Chlorostilbon Atala

Atala’s Emerald

The Island of Trinidad, and Venezuela

The bird figured on the opposite Plate is a native of Trinidad, where it is very common.

I also possess examples from Cayenne and Venezuela. I particularly mention that Trinidad is the country whence the specimens I have represented were brought, because the utmost confusion reigns among the names of the little green Humming-Birds: would that it were in my power to unravel this confusion! I trust some future Trochilidist may be more fortunate than myself, and that he will be able to tell the world what really are the species intended in the plates and descriptions of the older authors; no one would be more happy than I should be to see these knotty points satisfactorily elucidated. I have placed the old Linnæan name of mellisugus to this species with a mark of doubt, having been induced so to do by finding that name written, I believe by M. Bourcier, on one of the specimens in my collection; with a mark of doubt also I have given plates 42 and 65 of Lesson’s ‘Trochilide’ and ‘ Oiseaux-Mouches.’ I have mentioned the difficulty with which the subject is beset in my account of Chlorostilbon prasinus; I need not, then, further allude to it here.

M. Bourcier has described a species of this group under the name of Trochilus Daphne, which so closely resembles this bird as almost to induce a belief that it is identical with it; the T. Daphne, however, differs in having a blue tint of colour over the glittering green of the lower part of the throat and breast; it has also a less forked tail, and, moreover, is from a different locality—the upper parts of the Rio Negro and the eastern confines of Ecuador and Peru.

Mr. Tucker informs me that in Trinidad the Chlorostilbon Atala is found in the large open places, or natural savannahs, between the woods, that it is called the Savannah Sapphire, and that it makes a loud noise with its wings when flying.

The sexes differ very considerably in their colouring, the female having all those parts of the under surface buffy grey which are green in the male.

The male has the head, all the upper surface, and wing-coverts shining golden green, most brilliant on the head; throat and all the under surface glittering green; wings purplish brown; upper tail-coverts green; tail steely or bluish black; the bill appears to have been black.

The female has the upper surface of the same hue as her mate, but not so brilliant; a greyish mark behind the eye; all the under surface buffy grey; two centre tail-feathers green; the three next on each side green at the base and bluish black towards their extremities, which are slightly tipped with grey; the outer feather on each side bluish black, slightly washed with green at the base, and tipped with grey.

The Plate represents two males and a female, of the size of life. The plant is the Stanhopea ecornuta.


  • Ornismya atala, Less. Hist. Nat. des Troch., p. 115, pl. 42??
  • Ornismya prasina, Less. Hist. Nat. des Ois.-Mou., p. 188, pl. 65?
  • Hylocharis atala, Gray and Mitch. Gen. of Birds, vol. i. p. 115, Hylocharis, sp. 47?
  • Saucerottia Atala, Reichenb. Auf. der Col., p. 7?
  • Saucerottia atala, Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av., p. 77, Saucerottia, sp. 4?
  • Trochilus mellisugus, Linn.?

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