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A photo of a Long-billed Hermit (Phaethornis longirostris)
Long-billed Hermit

Long-billed Hermit

Phaethornis longirostris

The Long-billed Hermit, Phaethornis longirostris, is a member of the hummingbird family, Trochilidae. This avian jewel is adorned with greenish-brown upperparts and a spectrum of brownish to grayish hues on the underparts. The central tail feathers are notably elongated, tipped with white, and the bird's bill is distinctively long and decurved, with the female's bill being slightly shorter and more curved than the male's.

Identification Tips

To identify the Long-billed Hermit, look for its characteristic long, decurved bill and the unique pattern of dark and light ochre bands on its uppertail coverts. The males, weighing between 5 to 7.5 grams, are slightly heavier than the females, who tip the scales at 4 to 6.5 grams. The subspecies vary slightly in coloration, with some showing more ochraceous underparts or duller green upperparts.

Habitat

The Long-billed Hermit thrives in the understory and edges of various landscapes, including rainforests, tall secondary forests, humid semi-deciduous forests, cloudforests, and gallery forests. It is an adaptable species, found from sea level up to 2,500 meters in northern Colombia, demonstrating a broad altitudinal range.

Distribution

This species is distributed from central Mexico, through Central America, and into South America, reaching as far south as Peru. It is divided into four subspecies, each with its own geographic range, from Mexico's Oaxaca and Chiapas states to Peru's Tumbes and Piura departments.

Behaviour

The Long-billed Hermit is known for its "trap-line" feeding behavior, visiting a circuit of flowering plants for nectar. It also consumes small arthropods. While not known for large-scale movements, it may wander short distances.

Song & calls

The vocalizations of the Long-billed Hermit include a series of piercing, upslurred 'sweeup' notes for the northern subspecies, while the song of P. l. baroni consists of continuous chipping notes. Calls are typically sharp and explosive, often given in flight.

Breeding

Breeding seasons vary by location, with nests being cone-shaped cups suspended from leaves. Clutch size is two eggs, with an incubation period of 17 to 18 days and fledging occurring 22 to 23 days post-hatch. Males engage in communal lek singing and tail-wiggling displays to attract females.

Similar Species

The Long-billed Hermit was once considered conspecific with the Long-tailed Hermit, P. superciliosus, but they have since been split into separate species.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists primarily of nectar from a variety of flowering plants, including Heliconia, Costus, Aphelandra, and Passiflora, supplemented by small arthropods.

Conservation status

The IUCN classifies the Long-billed Hermit as Least Concern, with population sizes and trends currently unknown. Some subspecies, such as P. l. susurrus, have small ranges that could pose risks, while others are fairly common and occur in protected areas.

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