Scintillant Hummingbird Selasphorus scintilla

  • Order: Caprimulgiformes
  • Family: Trochilidae
  • Monotypic
  • Authors: Christopher J. Clark

The Scintillant Hummingbird (Selasphorus scintilla Gould) is among the smallest of hummingbirds, and is the smallest within its range of the Pacific slope of Costa Rica and western Panama. Despite its diminutive size, it is a striking bird that is difficult to overlook, or to forget once seen. The wing trill of the adult male can be heard at a distance, and the male’s blazing orange gorget is spectacular against its rufous plumage. It appears to be most closely allied with Allen's (S. sasin) and Rufous (S. rufus) hummingbirds of North America, as well as Glow-throated Hummingbird (S. ardens) of Panama. Scintillant is allopatric to all of these species, whereas it is sympatric with Volcano Hummingbird, S. flammula, a species with which Scintillant sometimes is confused.

Swainson (1830) named the genus Selasphorus, which means “Light-bearing” (Coues 1882), with Rufous Hummingbird as the type. With a virtually identical gorget, the same description is apt for the Scintillant. Scintillant was described by Gould (1850), in which he noted its small size and beauty. Scintilla means “a spark” in Latin (Lewis and Short 1879), thus Selasphorus scintilla means a “light-bearing spark”.

Scintillant Hummingbird is locally common but not widespread. As a result, relatively little is known about its basic biology. Good photos are presented by Fogden and Fogden (2006). The primary sources of information about it come from Stiles (1983, Stiles and Skutch 1989), Fogden and Fogden (2006), and recent field work  with it in October 2009 (Clark et al. 2011; CJC unpublished data).

Audio needed
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Clark, C. J. (2011). Scintillant Hummingbird (Selasphorus scintilla), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.