18 Dec 2012

Rufous-breaster Hermit (Glaucis Hirsutus)

Conservation & Education News, Creature Feature, News of Asa Wright, Tropical Nature News


Photo by M.K. Ravishanka


The Rufous-breasted Hermit is found from Panama to the north of South America as well as Trinidad, Tobago and Grenada. Trinidad and Tobago can boast of three hermits and in terms of size, the Rufous-breasted runs exactly in the middle of the pack. It is about 11 cm long with a curved bill that is about one third of its body length.

To identify this hermit one must look for the rufous underparts and the rounded, white-tipped tail. Thelong,pointedwhite-tippedtailwhichis characteristic of larger Green Hermit is markedly missinginthisspecies. Thegreenfeathersonthe upperparts of the Rufous-breasted Hermit have a bronze overtone.

The only Hermit found on Tobago, the Rufous- breasted is known to curiously observe onlookers as close as a few feet away. It favours the understorey where it regularly drinks nectar from Heliconia and Etlingera elatior (Torch Ginger). Nests, which are hammock-like and made of rootlets, are normally attached to the underside of Heliconia leaves, small palm fronds or ferns. These nests are commonly placed alongside streams, roadsides, forest borders and overgrown coffee and cocoa plantations. Males aggressively defend the nests. Also called the Hairy Hermit, this small avian also eats small insects and spiders.

This seldom-heard hummingbird can nest up to four times in one season. In Trinidad, breeding has been recorded from December to August but nesting success is low, about 0.17 %, according to Richard Ffrench. Snakes are major predators of these birds.

Currently, the Rufous-breasted Hermit can be seen at Asa Wright Nature Centre either along the trails or at our verandah feeders.

– J.L. Ryan


  • Hilty, Steven L. Birds of Venezuela. 2003.
  • ffrench, Richard. Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. 1991
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