Honduran Emerald Amazilia luciae


Justification of Red List Category
This species, the only one endemic to Honduras, qualifies as Vulnerable owing to its very small range, which is suspected to be declining due to habitat loss.

Population justification
The population has been estimated to number roughly 5,000-10,000 breeding pairs (Anderson 2013 in USFWS 2015), equating to 10,000-20,000 mature individuals. The species is thought to form more than five relatively large subpopulations, with up to 5,000 breeding pairs in the largest subpopulation (Anderson 2013 in USFWS 2015). Systematic population surveys and monitoring are however lacking (F. Rodríguez and J. Larkin in litt. 2020).

Trend justification
The species is undergoing a moderate decline (Partners in Flight 2019). Within the range, approximately 9% of tree cover has been lost over the past ten years (Global Forest Watch 2020). The species's preferred dry forest habitat is considered highly threatened; dry forests are rapidly converted for agricultural purposes and infrastructural development (Barrance et al. 2009, USFWS 2015, Rodríguez 2017). The population decline is therefore placed in the band 1-19% over three generations.

Distribution and population

Amazilia luciae occurs in the arid interior valleys of Honduras, where it occurs in the western region of Santa Bárbara, Cortés and Lempira, and in the north-eastern region of Yoro and Olancho (F. Rodríguez and J. Larkin in litt. 2020). 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). In 2013, the species was first recorded in the Lempira department (Germer et al. 2013). It continues to be detected in Cortés near El Rancho, where a nesting attempt was recorded in 2016 (Herrera and Rodríguez 2016).


The species 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 (Yoro department in the north-eastern part of the range) is c.6-10 m high and dominated by Fabaceae, Cactaceae and Euphorbiaceae, and the species is still found there despite heavy grazing of the understorey (F. Rodríguez and J. Larkin in litt. 2020). At Olanchito (Yoro department), birds occur in similar but more cut-over and heavily grazed thorn-forest and scrub. In Agalta Valley (Olancho department), the habitat is characterised by a vegetation community with mean tree heights of 5-6 m, dominated by plant families such as Fabaceae, Malvaceae and Euphorbiaceae (Ferrufino-Acosta et al. 2019, F. Rodríguez and J. Larkin in litt. 2020). In the western part of the range, individuals at Santa Bárbara were observed 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, Rodríguez et al. 2016). In Yoro, over 90% of feeding visits were observed at Pedilanthus camporum and Opuntia hondurensis (Anderson et al. 2010), whereas in Olancho the most-visited flowers varied throughout the year (Rodríguez et al. 2016). In the western part of the range, over 90% of visits to flowers 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). Abundance estimates vary throughout the year, indicating that the species is present year-round at dry forest remnants, but a fluctuation in local abundances suggests movements to track resources of detectability fluctuations (Rodríguez et al. 2019). Breeding occurs mainly between January and July in Agalta Valley, in August in Santa Barbara and March in Yoro and Cortés (Espinal and Marineros 2013, Rodríguez et al. 2016, Herrera and Rodríguez 2016). Nests are placed in Fabaceae and Cactaceae plants at a height of up to 3 m above the ground (Rodríguez et al. 2016).


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 clearing for plantation agriculture and cattle pastures still occurs (Anderson et al. 1998, USFWS 2015). In the Agalta valley, bulldozers have been used to remove 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). 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). For instance, infrastructure projects were executed in the Agalta Valley in 2009 (F. Rodríguez and J. Larkin in litt. 2020).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. The species was listed as 'endangered' under US Endangered Species Act in 2015. The Honduran government designated a 1,217 ha ‘Honduran Emerald Species and Habitat Management Area’ West of Olanchito in 2005; the reserve includes 651 ha of dry forest habitat (Anderson et al. 2010). As of 2011, the protected area was expanded to 1,992 ha (F. Rodríguez and J. Larkin in litt. 2020). In-country legislative efforts led to the establishment of a new protected area of 86.6 ha in the Agalta Valley, the 'Important Site for Wildlife El Ciruelo', which includes one of the largest remnants of dry forests in the area (Rodríguez 2017). The species is a conservation target of the Hummingbird Society.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey to locate additional populations. Support research on the species and its habitat to help guide conservation activities. Investigate dry forest dynamics. Quantify the population trend. Investigate the threats that the subpopulations are facing. Study population genetics. Investigate life-history traits, including survival and breeding biology. Investigate the relative importance of other habitat types (e.g. pine-oak or riparian habitats) for the species. Promote the restoration of dry forest (F. Rodríguez and J. Larkin in litt. 2020). Develop a system of core protected areas and work with neighbouring ranches to ensure that adjacent lands are appropriately managed (M. Bonta in litt. 1999). The Sierra de Agalta National Park should be expanded to encompass dry forest habitat within the valley (M. Bonta in litt. 1999). Minimize the impact of cattle on dry forest habitat in protected areas, e.g. by fencing the Wildlife Refuge in Aguan Valley and the Important Wildlife Site El Ciruelo (F. Rodríguez and J. Larkin in litt. 2020). Promote the species as a flagship for local and national conservation (M. Bonta in litt. 1999). Work with the local communities and alongside cattle producers with properties that still support dry forest (F. Rodríguez and J. Larkin in litt. 2020). Raise awareness among the local population and carry out environmental education programmes in schools.  


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
Hermes, C.

Anderson, D.L., Benstead, P., Bird, J., Bonta, M., Butchart, S., Capper, D., Hyman, R., Isherwood, I., Larkin, J., Rodriguez, F., Sharpe, C.J., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Amazilia luciae. Downloaded from on 23/01/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/01/2021.