Jamaican Hummingbirds of Mystic Mountain, Ocho Rios
Mystic Mountain, a 100 acre tropical forest attraction, 700 feet above sea level, at Ocho Rios in the Parish of Saint Ann is a regular hangout for three of the five hummingbird species known on the island of Jamaica. The Jamaican mango, the red-billed streamertail (a.k.a. western streamertail, also doctor bird), and the vervain hummingbird, one of the smallest bird in the world, haunt a natural spring, vistas, dells, and panoramas below an ample canopy of the semi-evergreen forest, as well as, the park's hummingbird garden stocked with the passion-flower vine, cigar plant, pepper hibiscus, fire spike, red tassel tree, China hat, and shrimp plant, which was prepared to attract and feed hummingbirds, (see videos below).
Regarding the three Mystic Mountain species, the Jamaican mango is endemic to Jamaica; the red-billed streamertail, also, is endemic to jamaica and the most widespread hummingbird species on the island, found west of a line roughly drawn, north to south, from Morant Bay to Port Antonio in eastern Jamaica; and it is the national bird of Jamaica. The vervain hummingbird is one of the smallest birds in the world.
The two other Jamaican hummingbirds are less likely to be seen at Mystic Mountain as the black-billed streamertail (eastern streamertail), disputed as a separate species from the red-billed, is of eastern Jamaica and the ruby-throated hummingbird is accidental on the island being migratory, spending the summer months in North America (United States and Canada) and the winter months in the West Indies, Central America, and South America.
With respect to the new hummingbird clade classification, the streamertail hummingbirds of the Trochilus genus are members of the emerald clade—the males of the emerald genus are iridescent green, gilded-green, or bluish-green, and some have blue tails or throats; females are typified by grey-white underparts and streaks behind the eye. The Jamaican mango of the Anthracothorax genus—distinguished by their coal-black chest—is a member of the mango clade and the vervain hummingbird of the genus Mellisuga along with the ruby-throated hummingbird of the genus Archilochusis are members of the bees clade—the bees are mostly small hummingbirds, a few medium sized, and typically, with some exceptions, with long, straight, and slender bills, and upperparts with some variation of green; males typically have well-developed iridescent gorgets.
Included in our descriptions is the Jamaican tody, which is not a hummingbird, but closely resembles an overgrown one in colouration and shape; and the endemic Jamaican giant swallowtail butterfly, which is the largest butterfly in the western hemisphere.
Black-billed Streamertail(Trochilus scitulus)
Length: 15–17cm (5.9–6.69") Description: black bill, black head, elongated lateral crown feathers behind the nape forming ear tufts, iridescent black gorget, glossy emerald-green upper-part, bolder glossy emerald-green under-parts, black wings, black tail delimited in green with second to outermost rectrices (tail feathers) elongated to form "streamers"; female (♀): grey-brown head, some slight spotting on the side of the throat, green upper-parts, dark green sides, white plumage below, outer tail feathers are tipped white without the long tail feathers of the male; and immature: lack the long tail feathers.
Habitat: forest, gardens, parks, plantations, riverine area, secondary forest, and woodlands. Range: Eastern Jamaica.
Note: Like its cousin, the red-billed streamertail, it is also endemic to Jamaica. Jamaicans dub them the "doctor birds." Peculiarly, in flight their long, black tail feathers trail them with a drone. The streamers add about 6–7 inches to the bird's overall length. Otherwise, its length is about 3.25–3.5 inches (see the red-billed streamertail hummingbird, below.)
Wingspan: 15.24cm (6") Description: The Giant Swallowtail Butterfly is black or dark brown with almost concentric curved yellow bands on the upper wings (forewing) and hind-wings. The hind-wing is adorned with red crescent and blue smudgy round spots, and, which tapers off into a tail, like the forked tail of the swallow bird. The body, head, thorax, and abdomen is dark.
Habitat: rain forest and the wet forest, at 300 to 780m, of the "Cockpit Country"—a rugged terrain, created by countless sinkholes—of western Jamaica. Range: Jamaica.
Note: The forked appearance of the giant swallowtail butterfly tail on the hind-wings, when outstretched, gave this butterfly its name. It is the largest butterfly in the Western Hemisphere.
Length: 13cm (5") Weight: 6.6g (0.23oz.) Description: A large hummingbird; down curved black bill; overall blackish plumage with hints of blue, green, golden/bronze splashes over parts; ruddy-purple cheeks and sides of the neck; amber shine to shoulders; iridescent, greenish-blue upper-part; silky black under-parts; and purplish wings; female (♀): duller than the male; and immature males (♂): blue throats. Habitat: forest, forest boundary/edges, gardens, groves, plantations, and secondary forest.
Note: This species is common along the northern Jamaican coast. From June to August they migrate south from the higher elevations to the Blue and John Crow Mountains and the mid-altitude zones.
