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Phaethornis longirostris baroni.jpg
Baron's hermit is usually included in Phaethornis longirostris, but may be a distinct species P. baroni
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Family: Trochilidae
Subfamily: Phaethornithinae
Genus: Phaethornis
Swainson, 1827

Some 25–30, see text

Phaethornis is a genus of hummingbirds in the hermit subfamily, Phaethornithinae. They occur from southern Mexico, through Central America, to South America as far south as northern Argentina.

Description and ecology[edit]

Their plumage typically involves greens, browns, rufous or grey. Most species show some green or bronze iridescence to the upperparts, but this is far less conspicuous than that of many other hummingbirds; the male and female plumages of hermits are very similar, with differences limited to details of bill-shape, tail-shape and/or strength of colours/patterns. No species of hermit show the strong sexual dimorphism usually associated with hummingbirds.

Phaethornis hermits typically have a long decurved bill, although three species, P. koepkeae, P. philippii and P. bourcieri have virtually straight bills. They have a red or yellow base to the lower mandible, and their two central tail feathers are elongated and tipped with white, buff or ochraceous; the crown of the head is flat, and two pale facial stripes enclose a dusky mask.

Most Phaethornis hermits are restricted to the edge and undergrowth of forest, woodland and second growth, but some species (e.g. P. pretrei) also occur in more open habitats.

Many species of hermits form leks and congregate on traditional display grounds, where females visit to choose a mate. However, male hermits are generally less aggressive than other male hummingbirds, though both sexes will defend a feeding territory.

Most hermits are associated with heliconias, but will utilize other nectar sources like flowers of Centropogon, Passiflora, Costus, etc. To a lesser degree, they will capture small arthropods; the long, decurved bills typical of most members of this group of hummingbirds are an adaptation to certain flowers.

Taxonomy and systematics[edit]

The taxonomy of some groups have changed significantly in recent years, especially following the split of several small hermits (P. idaliae, P. atrimentalis and P. striigularis) previously considered subspecies of Phaethornis longuemareus, as well as the split of P. longirostris from P. superciliosus.[1]

Further confusion exists between P. superciliosus and P. malaris: Most taxa previously considered subspecies of the former (bolivianus, insolitus, margarettae, moorei and ochraceiventris) are now placerd with the latter.[2] A fully satisfactory taxonomic treatment of the entire longirostris/malaris/superciliosus group is still lacking according to some Neotropical ornithologists.[3][4][5]

Another such case is P. maranhaoensis: Some[6] considered it invalid, believing it was the male plumage of P. nattereri. However, P. maranhaoensis only occurs in the northern part of the range of P. nattereri, and the two have different voices.[7] Molecular work also confirms the validity of P. maranhaoensis,[7] though details presently are lacking. Comparably, P. aethopyga has generally been considered invalid as believed to be a hybrid between P. ruber and P. rupurumii, but this assumption has recently been shown to be incorrect, leading to its revalidation as a distinct species.[8] For the same authors, the taxa proposed as hybrids by Hinkelmann,[9] could be valid taxa, especially P. longuemareus imatacae.

Species in taxonomic order[edit]

