Hummingbird Mountain Gems from the Subfamily Lampornithini

Lampornithini is one of the three tribes that make up the subfamily Trochilinae in the hummingbird family
The Lampornithini tribe is informally called the "mountain gems," the reason for that is almost half of the species of hummingbirds in this tribe have the word "mountain gem" in their name. This subfamily has seven genera and 18 species in total

The Trochilinae subfamily is comprised of three tribes, the emeralds (trochilini), the bees (mellisugini), and the mountain gems also known scientifically as Lapornithini hummingbirds. The Lapornithini tribe is further broken down by genus of hummingbirds and then sub-species. The Lapornithini tribe has 5 genus and 18 species.

Cladogram of Lampornithini Genuses and Subspecies

As defined by Dickinson & Remsen according to the phylogenetic studies done by Jimmy McGuire.

image 5

Genera & Species Distribution and Habitat


The violet-chested hummingbird’s (Sternoclyta cyanopectus) habitat includes humid subtropical forests, secondary forests, woodlands, and coffee plantations in Colombia and Venezuela. Males have a longer decurved black bill than females and a white patch below the eye. Males have green upper parts, emerald green, and violet-blue gorgets. Underparts are grayish buff with golden-green dots. Adult females and juveniles have green upper parts, brownish underparts with green markings, and rufescent bellies.


scissor-tailed hummingbird
Scissor-tailed hummingbird

The scissor-tailed hummingbird (Hylonympha macrocerca) is considered an endangered species. It is native to the Paria Peninsula in Venezuela and loves hovering in cloud forests and subtropical forests. Males have violet foreheads, violet and black-green crowns, metallic green backs, and golden necks.

The throat and breast are emerald green, whereas the remaining underparts are deeper green and blackish. Females’ foreheads and crowns are dark green. They have white and green throats and breasts, chestnut-colored bellies & under-tail coverts.


Rivoli's hummingbirds
Rivoli’s hummingbirds

Rivoli’s hummingbirds (Eugenes fulgens) inhabit cloud forests, pine-oak forests, and secondary forests (and yards). Adult males are blackish below, green above, and have dark tails. They have a purple crown and an emerald throat in a favorable light. Females are grey below, greenish above, with light tail tips. Behind each eye, both sexes have a white mark. You can spot them in the southwestern US towards Nicaragua and Honduras.

Talamanca hummingbirds (Eugenes spectabilis) inhabit oak forests and secondary forests in Costa Rica and Panama. Males are green throughout, with a purple crown and turquoise throat. Females have fuzzy speckled underparts and greenish sides. Females’ bills are longer and decurved than males’.


Fiery-throated hummingbird

The Fiery-throated hummingbird (Panterpe insignia) inhabits cloud forests, montane forests, secondary forests, paramo, and shrubby areas in Costa Rica and Panama. No other hummingbird blends every rainbow hue on its neck and breast. In low light, you might confuse it for Talamanca Hummingbird. It has a blue-black tail, a pink-tipped beak, and a blue rump.

It has two subspecies:

  • P. i. insignis – seen in Costa Rica (Cordillera de Tilarán region) and Panama (Bocas del Toro and Chiriquí regions)
  • P. i. eisenmanni. NW – seen in Costa Rica (Cordillera de Guanacaste)


Long-billed starthroat, Heliomaster longirostris inhabits woodlands, gallery forests, pastures, and lowlands of Mexico, Trinidad, Central America, and some parts of South America. It has a turquoise head and white patch above the rump, as well as a long, straight bill, black neck, green sides, and thick whitish mustache. Both sexes appear identical, although juveniles lack the adult’s crimson iridescent throat.

It has three subspecies, 

  • the nominate H. l. longirostris
  • H. l. pallidicepts
  • H. l. albicrissa

The Plain-capped starthroat (Heliomaster constantii) usually inhabits secondary forests, mature forests, and open landscapes – from west Mexico to the south of Costa Rica. They have a white patch above the rump, a striped face with a black neck, brownish sides, and a long straight bill. Males and females appear identical, but only adults have iridescent crimson throats.

It has three subspecies:

  • the nominate H. c. constantii
  • H. c. Pinicola
  • H. c. Leocadia

Stripe-breasted starthroats (Heliomaster squamous) predominantly inhabit savannas and forests in the east & southeast of Brazil. Males have green bodies with a white stripe through the middle, blueish foreheads, and glittering metallic pink gorgets. Females are a scaly grayish green overall with a white line running down the middle.

Blue-tufted starthroat, Heliomaster furcifer – savannas, forest edges, and grasslands in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Ecuador. Both sexes have a long, slightly curved beak. Males are distinguished by their greenbacks, violet-blue bellies, forked tails, and metallic pink-violet gorget. The females have a white chest and abdomen with a coppery nape and throat.


Most of the species in the category have green backs, iridescent throats in males, and a curved black bill, The origin of this genus is mesoamerican.

The white-bellied mountain gem (Lampornis hemileucus) can be seen in wet subtropical forests, shrubs, and forest edges in Costa Rica and Panama. Males of this medium-sized hummingbird species are primarily green on top, with a purple throat, a tiny white line above the eye, and a brilliant white belly. The female is slightly less vibrant but still stands out with her spotted neck and white abdomen.

Blue-throated mountaingems (Lampornis clemenciae) typically like moist climates and forests. Some of these include riparian forests, coniferous forests, pine and oak forests, and the “sky island” mountain ranges.

