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Reddish Hermit

Phaethornis ruber

The Reddish Hermit, Phaethornis ruber, is a diminutive hummingbird species, a mere 8 to 9 cm in length, and weighing between 1.8 to 3 grams. Its plumage is a blend of dark green and rufous on the upperparts, with a cinnamon rufous hue gracing the underparts. The males are distinguished by a black band across the chest and tail feathers tipped with narrow white or reddish margins. Females, on the other hand, exhibit lighter underparts compared to their male counterparts.

Identification Tips

To identify the Reddish Hermit, look for its small size and the characteristic coloration of its plumage. The male's black chest band and the white or reddish tips on the tail feathers are key features. The subspecies vary slightly in size and coloration, with some exhibiting orange-rufous underparts and others a richer rufous or a whitish chin.

Habitat

This species thrives in the understory of humid forests and edges, often venturing into secondary growth and gardens. It is adept at navigating the dense vegetation where it feeds.

Distribution

The Reddish Hermit's range extends across several South American countries, including Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, and the Guianas. Its distribution is divided among four recognized subspecies, each occupying a distinct geographical area.

Behaviour

The Reddish Hermit is a sedentary bird, meaning it does not typically migrate. It is known for its "trap-line" feeding behavior, visiting a regular circuit of flowers to sip nectar. Additionally, it supplements its diet with small arthropods.

Song & Calls

The song of the Reddish Hermit is a high-pitched series of notes, often delivered in a repetitive, incessant manner. It sings at leks for extended periods and is also known for its "long whining calls" while hovering and a sharp "stip!" call in flight.

Breeding

Breeding seasons vary across the Reddish Hermit's range, generally occurring from May to October in the north and from October to February in the south. The female constructs a cone-shaped cup nest under a drooping leaf, using plant fibers, mosses, lichens, and spider webs. She lays two eggs and incubates them without the assistance of the male.

Similar Species

The Reddish Hermit may be confused with other hermit hummingbirds, but its size, coloration, and distribution can help distinguish it. The White-browed Hermit (P. stuarti) has been considered conspecific in the past.

Diet and Feeding

The Reddish Hermit's diet consists primarily of nectar, which it obtains through a "trap-line" foraging strategy, visiting a variety of flowering plants. It also engages in nectar robbing and consumes small arthropods to meet its nutritional needs.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the Reddish Hermit as Least Concern. Despite an unknown population size and a suspected decline, the species benefits from a very large range and occurrence in several protected areas, where it is considered locally common to abundant.

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