[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 1 (Wednesday, January 2, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 59-72]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-31095]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

[Docket No. FWS-R9-ES-2009-0094; 450 003 0115]
RIN 1018-AY64

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing the 
Honduran Emerald Hummingbird

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule; 12-month finding.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to 
list as endangered the Honduran emerald hummingbird (Amazilia luciae) 
under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act). This 
species is endemic to a small area in Honduras, and the population is 
estimated to be less than 1,000 and decreasing. Its suitable habitat 
has decreased in the past 100 years and continues to diminish. This 
document also serves as the completion of the status review (also known 
as the 12-month finding). We seek information from the public on the 
proposed listing for this species.

DATES: We will consider comments and information received or postmarked 
on or before March 4, 2013.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by one of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R9-
     U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, 
Attn: FWS-R9-ES-2009-0094, Division of Policy and Directives 
Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 
2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.
    We will not accept comments by email or fax. We will post all 
comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means that we 
will post any personal information you provide us (see the Information 
Requested section below for more information).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Janine Van Norman, Chief, Branch of 
Foreign Species, Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, VA 22203; 
telephone 703-358-2171. If you use a telecommunications device for the 
deaf (TDD), call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 800-


    Section 4(b)(3)(B) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.) requires that, for any petition to revise the Federal 
Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants that contains 
substantial scientific or commercial information that listing the 
species may be warranted, we make a finding within 12 months of the 
date of receipt of the petition (``12-month finding''). In this 
finding, we determine whether the petitioned action is: (a) Not 
warranted, (b) warranted, or (c) warranted, but immediate proposal of a 
regulation implementing the petitioned action is precluded by other 
pending proposals to determine whether species are endangered or 
threatened, and expeditious progress is being made to add or remove 
qualified species from the Federal Lists of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife and Plants. Section 4(b)(3)(C) of the ESA requires that we 
treat a petition for which the requested action is found to be 
warranted but precluded as though resubmitted on the date of such 
finding, that is, requiring a subsequent finding to be made within 12 
months. We must publish these 12-month findings in the Federal 
    In this document, we announce that listing this species as 
endangered is warranted, and we are issuing a proposed rule to add this 
species as endangered to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened 
Wildlife. Prior to issuing a final rule on this proposed action, we 
will take into consideration all comments and any additional 
information we receive. Such information may lead to a final rule that 
differs from this proposal. All comments and recommendations, including 
names and addresses of commenters, will become part of the 
administrative record.

Petition History

    On October 28, 2008, the Service received a petition dated October 
28, 2008, from Mr. David Anderson of Louisiana State University on 
behalf of The Hummingbird Society of Sedona,

[[Page 60]]

Arizona; The Hummingbird Conservancy of Butte, Montana; Clos LaChance 
of San Martin, California; Honduran Environmental Network for 
Sustainable Development of La Ceiba, Honduras; Fundaci[oacute]n Parque 
Nacional Pico Bonito of La Ceiba, Honduras; EcoLogic Development Fund 
of Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Crowell and Moring, LLP of the 
District of Columbia, requesting that we list the Honduran emerald 
hummingbird as endangered under the Act. The petition clearly 
identified itself as a petition and included the requisite 
identification information required at 50 CFR 424.14(a). In response to 
the petitioners' request, we sent a letter to Mr. Anderson dated 
December 5, 2008 acknowledging receipt of the petition. The petition 
also included a letter from the Honduras Ambassador, Roberto Flores 
Bermudez, to Secretary Salazar, dated January 23, 2009, in support of 
this petition. We also received subsequent letters supporting the 
petition to list this species from the Francis Lewis High School Key 
Club on February 12, 2009, the Lehman College Key Club on February 26, 
2009, and the Ecologic Development Fund on April 8, 2009.

Previous Federal Actions

    On June 23, 2010, we published a 90-day finding (75 FR 35746) on 
the petition announcing that we would initiate a status review to 
determine if listing this species is warranted. This proposed listing 
determination constitutes our 12-month finding on the petition to list 
this species as endangered.

Peer Review

    We are seeking comments from independent species experts to ensure 
that our listing proposal is based on scientifically sound data, 
assumptions, and analyses. We have invited these peer reviewers to 
comment on our specific assumptions and conclusions in this listing 
proposal. Because we will consider all comments and information 
received during the comment period, our final determination may differ 
from this proposal.

Information Requested

    We intend that any final actions resulting from this proposed rule 
will be based on the best scientific and commercial data available. 
Therefore, we request comments or information from the Government of 
Honduras, the scientific community, or any other interested parties 
concerning this proposed rule. We particularly seek clarifying 
information concerning:
    (1) Information on the species' taxonomy, distribution, habitat 
selection (especially breeding and foraging habitats), diet, and 
population abundance and trends (especially current recruitment data) 
of this species.
    (2) Information on the effects of habitat loss and changing land 
uses on the distribution and abundance of this species and its 
principal food sources over the short and long term.
    (3) Information on whether changing climatic conditions (i.e., 
increasing intensity of hurricanes or drought) are affecting the 
species, its habitat, or its food sources.
    (4) Information on the effects of other potential factors, 
including live capture and collection, domestic and international 
trade, predation by other animals, and diseases of this species or its 
principal food sources over the short and long term.
    (5) Information on management programs for hummingbird 
conservation, including mitigation measures related to conservation 
programs, and any other private or governmental conservation programs 
that benefit this species.
    (6) Genetics and taxonomy.
    (7) The factors that are the basis for making a listing 
determination for a species under section 4(a) of the Act (16 U.S.C. 
1531 et seq.), which are:
    (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (c) Disease or predation;
    (d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
    Please include sufficient information with your submission (such as 
full references) to allow us to verify any scientific or commercial 
information you include. Submissions merely stating support for or 
opposition to the action under consideration without providing 
supporting information, although noted, will not be considered in 
making a determination. Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the ESA directs that 
determinations as to whether any species is an endangered or threatened 
species must be made ``solely on the basis of the best scientific and 
commercial data available.''

Public Hearing

    At this time, we do not have a public hearing scheduled for this 
proposed rule. The main purpose of most public hearings is to obtain 
public testimony or comment. In most cases, it is sufficient to submit 
comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal, described above in the 
ADDRESSES section. If you would like to request a public hearing for 
this proposed rule, you must submit your request, in writing, to the 
person listed in the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT section by 
February 19, 2013.

Species Information


    This species was first taxonomically described by Lawrence in 1867 
and placed in the Trochilidae family as Amazilia luciae (UNEP-WCMC 
2009a, p. 1). Common names for the species include Honduran emerald 
hummingbird, Ariane De Lucy (French), and colibr[iacute] esmeralda 
Hondure[ntilde]a (Spanish). The Honduran emerald hummingbird is also 
known by the synonyms Polyerata luciae and Thaumatias luciae 
(Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna 
and Flora (CITES)). BirdLife International (BLI) and CITES both 
recognize the species as Amazilia luciae (BLI 2008, p. 1). Therefore, 
we accept the species as Amazilia luciae, which also follows the 
Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS 2009). ITIS is a database 
maintained by a partnership of U.S., Canadian, and Mexican federal 
government agencies, other organizations, and taxonomic specialists to 
provide taxonomic information.


    The Honduran emerald hummingbird is in the family Trochilidae (BLI 
2008, p. 1; Sibley and Monroe 1993, 1990). The species is a medium-
sized hummingbird with an average length of 9.5 centimeters (3.7 
inches) (BLI 2008, p. 2). There are more than 325 hummingbird species 
and they exhibit a wide range of flight-related morphology and 
behavior, based on ecological factors (Altshuler and Dudley 2002, p. 
2,325). As do all hummingbirds, the Honduran emerald hummingbird 
exhibits slight sexual dimorphism, which is demonstrated in the 
coloring of its plumage. The male has an iridescent blue-green throat 
and upper chest and occasionally has a grey mottled coloring. Its back 
is an emerald green color, the ventral (underneath) side of the bird is 
pale grey with mottled green sides, and the tail is bright green with a 
bronze hint on the upper tail coverts (BLI 2008, p. 1). The bill is 
black with a red mandible and dark tip, and has a slightly longer, more 
decurved (downward curving) bill than the closely related species A. 
candida (Monroe 1968, p. 182). The plumage of the female is less 
brilliant (BLI 2008, p.

