National Geographic : 1898 May
THE ORIGIN OF WEST INDIA BIRD-LIFE By FRANK M. CHAPMAN, American Museum of Natural History, New York A study of the origin of the life of any given area involves so extensive a knowledge of the factors governing the distribution of life that the ideal theory of the derivation of the fauna of a region should be based on the detailed reports of a corps of specialists, each one of whom should state without bias the facts in the case as they have been determined in his particular sub ject. Thus, before attempting to account for the origin of life in the West India islands, we should receive such reports from the geologist, hydrographer, climatologist, paleontologist, zool ogist, and botanist, and no theory can be satisfactory which does not consider the data presented by these specialists. Acting on this principle, I offer the following synopsis of studies of West India bird-life made during the past ten years, the detailed results of which will be found in earlier papers :* My remarks may be prefaced by the statement that, so far as its distribution is concerned, our knowledge of the resident bird-life of the West Indies is essentially complete. Haiti and San Domingo may hold some ornithological secrets, but our re corded information is not likely to receive any material acces sions-a condition of affairs for which we have largely to thank Mr C. B. Cory, who has sent collectors to every West India island and published numerous reports on the results of their work.t Of the 580 or more birds which have now been recorded from the West Indies, no fewer than some 305 are endemic. The re maining 275 are species of general continental or tropical distri bution, or those of the surrounding mainland, about 170 being migrants from eastern North America, which occur in the West Indies as winter residents or as transient visitants. Of the 305 endemic species, 293 are land birds, 90 per cent of the resident land birds being therefore endemic-truly a surprising degree of specialization when we consider how near several of the islands *American Naturalist, 1891, pp. 528-539; Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist., iv, 1892, pp. 279 330; vi, 1894, pp. 8, 9; ix, 1897, pp. 29, 30. t See his " Birds of the West Indies," in The Auk, iii, 1886, pp. 1-59 et seq.; and " Cata logue of West Indian Birds," published by the Author, Boston, 1892.