Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
SELASPHORUS RUFUS, Gmel.
PLATE CCLIV.--MALES AND FEMALE.
This charming Humming-bird was discovered by the great navigator, Captain
Cook, who found it abundant at Nootka Sound. It does not appear to have been
seen by Dr. RICHARDSON or Mr. DRUMMOND in the northern parts of America,
traversed by those most zealous and highly talented naturalists. As no account
has hitherto been given of its habits, the following notices from my friends Mr.
NUTTALL and Mr. TOWNSEND, will, I doubt not, prove highly interesting.
"We began," says the first of these enterprising travellers, "to meet with
this species near the Blue Mountains of the Columbia river, in the autumn, as we
proceeded to the west. These were all young birds, and were not very easily
distinguished from those of the common species of the same age. We now for the
first time (April 16) saw the males in numbers, darting, burring, and squeaking
in the usual manner of their tribe; but when engaged in collecting its
accustomed sweets in all the energy of life, it seemed like a breathing gem, or
magic carbuncle of glowing fire, stretching out its gorgeous ruff, as if to
emulate the sun itself in splendour. Towards the close of May, the females were
sitting, at which time the males were uncommonly quarrelsome and vigilant,
darting out at me as I approached the tree probably near the nest, looking like
an angry coal of brilliant fire, passing within very little distance of my face,
returning several times to the attack, sinking and darting with the utmost
velocity, at the same time uttering a curious reverberating sharp bleat,
somewhat similar to the quivering twang of a dead twig, yet also so much like
the real bleat of some small quadruped, that for some time I searched the ground
instead of the air, for the actor in the scene. At other times, the males were
seen darting up high in the air, and whirling about each other in great anger,
and with much velocity. After these manoeuvres the aggressor returned to the
same dead twig, where for days he regularly took his station with all the
courage and angry vigilance of a King-bird. The angry hissing or bleating note
of this species seems something like wht 't 't 't 't sh vee, tremulously uttered
as it whirls and sweeps through the air, like a musket-ball, accompanied also by
something like the whirr of the Night-hawk. On the 29th of May, I found a nest
of this species in a forked branch of the Nootka Bramble, Rubus Nutkanus. The
female was sitting on two eggs, of the same shape and colour as those of the
common species. The nest also was perfectly similar, but somewhat deeper. As I
approached, the female came hovering round the nest, and soon after, when all
was still, she resumed her place contentedly."
Mr. TOWNSEND's note is as follows:--"Nootka Sound Humming-bird, Trochilus
rufus, Ah-puets-Rinne of the Chinooks. On a clear day the male may be seen to
rise to a great height in the air, and descend instantly near the earth, then
mount again to the same altitude as at first, performing in the evolution the
half of a large circle. During the descent it emits a strange and astonishingly
loud note, which can be compared to nothing but the rubbing together of the
limbs of trees during a high wind. I heard this singular note repeatedly last
spring and summer, but did not then discover to what it belonged. I did not
suppose it to be a bird at all, and least of all a Humming-bird. The observer
thinks it almost impossible that so small a creature can be capable of producing
so much sound. I have never observed this habit upon a dull or cloudy day."
Mr. NUTTALL having presented me with the nest of this species attached to
the twig to which the bird had fastened it, my amiable friend Miss MARTIN has
figured it for me, as well as the plant, about which these lovely creatures are
represented. The nest, which measures two inches and a quarter in height, and
an inch and three quarters in breadth, at the upper part, is composed externally
of mosses, lichens, and a few feathers, with slender fibrous roots interwoven,
and lined with fine cottony seed-down.
TROCHILUS RUFUS, Gmel. Syst. Nat., vol. i. p. 497.
TROCHILUS (SELASPHORUS) RUFUS, Cinnamon or Nootka Humming-bird, Swains. and
Rich. F. Bor. Amer., vol. ii. p. 324.
RUFFED-NECKED HUMMING-BIRD, Trochilus rufus, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iv.p. 555.
