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Scarlet Ibis and Cocorico

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The National Birds, which are represented on the Coat of Arms of Trinidad and Tobago, are:

1. The Scarlet Ibis which represents Trinidad.

2. The Cocrico which represents Tobago.

Both birds are protected by law. The largest habitat of the Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus Ruber) is the Caroni Swamp, in Central Trinidad. The Scarlet Ibis has been protected by law since 1965. This beautiful bird is brown when young and its colour changes to bright red when fully mature. The striking red plumage owes its colour to the 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. The Scarlet Ibis 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.

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 Chachalaca) is native to Tobago and Venezuela, but is not naturally found in Trinidad. It is the only game bird on the sister isle and is commonly referred to as the Tobago Pheasant. It is about the size of a common fowl (broiler for human consumption), brown in colour and has a long tail. They travel in flocks of about six (6) and their quaint calls can be heard especially on early mornings and late evenings.