Beauty can be too much for words. So it is with the charm of what many consider the loveliest of the world’s birds, the hummingbirds: Overcome by the dazzling colors of those first tiny skins, early European naturalists reached to the limits of their vocabularies to describe them. The result, nearly five centuries after the first specimens were brought back from a then truly New World, is a large set of remarkably evocative names, hillstars and woodstars, helmetcrests and plumeleteers, jacobins and incas, metaltails and thornbills, emeralds and sapphires and topazes and rubies.
The birds, of course, are every bit as fantastic as their monikers.
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The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is the world’s largest open access digital library for biodiversity literature and archives. Headquartered at the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives in Washington, D.C., BHL operates as a worldwide consortium of natural history, botanical, research, and national libraries working together to digitize the natural history literature held in their collections and make it freely available for open access as part of a global “biodiversity community.”
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