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

Plate XXX. The red-tailed hawk. (Buteo Borealis.),   pp. 37-38

Page 37

are much rounded and pure white, the full complement being two
to a nest. While the female sits, she is fed by the male, who
during this time shows great care and tenderness for his mate.
The young are fed by both parents until they are able to take care
of themselves, after which they leave their parents and begin to
The flesh of the Wild Pigeon is in no great esteem, it being
rather dry and of a very dark color, although when kept in
'cages and fed on corn and buckwheat for some time, their flesh
acquires great superiority.
In captivity, the Passenger Pigeon is easily kept for a number
of years, and readily propagate. There is no zoological garden
where this species is wanting.
The Red.tailed Hawk. (ButeoBorealis.)
The Red-tailed Hawk is an inhabitant of a large extent of terri-
tory of this continent, but is mostly found from Upper Canada
down the whole of the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico, and
is occasionally met with in the Rocky Mountains. The Red-
tailed Hawk is not so numerous as some other large Hawks that
are found in North America. In winter, it chiefly frequents low,
swampy grounds covered by willows, in which four or five of this
species may be found eagerly watching on an old stump of a wil-
low for small quadrupeds, frogs, etc., which usually form part of
their food. This bird of prey will also, when a good opportunity
offers, attack poultry, by singling out a chicken, and, sweeping
low and swiftly over it, grasp it with its tallows, and bear it off
toward the woods for food. Unlike others of his kindred, chicken-
hunting is not a regular occupation of this bird; it is only occa-
sionally, and then by surprising a stray one.
Wilson says:* II I am sorry to say "-describing his figures-
"are almost all I have to give toward elucidating their history.
Birds, naturally thinly dispersed over a vast extent of country;
retiring during summer to the depth of the forests to breed; ap-
proaching the habitations of man, like other thieves and plunder-
ers, with shy and cautious jealousy; seldom permitting a near
advance; subject to great changes of plumage; and, since the
decline of falconry, seldom or never domesticated-offer to those
who wish eagerly to investigate their history, and to delineate
their particular character and manners, great and insurmountable
difficulties. Little more can be done in such cases than to identify
the species, and trace it through the various quarters of the world
where it has been certainly met with. The Red-tailed Hawk is
most frequently seen in the lower parts of Pennsylvania during the
severity of winter. Among the extensive meadows that border
the 'Schuylkill and Delaware, below Philadelphia, where flocks
of Larks (Alauda magna) and mice and moles are in great
abundance, many individuals of this Hawk spend the greater part
of the winter. Others prowl around the plantations, looking out for
vagrant chickens; their method of seizing which is by sweeping
swiftly over the spot, and, grappling them with their talons, bear
them away to the woods.
"This species inhabits the whole of the United States, and, I
believe, is not migratory, as I found it, in the month of May, as
far south as Fort Adams, in the Mississippi territory. The young
were, at that time, nearly as large as their parents, and were very
clamorous, making an incessant squealing noise. One which I
shot contained in his stomach mingled fragments of frogs and
Thomas Nuttall, A. M., F. L. S., etc., in his "Manual of the
* Page 450.
Ornithology of the United States and of Canada," gives the follow.
ing interesting description of the Red-tailed Hawk or Buzzard:
"I This beautiful Buzzard inhabits most parts of the United States,
being observed from Canada to Florida; also, far westward up the
Missouri, and even on the coasts of the Northern Pacific ocean.
. . . The young birds soon become very submissive, and allow
themselves to be handled with impunity by those who feed them.
The older birds sometimes contest with each other in the air about
their prey, and nearly or wholly descend to the earth grappled in
each other's talons. Though this species has the general aspect of
the Buzzard, its manners are very similar to those of the Goshawk.
It is equally fierce and predatory, prowling around the farm often
when straitened for food, and seizing now and then a hen or
chicken, which it snatches by making a lateral approach. It
sweeps along near the surface of the ground, and, grasping the
prey in his talons, bears it away to devour in some place of secu-
rity These depredations on the farm-yard happen, however, only
in the winter. At all other seasons this is one of the shyest and
most difficult birds to approach. They will at times pounce upon
rabbits and considerable sized birds, particularly Larks, and have
been observed in the Southern States perseveringly to pursue
squirrels from bough to bough until they are overtaken and seized
in their talons. They are frequently seen near wet meadows,
where mice, moles, and frogs are prevalent, and also feed upon
lizards, appearing, indeed, often content with the most humble
" They usually associate in pairs, and seem much attached to
each other; yet they often find it convenient and profitable to sep-
arate in hunting their prey, about which they would readily quarrel
if brought into contact. Though a good deal of their time passes
in indolence, while perched in some tall and deadened tree, yet at
others they may be seen beating the ground as they fly over it in
all directions in quest of game. On some occasions they amuse
themselves by ascending to a vast elevation, like the aspiring
Eagle. On a fine evening, about the middle of January, in South
Carolina, I observed one of these birds leave its withered perch,
and, soaring aloft over the wild landscape in a mood of contem-
plation, begin to ascend toward the thin skirting of elevated clouds
above him. At length he passed this sublime boundary, and was
now perceived and soon followed by his ambitious mate; and in a
little time, by circular ascending gyrations, they both disappeared
in the clear azure of the heavens; and though I waited for their
reappearance half an hour, they still continued to be wholly in-
visible. This amusement, or predilection for the cooler regions of
the atmosphere, seems more or less common to all the rapacious
birds. In numerous instances, this exercise must be wholly inde-
pendent of the inclination for surveying their prey, as few of them
besides the Falcon descend direct upon their quarry. Many, as
well as the present species, when on the prowl, fly near to the
surface of the ground, and often wait and watch so as to steal
upon their victims before they can take the alarm. Indeed, the
Condor frequents and rests upon the summit of the Andes, above
which they are seen to soar in the boundless ocean of space,
enjoying the invigorating and rarified atmosphere, and only de-
scending to the plains when impelled by the cravings of hunger."
The nest of this species is built early in March, in the fork of
a tree, pretty high from the ground, and is composed of sticks,
stalks of rushes, etc., and is lined inside with some fibers, dry
rushes, and dry grass, and contains two, and sometimes three,
dirty-white eggs, with a coarsely grained shell, and of a rather
proportionally large size. The young are at first covered with
a soft white down, and have a peculiarly clumsy appearance.
They soon develop, and become able to support themselves.
In color, the young of this bird are different for the first sea-
son, which has frequently caused some Ornithologists to class them
as a separate species, under the name White-breasted Hawk, or
American Buzzard (Falco leverianus). The general appear-
ance of the bird indicates that it is no other than the young of

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