Purple-backed Sunbeam Aglaeactis aliciae


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Endangered because it has a single, very small population which is inferred to be declining owing to considerable ongoing habitat degradation through burning for cattle pasture and clearance of its favoured alder woodland habitat to make way for eucalyptus plantations.

Population justification
The population is estimated to be small, as the species is only known from c. 178 km2 of habitat. It is placed in the band 1,000-2,499 mature individuals, equating to 1,500-3,749 individuals in total, rounded here to 1,500-4,000 individuals.

Trend justification
This species is suspected to be undergoing a slow to moderate and on-going decline, owing to continuing habitat degradation within its range.

Distribution and population

Aglaeactis aliciae is only known with certainty from a tiny area in the upper Marañón drainage of La Libertad, west Peru (F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2012). Though there were historical records from Succha and nearby Soquián in La Libertad, the only location that produced regular records in the period 1979-2005 was El Molino, also in La Libertad (J. Hornbuckle in litt. 1999, Hunnybun 1999, T. S. Schulenberg in litt. 1999, Lambert and Angulo 2007), where (at least until 2003) the species was described as locally common (D. Geale in litt. 2005, Lambert and Angulo 2007), although available habitat at this site covers less than one km2. However, in 2006 field surveys found the species to be widespread and locally common within its reported historical range on the east bank of the Marañón, and, indeed, elsewhere (e.g. on the west bank of the Marañón and in the upper Chusgon Valley). The distance between the most northerly and southerly points where the species was found was 35.5 km (Lambert and Angulo 2007). The species was recorded for the first time in northern Ancash, 40 km south of the La Libertad sites, in 2014 (Nuñez Cortez 2015), lending credence to a previous unconfirmed sighting from the Llanganuco area in Ancash (Fjeldså and Kessler 1996), c. 100 km further south; and within the Chusgón Valley, there is an additional area of 155 km2 within which the species could potentially occur (Lambert and Angulo 2007).


It is known from the temperate zone (2,900-3,500 m) with vegetation comprising montane shrubs and Alnus and Eucalyptus trees (B. P. Walker in litt. 1995), where it is found in the understorey of alder woodland (G. Engblom in litt. 2005). It feeds on mistletoe parasitising alders and other trees, e.g. Tristerix longebrachteatum (T. Züchner in litt. 1999, Clements and Shany 2001), and in patches of flowering uñico Oreocallis grandiflora (Lambert and Angulo 2007). It has also recently been reported to feed and roost in introduced Eucalyptus trees, although the species's degree of tolerance of Eucalyptus plantations (especially as breeding habitat) is unknown (F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2005, D. Geale in litt. 2005). However, the unconfirmed sighting in the Llanganuco area was in the Polylepis zone at 3,600-4,000 m. Juveniles and immatures have been taken in February, March and June.


The village of Molino is in a heavily populated area (B. P. Walker in litt. 1995) and, given its restricted range, this species is probably very vulnerable to habitat destruction. Perhaps the greatest concern is the felling of alder for replacement with eucalyptus plantations which provide better timber for the mining industry (G. Engblom in litt. 2005). Alder woodland and montane shrubland is also impacted by cutting for firewood and small scale burning to improve pasture for grazing livestock (F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2005, Lambert and Angulo 2007). Similar habitat loss is occurring throughout the region (G. Engblom in litt. 2005).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. In 2009-2010, CORBIDI carried out an awareness campaign, the first for this species and one of the few conservation actions directed to this hummingbird (F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed

Survey the Chusgón Valley and more widely in the Pataz area to investigate the possibility of the existence of additional subpopulations. Determine the distribution of A. cupripennis to judge whether there are distributional gaps between the two hummingbirds where A. aliciae might occur (T. S. Schulenberg in litt. 1999). Research the species's ecological requirements (T. Züchner in litt. 1999), in particular assessing the suitability of Eucalyptus plantations as habitat (Lambert and Angulo 2007). Investigate the species's taxonomic relationship with A. cupripennis. Safeguard remaining habitat. Pressure local authorities to include species-specific material in school syllabuses and to initiate a second awareness campaign. Create a reserve for this species (F. Angulo Pratolongo in litt. 2012).


12-13 cm. Large, principally brown hummingbird. Earth-brown head and mantle, iridescent amethyst on lower back and rump and golden-green uppertail-coverts. Largely darkish brown underparts, except white lores, throat and upper breast. White-tipped bronze tail. Female has iridescence on upperparts reduced or lacking. Similar spp. Shining Sunbeam A. cupripennis has largely rufous-brown underparts and face. Range of White-tufted Sunbeam A. castelnaudii does not overlap and that species has tawny tail, some rufous on underparts and white feather tuft on central breast.Voice A thin, high tsuit tsEEt tsuit tsEEt tsuew.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Isherwood, I., Mahood, S., Sharpe, C J, Stuart, T., Temple, H., Khwaja, N., Symes, A.

Züchner, T., Schulenberg, T., Hornbuckle, J., Geale, D., Angulo Pratolongo, F., Walker, B., Engblom, G.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Aglaeactis aliciae. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/11/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 13/11/2019.