The Sub-Tropical Hummingbird Species – Hermit

hermit hummingbirds
The hermit is part of the Phathornithinae subfamily that is part of the Trochilidae (hummingbird) family. The subfamily Phaethornithinae comprises 37 species in 6 genera. Female and male hermit hummingbirds only have subtle differences in appearance, and have downward curved bills.

Hermit hummingbirds are an avian species that dwells in predominantly tropical and subtropical climate. The hermit sub-family, as known under the scientific classification of Phaethornithinae are generally found in Southern Mexico, Central America, South America, and Argentina. These hummingbirds’ typically exhibit their plumage in an array of greens, oranges (rufous), browns, and grey.

One notable hermit hummingbird characteristic includes a strong decurved bill, meaning a downward shaped beak specifically used for specific flower family of heliconias. Also, differentiating a male and female hermit hummingbird is much more subtle as this particular sub-family does not display strong sexual dimorphism. This articles catalogs the hummingbirds of the Hermit sub-family specifying all 37 species under the six (6) genera categorizations.

Hermit Hummingbird Genus and Subspecies

Hermit hummingbirds are less colorful than other hummingbirds. They have green, rufous, gray, or brown feathers all over their body. Sometimes, they may have iridescent spots in green or rufous colors (only a few). Hermits don’t really have an impressively colorful shiny plumage compared to other hummingbirds. They typically have downward curved bills that are great at pollinating certain flowers.

The males from this subfamily are typically less aggressive than other hummingbirds and are rarely seen attacking other birds. However, they will defend their foraging area if they have to. The sicklebills in the Hermit family (Eutoxeres spp – the White-tipped sicklebill and the Buff-tailed sicklebill) have extremely decurved bills that are perfectly adapted for heliconias flowers. They will also sometimes munch on small insects for extra protein.

They like to munch on red or orange tubular flowers of shrubs, trees, and epiphytes. Some of them include heliconias Costus, Passiflora, and Centropogon. Their diet is supplemented by small insects and spiders – for much-needed protein.

Ramphodon Tribe

saw billed hummingbird
Saw-billed hermit hummingbid

The Saw-billed hermit (Ramphodon naevius) has a bill curved just at the tip, an orange throat, and pale eyebrows. Females have a smaller size and a shorter bill. It is a Brazil native bird that loves humid forests.

Eutoxeres Tribe

Nest with two white-tipped sicklebill hummingbird babies
Nest with two white-tipped sicklebill hummingbird babies

The White-tipped sicklebill (Eutoxeres aquila) inhabits montane evergreen forests in Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela. This hummingbird has a highly decurved bill, green and dark plumage, and white tail tips.

The Buff-tailed sicklebill (Eutoxeres condamini) inhabits a wide variety of habitats like open landscapes, plantations, and bamboo stands – in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia. This hummingbird also has a highly decurved bill that looks like a hook, buffy tail feather borders, and iridescent blue or green neck patches.

Glaucis Tribe

The Hook-billed hermit (Glaucis dohrnii) is a Brazilian native that loves hovering among streams, littoral forests, and primary forests. This hermit has a lightly bent bill, a greenback, rusty underparts, white eyebrows, and a white-tipped green tail.

Rufous-breasted hermit or hairy hermit, Glaucis hirsuta inhabits streams and forest undergrowths in Panama, Bolivia, Trinidad & Tobago, and Grenada. This is a large hermit with a decurved bill that’s yellow below, rufous underparts & rufous, and a round tail with white tail tips.

The Bronzy hermit (Glaucis aenea) lives a recluse life in secondary forests, shrubs, swamp forests, and primary forests in Columbia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Honduras. It typically has a curled bill, buffy belly, and a white-tipped, mainly rufous tail.

Threnetes Tribe

The Band-tailed barbthroat (Threnetes ruckeri) loves to hover around primary forests, second growth, plantations, and shrublands in SE Guatemala, SE Belize, western Venezuela, and west Ecuador. Appearance: it has an arched beak with a yellow lower mandible, a black spot on the throat, and a rusty spot on the chest area. The tail is all white when stretched with black and white tips.

