Hummingbird Taxonomy of the Trochilidae Tribe Lesbiini

Green thorntail, Discosura conversii
The subfamily Lesbiinae contains two tribes: Lesbiini and Heliantheini. The Lesbiini tribe has 18 genera and a total of 67 species. This species of hummingbirds are commonly referred to as the "coquettes" as the largest group in the Lesbiini tribe all have the word "coquette" in their name. 

Naturalist Ludwig Reichenbach introduced this tribe in 1854. The species of hummingbirds in this tribe are also called “coquettes.” It was named so because the largest group in the Lesbiini tribe (Lophornis) has the most “coquettes.”

Cladogram – relationships between hummingbird groups

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

image 4

Lesbiini Tribe Species Characteristics

GenusLiving species
AglaeactisShining sunbeam (Aglaeactis cupripennis)
White-tufted sunbeam (Aglaeactis castelnaudii)
Purple-backed sunbeam (Aglaeactis aliciae)
Black-hooded sunbeam (Aglaeactis pamela)
BoissonneauaBuff-tailed coronet (Boissonneaua flavescens)
Chestnut-breasted coronet (Boissonneaua matthewsii)
Velvet-purple coronet (Boissonneaua jardini)
CoeligenaBronzy inca (Coeligena coeligena)
Brown inca (Coeligena wilsoni)
Black inca (Coeligena prunellei)
Collared inca (Coeligena torquata)
Violet-throated starfrontlet (Coeligena violifer)
Rainbow starfrontlet (Coeligena iris)
White-tailed starfrontlet (Coeligena phalerata)
Dusky starfrontlet (Coeligena orina)
Buff-winged starfrontlet (Coeligena lutetiae)
Golden-bellied starfrontlet (Coeligena bonapartei)
Blue-throated starfrontlet (Coeligena helianthea)
EnsiferaSword-billed hummingbird (Ensifera ensifera)
EriocnemisBlack-breasted puffleg (Eriocnemis nigrivestis)
Gorgeted puffleg (Eriocnemis isabellae)
Glowing puffleg (Eriocnemis vestita)
Black-thighed puffleg (Eriocnemis derbyi)
Turquoise-throated puffleg (Eriocnemis godini)
Coppery-bellied puffleg (Eriocnemis cupreoventris)
Sapphire-vented puffleg (Eriocnemis luciani)
Golden-breasted puffleg (Eriocnemis mosquera)
Blue-capped puffleg (Eriocnemis glaucopoides)
Colorful puffleg (Eriocnemis mirabilis)
Emerald-bellied puffleg (Eriocnemis aline)
HaplophaediaGreenish puffleg (Haplophaedia aureliae)
Buff-thighed puffleg (Haplophaedia assimilis)
Hoary puffleg (Haplophaedia lugens)
HeliodoxaVelvet-browed brilliant (Heliodoxa xanthogonys)
Pink-throated brilliant (Heliodoxa gularis)
Rufous-webbed brilliant (Heliodoxa branickii)
Black-throated brilliant (Heliodoxa schreibersii)
Gould’s jewelfront (Heliodoxa aurescens)
Fawn-breasted brilliant (Heliodoxa rubinoides)
Green-crowned brilliant (Heliodoxa jacula)
Empress brilliant (Heliodoxa imperatrix)
Violet-fronted brilliant (Heliodoxa leadbeateri)
Brazilian ruby (Heliodoxa rubricauda)
LafresnayaMountain velvetbreast (Lafresnaya lafresnayi)
LoddigesiaMarvelous spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis)
OcreatusWhite-booted racket-tail (Ocreatus underwoodii)
Peruvian racket-tail (Ocreatus peruanus)
Rufous-booted racket-tail (Ocreatus addae)
PterophanesGreat sapphirewing (Pterophanes cyanopterus)
UrochroaRufous-gaped hillstar (Urochroa bougueri)
Green-backed hillstar (Urochroa leucura)
UrostictePurple-bibbed whitetip (Urosticte benjamini)
Rufous-vented whitetip (Urosticte ruficrissa)


This group of hummingbirds are commonly called “sunangels” and are found on montane habitats – which are the sides and elevations of mountainous terrain. This specific genus contains nine sub-species all with the word “sunangel” in their names. The origin of the name stems from the Greek “helios” which stands for light, and the Greek “angelos” which means angels.

