“Ching ching” season

People in Cayman are once again witnessing the yearly ‘ching ching’ ritual of dive bombing unsuspecting passers-by and other antics.

But what do we really know about these birds? Where does the term ‘ching ching’ come from? Why do they attack? The answers may surprise you.

The bird is officially referred to as the Greater Antilles Grackle. It is endemic to the Cayman Islands and cannot be found anywhere else in nature.

Similar looking birds exist in Jamaica, which locals in the country affectionately call cling clings, however these animals are very different than the Grackle.

They, among 13 other sub-species of birds, call only Cayman home.

Field Officer for the National Trust Stuart Mailer said, ‘I take tourists out on the Mastic Trail sometimes and we can readily see up to 12 of these species on one tour.’

He added that the only bird usually missing was the ‘ching ching’. Mr. Mailer said this was because the bird is more of an open-field dweller that avoided woodlands.

The name ‘ching ching’ comes from the noise the birds make. Though throughout time it has had racial overtones in Cayman, and is still widely used as an intended slur in some quarters.

Known for its feisty disposition and boldness, the Grackle is notorious for strategically attacking those who dare to go near its nest.

The usual siege begins with one bird standing on look out alerting the others of impending danger. A well-organised team then take turns warding off a potential threat.

Bird expert and author of ‘Birds of the Cayman Islands’ Patricia Bradley said, ‘The ching ching is not a pest and, though it is not popular, it is quite special, as it is only found here.’ She added that the bird was only aggressive when nursing its young during spring.

When asked about the benefits of the bird to the local ecosystem, experts say every creature is vital to the welfare of all wildlife in a country. However the ‘ching ching’ is all the more special, because of its uniqueness.