The Sooty barbthroat (Threnetes niger) loves to stay around gallery forests, tropical forests, humid lowlands, swamp forests, and plantations in Brazil and French Guiana. The body is primarily gray and green, with a dark head and neck divided by a light mustache line.

The Pale-tailed barbthroat (Threnetes leucurus) lives in gallery forests, tropical forests, humid lowlands, plantations, and swamp forests in the Amazon Basin. It has a coopery green, buffy back and underside (with patches) and a copper hue around the head and neck. The breast is bronze green and buff. It also has a black throat with a white malar stripe

Anopetia Tribe

The Broad-tipped hermit (Anopetia gounellei) is a Brazilian native that loves open and humid caatinga landscapes. This is a brightly-patterned hummingbird with a bent beak, bronze and green upperpart, buffy underpart, a striking eye mask, rusty gorget, and tails with white tip feathers.

Phaethornis Tribe

The Dusky-throated hermit (Phaethornis squalidus) is a Brazilian native that likes humming in primary and secondary forests. This hermit has a curled bill, pale eyebrows, a black mask, brown plumage with green and pale areas, and a tail with gradient color – from dark to light tips.

The Streak-throated hermit (Phaethornis rupurumii) inhabits rainforest edges, scrublands, gallery & secondary forests in Colombia, Brazil, Guyana, and Venezuela. It has a black mash, long beak, buffy stripes, and evident dark markings on its neck and breast (less noticeable in females)

The Tapajós hermit (Phaethorni aethopyga) is a Brazilian native that loves primary forests. Males have a green head and back, red feather edges and rump, brown and red tail feathers with a white base, black face, and a red malar stripe with rufous spots on the chest, belly, and throat. Females are fuller and have olive underparts with red areas.

The little hermit (Phaethornis longuemareus) enjoys spending time in scrubs, secondary forests, and plantations in the northeast of Venezuela, north of Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname, and Trinidad. This is a small hummingbird with brown plumage, a bent bill, brown gorget, and narrow tail feathers.

The minute hermit (Phaethornis idaliae) is a Brazilian native that loves primary and secondary forests. True to its name, this is a small hummingbird with a curled bill that’s yellow below, an iridescent green back, dark neck & undertail feathers, and a light belly. Females have orange breasts and necks, long center tail feathers, and white tail edges.

The cinnamon-throated hermit (Phaethornis nattereri) inhabits gallery forests, secondary forests, caatinga, and cerrado in Brazil and Bolivia. This hummingbird has a curved bill, cinnamon underparts, and white feather tips.

Black-throated hermits (Phaethornis atrimentalis) occupy secondary forests, forest edges, swamp forests, and plantations in Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador. This is a tiny hummingbird with rufous underparts, a greenback, a distinctive black throat and white vent, and a striped face.

The stripe-throated hermit (Phaethornis striigularis) populates a wide variety of habitats like forests, woodlands, and gardens in Central America & South America. It’s a small hummingbird with an arched beak, rusty rump patch, and a striped face (as the name says)

The Gray-chinned hermit (Phaethornis griseogularis) occupies secondary forests, forest edges, and cloud forests in Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil. It’s a tiny hermit with a curled beak, buffy and rusty plumage, white eyebrows and black cheeks, a light chin, and white tail tips.

The Reddish hermit (Phaethornis ruber) inhabits Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, and Guianas. This small hummingbird stands out through its black mask and has olive upper parts and cinnamon underparts. Males are shorter overall and have an incomplete black band on their breasts.

The White-browed hermit (Phaethornis stuarti) populates lowlands and tropical and subtropical moist forests in Peru and Bolivia. This tiny hummingbird has orange underparts, a greenback, and a black mask. As the name suggests, it also has white eyebrows.

The Buff-bellied hermit (Phaethornis subochraceus) is a small hummingbird with a dull plumage, a curled bill, greenish back, black mask, coopery belly, and white tail tips. It primarily inhabits secondary forests, shrubs, woodlands, and deciduous forests in Bolivia and Brazil.

Sooty-capped hermit Phaethornis Augusti typically resides in Colombia, French Guiana, Brazil, Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela. Their plumage is brown, and they have gray underparts, rufous rump, large white tail feather tips, and some evident face markings.

