National Geographic : 1908 Jun
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE 400 BREEDING COLONY OF MAN-O'-WAR BIRDS Old black bird on nest and young white birds scattered through thicket. The nests are built on sea-grape bushes surrounded by impenetrable cactus of bird life. Our data was not at all en couraging, since such as we had only established the existence of bird colonies in 1857 and 1896. Whether the birds had been there this season or, if so, had been broken up by the rather unusual visit from some becalmed ship, we did not know. Schooners carrying fifteen or twenty dories and a crew of twenty or more ne groes are continuously searching -the shallow waters of the Bahamas for sponges, and, as might be expected, have from time immemorial made a practice of landing upon islands for birds' eggs and their young and, when possible, tak ing the breeding birds themselves, with the result that in recent years bird life in the Bahamas is threatened with extinc tion. Some of the readers may recall Mr Chapman's efforts, covering three sea sons, to locate on these islands a breeding colony of the beautiful pink flamingo, and how at last he succeeded, after dis covering a breeding site many miles in the interior, on a large marshy island and so remote as to have escaped the vigilant eyes of the watchful natives. The extreme isolation of Cay Verde and the absence of protecting land in the neighborhood make the landing too un certain to warrant a trip that far in search of eggs or young. However, as the yacht approached a little nearer we noticed high over the island the graceful, soaring flight of sev eral man-o'-war birds, and later could see, coming from all directions, small numbers of boobies, bringing in their pouch the evening meal for their clam orous offspring, provided they were not intercepted in mid-air and compelled to disgorge for the benefit of that hawk of the sea, the man-o'-war bird, whose diet consists wholly of flying fish or the toll collected from the good-natured boobies, the presence of which alone makes pos sible a certain supply of fish for the young of its piratical neighbor.