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Sat Jul 4, 2020, 05:07 AM

'An ashram for the hummingbird': the Trindad haven for world's tiniest bird

Yvonne Singh

Sat 4 Jul 2020 04.15 EDT

Theo and Gloria Ferguson have created a garden specially designed to attract hummingbirds – and hundreds visit daily

At the foot of Theo and Gloria Ferguson’s property stands a giant silk cotton tree. Reminiscent of those enchanted species in children’s fables, this ancient sentinel’s huge varicose limbs yawn upwards and outwards, towards a canopy of leaves that scratch the sky. Eight adults linking arms would struggle to encircle its vast girth, proof of the aeons it has stood guarding the edge of Trinidad’s Maracas valley.

It could be that this tree was a mere sapling when the indigenous people who first lived here named this land Iere, or “Land of the Hummingbird”. So bewitched were they by these bejewelled creatures that they created a myth to protect the birds, which they believed represented the souls of their dead. According to the legend, the La Brea Pitch Lake – a sprawling bitumen wonder in the south-west of Trinidad, now a Unesco world heritage site – was once the home of the Chima Indians. However, the tribe induced the wrath of the gods by dining on hummingbirds at a celebratory feast. In their fury, the gods opened up the earth and summoned the sulphurous lake of pitch to consume the village and its people.

The Amerindians and their myths could not protect the hummingbird for ever. The birds’ population and that of its human defenders was nearly decimated when the first European settlers arrived on the islands 500 years ago. The hummingbird’s striking plumage, exemplified by names such as ruby-throated, emerald-chinned and blue-chinned sapphire, was highly prized in the courts of 19th-century Europe, where its feathers were worn as jewellery. The trade in thousands of birds was only halted with the introduction of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It took decades for the island’s hummingbird population to recover – with some species disappearing altogether.

Today, the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago have 19 species of this tiny creature, each the size of an adult thumb. Hummingbirds are found exclusively in the Americas and this vast continent has approximately 345 species, mostly located in the northern Andes.

The Fergusons’ lush garden, in the shadow of the silk cotton tree, teems with hundreds of hummingbirds daily. Fifteen species have been spotted in the garden, including a new discovery in October 2019, the glittering-throated emerald. Entering the space, a tropical oasis of vivid, trumpet-shaped blooms, the air beats with the frenzied wings of these tiny creatures, which flit, zoom and shimmer among the scarlet feeders like miniature rainbow-coloured strobes.


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Reply 'An ashram for the hummingbird': the Trindad haven for world's tiniest bird (Original post)
Judi Lynn Jul 4 OP
Sherman A1 Jul 4 #1

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sat Jul 4, 2020, 06:12 AM

1. Superb

We only have 2 hummingbirds at our 2 feeders and flower garden. They are fun to watch.

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