Formerly considered to include C. auriceps, C. forficatus, C. canivetii, C. assimilis and C. gibsoni, and usually also C. olivaresi, thus comprising some 18 subspecies; conspecific treatment justified because length of tail and depth of tail fork appear to decrease continuously from N to S, while red-billed forms appear in both N and S groups; moreover, the different forms replace each other geographically, their ranges meeting. However, one alternative, on basis of bill colour, is to treat the five N forms (auriceps, forficatus, canivetii, osberti and salvini) as one species, assimilis as another, gibsoni (with chrysogaster and nitens) as a third, and remaining S races in C. mellisugus as a fourth; this arrangement has at times been varied with the lumping of assimilis in the mellisugus group, or a transfer of melanorhynchus (including pumilus) to the gibsoni group. A more radical evaluation of the complex is largely followed here#R, but, owing to both the sheer number of taxa in the original complex and the diaspora of specimen material, comparisons between taxa and decisions on their taxonomic status herein are limited mainly to geographical neighbours. Western form melanorhynchus, with race pumilus, may also be separated on account of its all-black bill, moderately forked tail, glittering crown, breast with little or no blue, and female with trace of grey in outer rectrices and extensive green in central rectrices, but split not followed herein, as these characters differ little from those of other E and S forms of C. mellisugus, whose remaining races are characterized by black bill, glittering crown, breast with blue tinge, tail shallowly forked, female tail blue with trace of dusky on lateral rectrices. Several of presently accepted races may be invalid; further study required, especially in zones of possible contact. Proposed race nanus of upper and middle Orinoco, at one stage placed in canivetii group, may be best considered a synonym of caribaeus. Form napensis (= vitticeps), of R Napo in E Ecuador, indistinguishable from phoeopygus. Species formerly known as C. prasinus, when name mellisugus was erroneously thought to apply to Amazilia (Saucerottia) saucerottei braccata. Eight subspecies currently recognized.
Food and feeding
Status and conservation
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