Band-tailed Barbthroat (Threnetes ruckeri)
Updated: Aug 21, 2022
Belonging to the subfamily of hummingbirds known as Hermits, the Band-tailed Barbthroat is a medium sized, olive-colored hummingbird with a striking black and white tail. They love heliconia nectar, as well as nectar from other tubular flowers and supplement their diet with small arthropods. Hermits tend to lack the vibrant, iridescent plumage hummingbirds are known for, as they reside deep in the forests and woodlands of the central and south Americas where such flashy plumage would be less advantageous.
While I watched these little birds zip about and feed from the heliconia flowers, I noticed that there seemed to be system to their feeding, almost as though they were on a schedule where they fed on a patch of flowers at particular locations around the same time each day.
Turns out, Band-tailed Barbthroats (along with other hummers, bees, butterflies and some fruit eating mammals) engage in something called “Trap-line” feeding, where they visit a sequence of flowering plants in a particular, repeatable fashion. Compared to random foraging, this strategy allows them to save energy while also giving plants time to replenish their nectar.
Osa Conservation. "Featured Bird: Band-tailed Barbthroat", June 22, 2021. https://osaconservation.org/featured-bird-band-tailed-barbthroat/
Maria Cristina Tello-Ramos, T. Andrew Hurly, Susan D. Healy, Traplining in hummingbirds: flying short-distance sequences among several locations, Behavioral Ecology, Volume 26, Issue 3, May-June 2015, Pages 812–819, https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arv014