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.
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. the Planalto Hermit) 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 (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.
The taxonomy of some groups have changed significantly in recent years, especially following Hinkelmann & Schuchmann (1997), where several small hermits previously considered subspecies of Phaethornis longuemareus were split (P. idaliae, P. atrimentalis and P. striigularis), while P. longirostris was split from P. superciliosus. Further confusion exists between P. superciliosus and P. malaris: Most taxa previously consider subspecies of the former (insolitus, moorei, ochraceiventris, bolivianus and margarettae) are now consider subspecies of the latter, as per Hinkelmann (1996). A fully satisfactory taxonomic treatment of the entire P. longirostris/P. superciliosus/P. malaris group is still lacking according to some Neotropical ornithologists (see South American Classification Committee, 2005). Further confusion exists over P. maranhaoensis: Schuchmann & Hinkelmann (1999) considered it invalid, believing it was the male plumage of P. nattereri. Mallet-Rodrigues (2006) was able to show that this was mistaken, as P. maranhaoensis only occurs in the northern part of the range of P. nattereri, and the two have different voices. Molecular work also confirms the validity of P. maranhaoensis.
Species in taxonomic order
- Dusky-throated Hermit, Phaethornis squalidus
- Streak-throated Hermit, Phaethornis rupurumii
- Little Hermit, Phaethornis longuemareus
- Minute Hermit, Phaethornis idaliae
- Cinnamon-throated Hermit, Phaethornis nattereri
- Black-throated Hermit, Phaethornis atrimentalis
- Stripe-throated Hermit, Phaethornis striigularis
- Dusky Hermit, Phaethornis (striigularis) saturatus
- Gray-chinned Hermit, Phaethornis griseogularis
- Reddish Hermit, Phaethornis ruber
- White-browed Hermit, Phaethornis stuarti
- Buff-bellied Hermit, Phaethornis subochraceus
- Sooty-capped Hermit, Phaethornis augusti
- Planalto Hermit, Phaethornis pretrei
- Scale-throated Hermit, Phaethornis eurynome
- Pale-bellied Hermit, Phaethornis anthophilus
- White-bearded Hermit, Phaethornis hispidus
- White-whiskered Hermit, Phaethornis yaruqui
- Green Hermit, Phaethornis guy
- Tawny-bellied Hermit, Phaethornis syrmatophorus
- Koepcke's Hermit, Phaethornis koepckeae
- Needle-billed Hermit, Phaethornis philippii
- Straight-billed Hermit, Phaethornis bourcieri
- Long-billed (Western Long-tailed) Hermit, Phaethornis longirostris
- Mexican Hermit, Phaethornis (longirostris) mexicanus
- Baron's Hermit, Phaethornis (longirostris) baroni
- (Eastern) Long-tailed Hermit, Phaethornis superciliosus
- Great-billed Hermit, Phaethornis malaris
- Margaretta's Hermit, Phaethornis (malaris) margarettae
- Schuchmann, K. L. (1999). Family Trochilidae (Hummingbirds). Pp. 468-680 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. (editors) (1999): Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 5: Barn-owls to Hummingbirds. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-25-3
- ffrench, Richard (1991). A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. 2nd edition, Comstock Publishing.
- Hilty, Steven L Birds of Venezuela. London: Christopher Helm.
- Stiles, F. Gary; Skutch, Alexander Frank (1989): A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Comistock, Ithaca. ISBN 0-8014-9600-4
- Remsen, J. V., Jr., C. D. Cadena, A. Jaramillo, M. Nores, J. F. Pacheco, M. B. Robbins, T. S. Schulenberg, F. G. Stiles, D. F. Stotz, and K. J. Zimmer. Version 04-07-2007. A classification of the bird species of South America. American Ornithologists' Union.
- Split Threnetes leucurus from Threnetes niger South American Classification Committee (2003).
- Abandon the Hinkelmann-Schuchmann classification of the hermit hummingbirds (Phaethorninae), and specifically their classification of the Phaethornis superciliosus-malaris-longirostris species group South American Classification Committee (2005).
- Hinkelmann, C. (1996). 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 available
- Hinkelmann, C., and K. Schuchmann (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). Revista Brasileira de Ornitologia 14(4): 475-479. PDF available