Río Ayampe Reserve was established to protect the critically endangered Esmeraldas Woodstar (Chaetocercus berlepschi) which is found only in a small area on the west coast of Ecuador, mainly along the Pacific shoreline. Historically, there have been scattered records along the coast of Ecuador as far north as Esmeraldas. Not much is known about this tiny Hummingbird, which is scarcely larger than the world's smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird of Cuba. The bird was found in the 1990's at Ayampe by Francisco Sornoza, then working with Robert Ridgely on the Birds of Ecuador book project. In 2007-2008 a combined team led by Bert Harris and Mery Juiña from Jocotoco Foundation and Aves & Conservación searched for the Woodstar in Manabí and Santa Elena Provinces and discovered the only known nests of the species.
With this new knowledge, it appeared that the range of the Esmeraldas Woodstar was much more restricted than anyone knew, and that its breeding biology limited the number of potential breeding sites.
Bert and Mery found that the Woodstars appear to be seasonal migrants. They arrive in Ayampe at the end of the dry season, and after the breeding season the birds disappear. Where they go is uncertain, but scattered sightings suggest they migrate up into the coastal mountains of Western Ecuador where the forest is damper during the hot dry summer. What is known is that after repeated searches, no one has found other breeding locations, and there aren't many other rivers with the same habitat as Ayampe. Our current estimate of the world population is only 500-1000 birds.
Rio Ayampe Reserve is located in Manabí province, near Las Tunas and Puerto Rico communities.
Much of the land where the Woodstar breeds is owned by the local community of Las Tunas. In 2011, a formal agreement between the Community of Las Tunas and Fundación Jocotoco was signed to work together to protect the Woodstar.
This agreement between Jocotoco and Las Tunas is an exciting and novel way forward for conservation. By acquiring property rights there in early 2012 (right of usufruct), the foundation became a member of the community and a long-term partner in future community sponsored conservation projects. Most of the day to day conservation activity is being directed and performed by local members of the Community, with support from Fundación Jocotoco. Small scale habitat restoration is taking place with species that will benefit the Esmeraldas Woodstar and other wildlife. Children from the community play an active role in the propagation and planting of these species, as with an ambitious project to collect and recycle plastic bottles throughout the area. Community awareness about the importance of protecting the nest sites of the Woodstar will be promoted throughout the whole Community of Las Tunas – about 4500 hectares.
This area is home to several other globally threatened birds from the Choco and Tumbesian bioregions. These include Grey-backed Hawk, Grey-cheeked Parakeet, Guayaquil Woodpecker, Little Woodstar, Slaty Becard, Ochraceous Attila, and Henna-hooded Foliage-Gleaner. Another interesting animal present near the reserve is the Ghost Bat.
A rapid assessment of the reptiles and amphibians of the Río Ayampe valley is currently being carried out. Surveys of butterflies in the area are also being undertaken, as the west coastal mountain ranges are known for high rates of endemism.
BIRDS IN THE RESERVE