Lesbia gracilis

Graceful Train-bearer


This very elegant little species differs from the Lesbia Gouldi in having much narrower tail-feathers, and in the green colouring of the outermost of these feathers being much less extensive; the basal portion of their outer webs is also much lighter, approaching to white: in other respects the two birds are much alike.

The native country of this little sylph-like bird is Ecuador, where it appears to be very numerous. It was first brought to Europe by M. Bourcier; examples have since been sent to me by Professor Jameson, and others have been procured by Mr. Fraser, from whose notes we learn that it is found ‘ above Puellaro and Calacali, but at the latter place is not common. It is readily distinguishable from all others by the peculiar loud humming noise produced by the wings, and which is audible at the distance of twenty or thirty yards.” He “did not find it near the pueblo, but at some height up one of the hills. The gizzards of those examined contained insects. It is difficult to get a sufficient distance from these birds to shoot them, on account of their quickness and uneasiness of motion; they would seldom be seen but for their chirping, and the humming noise produced by their wings.”

The female is almost as graceful as the male, the pretty green spotting of the breast contrasting beautifully with the greyish white ground-colour of the under surface.

On looking over my collection, I find a single specimen of this bird, obtained by M. Warszewicz in Peru, which proves that it frequents countries south of the equator, where it doubtless represents the L. Gouldi, found in the neighbourhood of Bogota.

The male has the throat beautiful shining metallic green; the remainder of the body golden green; wings brown; outer tail-feathers bronzy brown, the bronze gradually increasing in intensity and becoming a brilliant spot at the tip; basal half of the outer webs buffy white; remaining feathers brown at the base and shining golden green for the remainder of their length; under tail-coverts buff, slightly washed with green; bill black.

The female is similarly coloured on the upper surface, but has a shorter and less brilliantly coloured tail; the under surface is greyish white, thickly spangled with green.

The Plate represents a male and a female, of the natural size. The plant is the Loasa picta.


  • Trochilus (Leshia) gracilis, Gould in Proc. of Zool. Soc., part xiv. p. 86.
  • Mellisuga gracilis, Gray and Mitch. Gen. of Birds, vol. i. p. 118, Mellisuga, sp. 53.
  • Cynanthus gracilis, Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av., p. 81, Cynanthus, sp. 5.
  • Lesbia gracilis, Reichenb. Auf. der Col., p. 8.—Proc. of Zool. Soc., part xxvi. p. 460.—Sclat. in Proc. of Zool. Soc., part xxvui. pp. 70, 94.

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