Royal Sunangel Heliangelus regalis


Justification of Red List Category
This species is listed as Endangered because it has a very small and severely fragmented range at four locations where suitable habitat is declining.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,500-9,999 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 3,750-14,999 individuals, rounded here to 3,500-15,000 individuals.

Trend justification
This species is suspected to lose 51.3-52.8% of suitable habitat within its distribution over three generations (12 years) based on a model of Amazonian deforestation (Soares-Filho et al. 2006, Bird et al. 2011). It is therefore suspected to decline by ≥50% over three generations.

Distribution and population

Heliangelus regalis is now known from eight areas in northern Peru and south-eastern Ecuador (Graves et al. 2011). It was first recorded in the latter country in the in the Cordillera del Cóndor in 1999, before being found at Yankuam Lodge in the Nangaritza valley, Zamora-Chinchipe province in 2006 (Krabbe and Ahlman 2009), and is now known from 6-7 localities in Ecuador (J. Freile in litt. 2012). It occurs at the following localities in Peru: above San José de Lourdes in the Cordillera del Cóndor (Fitzpatrick et al., 1979); Duran, Amazonas (Dauphiné et al. 2008); north of the village of San Cristobal in the south Cordillera de Colán, Amazonas (Seddon et al. 1996); Abra Patricia, San Martín (Hornbuckle 1999); Cajamarca; north-east of Jirillo, San Martín (Davis 1986); the río Chipaota valley in the Cordillera Azul, San Martín (Merkord et al. 2009); and the río Pauya valley in the Cordillera Azul, Loreto (Schulenberg et al. 2001). The nominate subspecies occurs in the Cordillera del Cóndor and north-east of Jirillo, San Martín, whereas the more striking johnsoni, recently described from specimens collected at Pauya, Loreto, is as yet only known from the Cordillera Azul (Graves et al. 2011).


It inhabits subtropical elfin forest edge and shrubbery, often in areas of regular fire disturbance (Seddon et al. 1996). It is typically found in more xeric, stunted habitat growing on nutrient poor sandy soils on ridges (Davis 1986, F. Angulo in litt. 2012). It occurs at 1,750 m-1,950 m in the Cordillera de Colán (Seddon et al. 1996), 1,800-2,200 m in the Cordillera del Cóndor, 1,900 m at Abra Patricia (J. Hornbuckle in litt. 1999) and 1,450 m near Jirillo. In the Cordillera de Colán, males favour higher altitudes than females, at least during the dry season, and feed on different plant species (Seddon et al. 1996). The preferred nectar-source for males is apparently Brachyotum quinquenerve, and females in the Cordillera de Colán feed mainly from ericaceous plants (Seddon et al. 1996). In Ecuador, plants used for foraging included the small yellow-flowered terrestrial Guzmania gracilior (Bromeliaceae), the larger, green-and-pink-flowered epiphytic G. garciaensis, the epiphytic, fuchsia-flowered Eleanthus ampliflorus (Orchidaceae), an unidentified small epiphytic bromeliad, the stunted tree Macrocarpaea harlingii (Gentianaceae), an epiphytic Cavendishia spp. and a shrubby Macleania spp. (both pink-flowered Ericaceae) (Freile et al. 2011). It is partially insectivorous. Specimens taken in July had active gonads indicative of breeding, but no evidence of breeding was found during surveys in the Cordillera de Colán in August (Seddon et al. 1996).


Most forest in the southern Cordillera de Colán has already gone, with remnants being rapidly cleared for cash-crops, particularly marijuana and coffee (Barnes et al. 1995). However, this species inhabits stunted forests on poor, sandy soils that do not support agriculture or cattle ranching. Mining operations and road building are the main potential threats (Freile et al. 2011, F. Angulo in litt. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II, but no other measures are known. The creation of Las Orquídeas Community Protection Area (Freile et al. 2011) protects ideal habitat in the Nangaritza basin (Freile in litt. 2012). Likewise the Cerro Plateado Biological Reserve protects similar habitat higher up in the basin (J. Freile in litt. 2012). Survey to locate additional populations have been carried out (F. Angulo in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Assess the current status and extent of suitable habitat. Designate reserves in the south Cordillera de Colán (Seddon et al. 1996) and Cordillera del Cóndor (Schulenberg and Awbrey 1997). Expand (and effectively protect) Alto Mayo Protected Forest to include the Abra Patricia locality (J. Hornbuckle in litt. 1999). Further proposals are found in (Angulo et al. 2008).


11-12 cm. Strikingly plumaged, sexually dichromatic hummingbird. Male entirely deep blue, with iridescence strongest on forecrown and long, deeply forked tail. Female has dark green upperparts, green-spotted cinnamon underparts with a broad, pale breast-band, and a blue-black, shallow-forked tail. Similar spp. Unmistakable within its highly restricted range.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Harding, M., Isherwood, I., Pilgrim, J., Sharpe, C J, Stuart, T. & Symes, A.

Hornbuckle, J., Mark, T., Freile, J. & Angulo Pratolongo, F.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Heliangelus regalis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 12/08/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 12/08/2020.