The Doctor Bird

Red-billed_Streamertail

From the beginning of the short story For Your Eyes Only.

The most beautiful bird in Jamaica, and some say the most beautiful bird in the world, is the streamer-tail or doctor humming-bird. The cock bird is abut nine inches long, but seven inches of it are tail – two long black feathers that curve and cross each other and whose inner edges are in a form of scalloped design. The head and crest are black, the wings dark green, the long bill is scarlet, and the eyes, bright and confiding, are black. The body is emerald green, so dazzling that when the sun is on the breast you see the brightest green thing in nature. In Jamaica, birds that are loved are given nicknames. Trochilus polytmus is called “doctor bird” because his two black streamers remind people of the black tail-coat of the old-time physician.

The scene is thus set for us – we’re in Jamaica again. Ian Fleming sets the beginning of this story back in the place he knew so well. As you can see from the picture, his description of the bird couldn’t possibly be more accurate.jamaican-streamertail

The bird can only be found in Jamaica, and is in fact the national bird of the country.

In the story, Mrs Havelock is watching two pairs of birds, which are supposed to be of the same family of birds that have lived in the same bushes for at least 30 years or so. Her mother-in-law had named the first two pairs, and the names stuck on all the subsequent pairs that came back.

In reality, the male of the Trochilus Polytmus is polygamous, and has nothing to do with the raising of the young after the act of mating. The female bird becomes a single parent.

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