Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird Lepidopyga lilliae


Justification of Red List Category
The very small range and rarity of this species suggest that its population is extremely small and that the population size at each of the known locations is tiny. Its habitat, and by inference the population, have undergone a considerable decline that may be continuing. This combination of factors leads to classification as Critically Endangered.

Population justification
No census has been carried out, but the population is estimated to number 50-249 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 75-374 individuals in total, rounded here to 70-400 individuals.

Trend justification
The species is suspected to be declining rapidly owing primarily to habitat loss. The 2016 Libro Rojo de Aves de Colombia estimated a loss of 39% of habitat between 2001 and 2011 (Renjifo et al. 2016), which is equivalent to a 46% reduction over three generations (12.6 years). The reduction is thus placed in the band 30-49% over the past three generations.

Distribution and population

Lepidopyga lilliae is known locally on the Caribbean coast of Colombia (Atlántico, Magdalena and La Guajira; Renjifo et al. 2002), most records originating in Isla de Salamanca National Park or Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999). Since 2013 the species has been apparently photographed at Bocas del Atrato (Antioquia), Moñitos (Córdoba) and Cartagena de Indias (Bolívar) (Surfbirds 2013, eBird 2018). It appears to be either rare or sporadic at the few known localities. The population size is low and it appears to move locally according to season (J. C. de las Casas in litt. 2008). Surveys in the centre of Isla de Salamanca National Park between 2006 and 2007 found a population density of 6 individuals per km2 (González Brun 2007). It is likely to have declined since the mid-1970s owing to habitat loss.


The species is found in coastal mangroves and is occasionally seen in xerophytic shrub ­vegetation (Schuchmann et al. 2015). The species shows a preference for forests of Erythrina fusca while they are flowering. At other times it frequents mangroves where it feeds, at least in part, on insects (J. C. De Las Casas in litt. 2008). It is able to use human-altered habitat and salt flats adjacent to mangroves (González Brun 2007).


Over recent decades, a large amount of the mangrove forest along the Colombian Caribbean coast has been cleared for agriculture, altered due to exploitation of rivers, or destroyed through construction of dykes, roads and canals (Parra and Agudelo 2002). Construction of a pipeline and road through the wetlands of the Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta and Isla de Salamanca in the mid-1970s obstructed tidal flow and caused very extensive mangrove die-back, continuing until at least 1992 (Wege and Long 1995). Conversion of mangroves to livestock pasture, domestic and industrial pollution, sewage, urbanisation, development of tourist infrastructure and mangrove and forest cutting are further problems (Parra and Agudelo 2002, Parra et al. 2016). Land is being sold to build a large-scale port in the future, representing a potentially severe threat to the species's remaining habitat (J. C. De Las Casas in litt. 2007).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. It occurs in two protected areas: Isla de Salamanca (21,000 ha) and Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta Flora and Fauna Sanctuary (26,810 ha) (Schuchmann et al. 2015). There have been recent efforts to address wood cutting in Isla de Salamanca through increased regulation and surveillance, and in 2015 an area of the park was temporarily closed to prevent deliberate fires (Parra et al. 2016). Despite a number of searches, there have been very few records within the national park during the 1990s and 2000s (P. G. W. Salaman in litt. 1999, R. Strewe in litt. 1999, J. C. De Las Casas in litt. 2008). The Corporación Sentido Natural and the Fundación Colibri are researching its taxonomic status and ecological requirements. 

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct field surveys to clarify its distribution and population. Research its taxonomic status and ecological requirements (Renjifo et al. 2002). Increase the area of suitable habitat that has protected status. Improve active protection of Isla de Salamanca National Park. Improve the control of trade of mangrove wood and related products and develop alternative sources of income (Parra et al. 2016).  Restore damaged mangrove ecosystems (Renjifo et al. 2002). Clarify status at Bocas del Atrato, Antioquia. Educate local communities about the environment and the development of ecotourism (Parra et al. 2016).


9 cm. Glittering, blue-bellied hummingbird. Medium-length, nearly-straight bill, black above and tip, with reddish lower. Male is shining green above. Entire underparts glittering blue. Blue-black forked tail. Female has not been formally described. Similar spp. Male Sapphire-throated Hummingbird L. coeruleogularis lacks glittering blue lower breast and belly, but can appear very similar to L. lilliae according to light conditions. Female L. coeruleogularis all white below with green sides. Greyish-white tail tips. Voice Only known vocalization a short, slightly nasal ‘lisping’ rattle, c. 0·3 seconds in length, rapidly repeated 5–10 times, “klrr..klrr..klrr..klrr..klrr...” (Schuchmann et al. 2015).


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

Salaman, P.G.W., Stiles, F.G., Strewe, R. & de las Casas, J.C.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Lepidopyga lilliae. Downloaded from on 04/12/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 04/12/2020.