Image Common name Scientific name Distribution
Dusky-throated Hermit - Intervales NP - Brazil S4E9692 (12814056545).jpg Dusky-throated hermit Phaethornis squalidus Atlantic Forest in south-eastern Brazil.
Phaethornis rupununi - Streak-throated hermit; Anavilhanas islands, Novo Airão, Amazonas, Brazil.jpg Streak-throated hermit Phaethornis rupurumii south-eastern Venezuela, west-central Guyana, and the extreme northern Brazil Amazon Basin
Tapajós hermit Phaethorni aethopygus south-eastern Amazon in Brazil
Phaethornis longuemareus(Trinidad).jpg Little hermit Phaethornis longuemareus north-eastern Venezuela, northern Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana and Trinidad.
Phaethornis idaliae.jpg Minute hermit Phaethornis idaliae humid Atlantic Forest in south-eastern Brazil, ranging from Rio de Janeiro north to south-eastern Bahia
Cinnamon-throated hermit Phaethornis nattereri Amazon Rainforest from far north-eastern Bolivia north-east to Maranhão in Brazil.
Black-throated hermit Phaethornis atrimentalis western Amazon in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru
Colibrí Ermitañito Gargantirayado Stripe-Throated Hermit Phaethornis Striigularis Parque Nacional Henri Pittier Aragua Venezuela 04.jpg Stripe-throated hermit Phaethornis striigularis southern Mexico (north-eastern Oaxaca and southern Veracruz east to southern Quintana Roo), Belize, north-eastern Guatemala, northern and eastern Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, western, central and northern Colombia (mainly Pacific lowlands and the Magdalena valley region), western Ecuador (south to El Oro) and north-eastern Venezuela (both slopes of the Andes and northern mountains)
Grey-chinned Hermit.jpg Grey-chinned hermit Phaethornis griseogularis Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, and - marginally - far northern Brazil
Reddish Hermit.JPG Reddish hermit Phaethornis ruber Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, and in the Guianas.
White-browed hermit Phaethornis stuarti Bolivia and Peru.
Buff-bellied hermit Phaethornis subochraceus Bolivia and Brazil.
Sooty-capped hermit Phaethornis augusti Venezuela, Colombia, Guyana and Brazil
Phaethornis pretrei.jpg Planalto hermit Phaethornis pretrei eastern and south-central Brazil, eastern Bolivia, Paraguay, and marginally in north-western Argentina.
RABO-BRANCO-DE-GARGANTA-RAJADA (Phaethornis eurynome).jpg Scale-throated hermit Phaethornis eurynome north-eastern Argentina, south-eastern Brazil, and eastern Paraguay
Pale-bellied Hermit2.jpg Pale-bellied hermit Phaethornis anthophilus Colombia, Panama, and Venezuela
White-beardedHermit.jpg White-bearded hermit Phaethornis hispidus Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.
White-whiskered Hermit (F).jpg White-whiskered hermit Phaethornis yaruqui Colombia and Ecuador.
Phaethornis guy.jpg Green hermit Phaethornis guy southern Central America (Costa Rica and Panama) south to northern South America (north-eastern Venezuela and Trinidad, and the northern Andes of eastern Peru)
Tawny-bellied Hermit (Phaethornis syrmatophorus).jpg Tawny-bellied hermit Phaethornis syrmatophorus Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru
Koepcke's Hermit.jpg Koepcke's hermit Phaethornis koepckeae Peru.
Needle-billed hermit Phaethornis philippii western Brazil, Peru and northwestern Bolivia
Straight-billed Hermit (Phaethornis bourcieri).jpg Straight-billed hermit Phaethornis bourcieri Guyanas of Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana; also the northern Amazon basin of Brazil, and Amazonian Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru
Eastern Long-tailed Hermit - Rio Tigre - Costa Rica MG 8436 (26084791724).jpg Long-billed hermit or western long-tailed hermit Phaethornis longirostris central Mexico south to northwestern Colombia, extreme western Venezuela and western Ecuador.
Mexican Hermit.jpg Mexican hermit Phaethornis mexicanus Mexico
Longtailed hermit hummingbird (3261473173).jpg (Eastern) long-tailed hermit Phaethornis superciliosus Venezuela, the Guianas, and north-eastern Brazil.
Great-billed Hermit (Phaethornis malaris) (9496909861).jpg Great-billed hermit Phaethornis malaris Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.


  1. ^ Hinkelmann, Christoph & Schuchmann, Karl-Ludwig (1997). "Phylogeny of the hermit hummingbirds (Trochilidae: Phaethornithinae)". Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment. 32 (3): 142–163. doi:10.1080/01650521.1997.9709616.
  2. ^ Hinkelmann, Christoph (1996). "Systematics and geographic variation in long-tailed hermit hummingbirds, the Phaethornis superciliosus-malaris-longirostris species group (Trochilidae), with notes on their biogeography" (PDF). Ornitologia Neotropical. 7 (2): 119–148.
  3. ^ South American Classification Committee (2003): Proposal (# 77) to South American Check-list Committee Archived 2006-09-04 at the Wayback Machine: Split Threnetes leucurus from Threnetes niger. Retrieved 2008-OCT-31.
  4. ^ South American Classification Committee (2005): Proposal (# 178) to South American Check-list Committee Archived 2007-02-23 at the Wayback Machine: Abandon the Hinkelmann-Schuchmann classification of the hermit hummingbirds (Phaethorninae), and specifically their classification of the Phaethornis superciliosus-malaris-longirostris species group. Retrieved 2008-OCT-31.
  5. ^ South American Classification Committee (2008): A classification of the bird species of South America – Part 4. Apodiformes Archived 2008-05-11 at the Wayback Machine. Version of 2008-OCT-27. Retrieved 2008-OCT-31.
  6. ^ Schuchmann, Karl-Ludwig (1999): Family Trochilidae (Hummingbirds). In: del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew & Sargatal, Jordi (eds.): Handbook of Birds of the World (Vol. 5: Barn-owls to Hummingbirds): 468–680, plates 45–76. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-25-3
  7. ^ a b Mallet-Rodrigues, Francisco (2006). "Táxons de aves de validade questionável com ocorrência no Brasil. III – Trochilidae (I)" [Questionable bird taxa with occurrence in Brazil. III – Trochilidae (I)] (PDF). Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia (in Portuguese and English). 14 (4): 475–479. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27.
  8. ^ Piacentini, V. de Q., A. Aleixo, & L. F. Silveira (2009). "Hybrid, Subspecies, or Species? The Validity and Taxonomic Status of Phaethornis longuemareus aethopyga Zimmer, 1950 (Trochilidae)" (PDF). The Auk. 126 (3): 604–612. doi:10.1525/auk.2009.08130.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Hinkelmann, Christoph (1996). "Evidence for natural hybridisation in hermit hummingbirds (Phaethornis spp.)". Bulletin B.O.U. 116: 5–14.

Further reading[edit]

  • ffrench, Richard; O'Neill, John Patton & Eckelberry, Don R. (1991): A guide to the birds of Trinidad and Tobago (2nd edition). Comstock Publishing, Ithaca, N.Y.. ISBN 0-8014-9792-2
  • Hilty, Steven L. (2003): Birds of Venezuela. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-6418-5
  • Stiles, F. Gary & Skutch, Alexander Frank (1989): A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Comistock, Ithaca. ISBN 0-8014-9600-4