Page:Darwin Journal of Researches.djvu/310

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288
[CHAP. XIII.
CHONOS ARCHIPELAGO.

swims in shoals near the surface of the water. Mr. Bynoe saw one in Tierra del Fuego eating a cuttle-fish; and at Low's Harbour, another was killed in the act of carrying to its hole a large volute shell. At one place I caught in a trap a singular little mouse (M. brachiotis); it appeared common on several of the islets, but the Chilotans at Low's Harbour said that it was not found in all. What a succession of chances,[1] or what changes of level must have been brought into play, thus to spread these small animals throughout this broken archipelago!

In all parts of Chiloe and Chonos, two very strange birds occur, which are allied to, and replace, the Turco and Tapacolo of central Chile. One is called by the inhabitants "Cheucau" (Pteroptochos rubecula): it frequents the most gloomy and retired spots within the damp forests. Sometimes, although its cry may be heard close at hand, let a person watch ever so attentively he will not see the cheucau; at other times, let him stand motionless and the red-breasted little bird will approach within a few feet in the most familiar manner. It then busily hops about the entangled mass of rotting canes and branches, with its little tail cocked upwards. The cheucau is held in superstitious fear by the Chilotans, on account of its strange and varied cries. There are three very distinct cries: one is called "chiduco," and is an omen of good; another, "huitreu," which is extremely unfavourable; and a third, which I have forgotten. These words are given in imitation of the noises; and the natives are in some things absolutely governed by them. The Chilotans assuredly have chosen a most comical little creature for their prophet. An allied species, but rather larger, is called by the natives "Guid-guid" (Pteroptochos Tarnii), and by the English the barking-bird. This latter name is well given; for I defy any one at first to feel certain that a small dog is not yelping somewhere in the forest. Just as with the cheucau, a person will sometimes hear the bark close by, but in vain may endeavour by watching, and with still less chance by beating the bushes, to see the bird; yet at other times the guid-

  1. It is said that some rapacious birds bring their prey alive to their nests. If so, in the course of centuries, every now and then, one might escape from the young birds. Some such agency is necessary, to account for the distribution of the smaller gnawing animals on islands not very near each other.