It is only at a comparatively recent date that we became acquainted with the birds for which I proposed the term Oreotrochilus. D’Orbigny introduced to us the O. Estellæ and O. Adele; while in 1846 the fine O. Chimborazo was brought to light through the researches of M. Bourcier; in 1849 the same gentleman made us aware of the existence of the little less beautiful O. Pichincha, and I, on my own part, had the pleasure of making known the O. melanogaster and O. leucopleurus. All these birds inhabit loftier elevations than any other genus of Humming-Birds; for they love to dwell in regions just beneath the line where the melting snows and the warmth of the sun call forth an alpine flora and a peculiar character of insect life; and I question if any other insessorial birds seek their food at so great an elevation as the O. Chimborazo and O. Pichincha. As far as our present knowledge extends, no species has been found to the northward of Ecuador, while to the south they range along the high lands of Peru and Bolivia.
Male.— Bill longer than the head, almost cylindrical, and slightly incurved; wings rather long and powerful; tail large, the feathers narrow and rigid; tarsi clothed; feet strong; hind toe and nail about the same length as the middle toe and nail; throat luminous.
Habitat: Immediately below the snow-line round the cone of the volcanic mountain ChimborazoPlate 68 Oreotrochilus Chimborazo Chimborazian Hill-Star
Mr. Fraser, who killed many examples at Panza, at an altitude of 14,000 feet, says, “Irides hazel; bill, legs, and feet black. To be seen occasionally on the Arbor Maria, but feeds generally on a red thistle. It is common, and by no means shy, and has rather a pretty song, oft repeated, and to be heard at a considerable distance. In bad weather, when the wind is high, this bird is said to creep under and into the clumps of Paja (a species of Stipa).”
Habitat: The snow-line of the volcanic mountains of Pichincha and Cotopaxi in Ecuador.Plate 69 Oreotrochilus Pichincha Pichinchian Hill-Star
Guagua and Ruco Pichincha (14,000 feet alt.), many examples. The Pichincha Humming-Bird, like the Chimborazo, is found only close under the line of perpetual snow; but this species, according to the present state of our knowledge, is more widely distributed than the latter, being found not only on Pichincha, but also on Antisana and Cotopaxi. Upon my first visit to Guagua Pichincha these birds were feeding entirely on the ground, hunting the little moss-covered clumps as fast as the snow melted. They are not uncommon in this locality, but always met with singly. They are very restless, but not shy, seldom remaining on one clump more than a second, then away to another, perhaps a yard distant. Sometimes they would take a rapid flight of 40 or 50 yards. On my second visit, the Chuquiragua (Chuquiraga insignis, Humb.) being in flower, they were feeding from it like the Quindi of Chimborazo, but still occasionally hunted the mossy clumps. They flit with a burr of the wings, and occasionally settle, with the feathers all ruffled, on the top of the Chuquiragua or other small plant. In this respect, so far as my observations and those of Professor Jameson go, they differ from O. Chimborazo.
June 5. No snow on the ground, and all birds were apparently scarce and shyer; these birds in particular were chasing each other, in twos and threes, like flashes of lightning.”—Fraser in Proc. of Zool. Soc. part xxviii. p. 79.
Habitat: The high lands near La Paz in BoliviPlate 70 Oreotrochilus Estellæ Estella’s Hill-star
Oreotrochilus leucopleurus (Gould)
Habitat: The Chilian AndesPlate 71 Oreotrochilus leucopleurus White-sided Hill-star
“This beautiful and rare species of Humming-Bird,” says Mr. Bridges, “‘is only found in the elevated valleys of the Andes, residing amongst storms of hail, rain, and thunder, and in places where the naturalist would least expect to find a species of Trochilus. It subsists more upon small flies than upon the nectar of flowers. On examination of the crops I found them filled with flies, which they take before sun-down along the margin of the mountain rivulets. Specimens were taken at Los Ojos de Aqua, province of Aconcagua, at an elevation of from 6000 to 8000 feet, and I saw them at least 1000 feet above that place. Iris brown.”—Proc. Zool. Soc. part xi. p. 114.
Dr. Philippi met with this bird at Hueso Parado in Northern Chili, at an elevation of not more than 1000 feet above the sea-level.
Oreotrochilus melanogaster (Gould)
Habitat: The high lands of Peru; precise locality unknownPlate 72 Oreotrochilus melanogaster Black-breasted Hill-star
Habitat: Bolivia ; the high lands around Chuquesaca being one of its localitiePlate 73 Oreotrochilus Adelæ Adela’s Hill-star
Featuring all 422 illustrated species from John Gould’s A Monograph of the Trochilidæ, or Family of Humming-Birds arranged by color.