[[Page 61]]

2). The tail of the female contains a grey tip, and the band of 
distinctive color on the throat of the female hummingbird is narrower, 
with pale edges (BLI 2008, p. 2; Monroe 1968, p. 183). Juveniles have 
grayish throats spotted with turquoise (BLI 2008, p. 2).


    Limited information is available on the Honduran emerald 
hummingbird's behavior and life history (Anderson 2010, p. 2). In 1988, 
a bird was observed defending a territory of 10 m\2\ (108 ft\2\), 
suggesting that the species may be territorial (Collar et al. 1992, p. 
493; Howell and Webb 1989, p. 643), as are many hummingbird species. 
This species has been observed feeding at heights between 0.5 to 10 m 
(2 to 32 ft) (Howell and Webb 1989, p. 643).
    As with all hummingbird species, the Honduran emerald relies on 
nectar-producing flowers for food, but also relies on insects and 
spiders as sources of protein (BLI 2008, p. 3; Collar et al. 1992, p. 
494). Hummingbirds are known to ``disperse'' rather than ``migrate'' in 
the sense that they do not follow routine, standard, round-trip 
movements; they follow sources of food availability (Berthold et al. 
2003, pp. 40-41).


    Between 1988 and 1996 there was a notable decrease in reported 
occurrences of Honduran emerald hummingbirds (Portillo 2007, p. 48; 
Collar et al. 1992, p. 494; Stattersfield and Capper 2000, p. 311). In 
1988, the species was known to be common in Olanchito and Coyoles (BLI 
2000, p. 311). In 1991, BirdLife International reported that between 22 
and 28 individuals were found in 2.5 km\2\ (618 ac) of habitat in 
Olanchito (See Figure 1 for a map of the region.). In 1996, the 
Honduran emerald hummingbird was found in less than 1 km\2\ (247 ac) of 
habitat in the Agalta valley (Olancho Department), northeast of Gualaco 
(Stattersfield and Capper 2000, p. 311).
    In 2007, the total population was estimated to be between 200 and 
1,000 individuals (Anderson et al. 2007, p. 1). As of 2012, BLI 
estimated that the population is between 43 and 999 birds with a 
decreasing trend (citation p. 1). In the Yoro Department, several 
attempts have been made to conduct a census of the Honduran emerald 
hummingbird population. The best estimate by local biologists suggests 
that in the protected area the population is approximately 250 
individuals (Perez and Thorn pers. comm. 2012).

Historic Distribution

    The Honduran emerald hummingbird is the only known endemic bird 
species in Honduras (Anderson and Devenish 2009, p. 258; Portillo 2007, 
p. 17; Thorn et al. 2000, p. 3; Collar et al. 1992, p. 493; Monroe 
1968, p. 182). Based on specimen data, the species (Amazilia luciae) 
was originally known to occur in four departments (which are similar to 
``States'' in the United States): Cort[eacute]s and Santa Barbara in 
the west and Yoro and Olancho in the northeast (see Figure 1). The 
historical locations where this species has been documented, along with 
the date it was documented, are below.

    Catacamas, Olancho Department (1937 and 1991) (Howell and Webb 
1992, pp. 46-47; Monroe 1968, p. 182). Cofrad[iacute]a, Cortes 
Department (1933) (Monroe 1968, p. 182); Coyoles, Yoro Department 
(1948 and 1950) (Monroe 1968, p. 182); El Boquer[oacute]n, Olancho 
Department (recorded September 1937) (Monroe 1968, p. 182); 
Olanchito, Yoro Department (1988) (Howell and Webb 1989, pp. 642-
643); Santa B[aacute]rbara, Santa B[aacute]rbara Department (1935) 
(Monroe 1968, p. 182).

    Between 1950 and 1988, there were no recorded observations of the 
Honduran emerald hummingbird. In 1988, the species was described as 
common in Olanchito and Coyoles, which are located 16 kilometers (km) 
(9 miles (mi)) apart (BLI 2008, p. 2). In 1991, between 22 and 28 
individuals were found in a patch of habitat measuring 500 by 50 meters 
(m) (1,640 x 164 feet (ft)) near Olanchito (Howell and Webb 1992, pp. 
46-47). In 1996, the bird was found in the Agalta Valley on less than 1 
km\2\ (247 acres (ac) or .39 mi\2\) of suitable habitat (BLI 2008, p. 

Current Distribution

    Between 2007 and 2008, this species was detected in five valleys of 
Honduras (See Figure 1; Anderson 2010, p. 4). The Honduran emerald 
hummingbird has been rediscovered in western Honduras in two valleys in 
the Santa Barbara Department: the Quimist[aacute]n Valley (in the 
R[iacute]o Chamelec[oacute]n watershed) and Tencoa Valley (R[iacute]o 
Ul[uacute]a watershed), where it had not been recorded since 1935. 
Until its rediscovery, it was thought that habitat loss had restricted 
the species to isolated patches of arid thorn-forest and scrub of the 
interior valleys of northern Honduras. In the Tencoa Valley, 
researchers found individuals in five fragments, each separated by at 
least 5 km (3 mi). These fragments were between 5 and 60 ha (12 and 148 
ac) each. We estimate that the population in the Santa Barbara 
Department is approximately 200 km (124 mi) west of the nearest known 
population in the Agu[aacute]n Valley (Anderson 2010, p. 5). Searches 
in Cort[eacute]s were unsuccessful at locating this species (Anderson 
2008; Petition 2008). It is unclear if the western and eastern 
populations of this species are interbreeding (Anderson 2010, p. 5). 
BLI estimates that its range is 400 km\2\ (154 mi\2\). However, local 
experts believe its actual extent of occurrence is closer to 150 km\2\ 
(58 mi\2\) (Perez and Thorn pers. comm. 2012). Even with the 
rediscovery of the species in Santa Barbara and the extension of its 
range in Olancho, the species' habitat has been reduced (See Figure 1; 
Perez and Thorn pers. comm. 2012).
    This species tends to be found generally along the same latitude. 
This phenomenon is not surprising; it is supported by research 
conducted by Tingley et al. in 2009, which found that 90.6 percent of 
bird species in this study tracked their Grinnellian niche (pp. 19,637, 
19,640), which is a niche driven by factors such as climate, latitude, 
and elevation. The Honduran emerald hummingbird is found in habitat 
that appears to contain similar ecological conditions such as rainfall, 
humidity, types of species, and temperature. This hummingbird species 
is well known in the Agu[aacute]n Valley, Yoro Department, in the areas 
of Olanchito and Coyoles, and is reported as relatively common, but 
only within its remaining native habitat (Gallardo 2010, p. 186; Thorn 
et al. 2000, pp. 22-23). Recently it was observed in San Esteban in the 
Agalta Valley and in the Telica Valley, both in the Olancho Department 
(Anderson and Hyman 2007, p. 6). However, aspects of this species' 
behavior are unclear, such as how far individuals disperse, what 
habitats are important for dispersal, and how the populations are 
linked genetically (Perez and Thorn 2012 pers. comm.; Anderson et al. 
2010, p. 7).

Agalta Valley

    The Agalta Valley is a remote region in the mountains of eastern 
Honduras containing over 1,000,000 hectares (2,471,054 ac) of land 
characterized as dry basin. Here, the Honduran emerald's habitat 
primarily is on large, privately owned cattle ranches that have 
restricted access (Anderson et al. 2010, p. 3). The species has been 
known to occur in this valley since the mid-1990s (Anderson et al. 
1998, p. 181).

