White-necked Jacobin

(Florisuga mellivora)
Any visitor to the Asa Wright Nature Centre would be promptly acquainted with the White-necked Jacobin. It is one of the more familiar species of Hummingbird at the Centre. Yet its familiarity in no way diminishes its beauty. This ‘hummer’ is a mixture of iridescent blue and green, the former on its head and the latter on its back. Its distinguishing features, however, are the white stripe on the back of its neck and snowy white breast and tail. The White-necked Jacobin is an inhabitant of forested areas from Mexico to Brazil. Normally found at high elevations, it can often be seen perching atop the canopy. It does not have a distinctive call, a trait of most hummingbirds; rather it makes a soft ‘tit’. Instead, its vibrancy and the hum of its wings as it darts about is the main signal of its presence. This attractive bird is one of the larger hummingbirds that occur in Trinidad and Tobago. It carries out its function as a major pollinator of various flowers by drinking the nectar of flowering plants like the Immortelle (Erythrina) and Sanchezia. These ‘hummers’ also eat insects and perform some skilful acrobatics to catch their prey in mid-air. You might consider them greedy as they carefully guard various patches of flowers, driving away any other bird that attempts to take drink from ‘their’ patches. You can witness these aggressive displays after only a few minutes of amateur bird-watching on the verandah. A little longer on the verandah and you will notice that the Jacobins are very territorial and regularly chase other hummingbirds from their perches and certain feeders. They often take advantage of the smaller species, forcing them to fly away. Their behaviour can keep you quite engrossed. While you ponder on the beauty and charisma of this, one of Trinidad and Tobago’s 17 species of hummingbirds, I will leave you with a quick fact. In 2008 scientists discovered that Hummingbirds evolved from the less appealing Nightjars. Who knew? – J.L. Ryan References: ffrench, Richard. 1991. A Guide to the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. Hilty, Steven L. 2003. Birds of Venezuela.