The Grey-chinned Hermit (Phaethornis griseogularis) is a small hummingbird found in Central and South America. With an average body length of 11-12 cm and weight of 5-8 grams, it is a relatively petite member of the hermit hummingbird group. This species gets its name from the distinctive grey feathering on the chin and throat area of adult males. Females and juveniles lack this chin coloring and instead have white throats with variable amounts of dusky streaking.
The Grey-chinned Hermit has a primarily green plumage on its back and head, with the crown being slightly darker or more blue-tinged. The undertail coverts are white and the tail itself is forked and edged with rufous coloring. The bill of this species is decidedly long and decurved to match its role as a specialized nectar feeder. Hermit hummingbirds in general have adapted to access flowers with deep corollas that cannot be reached by shorter-billed species.
This species is found in a wide range of humid forest habitats from sea level up to 1200 m elevation. Their breeding range extends from southeastern Mexico south through Central America into the Chocó region of Colombia and Ecuador. Outside of breeding season, Grey-chinned Hermits may wander more widely into the Amazon basin. They tend to prefer primary or secondary wet forests, forest edges, and plantations with sufficient flowers.
As with most hummingbird species, the Grey-chinned Hermit feeds mainly on nectar from flowering plants. Some favorite food sources include Heliconia, Inga, Erythrina, and Bombax species, as well as banana and palm flowers. While feeding, these birds use their specialized long tongues to lap up nectar while hovering in front of the bloom. They also consume small insects for protein.
One of the most interesting behaviors of the Grey-chinned Hermit is its traplining foraging style. Individual birds will establish regular routes among favorite patches of flowers, revisiting them regularly throughout the day. They fiercely defend these nectar resource circuits from other hummingbirds. This traplining behavior means Grey-chinned Hermits play an important role as pollinators for many plant species across their habitat range.
The breeding season for this species depends on geographic location but generally aligns with peak flower availability from March-June. Males establish small territories centered around one or more favored nectar plants and sing from perches to attract females. The nest is a compact cup structure constructed from plant down, fibers, and spider webs on a low horizontal branch or tree fern. The female alone builds the nest in about 10 days and then incubates the two small white eggs for 15-19 days. She cares for the chicks as well until they fledge at around 22-26 days old.
Threats to the Grey-chinned Hermit include habitat loss from logging and conversion to agriculture across its range. The species also faces pressure from the pet trade, as its small size and vibrant colors make it a target for capture and export. However, its wide distribution means it is not currently at imminent risk. Maintaining connectivity of suitable forest habitat will be key to the long-term outlook for Grey-chinned Hermit populations.
In summary, the Grey-chinned Hermit is a charismatic and ecologically important neotropical hummingbird species. Their traplining behavior and adaption for feeding on long tubular flowers make them a unique part of hummingbird biodiversity. While not globally threatened, maintaining healthy populations of this species relies on conservation of forest ecosystems across Central and South America. With appropriate habitat, the Grey-chinned Hermit will continue charming bird lovers and performing its valuable ecological roles across its range.