Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Creature Feature: Streamertail Hummingbirds.

What lovely weather we are having in Chicago. Over 6 inches of snow, and having to shovel it, gives me perfectly logical ground to question one's reasons for wanting to see IL in the winter. Without getting too grudgy, let's switch to something happier and summer-y, shall we?

This is a male streamer-tail hummingbird, or doctorbird in Jamaica. It is part of the rare genus Trochilus, which is exclusive to Jamaica. Depending on who you ask, there may be just one species (Trochilus polytmus) or two. One of the few differences is bill color: they come in red and black for your convenience. Regardless, this little birdie is the national bird of Jamaica.

If you want to see some really unique avian physiology, look into hummingbirds. Not only are tiny birds like that absurdly cute by themselves, but some, like the streamer-tails, have almost unbelievable proportions. As in many birds with fancy tails, the streamers are exclusive to males. They are almost twice as long as the actual bird! Again, only the males have this plumage.

This is the only bird that, to my knowledge, has mating plumage that sings. The tailfeathers of this hummingbird hum. As with the regular "hum" in hummingbirds, this is just done by the vibrations of the oddly-edged feathers. It's not like these things are trying to woo a woman with autotune. That'd just be silly.

A rather interesting note: the streamer-tail hummingbird is the only hummingbird to ever do anything in a Bond story. In For Your Eyes Only, the first line mentions the "streamer-tail or doctor hummingbird" as the most beautiful bird in Jamaica, if not the world. Comment below whether you think it is or not; I'm genuinely curious who would win an avian beauty contest.

1 comment:

  1. This gets my vote. Hummers are such fantastic creatures to begin with, that tail and those colors make this one a real treat. You continue to amaze me.