Birds Species

Sooty barbthroat History and 5 Best Facts

Sooty barbthroat

 Tropical Central and South America are home to the medium-sized hummingbird known as the sooty barbthroat (Threnetes niger).  With its predominantly black plumage and striking red throat patch, this hermit hummingbird is one of the most distinctive members of the Thranitis genus. In this article, we will review the identification, distribution, habitat, diet, behavior, breeding, conservation status, and interesting facts of this unique bird.


The velvety black plumage on the whole makes the sooty barb-throat easily identifiable. Males have a bright red spot on their throat, called a gorget, which can appear almost luminous in certain lights. The female lacks the red throat and is slightly lighter in color. Both sexes have whitish tips on the outer tail feathers and a long, straight black bill.  The average length of sooty barb throat is 10-12 cm and weight is 5-7 grams.

This species of Bird was first scientifically described by the German naturalist Johann Friedrich Gamelin in 1788. His species name Threnitus refers to a Greek mythological ferryman who helped souls cross the River Styx by alluding to the swift beats of river-loving birds. Niger literally means “black” in Latin.

Pale-tailed barbthroat and are family members of Sooty barbthroat.


The sooty barbthroat is found in tropical South America from Mexico south to Central America. Its range extends to Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. It is found east of the Andes in forested foothills near streams up to an altitude of 1200 m. In Central America, it is distributed in foothill forests from southern Mexico to Panama.

Three subspecies are recognized based on the short plumage and size variations in different parts of the range:


The sooty barbthroat, as its name implies, is most commonly found in dense, dark, and humid forest interiors close to mountain streams and waterfalls. It rarely ventures into open or disturbed areas. This habitat specificity makes it vulnerable to deforestation. This forest bird seems to occupy a narrow niche, not competing with other hummingbird species that occupy more open or flowery habitats.


To fuel its rapid metabolism, the sooty barbthroat feeds on flower nectar and small insects. Favorite nectar sources include plants in the Gesneriaceae, Acanthaceae, and Bromeliaceae families. The bird uses its distinctive long bill to probe the tubular flowers. It also repels small insects or repels them from plants. A technique called “hover-gleaning” allows him to carefully pluck small insects and spiders from hovering leaves.


The Sooty Barbthroat lives alone or in pairs, actively defending flower-rich areas from intrusion by other hummingbirds. Males perform extensive courtship flights, swinging their tails back and forth to impress females. When threatened, these normally silent birds may make buzzing or clicking sounds with their wings. They sit horizontally on low branches, sometimes slowly flicking their tails. Their flight is fast and straight.


The breeding season lasts from March to June in most of the range. Males use aerial displays to attract females. Once mated, the female builds a small cup nest on a horizontal branch or tree fern under the plant, under fibers and webs. She lays two small white eggs. Incubation lasts 15-19 days. Chicks hatch with their eyes closed and almost no feathers. Both parents share feeding duties, reorganizing insect prey for the nestling. At about 22-26 days of age the young fledge.

Conservation status

The sooty barbthroat is assessed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Its population appears to be stable and it occupies a wide distribution. However, the species’ merits continue to be monitored due to its susceptibility to habitat loss and fragmentation. Its specific habitat requirements mean that deforestation is a significant threat. The trend toward hydropower dams in the Andes also destroys the river basins that species Bird depend on. Ecotourism and observing wild hummingbirds can potentially support conservation efforts.

Interesting facts of Sooty barbthroat

– While laying eggs, the female sooty barbthroat enters a state of torpor at night to conserve energy. She has a sharp decline in her metabolic rate and loses her ability to fly for a while.

Sooty barbthroats play an important ecological role as pollinators for many rainforest plant species. As they move between flowers reaching for nectar, they carry pollen on their bills and heads.

– Males establish feeding territories about 2500 square meters in size. Within these territories, they actively repel intrusions from other male hummingbirds.

– A recording of Sooty Barbthroat’s winged calls hit the Billboard charts in the 1990s after being included on a New Age nature music album.

– Naturalist William Jameson was the first scientist to formally describe the red throat shape of the male sooty barbthroat in 1857 while collecting plant specimens in Ecuador.