Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 55.djvu/59

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49
PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY OF THE WEST INDIES.

A long-continued process of natural selection has also modified the habits of numerous species of West Indian parrots. Four hundred years ago, when Fernan Oviedo superintended the placer mines of Hayti, loris were so abundant and tame that his assistants often

PSM V55 D059 Vervain hummingbird and nest.png
Vervain Humming Bird and Nest.

amused themselves prowling about a thicket of berry bushes and capturing the chattering visitors by means of a common ring net. Nestlings could be taken from every hollow tree, and often from the thatchwork of deserted Indian cabins; but the overconfident specimens came to grief, and the survivors have learned to give the Caucasian varieties of the Simia destructor a wide berth. They raise their young in the cavities of the tallest forest trees, and approach human habitations only at dawn of day and sometimes during the noonday heat, when Creoles can be relied upon to indulge in a siesta nap. In reliance on their protective colors, gray parrakeets frequent the dead timber of the coffee plantations, while the leaf-green Amazon parrot sticks to leaf trees.

"When they alight on a dry branch," says Captain Gosse, in his Jamaica chronicle, "their emerald hue is conspicuous and affords a fair mark for the gunner, but in a tree of full foliage their color proves an excellent concealment. They seem aware of this, and their sagacity prompts them to rely on it for protection. Often we hear their voices proceeding from a certain tree, or have marked the descent of a flock, but on proceeding to the spot, though the eye has not wandered from it, we can not discover an individual; we go close to the tree, but all is silent; we institute a careful survey of every part with the eye, to detect the slightest motion, or the form of a bird among the leaves, but in vain, and we begin to think that they have