Land of the Hummingbird

As we head deeper into winter in the Northern Hemisphere, let’s take a few minutes to frolic in the tropics. Trinidad is called Land of the Hummingbird–here are some of the beautiful birds and butterflies we have seen there.

Trinidad is an island in the Caribbean Sea less than 10 miles (16km) off South America’s Venezuelan coast.

Read more about Trinidad here: Trinidad Wikipedia.

Although Trinidad’s primary industry is oil and gas, parts of the island are rainforest and plantations. You can see from this photo below how extensive the tree canopy is.

And now we will go below the canopy to find thriving birds in every color of the rainbow. We’ll start with a few of the hummingbirds.

We have 15 species of hummingbirds living in our very large country of America. In the small dual-island nation of Trinidad-Tobago, with an area of less than 2,000 sq. miles (5,131 km2), there are more hummingbird species than in all the U.S.: 18.

This hummingbird’s iridescent crown and gorget feathers lit up with a simple turn of his head in the perfect light. Its name is “copper-rumped”…but who’s looking at the rump?

Four additional hummingbird species are below; Blue-chinned Sapphire, White-necked Jacobin, Tufted Coquette, and White-chested Emerald.

This tufted coquette below, with his orange mohawk and polka dots, has bits of pollen on the end of his bill. He was tiny and zipping around at lightning speed…and very busy.

You may not be able to see it, but this white-chested emerald hummingbird has a bit of his tongue sticking out.

There were many native, red-flowered bushes on the trail (below), attractive to hummingbirds.

But it wasn’t just hummingbirds we found in Trinidad, there was an abundance of other colorful species as well.

Scarlet ibis live in Trinidad, roosting at night on small coastal islands. I wrote a post recently that included Trinidad’s scarlet ibis. Link: Celebrating Ibis.

And there were many honeycreeper species, too. In Hawaii, honeycreepers take the place of hummingbirds in the avian world. But in Trinidad they have both.

This male purple honeycreeper is absolutely show-stopping. I found it difficult to take the binoculars down and keep walking–I would stop and stare for the longest time.

And the female of the same species, often close by, is also colorful and beautiful. Green legs!

And then there’s the green honeycreeper which is another stunner. The bird’s name is “green” but it’s really turquoise.

With all the nectar plants around, there were of course butterflies. Interestingly, the two butterfly species below both have bird names: the owl butterfly and the scarlet peacock, below that.

The owl butterfly below is not as colorful as some butterflies, but the “eye” marking is easily discernable. Many scientists posit that the eyespot is an evolutionary tool of mimicry, resembling eyes of predators that hunt by sight; while others say the conspicuous contrast in markings deters predators.

It wouldn’t be right to highlight the wild nectar feeders without including at least one bat. Trinidad has approximately 70 bat species, an incredible amount.

One night at dusk we spotted a stream of bats flying out from under our lodge building. We went back every night thereafter for a bat bonanza.

And lastly, here are two songbirds to sing to you of the color and beauty here on earth.

The violaceous euphonia with his furry yellow forehead.

And the ubiquitous bananaquit, often found at our outdoor breakfast table trying to sneak a little sugar.

I hope this tickle of the tropics helped warm you, my friends.

Written by Jet Eliot.

All photos in the wild by Athena Alexander.

79 thoughts on “Land of the Hummingbird

    • I like that Hien, your comment gave me a big smile. Yeah, let’s have some of those many Trinidad hummingbirds come up north to the U.S. since the planet is warming anyway. Thanks for your visit, Hien, and words, and thanks for the smile. Sending you a smile, too.

  1. Enjoyed this warm and colourful post today, Jet! I’ve been feeling the early winter blues and blahs, and this was a great lift. You can only smile when looking at the tufted coquette!
    Thanks, and have a good weekend!

    • I’m happy this post help lifted your winter blues, pc. Loved hearing that the tufted coquette brought a smile to your face, they do that to me, too. Sending a big smile to you and Mrs. pc, have a great weekend.

    • Thanks Sherry, I’m glad you enjoyed the birds and butterflies (and bat) of Trinidad. We stayed in an ecolodge in the rainforest, Asa Wright, but unfortunately it closed during the pandemic.

  2. I laughed at both the appearance and the name of the Tufted Coquette. Given the personalities of hummingbirds generally, I can imagine the behavior of that one. I was interested in the name of the White-necked Jacobin, too. I always think of the Jacobins who were involved in the French Revolution when I come across the name; was the bird perhaps named by or in honor of a Frenchman?

    • Hi Linda, I’m happy you enjoyed the hummingbirds here. That tufted coquette does bring a smile to one’s face. As for the White-necked Jacobin and its name, I could find no indication in Wikipedia why it was named Jacobin. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. All these gorgeous birds are fantastic! I’ve never been to Trinidad, I didn’t know that has a rainforest. Thank you, Jet for giving me the opportunity to learn. 🙂

    • It was a true joy to share the rainforest of Trinidad with you, H.J. Given your affinity and experiences with South America, I know you would like the wildlife of Trinidad, and I am delighted I could share some of it with you today. Sending big smiles your way, my friend.

    • Steve, thanks so much for the Ry Cooder song clip. During WWII Trinidad became a strategic spot for protecting the Caribbean and oil, and FDR visited there four times and had an infrastructure and naval/army base built for war efforts. So it was great fun listening to this song, and you’re right it is delightful. Many thanks.

    • Yes, Jo, hummingbirds are the most amazing creatures, and it is magical to see just one. They’re so small, would fit into your palm, and they move with fierce speed. And when the light hits the male’s throat just right, a dazzling iridescent flash of colors wink at you for a second, and then–poof!–they’re gone. Thanks for your visit, my friend.

    • Yes, Trinidad is a wonderful place to visit, Craig. I really liked the bats too, we had a pretty crazy time at dusk by the lodge where we became familiar with their emergence pattern. They flew so close to us I could feel the wind of the wings on my face. Also, Trinidad is where we ventured down into a cave to see the oilbirds. I remember you liked the oilbirds when I wrote about them a few years back. Lots of fruit down in Trinidad too, but none of it bites. ha.

    • Hi Pepper. Yes, so many great colors and wow, when the light hits the green gorget feathers of the hummingbird, the flash is superb. I’m glad you liked the purple honeycreeper, I just could not take my eyes off it, the intensity of purple in nature like that, astounding. Thanks very much.

  4. Loved the write-up and the photos. Just have to marvel at the diversity of hummingbirds and butterflies 🦋 in such a small area.

  5. Absolutely gorgeous birds in this post. Hummers are always a delight – especially the ones we do not get in our region. Here – look a hummer – ruby-throated, look another hummer, ruby-throated, oh, and another .. you get the picture. Of these, that tufted coquette has to be my favorite. On my “wish” list is to tin a honeycreeper…like you, I’d struggle to put down the glass as well. Appreciate the introduction to nature’s rays of sunshine.

    • I am so happy you enjoyed the birds in the Trinidad post, Brian. You and I, we run around the world chasing birds for the sheer joy and marvel of it, and even the duller ones bring joy. But the hummers and honeycreepers, well they’re extra special. Re the tufted coquette. We studied the bird guide on the plane down there and when we came across the TC drawing, we knew we just HAD to see that guy! And that doesn’t always happen, but we were glad it did this time. Many thanks for your joy and interest.

  6. Oooh… all that glorious color and variety. Thanks for taking me where the hummingbirds thrive. They certainly are something special. (and the bats, too!) 😉

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