Page:Darwin Journal of Researches.djvu/311

This page has been validated.
1835.]
289
ORNITHOLOGY.

guid fearlessly comes near. Its manner of feeding and its general habits are very similar to those of the cheucau.

On the coast,[1] a small dusky-coloured bird (Opetiorhynchus Patagonicus) is very common. It is remarkable from its quiet habits; it lives entirely on the sea-beach, like a sandpiper. Besides these birds only few others inhabit this broken land. In my rough notes I describe the strange noises, which, although frequently heard within these gloomy forests, yet scarcely disturb the general silence. The yelping of the guid-guid, and the sudden whew-whew of the cheucau, sometimes come from afar off, and sometimes from close at hand; the little black wren of Tierra del Fuego occasionally adds its cry; the creeper (Oxyurus) follows the intruder screaming and twittering; the humming-bird may be seen every now and then darting from side to side, and emitting, like an insect, its shrill chirp; lastly, from the top of some lofty tree the indistinct but plaintive note of the white-tufted tyrant-flycatcher (Myiobius) may be noticed. From the great preponderance in most countries of certain common genera of birds, such as the finches, one feels at first surprised at meeting with the peculiar forms above enumerated, as the commonest birds in any district. In central Chile two of them, namely, the Oxyurus and Scytalopus, occur, although most rarely. When finding, as in this case, animals which seem to play so insignificant a part in the great scheme of nature, one is apt to wonder why they were created. But it should always be recollected, that in some other country perhaps they are essential members of society, or at some former period may have been so. If America south of 37° were sunk beneath the waters of the ocean, these two birds might continue to exist in central Chile for a long period, but it is very improbable that their numbers would increase. We should then see a case which must inevitably have happened with very many animals.

These southern seas are frequented by several species of Petrels: the largest kind, Procellaria gigantea, or nelly (quebrantahuesos, or break-bones, of the Spaniards), is a common

  1. I may mention, as a proof of how great a difference there is between the seasons of the wooded and the open parts of this coast, that on September 20th. in lat. 34º, these birds had young ones in the nest, while among the Chonos Islands, three months later in the summer, they were only laying; the difference in latitude between these two places being about 700 miles.