Sheer luck. Somehow over the years I’ve managed to wind up in some of the best hummingbird spots on earth, from the Huachucas of southeast Arizona to the Andean cloud forests of Ecuador (and not to forget Gibsons, British Columbia, either).
With only seventeen species on the country’s list — the same number boasted, I think, by New Mexico — Trinidad and Tobago doesn’t really make the short list when it comes to trochilid diversity.
But if the variety is only so-so, the abundance of birds at some sites has to be seen to be believed.
In a set-up familiar to anyone who’s birded the canyon resorts of southeast Arizona, long lines of hummingbird feeders hang from Newton George’s porch on Tobago. And from poles in the yard. And from the roof of the house.
The birds love it.
Each of those little green-black smudges is a perched hummingbird — most of them Copper-rumped Hummingbirds — awaiting its turn at the sugar water.
The prize species here is the Ruby Topaz, a bird with the infamous distinction of having been “harvested” in greater numbers than any other during the hummingbird crazes of the nineteenth century. Happily, this big, dark, gloriously colorful hummingbird seems to be as common as ever.
The much less abundant White-tailed Sabrewing also visits Newton’s feeders, though on this trip we had to content ourselves with birds in the wild of Tobago’s forests, including a female on a nest within earshot of a male singing his chirping, chipping song.
Back on Trinidad, we dropped in on several fine hummingbird localities, including, naturally, the feeders at Asa Wright Nature Center.
The Little Hermit, depending on your taxonomic views, is a common and familiar hummingbird throughout the tropics, but this one, perched just off the porch at Asa Wright, gave me something I don’t think I’d ever experienced before: long views of a sleeping hummingbird, motionless on its twig with the eyelids firmly closed.
Asa Wright was also one of several places where we had good looks at the bizarrely ornamented, weirdly insect-like Tufted Coquette. We saw only a few birds in full male plumage, which were greatly outnumbered by female-like individuals feeding in slow, tight circles in the verbena patches.
The busiest place for hummingbirds on Trinidad, though, is Yerette. We had the best of both worlds there: food and feeders alike, an excellent lunch and equally excellent hummingbirds.
It was here that we finally caught up with the Green-throated Mango, our fifteenth hummingbird species for the week.
The sheer number of individual birds was nearly overwhelming, but somehow we managed.
And I think we’ll rise to the occasion on our next visit, too.
Can you figure out which two of Trinidad and Tobago’s hummingbird species we did not see?