By Jim Kerr
Energetic hummingbirds entertain and delight even the most casual bird watchers in Abaco, where they are likely to encounter two types, the Bahama Woodstar and the Cuban Emerald. The latter are far more numerous, especially in home gardens in residential neighborhoods like Treasure Cay, Marsh Harbour and Hope Town, although the Woodstar is the most common in the Bahamas in general, and especially in Nassau.
During a December bird count in North Abaco, observers were happy to encounter several of both types. "Their numbers were way reduced following hurricanes Frances and Jeanne,"says Dr. Woody Bracey, a leading Abaco bird authority and a resident of Treasure Cay. "They are devastated by the loss of vegetation. Their metabolism is so high they need to wake up and get that sugar kick." More than 100 species of birds were counted during the North Abaco count, and 70 in a separate South Abaco count, Bracey said, and hummingbirds showed a dramatic comeback from the years immediately following the hurricanes.
The Emerald male is bright green with a blackish tail and white under its tailcoats. The female is light to bronze green. The Bahama Woodstar male is mostly green with a deeply forked tail, a reddish violet throat and white chest. Females have a rounded tail with a white chest and throat.
The Woodstar and Emerald are both resident here all winter, but January through April you'll have no luck with feeders, as they retreat to the pine forests for mating and reproducing. The Woodstar also makes an annual 500-mile trip here over the Gulf, carried by winter winds.
Ruby Throats, which migrate north in summer and are common in the northeast and southeastern US and Canada, are rarely seen in the Bahamas. Dr. Bracey says he's only spotted two during December and January since first coming to Abaco in the 1970s and taking up full time residency in 1995.