Every country has its own local legends and The Bahamas is no different. It has a rich history of folklore and legends. One local legendary creature, that may actually be grounded in fact, is that of the Chickcharnies.
The legend of the Chickcharnies actually originates in Andros, the largest island in the Bahamas, which is about 230 km from Great Exuma. Chickcharnies are said to live in pine forests on the island and build nests by joining two pine trees together at the tops.
Chickcharnies are described as being elfish, bird-like creatures with three fingers, three toes, piercing red eyes, a long tail, and a head that can rotate. They are said to use their three toes to hand upside down from trees.
Unlike other mythical creatures like the Lusca, Chickcharnies are generally peaceful yet mischievous creatures. They’re attracted to bright colors, and locals say if you’re walking through the woods on Andros Island you should wear bright colors to charm them.
According to the legend, if Chickcharnies like you and you show them respect, they’ll bless you with lifelong good luck. However, if you upset them they’ll curse you with bad luck, or worse, they’ll turn your head completely around.
There’s even an old tale that a man named Billy Bowleg- the great Seminole medicine man- was adopted and trained by them. The Chickcharnies took him in when he was a teenager and kept him for five years. When he returned to his people his reputation as a healer spread throughout the Bahamas.
Like the Legend of the Lusca, the folklore behind the Chickcharnies is actually based on some fact. Andros Island actually used to be home to a creature similar to the Chickcharnie. There used to be a 2-foot-tall owl, Tyto pollens, which was a giant barn owl. Remains of this giant owl have actually been found in various places in The Bahamas such as Little Exuma and New Providence.
The Tyto pollens could not fly and like other owls could swivel its head. Its large size and three toes also fit the imagery of the Chickcharnies. Sadly, this species went extinct in the 1500s. However, the legend of the Chickcharnies that it inspired lives on today. So if you visit Andros Island, remember to wear brightly colored clothing!