Agu[aacute]n Valley

    The Honduran emerald's habitat formerly encompassed a large extent 
of the Agu[aacute]n Valley, a once pristine plain of nearly 4,662 km\2\ 
(1,800 mi\2\). Ninety percent of its original habitat no longer exists 
in its original form due to the conversion of its habitat to banana

[[Page 62]]

plantations and cattle pasture. Much of the Honduran emerald species' 
habitat is on privately-owned land and is often planted with non-native 
grasses for cattle foraging (Perez and Thorn 2012, pers. comm.; 
Anderson pers. comm. 2008 in Petition 2008, p. 11). In some cases, it 
is even planted with invasive grass species (http://www.birdlist.org/cam/honduras/hn_ecosystems.htm, accessed May 22, 2012). Today, due to 
decades of unregulated and expanding cattle ranching, the hummingbird's 
dry forest range is limited to a few small, isolated islands of 
habitat. Its increasingly smaller ecosystems are surrounded by human-
dominated landscapes. One estimate indicated that between 2,428 and 
3,237 ha (6,000-8,000 acres) of suitable habitat remains in the 
Agu[aacute]n Valley, most of which is privately owned (Gallardo 2010, 
p. 186); however, other estimates indicate that the species has even 
less suitable habitat available than the above estimate (Perez and 
Thorn 2012 pers. comm.). Efforts by Pico Bonito National Park 
Foundation (Fundaci[oacute]n Parque Nacional Pico Bonito (FUPNAPIB) and 
others have succeeded in preserving important parts of the bird's 
habitat, however, even the area designated as protected is experiencing 
habitat degradation.
    The Agu[aacute]n River Valley is one of the last remaining areas 
that contains suitable and optimal habitat for the Honduran emerald 
hummingbird (Anderson and Hyman 2007, pp. 1-4). The lands along the 
Agu[aacute]n River have periodically been devastated by banana 
diseases, floods, and hurricanes, particularly Hurricane Fifi in 1974 
and Hurricane Mitch in 1998 (NOAA 2012, p. 2; Winograd 2006; USGS 2002, 
p. 5). This valley is on the south side of the Nombre de Dios mountain 
range, primarily in the Yoro Department (Gallardo 2010, p. 185). The 
Agu[aacute]n River Watershed is 10,546 km\2\ (4,072 mi\2\ or 2,605,973 
acres), is delimited by the tributaries of the Agu[aacute]n River, and 
extends across the departments of Yoro, Colon, Atl[aacute]ntida, and 
Olancho (WWF 2008, p. 12, See Map 5, Map of Honduras, Agu[aacute]n 
Valley at http://www.regulations.gov, docket no. FWS-R9-ES-2009-0094, 
Supporting Maps). This valley experiences a unique microclimate in 
which most of the rain falls between June to November (Gallardo 2010, 
p. 185). The land in the Agu[aacute]n Valley is rich, fertile, and 
highly coveted, particularly in a country with a high poverty index 
that relies strongly on its land for agriculture (WWF 2008, p. 2).
    In the last approximately 100 years, the Agu[aacute]n region has 
experienced three periods of agricultural economic growth (WWF 2008, p. 
11). Thorn forests were initially cleared in the Agu[aacute]n Valley to 
create banana and plantain plantations and rice farms, as well as 
pasture for cattle (Stattersfield and Capper 2000, p. 311). However, 
after an outbreak of Panama disease occurred in bananas, the 
Agu[aacute]n Valley was largely abandoned, and much of the land 
reverted to pasture or forest. As a result of the agricultural reforms 
of the 1960's and 1970's, Honduran campesinos (farmers) received 
farmland in the Agu[aacute]n Valley and proceeded to clear and develop 
the Valley that was previously forested into an agricultural region. In 
the late 1970s, lands were again cultivated with disease-resistant 
varieties of bananas. Now, only a single forest remnant larger than 100 
ha (247 ac) that is suitable for this species is known to exist in this 
Valley (Anderson 2010, p. 6).

Western Honduras

    Sites occupied by the Honduran emerald in western Honduras are best 
described as semi-deciduous woodland, a habitat that has not previously 
been associated with the species. When hummingbirds do not find 
suitable available habitat, research indicates that they tend to 
abandon a territory and move to more productive patches (Feinsinger and 
Colwell 1978; Kodric-Brown and Brown 1978 in Justino et al. 2012, p. 
194). Canopy height in this area averages 15 m (49 ft), dominated by 
semi-deciduous broad-leaved tree species, principally Eugenia 
oerstediana, Bursera simaruba, and Tabebuia rosea, that form a 
relatively closed tree canopy. Common understory species are Agave 
parvidentata, Tillandsia fasciculata, Bromelia pinguin, Bromelia 
plumieri, and Acanthocereus pentagonus (Anderson 2010, p. 5).
    The Honduran emerald hummingbird prefers arid interior valleys of 
thorn forest and shrub. The Agu[aacute]n River Valley area rarely 
receives more than 76 cm (30 inches) of rain per year (Perez and Thorn 
2012, pers. comm.; Gallardo 2010, www.birdsofhonduras.com). Due to the 
arid climate, many of the plant species are adapted to retain water and 
are succulents or contain spines as protection from herbivores. Many of 
the plants lose all their leaves in the dry season, and Honduran 
emerald habitat may appear almost lifeless. Typical plants within its 
habitat are cacti, acacias, and other succulents. In Honduras, this 
habitat occurs primarily along the gulf of Fonseca, in the Agalta 
Valley in the Olancho Department, and the Agu[aacute]n Valley in the 
Yoro Department. Most of the hummingbird's occurrences have been noted 
at elevations below 410 m (1,345 ft); however, one occurrence was 
recorded at 1,220 m (4,003 ft) (BLI 2008, p. 3; et al. 1994, p. 119; 
Collar et al. 1992, p. 494).
    In the Coyoles area in the Agu[aacute]n Valley, the thorn forest is 
primarily comprised of Mimosaceae (herbaceous and woody species), 
Cactaceae (cactus species), and Euphorbiaceae (herbs, shrubs, trees, 
and some succulent species) (Collar et al. 1992, p. 494). Thorn et al. 
(2000, p. 23) observed that habitat with abundant flowers, red in 
particular, appear to be a critical characteristic for suitable 
habitat. A list of plant species associated with Honduran emerald 
hummingbird habitat is below, as well as a key that indicates whether 
the plant is (1) commonly found in its habitat, (2) associated with 
feeding or nesting, (3) a cactus or orchid species, and (4) found in 
Western Honduras (Anderson 2010, p. 5; Anderson 2009, p. 235; House 
2004, pp. 14-16; Thorn et al. 2000).
    In Yoro (see Figure 1), the Honduran emerald hummingbird visited 
the species Pedilanthus camporum, which produces flowers year-round, 
and Nopalea hondurensis, which flowers generally between February and 
April, 90 percent of the time observed. In western Honduras, 90 percent 
of foraging observations were on Aphelandra scabra and Helicteres 

[[Page 63]]


[[Page 64]]


[[Page 65]]


    Three species of arborescent (tree-like) cacti have been associated 
with the Honduran emerald habitat: Pilosocereus maxoni, Stenocereus 
yunckeri (endemic), and Opuntia hondurensis (endemic) (House 2004, p. 
15). The trees and shrubs found in one study of its habitat were almost 
100 percent deciduous (House 2004, p. 15). Although epiphytes are 
usually rare in this habitat type, some epiphytes are well adapted to 
the extremes of this environment. Large clusters of three species of 
orchids: Myrmecophila wendlandii, Laelia rubescens, and

[[Page 66]]

Encyclia nematocaulon were found on some cacti (House 2004, p. 16). In 
larger, more mature trees, some bromeliads were found. The flowering of 
Opuntia hondurensis coincides with the nesting period of the Honduran 
emerald (House 2004, p. 23).

Conservation Status

    The Honduran emerald hummingbird is listed as endangered by the 
IUCN (2012). This species was downlisted to endangered from critically 
endangered following its recent discovery in the western part of 
Honduras, which increased its known range (BLI 2012, pp. 1-2). Its IUCN 
classification is based on its very small and severely fragmented range 
and population. However, this status under IUCN conveys no actual 
protections to the species. The Honduran emerald hummingbird has been 
listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in 
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since October 22, 
1987, at which time all hummingbird species not previously listed in 
the Appendices were listed in Appendix II. CITES controls international 
trade in animal and plant species affected by trade. Appendix II 
includes species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction, 
but may become so unless trade is subject to strict regulation to avoid 
utilization incompatible with the species' survival. International 
trade in specimens of Appendix II species is authorized through a 
system of permits or certificates under certain circumstances. CITES, 
of which Honduras is a Party, is an international agreement through 
which member countries, called Parties, work together to ensure that 
the international trade in CITES-listed animals and plants is not 
detrimental to the survival of wild populations by regulating their 
import, export, and reexport. This process includes verification that 
(1) trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the 
wild, and (2) that the material was legally acquired (www.cites.org).

Factors Affecting the Species


    The factors affecting the Honduran emerald hummingbird's habitat 
are interrelated. A species may be affected by more than one factor 
acting in combination with other factors. In some cases, it is not 
necessarily easy to determine which factor is negatively affecting a 
species. The most obvious factor that affects this species is a 
significant loss of habitat (90 percent) over the past approximately 
100 years due to land conversion to plantations, agriculture, and 
cattle pastures (Perez and Thorn 2012, pers. comm.). This loss of 
habitat interacts with other factors in affecting the Honduran emerald 
hummingbird's habitat, and these factors are discussed in detail below.

Habitat Loss

    The country has been steadily losing thorn forest cover, 
particularly since the early 1960s, often due to the conversion of 
thorn forest areas to cattle pastures and plantation agriculture such 
as banana and oil palm plantations (World Wildlife Fund [WWF] 2008, p. 
11; Anderson pers. comm. 2008 in Petition 2008, p. 11; Portillo 2007, 
p. 75). In the Agu[aacute]n Valley, as of 2000, this species' suitable 
habitat had reduced in size to an estimated 8,495 hectares (ha) (20,092 
ac) from 16,000 ha (39,537 ac) in 1977 and 30,000 ha (74,132 ac) in 
1938 (See Table 1; Thorn et al. 2000, p. 25).
    The carrying capacity of suitable habitat that remains for this 
species is unknown. In other words, it is unclear how many hummingbirds 
the remaining suitable habitat can maintain. Nectar is the primary 
source of carbohydrates for hummingbirds, and pollen is the primary 
source of protein for hummingbirds (Ara[uacute]jo et al. 2011, p. 827; 
Hegland et al. 2009, p. 188). Although studies of nutritional 
requirements have been conducted with respect to other hummingbird 
species, the home range required to support the breeding, feeding, and 
nesting requirements for each pair of Honduran emerald hummingbirds is 
    In 2000, a survey was conducted for the Honduran emerald 
hummingbird which found that it occurs in dry tropical forest (Anderson 
and Hyman 2007, pp. 1-4; Thorn et al. 2000, pp. 1-5). However, the 
species has recently been discovered in Western Honduras in an area 
with different ecological characteristics (see habitat description 
above), where it had not been recorded since 1935 (Anderson et al. 
2010, p. 1). It is unclear whether this species is moving westward in 
reaction to loss of habitat in eastern Honduras; some species of 
hummingbirds will make these types of moves in search of new habitat 
(Justino et al. 2012, pp. 194-195).
    Conversion of this species' habitat to coffee, bean, and corn 
plantations has occurred in many areas, particularly in the Santa 
Barbara Department (See Figure 1; Perez and Thorn 2012, pers. comm.). 
In the Agu[aacute]n Valley, 10,319 ha (25,500 acres) now consist of 
banana plantations in an area known as the Barisma farm (Dole 2011, p. 
67). Habitat suitable for Honduran emerald hummingbirds continues to be 
cleared by private landowners in order to plant pasture grass for 
grazing cattle (Hyman 2012 pers. comm.). In the Yoro Department, there 
are only four large patches of suitable habitat for this species 
remaining (Perez and Thorn 2012, pers. comm.; Anderson 2010.). The four 
largest fragments are between 360 and 476 ha (890 and 1,176 ac), for a 
combined total of 1,704 ha (Anderson 2010, p. 6).
    Several hummingbird species have persisted in fragmented tropical 
landscapes (Stouffer & Bierregaard 1995 in Hadley and Betts 2009, p. 
207). However, hummingbird persistence at the landscape scale does not 
indicate that the population is at the same level it was prior to 
deforestation (Hadley and Betts 2009, p. 207). Flight paths used by 
another hummingbird species to travel between suitable habitats 
indicate that gaps in suitable habitat alter hummingbird movement 
pathways (Hadley and Betts 2009, p. 209). In agricultural landscapes, 
hummingbirds were observed traveling longer distances and took more 
circuitous routes than in forested landscapes. Overall, movement paths 
were strongly linked with areas that contained higher forest cover 
(2009, p. 209). The flight of hummingbirds is one of the most 
energetically demanding forms of animal locomotion (Buermann et al. 
2011, p. 1671). Due to habitat loss, Honduran emerald hummingbirds 
expend more energy to travel between and find suitable habitat that 
provides substrates for breeding, feeding, and nesting.

Palm Oil Production

    Palm oil plantations in the Agu[aacute]n River Basin have replaced 
pasture lands that were left behind after the banana plantations 
diminished from their initial success during the first part of the 
twentieth century (WWF 2008, p. 30). The palm oil production in the 
Agu[aacute]n River Basin is concentrated between Sava and Tumbaderos 
(WWF 2008, p. 17, see Figure 1) and covers 28,082 ha (69,392 ac). The 
area includes plantations, processing plants, nurseries, palm oil 
collecting sites, and other infrastructure. Honduras' palm oil industry 
exported product worth over 21 million U.S. dollars in 2004, and 
Honduras is expected to increase its biofuels production (Silvestri 
2008, p. iii). Other countries are encouraging Honduras to increase 
production of palm oil which would likely affect the Agu[aacute]n River 
Basin (Silvestri 2008, pp. 47; WWF 2008, pp. 37-38). These changes in 
land use, from production of bananas to pastures, and then to palm

[[Page 67]]

oil plantations, have had an environmental cost (WWF 2008, pp. 30, 53-
54) such as land degradation through deforestation and exposure to 
fertilizers and pesticides, which are discussed below.
    To provide perspective on the magnitude of the production in this 
valley, the Agu[aacute]n Valley Palm Producers Association (APROVA) is 
a cooperative of 154 oil palm farmers (USDA 2012, pp. 1-3). In 2009, 
APROVA opened its first palm oil processing plant, which processes up 
to five tons of palm oil per day (USDA 2012, pp. 1-3); there are now 
five processing plants. As of 1938, within the Agu[aacute]n Valley 
30,000 ha (74,131 ac) were tropical dry forest (Tierra America 2012, 
pp. 1-2). By 1977, suitable habitat for the Honduran emerald 
hummingbird had been reduced to 16,000 ha (39,537 ac), and in 2000, 
only 8,495 ha (20,991 ac) remained. Of that area, only 3,900 hectares 
(9,637 ac) can be considered well preserved enough to sustain 
significant populations of the Honduran emerald (Mej[iacute]a pers. 
comm. in Tierra America 2012).

           Table 1--Land Reduction in the Agu[aacute]n Valley
       Agu[aacute]n Valley             Year       Hectares      Acres
Tropical Dry Forest..............         1938       30,000       74,131
Tropical Dry Forest..............         1977       16,000       39,537
Tropical Dry Forest..............         2000        8,495       20,991
Source: Thorn et al. 2000.

