What the Jail is a Yellowtail

Recently, while browsing one of the local bookstores here, I came upon a large, hardcover book that was apparently done as a tribute to three special valleys in Trinidad. Eye-catching and rather official-looking, I picked it up and began to leaf through the pages.

It’s something I do on an on and off basis – peruse local literary products, I like to see how others see what I see. Whether it’s a book on birds, cricket or waterfalls, it always leaves me with some special thoughts.

This time, though, it was different. I didn’t ponder much, in fact I very quickly became angry. And still am to a certain extent. You see, when a publication is released that is as official as a book, there should be some level of accuracy that accompanies the material within its covers. Typographical errors can be forgiven. But any reader who decides to purchase a book is doing so with the trust that the author knows what he/she is talking about. After all, it’s taken for granted that if you are an author – you are an authority on the topic at hand.

Anyway, this author decided to include some photographs of birds that can be found within the valleys of Trinidad.

Very quickly, I located an image of a hummingbird that more resembled a Broad-billed Hummingbird than any of our native hummingbirds. Given the ambiguity of the photo, as well as the caption that Trinidad is the “Land of the Hummingbird” (without naming the species), I flipped on.

Another page had a large image of a Carib Grackle that was labelled as a “Boat-tailed Grackle”. I began to grind my teeth.

What really made me blow my top was a photo of a pair of Montezuma Oropendolas that was captioned “Yellowtails”. The word “Ororpendola” was also in there somewhere.

Now some may be keen to pass it off as a simple oversight, and to give the author a chance etc.

But ladies and gentlemen, this is a symptom of the scant regard paid to our natural history, our native species that form just as an important aspect of the landscape here as the mountains, trees and rivers themselves. It is a result of little or no importance ascribed to wildlife in general. Why take the time to do a quick Google search of the birds of Trinidad? It takes far too much time and effort, surely.

I mean, I’m sure the book was in its production phase for some considerable time, I’m sure that it was proofread at least once. I’m sure that experts were contacted. I’m sure that some level of thought went into it.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make some assumptions. Perhaps the author didn’t think that anyone would give a damn if the wrong birds were included. Perhaps the author thought that no-one cares about birds anyway. Perhaps the author didn’t know that there are throngs of local photographers with usable pictures of our own damn birds.

Anyway, the Montezuma Oropendola is a beautiful bird, and is on my bucket list. It does have a yellow tail, but is not one of the two species that are found here and locally referred to as “Yellowtails”

Sometimes called “cornbirds” as well, Crested Oropendolas are familiar with many, as they can be found almost anywhere from heavily forested areas to the suburbs.

crested oropendola










Although many folks think that the bird referred to as “yellowtail” is a single species – the smaller cousin to the Crested Oropendola enjoys that moniker as well. Yellow-rumped Caciques differ in that they have black tails and yellow rumps – as opposed to the reverse configuration in the larger Crested Oropendolas.

yellow rumped cacique-2










The two species also differ in vocalizations. Both are gregarious birds that build similar looking hanging nests. Both are yellow and black birds with gorgeous sky-blue eyes. Look out for them.