I have some beautiful heliconia plants outside my bathroom window that are commonly visited by hummingbirds. A few days ago I observed a small and delicate looking hummingbird making serious attempts to scare off a plump bird who, had perched on the same plant. With kamikaze dives and swoops this little hummingbird made all attempts to scare off the ‘invader’ to its territory of nectar.
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It was a captivating natural show to watch whilst brushing my teeth in the morning! And it made me remember the presentation I had seen last year in Dominica by John Kress, a botanist a curator from the Smithsonian Institution. He was showing the latest evidence collected to show the remarkable co-evolutionary dance between the species of hummingbirds and heliconias in the Caribbean.
Heliconia flowers are strikingly impressive as they stand proudly and dramatically coloured in the red, yellow and green colours that seem to symbolize Caribbean life. The two native heliconias to the Lesser Antilles are Heliconia Bihai and Heliconia Caribaea and the researchers involved in the study looked at these two varieties with the feeding patterns of the Purple-throated Carib hummingbird (Eulampis jugularis).
They showed that the male and female birds had a different size and shaped beak that are perfectly suited to the size and shape of the flower that they feed on. The research asserts that the bird and plant have co-evolved together to match each others needs. This is a simplistic summary of the study that covered several islands in the Eastern Caribbean and I recommend checking out some further information for more details on this fascinating discovery. The co-evolution conclusion is hotly contested by those who prefer a creationist theory to explain the outcome, but however it happened, it’s certainly a marvel to watch!
Someone once asked me if I could come back as any bird what would it be and I didn’t take a second to answer hummingbird! These incredible little birds, which sound like mini helicopters as they fly through the air, certainly need more attention in future blogs. In the meantime I’m going to sit in the garden and watch the amazing dance of nature for a while.
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