New hummingbird species discovered, imperiled by cocaine trade

It’s hard out here for a gorgeted puffleg. The hummingbird species with the fabulous name was just discovered in southwestern Colombia, where farmers slash and burn 1,235 acres of cloud-forest habitat every year to grow coca, the raw ingredient in cocaine. That’s bad news for a species that bird-conservation expert Andr Weller calls “the most spectacular discovery of a new hummingbird taxon during the last decade or more.” Ornithologists are urging the Colombian government to create a 494,000-acre nature preserve for the safety of pufflegs, so named for the cottonball-like plumage above their legs. Cute! Says Ian Davidson of Birdlife International, “To go undiscovered for so long, the bird’s range must be extremely small and fragile — hence conservation action is undoubtedly a priority.” And if forest preservation helps out other feathered folk, all the better; Colombia houses more than 1,800 bird species, the largest variety in the world.