Chickcharney

Andros Island is the largest island in the Bahamas, at 5,957 km2, making it comparable in size to Long Island, New York. It’s also one of the most sparsely populated islands, at only 1.3/km2. As everyone inhabits a tiny strip of land in the northeast, almost 70% of its land is protected in conservation areas. Its small number of people is due to the island’s dense mangrove forests making large settlements and infrastructure difficult.


According to the folklore of the couple thousand inhabitants, there is a rare owl-like creature that inhabits the swamps called the chickcharney. They are usually described as being ugly, about three feet tall, almost flightless, have reflective red eyes and three toes. Some claim its wings also have three fingers. They are also said to build nests in low hanging branches and can turn their head completely around. In Bahamian folklore, the chickcharney is used as an archetypal forest-spirit, and if a traveller meets one, and respects the chickcharney and the forest, they will have good luck, but do the opposite, and they will be cursed. 


Some cryptozoologists and anthropologists believe the folklore of the chickcharney are based on sightings of late-surviving Andros barn owls, or Tyto pollens. Andros barn owls, like the chickcharney, were about three feet tall, near-flightless, and inhabited the mangrove swamps, but are thought to have become extinct sometime before the arrival of European contact in 1492, possibly due to the eradication of hutias, small hamster-like animals that were their primary prey. Some, however, have speculated that Andros barn owls survived in small numbers undetected in the mangrove swamps, subsisting off of the newly introduced rats long enough to have interacted with the contemporary Andros Islanders. Occasional sightings continue to this day.

Tyto pollens illustration by Stanton F. Fink