Found nowhere outside Ecuador, the black-breasted puffleg is a small to average-sized hummingbird with distinctive white leg plumage. This little bird prefers high altitudes, spending the rainy season above 10,000 feet and the rest of the year — when certain preferred plants flower — residing between 9,006 and 10,000 feet. The black-breasted puffleg historically inhabited the northern ridge-crests of Volcán Pichincha and Volcán Atacazo, volcanoes in the Andes . But tellingly, it hasn't been confirmed on Volcán Atacazo since 1902, and it's expected to be extirpated from that location. Now the bird is restricted to Volcán Pichincha, an active volcano — and its population is made up of no more than 250 individuals, whose suitable habitat is ever disappearing.

In response to decades-old listing petitions and a series of lawsuits by the Center, in 2010 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally designated the black-breasted puffleg as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. An international listing restricts buying and selling of the bird, increases conservation funding and attention, and will add scrutiny to development projects proposed by U.S. government and multilateral lending agencies that would destroy or alter its habitat.

Photo © Benji Schwartz