Phaethornis superciliosuseastern long-tailed hermit(Also: long-tailed hermit)

Geographic Range

The Long-Tailed Hermit Hummingbird Phaethornis superciliosus, like all other hummingbirds is a new world species. It ranges from the Tropic of Cancer (23 degrees latitude) south to the Equator in South America (McDade 1992)


Long-Tailed Hermits can be found in lowland edges of tropical forests, especially streamside. Hermits are commonly observed in shady areas of tropical growth. They are concentrated in a warm, moist habitat where favorite food plants are abundantly found (Skutch 1973).

Physical Description

The Long-Tailed Hermit weighs between 3.5-6.6 grams (0.1-0.2 oz). The average adult size is 15 cm (6 inches) long. It has two distinctive physical characteristics, a long curved bill measuring about 34-37 mm (1.3-1.5 in), and long tail measuring approximatly 63-68 mm (2.4-2.6 in) in length. The feathers blend from a dark bronzy-brown head, to a white tipped tail. Long-Tailed Hermits are monomorphic, but the female has a smaller wing span and weighs less than the male. The young are identified by gray feathers at the base of the neck and on their back (Johnsgard, 1997).

  • Range mass
    3.5 to 6.6 g
    0.12 to 0.23 oz


The Long-Tailed Hermit breeds during the wet season, January through August. The blooming seasons of certain passion flowers peak during these months, establishing an abundant food supply. The materials used to construct the nest are cobwebs, plant fibers and saliva from the hummingbird. The cone-shaped nests are securely fastened to the underside of palm leaves. The palm leaf forms an inner wall and is used to protect the nest from rain. The clutch consists of two white elongated eggs which have a 14-19 day incubation period. During incubation the female hermit infrequently leaves her nest for nourishment before returning. The female feeds her young by regurgitating food, which are insects because they provide the young with protein. The young's fledging periods vary from 18 to 28 days. Females are unaided by males while constructing the nest, incubating the eggs and weaning the young (Skutch 1973, Johnsgard 1997).


During the breeding season, male Long-Tailed Hermits sing in groups of up to 25 hummingbirds, called leks. Competitive lek singing can occupy half of the daylight hours, and the purpose is to attract females. The female selects the best lek singer to mate with. Lek singing consists of high pitched squeaky sounds of "chink, churr and shree." Long-Tailed Hermits are described as trap-line feeders, meaning they do not defend territory as they follow seasonal flowers. (Gill 1988).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The Long-Tailed Hermit feeds by hovering over a flower while extracting nectar from within the corolla using its long curved beak and specialized tongue. Long-Tailed Hermits' primary food source is sugar-rich nectar from Heliconia, Aphelandra, passion flowers (Costus laevis) and the Red Passion Flower (Passiflora vitifolia). These flowers range in color from yellow, orange, red, and pink. There is a seasonal switch to insects when flowers become scarce or more protein is needed in the diet. Long-Tailed Hermits consume amounts of nectar that are equivalent to eating their own body weight. Hermits use much of their energy throughout the day. During the night hermits enter a state of torpor (voluntarily lowering their body temperature) so they are able to conserve energy.(Gill, 1988).

Conservation Status

Other Comments

Leks, during breeding season, are a tourist attraction throughout South America.

Long-Tailed Hermits are pollinators of Aphelandra and Costus laevis species. These flowers have corollas that the Long-Tailed Hermit is able to use its slender, curved beak to feed and to carry pollen from one plant to another. Since these hummingbirds do not dominate any food plants they are in competition with aggressive bees for nectar (Johnsgard, 1997).


Brandi Capuchino (author), Fresno City College, Carl Johansson (editor), Fresno City College.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate


uses sight to communicate


Gill, F. 1988. Trapline Foraging by Hermit Hummingbirds. Ecology, 69: 1933-1942.

Ingels, J. 1997. "Bird Index" (On-line). Accessed February 17, 2001 at

Johnsgard, P. 1997. The Hummingbirds of North America. Washington D.C: Smithsonian Institution Press.

McDade, L. 1992. Pollinator Relationships, Biogeography, and Phylogenetics. Bioscience, 42: 21-26.

Skutch, A. 1973. The Life of a Humminbird. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc..