Meet Jamaica’s National Bird – The Doctor bird

Bob Marley and Usain Bolt. Reggae and Jamaican rum. These are just some of the personalities and things that Jamaica is known for.

But one often overlooked symbol of the Caribbean nation is its national bird, the Doctor Bird. 

One of the more prominent species of hummingbird, the Jamaica national bird, is found only in the island-nation.

Since it is a type of hummingbird, it has the unique ability to fly backward.

Its scientific name is trochilus polytomous. But it is called by different names such as scissors-tail and swallow-streamer.

It is also called streamer-tail and swallow-tail mainly because of the long outer tail feathers of adult males.

How Does The Doctor Bird Look Like?

The adult male of this Jamaican national bird can grow up to 4.5 inches sans the streamers.

With those feathers, however, an adult male can grow as long as 10 inches.

The bird has a black crown and tail while its body is colored bright green. Its bill, meanwhile, is red and its tip is colored black.

On the other hand, the female doctor bird is smaller, no thanks to the absence of streamers. But it does have short tail feathers with a clear tip.

The body, particularly the back, neck, and crown, are also paler in color.

Why Is It Called Doctor Bird?

No one knows exactly why the Doctor Bird was named as such, but there are several interesting theories behind it.

One of the more commonly-suggested explanation is that the black crown and long streamers of the adult male appear like the top hat and coats typically worn by doctors.

Another theory is that its long bill used in extracting pollen from plants looks like a doctor’s syringe.

Others believe that the bird got its name because of its close association with tobacco, a plant traditionally used for treatment by the Taino shamans.

The indigenous people of the country, the Taino Indians, likewise believed that this bird is gifted with magical powers.

Hence, the hummingbird is called the “God Bird.” The Tainos even thought that the god bird is the reincarnation of dead.

People residing in the countryside even believe that killing the bird can bring bad luck. Killing the bird, though, is easier said than done.

Jamaicans have a saying: “the Doctor Bird is clever and thus cannot be killed easily.”

Where Can You Find A Doctor Bird?

The Doctor Bird mostly spends its time in forests where flowering plants are aplenty. But it can also be spotted in parks, gardens, and other places where plants thrive.

If you can’t find one, you may go to tourist attractions in Jamaica, such as Barney’s Hummingbird Garden and the Rockland Bird Sanctuary, where these birds are kept.

You’d know that a Doctor Bird is around when you hear loud, sharp, and high-pitched “tee-tee-tee” calls.

Because of the high number of this hummingbird type living in the country, it is common to hear their sounds anywhere in Jamaica.

What Does A Doctor Bird Eat?

This bird Jamaica loves feeding on nectar from scented and brightly-colored herbs, shrubs, and trees.

Using their long and straw-like tongues, this hummingbird efficiently gets the nectar from plants. They may also be spotted hanging on a flower while eating.

Aside from nectar from plants, the Doctor Bird likes to eat dead insects and spiders.

They can be spotted at hummingbird feeders to drink. And just like humans, the Doctor Bird feeds during daytime and sleeps at night.

Aside from Doctor Bird, What Kind Of Birds Are In Jamaica?

The Doctor Bird is one of the 28 species endemic to Jamaica, meaning these birds are not found anywhere else in the world.

Jamaica is blessed with a climate conducive to the growth and protection of birds. It likewise has a wide range of habitats, from grasslands, mountains, lowland jungles, and shorelines.

Moreover, the country is gifted with diverse flowering plants that birds feed on.

Aside from the bird believed to be the reincarnation of dead souls, other endemic birds in Jamaica include doves such as the Crested Quail Dove and the Ring-Tailed Pigeon and two parrots species (Black-billed Parrot and the Yellow-Billed Parrot.

Cuckoos such as the Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo and the Chestnut-Bellied Cuckoo likewise live in Jamaica.

The Jamaican Owl, the Jamaican Owl, the Jamaican Tody, and the Jamaican Woodpecker are other birds that can only be found in the Caribbean nation.

The country is home to two endemic thrush species and vireos like the Jamaican Vireo and the Blue Mountain Vireo.

The Jamaican Euphonia, Arrow-Headed Warbler, Jamaican Spindalis, Orangequit, Yellow-Shouldered Grassquit, and the Jamaican Blackbird are the other endemic birds of Jamaica.

Indeed, Doctor Bird is one of the most beautiful birds not only in the country but in the entire planet. It has not only become a source of national pride for Jamaicans but proof of the country’s rich biodiversity.

Julian Goldie - Owner of

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.