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AVES OR BIRDS.
The absence of woods or forests and the scarcity of umbrageous trees is doubtless the reason that Barbados possesses so few of the feathery tribe. The number of indigenous species do not amount to fifteen, and there are perhaps forty species which are considered birds of passage, or are only seen occasionally in the island. The Barbados Blackbird (Quiscalus crassirostris, Swains.), is the most conspicuous among the indigenous birds, and like the Ani or Black Witch of other islands, associates in numbers1.
The migration of birds has been the object of observation since the earliest period2. It is not my intention to enter into any detail respecting this interesting subject, but merely to mention in connection with Barbados that about forty species and varieties arrive towards the end of August, and merely alight on their passage to some distant land. The different species do not all observe the same periods of arrival, nor do they arrive on exactly the same day. They make their appearance about the 25th of August, or to take a wider range, between the 19th and the 27th of that month. If during this period a southerly wind and rain prevail, they alight; whereas fine weather tempts them to continue their progress. The greater part are then seen to fly very high, and to keep their course direct to the east. It has been conjectured that they come from the northern regions of America; and this appears probable, as all the species which visit Barbados during their migration to warmer regions are known to frequent the shores and lakes of Northern America. It is only remarkable that they direct their course, as observed by Hughes, during fine weather to the east, which would bring them to the coasts of Africa instead of Guiana, to which country it has been supposed they were emigrating. I can well imagine that a strong south-western wind would oppose their flight to the west, and oblige the caravan to steer out of their way; but why do they select during fine weather a course against the breeze and in an opposite direction from Guiana if they were migrating to that country? It appears therefore that on leaving the northern part of America for more congenial regions, they first visit the great lakes of Central America, from whence they continue their journey across the Caribbean Islands to the coast of Africa. The Black-breast Plover (Charadrius virginicus) is the most numerous; the male appears about the 25th of August, and the female, which is called in Barbados
1 It is asserted that they were introduced from Barbados into Demerara, where they are now numerous. As a counter-present, Barbados received its crapeaux from that colony.
2 Jeremiah, chap. viii. ver. 7.
3 The severe gale from the south-west on the 12th of September 1846, brought such a number of birds to the ground that they were killed with sticks. (See ante, p. 63.)
the White-breast Plover, arrives after the flight of the males has ceased, about the middle of September1.
The following list comprises all the birds which are indigenous or which merely visit the island on their migration. The few indigenous birds have been marked with an asterisk.
Falconida. *Buteo borealis, Swains. The Chicken Hawk.-*Falco columbarius, Linn. The Pigeon Hawk 2.
Strigida. *Strix flammea, Wilson. The Screech Owl.
Hirundinida. Hirundo dominicensis, Linn. The Large Swallow.-Tachornis phoenicobia?, Gosse. The Swift.
Nectarinidæ. *Certhiola flaveola, Linn. The Yellow Breast.
Trochilida. *Trochilus cristatus, Linn. The Blue Crested Humming Bird'. Turdida. Turdus Jamaicensis, Gmel. The Quaking Thrush.-Turdus mustelinus, Gmel. The common Thrush.
Muscicapida. Vireo olivacea, Wilson. The Monkey Bird.
Elania pagana, Licht. The Pee-whittler.
Sturnida. *Quiscalus crassirostris, Swains. The Blackbird.
Psittacidae. *Psittacus passerinus, Auct. The Small Parrakeet, or Love Bird.
Charadriada. Squatarola helvetica, Linn. Logger Head, or White Tail
Ardeida. Ardea egretta, Linn. The White Gauldin.-Ardea virescens, Linn.
The Gray Gauldin.
Scolopacida. Numenius hudsonicus, Lath. The Crook-bill Curlew.-Numenius borealis, Gmel. The Shivering Curlew.-Totanus melanoleucus, Gmel. The Pica.-Totanus flavipes, Gmel. The Long Leg.-Totanus chloropygius, Vieill. The Black Back.-Tringoides macularia, Linn. The Corn Snipe.-Tringoides Bartramius, Wilson. The Cotton Tree Plover.-Tringa canutus, Linn. The Mopus.-Tringa pectoralis, Say. The October Chirp.-Tringa pusilla, Wilson. The Grey Nit.-Philo
1 This remarkable circumstance is not restricted to the Plover; there are several other species of migrating birds where the males commence their migration several days before the females; as for example the Nightingale and Wheat-ear.
* A large Fish Hawk (perhaps Pandion Carolinensis, Bonap.) was shot in October 1835 at Græme Hall Swamp, measuring from the beak to the extremity of the tail 3 feet 2 inches; spread of the wings from tip to tip 5 feet 24 inches; length of the talon 1 inch. The stomach was quite empty, from which it was inferred that it had just arrived from a long flight.-The Barbadian.
