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although recognizing the fact of its zoological and geographical diversity, as well as its vast superiority over every other subregion in the number and variety of its animal forms.
The reptiles, fishes, mollusca, and insects of this sub-region have been sufficiently discussed in treating of the entire region, as by far the larger proportion of them, except in the case of land-shells, are found here.
Plate XV. Characteristic Neotropical Birds.---To illustrate the ornithology of South America we place our scene on one of the tributaries of the Upper Amazon, a district where this class of animals is the most prominent zoological feature, and where a number of the most remarkable and interesting birds are to be found. On the left we have the umbrella-bird (Cephalopterus ornatus), so called from its wonderful crest, which, when expanded, completely overshadows its head like an umbrella. It is also adorned with a long tassel of plumes hanging from its breast, which is formed by a slender, fleshy tube clothed with broad feathers. The bird is as large as a crow, of a glossy blue-black colour, and belongs to the same family as the exquisitely tinted blue-and-purple chatterers. Flying towards us are a pair of curlcrested toucans (Pteroglossus beauharnaisii), distinguished among all other toucans by a crest composed of small black and shining barbless plumes, resembling curled whalebone.
The general plumage is green above, yellow and red beneath, like many of its allies. To the right are two of the exquisite little whiskered hummers, or“ frill-necked coquettes," as they are called by Mr. Gould, (Lophornis gouldi). These diminutive birds are adorned with green-tipped plumes springing from each side of the throat, as well as with beautiful crests, and are among the most elegant of the great American family of humming-birds, now numbering about 400 known species. Overhead are perched a pair of curassows (Crax globulosa), which represent in America the pheasants of the Old World. There are about a dozen species of these fine birds, most of which are adorned with handsome curled crests. That figured, is distinguished by the yellow caruncular swellings at the base of the bill. The tall crane-like bird near the water is one of the trumpeters, (Psophia leucoptera), elegant
birds with silky plumage peculiar to the Amazon valley. They are often kept in houses, where they get very tame and affectionate; and they are useful in catching flies and other house insects, which they do with great perseverance and dexterity.
Islands of Tropical South America. These are few in number, and, with one exception, not of much interest. Such islands as Trinidad and Sta. Catherina form parts of South America, and have no peculiar groups of animals. The small islands of Fernando Noronha, Trinidad, and Martin Vaz, off the coast of Brazil, are the only Atlantic islands somewhat remote from land; while the Galapagos Archipelago in the Pacific is the only group whose productions have been carefully examined, or which present features of special interest.
Galapagos Islands.--These are situated on the equator, about 500 miles from the coast of Ecuador. . They consist of the large Albemarle island, 70 miles long; four much smaller (18 to 25 miles long), named Narborough, James, Indefatigable, and Chatham Islands ; four smaller still (9 to 12 miles long), named Abingdon, Bindloes, Hood's, and Charles Islands. All are volcanic, and consist of fields of black basaltic lava, with great numbers of extinct craters, a few which are still active. The islands vary in height from 1,700 to 5,000 feet, and they all rise sufficiently high to enter the region of moist currents of air, so that while the lower parts are parched and excessively sterile, above 800 or 1,000 feet there is a belt of comparatively green and fertile country.
These islands are known to support 58 species of Vertebrates, --l quadruped, 52 birds and 5 reptiles, the greater part of which are found nowhere else, while a considerable number belong to peculiar and very remarkable genera. We must therefore notice them in some detail.
Mammalia. This class is represented by a mouse belonging to the American genus Hesperonys, but slightly different from any found on the continent. A true rat (Mus), slightly differing from any European species, also occurs; and as there can be little doubt that this is an escape from a ship, somewhat
changed under its new conditions of life (the genus Mus not being indigenous to the American continent), it is not improbable, as Mr. Darwin remarks, that the American mouse may also have been imported by man, and have become similarly changed.
Birds.1_Recent researches in the islands have increased the number of land-birds to thirty-two, and of wading and aquatic birds to twenty-three. All the land birds but two or three are peculiar to the islands, and eighteen, or considerably more than half, belong to peculiar genera. Of the waders 4 are peculiar, and of the swimmers 2. These are a rail (Porzana spilonota); two herons (Butorides plumbea and Nycticorax pauper); flamingo (Phoenicopterus glyphorhynchus); while the new aquatics are a gull (Larus fuliginosus), and a penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus).
The land birds are much more interesting. All except the birds of prey belong to American genera which abound on the opposite coast or on that of Chili a little further south, or to peculiar genera allied to South American forms. The only species not peculiar are, Dolichonyx oryzivorus, a bird of very wide range in America and of migratory habits, which often visits the Bermudas 600 miles from North America,--and Asio accipitrinus, an owl which is found almost all over the world. The only genera not exclusively American are Buteo and Strix, of each of which a peculiar species occurs in the Galapagos, although very closely allied to South American species. There remain 10 genera, all either American or peculiar to the Galapagos; and on these we will remark in systematic order.
1. Mimus, the group of American mocking-thrushes, is represented by three distinct and well-marked species. 2. Dendroca, an extensive and wide-spread genus of the wood-warblers (Mniotiltidæ), is represented by one species, which ranges over the greater part of the archipelago. The genus is especially abundant in Mexico, the Antilles, and the northern parts of
1 Mr. Salvin, who has critically examined the ornithological fauna of these islands, has kindly corrected my MS. List of the Birds, his valuable paper in the Transactions of the Zoological Society not having been published in time for me to make use of it.