Calypte Costæ

Costa’s Calypte

Mexico, Southern California, and Colorado Basin

Here we have a very beautiful little bird, conspicuous not only for the rich brilliancy of its head and throat, but for the colouring of those parts being of an unusual hue—a glittering metallic-lilac, neither easy to describe nor to depict, and which can only be feebly represented even with the aid of silver and the finest copal colours; indeed, to acquire anything like a correct notion of its beauty, the bird itself must be seen, neither description nor figure giving an adequate idea of its splendour.

I am indebted for numerous specimens of this lovely bird to the late M. Floresi, who collected them in the valleys of the Sierra Madre in Mexico. From thence, throughout the western part of Mexico, and in some parts of California, the bird is probably found.

The first description of this bird appeared in the “Revue Zoologique” for 1839, from the pen of M. Bourcier, who gave it the specific appellation of Costæ, in honour of the Marquis de Costa of Chambery, the possessor of a very beautiful collection of birds. In the form of its tail, and in the extent of the metallic colouring of its head and throat, it bears a striking resemblance to the C. Annæ, but is at once distinguished from that species by its smaller size, as well as by the different hue of the head and neck. Of its habits and economy nothing has yet been recorded.

The sexes present nearly the same differences that are observable in those of C. Annæ.

The male has the head, ear-coverts, throat, and the elongated ruff-like feathers on the sides of the neck, brilliant deep metallic-lilac; all the upper surface and wing-coverts golden green; wings purple-brown; six central tail-feathers bronzy green; two outer tail-feathers brownish grey with darker tips; under surface dull white, washed with bronzy green on the flanks; bill and feet blackish brown.

At a younger age the head is of the same hue as the body; a few of the fine feathers of the throat have appeared; the abdomen is bronzy green; the apical half of the outer tail-feathers are black, and their tips white.

In the female the whole of the upper surface is dull golden green; under surface dull greyish white, with a few dots of brown on the throat; wings purplish brown; central tail-feathers bronzy green; lateral feathers grey at the base, succeeded by deep black, and tipped with white.

The figures are the size of life. The plant is the Logwood (Lignum Campechianum).


  • Ornismya Costæ, Boure. Rev. Zool. 1839, p. 294.—Ib. Ann. de la Soc. Sci. de Lyon, 1840, p. 225. pl. 2.—Voy. de la Vénus, pl. 2.—Longuem. et Parz. Rev. Zool. 1840, pe 71.
  • Mellisuga Costæ, Gray and Mitch. Gen. of Birds, vol. i. p. 118, Mellisuga, sp. 83.
  • Selasphorus Costæ, Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av., p. 82, Selasphorus, sp. 4.—Ib. Rev. et Mag. de Zool. 1854, p. 257.
  • Atthis Costae, Reichenb. Aufz. der Colibris, p. 12.
  • Trochilus Costae, Reichenb. Troch. enumer., p. 10.

More hummingbirds in the genus Calypte

Poster preview

Get a poster

Featuring all 422 illustrated species from John Gould’s A Monograph of the Trochilidæ, or Family of Humming-Birds arranged by color.