Land Ownership

    Because very little of this species' habitat is publicly owned, it 
is more difficult to provide protections to this species (approximately 
84 percent of its suitable habitat is privately owned) (Steiner 2012 
pers. comm.; FAO 2010, p. 238). In many cases, the only sites in 
Honduras that have maintained a viable ecosystem in somewhat of a 
natural state are places with irregular topography. Subsequently, these 
have become protected areas or private nature reserves (Portillo 2007, 
p. 75). Much of this species' original habitat, thorn forest, has been 
cleared for housing, towns, agriculture, and cattle grazing 
(Stattersfield and Capper 2000, p. 311; Thorn et al. 2000, p. 4). This 
species' remaining habitat in the Agu[aacute]n Valley (Yoro Department) 
and Agalta Valley (Olancho Department) is primarily privately owned as 
large haciendas (plantations or farms), where cattle grazing, clearing 
for cattle, and plantation agriculture continues to occur 
(Stattersfield and Capper 2000, p. 311). In the lower river valley, 
agricultural cooperatives are raising citrus fruits, corn (maize), 
rice, and African palm for oil (WWF 2008, p. 12). Because most of this 
species' habitat is unprotected, the species is likely to continue to 
experience habitat degradation through conversion of its habitat to 
other uses such as cattle grazing and agricultural plantations.

Pesticides and Fertilizers

    WWF notes that production yield level can only be increased with 
the use of agrochemicals such as fertilizer and more pesticides, which 
in turn all have an environmental impact. Before palm oil tree canopies 
are developed and sunlight is penetrating the ground, weeds are 
aggressive and frequent weed control is needed. Mechanical weed mowers 
hauled by agricultural tractors are used to keep weeds at a manageable 
height in between rows. Before the canopy is fully developed, areas 
around young plants are kept free of competing weeds mostly by chemical 
herbicides and by manually removing them (WWF 2008). Currently, these 
plantations are approximately 161 km (100 miles) north of the Honduran 
emerald hummingbird habitat, and are not known to directly affect this 
species (Hyman 2012, pers. comm.). However, it is likely that expansion 
of palm oil plantations in the Agu[aacute]n River Basin will occur 
(Silvestri 2008, p. 48). Additionally, the significant amount of 
inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides required by palm oil 
plantations, produce chemical residues that are discarded in several 
ways. All of these waste products have different fates, depending on 
their chemical and physical origin (WWF 2008, unpaginated), affecting 
Honduran emerald hummingbird habitat in various ways.


    There are plans to pave the road between Olanchito and San Lorenzo, 
an approximately 46-km [28.6-mi] stretch that currently passes through 
the Agu[aacute]n Valley which will further impact this species' habitat 
(Hyman 2012; pers. comm.; World Bank 2011, pp. 1-3; Hyman 2007, p. 10; 
Anderson pers. comm. 2008 in Petition 2008). Honduras is ranked among 
the countries with the lowest development of road networks in Central 
America (Acevedo et al. 2008, p. 1). The agricultural sector is the 
most important of the Honduran economy (Acevedo et al. 2008, p. 1); 
however, this sector is limited by difficulties of transportation and 
access to many of the productive areas of the country due to poor road 
infrastructure (Quintero et al., 2007, pp. 15-18; Winograd 2006).
    Existing roads have been negatively impacted by hurricanes, 
flooding, and neglect after the crash of the banana industry. The 
Agu[aacute]n and Agalta valleys, which contain this species' preferred 
habitat, are some of the most productive agricultural areas of the 
country, and this change in land use has decreased the available 
suitable habitat for the Honduran emerald hummingbird (Acevedo et al. 
2008, p. 1). These agricultural areas of the country are in the 
departments of Atlantida (Agu[aacute]n Valley) and Olancho (Agalta and 
Guayape valleys) and include bananas, coffee, palm oil, corn, beans, 
edible vegetables, fruits, and other crops. The improvement and 
development of roads to transport agricultural products to economic 
hubs is being considered by the Government of Honduras, which may 
affect the Honduran emerald hummingbird's habitat.
    Growth in this economic sector is impeded by the lack of access to 
the most productive agricultural areas of the country due to poor road 
infrastructure. The road improvement project (Central Road, Route no. 
23) is funded by the World Bank ``Second Reconstruction and Improvement 
Project Road,'' (World Bank 2011, pp. 1-3; Proceso Digital 2010). The 
road improvement project will likely bring more traffic, which will 
increase land speculation and settlement of homes along the road, 
ultimately impacting surrounding Honduran emerald habitat (Perez and 
Thorn 2012, pers. comm.; Steiner and Coto 2011). Roads through prime 
Honduran emerald habitat, which is presently being affected by 
cultivation of bananas and plantains, link the river valley to the 
ports at Tela, La Ceiba, Trujillo, and Puerto Cort[eacute]s.
    This road construction project to widen the main highway between 
Olanchito and Yoro, spanning 57 km (35

[[Page 68]]

mi) has been in the planning stages for several years. A project has 
been contingent on several factors, such as a loan from the World Bank 
and implementation of measures to mitigate the impact on the 
environment. A 2007 World Bank report indicated that during the project 
planning stage, the scope of the project changed so that the road 
segment passing through vital habitat for the Honduran emerald 
hummingbird was not implemented (Quintero 2007). In this report, the 
World Bank indicated that a Payments for Environmental Services plan, 
if successfully implemented, could lead to the long-term protection of 
an additional 1,000-2,000 hectares (2,474-4,942 ac) of Honduran emerald 
habitat on private lands. This, in turn, would address environmental 
concerns associated with the proposed paving of the Olanchito-San 
Lorenzo road (Quintero et al. 2007, p. 15). However, the status of this 
road project remains unclear.
    The Agalta Valley is traversed by a highway that has been proposed 
to be repaved (Hyman 2012, pers. comm.; Inter American Development Bank 
2012). This region is an area with a high rate of poverty--this highway 
is, in part, intended to improve the economic conditions in this 
region. This region contains approximately 50,000 human inhabitants. 
The highway will complete the second paved transit route between the 
Pacific and Atlantic oceans in Honduras. The road is being improved in 
order to provide a better link between Tegucigalpa and the Atlantic 
coast of Honduras and will better connect the Departments of Francisco 
Moraz[aacute]n, Olancho, and Col[oacute]n. It is unclear how this 
highway will affect the remaining 5,000 hectares (12,355 ac) of this 
species' habitat (Bonta 2011, pers. comm.) in this valley.
    Although this species exists in the Agalta Valley, very little 
information regarding the factors affecting this species in this area 
are known. Reports indicate that areas that contain suitable habitat 
characteristics for the Honduran emerald hummingbird are being cleared 
for rice cultivation (Hyman 2012, pers. comm.; Bonta 2011, pers. 
comm.). Several of the remaining habitat patches are connected by 
narrow corridors of habitat along property lines and waterways, but 
most of the patches of remaining habitat are ``islands'' within cattle 
pasture, which comprises approximately 90 percent of the Valley's area 
(Bonta 2011, pers. comm.). It is unclear whether the species migrates 
between the Agalta and Agu[aacute]n valleys.

