As the Lesbiæ naturally led us on to the Cynanthi, so do the latter in their broad tail-feathers offer an alliance to the Cometæ; and, however much I have extolled the beauty of any of the preceding genera, it is scarcely possible to select terms sufficiently expressive to convey an idea of the loveliness of the birds comprised in this latter genus. The two birds generally known under the names of Sappho and Phaon are par excellence the most gorgeous birds in existence so far as regards the colouring of their tails; and well do these living meteors deserve the more general name of Comets.
Male.—Bill longer than the head, straight or slightly arched; wings moderate; tail long and deeply forked, the feathers broad and luminous; tarsi naked; feet small; hind toe and nail nearly as long as the middle toe and nail; throat luminous.
Female.—Smaller in size, and nearly destitute of fine colouring.
Habitat: BoliviaPlate 174 Cometes sparganurus The Sappho Comet
Cometes Phaon (Gould)
Habitat: PeruPlate 175 Cometes Phaon The Phaon Comet
Habitat: Popayan in New GranadaPlate 176 Cometes? Glyceria Purple-tailed Comet
This is perhaps the most extraordinary bird I have had the good fortune to describe. I have placed it in the genus Cometes with a reservation; for it comprises characters which are found both in Lesbia and Cometes: in form it most nearly approaches the latter, while in its markings and in the colouring of its throat it resembles the former. At present only a single example has been obtained, and this, I am inclined to think, is not quite adult; it may possibly be only a young male of a splendidly coloured but unknown species; and if so, a fine bird remains in store to reward the researches of some future explorer.
Habitat: PeruPlate 177 Cometes? Caroli Charles’s Comet
Of this remarkable bird about four specimens have been in our collections for many years; but whether they are males or females is unknown; for in fact nothing has been recorded respecting these puzzling birds. If the description accompanying my plate of the species be referred to, it will be seen that it has been bandied about from one genus to another, different authors having assigned it to Trochilus, Hylocharis, Calliphlox, and Avocettinus! Some day, when the little-known country of Peru has been more fully vestigated, we shall doubtless acquire a better knowledge of it, and be able to decide to which genus it really pertains; for the present let it remain in the one in which I have placed it.
Featuring all 422 illustrated species from John Gould’s A Monograph of the Trochilidæ, or Family of Humming-Birds arranged by color.