Amongst the advantages which the issue of the present ‘Supplement’ bestows on me may be reckoned the opportunity which it gives of correcting certain mistakes in the ‘Monograph,’ which were due to the imperfect knowledge possessed by ornithologists at the period when the latter work was written.
Such a case is the present, in which, from lack of the requisite knowledge, I figured the two sexes of the Cinnamon Firecrown as distinct species, under the names of E. fernandensis and E. stokesti; and now that I am giving for the first time a Plate of the more recently discovered E. leyboldi, I have seized the opportunity to refigure the two sexes of E. fernandensis.
The Juan-Fernandez group of islands was for a long time almost a ¢erra incognita to the naturalist; and until Dr. Sclater published a list in ‘The Ibis’ of 1871 we were ignorant of the number of birds inhabiting them. The largest island of the group is Mas-a-tierra, or Juan Fernandez, which is situated about 380 miles from the coast of Chili; and the second is named Mas-a-fuera, which is about 450 miles from the Chilian coast. There are also a number of small islets belonging to the group.
On these two islands no less than three species of Humming-birds are known to exist, one of them, E. galeritus, a well-known Chilian species, being found on Mas-a-tierra. To this same island, however, is confined Eustephanus fernandensis, while E. leyboldi inhabits Mas-a-fuera. The group was first visited by a naturalist in 1825, when Captain King procured some Humming-birds on Mas-a-tierra, and named them as belonging to two distinct species, without apparently suspecting they were sexes of the same bird. Indeed so different in style of coloration are the male and female of E. fernandensis, that any one might be excused for considering them distinct. When Mr. Bridges visited the same island in 1854, he brought back a large number of specimens both of E. fernandensis and of the so-called E. stokeszii, but without a single indication as to the sexes of the specimens, which were examined by me at the time. According to Dr. Sclater, however, Mr. Bridges was quite aware that E. stokesii was only the female bird; for he himself informed the late M. Jules Verreaux of the fact in a conversation he had with him in Paris after his return from South America (Ibis, 1871, p. 179, note). I can only say that not the slightest indication of this was noted on Mr. Bridges’s specimens; nor was I informed of it by Mr. Cuming, who was his agent.
Mr. E. C. Reed, of the Santiago Museum, who visited Juan Fernandez in 1870 and again in 1872, says that he dissected all the specimens he shot, and found that in all cases the red birds were males, and the green females. “It is” he remarks, “a very strong bird. It hovers over flowers, then darts away like an arrow to a distance of several hundred yards; I have never seen any other small bird fly so rapidly. It feeds principally from the beautiful purple flowers of the Citharexylon. It has a loud shrill cry.” Mr. Bridges found the bird so fearless of man that it could be killed with a stick, so close did it approach. On a closer acquaintance with man it would appear to have become more shy during the twenty years that have elapsed since that gentleman visited the island.
I will now give a short description of the old red male and the adult green female, with the addition of the full-grown young of both sexes, which differ from their parents by having no bright colouring on the crown. This anomaly will be seen in the illustration more clearly than in any description I could write.
Old male.—Forehead and crown metallic fiery red; the entire plumage of the body and colouring of the tail-feathers deep cinnamon-red; wing-coverts the same; primaries and secondaries purplish brown; vent buffy white; bill black.
Young male.—Like the old male, except the crown, which has not the slightest trace of metallic red; the spurious wing green; whitish green runs up the shoulder.
Old female.—Crown of the head metallic bluish green, with a bronzy lustre; wings purplish brown, the spurious wing glossed with green; the central tail-feathers and the outer webs of the four next on each side grass-green; the inner webs of these lateral feathers white, deepening into green at the tip of the outer webs, under surface white with a spangle of shining green at the end of each feather of chin, throat, and flanks, the spangles being (in consequence of the smaller size of the feathers) most numerous on the chin; under tail-coverts white with green centres.
The young female is like the old female; but she has no glittering feathers on the crown.
Featuring all 422 illustrated species from John Gould’s A Monograph of the Trochilidæ, or Family of Humming-Birds arranged by color.