Two subspecies recognized:
albolimbata Berlioz 1938; type locality Yauli, 11,500 feet, Huancavelica, Peru
Occurs in south central Peru, in Huancavelica, Ayacucho, and Apurímac, in the drainages of the Mantaro, Pampas, and Chalhuanca rivers.
Similar to nominate nobilis, but "at once distinguished by the white bands on each side of the crown in the male, these bands being metallic purple blue" in nobilis, and by "the tail-feathers being decidedly more copppery" (Berlioz 1938: 45). In the female, the white scaling of the throat extends onto the lores, connecting to white on the sides of the crown (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990).
nobilis Gould 1869; type locality Tinta, Peru
Occurs in south central Peru in Apurímac and Cuzco, in the drainages of the Urubamba and upper Apurímac rivers.
See Detailed Description.
The monotypic genus Oreonympha described in 1869 by Gould 1869, with nobilis as the type species. The species has retained the genus and species names assigned to it in its initial description.
A recent phylogenetic survey of the phylogenetic relationships of hummingbirds, based on DNA sequence data from both mitochondrial and nuclear genes revealed that hummingbirds (Trochilidae) constitute nine major clades, comprising the hermits, mangos, Patagona, topazes, coquettes, brilliants, mountain-gems, bees, and emeralds (McGuire et al. 2007, 2009). Oreonympha is assigned to the coquette group, where it is placed in a clade with Oxypogon guerinii (Bearded Helmetcrest), and with Chalcostigma (thornbills); more interestingly, both Oreonympha and Oxypogon are embedded within Chalcostigma (which is represented in these studies by two species, Chalcostigma herrani (Rainbow-bearded Thornbill) and C. ruficeps (Rufous-capped Thornbill). The Oreonympha/Oxypogon/Chalcostigma clade is sister to Metallura (McGuire et al. 2007, 2009).