Male, 3 7/12, wing, 1 (7 1/4)/12.
From California along the north-west coast to Nootka Sound. Abundant.
Bill long, straight, subulate, somewhat depressed at the base, acute; upper
mandible with the dorsal line straight, the ridge narrow at the base, broad and
convex toward the end, the sides convex, the edges overlapping, the tip
acuminate; lower mandible with the angle very long and extremely narrow, the
dorsal line straight, the edges erect, the tip acuminate. Nostrils basal,
Head of ordinary size, oblong; neck short; body slender. Feet very small;
tarsus very short, feathered more than half-way down, toes small; the lateral
equal, the middle toe not much longer, the hind toe a little shorter than the
lateral, anterior toes united at the base; claws rather long, arched,
compressed, laterally grooved, very acute.
Plumage soft and blended; feathers on the throat, fore part and sides of
the neck oblong-obovate, with the filaments towards the end thickened and
flattened, with metallic gloss, those on the sides of the neck elongated and
erectile. Wings rather short, extremely narrow, falcate, pointed; the primaries
rapidly graduated, the second being longest, but only slightly longer than the
first; these two quills taper to a point; the rest are broader, and gradually
become less pointed; the secondaries are extremely short, and only five in
number. Tail rather long, broad, graduated, the lateral feathers four and a
half twelfths of an inch shorter than the central; the latter are extremely
broad, measuring four and a half twelfths across, and the rest gradually
diminish to the lateral, which are very narrow; all obtusely pointed.
Bill brownish-black; toes brown, claws dusky. The general colour of the
upper parts is bright cinnamon or reddish-orange; the head bronzed green, the
wings dusky, the coverts glossed with green, the primaries with purplish; each
of the tail-feathers has a narrow longitudinal lanceolate median streak toward
the end. The loral space, a narrow band over the eye, another beneath it, and
the auriculars are reddish-orange; the scale-like feathers of the throat and
sides of the neck are splendent fire-red, purplish-red, yellowish-red,
greenish-yellow or yellowish-green, according to the light in which they are
viewed; behind them, on the lower part of the neck, is a broad band of
reddish-white; the rest of the lower parts are like the upper, the abdomen
inclining to white.
Length to end of tail 3 7/12 inches; bill along the ridge (7 3/4)/12, along
the edge of lower mandible (9 1/4)/12; wing from flexure 1 (7 1/4)/12; tail
1 (3 1/2)/12; tarsus (1 1/2)/12; hind toe (1 1/2)/12, its claw (1 1/4)/12,
middle toe (2 1/4)/12, its claw (1 1/2)/12.
The female has the bill and feet coloured as in the male. The upper parts
are gold-green, the head inclining to brown; the wings as in the male; the tail
feathers reddish-orange at the base, brownish-black toward the end, the tip
white. The lower parts are white, tinged with rufous, of which colour,
especially, are the sides; the throat marked with roundish spots of metallic
Length to end of tail 3 (7 1/2)/12 inches; bill along the ridge (8 3/4)/12;
wing from flexure 1 10/12; tail 1 (1 1/2)/12.
The above descriptions are from two individuals shot by Mr. TOWNSEND on the
"Columbia river, 30th May, 1835." A "young male, Columbia river, 29th May,
1835," resembles the female as above described, differing only in having the
metallic spots on the throat larger. A "young female, Columbia river, June
10th, 1835," differs from the adult only in wanting the metallic spots on the
throat, which is spotted with greenish-brown.
The beautiful plant represented in the plate belongs to Tetradynamia
Siliquosa of the Linnaean arrangement, and to the genus Cleome, characterized by
having three nectariferous glandules at each corner of the calyx, the lower
excepted; all the petals ascending; the germen stipitate; the siliqua
unilocular, two-valved. The species, C. heptaphylla, is distinguished by its
septenate leaves, of which the leaflets are lanceolate, acuminate, and of a deep
green colour. It grows in South Carolina and Georgia.