Rufous-breasted Hermit Hummingbird in Nest (Glaucis hirsutus)


June 23, 2012

Rufous-breasted Hermit

Nancy took this image on the last full day of a trip led by Brian Rapoza for the Tropical Audubon Society to Trinidad and Tobago.

This is a fairly large hermit at 4¼ inches long and ¼ ounce. Their strongly-decurved (downward-curved) bill is 1¼ inches long, black on the upper mandible (bill) and yellow on the lower mandible. The bird's upperparts are bronze-green; its underparts are rufous. Its rounded tail, without the elongated central tail feathers common to other hermits, is also rufous, with a black band at the end and small white tips. Females are similar, but duller in plumage, with a few other differences. Juvenile males were once thought to be Black Barbthroats, a seperate no-longer-existent species (Threnetis grzimeki). The barbthroats are a group in the Threnetis genus that still has its controversies today.

Rufous-breasted Hermits breed from Panama south to Bolivia, as well as in Trinidad, Tobago, and Grenada. They inhabit forest undergrowth, commonly near running water. It is more discriminating than most hummingbirds in finding flowers that closely match the shape of its bill, feeding mostly from heliconias. It is therefore speculated that the females, who have slightly shorter, but more curved bills, must feed on different flowers (avoiding competition from males). The female lays two eggs in a small cup nest with a tail on the underside of palms, ferns, or heliconias, three to six feet above the ground (as was this one). Only the female incubates the eggs.

Photographic details: Canon EOS 7D camera w/ EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens set at 400mm. Off-camera flash was used. Camera was on f/6.7 for 1/2000 second at ISO 1600.

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