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

Plate XXXIX. The sparrow hawk, or rusty-crowned falcon. (Falco sparverius.),   p. 54

Page 54

country, returning to settle upon the same trees in the evening.
They are very social, living in pairs in the breeding season; but
even during that period, will sometimes associate in considerable
numbers. Their nests are made among the branches of fir-trees,
and there they disport themselves gayly, climing nimbly, and
assisting their movements, as parrots do, with their beaks. They
will hang for minutes together head downward, clinging to a twig
or cone, seeming to enjoy this apparently uncomfortable position.
Their movements, when on the wing, are undulating and rapid,
but they never fly to any great distance. The pleasure they ex-
perience in the society of their mate is often testified by fluttering
over the tops of the trees as they sing, after which they hover for
a time, and then descend slowly to thei- perch.  In the daytime
they are generally in motion, with the exception of a short time at
noon.  During the spring, summer, and autumn, they pass their
time in flying from one plantation or mountain to another. In
winter, if the cold is extreme, they remain much longer in their
sleeping-place, only coming abroad after the sun has warmed
the earth, though they commence their song early in the morn-
ing. At this season they make their first appearance about ten
o'clock, and are soon busily employed in search of food; about
two o'clock they become quieter, seek food again at four o'clock,
and then go to roost. The Cross-bill troubles itself but little about
the other inhabitants of the woods, and is almost fearless of man,
whom it is very evident it has not learnt to regard as an enemy.
Should a female be shot, its mate will remain sorrowfully perched
upon the branch from which his little companion has fallen, or
again and again visit the spot where she was killed, in the hope
of finding her; indeed, it is only after repeated proofs of the
treachery of mankind that he begins to testify any symptom of
shyness. When placed in a cage, the Cross-bills become exceed-
ingly tame, appearing entirely to forget the loss of their freedom,
and grow so fond of those they are with as to obey them in every-
th~-ng, allowing themselves to be touched, or even carried about
the room on the hand, and demonstrating their confidence in a
variety of ways, so that the inhabitants of mountainous districts are
usually much attached to these gentle little creatures.
The Pine Grosbeak. (Pinicola eniecleator.)
Fig. 9, Male. Fig. io, Female.
This species is an inhabitant of northern North America, and
appears generally in flocks, in the pine-woods, in the United States,
in winter; and is also to be seen in the Sierra Nevada of Califor-
nia. When these birds first come among us they are harmless,
confiding creatures, who have not yet experienced the artifices of
man, never offering to stir if a stranger or hunter approach the
trees on which they are perched, and will stare at the gun destined
for their destruction, without thinking of flight, even should one
of their companions be shot down from the same branch. Persons
have tried successfully to catch them by means of snares fastened
to the end of poles, by the aid of which they could be thrown over
the heads of birds; indeed, the clumsiest kind of trap is all that is
required to catch these unsuspicious little wanderers. The most
touching tales are told of the attachment of the Pine Grosbeak to
its mate. On one occasion, three out of a party of four had been
captured, when, to the astonishment of all, the fourth crept into
the net, in order to share the fate of its companions. It must not
be imagined; however, that these birds are really foolish; for ex-
perience soon teaches them its lessons, and they become distrustful,
shy, and cautious. In its habits, the Pine Grosbeak often reminds
one of the Cross-bill. It is essentially a tree-bird, being quite at
home upon a branch, but uneasy and out of place on the ground.
It can climb skillfully from one bough to another, hopping with
ease to tolerably distant branches. Its flight is rapid, and, like
that of most Finches, rather undulating, and it hovers before perch-
ing. Its voice is flute-like and expressive, resembling that of the
Bullfinch, and its song, which may be heard throughout the whole
of the winter, is very varied and pleasing, on account of its soft,
clear notes. In winter, we do not hear it in perfection, as it is then
low and disjointed; but in spring, when the male rouses all his
energies to cheer his little mate, his tones would satisfy the most
fastidious critic. It sings during the clear light summer nights,
and on that account is called "I the Watchman." This bird has
many other good qualities, and, owing to its gentle, confiding tem-
perament, may be easily tamed, if properly treated. It becomes,
in a few days, accustomed to confinement, taking its food readily
from the hand, and will allow itself to be stroked, or even carried
about the room, all the time testifying its happiness and content.
It is an interesting sight to see a male and female bird in one cage,
for their tenderness toward each other is extreme; but, alas I in
one point they are deficient-they do not survive the loss of their
freedom for any considerable length of time, and pine away
rapidly, especially when their keepers forget that these children
of the North must have fresh, cold air, and foolishly confine them
in hot rooms. The length of this bird is about nine inches, three
of which belong to the tail; the breadth across the wings varies
from thirteen to fourteen inches, and the wing measures four and a
half inches from the shoulder to the tip.
The Sparrow Hawk, or Rusty-crowned Falcon. (Falco 4parverius.)
Fig. I, Male. Fig. 2, Female.
This elegant and singularly marked little Hawk is at once
recognized by the smallness of its size and the peculiarity of its
plumage. They are a constant resident in almost every part of
the United States, and are particularly abundant in the Southern
States in winter, wandering in summer as far as the Rocky Moun-
tains. The nest is built in a hollow, shattered, or decayed tree, at
a considerable elevation; the eggs are usually four or five in num-
ber, of a light brownish-yellow, and spotted with brown.
This species is a frequent visitor to the farm-house and barn-yard,
where it is most commonly seen perched on some dead branch, or
on a pole or stalk in the fields, often a little distance from the
ground, keeping up a constant agitation of the tail, and attentively
watching for the approach of some unlucky mouse or mole, or even
for beetles or grasshoppers, upon which it pounces with great
quickness, and immediately returns to its stand to devour it. When
changing its position, it flies low until within a few yards of the
spot upon which it wishes to settle, when it suddenly rises with an
easy curve and alights with the utmost grace, closing its wings
with the rapidity of thought. Sometimes a Sparrow or Finch
crosses its pathway, when the little Hawk, all anxiety to secure so
great a prize, at once gives chase, and soon overtaking it, bears it
off to share the dainty morsel with its mate and young. Instances
have been recorded in which this Hawk has been so eager in the
pursuit of its prey as to follow the victim even into a house or
wagon, and even going so far as to dart into a railway car when
in rapid motion, in order to secure its prize. In so much dread is
this formidable enemy held by the objects of its attack, that on its
approach some birds will throw themselves, as though dead, upon
the ground; others will make for their hiding-place with such
devious turnings from the direct path as baffle even the skillful
steering of their pursuer, and then dart into the inmost recesses
of some protecting bush, and thus place themselves for the time in
safety. " The Blue Jay," says Wilson, " has a particular antipathy
to this bird, and frequently insults it by following and imitating its
notes so exactly as to deceive even those well acquainted with both.

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