Amethyst-throated sunangel hummingbird
Amethyst-throated sunangel hummingbird

The Amethyst-throated sunangel (Heliangelus amethysticollis) ranges in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. Males have purple gorgets and buffy-white bands across the top chest. Females have a buffy gorget that can have a purple patch.

Flame-throated sunangel, Heliangelus micrastur – Peru and Ecuador. They have a black bill, metallic green backs and lower breasts, gray bellies, and pale or white vents.

Gorgeted sunangel, Heliangelus strophianus – Colombia and Ecuador. They typically have iridescent pink-purple gorgets, s straight bill, and a white chest band that stands out.

Longuemare’s sunangel, Heliangelus clarisse – Colombia and Venezuela

Merida sunangel, Heliangelus spencei, is a Venezuelan native with a black bill, green upper parts, a green crown, and a light blue spot above the bill.

Orange-throated sunangel, Heliangelus mavors – Venezuela and Colombia. Males have green feathers mostly and are buff and green below and green-spotted below with an orange gorget. Females have a green-spotted buffy neck.

Purple-throated sunangel hummingbird
Purple-throated sunangel hummingbird

The purple-throated sunangel (Heliangelus viola) inhabits shrubs and forest edges in Peru and Ecuador. These hummingbirds have emerald green plumage, straight bill, purple gorget, and a blue forecrown. Females look duller.

Royal sunangel, Heliangelus regalis – Ecuador and Peru. Males have a deep blue plumage and long tails. Females have green plumage, a blue tail, buffy or white collars, necks, and underparts.

Tourmaline sunangel, Heliangelus exortis – Colombia and Ecuador. Their plumage is dark, and the bills are straight. Males have purple neck patches and blueish-green forecrown, white undertail coverts. Females have a white neck


  • Also called fire crowns.
  • Distribution:
Green-backed firecrown hummingbird
Green-backed firecrown hummingbird

Green-backed firecrown, Sephanoides sephaniodes – Chile, Argentina, Juan Fernández Islands. They have straight bills, dark green plumage, a white patch below the eye, shaggy forehead. Females have green crowns. The picture above shows the hummingbird raising its’ crown feathers.

Juan Fernández firecrown, Sephanoides fernandensis – native in Isla Róbinson Crusoe in Chile. Males have a mostly orange plumage all-around and an iridescent firecrown. Females have green upper parts, light bellies with blue and green spots, a blue crown, and white tail sides.


  • The word comes from the Ancient Greek diskos, which means “plate,” and oura, which means “tail.”
  • Distribution:

Black-bellied thorntail, Discosura langsdorffi – mature rainforests in Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela. Males have iridescent green plumage, a shite rump band, long tails, and a black belly. Females have dull plumage and short tails.

Green thorntail hummingbird
Green thorntail hummingbird

Green thorntail, Discosura conversii – gardens and forests in Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador. They have a short bill and white band on the rump. Males have iridescent green plumage and elongated tail feathers. Females have a white mustache and short tails.

Letitia’s thorntail, Discosura letitiae – only seen in Bolivia

Racket-tailed coquette, Discosura longicauda – endemic to northern South America in rainforests and around rivers. They have a buffy rump band. Males are usually small and have green plumage, white bellies, and elongated tail feathers. Females have green upperparts, white underparts, and green speckles on the throat.

Wire-crested thorntail, Discosura popelairii – Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia & Peru. Loves higher elevations and shrubs. Males have long tails, a small straight beak, a wirelike crest, and a wide band through the rump. Females have a white mustache and a white band on the rump.


The word comes from the Ancient Greek lophos, meaning “crest,” and ornis meaning “bird.” Most species are tiny birds (most under 7.5 cm and 3 grams) that stand out through their incredibly colorful crests.

Species characteristics:

Black-crested coquette, Lophornis helenae – Costa Rica, Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Honduras.

Butterfly coquette, Lophornis verreauxii – Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela.

Dot-eared coquette, Lophornis gouldii – Bolivia and Brazil

Festive coquette, Lophornis chalybeus – Brazil native

Frilled coquette, Lophornis magnificus – Brazil native

Peacock coquette, Lophornis pavoninus – Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana.

