Helping the Hurricane-ravaged Bahamas
Who Is the Birdman on the Cover?

Real James Bond & the Bahama Nuthatch

Bahama Huthatch Hayes_7607-1200-(2)(2)
By now, many people have heard about the likely extinction of the Bahama nuthatch.

When one wrestles with the destruction that Hurricane Dorian wrought on the Bahamas and its people, the extinction of a bird pales in comparison -- especially a bird few folks have heard of.

One reason the bird is relatively obscure is that it has long been considered a subspecies -- even by ornithologist James Bond, who discovered it.  It will likely become a separate species after its extinction.

As I write in my soon-to-be-published book, after traveling on a rum runner's sailboat to High Rock on Grand Bahama, "Bond went to High Rock with a duffel, a hammock, and a gun. Bond collected birds for five mornings and skinned birds in the afternoon, his usual ritual.

"The trip to High Rock turned out to be a major success. As Mary Wickham Bond (Bond's wife) recounted in "To James Bond with Love," Bond collected two specimens of a heretofore undescribed nuthatch in the scrub-pine forests there.

"The bird is a close relative of the Brown-headed Nuthatch of the southeastern United States, and many ornithologists consider it a distinct species. The Bahama nuthatch is the only member of that family found in the West Indies, and now is in such decline that it was feared to be extinct following a 2016 hurricane."

Professor William Hayes of Loma Linda University, who provided the above photo for the book, writes that "the Bahama Nuthatch is a distinct species, which becomes more evident when one compares the vocalizations and call playback responses of the species complex... 

"It would be nice to name the species after Bond, but that can't happen because the epithet previously supplied -- by Bond himself -- will take precedence.

"Bond gave the bird the subspecies name of insulanis, so that becomes the species name if and when the taxon is elevated to species status."

(Thanks, Professor Hayes!)

The New York Times article about the Bahama Nuthatch, the Bahama Parrot, hurricanes and humans is here. I will post more about James Bond and the Bahama Parrot down the road.

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