Proposal (185) to South American Classification Committee


Recognize Coeligena orina as a species distinct from C. bonapartei


This proposal would restore species status to Coeligena orina, as it was originally described by Wetmore (1953). For over 50 years, this form was known only from the type specimen, a male collected by M. A. Carriker, Jr. on Páramo Frontino, at the northern end of the Western Andes of Colombia. Its distinctive features included its overall dull, dusky coloration and lack of a glittering frontlet (leading to its English name of Dusky Starfrontlet). Wetmore believed that the specimen was an adult, but Bleiweiss (1988) re-examined the type specimen and discovered that it had numerous corrugations typical of immature hummingbirds on the maxillary ramphotheca. He noted that C. bonapartei attains the frontlet and black on the head with age, and suggested that the lack of a frontlet in orina was probably another sign of immaturity. He also noted some bronzy reflections on the upper tail-coverts and belly of the type of orina, a feature not mentioned in the type description, and that immatures of C. bonapartei attain more bronzy feathers on the belly and rump with age. He suggested that the same could be the case for orina, and concluded that orina might be a subspecies of C. bonapartei, and that it was better treated as such until the adult was known. He did not compare orina with any other congener. Hilty & Brown (1986) continued to treat orina as a species, but all subsequent authors (e.g., Schuchmann 1999) followed the taxonomy suggested by Bleiweiss.


In August 2004, two independent expeditions to the northern Western Andes encountered orina and four specimens, two adult males and two adult females, were collected. These specimens made possible the first descriptions of the adult plumages of orina, and made it clear that this form was clearly a separate species. The study (Krabbe et al. 2005) was just published in the recent number of Ornitología Colombiana (which can be consulted free online at to obtain full details of the description, photographs of the specimens and those of its possible closest relatives among the Coeligena species of northern Colombia, and detailed comparisons with these (especially C. bonapartei). I present here a brief summary of the main arguments:


a) Adult males are similar in pattern to those of C. helianthea and bonapartei but differ strikingly in colors. The upper tail-coverts and abdomen of orina are a flashing, brilliant lime-green, distinctly different from the copper-bronze of bonapartei; the foreparts (head, nape, upper back, neck and upper breast) are much more heavily veiled with sooty black than those of bonapartei, more like those of helianthea - the head and nape are in fact solid black as in C. helianthea. The tail as a less brilliant bronze-green, much greener than that of any race of bonapartei. The blue "stickpin" of the central breast is much less purplish than in bonapartei, helianthea or lutetiae.


b) Adult females of all species are generally similar, but that of orina is distinguishable by virtue of the more clearly-defined buffy throat patch (most like that of lutetiae) with a distinct malar line of green spots, and its flashing green (not bronze, as in bonapartei) feathers on the abdomen and upper tail-coverts


c) Bills of orina are longer, sex for sex, than in any other species; there are other minor mensural differences.


In general, the differences between orina and bonapartei are greater than those among the three recognized races of bonapartei, and are comparable to those between bonapartei and helianthea, the only two members of this group that are locally sympatric. In sum, I recommend a YES vote on this proposal.




BLEIWEISS, R. 1988. Plumage ontogeny and taxonomic status of the Dusky Starfrontlet Coeligena orina Wetmore. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club 108: 127-131.

HILTY, S. L. & W. L. BROWN. 1986. A Guide to the Birds of Colombia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

KRABBE, N. ET AL. 2005. Rediscovery of the Dusky Starfrontlet Coeligena orina, with a description of the adult plumages and a reassessment of its taxonomic status. Ornitología Colombiana 3: 28-35.

SCHUCHMANN, K- L. 1999. Family Trochilidae (Hummingbirds). Pp. 468-680 in: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.) 1999. Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 5: Barn-owls to Hummingbirds. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

WETMORE, A. 1953. Further additions to the birds of Panama and Colombia. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 122:1-12.


F. Gary Stiles, October 2005





Comments from Remsen: "YES. Evidence solid for treatment of orina as valid taxon, and burden-of-proof now shifts to treating it as anything but a species-level taxon."


Comments from Zimmer: "YES. The evidence seems convincing. Yet another long-lost and controversial species proven to be real!"


Comments from Robbins: "YES. Krabbe et al. (2005) did an excellent job of demonstrating that Coeligena orina is a valid species."


Comments from Nores: "YES. No parece haber dudas de que se trata de una buena especie. Los fundamentos dados por Krabbe et al. para considerar especie a esta forma son muy convincentes."


Comments from Pacheco: "YES. Os dados divulgados por Krabbe, Flórez, Suárez, Castaño, Arango, Pulgarín, Múnera, Stiles & Salaman (2005) atestam o mais apropriado tratamento ao táxon."