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Exploring the Fascinating World of the Black-Throated Hermit: Plumages Behaviors and Populations

The Black-throated Hermit (Phaethornis atrimentalis) is a tropical bird species found in South America, particularly in the Andes Mountains and Amazon basin. This species is often found in humid forests, gardens, and parks, where they feed on nectar and insects.

In this article, we will delve into the identification of the Black-throated Hermit, including its field identification and similar species. We will also explore their plumages and molts, which play a crucial role in understanding bird biology.

Field Identification:

The Black-throated Hermit can be identified through its distinct physical appearance. They have a black throat and upper breast, with a green back and cinnamon-brown belly.

The crown and sides of their head are also green, and they have a long, black, slightly curved bill. This hummingbird species has a wingspan of about 6 inches and weighs around 6 grams.

These birds fly in a straight pattern with rapid wing beats and are known for their hovering flight. Similar Species:

Due to its unique appearance, the Black-throated Hermit is not commonly confused with other bird species.

However, it is important to note that several other hermit hummingbird species found in South America share similar physical characteristics. The Gray-chinned Hermit (Phaethornis griseogularis) and Little Hermit (Phaethornis longuemareus) often share similar habitats and have similar physical traits such as a long curved beak and green feathers.

However, both of these species have distinctly different plumages from the Black-throated Hermit. Plumages:

Understanding different plumage variations is important in identifying and tracking bird species.

The Black-throated Hermit, like other birds, goes through cycles of molting and changing their plumage throughout their lifetime. Male and female Black-throated Hermits have similar physical characteristics, except for a slight variation in the blackness and brightness of their throats.

During their yearly molting, they will lose old, worn feathers, and grow new ones, often leading to distinct plumage changes. Molts:

Black-throated Hermits follow a complete annual molt, meaning that they replace their feathers all at once.

This process typically occurs after the breeding season in the fall, with the growth of new feathers taking six weeks to two months. During this period, the male Black-throated Hermit loses their central tail feathers, which grow back into long, straight feathers as they attain their breeding plumage.

In conclusion, the Black-throated Hermit is a unique and fascinating bird species found in South America. By understanding their physical characteristics, plumages, and molts, we can better identify and learn about these beautiful creatures that grace the forest and gardens.

We hope this article has helped educate and inspire bird enthusiasts to appreciate these marvelous species’ beauty and significance in our ecosystem. , as the article will focus on providing information rather than a call to action or final summary.

Systematics History:

The Black-throated Hermit (Phaethornis atrimentalis) is a member of the family Trochilidae, commonly known as hummingbirds. First described by John Gould in 1861, this species was originally classified as a member of the genus Trochilus.

However, in 1928, it was transferred to the newly established genus Phaethornis based on morphological characters and vocalizations. Geographic Variation:

The Black-throated Hermit exhibits geographic variation, with different populations of birds exhibiting distinct physical and behavioral characteristics based on their geographic locations.

The variation is mainly due to differences in climate and ecology across their range. Subspecies:

Currently, there are four recognized subspecies of the Black-throated Hermit, with differences in their physical characteristics such as size and coloration.

These subspecies are:

1. P.

a. atrimentalis – Found in southern Colombia, eastern Ecuador, and northeast Peru.

It has a black throat and chest and green upper parts. 2.

P. a.

nigricinctus – Found in western Colombia. It has a narrower black band on the chest compared to the nominal subspecies.

3. P.

a. phaeopygos – Found in the upper Amazon basin.

It has a cinnamon-brown belly. 4.

P. a.

smaragdinicollis – Found in Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, northern Brazil, and Trinidad. It has a more brilliant green plumage overall, with a bluish throat.

Related Species:

The Black-throated Hermit is part of a group of hermit hummingbirds that share similar physical and behavioral characteristics. The genus Phaethornis consists of over 40 species, most of which are found in Central and South America.

The Black-throated Hermit’s closest relative is the Planalto Hermit (Phaethornis pretrei), found in Brazil. These two species are thought to have diverged about 2 million years ago.

Historical Changes to Distribution:

The distribution of the Black-throated Hermit has changed throughout history due to several factors, including climate change, habitat disruption, and anthropogenic activities. During the Pleistocene era, the Andean uplift and climatic fluctuations caused significant changes to the distribution of bird species in South America.

The Black-throated Hermit, like many other bird species, retreated to refugia in lowland forests during glacial periods and then expanded their ranges during interglacial periods. In more recent history, habitat destruction, deforestation, and fragmentation have led to declines and local extinctions of the Black-throated Hermit and other bird species.

