Genus Eriocnemis Reichenb.

The conspicuous tufts of feathers with which the legs of the Eriocnemides are clothed is a feature both novel and peculiar; and as it is not to be found in any other group of birds, they are thereby rendered especially singular. In some these powder-puff-like decorations are white, in others brown and white, and in one jet black. All the species are confined to that portion of the Andes which is bounded on the north by New Granada, and on the south by Bolivia.

It is not to be supposed that the minor distinctive characters which exist among the many species of this group should have passed unnoticed by ornithologists; on the contrary, they have attracted the notice of more than one writer, and the birds which were all formerly included in the genus Eriopus or Eriocnemis have received the subgeneric titles of Engyete, Threptria, Phemonoë, Aline, Luciania, Mosqueria, Derbyomia, &c.,—a tolerable division for the genus first established by me in 1847, under the name of Hriopus. I shall now give my own views on the subject, and point out those which I consider to be natural divisions. The first, then, is the well-known E. cupreiventris, with which I associate the E. Isaacsoni, the E. Lucianiani the E. Mosquera. In all these the sexes are alike in colour. The next division comprises E. vestita and E. nigrivestis, as they both have a brilliant patch of feathers on the throat, and the lower part of the back and the upper tail-coverts exceedingly luminous; and their females are somewhat different and less brilliant in colour. The E. Godini and E. D’Orbigny: form another little section; but we really know so little respecting these species, that nothing can be said with certainty as to their females. The black-puffed E. Derbiana stands alone, and a rare and very beautiful bird it is. The E. Alinæ is distinguished from all the rest by the glittering green of its face and under-surface; it is by far the smallest species of the genus, while it has the largest puffs; and the female, although bearing a general resemblance to the male, is far less brilliant. The members of the next section are very sombre in their colouring, as will be seen on reference to the plates on which they are represented; they are E. squamata, E. lugens, and E. Aureliæ. Ornithologists may please themselves about adopting generic terms for these minute divisions; but, for myself, I have kept them all under that of Eriocnemis, and still feel inclined to do so. They all possess the important character of the puff leg, and they are remarkably alike as to the amount of this peculiar ornamentation.


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