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Distribution, ecology and conservation of an endangered Andean hummingbird: the Violet-throated Metaltail (Metallura baroni)

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  • Published online: 01 March 2009

The Violet-throated Metaltail Metallura baroni is a high altitude hummingbird endemic to south-central Ecuador currently considered globally ‘Endangered’. Here we present the first detailed assessment of its distribution, ecology and conservation. We first used a maximum entropy model (Maxent model) to create a predicted distribution for this species based on very limited species occurrence data. We used this model to guide field surveys for the species between April and October 2006. We found a positive relationship between model values and species presence, indicating that the model was a useful tool to predict species occurrence and guide exploration. In the sites where the metaltail was found we gathered data on its habitat requirements, food resources and behaviour. Our results indicate that Violet-throated Metaltail is restricted to the Western Cordillera of the Andes Mountains in Azuay and Cañar provinces of Ecuador, with an area of extent of less than 2,000 km2. Deep river canyons to the north and south, lack of suitable habitat, and potential interspecific competition in the east may limit the bird's distribution. The species occurred in three distinct habitats, including Polylepis woodland, the upper edge of the montane forest, and in shrubby paramo, but we found no difference in relative abundance among these habitats. The metaltail seems to tolerate moderate human intervention in its habitats as long as some native brushy cover is maintained. We found that Brachyotum sp., Berberis sp., and Barnadesia sp. were important nectar resources. The ‘Endangered’ status of this species is supported due to its restricted distribution in fragmented habitats which are under increasing human pressures.

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      Distribution, ecology and conservation of an endangered Andean hummingbird: the Violet-throated Metaltail (Metallura baroni)
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El Metalura Gorjivioleta Metallura baroni es un colibrí de altura endémico al sur centro de Ecuador y considerado globalmente En Peligro. En este trabajo presentamos el primer estudio que evalúa su distribución, ecología y conservación. Como primer paso creamos un modelo potencial de distribución de la especie utilizando el método de máxima entropía (Maxent) basado en la escasa información sobre sus localidades de presencia. Este modelo sirvió como base para realizar exploraciones de campo en búsquela de la especie entre Abril y Octubre del 2006. Encontramos una relación positiva entre los valores del modelo y los sitios de presencia de la especie, indicando que el modelo fue útil para predecir su ocurrencia y guiar las exploraciones. En los sitios en donde encontramos a metalura obtuvimos datos sobre sus requerimientos de hábitat, recursos alimenticios y comportamiento. Los resultados indican que Metalura Gorjivioleta está restringido a la Cordillera Occidental del los Andes en la provincias de Azuay y Cañar en el Ecuador, en un área menor a 2,000 km2. Depresiones geográficas por la presencia de ríos hacia el norte y sur, la escasez de hábitat y competencia interespeciífica hacia el este podrían limitar la distribución de la especie. La especie ocupó tres tipos de hábitat, incluyendo bosques de Polylepis, el límite superior de bosque montano y páramo arbustivo, pero no encontramos diferencia en su abundancia relativa entre estos hábitat. Al parecer metalura soporta ciertos niveles de intervención humana en sus hábitat, siempre y cuando exista algo de cobertura de arbustos nativos. Entre sus recursos importantes de néctar encontramos a Brachyotum sp., Berberis sp., y Barnadesia sp. Respaldamos la categoría de En Peligro de la especie debido a su rango de distribución en hábitat fragmentados y con una creciente presión humana.

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