Selasphorus henshawi

Henshaw’s Flame-bearer

Illustration not included in supplement volume

This is a species which I failed to distinguish from the true S. rufus (Gm.) in my previous works, as also have many other writers on Humming-birds.

Mr. H. W. Henshaw, in a paper published in the ‘Bulletin’ of the Nuttall Ornithological Club of July 1877, pointed out that under the name of Selasphorus rufus a distinct bird, differing in having the tail-feathers next to the centre ones pointed and notched, occurred in California; and he proposed to call this new form S. alleni, after Mr. C. A. Allen, of Nicasio in California. A good account of the habits and distribution is given in Mr. Henshaw’s paper; but in the same volume of the ‘Bulletin’ Mr. D. G. Elliot has shown that it is the bird with the pointed tail-feathers which is the true S. rufus of Gmelin, and consequently the species with the notch im the tail-feathers which requires a new title; and this Mr. Elliot conferred on the species by naming it Selasphorus henshawi. I refer my readers for a full account of the species to the article above referred to, and I give a copy of Mr. Elliot’s description of S. henshawi.

Male. Top of head metallic green; upper parts cinnamon; but some specimens have green feathers intermixed with the rufous ones on the back. Throat metallic-orange, not brilliant as in the other species. Breast and centre of abdomen white; flanks and under tail-coverts rufous. Tail rufous, tipped with dark brown; feathers pointed at tip, median pair broad; lateral ones growing narrower to the outermost, which is the most attenuated. On the inner web, near the tip of the rectrices next.the median pair, is a well developed notch. Bill black. Total length 3\(\frac{1}{4}\) inches, wing 1\(\frac{1}{2}\), tail 1\(\frac{3}{8}\), culmen \(\frac{5}{8}\).

Female. Entire upper parts shining grass-green, dullest on the crown. Throat white, spotted with brown. Underparts white, washed with rufous on the breast and flanks. Under tail-coverts buff. Median rectrices green; lateral ones rufous at base, then a band of metallic green, succeeded by a subterminal broad black bar, and tips white. Bill black. Total length 3\(\frac{1}{2}\) inches, wing 1\(\frac{7}{8}\), tail 1\(\frac{1}{2}\), culmen \(\frac{5}{8}\). Young males are similar to the females, with a few metallie spots on the throat.

The home of this species is stated to be from Mexico northwards along the Pacific coast to Sitka.


  • Trochilus rufus, Henshaw, Bull. Nuttall Orn. Club, ii. p. 54 (1877, nec Gm.).
  • Selasphorus henshawi, Elliot, Bull. Nuttall Orn. Club, ii. p. 102 (1877).—Id. Synopsis of the Humming-Birds, p. 111 (1878).

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