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Little Hermit Phaethornis longuemareus

Lihn Huynh
Version: 1.0 — Published December 12, 2014


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Little Hermit forages in the understory, mainly within 2 m of the ground (ffrench 1991). Rarely sallies for arthropods, but instead captures arthropods from leaves and twigs in hovering flight (Snow and Snow 1972).


During the breeding season, lekking males perch and defend their territories by singing and displaying. Males may occupy singing perches that are as close as 6.5 m from their nearest neighbor. Leks are maintained at the same location across years, and individual song perches also are occupied for a minimum of three successive years, presumably by the same individual males (Snow 1968).

Sexual Behavior

Male Little Hermits sing and display at leks, of ca 20 individuals, in dense undergrowth (Snow 1968, Wiley 1971). On Trinidad, leks are occupied from November or early December until July (Snow 1968). Songs are given from a regularly occupied perch on a slender (1.5-4 mm diameter), roughly horizontal twig near the ground (mean height 33.3 cm, n = 19; Wiley 1971). At the leks songs are given at a very high rate and persistently; one individual sang at a rate of 1 song/2 seconds, for a total of ca 12,000 songs in a single day (Snow 1968). The white-tipped tail is wagged constantly while singing .

Male Little Hermits also have some displays, which usually are given at the end of a bout of singing. In one such display, the male, in flight, "holds the body horizontally with the neck stretched upwards, the tail pointing up, and the feet usually hanging down. The breast feathers may be fluffed out. In this boat-like posture the bird may move slowly for a few inches, then turn rapidly and move back the other way, and so on. This is often followed by one or more very rapid flicks downward towards the perch, each flick being accompanied by a soft tock after which the bird usually flies off. Whether the tock is vocal or mechanical, I cannot say" (Snow 1968).

Little Hermit presumably is polygynous, as are most if not all species of hummingbirds (Schuchmann 1999: 509).

Social and interspecific behavior

Solitary when foraging; otherwise, males sing and display communally in leks (see Sexual Behavior).


No reports of predation on Little Hermit?

Recommended Citation

Huynh, L. (2014). Little Hermit (Phaethornis longuemareus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.lither2.01