[Three Hundred Animals Contents]
IS the least of all the feathered tribe, and a native of America, where they are as common as butterflies are here. The sizes vary with the different species: the biggest is about as big as our smallest wren, and the smallest the size of our common humble bee. They feed upon the nectar which they extract with their slender and tubular beaks and thread like tongues, from the cups of the flowers: always on the wing, and never alighting to take up their food; in this situation the constant fluttering of their wings, which move with incredible velocity, produces a humming noise, whence they received their denomination. They suspend their nest, which is not bigger than a wall-nut, to the branches of the orange or lemon tree, and the female deposits there two eggs only, very white, dashed with brown spots, as small as a common pea.
The colour of this small favourite of nature is most beautiful, resembling by its bright azure and deep green colour, mixed with a golden gloss, the richness of the peacock’s neck. Some species of this dwarfish bird are very remarkable for the length of their forked tails. It is natural to suppose that, feeding upon the ambrosia which they find in the scented bosom of the flowers, they cannot subsist in countries where the severity of the winter season destroys this pride of our gardens, and must therefore be confined to those tropical regions where ever-blooming flowers present them with a never-failing stream of nectar:
“- in Nature’s gaudiest livery,
There Flora’s darling bird, her sprightly dwarf,
Humming his morning whispers in the cups
Of dew-pearled blossoms, sips the liquid sweets
On perfumed boughs; where ripening golden frụits
Hang, in the air, fast by the silver buds,
In rich and vast Hesperian groves; and join
Deep-blushing Autumn’s hand to youthful Spring,
In constant Hymen through the year -.”
The figure above has been correctly drawn from a subject sent to England, carefully stuffed, and which preserves at this moment all the changeful and glowing brilliancy of its plumage.