* Barbados contains a second species of humming-bird, larger than this species, and apparently Lampornis mango, Swains.
machus pugnax, Linn. The Ruff Sand Piper'.-Macroramphus griseus, Leach. The Brown Snipe.-Gallinago Wilsoni, Bonap. The Great Snipe. Rallida. Gallinula galeata, Licht. The Red Seal Coot, or Water-hen.Fulica americana, Gmel. The White Seal Coot.
Anatidæ. Anas obscura, Gmel. The Dusky Duck.-Dendrocygna arborea,
Cetaceous Animals. Although differing in exterior shape so surprisingly from land animals, the fact that they are warm-blooded, that they breathe as the terrestrial animals, and suckle their young, places the Whales among this class.
Cetacea, or Whales, form the eighth order of Mammalia according to Cuvier's system. The common Whale (Balana Mysticetus) has not been seen in the West Indies. The Cachalot, Physeter macrocephalus, Cuv., is said to visit sometimes the Archipelago, and Ambergris has been repeatedly found on the shores of some of the West India islands; but if this assertion is really founded on truth, its visits must be only occasionally. The Grampus however (Delphinus Gramphus, Desm.) is frequently to be met3. Other cetaceous animals are—
Delphinus Delphis, Linn. The Common Dolphin.
Delphinus Phocæna, Linn. The Common Porpoise or Tumbler.
The scarcity of birds in the island of Barbados is only surpassed by the rarity of Quadrupeds.
If we except domestic animals, Barbados possesses five genera of terrestrial animals, comprising only a few more species in number. The most interesting is the Barbados Monkey, now nearly extinct,
'The Ruff Sand Piper is a British bird; and I have been informed that it is the first time that this species has been recorded as having been found on the other side of the Atlantic. Mr. Bishop sent it to me among other migratory birds, and observed that its name was not known, from which I infer that its occurrence in Barbados is a singular circumstance.
2 I have been told that the Pelican occasionally visits the coasts of Barbados. I do not recollect having seen it during my stay in that island.
3 A whale (Grampus) was taken near Maycock's Bay, on the leeward coast of St. Lucy's parish, in April 1813, measuring twenty-two feet six inches in length. Its diameter was seventeen feet nine inches, and the fin seven feet four inches in length. It was considered too young to afford any oil, and the negroes used therefore the flesh for culinary purposes.
although formerly so frequent that the Legislature set a price upon its head. I have much to regret, on account of natural history, that my endeavours to procure a specimen for the purpose of determining the species have entirely failed. From the outer appearance of a living specimen, I consider it to be Cepus capucinus, Geoff., the Sai or Weeper, or a very closely-allied species. It is not likely that it was introduced, as the first settlers found it in large numbers on their arrival. The Racoon, Procyon lotor, Cuv., is now equally scarce, although formerly so abundant that they were included in the legislative enactment for extirpation'. If we add to this two animals, perhaps an indigenous mouse and two species of bats, we come, as far as my knowledge extends, to the end of our enumeration of indigenous mammalia.
The breeds of domestic animals degenerate under the tropics. The wool of the sheep becomes in succeeding generations wiry and falls off, and in lieu of a uniform fleecy covering, many naked places are observable. The dog, the faithful companion of man, is equally subjected to changes which do not improve his appearance or character. The custom of the labourers of keeping dogs, which in many instances are not cared for and are turned out of doors, has led to a great evil. These dogs have turned wild, and have increased so rapidly that they commit the greatest ravages in the sheep-pens; as many as twenty sheep have been known to be destroyed by these wild dogs in one night. A dog-law has been introduced for their destruction, which has not however been effectual in removing the evil. The assertion that dogs under the tropics are not subject to hydrophobia is unfortunately unfounded, as far as regards Barbados. Hughes mentions that several dogs were mad in 1741; and in 1833 hydrophobia prevailed to an alarming degree among the canine race, and several persons were bitten in the town and country, and died of this dreadful disease.
1 A Racoon, beautifully formed and marked, with a long black, bushy tail, and weighing nine pounds, was caught in a trap some years ago, in a gully adjoining Colonel Anton's estate. The labourer who had borrowed and set the trap carried his prize to the Churchwarden, from whom he demanded and received 8 bits (3s. 4d. sterling), under an old law of the island, offering that reward for the destruction of vermin. This animal was a splendid specimen of its species now nearly extinct, although formerly ruinously abundant in this island.—Barbados Newspaper.
Governors and Commanders-in-Chief of Barbados, from its Settlement
in 1625 to 1846.
Sir George Ayscue.....
Francis, Lord Willoughby..
Governor Governor Governor
1630 Deputy-Governor... 1633
1634 Deputy-Governor... 1634 Governor ...
1652 Deputy-Governor... 1652
1660 1660 .... 1663
Joint Governors 1666
Governor ............ 1667
Governor 1684 ....Lieutenant-Governor 1685