As you advance towards the mountains of Demerara other species of humming- birds present themselves before you. It seems to be an erroneous opinion that the humming-bird lives entirely on honey-dew. Almost every flower of the tropical climates contains insects of one kind or other. Now the humming-bird is most busy about the flowers an hour or two after sunrise and after a shower of rain, and it is just at this time that the insects come out to the edge of the flower in order that the sun's rays may dry the nocturnal dew and rain which they have received. On opening the stomach of the humming-bird dead insects are almost always found there.
Next to the humming-birds, the cotingas display the gayest plumage. They are of the order of Passer, and you number five species betwixt the sea- coast and the rock Saba. Perhaps the scarlet cotinga is the richest of the five, and is one of those birds which are found in the deepest recesses of the forest. His crown is flaming red; to this abruptly succeeds a dark shining brown, reaching half-way down the back: the remainder of the back, the rump and tail, the extremity of which is edged with black, are a lively red; the belly is a somewhat lighter red; the breast reddish-black; the wings brown. He has no song, is solitary, and utters a monotonous whistle which sounds like "quet." He is fond of the seeds of the hitia-tree and those of the siloabali-and bastard siloabali-trees, which ripen in December and continue on the trees for above two months. He is found throughout the year in Demerara; still nothing is known of his incubation. The Indians all agree in telling you that they have never seen his nest.
The purple-breasted cotinga has the throat and breast of a deep purple, the wings and tail black, and all the rest of the body a most lovely shining blue.
The purple-throated cotinga has black wings and tail, and every other part a light and glossy blue, save the throat, which is purple.
The pompadour cotinga is entirely purple, except his wings, which are white, their four first feathers tipped with brown. The great coverts of the wings are stiff, narrow and pointed, being shaped quite different from those of any other bird. When you are betwixt this bird and the sun, in his flight, he appears uncommonly brilliant. He makes a hoarse noise which sounds like "wallababa." Hence his name amongst the Indians.
None of these three cotingas have a song. They feed on the hitia, siloabali-and bastard siloabali-seeds, the wild guava, the fig, and other fruit-trees of the forest. They are easily shot in these trees during the months of December, January and part of February. The greater part of them disappear after this, and probably retire far away to breed. Their nests have never been found in Demerara.
The fifth species is the celebrated campanero of the Spaniards, called dara by the Indians, and bell-bird by the English. He is about the size of the jay. His plumage is white as snow. On his forehead rises a spiral tube nearly three inches long. It is jet black, dotted all over with small white feathers. It has a communication with the palate, and when filled with air looks like a spire; when empty it becomes pendulous. His note is loud and clear, like the sound of a bell, and may be heard at the distance of three miles. In the midst of these extensive wilds, generally on the dried top of an aged mora, almost out of gun-reach, you will see the campanero. No sound or song from any of the winged inhabitants of the forest, not even the clearly pronounced "Whip-poor-will" from the goat-sucker, cause such astonishment as the toll of the campanero.
With many of the feathered race he pays the common tribute of a morning and an evening song; and even when the meridian sun has shut in silence the mouths of almost the whole of animated nature the campanero still cheers the forest. You hear his toll, and then a pause for a minute, then another toll, and then a pause again, and then a toll, and again a pause. Then he is silent for six or eight minutes, and then another toll, and so on. Acteon would stop in mid-chase, Maria would defer her evening song, and Orpheus himself would drop his lute to listen to him, so sweet, so novel and romantic is the toll of the pretty snow-white campanero. He is never seen to feed with the other cotingas, nor is it known in what part of Guiana he makes his nest.
While the cotingas attract your attention by their superior plumage, the singular form of the toucan makes a lasting impression on your memory. There are three species of toucans in Demerara, and three diminutives, which may be called toucanets. The largest of the first species frequents the mangrove trees on the sea-coast. He is never seen in the interior till you reach Macoushia, where he is found in the neighbourhood of the River Tacatou. The other two species are very common. They feed entirely on the fruits of the forest and, though of the pie kind, never kill the young of other birds or touch carrion. The larger is called bouradi by the Indians (which means nose), the other scirou. They seem partial to each other's company, and often resort to the same feeding-tree and retire together to the same shady noon-day retreat. They are very noisy in rainy weather at all hours of the day, and in fair weather at morn and eve. The sound which the bouradi makes is like the clear yelping of a puppy-dog, and you fancy he says "pia-po-o-co," and thus the South-American Spaniards call him piapoco.
All the toucanets feed on the same trees on which the toucan feeds, and every species of this family of enormous bill lays its eggs in the hollow trees. They are social, but not gregarious. You may sometimes see eight or ten in company, and from this you would suppose they are gregarious; but upon a closer examination you will find it has only been a dinner-party, which breaks up and disperses towards roosting-time.