Petasophora Anais

Columbian Violet-Ear

New Granada and Venezuela

Great confusion exists with respect to the synonymy of the birds to which the term nats has been applied, and which is chiefly, if not solely, attributable to the carelessness of M. Lesson, who, not perceiving their specific differences, has published at least three species of this genus under that name,—has described another bird of a totally different form in the “Revue Zoologique” for 1838 and 1839 under the same appellation,—and has moreover added considerably to the confusion by giving incorrect habitats to the birds his figures are intended to represent; this confusion I have endeavoured to unravel, by assigning the various synonyms to the birds to which they appear respectively to belong; and by retaining the term Anais as the specific distinctive for the one so commonly sent as such in collections from Santa Fé de Bogota, and which will be more readily recognized by a reference to the accompanying Plate than by the most accurate description.

This species, which appears to be strictly confined to the mountainous districts of Columbia, is especially abundant in the neighbourhood of Bogota, whence its range extends northwards to the Caraccas and southwards to the confines of Peru; it neither descends to the hot plains below nor upwards to the bleak mountain sierras, but dwells in the luxuriant and temperate regions lying between these extremes, and where it is so numerous that it is more commonly met with than any other species. I have never seen an example from the Mexican side of the Isthmus of Panama, consequently the habitat of Mexico assigned to it by M. Lesson would seem to be incorrect. Little or nothing has been recorded of its habits, and we only know that it is very pugnacious and drives every other species from its feeding-ground. It will be seen that the nestling birds, which are drawn from specimens in my collection, assume much of the fine colouring of the adults before they have left the nest; the blue colouring of the ear-coverts, the chin and the abdomen, and the verditer hue of the tail, being nearly as rich as in the adults. In this early stage of their existence, however, there is no trace of the rich chequered metallic green plumage of the breast; that part being clothed with a velvety blackish green hue, which is not exchanged for the gayer colouring until the bird has attained a size nearly equal to that of the adult, probably not until the spring moult of the following year. Much difference exists in the size of the sexes, the females being nearly a third less than the males, but in colour they are precisely alike.

Head, all the upper surface, including the wing-coverts and the flanks, rich shining green; wings purplish brown; tail deep bluish green, crossed near the tip with a broad chalybeate band; the two central feathers washed with bronze, and the tips of all shining green; chin, line under the eye, ear-coverts and centre of the abdomen rich shining purplish blue; fore part of the neck and breast luminous green, with a streak of a darker hue down the centre of each feather, giving the whole a sparkling chequered appearance; under tail-coverts grey, washed on the centre with green; bill black; feet blackish brown.

In immature birds the upper surface is bronzy green, and the luminous green of the throat is at first entirely wanting, but is afterwards gradually assumed as the bird approaches to maturity; in other respects the plumage is similar to that of the adult.

The figures represent a male, a female, two young birds and a nest, all of the natural size. The beautiful plant is the Cantua pyrifolia.


  • Ramphodon Anais, Less. Hist. Nat. des Troch., p. 146. pl. 55.
  • Petasophora Anais, Gould in Proc. of Zool. Soc., Part xv. p. 8.
  • Polytmus Anais, Gray and Mitch. Gen. of Birds, vol.1. p. 108, Polytmus, sp. 27.
  • Colibri Anais, Bonap. Consp. Gen. Av., p. 69, Colibri, sp. 3.
  • Trochilus thalassinus, Jard. Nat. Lib. Humming Birds, vol. ii. p. 47.
  • Trochilus Anais, Jard. ib. p. 1.

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