Rufous-crested coquette, Lophornis delattrei – Pacific South America (Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama) 

Short-crested coquette, Lophornis brachylophus – Mexico native

Spangled coquette, Lophornis stictolophus – Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru 

Tufted coquette, Lophornis ornatus – breeding grounds in the east of Venezuela, Guiana, northern Brazil, and Trinidad

White-crested coquette, Lophornis adorabilis – Costa Rica and Panama


  • also called piedtails
  • Species characteristics:

Ecuadorian piedtail, Phlogophilus hemileucurus – Colombia, Peru and Ecuador

Peruvian piedtail, Phlogophilus harterti – Peru native


Speckled hummingbird, Adelomyia melanogenys

  • monomorphic species
  • Habitat and distribution: mountains of Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, and Venezuela; montane forest in western Ecuador and Venezuela



Long-tailed sylph, Aglaiocercus kingii – Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela

Venezuelan sylph, Aglaiocercus berlepschi – endangered species in northeastern Venezuela

Violet-tailed sylph, Aglaiocercus coelestis – Colombia and Ecuador


Red-tailed comet, Sappho sparganurus

  • a generally larger hummingbird – 15-22 cm
  • Habitat and distribution: scrubs and woodlands in Chile, Peru, and the central Andes of Bolivia and Argentina


Bronze-tailed comet, Polyonymus caroli

Habitat and distribution: Peru native that loves montane scrublands and woods.


Grey-bellied comet, Taphrolesbia griseiventris

  • Endangered species – habitat loss due to agricultural practices
  • Habitat and distribution: a species that loves tropical and subtropical shrublands and rural gardens in Peru.


  • Also called hillstars
  • typical habitats include scrubs, grasslands, and woodlands
  • Distribution:

Andean hillstar, Oreotrochilus estella – Bolivia, Argentina, Peru, and Chile.

Black-breasted hillstar, Oreotrochilus melanogaster – Peru native

Blue-throated hillstar, Oreotrochilus cyanolaemus – Andes of Ecuador

Ecuadorian hillstar, Oreotrochilus chimborazo – the Andes of Ecuador and southern Colombia.

Green-headed hillstar, Oreotrochilus stolzmanni – the Andes of southern Ecuador and Peru

Wedge-tailed hillstar, Oreotrochilus Adela – Argentina and Bolivia

White-sided hillstar, Oreotrochilus leucopleurus – Argentina, Chile and Bolivia


Mountain avocetbill, Opisthoprora euryptera

Habitat and distribution: humid montane forests and elfin forests in Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador


  • Also known as trainbearers
  • Distribution: tropical South America

Black-tailed trainbearer, Lesbia victoriae – high elevations in Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador

Green-tailed trainbearer, Lesbia Nuna – Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela.



Black-backed thornbill, Ramphomicron dorsale – Colombia native (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta); endangered species

Purple-backed thornbill, Ramphomicron microrhynchum – Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela.


  • The word comes from the Ancient Greek khalkos, which means bronze, and stigme, which means mark
  • Distribution:

Blue-mantled thornbill, Chalcostigma stanleyi – Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador

Bronze-tailed thornbill, Chalcostigma heteropogon – Colombia and Venezuela

Olivaceous thornbill, Chalcostigma olivaceum – Bolivia and Peru

Rainbow-bearded thornbill, Chalcostigma herrani – Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador

Rufous-capped thornbill, Chalcostigma ruficeps – Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador


  • also called bearded helmetcrests
  • oxus means “sharp” and pōgōn means “beard” in Ancient Greek
  • Distribution:

Blue-bearded helmetcrest, Oxypogon cyanolaemus – Colombia native (Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta)

Buffy helmetcrest, Oxypogon stuebelii – Colombia native

Green-bearded helmetcrest, Oxypogon guerinii – Colombia native

White-bearded helmetcrest, Oxypogon lindenii – northwestern Venezuela native


Bearded mountaineer, Oreonympha nobilis

Habitat and distribution – Peru native loves dry valleys, scrubs, woodlands, plantations, and urban areas.


  • Also called metaltails
  • Distribution:

Black metaltail, Metallura phoebe – Peru native

Coppery metaltail, Metallura theresiae – Peru native

Fiery-throated metaltail, Metallura eupogon – Peru native

Neblina metaltail, Metallura odomae – Ecuador and Peru

Perija metaltail, Metallura iracunda – Colombia and Venezuela

Scaled metaltail, Metallura aeneocauda – Bolivia and Peru

Tyrian metaltail, Metallura tyrianthina – Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela

Violet-throated metaltail, Metallura baroni – Ecuador native

Viridian metaltail, Metallura williami – Colombia and Ecuador


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.

Howard & Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. Vol. 1: Non-passerines (4th ed.). Eastbourne, UK: Aves Press. ISBN 978-0-9568611-0-8 .


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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