1176 ac),

for a combined total of 1,704 ha (Anderson 2010, p. 6). However, very

recent estimates of the species' actual extent of occurrence is 150

km\2\ (58 mi\2\), and one of the best patches of optimal Honduran

emerald hummingbird habitat, due to its proximity to a nearby town has

practically disappeared (Thorn 2012 pers. comm.).

A species may be affected by more than one threat; these factors

can act in combination. Changes in Honduras' climate may be acting in

combination with other factors to affect this species' habitat. Extreme

weather events (an increase in the severity and frequency in hurricanes

and increased periods of drought (factor E) may also affect this

species' habitat. Both biotic and abiotic ecological interactions

influence species distributions (Jankowski et al., 2010; Dunn et al.,

2009). Many climate change models do not take into consideration

interactions between species because data regarding these interactions

are limited. Impacts typically operate synergistically, particularly

when populations of a species are decreasing. Initial effects of one

threat factor can later exacerbate the effects of other threat factors

(Gilpin and Soul[eacute] 1986, pp. 25-26). Fragmentation of populations

can decrease the fitness and reproductive potential of the species,

which exacerbates other threats.

The species' small population size (factor E) combined with its

highly restricted and severely fragmented range, increases the species'

vulnerability to adverse natural events that destroy individuals and

their habitat. The species' potential exposure to extreme weather

events such as hurricanes, extended periods of drought, or flooding, in

combination with habitat loss and degradation may add to factors

affecting the continued existence of the species throughout its range

now and in the future.

In conclusion, we have carefully assessed the best scientific and

commercial information available regarding the past, present, and

future threats affecting this species. We have identified multiple

factors that have interrelated impacts on this species; however the

most significant threat is habitat loss and degradation, particularly

since it has such a small and fragmented population, and it requires a

variety of food sources. As a species' status continues to decline,

often as a result of habitat loss or overutilization, the species will

become increasingly vulnerable to other impacts. If this trend

continues, its ultimate extinction due to one or more stochastic

(random or unpredictable) events such as hurricanes, drought, or

flooding becomes more likely. The species' small population size, its

reproductive and life history traits, combined with its highly

restricted and severely fragmented range, increases this species'

vulnerability to other threats. These threats occur at a sufficient

scale so that they are affecting the status of the species now and will

in the future.

Our review of the information pertaining to the five threat factors

supports a conclusion that the imminence, intensity, or magnitude of

the factors affecting the Honduran emerald hummingbird, most

significantly habitat loss, coupled with a small and declining

population, place this species at risk of extinction throughout all of

its range, such that a listing as endangered is warranted. We do not

find that the factors affecting the species are likely to be

sufficiently ameliorated in the foreseeable future. Therefore, on the

basis of the best scientific and commercial information, we find that

the Honduran emerald hummingbird meets the definition of an

``endangered species'' under the Act, and we are proposing to list the

Honduran emerald hummingbird as endangered throughout its range.


Peer Review


In accordance with our joint policy with the National Marine

Fisheries Service, ``Notice of Interagency Cooperative Policy for Peer

Review in Endangered Species Act Activities,'' published in the Federal

Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert

opinions of at least three appropriate independent specialists

regarding this proposed rule. The purpose of peer review is to ensure

that our final determination is based on scientifically sound data,

assumptions, and analyses. We will send copies of this proposed rule to

the peer reviewers immediately following publication in the Federal

Register. We will invite these peer reviewers to comment during the

public comment period on our specific assumptions and conclusions

regarding the proposal to list the Honduran emerald hummingbird.

We will consider all comments and information we receive during the

comment period on this proposed rule during our preparation of a final

determination. Accordingly, our final decision may differ from this



Available Conservation Measures


Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or

threatened under the Act include recognition, requirements for Federal

protection, and prohibitions against certain practices. Recognition

through listing results in public awareness, and encourages and results

in conservation actions by Federal and State governments, private

agencies and interest groups, and individuals.

The ESA and its implementing regulations set forth a series of

general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all endangered and

threatened wildlife. These prohibitions, at 50 CFR 17.21 and 17.31, in

part, make it illegal for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the

United States to ``take'' (includes harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot,

wound, kill, trap, capture, or to attempt any of these) within the

United States or upon the high seas; import or export; deliver,

receive, carry, transport, or ship in interstate commerce in the course

of commercial activity; or sell or offer for sale in interstate or

foreign commerce any endangered wildlife species. It also is illegal to

possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship any such wildlife

that has been taken in violation of the ESA. Certain exceptions apply

to agents of the Service and State conservation agencies.

Permits may be issued to carry out otherwise prohibited activities

involving endangered and threatened wildlife species under certain

circumstances. Regulations governing permits for endangered species are

codified at 50 CFR 17.22. With regard to endangered wildlife, a permit

may be issued for the following purposes: For scientific purposes, to

enhance the propagation or survival of the species and for incidental

take in connection with otherwise lawful activities.





References Cited


A complete list of all references cited in this proposed rule is

available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov or upon request

from the Branch of Foreign Species, Endangered Species Program, U.S.

Fish and Wildlife Service (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).




The primary author of this proposed rule is Amy Brisendine, Branch

of Foreign Species, Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife



List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17


Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and

recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.


Proposed Regulation Promulgation


Accordingly, we propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter

I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:





1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:


Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C.

4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.


2. Amend Sec. 17.11(h) by adding a new entry for ``Hummingbird,

Honduran emerald'' in alphabetical order under BIRDS to the List of

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife to read as follows:



Sec. 17.11 Endangered and threatened wildlife.


* * * * *

(h) * * *



Species Vertebrate

------------------------------------------------ population where Critical

Historic range endangered or Status When listed habitat Special rules

Common name Scientific name threatened



* * * * * * *



* * * * * * *

Humming- bird, Honduran Amazilia luciae. Hon- duras...... Entire.......... E............... ............... NA............. NA



* * * * * * *





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