White-tailed Starfrontlet Coeligena phalerata


Justification of Red List Category
This species is endemic to a small range in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, where it is under threat of habitat loss and fragmentation, causing a slow population decline. The decline may however accelerate in the future as a consequence of climate change, which is projected to lead to an uphill range shift and range contraction. Therefore, the species is listed as Near Threatened. Recent records however suggest that it may also be present in the Serranía de Perijá; if this was confirmed the status may require a re-evaluation.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified, but is potentially small. Within its small range, the species is described as 'fairly common' (Stotz et al. 1996), but local (McMullan and Donegan 2014).

Trend justification
This species does not tolerate any habitat disturbance (Züchner and Boesman 2020); it is therefore assumed to be declining owing to ongoing deforestation and fragmentation within its restricted range. Between 2000 and 2019, 2.3% of tree cover has been lost within the range (Global Forest Watch 2021) and thus population declines unlikely exceed 10% over ten years. Population declines may however accelerate in the future, as climate change may cause a range shift and contraction, leading to further habitat loss (Velásquez-Tibatá et al. 2012). Future declines are therefore tentatively placed in the band 1-19% over ten years.

Distribution and population

The species is endemic to Colombia. It occurs in a small range in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Recent records suggest the species is also present in Serranía de Perijá (McMullan and Donegan 2014).


The species is restricted to the interior and edges of humid and wet montane forests at 1,400-3,700 m. It does not tolerate disturbed habitats (Züchner and Boesman 2020). Habitat preferences show sex-specific differences: While males prefer openings in forest interior, females more frequently occur at forest borders (Züchner 1999 per Restall et al. 2006). The species feeds mainly on Fuchsia, bromeliads and other pendulous flowers, but also takes insects (McMullan and Donegan 2014).


The species is heavily affected by forest loss, fragmentation and deterioration throughout its restricted range. Only 15% of the original vegetation in its stronghold in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta remains (L. M. Renjifo pers. comm. 1993, 2000). The species is not known to adapt to even slightly disturbed habitats (del Hoyo et al. 1999; Züchner and Boesman 2020). The main current threat is the expansion of non-native tree plantations, such as those of pine and eucalyptus, along with on-going clearance of land for livestock farming (C. Olaciregui in litt. 2012) and uncontrolled fires (T. Donegan in litt. 2017).

Additionally, as many other range-restricted species endemic to the Santa Marta mountains, this species is severely threatened by climate change (Velásquez-Tibatá et al. 2012). Following its temperature envelope further uphill as climate warms, its range is projected to contract drastically and may even completely disappear by 2050 (Velásquez-Tibatá et al. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES II. Occurs in two protected areas, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Natural Park and the El Dorado Nature Reserve owned by Fundación ProAves.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Quantify the population size. Determine the state of all known populations and localise new populations. Ascertain its presence in the Serranía de Perijá. Monitor the population trend. Monitor rates of habitat loss and range contractions. Investigate the impacts of climate change on the population and distribution range and project potential range shifts. If confirmed in the Serranía de Perijá, urgently protect suitable habitat.


c.14 cm. Male has top of the head glittering turquoise, a small white postocular spot, and blue throat. Neck, back, wings, breast and upper belly are dark metallic green, underparts are emerald green; white leg puffs, undertail-coverts and tail; black bill. Female has a longer bill, green upperparts, a small white postocular spot, and rufous-cinnamon underparts. Voice High-pitched chattering calls, lower-pitched short rattles.


Text account compilers
Martin, R., Hermes, C.

Butchart, S., Donegan, T., Ekstrom, J., Olaciregui , C., Renjifo, L.M. & Westrip, J.R.S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Coeligena phalerata. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 05/10/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 05/10/2022.