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Ornithological Biography/Volume 1/Cuvier's Regulus

Cuvier's Regulus (Audubon).jpg


Regulus cuvierii.


I have named this pretty and rare species after Baron Cuvier, not merely by way of acknowledgment for the kind attentions which I have received at the hands of that deservedly celebrated naturalist, but more as a homage due by every student of nature to one at present unrivalled in the knowledge of General Zoology.

I shot the bird represented in the Plate, on my father-in-law's plantation of Fatland Ford, on the Skuylkill River in Pennsylvania, on the 8th June 1812, while on a visit to my honoured relative Mr William Bakewell. The drawing which I then made I have kept to this date, without having described the bird from which it was taken. I killed this little bird, supposing it to be one of its relatives, the Ruby-crested Wren, whilst it was searching for insects and larvæ amongst the leaves and blossoms of the Kalmia latifolia, on a branch of which you see it represented, and was not aware of its being a different bird until I picked it up from the ground. I have not seen another since, nor have I been able to learn that this species has been observed by any other individual. It might, however, be very easily mistaken for the Ruby-crowned Wren, the manners of which appear to be much the same.

My excellent friend Charles Lucian Bonaparte, to whom also I shewed my drawing of this bird in London, proposed naming it Regulus Carbunculus; and I should probably have introduced it to you, kind reader, under that appellation, had I not changed it for that of Regulus Cuvierii, on my fortunately becoming acquainted with the highly celebrated and equally kind Secretary of the Royal Institute of France.

The Kalmia latifolia grows in great profusion in the State of Pennsylvania, and along the range of the Alleghanies, in all rocky and hilly situations.

regulus Cuvierii.

Plate LV. Male. Bill short, straight, subulate, very slender, compressed, with inflected edges; upper mandible nearly straight in its dorsal outline, the edges slightly notched close upon the slightly declinate acute tip; lower mandible straight, acute. Nostrils basal, elliptical, half closed above by a membrane, covered over by the feathers. The whole form slender. Legs rather long; tarsus slender, much compressed, longer than the middle toe, covered anteriorly with a few indistinct scutella; toes scutellate, the lateral ones nearly equal and free; hind toe stouter; claws weak, compressed, arched, acute.

Plumage very loose and tufty. Bristles at the base of the bill; a small decomposed feather covering the nostril. Wings of ordinary length, the third and fourth primaries longest. Tail of twelve feathers, emarginate.

Bill black. Iris hazel. Feet yellowish-brown. The general colour of the upper parts is dull greyish-olive. Forehead, lore, and a line behind the eye, black. A semilunar band of the same on the top of the head, the middle space vermilion. Wings and tail dusky, edged with greenish-yellow. Secondary coverts tipped with greyish-white. Under parts greyish-white.

Length 4¼ inches, extent of wings 6; bill along the ridge nearly ⅓, along the gap nearly ½; tarsus ¾.

The Broad-leaved Kalmia, or Laurel.

Kalmia latifolia, Willd. Sp. PL vol. ii. p. 600. Pursh, Fl. Amer. vol. i. p. 296.—Decandria Monogynia, Linn. Rhododendra, Juss.

This beautiful species is characterized by its scattered, petiolate, elliptical leaves, which are smooth, and nearly of the same colour on both sides; and its terminal, viscid, and pubescent corymbs. It is a middle-sized shrub, sometimes attaining a height of eight or ten feet. The leaves are evergreen, as in the other species, and the flowers of a delicate pink.