Изображения страниц



We found, on St. Paul's Rocks, only two kinds of birds --the booby and the noddy. The former is a species of —the

gan: net, and the latter a tern. Both are of a tame and stupid disposition, and are so unused to visitors that I could have

[graphic][merged small]

killed any number of them with my geological hammer. The booby lays her eggs on the bare rock; but the tern makes a very simple nest with sea-weed. By the side of many of these nests a small flying.fish was placed, which, I suppose, had been brought by the male bird for its partner. It was amusing to watch how quickly a large and active crah, which inhabits the crevices of the rocks, stole the fish from the side


of the nest as soon as we had disturbed the parent birds. Sir W. Symonds, one of the few persons who have landed

[graphic][merged small]

here, informs me that he saw the crabs dragging even the young birds out of their nests and devouring them.

Extreme tameness is common to all the land-birds in the Galapagos Islands, namely, to the mocking - thrushes, the finches, wrens, tyrant fly-catchers, the dove, and carrion - buzzard. All of them often approached sufficiently near to be killed with a switch, and sometimes, as I myself tried, with a cap or hat. A gun is here almost superfluous; for with the muzzle I pushed a hawk off the branch of a tree. One day, while lying down, a mocking-thrush alighted on the edge of a pitcher, made of the shell of a tortoise, which I


held in my hand, and began very quietly to sip the water; it allowed me to lift it from the ground while seated on the vessel. I often tried, and very nearly succeeded, in catching these birds by their legs. Formerly the birds appear to have been even 'tamer than at present. Cowley (in the year 1684) says that the “ turtle doves were so tame that they would often alight upon our hats and arms, so as that we could take them alive: they not fearing man until such time as some of our company did fire at them, whereby they were rendered more shy.” Dampier, also, in the same year, says that a man in a morning's walk might kill six or seven dozen of these doves. At present, although certainly very tame, they do not alight on people's arms, nor do they suffer them

[graphic][merged small]

selves to be killed in such large numbers. It is surprising that they have not become wilder, for these islands during



the last hundred and fifty years have been frequently visited by buccaneers and whalers, and the sailors, wandering

through the woods in search of tortoises, al. ways take cruel delight in knocking down the little birds. In Charles Island, which had then been settled about six years, I saw a boy sitting by a well with

a switch in his hand, with which he killed the doves and finches as they came to drink. He had already got a little heap of them for his dinner, and he said that he had constantly been in the habit of waiting by this well for the same purpose.

It would seem that the birds of this archipelago, not having as yet learned that man is a more dangerous animal than the tortoise or the lizard (Ambly. rhyncus), disregard him, just as in England shy birds, such as magpies, do not mind the cows and horses grazing in the fields.

The Falkland Islands of. fer a second instance of birds with a similar disposition. As the birds are so tame there, where foxes, hawks, and owls occur, we may infer that the

[ocr errors]



absence of all beasts of prey at the Galapagos is not the cause of their tameness here. The upland geese at the Falklands show, by the precaution they take in building on the islets, that they are aware of their danger from the foxes;

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

but this does not make them wild toward man. In the Falklands, the sportsman may sometimes kill more of the upland geese in one day than he can carry home; whereas in Tierra del Fuego, where the same species has for ages past been persecuted by the wild inhabitants, it is nearly as diffi.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »