I spent a wonderful 15 minutes with this little Cuban Emerald hummingbird (Chlorostilbon ricordii), which I found perched on a stick in a small clearing in the coppice at Delphi. I was several feet away when I first noticed it, so I spent some time inching forward towards it. Even from a distance, the metallic sheen of the feathers glinted in the bright sunlight. The bird watched me, tame and unruffled, as I approached. I took photos as I moved closer so that if it flew off at least I’d have something to remember it by. In the end it let me get so close that I could almost have touched it. When I’d taken some close-ups, I backed very slowly away. The little beady black eyes followed my retreat with interest. The bird was still happily perched on the stick when I lost eye-contact with it. In the end I was more moved (in one sense) than it was (in another).
Q: WHAT IS CUTER THAN A BAHAMA WOODSTAR HUMMINGBIRD ON ABACO?
A: A BABY BAHAMA WOODSTAR HUMMINGBIRD ON ABACO
Charmaine Albury from Man-o-War Cay, Abaco, has taken some fabulous photographs of a nesting Bahama Woodstar Hummingbird at her home. With her kind permission, I am delighted to display a selection of them below. The adult is a female, and lacks the striking purple gorget of the male. The baby’s plumage is… spiky! The cup nest is beautifully constructed, made from plant down, bark and cobwebs, balanced in a string of lights. The size of the bulbs give a very clear idea how tiny these sweet little birds are. These are photos to be viewed in wonderment and awwwwwwwwww….
This hummingbird species nests all year round. The female lays 2 elliptical white eggs, which she incubates for 15–18 days. Not only is the baby in these pictures in a very small nest, it is sharing it with an unhatched and presumably sterile egg. Then again, two babies would be even more of a squash…
The Bahama Woodstar Calliphlox evelynae is endemic to the Bahamas, found only on there and as an occasional vagrant in south east Florida. On Abaco, it is one of four endemic species found on the island – the others are the Bahama Swallow, the Bahama Warbler and the Bahama Yellowthroat. Together with the unique ground-nesting ABACO PARROT, these are among the most special birds of Abaco.
THE HUMMER’S TALE: A BAHAMA WOODSTAR’S RESCUE ON EXUMA
This blog usually stays pretty close to base on Abaco, with occasional forays to other parts of the Bahamas. Inagua for example, for amazing photos of the annualFLAMINGObanding. Now it’s time for a visit to Exuma. In July, a resident of Stocking Island emailed me asking for advice about a rescued hummingbird that had arrived on her porch and could not – or would not – fly. Caroyln had nursed her – a female Bahama Woodstar – for 5 days and was worried about her (lack of) progress.
Being an amateur in these matters, and some 4000 miles away, I wondered how much I could usefully contribute. However for the next few days Carolyn and I kept in touch and exchanged ideas. The bird was apparently uninjured, was able to feed a bit and to drink sugar water from a syringe. However without being able to fly, her chances of survival were minimal.
Eventually the hummer start to practise some fluttering, which was a good sign. That’s her above, in the widow behind the greenery. We worked on various ideas to encourage a flying instinct. I suggested putting her on a low box to see what happened… If the fluttering worked to any extent, a gradual increase in take-off height might do the trick.
This seemed promising, except that the bird’s left wing fluttered twice as fast as her right wing. This suggested some sort of lack of co-ordination that might explain why the natural instinct to fly was somehow surpressed. However by Day 10 we had progress, if not actual lift-off.
By now the bird was starting to look less bedraggled and a lot stronger. My suggested names (‘Hummy’; ‘Humela’) didn’t find favour; Carolyn simply called her ‘Baby’. A potential fruit-fly factory on a banana was constructed.
At times, Baby was somewhat passive, but it’s possible that Carolyn’s tuneful mockingbird was a confusing element… You can see she was well catered for, with sustenance, fresh air and a nice view.
The next stage was to devise an outdoor flight plan. There had been strong winds, but by Day 12 they had abated. It was time to see what Baby could do in the fresh air, with tempting flowers all around. She had had some indoor twig perching practice. Her fluttering was stronger: maybe launching from a low branch outside would be the answer. Or the ground?
Mmmmm. 3 failed attempts. Not encouraging. And Carolyn needed to leave Exuma imminently. Luckily, a new life for Baby was at hand with a family in Georgetown who were able to supply a happy ending, having cared for hummingbirds and being perfectly set up with a screened porch with shrubs, flowers, feeders… and fruit flies. Hummer heaven. I am waiting to hear the very end of the story… did Baby ever fly, or is she so pampered in her new home that there is no need for her to budge? And when I get some news, I will post it here.
PRECIOUS EMERALDS ON ABACO: GREEN HUMMINGBIRD JEWELS
There are two resident hummingbird species on Abaco: the beautiful endemic Bahama Woodstar; and the lovely non-native Cuban Emerald. The species don’t get on, and tend to keep to separate territories. At Delphi the Emeralds predominate, though luckily there are Woodstars as well. Both species of these tiny birds have featured in previous posts, but this little hummer was a special one.
