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Record number: WCP3682

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
[not recorded]
10 March 1850

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Barra de Rio Negro, Brazil to [addressee not recorded] [address not recorded] on 10 March 1850.

Record created:
12 January 2012 by Chen, Eric
Verified by:
22/05/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline (All except summary checked);


No summary available at this time.

Record contains:

  • enclosure (1)
  • publication (1)

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ENCLOSURE (WCP3682.3586)

An enclosure handwritten in English.

Manuscript written by Alfred Russel Wallace entitled "On the Umbrella Birds" and sent from Barra do Rio Negro.

Held by:
Zoological Society of London
Finding number:
GB 0814 BADW
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate
Record scrutiny:
22/05/2012 - Catchpole, Caroline;

Physical description

Transcription information




On the Umbrella bird. "Cephaloptera ornata". "Ueramimbé" L. G.

by Alfred R. Wallace.

Having had some the opportunity of observing this singular bird, in its native country a few remarks on its characters & habits may not perhaps be uninteresting, at a time when a large consignment Mr Hawpowell & myself from me will have arrived in England. -

The Umbrella bird is about the size of a crow averaging about eighteen inches in length. Its colour is entirely black but varied with metallic blue tints on the outer part margin of the feathers -- The colour of the iris is greyish white. It is a powerful bird, the bill being very large and strong, - the feet short but powerful, and the claws acute.

Were it not for its crest and neck plume, it would appear to be an ordinary observed nothing more than a short legged crow.

The crest is perhaps the most fully developed and beautiful of any bird known -- It is composed of long slender feathers rising from a contractile skin on the top of the head. The shafts are white & the plume glossy blue, hair like, and curved outward at the tip -- When the crest is laid back the shafts form a compact white mass sloping up from the top of the head and surmounted by the dense hairy plumes. Even in this position it is not an inelegant crest, but it is when it is fully opened that its peculiar character is developed -- The shafts then radiate on all sides from the top of the head, reaching in front beyond & below the top of the beak, which is completely hid from view -- The top them forms a complete perfect slightly elongated dome, of a beautiful shining blue colour, having a point of divergence rather behind the centre, like that in the human head. The length of this dome from front to back is about five inches, the breadth 4 to 4½ inches.

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[[2]] his perch and died -- I found on skinning him that the shot had broken his scull & entered the brain.

The umbrella bird inhabits the Hands of the Rivers, never having been seen on the main land -- It is perfectly arboreal never descending to the ground -- Its food is fruit of various kinds but, when this is scarce it eats insects. My hunter saw one with a large hairy spider (Mygale) in its mouth. On seizing an insect or fruit, it strikes the its beak against its perch several times, apparently to kill or soften it, or secure it more firmly in its beak, and then after two or three bites swallows it entire -- Some of the fruits it eats are about the size of a plu damson, and with have a stone. which these it rejects through its mouth, an hour or two after eating.

Its note is very loud and deep, and it is from this that is has received its Indian name "Ueramimbé" signifying the bir "Piper bird" -- It utters its note early in the morning & in the afternoon -- It frequents the very loftiest forest trees but is said to build its next rather lower -- Its nest is said to be formed of sticks very roughly, and the young are very naked and ugly. The colour or size of the eggs I have not been able to ascertain --

In ascending the Amazon it first occurs opposite the mouth of the Madeira in some Islands -- in the Sohuives as far as the boundaries of Brazil it also occurs, and probably further -- The Rio Negro however is its head quarters and there in the numerous Islands which fill that River [[3]] it is very abundant. It extends at least four hundred miles up the River & very probably much further. I have not heard of its occurring in the Rio Branco Madeira or any of the other great tributaries of the Amazon -- I have been informed by a hunter that towards the sources of the Rio Negro another species is found, and this I hope soon to have the means of verifying.

Alfred R. Wallace [signature]

Barra do Rio Negro, March 10th. 1850

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