New hummingbird species spotted in Ecuador

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A male blue-throated hillstar hummingbirdImage source, AFP
Image caption,
The male of the species has a dark blue neck and a white breast with a black stripe

A new species of hummingbird has been spotted and identified in Ecuador by a multinational team of ornithologists.

The bird has been named Oreotrochilus cyanolaemus, or blue-throated hillstar, for its deep blue neck and is about 11cm (4in) long.

Ecuador, which is rich in biodiversity, is home to 132 hummingbird species out of the more than 300 in the world.

Ornithologists say there are only about 300 blue-throated hillstars and that the species is in danger of extinction.

Francisco Sornoza is the ornithologist who led the team of researchers from Ecuador, Venezuela, Denmark and Sweden which made the discovery.

He told Agence France Press news agency that he had a hunch it could be a hitherto unknown species as soon as he spotted it through binoculars in the barren south-western highlands of Ecuador.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The female of the species lacks the blue throat colouring

The area is historically poorly explored by ornithologists and the population of blue-throated hillstars is relatively small.

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Its habitat at an altitude of between 3,000m to 3,700m (10,000 to 12,000ft) between the provinces of Loja and El Oro near the Pacific Ocean is threatened by mining.

Mr Sornoza, who has been studying hummingbirds for more than 30 years, said it had a slightly curved beak which it uses to reach the flowers of the chuquiragua, a shrub also known as the "flower of the Andes" or "flower of true love".

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Its beak is curved to reach into the flowers of the chuquiragua

It can consume up to double its weight in nectar and its heartbeat drops at night to deal with the cold temperatures, he said.