Agriculture, mining, and urbanization have also contributed to habitat loss and fragmentation. The Black-throated Hermit is classified as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), but their populations are decreasing due to habitat loss.

In conclusion, the Black-throated Hermit is a unique and significant species of hummingbird found in South America. They exhibit geographic variation, have distinct subspecies, and share characteristics with other hermit hummingbirds.

The distribution of this species has changed throughout history due to several factors, including climate change and anthropogenic activities. Understanding the systematics and distribution history of the Black-throated Hermit is crucial in developing conservation strategies to preserve and protect this species and their habitat.

, as the article will focus on providing information rather than a call to action or final summary. Habitat:

The Black-throated Hermit is commonly found in tropical and subtropical forests throughout its range.

These forests can be primary, secondary, or fragmented, and include montane and lowland rainforests, cloud forests, and gallery forests near rivers and streams. This species requires a diverse mix of habitats within their range, including gaps and edges in the forest, as well as open areas such as gardens and parks where they can forage for food.

Black-throated Hermits are most commonly found in forests with mature trees, and they prefer environments with high humidity levels. The Black-throated Hermit is often found in areas with a high density of flowering plants, where they feed on nectar and insects.

Movements and Migration:

Although the Black-throated Hermit is not known to undertake long-distance migrations, they do exhibit seasonal movements within their range. These movements are believed to be related to changes in the availability of food and water.

During the breeding season, the Black-throated Hermit is most commonly found in more northern regions of its range. During the non-breeding season, they move to more southern regions, where food and water are more readily available.

These movements may also be influenced by changes in environmental factors, such as extreme weather events. Black-throated Hermits are usually found in territories that they will defend from other birds.

Males will frequently vocalize and display their colorful plumage to attract mates and defend their territories. These displays allow for easy identification of individuals and groups, thus enabling researchers to study their behavior.

The movements of Black-throated Hermits are also influenced by habitat degradation and deforestation. As their habitats are destroyed, these birds are forced to move and adapt to new environments, often leading to competition for resources.

It is important to note that Black-throated Hermit movements have limited research. More scientific studies are necessary to understand their movements and how human activities impact the species’ ability to maneuver within their range.


The Black-throated Hermit is threatened by habitat loss and degradation, as well as pollution and climate change. The fragmentation of their habitats and degradation of primary forests reduces their availability of essential food and nesting sites.

Logging, mining, and agriculture are the main threats to this species. Forest fragmentation leads to reduced gene flow, disrupting mating patterns and altering regional genetic variability.

In summary, the Black-throated Hermit is a tropical hummingbird commonly found in forested areas throughout its range. They exhibit seasonal movements whose cause is related to the availability of food and water.

Habitat destruction, deforestation, habitat degradation, and human interference such as logging, mining, and agriculture pose significant threats to Black-throated Hermit populations. Conservation measures, including creating and preserving natural reserves, the intensification of regulation, and sustainable management of forests, are required for the protection of this species.

, as the article will focus on providing information rather than a call to action or final summary. Diet and Foraging:


The Black-throated Hermit is known for its long, curved bill, which is perfectly adapted to extract nectar from flowers and the tree canopy.

The bill’s length allows the Black-throated Hermit to reach deep into the flower and extract nectar while hovering in mid-air. They also feed on various insects, which make up part of their diet.

Their long, extensible tongues and brush-like tips help with the nectar collection. Additionally, they consume fruit flies, mosquitoes, spiders, and other small prey.


The diet of the Black-throated Hermit is primarily made up of nectar, but they do supplement their diet with insects, which they catch in flight. They eat small proportions of insects, which provide additional protein and minerals.

Insects also stimulate their metabolism and play a vital role in regulating their body temperature. Since nectar is a dilute fuel source, this species must feed regularly to sustain its energy demands- they can feed at intervals of as little as quarter-hour.

Black-throated Hermits foraging requires a balanced intake of nectar and protein to support their energetic requirements. Metabolism and Temperature Regulation:

Metabolism is the chemical process that occurs inside the body to create energy from food.

Hummingbirds, including the Black-throated Hermit, have a combination of high metabolism and low body temperature. This mechanism allows them to extract energy from their food rapidly and allows them to burn fuel effectively even when resting.

They are also able to maintain relatively constant body temperatures – an essential aspect of the species’ physiology. The Black-throated Hermit can maintain its body temperature around 38, even when temperatures drop below freezing.

These metabolic and thermoregulatory mechanisms allow the Black-throated Hermit to thrive in a wide range of habitats across their range. Sounds and Vocal Behavior:


The Black-throated Hermit uses a variety of vocalizations to communicate with other members of its species.

