Texas Nature Observations and Reminiscenses Page: 77
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TEXAS NATURE OBSERVATIONS AND RE1IINISCENCES. 77
peating the echo of the other in
quick succession. They are shy,
and, aided by the darkness of
the night, it is impossible to see
this bird in nature at close range
and only once in a while, at
moonlight, the shadowy outlines
of the large bird are seen acci-
dentally when the Whip-poor-will
alights from its hiding haunts.
The song of this bird is so im-
pressive that, once heard, it is
very seldom forgotten by any one,
and one can listen a long time
to the thrilling sounds while so-
journing at a farm house at night.
The Guacharo or Fat Bird be-
longs to the same class as the bull-
b)at and( whip-poorwill, and has rare-
ly been seen in the canyons and
mountainous regions of Texas
Years ago, in a cave around
Helotes, west of San Antonio, such
bird has been seen-perhaps from
foreign regions. The life history
of this strange cave bird is but
little known to us, so a description
of same by Humboldt might inter-
est my readers.
In his travels through South
America, Alexander von Humboldt
refers to the following personal
explorations of a guacharo cave
in which millions of the so-
called "Guachlaro" or "fat birds"
were encountered: "The cave,
which the natives designate as
a fat pit, is located several miles
off the convent of the San Antonio
and Guanaguguana, in the valley
of Capri; and Humboldt was
led there during his marvelous
travels by the Alcalde and several
Monks. At times they had to
wade through water that was
not very deep, and at times
between a rivulet and rock cliffs,
or very slippery or swampy soil.
Numerous earth mounds, dispersed
logs, over which the mule teams
had tedious traveling, made the
trip exceedingly tiresome to reach
the Guacharo Mountain. A rivu-
let runs through a shaft of this
mountain, and one goes under
a high cliff above which the sky
is not to be seen. The road
winds itself with the rivulet, and
at its last bend one suddenly
stands before the colossal opening
of the Guacharo cave; and the
scene is something enormous for
eyes accustomed to the scenic
panorama of the Alps, as the
highly imposing tropical plant
life imparts a most fascinating
impression of such earth cave.
This plant splendor even extends
into the main portal of the large
cave. With amazement we no-
ticed how eighteen feet high, bril-
liant heliconia, propapalens, and
treelike aruma plants covered
the banks of the rivulet and
underground layers. Once enter-
ing the enormous cavity of this
cave, one has no idea of the
enormous noise thousands of the
Guacharo birds make in the dark-
ness of the cave.
Humboldt compares this noise
with the racket thousands of
our crows make in a bunch,
especially where the guacharo birds
domicile close to each other.
The yelling, penetrating screeching
and nervethrilling noise of these
guacharos from the enormous
rock vaults appears as echo from
the deepest depths of the cave.
The native Indians attached a
torch to a long stick and thus
showed Humboldt and his com-
panions the myriads of nests in
this cave which were located in
funnel-shaped holes, and in im-
mense numbers along the interior
vaults of this cave. The deeper
they advanced into this cave,
and the more of the birds were
chased up through the light
of the Kopal torches, the more
the tumult and noise of the
birds increased. As soon as the
noise ceased at one particular
place for a few minutes, a tumult-
uous screaming and fluttering was
heard from other, deeper parts of
"The Guacharo departs from
its haunts at night time, especially
during bright moonlight to seek
its food, consisting mostly of
hard seed, and the Indians say
Here’s what’s next.
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Menger, R. Texas Nature Observations and Reminiscenses, book, 1913; San Antonio, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth143558/m1/81/?q=menger: accessed February 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting University of Texas Health Science Center Libraries.