NONPAREIL, BIRD, the name under which, from its supposed matchless beauty, a little cage-bird, chiefly imported from New Orleans, has long been known to English dealers (cf. Edwards, Gleanings, i. 132). It is the Emberiza ciris of Linnaeus, and the Cyanospiza ciris of most recent ornithologists, belonging to a small group, now included with the buntings and finches, although some authors have regarded it as a tanager (q.v.). The cock has the head, neck and lesser wing-coverts bright blue, the upper part of the back yellow, deepening into green, and the lower parts generally, together with the rump, bright scarlet, tinged on the latter with purple. This gorgeous colouring is not assumed until the bird is at least two years old. The hen is green above and yellow beneath; and the younger cocks present an appearance intermediate between the adults of both sexes. The species, which is often also called the painted bunting, after wintering in Central America or Mexico, arrives in the Southern states of the American Union in April, but does not ordinarily proceed to the northward of South Carolina. In Louisiana, where it is generally known to the French-speaking inhabitants as the Pape as it was to the Spaniards of Florida as the Mariposa pintada (painted butterfly) it is said to be very abundant; and on its appearance in spring advantage is, or was, taken of the pugnacious disposition of the males to capture them alive in great numbers by means of the stuffed skin of one so placed in connexion with a cage-trap that they instantly fall into the latter on attacking what they conceive to be a rival. Belonging to the same genus as the nonpareil is the indigo-bird, Cyanospiza cyanea, which, as a summer visitant, is widely diffused from the Missouri to the Atlantic, and extends into the provinces of Ontario and New Brunswick, being everywhere regarded with favour. Though wanting most of the bright hues of its congener, the indigo-bird has yet much beauty, the adult cock being nearly all over of a deep blue, changing, according to the light, to green. The hen is brown above and ochreous-white beneath. The " pintailed nonpareil " of aviculture (Erythrura prasina) is a somewhat similarly coloured but really very different bird; the male has a long sharp tail, and the species belongs to the Ploceidae (see WEAVER-BIRD).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)