Males produce a series of thin, high-pitched “tsip”notes during territorial displays and courtship. These sounds are audible to humans at close range.

Additionally, Black-throated Hermits make a low and hoarse nasally note during flight or perched on the edge of a patch of forest. This sound is heard mostly from the territorial males warning other Black-throated Hermits to stay away from their territory.

Also, short, high-pitched zip notes audible at close range are produced during flight and fighting and resemble cowbells. These notes display an aggressive response and communicate aggression or stress.

In summary, Black-throated Hermit is a species of hummingbird that feeds primarily on nectar and prey, using its long, curved bill to extract nectar from flowers and the tree canopy. They also require a balanced intake of protein to maintain their energetic requirements.

The species’ metabolic mechanism allows them to extract energy from food rapidly, maintain constant body temperature, and perform optimally when resting. Vocalizations play an essential role in communication; Black-throated Hermit males demonstrate aggressive behavior with production of high-pitched zip notes during flight, while warning other males to keep off their territories with low, hoarse, nasally notes.

Knowing more about their vocalizations behavior and nutritional balance helps researchers study, protect, and preserve the species. , as the article will focus on providing information rather than a call to action or final summary.



The Black-throated Hermit primarily moves through the forest by flying, with rapid wingbeats producing a loud humming sound. They can also hover mid-air, which allows them to extract nectar from flowers.

This species has been observed running along the branches of trees, and they are also capable of walking and climbing if necessary. Self Maintenance:

Like many bird species, the Black-throated Hermit spends a significant amount of time preening and bathing to maintain its feathers.

They use their bills to smooth and arrange the feathers, while bathing is necessary to remove parasites and keep body temperature within normal ranges. Agonistic Behavior:

Black-throated Hermits defend their territories aggressively against other birds.

Males will engage in threatening displays, vocalizations, and even physical aggression to protect their territories from intruders. They will dive-bomb intruders, chase them using quick flight maneuvers, and use their bills as weapons in close combat.

Sexual Behavior:

During breeding season, male Black-throated Hermits establish territories in highly-sought-after areas with large populations of nectar-rich flowers. The males vigorously defend their territories while performing elaborate courtship displays using their long tail feathers.

They display their colorful feathers and vocalize to attract females. A successful courting male will mate with multiple females, while females may mate with multiple males, resulting in a high degree of genetic variability in their populations.


Black-throated Hermit breeding season begins in April or May, reaching its climax in September and October. They typically lay two eggs and incubate them for about 15-20 days.

After hatching, nestlings are fed by both parents, primarily with nectar until they can tolerate harder prey food. After fledgling, young birds rely on their parents for nutrition, protection, and guidance for a short period until they become independent.

Demography and Populations:

The Black-throated Hermit populations have been impacted by habitat loss and fragmentation, which ultimately results in population declines. Fragmented populations are characterized by reduced connectivity, compromised genetic flow, and decreased population sizes.

As a consequence, mate choice and kin selection abilities get hindered, leading to reduced genetic variation and, at times, inbreeding. This highly specialized and limited range species also faces a decline in food resources due to changes in climate patterns and forest harvesting activities.

The Black-throated Hermit is not currently considered threatened. However, due to habitat loss, it could become vulnerable in the years to come.

Conservation measures are required to safeguard the survival of the species. Efforts such as reforestation and strict habitat conservation laws are critical steps to ensure the Black-throated Hermit’s continued existence in the wild.

In conclusion, the Black-throated Hermit is a bird species famous for its agile flying, territorial, and sexual behavior, which range from aggressive fights to elaborate courtship displays. Aside from the behaviors, they have, like all birds, a life cycle which includes preening and bathing to maintain their feathers, caring for eggs, and feeding their young.

The species populations have been impacted by habitat loss, fragmentation, and changes in food resources. The preservation of critical habitats is, therefore, vital to ensure the survival of the species.

The Black-throated Hermit is a unique and fascinating bird species found in South America. We have explored its identification, plumages, molts, systematics history, geographic variation, habitat, movements, sounds and vocal behavior, breeding, behavior, demography, and populations.

The Black-throated Hermit’s long, curved bill is perfectly adapted to extract nectar from flowers and catch small insects while hovering mid-air. They exhibit seasonal movements, courtship displays, and territory defense.

Additionally, anthropogenic activities’ impacts, such as habitat loss and fragmentation, alteration of food sources, and climatic variations have prompted drastic declines in the species’ populations. The conservation of these species is essential to protect biodiversity, conserve ecological functionality and magnify ecosystem services.

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