The Hairy Hermit: Habitat, Curiosities and Reproduction

This hummingbird is not as brightly colored as other species, but it is not lacking in beauty and peculiarities that make it truly special.
The Hairy Hermit: Habitat, Curiosities and Reproduction
Sara González Juárez

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sara González Juárez.

Last update: 20 March, 2023

In this article, we’re going to talk about the hairy hermit, or rufous-breasted hermit, a beautiful pollinating hummingbird that is very important for its ecosystems.

Although they may all look similar, the truth is that hummingbirds have considerable differences. Let’s delve a little deeper into this little bird, so don’t miss anything below.


Hairy hermit hummingbird.
Glaucis hirsutus.

The hairy hermit (Glaucis hirsutus), also known as the rufous-breasted hermit, belongs to the Trochilidae family (like all hummingbirds) and the genus Glaucis. It’s from the latter that the name hermit comes from, and there are only 3 species in the genus.

  • Hook-billed hermit (Glaucis dohrnii).
  • Rufous-breasted hermit (Glaucis hirsutus).
  • Bronzy hermit (Glaucis aenea).

In turn, within the species we’re concerned with, there are 2 subspecies, the Glaucis hirsuta hirsuta and the Glaucis hirsuta hirsuta insularum.

Physical characteristics

For a hummingbird, this bird is relatively large, measuring 9.8 centimeters (4 inches) in length and weighing 4.8 grams. Its most striking feature is its bronze-colored plumage, which has greenish tones running from the eye to the tail.

It has a long, curved beak, with a black tip. Its tongue, as is usual in hummingbirds, is quite long, almost twice as long as the bill (which measures more than 3 centimeters – 1.2 inches), to reach the bottom of the flowers on which it feeds.

The differences between sexes are minimal, but noticeable. Males have a yellow spot on the upper part of the beak, while females show a duller plumage than males. In addition, the female’s bill is slightly shorter and visibly more curved.

Habitat of the hairy hermit

It is possible to see these hummingbirds in wet and dry forests, wooded savannas, scrublands, and tropical and subtropical areas. As you can see, the variety of their habitats is high, but an area with dense vegetation and an abundance of flowers is always required for them to feed.

The distribution of the hairy hermit is wide, but fragmented into small populations. That’s why it can be found in a large list of countries: United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama and Nicaragua.


The hairy hermit is an omnivorous bird, but mainly nectarivorous. Their diet is based on nectar and pollen from a huge variety of shrub flowers and grasses. They’re quite selective, as they only feed on flowers that have a curved shape, like their beak.

It seems that their favorite flowers are those of the genus Heliconia, which groups more than 100 species of plants also called bird of paradise. Other plants they often approach are Duroia hirsutus, Palicourea lasiantha, Sanchezia (Acanthaceae) or Drymonia semicordata (Gesneriaceae).

Although it’s very rare to see them eating animal protein, during the breeding season they can also eat small invertebrates and spiders. The protein contained in these animals helps them with the enormous energy expenditure required for breeding and egg-laying.

The behavior of the hairy hermit

The hairy hermit is a solitary, diurnal bird. It’s quite territorial, so it will compete with other birds for flowers in its area and will try to drive them away by aggression. Males and females are only found together during the breeding season and separate after copulation.

Not much is known about their communication, as they’re elusive birds and rarely interact with each other (except to compete and copulate). Some studies have related certain vocalizations to specific adaptations for finding food.


Many birds breed throughout the year, but as they’re distributed over such a wide area it’s normal to find that in some regions there are defined breeding periods. The male will try to convince the female to mate and will leave after mating, so that only the female participates in the care of the young.

The male performs a courtship dance in a U-shaped flight path.

The female builds a nest on the underside of a leaf made of plant fibers, such as roots or stems. There she lays 2 eggs, incubates them, and feeds the young, which hatch after 17-20 days.

The chicks take about 23 days to fledge, after which they are able to leave the nest and fend for themselves. It should be noted that, from 12 days after hatching, they’re left alone in the nest at night, as the nest is small and the mother doesn’t fit.

Conservation status of the hairy hermit

Hairy hermit.
Glaucis hirsutus.

This species is in a state of Least Concern (LC). Its population is known to be declining, but counting mature individuals is complicated due to the fragmentation of populations. To give you an idea, the estimate of their number ranges anywhere from 5 to 50 million individuals.

The biggest problem they face is their capture as pets, as they’re often exhibited and traded as if they were exotic possessions. There are areas declared for their conservation, in the hope that their numbers won’t continue to decline. Let’s hope these beautiful birds will continue giving color to our planet!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • BirdLife Internacional. 2021. Glaucis hirsutus. La Lista Roja de Especies Amenazadas de la UICN 2021: e.T22686911A166916624. . Consultado el 13 de octubre de 2022.
  • Glaucis hirsutus. (s. f.). Recuperado 13 de octubre de 2022, de
  • Ferreira, A. R., Smulders, T. V., Sameshima, K., Mello, C. V., & Jarvis, E. D. (2006). Vocalizations and associated behaviors of the Sombre Hummingbird (Aphantochroa cirrhochloris) and the Rufous-breasted Hermit (Glaucis hirsutus). The Auk123(4), 1129-1148.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.