The law of adaptation is perhaps equally carried out in every one of the multiplied forms, not only of ornithology, but of every other department of nature’s works, each being constructed for some given purpose contributing to the well-being of the animal; in some instances, however, particular developments are more striking and singular than in others. The form to which the generic name of Eutoxeres has been given is a case in point. Of this remarkable genus two species are known, both of which are natives of the Andes of Ecuador, New Granada, and Veragua. It would be most interesting to become acquainted with their peculiar modes of life, and to ascertain for what end their singularly curved bills were designed. Some persons affirm that it is for the purpose of probing the scaly covering of the upright stems of certain trees, and others for the exploration of peculiar cup-shaped flowers, such as that of the orchid which I have figured in the plate of Eutoxeres Aquila. Whatever may be the design, future research must determine it; all that we at present know is, that this form does exist, and that there is no other which approaches to it. In size the two species are very similar; but there are good and plain specific characters by which they may be distinguished, and which will, I trust, be sufficiently apparent on reference to the plates in which the birds are represented.
Habitat: Costa Rica, New Granada, and Ecuador.Plate 3 Eutoxeres Aquila Sickle Bill
The oldest-known species of this form is the [Eutoxeres Aquila].
The following notes respecting this species, by Dr. J. King Merritt, will be read with interest. They are extracted from the 6th volume of the ‘Annals of the Lyceum of Natural History of New York,’ p. 139:—
It was, as near as I can recollect, during the month of September 1852, that I saw for the first time and obtained a specimen of this (to me) curious and novel bird. I was at that time stationed in the mountainous district of Belen, province of Veragua, New Granada.
My attention at that particular period was directed towards the collection of specimens of the HummingBird family. One day, while out hunting a short distance from the camp, I was startled by the swift approach of a small object through the close thicket, which darted like a rifle-bullet past me, with a loud hum and buzzing of wings. Indeed, it was this great noise that accompanied its flight that especially attracted my attention as something uncommon.
The bird continued its flight but a short distance beyond the spot where I stood, when it suddenly stopped in its rapid course directly in front of a flower. There for a moment poising itself in this position, it darted upon the flower in a peculiar manner; in fact, the movements which now followed were exceedingly curious. Instead of inserting its beak into the calyx by advancing in a direct line towards the flower, as customary with this class of birds, this one performed a curvilinear movement, at first stooping forward while it introduced its beak into the calyx, and then, when apparently the point of the beak had reached the desired locality in the flower, its body suddenly dropped downwards, so that it seemed as though it was suspended from the flower by the beak. That this was not actually the case, the continued rapid movement of its wings demonstrated beyond a doubt. In this position it remained the ordinary length of time, and then, by performing these movements in the reverse order and direction, it freed itself from the flower, and afterwards proceeded to the adjoining one, when the same operation was repeated as already described.
The flower from which it fed is somewhat peculiar in form, &c. The plant belongs to the Palm species, and grows in low marshy places, on or near the margins of rivers and mountain streams. It consists of a dozen or more straight stems, each of which terminates above in a broad expanded leaf that somewhat resembles the plantain. These stems all start from a clump at the surface of the ground, but they immediately separate and slightly diverge from each other. The stems with the leaf grow to the height of six to ten feet, more or less. From one or two of the centre stems a flower-stalk puts forth, which hangs pendent, and to this are attached alternately on either side the flowers, while the space between each corresponds with the attachment of the one on the opposite side of the stalk.
The flower resembles somewhat in form the Roman helmet inverted, and is attached, as it were, by the point of the crest to the stalk. It is a fleshy mass, and the cavity of the calyx extends in a tortuous manner downwards towards the attachment of the flower to the stalk.
Habitat: Eastern EcuadorPlate 4 Eutoxeres Condaminei Condamine’s Sickle-Bill
For the knowledge of the existence of E. Condaminei science is indebted to the researches of M. Bourcier, who brought specimens from Archidona.
Featuring all 422 illustrated species from John Gould’s A Monograph of the Trochilidæ, or Family of Humming-Birds arranged by color.