Hydroelectric and Development Projects

    The construction of several development projects could possibly 
affect this species' habitat (Bonta 2012, pers. comm.) in the Agalta 
Valley. At least two hydroelectric projects have become operational in 
recent years (Bonta 2012, pers. comm.). These projects could likely 
result in more infrastructure development in the Valley which could 
also affect the Honduran emerald habitat. Additionally, several 
agricultural development projects may be underway in the Agalta Valley 
(Bonta 2012, pers. comm.). Bonta indicates that the following projects, 
which can be located at http://www.hondurasopenforbusiness.com, are 
likely to affect the Honduran emerald habitat.
     AGR112: Production of Transgenic Certified Maize,
     AGR126: Cultivation of Pi[ntilde][oacute]n, Jatropha 
curcas, for biodiesel (5,000 hectares in the Agalta Valley),
     AGR401: Cultivation of Pi[ntilde][oacute]n (5,000 hectares 
in the Agalta Valley),
     AGR402: Cultivation of Pi[ntilde][oacute]n,
     FOR204: Teak (Tectona grandis) plantation: 20,000 hectares 
in three valleys; estimate of 4,000 to 8,000 hectares in the Agalta 
    Although highway construction, agricultural development, and 
resulting infrastructure is likely to occur in the Agalta Valley, it is 
unclear how these activities would negatively affect the Honduran 
emerald hummingbird in this valley.

International Trade

    Data obtained from the United Nations Environment Programme-World 
Conservation Monitoring Center (UNEP-WCMC) show that, since its listing 
in CITES Appendix II in 1987, only two Honduran emerald hummingbird 
specimens have been recorded in international trade, involving two 
bodies of unknown origin from Germany to the United States in 1996 
(UNEP-WCMC 2009b). Therefore, international trade is not a factor 
influencing the species' status in the wild. Nor are we aware of any 
other information that indicates that collection or overutilization of 
the Honduran emerald hummingbird is affecting this species.

Disease and Predation

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007, p. 51) 
suggests that the distribution of some disease vectors may change as a 
result of climate change. However, after conducting a status review of 
the Honduran emerald hummingbird and consulting with experts, we have 
no information at this time to suggest that any specific diseases are 
or may become problematic to this species.

Small and Declining Population

    The population of the Honduran emerald hummingbird is small and 
very likely declining (BLI 2012, pp. 1-2; Stattersfield and Capper 
2000, p. 311). In 2007, the information available indicated that this 
species had experienced a population decline since the 1960s and 
consisted of fewer than 2,000 individuals distributed within two, and 
possibly a third, valleys (BLI 2008, p. 2; Anderson and Hyman 2007, p. 
6). In 2012, BLI stated that the population estimate was between 250 
and 999 birds, within an estimated area of occupancy (AOO) of 12 km\2\ 
(4.6 mi\2\) within an overall range of 400 km\2\ (154 mi\2\). However, 
local experts believe its actual extent of occurrence is even smaller--
closer to 150 km\2\ (58 mi\2\) (Perez and Thorn pers. comm. 2012).
    Species often tend to have a higher risk of extinction if they 
occupy a small geographic range, occur at low density, occupy a high 
trophic level (position in food chain), and exhibit low reproductive 
rates (Purvis et al. 2000, p. 1949). Small populations can be more 
affected by factors such as demographic stochasticity (variability in 
population growth rates arising from random differences among 
individuals in survival and reproduction within a season), local 
catastrophes, and inbreeding (Pimm et al. 1988, pp. 757, 773-775). A 
small, declining population makes the species vulnerable to genetic 
stochasticity (random changes in the genetic composition of a 
population) due to inbreeding depression and genetic drift (random 
changes in gene frequency). This, in turn, compromises a species' 
ability to adapt genetically to changing environments (Frankham 1996, 
p. 1,507) reduces fitness, and increases extinction risk (Reed and 
Frankham 2003, pp. 233-234). Alternatively, species can adapt to 
changes in their environment and expand their range (Pateman 2012, pp. 
1,028-1,030), although this does not appear to be the case with the 
Honduran emerald hummingbird.
    The range and abundance of the hummingbird has been significantly 
curtailed. Because the Honduran emerald hummingbird is currently found 
in only three valleys, and has undergone a restriction in range and a 
decline in population size, any threats to the species, alone or in 
combination, are further magnified. In order for a

[[Page 69]]

population to sustain itself, there must be enough reproducing 
individuals and habitat to ensure its survival. Limited-range species 
are susceptible to extirpation, particularly when a species' remaining 
population is already small or its distribution is too fragmented. In 
addition, while this hummingbird may be either tolerant of fragmented 
thorn forests or appear to be tolerant of fragmented thorn forests, 
these fragmented areas likely do not represent optimal conditions for 
the species. The fragmentation of the habitat and increased distance 
between suitable patches of habitat causes the species to expend more 
energy and resources in search of its nutritional requirements (Justino 
et al. 2012, pp. 194-195; Hadley and Betts 2009, p. 207). When habitat 
is degraded, there is often a time lag between the initial conversion 
or degradation of suitable habitats and the extinction of endemic bird 
populations (Brooks et al. 1999a, p. 1; Brooks et al. 1999b, p. 1140). 
Individuals of species may be more visible or appear to be more 
numerous when their habitat has disappeared; when in fact their 
population is decreasing because they have fewer resources or are 
expending more energy to reach the resources they need to survive. 
Remaining fragments of forested habitat will likely undergo further 
degradation due to their altered ecological dynamics and isolation 
(through infestation of gap-opportunistic species such as bamboo, which 
alter forest structure and cause a decrease in gene flow between 
populations) (Tabanez and Viana 2000, pp. 929-932).
    The combined effects of habitat fragmentation and other factors on 
a species' population can act synergistically (Gilpin and Soul[eacute] 
1986, p. 31). For example, an increase in habitat fragmentation can 
separate populations to the point where individuals can no longer 
disperse and breed among habitat patches, causing a shift in the 
demographic characteristics of a population and a reduction in genetic 
fitness (Gilpin and Soul[eacute] 1986, p. 31). This is especially 
applicable for a species such as the Honduran emerald hummingbird that 
was once more widespread; it has lost a significant amount (90 percent) 
of its historical range due to habitat loss and degradation.

Extreme Weather Events

    Small, declining populations can also be especially vulnerable to 
environmental disturbances such as flooding, drought, or hurricanes 
(O'Grady 2004, pp. 513-514). The Honduran emerald hummingbird relies on 
specific habitat to provide for its breeding, feeding, and nesting. In 
2012, Honduras was determined to be one of the countries most affected 
by climate change due to its geographic location which is in the direct 
path of many tropical storms and hurricanes (Harmeling 2012, pp. 5-6). 
Research and modeling have explored how changes in climate might affect 
areas such as Honduras (Gasner et al. 2010, p. 1250, Winograd 2002, p. 
11). The term ``climate change'' refers to a change in the mean, 
variability, or seasonality of climate variables over time periods of 
decades or hundreds of years (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 
(IPCC) 2007, p. 78). Forecasts of the rate and consequences of future 
climate change are based on the results of extensive modeling efforts 
conducted by scientists around the world (Solman 2011, p. 20; Laurance 
and Useche 2009, p. 1,432; Nu[ntilde]ez et al. 2008, p. 1; Margeno 
2008, p. 1; Meehl et al. 2007, p. 753).
    Climate change models, like all other scientific models, produce 
projections that have some uncertainty because of the assumptions used, 
the data available, and the specific model features. The science 
supporting climate model projections as well as models assessing their 
impacts on species and habitats will continue to be refined as more 
information becomes available. While projections from regional climate 
model simulations are informative, various methods to downscale 
projections to more localized areas in which the species lives are 
still imperfect and under development (Solman 2011, p. 20; Nu[ntilde]ez 
et al. 2008, p. 1; Marengo 2008, p. 1).
    Honduras appears to have entered a more active period of hurricane 
activity (Pielke et al. 2003, p. 102). Studies of natural events in the 
last 100 years indicate that Honduras is highly vulnerable to an 
increase in frequency and intensity in the future not only hurricanes, 
but also landslides, flooding, and drought ([Scedil]ekercio[gbreve]lu 
et al. 2011; Gasner et al. 2010, p. 1250; Winograd 2006, p. 1). Due to 
its location and the biophysical traits of the region, Honduras is 
likely to be affected every 3 to 4 years by climate-related events, 
such as drought-related fires, floods, and landslides (Winograd 2006, 
p. 1). Winograd notes that 50 percent of Honduras is at risk of 
landslides, 30 percent is at risk of severe droughts, and 25 percent is 
at risk of flooding, particularly agricultural areas.
    Arid-zone species are assumed to be more resilient to high 
temperatures and low humidity ([Scedil]ekercio[gbreve]lu et al. 2012, 
p. 5). However, species such as the Honduran emerald hummingbird are 
exposed to very dry conditions and are likely dependent on seasonal 
rains, as well as seasonal and permanent waterholes and rivers 
(Schneider and Griesser 2009 in [Scedil]ekercio[gbreve]lu et al. 2011, 
p. 5). Even small temperature increases can greatly increase the amount 
of birds' evaporative water loss ([Scedil]ekercio[gbreve]lu et al. 
2011, p. 5). Warmer weather due to climate change is expected to impact 
the ability of birds in arid regions to sustain their water balance.
    Climate models are not always able to predict the possible effects 
of ecological interactions, adaptation, or how species, particularly 
pollinators, might disperse in response to climate change (Buermann et 
al. 2011, p. 1671; Burkle and Alarc[oacute]n 2011, p. 528; Pearson and 
Dawson 2003, p. 361). Honduras is clearly in the path of hurricanes 
(Winograd 2006, 2002; Pielke et al. 2003, pp. 101-103). However, 
additional research is still needed to determine how changes in climate 
may affect species such as the Honduran emerald hummingbird (Hegland et 
al. 2009, p. 184).