Jamaican Tody(Todus todus)
Length: 9–11cm (3.54–4.33") Weight: 7g (0.25oz.) Description: A small bird, resembling a hummingbird; long, red bill; red gorget (throat coloration and pattern); bright green plumage overall; green above, pale yellow fades on abdomen and flanks; meager hints of pink on flanks; and tiny tail. Habitat:forests, including montane elfin forest and coastal dry scrub. Range: Jamaica.
Note: For emphasis, it is not a hummingbird—order Apodiforme, i.e., small legged, agile birds with proportionately long wings—but resembles an overgrown one in coloration and shape; It belongs to the Coraciiformes order - carnivorous land dwelling birds with flamboyant distinctive plumage and large beaks, includes todies, bee-eaters, motmots, kingfishers, hornbills, and the like. It is endemic to Jamaica and in Jamaica's parlance dubbed "robin redbreast", "Jesus bird" or "Rasta bird".
Red-billed Streamertail(Trochilus polytmus)
Length: male 22-30cm (8.66–11.81") Weight: 4.4–5.2g (0.156–0.183oz.) Description: 2–3cm long red bill, predominant iridescent emerald-green plumage, a black crown and obvious ear tufts from elongated nape feathers, green throat, darker green on back, brown wings, and very long black tail streamers from the second outermost tail feathers, the streamers of the perched birds are crossed; females (♀): the female is about 10.5cm (4.13ins) in length, green above and whitish below, lightly spotted sides of the breast and belly, dark blue tail but green centrally outer feathers are broadly tipped white, but lacking the ornamental tail feathers of the male; and immature: black upper mandible, with red only at base of bill. Habitat: forest, gardens, parks, plantations, riverine area, secondary forest, and woodlands. Range: Jamaica.
Note: The flamboyant red-billed streamertail hummingbird is endemic to Jamaica and is Jamaica's national bird. It thrives on most of the island, found West of a line roughly drawn, north to south, from Morant Bay to Port Antonio in Eastern Jamaica, but a second cluster of black-billed streamertail, are denizens of the eastern part of the island.
The black-billed streamertail's, also endemic to Jamaica, is different from the red-billed streamertail in a few respects, first, its bill color is completely black, in size, the black-billed streamertail's wing, bill and tail length are slightly smaller, then its vocalization, and finally, its courtship exhibition does not involve head nodding or male flying display but rather involves interchanging diagonal flights between courting pairs.
Otherwise, the two subspecies are similar, sharing green plumage, although the black-billed streamer's is slightly darker and shows less yellow-green, a black cap and long black streamers. They even interbreed in the John Crow Mountains, towards the east of the island.
Ruby-throated Hummingbird(Archilochus colubris)
Length: 7–9cm (2.8–3.5") Weight: 2–6g (0.071-0.21oz.) Description: straight, slender and long bill, up to 2cm (.79"); a ruby-red gorget, appearing black in some lighting; metallic green above and greyish white below; almost black wings; and a dark forked tail; female (♀): devoid of the gorget, though sometimes sporting a light or whitish throat patch and white tips on a rounded tail. Habitat:deciduous forest, forest, forest boundary/edges, gardens, groves, parks, and secondary forest. Range: West Indies, Mexico, Central America, and South America.
Note: The female is slightly larger than the male and has a slightly longer beak. It is a migratory bird that winters in southern Mexico, Central America, South America, and the West Indies. It breeds throughout eastern North America, including the United States and Canada. It is a vagrant species on the island of Jamaica.
Vervain Hummingbird(Mellisuga minima)
Length: 6–7cm (2.4–2.76") Weight: 2–2.4g (0.071–0.085oz.) Description: Small hummingbird; male and females resemble with minor differences; 0.4 inch (1 cm) dull black bill; dark brown eyes; pale grey chin and throat with impression of grey speckles centrally; dull metallic green upper-parts; pale grey chest also with impressions of grey speckles; metallic green under-parts; darker green, occasionally nearly black, rump and darker green upper tail feathers; dusky coloured legs and feet; female (♀): markedly dark metallic green upper-parts; bluish-green or bronze green, glossy metallic green flanks; and white-tipped outer rectrices (tail feathers) on rounded slightly forked tail; and immature males (♂): resemble adult females, but more speckled grey on throat than female, more defined white-tipped outer rectrices, more intense and widespread glossed green flanks.
Habitat: forest, forest undergrowth/shrubbery, gardens, and secondary forest. Range: Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica, and is a vagrant to Puerto Rico.
Note: It is allegedly the second smallest bird in the world after the bee hummingbird, its close cousin of Cuba and Isla de la Juventud. The vervain hummingbirds are faintly larger. Also, allegedly it lays the smallest bird egg; its egg averaging 1cm (0.038") in length and .0375 grams.