Honduran Emerald Amazilia luciae


Justification of Red List Category
This species, the only one endemic to Honduras, qualifies as Endangered owing to its very small and severely fragmented range and population, both of which are suspected to be declining in response to habitat loss. The species may be uplisted if improved knowledge shows that its population is smaller than currently estimated, or if improved knowledge or a worsening in the threats faced by species indicate that the rate of decline is more rapid than currently suspected.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 250-999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, descriptions of abundance and range size. This is consistent with recorded population density estimates for congeners or close relatives with a similar body size, and the fact that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied. This estimate is equivalent to 375-1,499 individuals in total, rounded here to 350-1,500 individuals.

Trend justification
The species is assumed to be declining in line with continuing habitat loss within its very small range.

Distribution and population

Amazilia luciae occurs in the arid interior valleys of Honduras, where it is currently known from three sites in the northeast, and has recently been rediscovered in the west of the country. It was not recorded between 1950 and 1988, when it was found to be common at two sites, 16 km apart, near Olanchito and Coyoles in the upper río Aguán valley, Yoro. In 1991, 22-28 birds were found in 2.5 ha of habitat near Olanchito (Howell and Webb 1992). In 1996, it was found north-east of Gualaco in the Agalta valley, where there was less than 1 km2 of suitable habitat (Anderson et al. 1998). A previously unknown population was identified in the Valle de Telica, Olancho department in February 2007 (Anderson and Hyman 2007, Anderson et al. 2010). Surveys in November 2008 located the species in six forest fragments along a 33-km transect in Santa Bárbara department; the first records in the west of the country since 1935 (BirdLife International 2008, R. E. Hyman in litt. 2008, Anderson et al. 2010).


It inhabits dry forests and scrub, mainly arid, open-canopy deciduous thorn-forest (Anderson et al. 2010), apparently at elevations up to 1,220 m. The thorn-forest near Coyoles is c.6-10 m high and dominated by Mimosaceae, Cactaceae and Euphorbiaceae, and the species is still found despite heavy grazing of the understorey and an apparent lack of flowers. At Olanchito, birds occur in similar but more cut-over and heavily grazed thorn-forest and scrub. The birds recently rediscovered at Santa Bárbara were in fragments of closed-canopy semi-deciduous woodland, ranging from 5 to 60 ha in size (R. E. Hyman in litt. 2008, Anderson et al. 2010). Feeding has been observed at a minimum of 14 plant species, including cacti, thorny shrubs and low trees, herbs, epiphytes and parasitic species (Anderson et al. 2010). During recent fieldwork, over 90% of feeding visits observed in Yoro occurred at Pedilanthus camporum and Nopalea hondurensis, whilst over 90% of visits observed in western Honduras were to Aphelandra scabra and Helicteres guazaumifolia (Anderson et al. 2010). Insect-catching has also been noted. The species is thought to undertake seasonal movements to track resources (Anderson and Hyman 2007).


At Santa Bárbara and Cofradía most of the thorn-forest has been cleared for grazing and what little remains is extremely dry with few birds of any species present. Most remaining habitat in the río Aguán and Agalta valleys is on large haciendas, managed (non-intensively) for cattle-grazing (M. Bonta in litt. 1999), but there is still clearance for plantation agriculture and cattle pastures (Anderson et al. 1998). In the Agalta valley, bulldozers are removing thorn-forest for replacement with rice cultivation (M. Bonta in litt. 1999). The río Aguán valley contains the largest extent of thorn forest in Honduras, estimated at 8,495 ha with the four largest fragments measuring between 360 and 476 ha (Anderson et al. 2010); improved access to the valley has facilitated the continuing conversion to pineapple plantations (an average of 379 ha were cleared per year between 1994 and 2000; Anderson et al. 2010). Overall, most suitable habitat probably exists as fragments of less than 100 ha in size, with the majority located on private land, exacerbating the risk of habitat loss (D. L. Anderson in litt. 2010). Perhaps most concerning are plans to pave and extend a road through the range of this species, which would presumably lead to further habitat loss (S. Eccles in litt. 2000). There are reportedly a number of multinational projects within the species's range in both eastern and western Honduras that are awaiting approval and could result in further habitat loss (D. L. Anderson in litt. 2010).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. Honduran government designated a 1217 ha ‘Honduran Emerald Species and Habitat Management Area’ W of Olanchito in 2005; the reserve includes 651 ha of suitable dry forest habitat (Anderson et al. 2010). The Honduran Air Force property known as Polígono in the río Aguán valley is now managed by the American Bird Conservancy and the Fundación Parque Nacional Pico Bonito as a core for a proposed 7,500-acre thorn forest reserve (M. Bonta in litt. 1999, Anon 2005). Listed as 'endangered' under US Endangered Species Act in 2015. An impact assessment of the proposed road is planned (S. Eccles in litt. 2000). The species is a conservation target of the Hummingbird Society.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Develop a system of core protected areas and work with neighbouring ranches to ensure that adjacent land is appropriately managed (M. Bonta in litt. 1999). Expand the Sierra de Agalta National Park to encompass suitable habitat within the valley (M. Bonta in litt. 1999). Survey to locate additional populations. Promote the species as a flagship for local and national conservation (M. Bonta in litt. 1999). Complete fencing thorn forest around Polígono to exclude cattle.


9.5 cm. Medium-sized, green hummingbird. Male has glittering blue-green throat and upper chest, sometimes appearing grey, mottled dusky. Rest of underparts pale grey with mottled green sides. Bright green upperparts with bronzy tinge on uppertail-coverts. Bronze-green tail. Black bill with reddish mandible and dark tip. Female similar with less intense and more restricted gorget. Immature has greyish throat spotted turquoise. Voice Slightly metallic ticking repeated steadily. Also buzzy chatters.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Butchart, S., Capper, D., Isherwood, I., Sharpe, C J, Symes, A., Taylor, J.

Hyman, R., Eccles, S., Bonta, M., Anderson, D.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Amazilia luciae. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/01/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/01/2019.