Santa Marta Sabrewing Campylopterus phainopeplus


Justification of Red List Category
Once considered fairly common within its small range, since 1946 the species has only been recorded with certainty in 2010. The remaining population is likely very small and in decline. The species is therefore listed as Critically Endangered.

Population justification
The species is not well known and rarely observed. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was described as 'fairly common' (Fundación ProAves in litt. 2020). Since the last confirmed record in 1946, it has only been recorded with certainty once in 2010, despite comprehensive searches (Butler 2010, O. Cortes in litt. 2020, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 2020). A tape-recording from 2006 proved erroneous, and other sightings have been attributed to misidentification of White-vented Plumeleteer (Chalybura buffonii; Fundación ProAves in litt. 2020, P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 2020). The exact population size has not been quantified. However, the paucity of confirmed records since 1946 suggest that the species is very rare, numbering < 50 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population trend has not been estimated directly. Given that the species has become very difficult to observe over the last decades, with only one record confirmed since 1946, a continuing decline in population size is inferred.

Distribution and population

Campylopterus phainopeplus is endemic to the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, north-east Colombia. Whilst it was described as 'fairly common' at the beginning of the 20th century, since 1946 it is has been recorded only once in 2010 in the El Dorado Reserve in the northwestern part of the massif (Butler 2010, Fundación ProAves in litt. 2020).


It is an altitudinal migrant inhabiting humid forest borders at 1,200-1,800 m (Hilty and Brown 1986, L. G. Olarte and M. Pearman per P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1998, 1999 and verbally 2000) during the dry season (February-May), when it feeds particularly on banana flowers in shade coffee plantations, while in the wet season (June-October) it is found in open páramo up to the snowline at 4,800 m (Hilty and Brown 1986, Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990).


The species is threatened by the loss, fragmentation and degradation of its habitat (Renjífo et al. 2016). Only 15% of the original vegetation in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta remains (L. M. Renjifo in litt. 1993 and verbally 2000). From the 1950s onwards, immigration to the area has been considerable, and agricultural expansion for coffee and cacao plantations and cattle farming, logging, burning and afforestation with exotic trees have caused extensive forest loss (IUCN 1992, Dinerstein et al. 1995, L. G. Olarte and M. Pearman per P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1998, 1999 and verbally 2000, Salazar and Strewe undated). Native vegetation is largely degraded in both the lower parts of the range and the upper parts near the treeline (Fundación ProAves in litt. 2020). A further threat is pollution by pesticide spraying (Renjifo et al. 2016). Moreover, climate change has caused the intensity and duration of the dry season to increase, which in turn has resulted in major fires across the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Fundación ProAves in litt. 2020).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is protected by two national designations and is an international Biosphere Reserve (L. G. Olarte and M. Pearman per P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1998, 1999 and verbally 2000), but this has not conserved the massif's ecosystems effectively. The species also occurs in ProAves's El Dorado Bird Reserve.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys to locate remaining individuals. Quantify the population size. Assess the population trend. Protect effectively areas harbouring remaining populations. Work with local communities and regional institutions to identify and prioritise conservation and management strategies.


13 cm. Large, glittering, green hummingbird. Slightly decurved, stout black bill. Male mainly glittering green. Green forecrown. Glittering green hindcrown and rest of upperparts. Glittering blue throat and chest. Steely blue-black, square tail. Female shiny green above, duller forecrown and cheeks. Grey below with green flanks and undertail-coverts. Green tail, narrowly tipped grey. Similar spp. White-vented Plumeleteer Chalybura buffonii of lowlands has shorter tail and green (not white) undertail-coverts. Voice Plaintive double note twit-twit.


Text account compilers
Hermes, C.

Benstead, P., Capper, D., Cortés, O., Fundación ProAves, Isherwood, I., Olarte, L.G., Pearman, M., Renjifo, L., Salaman, P.G.W., Sharpe, C.J., Stuart, T. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Campylopterus phainopeplus. Downloaded from on 28/01/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 28/01/2023.