Monday, August 1, 2011


By Judy Haughton-James

     This week is what I call Jamaica Week here on my Blog as we celebrate 2 national holidays - Emancipation Day (August 1) and Independence Day (August 6). I will discuss some of the Jamaican things that number among favourites for Janine and me.

       One of our favourites is Jamaica's national bird, the Jamaican Streamer Tail Hummingbird. For several years he has not been seen in my area. I can remember the days when he was a regular visitor to our garden. Some years ago Janine and I were so surprised when we saw one sitting on the front gate of our verandah. Unfortunately he did not linger around long enough for us to take a picture. 

        I keep hoping that one of these days this bird will come my way again. Recently I have been lucky where hummingbirds are concerned as twice I have looked through my kitchen window and seen what seems to be the female of the species lingering near a papaya tree in our backyard. Again she was gone in the flash of an eye.

       I am sure in some areas of Jamaica others are having a chance to see this bird. Visitors to our island may not get to see him live and direct but for sure there is no shortage of souvenirs with this national symbol.  Above are two candlesticks that I have featuring this bird.

       If a hummingbird comes in close proximity you will have no doubt as to how he got his name as the vibrations of his wings make a humming sound. Wing-beats are said to range from 50 to 200 per second.  Interestingly his heart beats over 1,000 times per minute.  An unique feature is his ability to fly backwards and up and down like a helicopter; a skill attributed to his well-developed flight muscles.

      John James Audubon, the great American naturalist, described hummingbirds as "glittering fragments of the rainbow" and no better description befits our national bird. Popularly known as the "Doctor Bird" his plumage is vivid iridescent emerald green which shines gold or electric blue in the brilliant sunlight of our "Island in the Sun."  His head, beady eyes, small feet and 8 in. - 10 in. long tail feathers are all black, while his narrow wings are golden-brown.

      Like others in the hummingbird family he feeds on insects and nectar.  An easily tamed bird, it is a delight to watch him feeding from a tilted bottle of syrup set up by bird lovers. It is about 3 in. long excluding its tail and you will only find him in Jamaica.


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