Grypus nævius


South-eastern Brazil

Southern Brazil would seem to enjoy the privilege of claiming this bird as peculiarly its own, as it is from that country alone that specimens have as yet been received.

I regard it as the only species of the genus that has been discovered; for although I have often thought that the smaller specimens, with more slender and more curved bills, were different, I now believe they will prove to be females of the present species. Mr. Reeves of Rio de Janeiro, who has had some opportunities of observing both the larger and the smaller birds in a state of nature, has been unable to satisfy himself whether they are or are not distinct, but is inclined to think that they are so, because he has remarked that the smaller birds arrive earlier and remain longer than the larger ones: against such an opinion, however, may be adduced the facts of their inhabiting the same locality at the same season of the year, and that in the nearly allied genera Glaucis and Phaëthornis, a corresponding difference is found in the size of the sexes, the females being much less than the males. In the character and colouring of their plumage too, both the larger and smaller birds are precisely alike even to a feather; on the other hand, in the form of their bills, and in the breadth of their tail-feathers, they are very different; so much so, that many genera have been established on much slighter grounds. It will be for Mr. Reeves, or some other naturalist, who may be favourably situated for investigating the subject, to ascertain with certainty what may be the real state of the case. MM. Delalande and Natterer found this species chiefly on the mountains of Corcovado, in the vicinity of Rio de Janeiro; and in some notes kindly sent me by Mr. Reeves, respecting this and other species that have come under his observation, that gentleman says, that ‘‘it also inhabits Rio de Janeiro, but is by no means common, and is very rarely seen in the lowlands. Some years ago, when at Novo Friburgo, I had an opportunity of seeing several examples of this bird. They frequented the virgin forests, and seemed to take their food from under the branches of trees, and even at times from the stumps of decayed trees. On one occasion, after shooting a fine male bird, I discovered in its throat a small species of coleoptera, which had probably been taken from the crevices of an old tree; if such, however, be the case, the birds must be very expert in the operation of rooting out these small insects, as I observed they usually remained motionless in the air only for a second before they made the stoop, which was done so rapidly, that I often doubted, and still doubt, whether they always succeeded in capturing their prey. I never remember seeing this bird near the city. The virgin forests some ten leagues from Novo Friburgo are its favourite haunts; and it is only met with in those unfrequented localities during the months of July, August and September, and occasionally October.”

I have also been favoured with some further information respecting this bird by M. Deyrolle, which, slight though it is, I have great pleasure in adding:—

“The Grypus nævius,” says M. Deyrolle, “is common in all parts of the province of Santa Catharina in Brazil, but is more frequently met with in woody situations than elsewhere. Its flight is exceedingly noisy, very vigorous, and capable of being sustained for a great length of time, the bird rarely alighting. Its cry is so loud and piercing as to be heard above everything else, while it flutters around the flowers of various species of Orchids, from which it obtains its principal nourishment.”

In all probability, the serrations with which the apical portion of the cutting edges of both mandibles of this bird are furnished, are expressly provided to enable it to capture with facility some peculiar kind of insect food, perhaps spiders and small coleoptera.

The nest sent to me by Mr. Reeves is precisely similar in form, structure and situation to those constructed by the members of the genus Phaëthornis, being of a lengthened, pointed form, composed of fine vegetable fibres and mosses, intermingled with which, especially on the lower part, are portions of dead leaves and pieces of lichen; and attached to the extremities of the leaves of apparently a species of Palm.

Forehead, lores and ear-coverts dark brown; all the upper surface, wing- and tail-coverts greenish bronze, each feather narrowly edged with brown, giving it a scale-like appearance; wings purple-brown; two central tail-feathers bronze deepening into dark brown at the tip; the next on each side the same, but slightly tipped with buff; the three lateral feathers purplish brown, washed with bronze at the base, and largely tipped with buff, the two colours meeting in an oblique direction across the feather, and the buff being most extensive on the outer feather, less so on the next, and still less so on the third; over the eye a streak of buff; sides of the throat deep reddish buff; feathers of the chin and down the centre of the throat brownish black edged with pale buff; feathers of the under surface blackish brown, edged on the breast and upper part of the flanks with greyish white, and on the lower part of the flanks and vent with buff, giving the whole a streaked appearance; under tail-coverts buff, with a streak of brown down the centre; bill black, except the basal two-thirds of the lower mandible, which are yellow; feet yellow.

The Plate represents two males, a female, and a nest and eggs, all of the natural size.


  • Trochilus nævius, Dumont, Dict. des Sci. Nat., tom. xvii. p. 432.—Temm. PI. Col. 120. fig. 3.—Vieill. Eney. Méth. Orn., part ii. p. 548.—Ib. Nouv. Dict. d’Hist. Nat., tom. xxviii. p. 431.—Drap. Dict. Class. d’Hist. Nat., tom. iv. p. 320.
  • Trochilus squamosus, Licht. in Mus. Berlin.
  • Grypus ruficollis, Spix, Av. Bras., vol. i. p. 79. t. xxx. fig. 3.
  • Mellisuga? nevia, Steph. Cont. of Shaw’s Gen. Zool., vol. xiv. p. 248. pl. 29.
  • Ramphodon maculatum, Less. Hist. Nat. des Col., p. 18. pl. 1.
  • Ramphodon nævius, Jard. Nat. Lib. Humming-Birds, vol. i. p. 87. pl. 1.
  • Grypus nævius, Gray and Mitch. Gen. of Birds, vol. i. p. 105.—Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av., p. 67.

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