Bermuda was discovered in 1505 but for years afterwards, the Spanish and Portuguese sailors who passed the island weren’t too keen to row ashore. They didn’t fancy their chances against the treacherous reefs, but almost as frightening were the strange sounds that emanated from the island as dusk fell. It sounded like hundreds of babies screaming out in unison and the superstitious sailors took fright and continued on their way to safer harbors. It didn’t take long for stories to proliferate about the demons, sea monsters and witches that haunted the island.
The howling infants were, in fact, Bermuda Cahows, an endemic species of seabird. They returned every year to form dense nesting colonies and their eerie calls were a way of attracting other birds to breed. They are thought to have numbered over 500,000 birds.
Unfortunately for the Cahow, in 1563, the Spaniard Don Pedro Menendez de Avila plucked up the courage to sail into Bermuda while looking for his son, who had been shipwrecked. There was no sign of his missing heir, but he left behind some hogs to help sustain the victims of future shipwrecks. The hogs were an ecological disaster, wiping out most of the birds.
Photo by JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons