What is That … Barbadian Bird?

Waddells

It is peculiar that our trips away, which we look forward to so much, end up introducing us to wildlife that reminds us of home.  During our recent winter holiday in Barbados, we fell in love with a number of beautiful tropical birds, several of which put us in mind of home, cottage and Three Mile Bay.

Travelling so far away, we are still surprised to see birds from home.  While not numerous, we see green herons on Three Mile Bay from time.  This photograph of a green heron in Barbados may be the best we have ever managed to take.  We cannot help but wonder if the softer light of the Caribbean allowed us to see this one so clearly.  They seem to hide more effectively at the cottage.

While not particularly related to our White Lake birds, we must mention next the Bananaquit, as much for its name as its colour.  This small bird has bright yellow underparts, a conspicuous, long, white eye stripe, and a slender, pointed, down-curved beak. Although the Bananaquit’s heritage is debated by experts, some believe it is related to tanagers and warblers. We saw it in the bushes and palm trees at our resort, using its sharp curved bill to probe flowers for nectar.  We understand this friendly bird is commonly seen at backyard bird feeders throughout the Caribbean islands. Some say it reminds them of our black-capped chickadee, which is why they refer fondly to the Bananaquit as the chickadee of the Caribbean.  One arrived at our outdoor breakfast and tried to sip our morning juice.

The next three birds are tropical birds; nevertheless they reminded us of home.  The first one shown below is the bullfinch, reminding us most of our beautiful purple finches.  Bullfinches have the iconic finch beak which works well cracking seeds and nuts.  We loved the small patch of red on the male’s throat.  Carolyn could not help seeing it as a napkin tucked into its collar.  The next one below is a grey kingbird, a close relative to our phoebes and eastern kingbirds. The grey kingbird is larger and paler with a longer bill than our eastern kingbird.  Their cousinly similarities are clear though. The third bird that reminded us of the lake is the semipalmated plover which we certainly do not see at Three Mile Bay, but we have the amusing spotted sandpiper here.  They belong to the same family of wading birds which run along the shore pecking at small insects and crustaceans.

Last, but certainly not least, is the green-throated carib, a hummingbird which is very similar to our own ruby-throated hummingbird, except that it is larger, has a longer bill, and the one we photographed was strikingly garbed in shades of aubergine and green. (The books say metallic blue and green.)  The green-throated carib is 10 to 12 centimetres long, tip to tip, while our ruby-throated is seven to nine.  Both ruby and green-throated hummingbirds drink nectar and eat insects.  The green-throated hummingbird was a beautiful sight and prompted thoughts of bird watching at the cottage this summer.

For additional information about these birds go to David Sibley’s Guide to Birds or www. barbados.org/bird.