The National Birds
The Scarlet Ibis
The Scarlet Ibis (Tantalus Ruber) is a neo-tropic species of exotic bird wildlife that is found in the Northern parts of South America. The species range from the coastal region of Brazil to the south and Colombia to the north. The greatest population is in Venezuela. Trinidad sits on the continental land shelf of South America off the coastline of Venezuela and as a result the birds are present here.
The Scarlet Ibis is a gregarious bird that can be seen roosting, feeding and flying in large number. The bird has a wing span of 31 inches for the male and 29 inches for the female and the height from the bill to the toe is 29 inches for the male and 27 inches for the female. The Scarlet Ibis is completely scarlet except for the tips of the wings that are iridescent bluish black in colour. The bird has a long de-curved bill about 7 to 8 inches long that is used for probing the mudflats for a variety of crustaceans that form its diet.
Its food consists of many crustaceans including several species of fiddler crabs, shrimps, fishes, insects, frogs, snails and decomposing organic matter. The feeding flock of ibises will move in one direction and then double back. When the crustaceans borrow deep into the mudflat the birds will jab their bills deep in trying to catch their prey. After a while the flock flies a short distance away, giving the crustaceans a chance to return to the surface. Then they return and the feeding frenzy will start all over again.
In the afternoon the Scarlet Ibises return to roost on the mangroves. As if by some command, flock after flock will come in and transform the mangroves into ‘Christmas’ tress. The Scarlet Ibises dominate the crown while Egrets and Herons and other species of birds use the centre and lower sections of the roosting tree. This is an awesome sight, iridescent in the colours of red, white and black in their roosting area in the Caroni swamp.
The Cocrico (Rufus Tailed Guan) is a native of Tobago and Venezuela but is the only game bird on the island and is referred to as the Tobago Pheasant. It is about the size of a common fowl, brownish in colour with a long tail. They go about in flocks of about six and their quaint calls can be heard in the early morning and late evenings.
Both the Scarlet Ibis and Cocrico are represented on the Coat of Arms of Trinidad and Tobago.