Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Cuba: The Cuban Emerald Hummingbird

                                                                                                                                              Photo: Andrew Holman

Meet the Cuban Emerald Hummingbird (Chlorostilbon ricordii), a tiny bird full of pizzazz.  This one sat still for so long I began to fear someone had stuck his tiny feet onto the thin stem of clematis he was using as a perch in the Botanical Garden in Vinales. But no, he did launch to catch several flies: hummingbirds feed on flower nectar for energy but need insects and spiders for protein, vitamins and minerals etc.  Blogging gives you an education!

We spotted hummingbirds in lots of places around Havana and Vinales: it was a thrill every time. With the exception of this laid back little chap, they were doing exactly what you'd expect, flying and hovering at breathtaking speed, sometimes backwards, between flowers to feed on nectar. Apparently, when in flight, they have the highest metabolism of all animals (except insects).  This is necessary to support their incredible 'humming' wingbeat and requires a huge daily consumption of nectar.

Our first sighting was near El Capitolio, right at the heart of Havana.  The bird seemed surreally fragile against the harsh backdrop of lorries, cars, buildings and crowds of people.  As it flitted between flowering shrubs, it looked small enough almost to be an insect.  And it's set me wondering. Could it have been the other Cuban hummingbird, the Bee hummingbird, which lays claim to the title of the smallest bird in the world?  We'll never know, but I mustn't get competitive: there's more than enough magic in this emerald beauty after all!  

                                            Feeling ruffled                               Photo: Andrew Holman

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