Eriocnemis vestita

Glowing Puff-leg

The Andes of New Granada. Commonly sent from Bogota.

It is to be regretted that some more appropriate term than ves¢itus had not been selected as the specific designation of this wonderful little bird—I say wonderful advisedly; for every one who, for the first time, finds himself in front of the compartment in my collection in which this species is placed, gives utterance to some exclamation expressive of the admiration excited by its striking beauty and the glow-worm like splendour of its upper tail-coverts.

This brilliancy is more apparent at certain hours of the day; for instance, it is more beautiful in the evening after sunset than at mid-day, the brilliancy being then more strikingly contrasted and relieved by the dark hue of the tail-feathers. It is unquestionably one of the finest species of its genus, and one of the most resplendent of the Trochidæ: would that it were possible for me even faintly to depict it! but no, the most finished drawing can be but a phantom of the original, and it is only by an examination of specimens that my readers can form any adequate idea of the splendour and beauty of this gem; and how much more gorgeous must the bird appear in its native wilds! But a short period has elapsed since we first became aware of the existence of this lovely bird; twenty-five years ago it was totally unknown; during the quarter of a century ending with 1859 it has, however, become extremely common, so much so, indeed, that no collection need be without the richest examples: its market value is very small, and thousands upon thousands have already found their way to Europe. Its native country is Columbia, and it is nowhere more abundant than in the neighbourhood of Santa Fé de Bogota: it is within an area of 100 miles from this place that not only this, but’a host of other species of Humming-birds have been procured. Its large snow-white boots must render the bird a very conspicuous object both when flying and when at rest, for it surely cannot conceal these lengthened tufts of feathers even if so disposed. The female is not so gorgeously attired as the male, neither are her leg-tufts so conspicuous; still she is far from being destitute of beauty.

The male has the head, throat, neck, upper part of the back, and wing-coverts deep bronzy green; centre of the back purer green; lower part of the back and upper tail-coverts yellowish green, of the most intense metallic brilliancy; wings purplish brown; tail bluish black; a circular spot on the chin and under tail-coverts deep rich metallic blue; abdomen and flanks glittering golden green; thighs thickly clothed with white downy feathers; bill black; feet brown.

On looking at the bird in front, the head and neck appear to be of a deep black; but on changing the position, those parts are found to be of the colour described.

The female has a similar distribution of colour, but the hues are altogether less brilliant; the central tail-feathers are green instead of bluish black; the upper tail-coverts are not so much developed; there is only an indication of the blue spot on the throat; the under surface assumes a rusty tint, and the feathers are merely tipped, or spangled with the brilliant hue so conspicuous in the male; and the blue under tail-feathers are less developed.

The Plate represents two males and a female of the natural size. The plant is the Echenopsis cristata.


  • Ormsmya vestita, Longuem. Rey. Zool. 1838, p. 314.—De Latt. et Boure. Rev. Zool. 1839, p. 18, and 1840, p. 8.
  • Trochilus uropygials, Fras. in Proc. of Zool. Soc., part viii. p. 15.
  • Ornismya glomata, Less. Echo du Monde Savant.
  • Hylocharis vestita, Gray and Mitch. Gen. of Birds, vol. 1. p. 114, Hylocharis, sp. 2.
  • Eriopus vestita, Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av., p. 80, Eriopus, sp. 1.
  • Eriocnemis vestita, Reich. Auf. der Col., p. 9.
  • Eriocnemys vestitus, Bonap. Rey. Zool. 1854, p. 252.

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