The national bird of Jamaica, the Jamaica Hummingbird also called the doctor bird or red-billed streamer tail humming bird, is one of the most outstanding of the 320 species of hummingbirds.
These bird's beautiful feathers have no counterpart in the entire bird population and they produce iridescent colours characteristic only of that family.
In addition to these beautiful feathers, the mature male has two long tails which stream behind him when he flies.
According to Wikipedia, "the next-to-outermost feather on each side of the male's tail is six or seven inches long, far longer than its bearer's back. Trailing behind the flying hummingbird like thin black streamers, these feathers make a humming sound."
For years the doctor bird has been immortalized in Jamaican folklore and song.
The origin of the name ‘Doctor-bird’ is somewhat unsettled. It has been said that the name was given because the erect black crest and tails resemble the top hat and long tail coats doctors used to wear in the old days.
Other schools of thought believe that it refers to the way the birds lance the flowers with their bills to extract nectar.
According to Frederic Cassidy, the bird is an object of superstition. The Arawaks (the first recorded inhabitants of the island) spread the belief that the bird had magical powers. They called it the ‘God bird’, believing it was the reincarnation of dead souls.
This is manifested in a folk song which says: 'Doctor Bud a cunny bud, hard bud fe dead'. (It is a clever bird which cannot be easily killed).
Growing up, I loved to watch the dashing moves of this wonderful bird. Although a very small bird, I tell you, it is very swift, agile and dexterous - if you don't know it, you may never quite get the picture (sorry) -[Until you come to Jamaica :-)
An inquisitive boy child in the country, although fully appreciating its uniqueness, I always took aim at it when it tries to extract the nectar from our old hibiscus flower beside our house.
Of course I never succeeded.
Thanks to the power of education, I later came to recognize and appreciate the rarity, beauty, grace and singularity of this, our own Jamaica hummingbird!
And yes, the hummingbird or 'Doctor Bird' is one of the national symbols of Jamaica. Read more about the National Symbols of Jamaica here.
Wikipedia provides a healthy background (including scientific classification) of the unique bird here.
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