Campylopterus latipennis

Broad-shafted Sabre-wing

Cayenne and British Guiana

The Campylopterus latipennis is one of the very earliest-known species of Humming-Bird; a glance at the long list of names by which it has been described in the works of Linnæus, Boddaert, Gmelin, Latham, Buffon, &c., will at once induce the reader to come to such a conclusion.

Long known, however, as the species has been, no reliable information has been transmitted to us as to its habits and economy, or the specific purpose for which the broad shafts of the wings have been designed. They doubtless aid the bird in cleaving the air with great rapidity, but they perhaps have some other especial use, though what that may be cannot be easily imagined, since they do not occur in the females, and are only to be found in the very old males. If we wish to see this bird in a state of nature, a journey to Cayenne and French Guiana will enable us to attain the object of our desire, as it is in those countries, particularly Cayenne, that the specimens sent to Europe are collected. Of these the greater part are of course sent to Paris, whence they find their way to this country.

I believe I have still another species of this form from Ecuador, intermediate between C. latipennis and C. obscurus; but of this more at some other time, when additional specimens have arrived; at present I have only seen the one which graces my collection. This bird is certainly not the female of either of the abovementioned species; it has longer wings than either of them, and, moreover, differs in the extent of the white tipping of the outer tail-feathers.

Of the three or four known species of grey-breasted Campylopteri, the present has by far the greatest amount of white at the tips of the lateral tail-feathers.

I believe that no difference exists in the colouring of the sexes of the Campylopterus latipennis, and that the dilated shafts of the outer wing-feathers is the only tangible character by which the sexes can be distinguished.

Modern research has discovered that the earliest specific appellation assigned to this bird is that of largipennis, given to it by Boddaert; by that name, however, it is known to but few, while that of latipennis is just as familiar. I have therefore in this instance deviated from the law of priority, and adopted the term which is most generally applied to it.

Head, all the upper surface, wing- and tail-coverts, sides of the neck, and flanks deep oil-green; wings dark purplish brown; two centre tail-feathers dark green; the next on each side black, washed with green at the base, and slightly tipped with whitish; the remainder black, largely tipped with white; all the under surface dark grey; bill black.

The figures are of the natural size. The plant is the Odontoglossum hastilabium, var. fuscatum.


  • Trochilus campylopterus, Gmel. Linn. Syst. Nat., tom. i. p. 499.—Valenc. Dict. Sci. Nat., tom. xxxv. p. 492.—Drap. Dic. Class. Sci. Nat., tom. iv. p. 325.
  • Trochilus cinereus, Gmel. edit. Linn. Syst. Nat., tom. i. p. 490.
  • Trochilus largipennis, Bodd. latipennis, Lath. Ind. Orn., vol. i. p. 310.—Vieill. Nouv. Dict. d’Hist. Nat., tom. vii. p. 365.—Swains. Zool. Ill. vol. iii. pls. 130, 131.—Jard. Nat. Lib. Hum.-Birds, vol. i. p. 146.—Vieill. et Bonn. Ency. Méth.Orn., 2me partie, p. 566.
  • L’Oiseau-mouche à larges tuyaux, Buff. Hist. Nat. des Ois., tom. vi. p.35.—Aud. et Vieill. Ois. dor., tom. i. p. 51, pl. 21
  • L’Oiseau-mouche à larges tuyaux de Cayenne, Buff. Pl. Enl. 672. fig. 2.
  • Polytmus largipennis, Gray and Mitch. Gen. of Birds, vol. i. p. 107, Polytmus, sp. 1
  • Broad-shafted Humming-Bird, Lath. Gen. Syn., vol. ii. p. 765.—Id. Gen. Hist., vol. iv. p. 321.
  • Ornismya latipennis, Less. Hist. Nat. des Ois. Mou. p. 121, pl. 34.Id. Tab. des Esp. des Ois. Mou., p. xlii.
  • Campylopterus latipennis, Swains. Zool. Journ. vol. iii. p. 358.—Jard. Nat. Lib. Hum.-Birds, vol.i. pl. 34.—Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av., p. 71, Campylopterus, sp. 1.—Less. Ind. Gen. et Syn. des Ois. du gen. Trochilus, p. v.—Reichenb. Auf. der Col., p. 11—Bonap. Rev. et Mag. de Zool., 1854, p. 250.
  • Trochilus cinereus, Lath. Ind. Orn., vol. i. p. 308.
  • Colibri à ventre cendre, Aud. et Vieill. Ois. dor., tom. i. p. 18. pl. 5.
  • Ash-bellied Humming-Bird, Lath. Gen. Syn., vol. ii. p. 759.—Shaw, Gen. Zool., vol. viii. p. 297.—Lath. Gen. Hist., vol. iv. p. 316.
  • Le Colibri à ventre cendré, Aud. et Vieill. Ois. dor., tom. i. p. 18, pl. 5?

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