ANIMAL ART OF THE DAY for National Hummingbird Day: Mary and Elizabeth Kirby’s Humming-Birds, 1874

Happy National Hummingbird Day, celebrated annually on the 1st Saturday of September!

English sisters Mary Kirby (later Mary Gregg, 1817–1893) and Elizabeth Kirby (1823–1873) were prolific producers of books dedicated to popularizing science & nature study in the Victorian era. Their book Humming-birds (1874) included six full-color plates, each featuring two different species. The entire book has been digitized by Biodiversity Heritage Library and is available to view here.

Cover of Mary and Elizabeth Kirby’s Humming-birds (1874) featuring a color plate of a “Green-Crested Sylph and Great Crested Coquette”

Interestingly, all but one of these plates was previously featured in different volumes of Beautiful birds in far-off lands: their haunts and homes (1872, 1873). Instead of the “Sun Gem and Brilliant” plate, however, there was instead a plate of “Gould’s Coquette and Marvelous Humming Bird”:

“Gould’s Coquette and Marvelous Humming Bird” [Dot-eared Coquette (Lophornis gouldii) and Marvelous Spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis)] plate from the 1872 edition of Beautiful birds in far-off lands: their haunts and homes.
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