This stamp issue, produced in association with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), illustrates the beautiful Antillean Crested Hummingbird.
There are some 340 species of hummingbird, all found only in the Americas and Caribbean. The iridescent colours of hummingbird feathers and their graceful ability to hover whilst feeding makes them a most attractive and picturesque bird.
The Antillean Crested Hummingbird (Orthorhyncus cristatus) is found in a number of Islands in the Caribbean and at some 3.5 inches in length, is one of the smaller members of the Trochilidae family. It is one of 18 species of hummingbirds found in the Caribbean but one of only three recorded in the British Virgin Islands and is often sighted in the Sage Mountain National Park on Tortola.
Some hummingbird species defend a cluster of flowers to provide the calories they need to survive. Others regularly visit widely scattered flowers in the rainforest. Although beautiful, they are known to be very territorial and will not only fight with other hummingbirds but have been observed attacking small lizards which are regarded as either potential predators on their nests or competitors for nectar.
Female hummingbirds work alone to build the nest and care for their young. The nest is shaped as a tiny cup of cotton or fine fibres. Lichens often cover the outer surface. The final nest is bound together using spider webs. Two eggs may actually be laid before the nest is completed and the female will often complete the nest while incubating the eggs.
Incubation does not begin until the second egg is laid. This assures that both chicks hatch and grow together, making it easier to care for and feed them. The chicks are born naked and blind. As they grow, so their coat of feathers appears. The female alone cares for the young, bringing them flower nectar and insects. The chicks will fledge about three weeks after they hatch and they often spend a day on the edge of the nest flexing their wings, before finally leaving the nest.
Hummingbirds have a unique shoulder joint that allows them to rotate the wing completely over on the backstroke so that they can generate lift on both the forward stroke and the backstroke. This enables them to hover as long as they like, and also enables them to fly forwards, backwards, sideways, and straight up and down.