Urban gardens in Mexico fight hummingbirds’ extinction

Cinnamon Hummingbird inspects Altamira Oriole nest for insects

Mexicans have created more than a hundred urban gardens, most of them in the capital Mexico City, in an attempt to attract hummingbirds that have seen their natural habitat gradually destroyed as cities have sprawled across the continent.

The country is home to 58 different species but half of its 13 endemic species are now at risk of extinction as suitable habitats are shrinking because of human settlements and even climate change.

“When cities grow, we’re removing forests, we’re removing the vegetation that hummingbirds use to feed, to reproduce,” said Claudia Rodriguez, a biologist working on the “Urban Gardens” project. It has led to the creation of 149 gardens.

“If hummingbirds disappear, the diversity of plants decreases and in the long term the ecosystem will end up poorer,” Rodriguez said, adding that it was the most important pollinating bird in the Americas.

By pollinating, the hummingbirds help conserve more than a thousand different plant species, some of which Mexico exports to Canada and as far as Japan. Rodriguez also said the tiny birds have a fast metabolism and constantly need to feed.

Rodriguez’s colleague, Maria del Coro Arizmendi, in 2014 started a garden with the bird’s favorite plants, like myrtle and lantanas, in an area belonging to the country’s National Autonomous University in Mexico City.

Rodriguez said more hummingbirds, mostly broad-billed and beryl species, have arrived in the garden in recent years. In the meantime, it has also attracted other pollinators such as bees, butterflies and bumblebees.

Reporting by Diego Ore; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Sandra Maler for REUTERS

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