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American Bird Conservancy is working with local partner Fundación Jocotoco and the communities of Ayampe, Las Tunas and Salango to protect critical areas in Ecuador for one of the rarest and smallest hummingbirds on Earth: the Esmeraldas Woodstar. 

Barely bigger than a bumblebee and lighter than a dollar bill: its brightly colored feathers are a mix of striking violet, green, white, and copper. Local people know it as the "Estrellita," which means "Little Star."  Experts put the population of this species at between 500 and 1,000.

Its primary nesting areas are along streams on Ecuador's Pacific Coast, near the village of Ayampe. The bird is threatened by the loss of breeding habitat; beachfront development on the coast is transforming Ayampe from a quiet village into a tourism destination. Beach development requires large amounts of fresh water and in the dry season the Ayampe River is the only source available. In 2011, locals became very concerned when, by the end of the dry season, the flow of water ceased for the first time in memory.   

Communities for Conservation 

In 2012, ABC supported Fundación Jocotoco in acquiring a new 38-acre reserve along the Ayampe River to protect the most important known breeding site for the Esmeraldas Woodstar. An effort was also launched to involve the local communities in the project on several thousand acres of communal land so that the bird, the watershed and the community all benefit.  

Today, these communities are active participants in preserving the health of their environment. ABC asks for contributions so we may continue supporting the salary of Ayampe Reserve Manager, Byron Delgado, and the following community-based projects he oversees:  

  • Sustainable Tourism Development. Training community guides is a focus of this program, and getting started early is the idea behind birdwatching clubs for local children.
  • Pechiche Festival. This festival celebrates the Pechiche tree, a species favored by the Esmeraldas Woodstar for nesting and for the nectar of its flowers. The Pechiche also bears fruit that is being used by the local women's group to make and sell marmalade.
  • Reforestation. The goal is to plant 10,000 Pechiche trees each year throughout the Ayampe River basin. Reforestation is critically needed to protect this vital water source. 
  • "Children of the Sea" Recycling Program. The school children of Las Tunas are dedicated to maintaining a "Zero Waste Zone" in their community. To date, they have collected 45,000 plastic bottles. Labels are removed and turned into artisan crafts, such as handbags and change purses that the women's group sells.
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