There’s a small patch of cleared coppice at Delphi, the ‘Farm’. This is where plants are ‘grown on’ for the gardens. In particular, there are coconuts planted in soil to germinate, to provide replacements for any palms that are trashed in the hurricane season. Since both Irene (in 2011) and Sandy (2012) passed directly over Delphi, you can see the sense in having an on-site garden centre. It can be a good place for birds, having both sun and shade. It’s where I suddenly spotted this Emerald, a few feet away from me.
It seemed quite relaxed, so I decided to see how close I could get. My attempt at stealth was slightly spoiled by my inexplicable need to make totally unnecessary “soothing” clicking and chooking noises as I crept forward. But the bird just watched peacefully, assuming me to be insane and probably harmless.
I shuffled forwards, expecting the bird to fly off at any moment. Instead, it seemed to go to sleep… By now I was a couple of feet away, and felt it was time to stop the ridiculous noises. The bird could not have been more at ease if I had sung it a lullaby. [Apart from the fact that I can’t sing, that is]
By now the metallic glint of the feathers in the sun was extraordinary, with colours other than green clearly visible, especially on the tail. Does this bird look nervous? I was a foot away from it.
In the end I actually reached the bird. I stood over it and could easily have touched it. I quite see that it had probably been using the sugar water feeders, and was used to seeing people. But still. It was mini and I am… not. Here is my last shot, an aerial view. Then I crept away again, leaving the bird in peace and doubtless wondering what on earth that had all been about. I have a general rule against anthropomorphic ‘special moments’ but if I did not, then this was one…All photos RH armed with a Panasonic Lumix. If you want to use a photo – surprisingly, people occasionally do – please ask first and it will probably be fine. One or more of my images may be published shortly, and I don’t want a wrangle on my hands. Or anywhere else…
This tiny bird was in the Abaco coppice, well off the beaten track. Nearly two miles down a notably unbeaten track, in fact, that later was to lead to a puncture-and-@$%^&*-I-forgot-my-cellphone drama. Trauma, even. The hummer knew perfectly well that I had crept up behind it, but it had presumably seen few bipeds. It would not have known of their urge to bulldoze wild habitat and turn it into massive unsold developments, as has happened a short way up the coast… So it just carried on with what a bird has to do to keep itself looking presentable, while I, feeling rather rude and intrusive, took some quick pictures before leaving it in peace. Rather than sell these intimate studies to Hello!, OK!, Chirpy! or Tweet!, I am displaying them free for your enjoyment.
In addition to the Cuban Emerald, the Bahamas has its own endemic hummingbird, the Bahama Woodstar. In the faltering early days of this blog, I posted about them both atBAHAMA WOODSTARS & CUBAN EMERALDS: THE HUMMINGBIRDS OF ABACOAt that time, I was not really a ‘birder’ at all, and had only a very basic camera, so my own pictures were… very basic. But you may be interested in some of the info in the post about these two species, so I mention it in passing.
I took photos of this tiny bird at BPS last month. They were ‘chance’ pics taken when we were photographing parrots in the tree tops. The hummer suddenly appeared some way ahead of me, so I swivelled the camera at it without changing any settings. Frankly, I didn’t expect the results to show more than a small green blur, but they have turned out slightly better than anticipated. I put these images on my subsidiary ‘Gallery’ site and people seem to like them so I’ve decided to add them here too. After all, it’s their true home, I suppose, with the other Abaco wildlife. Apologies to those who have seen these already on the other site. The images are exactly as taken – no colour tweaking, no sharpening, no photoshop – and may not stand enlargement or close scrutiny, because I was several yards away. On the other hand they give a good idea of how this bird feeds. The body postures are very characteristic, and besides, the plants are pretty…
This is a ‘holding’ post while I am actually on Abaco, to be rejigged in due course. The weather is a bit variable, my fishing is somewhat variable (as usual – more miss than hit, though my biggest bone yet a couple of days ago), the birds are fantastic. Abaco has two hummingbird species, the endemic Bahama Woodstar and the Cuban Emerald. The Woodstars are rather pushed around by the Emeralds, and tend to be scarcer where there are plenty of Emeralds. We are lucky at Delphi that both species coexist in relative harmony, although this may be largely due to the sugar-water feeders and the hummer-friendly planting around the Lodge. Here are a few irridescent images I’ve taken in the last few days. Things are a bit slow here (the internet connections, not me), so the image order, formatting and sizing may need attention later on…
Oh. Is that the time? I need a Kalik and lie down. I’ll add a couple pics more later!
NB these photos are posted exactly as taken. No photoshop, no iFiddling, no cropping. That’s how close you can get to these tiny birds…
ADDENDUM A few shots of a hummer in flight feeding on plants can now be seen on my subsidiary website HERE
A brilliant hi-def video by the excellent ornitho-artist bloggerBIRDSPOT. A very effective combination of the visual, amazing sound, and keeping very still. I realise you are highly unlikely to encounter one of these hummers on Abaco. But you might. Although they are normally found on the west coast of North America and inland from there, they have been regularly seen well outside their usual range, for example in Alaska, New York, Newfoundland and… Florida. So it’s only a matter of time before one slips across for a quick vacation in the northern Bahamas. Best not a pair, though. They are apparently very territorial, and the poor endemic Bahama Woodstar has enough trouble fighting its corner with the migrant Cuban Emerald… (credit: BIRDSPOT with thanks for use permission)
ABACO HUMMINGBIRDS: BAHAMA WOODSTAR & CUBAN EMERALD SIGHTINGS MAP
A while ago a new feature landed near the end of the right-hand sidebar. The idea was to put together an informal mapping of Woodstar and Emerald sightings on Abaco.
I put a few in as a start, hoping for more contributions, but so far it hasn’t been a popular item. Maybe it won’t work at all as a contributory feature, or maybe it just isn’t interesting if you live with the hummers. As an Abaco visitor (never having seen a hummingbird before. Except stuffed ones) they are a delight. A highlight.
It’s worth another try, and I have revised the map slightly to make the two contribution / contact methods clearer. It can’t be made more interactive than that I’m afraid. If you go to the sidebar and click on ‘View larger map’, you’ll see the data in more detail.
The map might even test the theory that Woodstars are scarce where Emeralds are numerous.
If you’d like to add to the mapping, I just need the type of hummer; the location in reasonable detail so I can stick a pin in the map; month / year (e.g. 03/12) and I will do the rest…
At last I have got round to the hummingbirds. It’s quite simple. There are only two species of hummingbird on Abaco. The endemic variety is the Bahama Woodstar, one of only 3 endemic bird species on Abaco (the others are the Bahama Yellowthroat and the Bahama Swallow). The settled migrant is the Cuban Emerald.
Male and female Bahama Woodstars (Photo Credit: Phil Brown – and VG too)
These hummingbirds are found throughout the Bahamas. They do not migrate, although are occasional vagrants in SE Florida. They breed all year round, the main season being in April. The female lays 2 elliptical white eggs, which she incubates for 15-18 days. As with humans, the female is mainly responsible for childcare while males go drinking at the nectar bar and hang out with their mates.
This BW was one of a small group at Hole-in-the-Wall. They were completely unconcerned by our presence, and we could get within arm’s length of them. Woodstars, though tame in human terms, can be aggressive and territorial. They are plentiful throughout the Bahamas except on Grand Bahama, Abaco and Andros. Significantly those are the only islands where the Cuban Emerald is found in any numbers. As with the native red and import grey squirrel problem in the UK, the migrant emerald is aggressive towards the woodstar, which is consequently rare where emeralds are abundant.
Here is their call (credit Jesse Fagan Xeno-canto)
Addition April 2012Here is a seriously cute female Woodstar photographed by Ann Capling at Bahama Palm Shores, close to Ocean Drive – a really pretty little bird
At Delphi, you’ll frequently see emeralds, especially now that feeders with sugar water have been hung up for them. The pool area is a very good place to watch them. But there are occasional woodstars to be seen as well – in the coppice on the drives for example, and even on the feeders. The vague blur to the left of the feeder below is a woodstar in the millisecond between me pointing the camera and it flying away… Don’t bother to click to enlarge it – it’s a useless photo, I know, but it is evidence even at the lowest level
CUBAN EMERALDChlorostilbon ricordii
There’s probably a great deal to be written about the emeralds, but not by me. Or not now, anyway. The little you need to know from me is already covered above, and I haven’t yet discovered whether their childcare arrangements differ significantly from the woodstars. Probably not. So I’ll put in a selection of photos, and remark that it is strange how quickly they can change from sleek and slender birds to small rather cold and dispirited looking bundles of feathers. Both states are depicted below. Here’s what to listen for (credit Xeno-canto.org)
Delphi – pool feeder
Delphi – pool feeder
Delphi – pool feeder
Delphi – far side of pool
Delphi – near pool
Delphi – front drive
Delphi – front drive
All the above birds were photographed at Delphi. We saw emeralds elsewhere, of course – in the pine forest, flicking across the logging tracks; on other Cays. The best sighting was during our day trip reef-snorkelling and island-hopping with Kay Politano, when we had an excellent lunch for 14 at Cracker P’s on Lubbers Cay (see future post about this and the island-hops). There was a bird feeder by our table, to which emeralds came and went throughout the meal. Here are some photos – I wanted to get them hovering, and kind of succeeded. More or less.