Jamaica’s National Bird

Jamaica · About Culture & History

The doctor bird or swallow tail humming bird (Trochilus Polytmus), is one of the most outstanding of the 320 species of hummingbirds. It lives only in Jamaica.

The Jamaica national bird is the doctor bird. The doctor bird or swallow tail humming bird (Trochilus Polytmus), is one of the most outstanding of the 320 species of hummingbirds. It lives only in Jamaica. It may also be called streamertail or scissors- tail.

There are two types of these birds.

One is the black billed, which is found in the east, and the other is the red-billed, which is found island-wide.

These birds’ beautiful feathers have no counterpart in the entire bird population and they produce iridescent colours characterstic only of that family. In addition to these beautiful feathers, the mature male has two long tails which stream behind him when he flies. For years the doctor bird has been immortalized in Jamaican folklore and song.

The origin of the name ‘Docor-bird’ is somewhat unsettled. It has been said that the name was given because the erect black crest and tails resemble the top hat and long tail coats doctors used to wear in the old days. Other schools of thought believe that it refers to the way the birds lance the flowers with their bills to extract nectar.

According to Frederic Cassidy the bird is an object of superstition. The Arawaks spread the belief that the bird had magical powers. They called it the ‘God bird’, believing it was the reincarnation of dead souls. This is manifested in a folk song which says: “Doctor Bud a cunny bud, hard bud fe dead”. (It is a clever bird which cannot be easily killed).

They are mostly found in closed forest wherever there is flowering plants. They can also be seen in gardens and parks. The birds’ main source of nutrition is nectar from flowering plants, but they also consume spiders and insect. They tend to feed frequently during the day and sleep at nights.

I want to go to: