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Studer, Jacob Henry, 1840-1904. / Birds of North America

Plate XX. The ash-colored or black-cap hawk. (Astur atricapillus.),   p. 20

Page 20

through numberless labyrinths, and only flush when he is just at
the point of seizing them.
The male and female Clapper Rails are colored nearly alike; but
the young birds in the first year differ somewhat from them in color.
The upper parts of these young birds are of a brownish olive
streaked with a pale slate color; the wings are of a pale brown
olive; the chin and throat, white; the breast, pale ash colored,
and tinged with yellowish brown; the legs and feet are of a light
horn color. These birds are never found at a great distance from
the lakes or large rivers in the interior part of the country; on the
lakes they are frequently found, but never in great numbers. The
Clapper Rail feeds chiefly on small shelled fish, especially on those
of that form of snail found so abundant in the marshes; but he
also eats worms, which he digs out of the mud, and for which work
his bill is wonderfully adjusted. He also feeds on small crabs.
In the month of October, Clapper Rails migrate to the South,
never in flocks, but singly or in pairs, flying high up in the air.
None of them remain North during the winter, though one of
them was killed in the Reservoir, about thirty-three miles north-
east from Columbus, Ohio, in the latter part of November; but on
a close inspection, it was found that the bird had been crippled.
The Belted Kingfisher. (Ceryle akcyon.)
Fig. 2.
The Belted Kingfisher is an inhabitant of the shores and banks
of all our fresh-water rivers from Hudson's Bay to Mexico. He
seems to love running streams and falling waters, like the whole
of his tribe. At such places, resting on an overhanging bough
above a cataract, he will remain for hours, glancing around with
piercing eyes in all directions, seeking to discern in the water be-
low small minnows, which, as soon as seen, with a sudden circular
plunge, executed with the velocity of an arrow shot from the bow,
he sweeps from their element and swallows in an instant. The
voice of the Belted Kingfisher resembles the sound of a child's
rattle; it is sudden, harsh, and very loud, but in a certain degree
softened by the murmuring of the brooks, or the sound of the cas-
cades or brawling streams, among which he generally rambles.
He courses up and down the stream, along its different windings,
at no great height above the water, sometimes poising himself by
the rapid action of his wings, in the manner of some of the Hawk
tribe, in order to pounce down into the water on some small fish,
which he frequently misses. After such a miss he usually settles,
with a dissatisfied look, on an old dead overhanging limb of a tree
to shake off the water from his plumage and to reconnoiter again.
Mill-dams are frequented by him, as the neighborhood usually
abounds with small fish. Rapid flowing streams, with steep high
banks of a clayey or gravelly nature, are also his favorite places
of resort, as on such steep and dry banks he usually digs a hole
for his nest. This hole ne digs with his bill and claws, extending
it horizontally, sometimes to four or even six feet, and about half a
yard below the surface, with a small cavity at the bottom for the
nest. This is composed of a few fibers, a few dried fish-bones, and
a little dry grass. The female lays five pure white eggs, compar-
atively of rather a large size. The young are hatched about the
beginning of June; but the time differs according to the climate
of the country where the breeding takes place. In the southern
parts of the United States, the female Kingfisher has been found
sitting on her eggs as early as the beginning of April, while in
Ohio the Kingfishers' nests, with the birds sitting on the eggs, are
not usually found till toward the end of May. They occupy the
* .liqx Several years as a breeding-place, and will not readily
e-k id eVeu though it should be visited. There are accounts
of people taking away the eggs of a Kingfisher, leaving one in the
nest, and repeating this till they had collected twelve, or even
eighteen eggs, the female always laying regularly one egg every
day. Such accounts being doubted, an experiment was made, by
taking from a nest-hole in the steep bank of the Connecticut river,
a little below Middletown, Connecticut, the second egg laid; but
instead of laying another egg, the birds abandoned the nest alto-
gether.  A similar experiment was tried in Ohio, with a like
In the Eastern and Western States, the Kingfisher generally re-
mains until the commencement of the cold season, when he leaves
for warmer regions, though he is occasionally seen in the North-
ern States in the middle of winter. He is found in the Southern
States during nearly the whole winter. The Belted Kingfisher is
like all the rest of the Kingfisher tribe, not much inclined to society,
but is generally seen singly or in pairs, or in small groups of three
or four. When crossing from one brook or river to another, or
from one lake to another, which the Kingfisher frequently does, he
passes over cities or forests in a bee-line, not unfrequently for a
distance of ten or twenty miles. At such times his motions consist
of five or six flaps, followed by a glide without making any undu-
lations like the Woodpecker. In May, i850, on a little creek in
Connecticut, called the Hockanum, a Belted Kingfisher was ob-
served on the ground, flapping his wings and seemingly in great
distress. On coming up to him the observer found that his bill was
stuck fast in a large clam. He had probably seen the clam on the
muddy bank of the creek, with the shell partly open, and, in the
attempt. to pull the clam out, the shell had closed upon his bill.
The passer-by of course liberated the poor bird, which kind act he
acknowledged by biting his benefactor on the thumb, and by
springing his rattle at him most indignantly as he flew away.
T3T A MMT -7-
The Ash-colored or Black-cap Hawk. (Astur atricapillus.)
This beautiful Hawk has been confounded by many Ornitholo-
gists with the Goose Hawk of Europe; but there is such a differ-
ence between them that it is really wonderful how the two birds
could be supposed to be identical. The greatest difference between
these birds is in the markings of their breast and under parts, and
this difference is so distinct as at once to strike the beholder. On our
Hawk the under parts are of a uniform pale grayish white, each
feather having in the center a black streak; this extends to the
feathers in the center of the belly, after which the streak is hardly
any more visible: besides this, every, feather is marked trans-
versely with fine, irregular zigzag bars of dark gray. In the
European bird, each feather on the breast and lower parts is
marked with a dark shaft, not exceeding its own breadth, and has
besides two decided transverse bars, giving the bird, at a first glance,
a very different aspect from the American Hawk. The upper
parts of the latter are of a blue shade, and the markings of the
head are darker and more decided. Some Ornithologists have
classed this Hawk with the genus Astur, while others make it a
sub-genus of Accipiter, in which the Sparrow Hawk and lesser
species have been placed. Although there is some difference in
the formation of the tarsi, the habits and forms are in general nearly
similar. The Broad-winged Hawk (Astur Pennsylvanicus) is an
example of the one, and our Hawk that of the other.
The Black-capped Hawk is very spirited, and his general form
and aspect denote great strength; his legs are very strong, and his
claws rather large in proportion, the claws of the inner toes being
as large as those of the great toe; his wings are short and rounded,
showing, when expanded, a considerable inner surface, very favor-
able to a smooth sailing flight, which is greatly aided by the
lengthened tail. His favorite abodes are forests or well-wooded
countries, where he can be seen hunting his prey about the skirts
of the woods. In such places he builds his nest, usually on a high

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