National Geographic : 1942 Jun
Ambassadors of Good Will Annual Messengers from Our Neighbor Republics to the South Bring Cheer and Add Interest to the Out-of-Doors BY ARTHUR A. ALLEN Professor of Ornithology, Cornell University With Illustrations from Photographs by the Author PFROM the Gran Chaco they come, ambassadors of good will from our sister republics of South America. Spending the winter on the pampas of Brazil or Argentina, Bolivia or Paraguay, they recog nize no international boundaries in their travels. Over the vast forests of the Amazon they fly during February or early March. Delaying on the llanos of Venezuela, traversing the Caribbean in a single night, visiting in Cuba during late March, they arrive in Florida in early April. When they appear over the clover fields of central New York in early May, we call them Bobolinks; and many an eye dances at their carefree flight and many a heart throbs to their rollicking, banjolike song. They are our Bobolinks now, but soon again they will return to the land of their ancestors and become the chambergos of Puerto Rico and Cuba, or the beloved charlatdns of Brazil and Argentina. Thus, year after year, they carry an un spoken message to our southern neighbors and return in the spring with their felicidades feathered emissaries of international good will. Envoy in Formal Black and White As I sit by my camera in an observation blind planted in a meadow in the New York State Finger Lakes region, waiting for my Bobolink to return to his song perch among the daisies and hawkweeds (Plate I), I like to think of him as a special envoy sent from my friends in Argentina to bring me cheering news of their well-being, singing me their greetings and dispelling the distance between us. And when, in late July, he changes his showy black-and-white clothes for a traveling suit of streaked yellow-brown like that of the rest of his family, he will bear my message back with him. A new realm of international brotherhood lies in an understanding of birds and their migrations. In the words of Shakespeare, "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." If you prefer the mountain forests of Colom- bia and Ecuador to the savannas of Argen tina, let's call upon the Red-eyed Vireo nest ing in the lilac bush by the porch (Plate VII).* The Bobolink had been back in his fields a week before we began to hear the oft-re peated song of this little "preacher bird" with fire in his eye. All winter he had been enjoying himself in the chocolate plantations of the Cauca Valley, in Colombia, flitting from one madre de cacao t to another without a thought for his friends plowing through the snow and ice of a northern winter. Then, about the last of March, the tropical sun began to arouse his migratory instinct and implant the urge to return to his former home. Returning Vireo Travels More Slowly He did not follow the Bobolink's short cut across the Caribbean and the West Indies, however, but took a somewhat longer route up through Panama and Central America, cross ing the Gulf of Mexico to Louisiana from Yucatan. After reaching the United States he traveled more slowly, for, although he arrived on the Gulf coast more than a week ahead of the Bobolinks, he did not make New York until a week after they had taken over the meadows. The Red-eyed Vireo is another good-will ambassador, and our greetings to Colombia and Venezuela go with him when he leaves for his winter home in September. All winter the little hanging basket that he wove in the lilac bush, conspicuous now that the leaves have fallen, will be a vivid reminder of our tiny friend and our good neighbors to the south who are sheltering and feeding him during our long winter. He will not travel alone, for hosts of our vireos, warblers, and thrushes spend the winter as far south as Colombia. Even the curious * Methods used by Dr. Allen in obtaining his splen did natural-color photographs of birds were described in his article "Stalking Birds with a Color Camera," in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for June, 1939. t Trees shading rows of cacao plants are known by the poetic name, "mother of cacao."