Long-tailed Hermit


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The Long-tailed Hermit (Phaethornis superciliosus) is a large hummingbird that is a resident breeder in Venezuela, theGuianas, and northern Brazil. This species is currently (2006) known as the Eastern Long-tailed Hermit, but it is likely, following recommendations from Gary Stiles in February 2006, [1] that the new name will be officially adopted.

The taxonomic history of this group is complicated, with similar hermit populations from both sides of the Andes being originally classed as a single Long-tailed Hermit species. The western population was then split as the Western Long-tailed Hermit, P. longirostris, leading to the renaming of P. superciliosus as Eastern Long-tailed Hermit. The further renaming of P. longirostris as Long-billed Hermit means that P. superciliosus no longer needs “eastern” in its Englishname.

A further problem is the potential separation of the paler, greyer, and slightly smaller southern subspecies P. l. baroni as Baron’s Hermit, P. baroni, although the opposition of Stiles makes that split unlikely to be formally accepted unless confirmed by further research[2].

The Long-tailed Hermit inhabits forest undergrowth, usually near water and its preferred food plants. It is 13.5 cm long and weighs 4-6 g. The bill is very long and decurved (3.6-4.3 cm), with a red tipped black lower mandible, and the central feathers of the tapered tail are long (6.3-6.8 cm) and white-tipped.

The adult Long-tailed Hermit is mainly dull brownish green above with a buff rump. It has a dark mask through the eye, bordered above and below with buff stripes. The underparts are greyish buff in colour. The sexes are similar, although the female is slightly smaller.

During the breeding season, male Long-tailed Hermits sing in communal leks of up to several dozen birds, and also wiggle their long tails in display. Competitive lek singing can occupy half of the daylight hours, the purpose of course being to attract females. The female selects the best lek singer to mate with. The song consists of sharp of tsuk sounds.

The female Long-tailed Hermit is solely responsible for nest construction, incubation and feeding the young. She lays two white eggs in a conical nest of fibres and cobwebs suspended under a large Heliconia or banana leaf.

The food of this species is nectar, taken from large flowers, such as Heliconias, gingers and passion flowers, and small insects and spiders taken as an essential source of protein. Hatchlings are fed by the female with regurgitated invertebrates.

Long-tailed Hermits are trap-line feeders; they do not defend territory, but visit seasonal flowers on routes through the forest up to I km long.

Long-tailed Hermit
Conservation status:Least concern
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Apodiformes
Family: Trochilidae
Genus: Phaethornis
Species: P. superciliosus
Binomial name 
Phaethornis superciliosus
(Linnaeus, 1766)

External links

  1.  Proposal (#205) to South American Classification Committee. Retrieved on 200603-11.
  2.  Proposal (#136) to South American Classification Committee. Retrieved on 200603-11.


bullet BirdLife International (2004). Phaethornis superciliosus. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 08 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern

bullet Hilty, Birds of Venezuela, ISBN 0-7136-6418-5

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