File:Phaethornis longirostris baroni.jpg
Baron's Hermit is usually included in Phaethornis longirostris, but may be a distinct species P. baroni
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Superorder: Strisores
Order: Apodiformes
Family: Trochilidae
Subfamily: Phaethornithinae
Tribe: Phaethornithini
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

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

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]

Another such case is P. maranhaoensis: Some[4] considered it invalid, believing it was the male plumage of P. nattereri. But P. maranhaoensis only occurs in the northern part of the range of P. nattereri, and the two have different voices.[5] Molecular work also confirms the validity of P. maranhaoensis,[5] 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.[6] For the same authors, the taxa proposed as hybrids by Hinkelmann,[7] could be valid taxa, especially P. longuemareus imatacae.

Species in taxonomic order

File:Phaethornis striigularis.jpg
File:Phaethornis eurynome.jpg


  1. ^ Hinkelmann & Schuchmann (1997)
  2. ^ Hinkelmann (1996)
  3. ^ E.g. SACC (2005, 2008)
  4. ^ E.g. Schuchmann & Hinkelmann (1999)
  5. ^ a b Mallet-Rodrigues (2006)
  6. ^ Piacentini, Aleixo & Silveira (2009)
  7. ^ Hinkelmann, C. (1996a)


  • 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
  • Hinkelmann, Christoph (1996a): Evidence for natural hybridisation in hermit hummingbirds (Phaethornis spp.). Bulletin B.O.U. 116: 5–14.
  • Hinkelmann, Christoph (1996b): Systematics and geographic variation in long-tailed hermit hummingbirds, the Phaethornis superciliosus-malaris-longirostris species group (Trochilidae), with notes on their biogeography. Ornitologia Neotropical 7(2): 119-148. PDF fulltext
  • Hinkelmann, Christoph & Schuchmann, Karl-Ludwig (1997): Phylogeny of the hermit hummingbirds (Trochilidae: Phaethornithinae). Studies on Neotropical Fauna and Environment 32: 142–163.
  • 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)]. Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia 14(4): 475-479 [Portuguese with English abstract]. PDF fulltext
  • 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). The Auk 126(3): 604−612.
  • 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
  • Stiles, F. Gary & Skutch, Alexander Frank (1989): A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Comistock, Ithaca. ISBN 0-8014-9600-4
  • South American Classification Committee (SACC) (2003): Proposal (# 77) to South American Check-list Committee: Split Threnetes leucurus from Threnetes niger. Retrieved 2008-OCT-31.
  • South American Classification Committee (SACC) (2005): Proposal (# 178) to South American Check-list Committee: 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.
  • South American Classification Committee (SACC) (2008): A classification of the bird species of South America – Part 4. Apodiformes. Version of 2008-OCT-27. Retrieved 2008-OCT-31.

Eurasian Spoonbill This article is part of Project Bird Genera, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on each genus, including made-up genera.
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