Spathura cissiura

Scissor-tailed Racket-tail


Every traveller who penetrates the little-known country of Peru brings back with him evidence that much has yet to be learnt respecting its natural productions.

The justly celebrated Warszewicz, in one of his hurried journeys through that interesting country, plucked, as it were, from thence two examples of the remarkable bird here represented. These are now in my own collection, and are doubtless male and female; the male, however, is evidently immature; when fully adult, its throat is, in all probability, of a finer and more luminous green. Wait we must for additional specimens, and it may be years to come before these arrive, and a century, perhaps, elapse before more examples of the T. merabilis and other species (of which only single specimens have reached us) are obtained. We just get a glimpse, as it were—and that is all—of the natural productions of this fine country. In the forests to the eastward of the Cordillera, there is much in store for future ornithologists to examine and describe; for my own part, I am grateful for what I have been permitted to see, and for what I have been allowed to perform. Feebly it is done, I admit; yet I have not failed to exert myself to the best of my abilities in the illustration of my favourite branch of science—Ornithology.

Exceedingly curious in form is the tail of this little bird, and I really would give more than a trifle to see a fine adult male. Will not M. Sallé, who has already done so much for science, direct his attention to the exploration of Peru and Bolivia?

The Spathura cissiura is most nearly allied to S. Peruana, but differs from that, and all the other members of the genus, in having the outer tail-feathers webbed throughout their entire length, and, consequently, the spatulate tips less conspicuous.

General plumage bronzy green; wings purplish brown; four outer tail-feathers purplish steel-black; under surface green, paler on the throat; thighs thickly plumed, and of a reddish buff.

The figures are of the natural size. The plant is the Echinocactus Leeanus.


  • Spathura cissiura, Gould in Proc. of Zool. Soc., part xxi. p. 109.—Athenzeum, Nov. 26, 1853.

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