Family Hummingbirds (Trochilidae)

Least Concern

Purple-backed Thornbill (Ramphomicron microrhynchum)


French: Colibri à petit bec German: Purpur-Kurzschnabelkolibri Spanish: Colibrí piquicorto común

Ornismya microrhyncha


, 1840,

Bogotá, Colombia


Closely related to R. dorsale. Perhaps close also to Lesbia nuna. Races andicola and albiventre are doubtfully distinct from nominate. Described form Lesbia ortoni is probably a hybrid between present species and L. victoriae. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • R. m. andicola Simon, 1921 – Andes of Venezuela (Mérida).
  • R. m. microrhynchum (Boissonneau, 1840) – Andes of Colombia, Ecuador and NW Peru (to Cajamarca).
  • R. m. albiventre Carriker, 1935 – E slope in C & S Peru (Huánuco to Cuzco and Apurímac).
  • R. m. bolivianum Schuchmann, 1984 – Andes of C Bolivia (Cocapata, in Cochabamba).
  • Descriptive notes

    8–9 cm; c. 3·5 g. Has shortest bill of any hummingbird, straight, black. Male upperparts metallic violet-purple, post­ocular spot white; gorget iridescent... read more


    Song a continuous series of quiet scratchy notes interspersed by short buzzes or dry trills. Calls... read more


    Edges of humid montane forest, low shrubbery well below the tree-line in Cochabamba (Bolivia), ... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on nectar of flowering Ericaceae, Lobeliaceae, Echeveria, Espeletia, Castilleja, Draba, Puya... read more


    Possibly May–Sept (Colombia), one fledgling in Dec (Ecuador). Nest described as cup-shaped, made of fine plant fibres inside, moss... read more


    Some altitudinal movements most likely.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. CITES II. Generally uncommon throughout its extensive range. Natural habitat, Polylepis woodland and sub-páramo, in places... read more

    Recommended citation

    Züchner, T., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2020). Purple-backed Thornbill (Ramphomicron microrhynchum). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 29 February 2020).