Avian fossils give us a unique opportunity to assess changes through time in species diversity and distributions. We report a previously unstudied collection of ∼500 bird fossils from Banana Hole, New Providence Island, Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Based on comparisons with fossil sites of known age on Abaco, the species composition of the Banana Hole fossils suggests a late Pleistocene rather than Holocene age for the site, although this remains uncertain because of the inability to date the fossils radiometrically. The specimens represent 49 species (45 resident, 4 migratory), 25 of which had not been recorded before as fossils from Banana Hole. Among the 45 resident species, 4 are extinct and 17 others are extirpated from New Providence. Combining our data with those previously compiled from Banana Hole, 52 resident species of birds now are known from this site, among which 6 (12%) are extinct (a hawk [Buteo quadratus], eagle [Titanohierax gloveralleni], caracara [Caracara creightoni], barn-owl [Tyto pollens], thick-knee [Burhinus nanus], and snipe [Gallinago kakuki]), 18 (35%) are extirpated on New Providence but still live elsewhere, and 28 (54%) still occur on New Providence. The modern diversity and distribution of Bahamian birds reflects interrelated changes in climate, island size and isolation, and habitat during the Pleistocene–Holocene Transition (15,000 to 9,000 yr ago) as well as species lost since human arrival ∼1,000 yr ago.
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Vol. 135 • No. 2