  • The nominate subspecies (L. c. clemenciae) have an iridescent blue throat with grey sides, a greenback, green and bronze rump, grey belly, and green and bronze iridescent feathers on the chest. Females are duller with gray underparts and no iridescence. This subspecies has the longest bill of the bunch.
  • The L. c. phasmorus is the smallest subspecies of blue-throated hummingbirds. Their backs are bright green, and the underparts are gray, with iridescent green sides. Females are duller, have gray undersides, and lack iridescence.
  • The L. c. bessophilus subspecies has a duller back than the other two subspecies. It has iridescent bronze sides and a grey belly. Females are duller, have gray undersides, and lack iridescence.

Amethyst-throated mountaingems (Lampornis amethystinus) inhabit the highlands’ moist evergreen and pine-oak forests in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico. These large hummingbirds often have dull gray plumage, with a black mask, white eyestripe, and amethyst gorgets that look dark and rarely catch the light.

It has five subspecies:

  • L. a. amethystinus can be found in central and eastern Mexico towards Veracruz and north of Oaxaca
  • L. a. margarita can be seen in southwestern Mexico to Michoacán and western Oaxaca
  • L. a. circumventris – spotted in southwestern Oaxaca (Sierra de Miahuatlán)
  • L. a. salvini usually hovers from southern Mexico to Guatemala and El Salvador
  • L. a. nobili can be seen in Honduras

The green-throated mountaingem (Lampornis viridipallens) inhabits pine-oak forests and humid evergreen forests in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico. The dark mask, white throat (sometimes green on males), and green upper parts give this bird an unremarkable appearance despite its name. The tail is the most distinctive part of the bird because it flies with its sides flashing a broad, pale gray coloration.

Subspecies distribution:

  • L. v. amadoni are usually found in southeastern Oaxaca, Mexico (Sierra Atravesada)
  • L. v. ovandensis can be seen in northwestern Guatemala and Mexico (Chiapas state)
  • L. v. viridipallens can be spotted east of Guatemala, north of El Salvador, and west of Honduras
  • L. v. nubivagus flies around the west of El Salvador (Santa Ana Volcano)

The green-breasted mountaingem (Lampornis sybillae) is mostly found in pine-oak and humid evergreen forests in Honduras and Nicaragua. The appearance of the green-breasted mountiangem is green on top, white behind the eye, dull gray on the bottom, and covered with green patches, especially on the sides and breasts. Females and juveniles have a white or buffy neck, while adult males have an iridescent green one that appears gray.

The Purple-throated mountaingem (Lampornis calolaemus) can be found in cloud forests and montane evergreen forests in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama. The male has a strikingly colored purple gorget, a blue crown, and a white smudge behind the eye. Females aren’t nearly as vivid and have buffy underbellies, black cheeks, and white brow lines.

Subspecies distribution:

  • The nominate L. c. calolaemus typical range is in Costa Rica ( Coreillera Central and the northern Cordillera de Talamanca)
  • L. c. pectoralis can be seen in southwestern Nicaragua towards northwestern Costa Rica
  • L. c. homogenes. usually hover west of Panama and south of Costa Rica

The gray-tailed mountainge (Lampornis cinereicauda) likes oak forests, shrubs, and gardens in southern Costa Rica (Cordillera de Talamanca region). Both sexes have a medium-length black bill, dark cheeks, and a white stripe behind the eye. Males have a dark bronzy green head and a gray tail. The gray tailed mountainge has a white chin and throat, the neck and upper breast are green, and the lower breast region is gray. Females are green with rufous necks and bellies.

The white-throated mountaingem (Lampornis castaneoventris) loves oak forests and gardens in western Panama. More specifically, in the Chiriquí Province. Males of this species are primarily green, with a white neck, a white line behind the eye, and a blue crown. Species from the west have a grayer tail, whereas those from the east are bluer. Females aren’t as vivid; they have buffy underbellies, black cheeks, and white brow lines.


Garnet-throated hummingbirds (Lamprolaima rhami) like pine-oak forests, tropical forests, scrubs, and cloud forests. Both sexes have short, black bills. Males have iridescent green upper parts, a black face with a white area below the eye, a pink gorget with violet-blue breasts, and rufous wings with dark brown tips. Females have iridescent green upper parts and dusky gray underparts with pinkish spots on the neck. You can find these gems in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico.


McGuire, Jimmy A., Christopher C. Witt, J. V. Remsen Jr, Ammon Corl, Daniel L. Rabosky, Douglas L. Altshuler, and Robert Dudley. “Molecular phylogenetics and the diversification of hummingbirds.” Current Biology 24, no. 8 (2014): 910-916.

The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World Vol. 1: Non-passerines (4th ed.) Eastbourne, UK: published by Aves Press – updated by Edward Dickinson and James Van Remsen, Jr.

Gill, F., D. Donsker, and P. Rasmussen. “IOC world bird list (v10. 1).” IOC World Bird List [consultado el 26 de julio de 2020]. DOI: https://doi. org/10.14344/IOC. ML 10 (2020).

Jimmy A McGuire, Christopher C Witt, Douglas L Altshuler, J V Remsen, Phylogenetic Systematics and Biogeography of Hummingbirds: Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood Analyses of Partitioned Data and Selection of an Appropriate Partitioning Strategy, Systematic Biology, Volume 56, Issue 5, October 2007, Pages 837–856,


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.

Recent Posts