What is the National Animal of Jamaica?

As you may know, many countries have designated one (or multiple) animals as their “national animals.” National animals often show some of the traits that the country values (such as strength, intelligence, or joy) or a unique creature to the country. Today, we are going to talk about the national animal of Jamaica.  

What is the national animal of Jamaica? 

The national animal of Jamaica is the red-billed streamertail, which is also known as the Trochilius polytmus. The red-billed streamertail is endemic to Jamaica, which means that it is native only to Jamaica.

In fact, there are 28 endemic bird species on the island of Jamaica, but the red-billed streamertail is one of the most abundant birds on the island. It is also the most widespread hummingbird on the island! 

The red-billed streamertail can be found all over Jamaica, but most of them are found west of the Morant River. On this island nation, they can be found in pretty much any habitat, from the sea level coast to the high altitude mountains.  

Red-billed streamertail (Trochilus polytmus)
Red-billed streamertail (Trochilus polytmus)

Red-billed streamertail size

These birds are pretty small- an adult male averages about four and a half inches without the long tail feathers (the tail feathers can be even longer than the bird’s body and can make them have a total body length of up to 10 inches). Females are even smaller.

They get their name from their bill – it is red with a little bit of black on the tip. And even though they are small, they sure do like to eat!

Red-billed streamertail diet

These hummingbirds have long, extendable tongues that they use to drink nectar. They can hover over a flower and drink its nectar at a fast rate – these hummingbirds may lick the nectar up to 13 times per second!

They will get nectar from flowers on trees, shrubs, and herbs, but they seem to favor flowers that have high sugar content, and they will often aggressively defend the flowers they like to eat. Even though they eat a diet of mostly nectar, they will also use their wings to catch small insects or pick insects out of a spider’s web to eat.

Females will especially like to eat insects during the breeding season to have enough protein to have strong offspring. A nesting female can eat up to 2,000 insects in a single day! 

Adult male red-billed streamertails make a distinctive noise while they are flying – it is almost a bit of a “whirring” sound, and this sound is synchronized to the beating of their wings. 

Locals on the island sometimes call the red-billed streamertail the “doctor bird.” This is because the tail feathers on the male and the black crest remind people of an old-time doctor (the crest looks like a top hat and the tail feathers look like the coattails of a doctor’s coat).

Early inhabitants of the island, the Arawak Indians, had another name for it – “God’s bird.” These natives believed that these birds were the reincarnation of souls and that they had magical powers. They also have the nickname of “scissortail.” 

The black-billed streamertail

Black-billed streamertail
Black-billed streamertail

There is another streamertail that calls Jamaica home, too, and this is the black-billed streamertail. Some scientists believed that the red-billed and black-billed streamertails were the same species, but most experts agree that they are two different birds.

Additionally, the black-billed streamertail is only found in the eastern part of Jamaica, where the red-billed streamertail is much more widely spread out.  

The red-billed streamertail is featured in a popular James Bond short story. Author Ian Fleming described these hummingbirds as “the most beautiful bird in Jamaica and some say the most beautiful bird in the world” in the story “For Your Eyes Only.” 

What other countries have birds as their national animal? 

Like Jamaica, there are tons of other countries that have chosen a bird for their national animal. Here are some of the other countries that have a bird for a national animal: 

  • Argentina – Rufous hornero 
  • Bahamas – Flamingo 
  • Belize – Keel-billed toucan 
  • Denmark – Mute swan 
  • France – Gallic rooster 
  • Iceland – Gyrfalcon 
  • India – Indian peacock 
  • Mexico – Golden eagle 
  • New Zealand – Kiwi 
  • Palestine – Palestine sunbird 
  • Panama – Harpy eagle 
  • Poland – White stork 
  • South Africa – Blue Crane 
  • United Arab Emirate – Peregrine falcon 
  • United States of America – Bald eagle 
  • Wales – Red kite 

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