Conservation Measures in Place

    Several mechanisms are in place that are intended to provide 
protections to this species. These protections include involvement by 
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), wildlife protection laws, and a 
reserve designated to protect its habitat. These mechanisms are 
described below.

Laws and Regulatory Mechanisms

    Honduras has made significant progress in conservation of its 
natural resources (Portillo 2007, p. 60; Vreugdenhil et al. 2002, pp. 
6, 11, 20-25). In the past 30 years, protected areas have increased 
from less than 20 protected areas to an estimated 600 areas with 
protected status (Portillo 2007, p. 60). Significant progress was made 
particularly between 1974 and 1987; meetings with regional authorities 
were held regarding protected areas in order to promote the 
conservation of the natural and cultural heritage of Honduras (Portillo 
2007, p. 60). In 2003, the First Mesoamerican Congress on Protected 
Areas was held in Managua. The System of Protected Areas is managed by 
various entities such as NGOs, associations of municipalities or local 
authorities, or by management agreements. However, in some cases, these 
protected areas are not being managed effectively, as described below 
(Portillo 2007, p. 63; Vreugdenhil et al. 2002, pp. 6, 11, 20-25).

[[Page 70]]

NGO Involvement

    In Honduras, several NGOs are participating in the conservation and 
management of this species such as The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the 
Honduran Biodiversity Research Coalition. The Honduran Emerald Reserve 
was created by the Honduran Government in 2005 with support from TNC. 
TNC has provided both technical and financial support to the government 
and local community groups to complete a 10-year management plan for 
the Reserve. Some aspects of TNC's involvement have included marking 
the official reserve boundaries and providing training to partners in 
the management of reserves and protected areas. The Honduran 
Biodiversity Research Coalition is a group of scientists and 
conservationists established in 2011 that undertakes and promotes 
biodiversity research and conservation in Honduras.

Honduran Emerald Reserve

    In 2009, the National Conservation and Forestry Institute (ICF) 
began a management plan for a protected area specifically for the 
Honduran emerald hummingbird. This was with the participation of 
municipalities and Arenal Olanchito, the department of Yoro, SOPTRAVI 
Honduras Armed Forces (HAF), the Ministry of Education through the 
Regional Environmental Education Center, CREATE, the Ministry of 
Tourism and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, SERNA 
(Steiner and Coto 2011; Portillo 2007, p. 99). The Interagency 
Technical Committee for Monitoring and Honduran Emerald Hummingbird 
Habitat Management Area was formed. In 2010, the ICF, with financial 
support from The Nature Conservancy, finalized the management plan for 
the protected area (Resolution No. DE-MP-147-2010). This Reserve was 
established in connection with funding from the World Bank to finish 
building the main highway linking the capital with Olanchito, Yoro, via 
Cedros Francisco Moraz[aacute]n (Steiner and Coto 2011) (refer to 
section on Roads, above).
    This reserve is located 34 km (21 mi) west of the city Olanchito in 
the Agu[aacute]n Valley (see Figure 1). The reserve encompasses 1,217 
ha (3,007 ac) and spans elevations between 220 and 800 meters (722 and 
2,625 ft). There are 651 ha (1609 ac) of dry forest habitat remaining 
that is suitable for the Honduran emerald hummingbird (Perez and Thorn 
2012, pers. comm.; Thorn et al. 2000 in Anderson 2010, p. 6). The 
Honduran Emerald Reserve is guarded by Honduran Air Force soldiers who 
patrol the reserve and do not allow visitors into the Reserve without 
prior permission (Hyman 2012b pers. comm.). However, cattle from 
neighboring land owners are frequently found grazing uncontrolled on 
the property on the Honduran emerald habitat (Steiner 2011, p. 1; House 
2004, p. 30). Despite conservation efforts, land owners around the 
protected area want to expand their properties and are cutting more of 
the Honduran emerald hummingbird's suitable habitat in order to plant 
grass for cattle grazing (Hyman and Steiner 2012 pers. comm.). Because 
encroachment and livestock grazing continue to occur both around and in 
the Reserve, and this species requires more suitable habitat than what 
exists in the Reserve, this protected area is insufficient to provide 
adequate suitable habitat for this species.
    In conclusion, Honduras is improving its management of its 
resources (FAO 2010). For example, in 2010, Honduras began an 
initiative to recover degraded areas and denuded forests (Ecolex 2011). 
However, most of the habitat required by the Honduran emerald 
hummingbird is privately owned, and the thorn forests are being 
converted to other uses that are not suitable for this species. Despite 
the progress made in Honduras with respect to laws and regulatory 
mechanisms in place to protect the Honduran emerald hummingbird, the 
species continues to face habitat loss and degradation.

Finding and Proposed Listing Determination

    An assessment of the need for a species' protection under the Act 
is based on threats to that species and the regulatory mechanisms in 
place to ameliorate impacts from these threats. As required by section 
4(a)(1) of the Act, we conducted a review of the status of this species 
and assessed the five factors in consideration of whether the Honduran 
emerald hummingbird is threatened or endangered throughout all of its 
range. These five factors are:
    (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or 
curtailment of its habitat or range;
    (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes;
    (c) Disease or predation;
    (d) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
    (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued 
    We examined the best scientific and commercial information 
available regarding the past, present, and future threats faced by the 
species and consulted with species experts.
    We found that habitat loss due to conversion to agriculture and 
plantations is the main factor affecting this species throughout its 
range (factor A) (Bonta 2012 pers. comm.; Perez and Thorn 2012 pers. 
comm.). Hummingbirds require a constant source of energy, primarily in 
the form of nectar. In order to meet its energy and nutritional 
requirements, this species needs access to intact, suitable habitat 
with a diversity of plant species that contain its energy sources 
throughout the year.
    The Honduran emerald hummingbird and its habitat are being affected 
primarily by the clearing of dry forest for cattle grazing and 
agricultural development. Habitat degradation and loss continues to 
occur and affect the species throughout its range. Due to uncontrolled 
clearing of land to pastures or plantation agriculture, the 
hummingbird's dry forest habitat is now limited to a few small, 
isolated ``islands'' of suitable habitat, which are surrounded by 
banana plantations or cattle ranches (Perez and Thorn 2012, pers. 
comm.). The Honduran emerald hummingbirds' current occupied and 
suitable range has been highly reduced and severely fragmented. This 
hummingbird species is expending more energy now in order to find food 
sources to meet its energy needs, and its suitable habitat is becoming 
more scarce and fragmented, causing these habitat islands to become 
farther apart.
    Historically, the Honduran emerald hummingbird existed in much 
higher numbers in more continuous, connected habitat. Its suitable 
habitat is becoming increasingly limited, and its suitable habitat is 
not likely to expand in the future. Its population is estimated to be 
between 200 and 1,000 individuals. Lack of a sufficient number of 
individuals in a local area or a decline in their individual or 
collective fitness may cause a decline in the population size, despite 
the presence of suitable habitat patches. In cases where populations 
are very small, effects on the species are exacerbated. Any loss of 
potentially reproducing individuals could have a devastating effect on 
the ability of the population to increase. The Agu[aacute]n Valley is 
currently considered to contain the largest extent of thorn forest. The 
four largest fragments are between 360 and 476 ha (890 and 1176 ac), 
for a combined total of 1,704 ha (Anderson 2010, p. 6). However, very 
recent estimates of the species' actual extent of occurrence is 150 
km\2\ (58 mi\2\), and one of the best patches of optimal Honduran 
emerald hummingbird habitat, due to its proximity to a nearby town has

