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The Alpha

There are 18 recorded species of hummingbird in Trinidad and Tobago, the last of which was added not too long ago – which accounts for over 50% of all hummingbird species in the entire Caribbean region. For those of you who have ever taken the time to observe hummingbirds at a flowering plant or feeder anywhere, I’m certain that you may have noticed that there are “feeder bullies”; certain species who no matter their size or abundance, seek to lay a claim to a particular patch of flowers, or even a hummingbird feeder in someone’s porch.

In Trinidad, White-chested Emeralds try their best to defend “their” patches. They are usually locked in a continuous battle with the feisty Copper-rumped Hummingbird. The latter is often observed dive-bombing larger species of hummingbird, such as the Black-throated Mango, which usually beats a hasty retreat. White-necked Jacobins, however, stand their ground and usually control and successfully defend their territories from the smaller, hyperactive Coppers.

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Across the small stretch of ocean to the northeast, in Tobago, one can find all the previously mentioned species of hummingbird. From the White-chested Emerald to the White-necked Jacobin, with one rather important addition. White-tailed Sabrewings were almost wiped out thanks to the brutality of Hurricane Flora in 1963. However, these bold and charismatic jewels have made a significant comeback, and can now be seen with a fair degree of regularity within the forested centre of the island. Larger and bulkier than even the White-necked Jacobins, all other hummingbirds tend to give way (sometimes not without complaint) to this blue-green beauty.

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I have had the good fortune of having both male and female White-tailed Sabrewings in the hand, and the difference in personality between the sexes is astounding. The females are shy and retreating creatures, and the one I held grabbed on to her own tail feather in fear. After pleading with her, I eventually was able to get her to release her grip on her tail and eventually fly away. Not too long after that, we ended up having to rescue a male – and damn. He looked at me dead in the eye, puffed out his chest and was absolutely fuming that I was holding him. He exploded from my hand as soon as I opened my fingers.

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All the White-tailed Sabrewings pictured here are males. They are the true alphas of the hummingbird scape in Tobago. They approach you, to see what you’re about, what’s your intention in their territory. Fearless and proud, they allowed me to photograph them without using a long lens, all the images in today’s post were made at 100mm. Enjoy!

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7 thoughts on “The Alpha

  1. Devan Mulchansingh says:

    Gorgeous images of these little beautiful creatures, all in such lovely light!
    100mm! Damn they must have been close!

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