Planalto hermit (Phaethornis pretrei) is found in gallery forests, secondary forests, and dry forests in the geographic areas of Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina. They love to hover around in woodlands, forests, and occasionally open landscapes. These hummingbirds have a beautiful white outlines around their eyes known as supercilium markings. Distinctive features of the Planalto hermit hummingbird include olive green plumage accented with reddish uppertail covert.

Scale-throated hermit (Phaethornis eurynome) primarily inhabits secondary forests, rainforests, and semi-deciduous forests in Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. It has an olive-green back, a cinnamon rump and belly, a curved bill with red bottom, a black mask, and an elongated white-tipped tail.

The Pale-bellied hermit (Phaethornis anthophilus) occupies gallery forests, semi-deciduous forests, secondary forests, and plantations in Venezuela, Panama, and Colombia. Big hummingbirds with decurved bills, extended, white-tipped tail feathers, a black mask, pale eyebrows, pale underparts, and green & rufous upper parts.

The White-bearded hermit (Phaethornis hispidus) inhabits gallery forests and can be found near streams in Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Males resemble females and have a gray underside, green underside, grey rump, long tails and bills, white necks & mustaches. Stand out through the orange lower side of the bill.

The White-whiskered hermit (Phaethornis yaruqui) typically populates humid secondary forests, montane forests, and plantations in Colombia and Ecuador. This is a hermit with a curved bill, green plumage, buffy eyebrows, a white-tipped tail, and a white mustache.

The Green hermit (Phaethornis guy) mainly occupies primary and premontane forests and can be seen near streams in Costa Rica, Panama, northeastern Venezuela, Trinidad, and eastern Peru. This hermit is a big hummingbird with a decurved bill and white tail tips. Males have all green and blue plumage, and females have grey underparts, green upperparts, and face stripes.

The Tawny-bellied hermit (Phaethornis syrmatophorus) primarily inhabits montane forests and secondary forests in Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador. These are long-billed, long-tailed big hummingbirds with buffy bellies and rumps, white tail tips, light eyebrows, and a mustache stripe.

Koepcke’s hermit (Phaethornis koepckeae) is a Peru native that likes humid montane and evergreen forests. This large and slender hummingbird has an orange, green, and gray back, a black mask, a curved bill, and a bold face pattern.

The Needle-billed hermit (Phaethornis philippii) mostly enjoys lowland rainforests, terra firme forests, and plantations in Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru. This hermit has a mostly orange-colored plumage with orange underparts and green and brown upperparts, a dark mask, an almost straight bill, and white tail tips.

The Straight-billed hermit (Phaethornis bourcieri) inhabits semi-deciduous forests and terra firme forests in Brazil, Guyana, French Guiana, Colombia, Ecuador, Suriname, Peru, and Venezuela. As the name suggests, this big hermit has an elongated straight bill. The face lacks definition, and the central tail feathers are white.

Long-billed hermit hummingbird
Long-billed hermit hummingbird

The Long-billed hermit (Phaethornis longirostris) ranges from Mexico to Central America, Ecuador, Colombia, to Peru. Its habitats include humid semi-deciduous forests, secondary forests, gallery forests, rainforests, and cloud forests. This hermit has a dull plumage (grayish, black, and white), a striped face, and a curved bill.

The Mexican hermit (Phaethornis mexicanus) is a Mexican native that loves humid evergreen forests and semi-deciduous woodlands. Their plumage a dull grayish brown, with subtle hues of cinnamon on their lower belly. Mexican hermit hummingbirds have long curved bills, black cheeks, and white stripes around the eye.

The Long-tailed hermit (Phaethornis superciliosus) mainly inhabits forests undergrowths in the Guianas, Venezuela, and Brazil (northeast). It has brown plumage, white tail feather tips, and a curved bill.

The Great-billed hermit (Phaethornis malaris) primarily occupies rainforests, tropical forests, and secondary forests in Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, French Guiana, Suriname, and Venezuela. They have dull plumage, bronze upper parts, buff and gray underparts, a dark face, a curved bill, light eyebrows and mustache, and long central tail feathers.


Alexandra has a deep love for the natural world. She likes to experience it fully but also loves learning about the science behind it. She has a special relationship with hummingbirds and enjoys witnessing their beauty and grace whenever she’s out.

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