[[Page 71]]

practically disappeared (Thorn 2012 pers. comm.).
    A species may be affected by more than one threat; these factors 
can act in combination. Changes in Honduras' climate may be acting in 
combination with other factors to affect this species' habitat. Extreme 
weather events (an increase in the severity and frequency in hurricanes 
and increased periods of drought (factor E) may also affect this 
species' habitat. Both biotic and abiotic ecological interactions 
influence species distributions (Jankowski et al., 2010; Dunn et al., 
2009). Many climate change models do not take into consideration 
interactions between species because data regarding these interactions 
are limited. Impacts typically operate synergistically, particularly 
when populations of a species are decreasing. Initial effects of one 
threat factor can later exacerbate the effects of other threat factors 
(Gilpin and Soul[eacute] 1986, pp. 25-26). Fragmentation of populations 
can decrease the fitness and reproductive potential of the species, 
which exacerbates other threats.
    The species' small population size (factor E) combined with its 
highly restricted and severely fragmented range, increases the species' 
vulnerability to adverse natural events that destroy individuals and 
their habitat. The species' potential exposure to extreme weather 
events such as hurricanes, extended periods of drought, or flooding, in 
combination with habitat loss and degradation may add to factors 
affecting the continued existence of the species throughout its range 
now and in the future.
    In conclusion, we have carefully assessed the best scientific and 
commercial information available regarding the past, present, and 
future threats affecting this species. We have identified multiple 
factors that have interrelated impacts on this species; however the 
most significant threat is habitat loss and degradation, particularly 
since it has such a small and fragmented population, and it requires a 
variety of food sources. As a species' status continues to decline, 
often as a result of habitat loss or overutilization, the species will 
become increasingly vulnerable to other impacts. If this trend 
continues, its ultimate extinction due to one or more stochastic 
(random or unpredictable) events such as hurricanes, drought, or 
flooding becomes more likely. The species' small population size, its 
reproductive and life history traits, combined with its highly 
restricted and severely fragmented range, increases this species' 
vulnerability to other threats. These threats occur at a sufficient 
scale so that they are affecting the status of the species now and will 
in the future.
    Our review of the information pertaining to the five threat factors 
supports a conclusion that the imminence, intensity, or magnitude of 
the factors affecting the Honduran emerald hummingbird, most 
significantly habitat loss, coupled with a small and declining 
population, place this species at risk of extinction throughout all of 
its range, such that a listing as endangered is warranted. We do not 
find that the factors affecting the species are likely to be 
sufficiently ameliorated in the foreseeable future. Therefore, on the 
basis of the best scientific and commercial information, we find that 
the Honduran emerald hummingbird meets the definition of an 
``endangered species'' under the Act, and we are proposing to list the 
Honduran emerald hummingbird as endangered throughout its range.

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint policy with the National Marine 
Fisheries Service, ``Notice of Interagency Cooperative Policy for Peer 
Review in Endangered Species Act Activities,'' published in the Federal 
Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert 
opinions of at least three appropriate independent specialists 
regarding this proposed rule. The purpose of peer review is to ensure 
that our final determination is based on scientifically sound data, 
assumptions, and analyses. We will send copies of this proposed rule to 
the peer reviewers immediately following publication in the Federal 
Register. We will invite these peer reviewers to comment during the 
public comment period on our specific assumptions and conclusions 
regarding the proposal to list the Honduran emerald hummingbird.
    We will consider all comments and information we receive during the 
comment period on this proposed rule during our preparation of a final 
determination. Accordingly, our final decision may differ from this 

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the Act include recognition, requirements for Federal 
protection, and prohibitions against certain practices. Recognition 
through listing results in public awareness, and encourages and results 
in conservation actions by Federal and State governments, private 
agencies and interest groups, and individuals.
    The ESA and its implementing regulations set forth a series of 
general prohibitions and exceptions that apply to all endangered and 
threatened wildlife. These prohibitions, at 50 CFR 17.21 and 17.31, in 
part, make it illegal for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the 
United States to ``take'' (includes harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, 
wound, kill, trap, capture, or to attempt any of these) within the 
United States or upon the high seas; import or export; deliver, 
receive, carry, transport, or ship in interstate commerce in the course 
of commercial activity; or sell or offer for sale in interstate or 
foreign commerce any endangered wildlife species. It also is illegal to 
possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship any such wildlife 
that has been taken in violation of the ESA. Certain exceptions apply 
to agents of the Service and State conservation agencies.
    Permits may be issued to carry out otherwise prohibited activities 
involving endangered and threatened wildlife species under certain 
circumstances. Regulations governing permits for endangered species are 
codified at 50 CFR 17.22. With regard to endangered wildlife, a permit 
may be issued for the following purposes: For scientific purposes, to 
enhance the propagation or survival of the species and for incidental 
take in connection with otherwise lawful activities.

Clarity of the Rule

    We are required by Executive Orders 12866 and 12988 and by the 
Presidential Memorandum of June 1, 1998, to write all rules in plain 
language. This means that each rule we publish must:
    (a) Be logically organized;
    (b) Use the active voice to address readers directly;
    (c) Use clear language rather than jargon;
    (d) Be divided into short sections and sentences; and
    (e) Use lists and tables wherever possible.
    If you feel that we have not met these requirements, send us 
comments by one of the methods listed in the ADDRESSES section. To 
better help us revise the rule, your comments should be as specific as 
possible. For example, you should tell us the names of the sections or 
paragraphs that are unclearly written, which sections or sentences are 
too long, the sections where you feel lists or tables would be useful, 

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    We have determined that environmental assessments and environmental 
impact statements, as

[[Page 72]]

defined under the authority of the National Environmental Policy Act of 
1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), need not be prepared in connection with 
regulations adopted under section 4(a) of the Act. We published a 
notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal 
Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244).

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this proposed rule is 
available on the Internet at http://www.regulations.gov or upon request 
from the Branch of Foreign Species, Endangered Species Program, U.S. 
Fish and Wildlife Service (see FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT).


    The primary author of this proposed rule is Amy Brisendine, Branch 
of Foreign Species, Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter 
I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:


1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.
2. Amend Sec.  17.11(h) by adding a new entry for ``Hummingbird, 
Honduran emerald'' in alphabetical order under BIRDS to the List of 
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife to read as follows:

Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

                    Species                                           Vertebrate
------------------------------------------------                   population where                                         Critical
                                                  Historic range     endangered or        Status         When listed        habitat       Special rules
         Common name            Scientific name                       threatened
                                                                      * * * * * * *
                                                                      * * * * * * *
Humming- bird, Honduran        Amazilia luciae.  Hon- duras......  Entire..........  E...............  ...............  NA.............  NA
                                                                      * * * * * * *

* * * * *

    Dated: December 14, 2012.
Rowan W. Gould.
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2012-31095 Filed 12-31-12; 8:45 am]