7.30am, the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago, the verdant Diego Martin Valley, flit, flit, flit, around the green, yellow, sunlit coconut palm leaves the nymph dallies. Hover, scamper, twist, turn, hover, and float, this multi-shaded green apparition with a copper, green shawl. A hummingbird framed in bold relief against the faint sapphire vault. It darts in a direct line beyond a pale green bois canot (trumpet bush) tree with a dull brown trunk, beyond the nearer rows of cherry trees.
The cherry trees are mainly emerald green whorls with short dabs of pale yellow crowned, reddish brown younger leaves, at the branch tips. The cheery tree is an immigrant from the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere of America, Europe, and Asia.
The third visit in three days of this iridescent bright green capped visitor. Ah! It emerges, amongst the flamboyant, flaming, yellow-red ginger and heliconia flowers (Heliconia bihai). "Pprrreuu Preuu PPrrrreuu!" it utters in brief rolling mellow pulses above the, lower pitched, "dzz".
Hover. Hover. Forward, then backward it approaches the spray. It Retreats and fixes on one ginger bract. Its beak, just under one inch long, penetrates the nectar chalice. Lap. Lap, then on, again, to the heliconia spray. Sip, pollen brushes its head. It's much nearer now, and is about 3.5 inches (9cm) in length and, I guess, about 5 grams in weight with black tail and legs.
This must be the copper-rumped hummingbird (Family: Trochilidae; Genus: Amazilla; Species: A. tobaci) which species is popular in The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. There must be a nest nearby. It normally has an oversized thimble nest, and can have more than two broods in a year. Incubation to fledging takes just over 5 weeks. I must search out it next amongst the lower branches of the fruit trees in my backyard garden It has cast a spell over me as I am transfixed by its ease and grace in flight.
I must encourage this visitor more often. A bird feeder, one suited for hummingbirds, is just the thing to attract it, one with predominantly red and yellow colours and stocked with sugar water.
Trinidad and Tobago—the Land of the Hummingbird
On landing on the southern shores of the island of Trinidad, on his third voyage, Columbus named the island 'La Isla Trinidad' (Trinity Island) changing the original Arawak name for the island, Iere, the land of the hummingbird. So the history goes, but the Arawak name is disputed by some. Boomert champions the names Tukusi or Tucuchi as the Arawak words meaning hummingbird instead. To complicate matters further, El Tucuche (with the Spanish article el), the second highest mountain peak in Trinidad and Tobago, is another known Amerindian name for the hummingbird. Note, Trinidad and Tobago is also now recognized as "The land of Calypso" and "The land of the Steel Pan". However, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, comprising the two southern most islands of the western Caribbean archipelago, has 22 recorded hummingbird species; they have impressed themselves into the lives of the inhabitants.
The hummingbird has become ever present in the cultural and social life of the republic. It is one of the three birds emblazoned on the national emblem (The Birds depicted on the Coat of Arms of Trinidad and Tobago are the hummingbird, cocrico (native to Tobago), and the scarlet ibis.), it is part of the logo of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and its image adorns the tail fin of the national airline, i.e., Caribbean Airlines, and also used as its logo. Citizens who have rendered meritorious service to Trinidad and Tobago may be honoured with the Hummingbird Medal—Gold, Silver or Bronze. The hummingbird is one of the many birds featured on the postage stamps of Trinidad and Tobago since 1960; including the copper-rumped hummingbird, green hermit, rufous-breasted, black-throated mango, tufted coquette and the white chested emerald hummingbirds. It is affixed on the nation's currency on the twenty dollar bill and on the one cent coin. The National Library & Information System Authority (NALIS) of Trinidad and Tobago 2015 calendars, "Iere - Land of the Hummingbird," features 13 of the hummingbirds of Trinidad and Tobago. Hummingbird costumes have paraded during Trinidad and Tobago carnival celebrations; in 1974 Sherry-Ann Guy portrayed a hummingbird, with a costume designed by Peter Minshall, a world renowned mas designer and bandleader, for the Childrenˈs Carnival that, in Minshallˈs words, "exploded like a joyful Sapphire on that stage," and the Genesis Mas band, 2011 presentation, featured a costume section called the Hummingbird. Various commercial entities, e.g., Columbus Communications Trinidad LTD (FLOW (Cable TV Services)) have been inspired to use its image in their print or television commercial advertising.
In the pre-Columbian era, as well as, in the colonial period the hummingbird was on the minds of the inhabitants. The local Amerindian legend tells how the pitch lake, in south Trinidad, was summoned by the winged God to consume an entire Chima village and its tribe as punishment for feasting on vast quantities of Colibri Birds (Hummingbirds), as the birds were the spirits of their ancestors. Much later, in the 19th Century, William Sanger Tucker, an Englishman, came to Trinidad in 1854 and then became a plantation owner in Tucker Valley, Chaguaramas, he shot, cured, stuffed and exported hummingbirds for sales in the fashionable capitals of the world1, e.g., New York, Paris, and London. The feathers, wings, tails and particularly stuffed male hummingbirds were worn as earrings or adorned fans and fantasy assemblages (of bird nests, beetles, butterflies, grasses, flowers, and mosses) or used by millinery to trim broad-brimmed womenˈs hats and bonnets. During the period the hummingbird was referred to as "fairy-like children of the sun," "flying gems," &c., which seems like echoes and inspired by the names given to them by earlier European Explorers to the New World. The Spaniards called them "Joyas Voladores" or "Flying Jewels" whereas the French christened them "Oiseau Mouche" or "Flower Bird."
1Note: during the 1880s and 1890s, the trade in feathers for adorning womenˈs hats prompted the formation of several activist groups on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Audubon Society in 1896, to fight against the practice.
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