Posted by: Rob Viens | July 30, 2012

Birdin’ in Montevideo

July 30th found Darwin “busily employed with the collections of Saturday” (July 30) – from his hike up the “Mount”.

Yellow Cardinal – Gubernatrix cristata – endangered (by Edwin Harvey / Avibase)

Yellow cardinal

I promised to come back to Darwin’s accent of the “Mount”  a little more, so here is the rest of his description of the flora and fauna that he wrote that day:

“Some of the smallest birds are most brilliantly coloured; much more so than those in Brazil.— The bright green turf being browsed short by the cattle, is ornamented by dwarf flowers; amongst which to my eyes the Daisy claimed the place of an old friend.— The only other plants of larger size are tall rushes & a thistle resembling much the Acanthus; this latter with its silvery foliage covers large spaces of ground.— I went on board with a party of midshipmen; who had been shooting & had killed several brace of Partridges & wild Ducks, & had caught a large Guano about 3 feet long.— These lizards at certain times of the year are reckoned excellent food.— The evening was calm & bright, but in the middle of night it blew a sudden gale.— All hands were piped up to send Top-gallant masts on deck & to get in the Cutter: In such scenes of confusion, I am doubtful whether the war of the elements or shouts of the officers be most discordant.” (July 28)

I was talking with a friend from Uruguay the other day and when I mentioned Cerro de Montevideo her first comment was how great the bird watching was there.  This seems to be what stood out the most for Darwin, too, so I thought I’d share a few examples of the birds of Montevideo.  All of the images below come from the Avibase – world bird data base which has a list of all the birds of Montevideo.  Be sure to check it out!

According to the Avibase, there are 309 bird species in Montevideo, 12 of which are globally threatened, and 3 of which are introduced.  The introduced birds are some of the usual suspects – the rock dove, house sparrow and English goldfinch.  If their story is like most parts of the world, these three birds were probably intentionally introduced for one reason or another. There is at least one bird on the list – the Eskimo Curlew – that is listed as extinct.

Many of the major orders of birds can be found here, but since Darwin noted the “colorful” ones, I thought I’d concentrate on a few examples from the Passeriform order – the perching birds (which include most of the common “song birds” that many people are familiar with). The order’s name is derived from one of its most ubiquitous members – the house sparrow (Passer domesticus).

So here are a few examples (I see that yellow seem to be in season this Eon in the Montevideo bird plumage scene).

Many-colored rush-tyrant – Tachuris rubrigastra  (by Claudio Timm / Avibase):

Many-colored rush-tyrant

Sulfur-bearded spinetail – Cranioleuca sulphurifera (by Claudio Timm / Avibase):

Sulfur-bearded spinetail

Tropical Parula – Parula pitiayumi (by fverones1 / Avibase)

Tropical parula

Rusty-collared seedeater – Sporophila collaris – that is the beak of a seed eater for sure (by Darlo Sanches . Avibase)

Rusty collared seedeater

Blue-and-yellow Tanager – Thraupis bonariensis (by Darlo Sanches / Avibase)

Blue and yellow tanager

Bird watching done for now, the Beagle prepared to travel a little further up the river this week to Buenos Aires:

“The Captain this morning procured information of some old Spanish charts of Patagonia, which are now at Buenos Ayres.— He immediately determined to run up there to see them.” (July 30)

You know that FitzRoy – can’t pass up a good map collection!  (I can relate :).) Adventure awaits… (RJV)

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