Calliphlox amethystina

The Amethyst

Brazil, Demerara, Cayenne, and Trinidad

Two supposed species of this form have been described and figured in works on Ornithology, under the names of Amethystina and Amethystoïdes; the former of which is said to inhabit Cayenne and Brazil, and the latter Brazil only.

The young bird of one of them is figured under another name—that of orthura; hence has arisen much confusion respecting the synonymy of this species. I may state, that never having seen a bird from any country precisely accordant with M. Lesson’s figure of Amethystoïdes, which is said to have been taken from a Minas Geraes specimen, I am unable to say whether it be or be not a species; at present I am inclined to consider it identical with the present bird, which opinion is in some measure confirmed by a remark of Mr. Reeves, that the Amethystina from Minas Geraes, though smaller, is probably the same, as he observes that all the Humming Birds from that province are smaller than those from Rio de Janeiro and have feathers of a drier texture.

In justice to M. Bourcier, who furnished M. Lesson with the specimens from which his figures were taken, I append a few lines just received from him respecting Amethystina and Amethystoïdes:—

These two species have a general resemblance, especially in the adult state, but there are well-marked characters in the plumage of the young and of the females; it was this which determined me, when M. Lesson was publishing “Les Trochilidées,” to give him several examples for examination, and it was among the younger specimens that he fancied he had discovered a new species, to which he gave the name of orthura, which however is only the young of Amethystina.”

I may here be permitted to remark, that I suspect M. Bourcier must be mistaken, when he says that the plumage of the young and females exhibit a marked, that is, a different character, since it is well known that wherever species are very intimately allied, the females and youthful birds assimilate even more closely in every respect.

The only noticeable circumstance in favour of Lesson’s orthura being distinct is, that some of the specimens in my collection according most closely with his figure, have more lengthened bills than those which I believe to be females of Amethystina.

My figures were taken from Brazilian specimens sent to me by Mr. Reeves, who states that in Brazil the bird inhabits the interior of the provinces of Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Novo Friburgo and Minas Geraes, but is nowhere very common, and that it frequents the gardens when the orange-trees are in flower, the valleys when the Marrianeira is blooming, and the forests when the flowers elsewhere are no longer inviting. It arrives in Rio in July, is most numerous in September and October, and departs again on the approach of the hot season. Its nest is invariably placed in the highest and driest trees.

The following are the states which this bird appears to assume:—

An adult from the neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro has the head, all the upper surface, wing- and _tailcoverts bronzy green; wings and outer tail-feathers purplish brown; four central tail-feathers washed with green; throat amethystine red, bounded below by a broad band of greyish white; flanks bronzy; centre of the abdomen grey, passing into the greyish buff of the vent and under tail-coverts; bill black; feet brown.

An adult male from Cayenne assimilates very closely with the above in colour, but has the abdomen a little darker, and with less buff on the vent, and the under tail-coverts strongly washed with green.

The young males, with lengthened and forked tails, have the general colouring of the body the same as in the adult, but the throat, instead of being amethystine, is spotted and streaked with brown ona grey ground.

The females, or what I consider to be examples of that sex, have the upper surface very similar to that of the male; the throat grey, sometimes uniform, while at others it is spangled with amethystine; the breast crossed by an obscure band of grey; the flanks and under tail-coverts either pale or rich buff, and the three outer tail-feathers brownish black, largely tipped with rich buff.

In another state the throat is grey, sparingly spangled with amethystine, while the band crossing the chest, the centre of the abdomen and under tail-coverts are brownish grey, and the flanks bronzy green; the feathers of the tail bronzy green at the base, crossed near the extremity with a brownish band, and slightly tipped with grey. This may be the fully adult female.

The Plate represents two adult males, a young male, and a female, of the natural size. The plant is copied from a drawing sent to me by Mr. Reeves.


  • Trochilus amethystinus, Gmel. Edit. Linn. Syst. Nat., tom. i. p. 496.—Lath. Ind. Orn., vol. i. p. 319.—Vieill. Ency. Méth. Orn., part u. p. 561.—Pr. Max. Beitr. zur Naturg. von Bras., p. 90.—Shaw, Gen. Zool., vol. viii. p. 328.—Jard. Nat. Lib. Humming Birds, vol. u. p. 64. pl. 9.
  • L’ Oiseau-mouche Améthiste, Buff. Hist. Nat. des Ois., tom. vi. p: 16.—Audeb. et Vieill. Ois. dor., tom. i. p. 115.
  • Petit Oiseau-mouche à queue fourchue de Cayenne, Buff. Pl. Enl. 672. fig. 1.
  • Ornismya amethystina, Less. Hist. Nat. des Ois. Mou., p. 150. pl. 47.—Ib. Les Troch., p. 90. pl. 30. nest, & p. 140. pl. 52?—Ib. Traité d’Orn., p. 274.
  • Ornismya amethystoides, Less. Les Troch., pp. 81, 83. & pls. 26, 27. p. 79. & pl. 25?
  • Ornismya orthura, Less. Les Troch., p. 85. pl. 28. p. 88. pl. 29.
  • Mellisuga amethystina, Steph. Cont. of Shaw’s Gen. Zool., vol. xiv. p. 243.—Gray and Mitch. Gen. of Birds, vol. i. p. 113, Mellisuga, sp. 72.
  • Mellisuga amethystoides, Gray and Mitch. Gen. of Birds, vol. i. p. 113, Mellisuga, sp. 73.
  • Trochilus campestris, Pr. Max. Beitr. zur Naturg. von Bras., p. 73.
  • Tryphæna amethystinus, Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av., p. 84, Tryphæna, sp. 2.
  • Tryphæna amethystina, Bonap. Rev. et Mag. de Zool. 1854, p. 257.
  • Calliphlox amethystina, Reichenb. Aufz. der Colibris, p. 12.—Ib. Troch. enumer., p. 10.
  • Amethystine Humming Bird, Lath. Gen. Syn., vol. 1. p. 787.—Ib. Gen. Hist., vol. iv. p. 8357.— Shaw, Gen. Zool., vol. vi. p. 328.
  • Tryphæna Amethystina, Gould, in Description of T. Daponti.

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