Tuesday 18 June
Honduran emerald (Amazilia luciae)
Honduran emerald fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Honduran emerald description
Central America’s rarest bird, the Honduran emerald is known from only a small, arid region of Honduras (4). This attractive mid-sized hummingbird has a typically vibrant plumage, with a glittering turquoise throat and breast, metallic golden-green upperparts, and a bronze tail (2). The black and red bill is straight and the tail is slightly forked (2) (5). In common with many other hummingbirds, the Honduran emerald displays marked sexual dimorphism, with the somewhat duller female lacking the striking colouration of the male (2). Juveniles resemble the female, but have distinctive buff coloured feathers on the side of the tail and a greyish throat (2) (6).
- Amazilia Hondureña, Esmeralda Hondurena.
- Head-body length: 9 – 10 cm (2)
Honduran emerald biology
The diminutive hummingbirds display remarkable manoeuvrability in flight, capable of hovering whilst feeding, with up to 200 wing beats per second. Owing to this energy-demanding behaviour, hummingbirds feed almost exclusively on nectar, the carbohydrate-rich sugar secretions of plants, feeding from as many as 1,000 to 2,000 flowers each day. Hummingbirds also have the highest oxygen requirement of any vertebrate and, as a result, have a breathing rate of up to 500 breaths per minute and uniquely structured lungs. These physiological adaptations have allowed hummingbirds to occupy a vast array of habitats and altitudes throughout the Americas (7).
Very little is known about the biology of the Honduran emerald, but it is known to feed from the flowers of a variety of plants, including several cacti and bromeliads (5) (6). It will also alight upon a perch, up to ten metres above the ground, and make repeated forays to catch insects on the wing (2). The breeding biology of the Honduran emerald has not yet been studied; however, in common with other hummingbirds, it is likely that males are territorial and attract mates with elaborate aerial courtship displays. Males may mate with several females, but the females are responsible for nest construction and raising the offspring (7).Top
Honduran emerald range
The Honduran emerald is endemic to the arid interior valleys of Honduras. Once considered extinct, it was not recorded between 1950 and 1988, until it was rediscovered at several fragmented locations. It is primarily found in the northeast of the country, in the upper Río Aguán valley, the Agalta valley and Valle de Telica, but it has also been recently discovered in six forest fragments in the west (5).Top
Honduran emerald habitat
The Honduran emerald is only found in very dry thorn-forest and scrub, a habitat unique to Honduras, up to an elevation of 1,220 metres above sea level (5).Top
Honduran emerald statusTop
Honduran emerald threats
As the Honduran emerald is restricted to dry thorn-forests, its survival is dependant upon the prevalence of this habitat. Unfortunately, dry thorn-forests are the most endangered ecosystem in Honduras, and have been reduced by a drastic 90 percent. Vast areas of thorn-forest have been converted to rice and pineapple plantations and cattle pastures, while urbanisation and agriculture continue to encroach upon the Honduran emerald’s habitat (5) (6). In the Río Aguán valley, only 84 square kilometres of suitable Honduran emerald habitat remains, while in the Agalta valley, there is less than one square kilometre. Furthermore, much of the remaining habitat is privately owned for cattle grazing, and receives no form of protection. Consequently, the population of the Honduran emerald is now critically small, and it is considered the rarest bird in Central America, and one of the most endangered birds in the world (4) (5) (8) (9).Top
Honduran emerald conservation
In Honduras, a small, poor country with a rapidly growing economy, conservation is a major challenge (6). However, the American Bird Conservancy is working to ensure the rare Honduran emerald is afforded increased protection through the acquisition of 30 square kilometres of suitable habitat (4) (5). The Fundación Pico Bonito, a Honduran conservation organisation, has also successfully secured funding from the World Bank to invest in habitat protection, and to mitigate the effects of planned road constructions (6). The Honduran emerald will also benefit from numerous other proposed measures, including the extension of the Sierra de Agalta National Park to encompass the species’ range, the establishment of a network of protected areas, and further studies into the species’ ecology (5) (6) (9). It is also hoped that promoting the Critically Endangered Honduran emerald as a symbol of national conservation will highlight its plight and educate local people of the value of conservation (6).Top
Find out more
For more information on the conservation of the Honduran emerald, see:
The American Bird Conservancy:
For more information of the conservation of hummingbirds, see:
The Hummingbird Society:
The Hummingbird Monitoring Network:
For more information on this and other bird species please see:
- BirdLife International:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Sexual dimorphism
- When males and females of the same species differ in appearance.
IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 5: Barn-Owls to Hummingbirds. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
CITES (March, 2010)
American Bird Conservancy (March, 2010)
BirdLife International (March, 2010)
- Anderson, D. (2008) Before the secretary of the interior: a petition to list the Honduran emerald (Amazilia luciae) as an endangered species pursuant to the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973. The Hummingbird Conservancy, Butte, US.
- Perrins, C. (2009) The Encyclopedia of Birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- House, P., Cerrato, C. and Daan Vreugdenhil, I. (2002) Rationalisation of the protected areas system of Honduras. Volume 2: Biodiversity of Honduras. World Institute for Conservation and Environment, Shepherdstown, US.
- Hirschfeld, E. (2008) Rare Birds Yearbook 2009. MagDig Media Limited, UK.
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.