375

Short-crested Coquette

Central America

375

Lophornis brachylophus

Endangered

  • Habitat winthin the species's known range continues to be reduced as a result of land-use changes.
  • Much of the remaining forest provides cover for illegal drug-growing, making an evaluation of habitat quality difficult.

The Short-crested Coquette is an incredibly small hummingbird – at less than three inches long, it's barely the size of a butterfly! This is one of the rarest Mexican hummingbirds, with an extremely limited range in the state of Guerrero. Coquettes may be small, but they are among the showiest hummingbirds, with males having spiky crests and cheek tufts. Their common names hint at their gaudiness. Of the ten species, including Tufted, Dot-eared, Spangled, Peacock, Festive, and Frilled Coquettes, the rarest by far is the Short-crested.

It's been not so much a road trip but a trip on the road for those who have sought the Critically Endangered Short-crested Coquette. Strangely enough, this endangered hummingbird is most easily sighted along a 16-mile stretch of road within the rugged Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range, known for its high biodiversity and large number of endemic plant and animal species.

When first observed by ornithologists in this area in the 1940s, the Short-crested Coquette was not recognized as a separate species. In the 1973 Field Guide to Mexican Birds, for example, Roger Tory Peterson listed it as the Rufous-crested Coquette, a species found from Panama to Peru (with a few Costa Rican specimens as well), and guessed that it was accidental in Guerrero. It wasn't until the early 1990s that full species status came to what some authorities had been calling “the Coquette Hummingbird of Guerrero.” The Short-crested Coquette is distinguished by its namesake shorter crest, its all-black bill, and differences in tail pattern in males and throat color in females.

These days, this tiny bird looms large on conservationists' radar. BirdLife International recognizes an area of its range, the Sierra de Atoyac, as an Important Bird Area (IBA). This IBA includes Cerro Teotepec, the highest peak in Guerrero at over 12,000 feet. Other scarce birds found in the area include the Near-threatened Ornate Hawk-Eagle, Vulnerable White-throated Jay, and Endangered Yellow-headed Parrot. More study and conservation action are needed to protect these declining species, and ABC and its partners continue to seek ways to save them.