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

Plate LXXXII. Roseate spoonbill. (Platalea ajaja.),   p. 126

Page 126

adventurous mate, whom the uncertain result of the chase has
perhaps separated from him for the night. As this species is no
ways shy and very easily approached, I have had the opportunity
of studying it closely. At length, but in no haste, I observed the
female approach and take her station on the same lofty, decayed
limb with her companion, who, grateful for this attention, plumed
the feathers of his mate with all the assiduous fondness of a Dove.
Intent upon her meal, however, she soon flew off to a distance,
while the male still remained on his perch, dressing up his beau-
tiful feathers, for near half an hour, often shaking his tail, like
some of the lesser birds, and occasionally taking an indifferent
survey of the hosts of small chirping birds which surround him,
who followed without alarm the occupation of gleaning seeds and
berries for subsistence. I have occasionally  observed them
perched on low bushes and stakes in the rice-fields, remaining
thus for half an hour at a time, and then darting after their prey
as it comes in sight. I saw one descend upon a Plover, as I
thought, and Wilson remarks their living on these birds, Larks,
and Sandpipers. The same pair that I watched, also hung on the
rear of a flock of Cow-buntings which were feeding and scratch-
ing around them." The length of this species is about twenty-two
inches, the wing fourteen, and the tail nine inches.
Black Rough-legged Hawk, American Rough-legged Hawk, or Rough-
legged Buzzard. (Archibuteo Zagopus, var. Sancti Yohannis.)
Fig. 4.
This bird is usually to be met with in Middle Atlantic and New
England States. It is also found in the West. In early summer
it migrates to the fur countries, remaining there until October.
According to Coues:
"Its migrations appear to be quite regular and extensive-more
so, perhaps, than is generally supposed-though probably it does
not differ from most Hawks in this respect. Birds of this family
must follow their prey, wherever this leads them, and only a few
of the more powerful species, able to prey upon hares and Ptarmi-
gan, pass the winter in our highest latitudes. The Rough-legged
is a rather northerly species, rarely, if ever, breeding within the
limits of the United States, and becoming rarer toward its southern
terminus. On the Atlantic coast I have no authentic evidence of
its appearance south of the United States, the maritime portions
of which may be regarded as its winter headquarters. It is repre-
sented as being particularly numerous in the low land along the
Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It winters thence northward into
Maine at least, where Prof. Verrill and others have found it com-
mon at that season. It also endures the rigor of the year in parts
of the Missouri region, though probably not the northernmost.
Allen found it wintering in Wyoming. I took a single specimen
at Fort Whipple, in Arizona, in the winter of i865, and Dr. Ken-
neleyobserved the species at Zuni, in New Mexico, in November.
This brings its range almost to the Mexican border. The contin-
uous mountain chains probably account for its range in this longi-
tude beyond that it completes on the Atlantic. Dr. Cooper thinks
it only a winter visitor in California, where he did not observe it
beyond Santa Clara Valley, but surmises it may breed in the
mountains of the State, as he saw it on the Columbia in July.
"1 Notwithstanding their size and apparent muscularity, Hawks
of this genus have none of the dash and spirit of the Falcons, and
indeed seem inferior to the Buteos in this respect. Their quarry,
though diversified, is always humble; they prey upon various field
mice and other very small quadrupeds, lizards, and frogs, and
even insects, rarely attacking birds of any kind, and then only the
most defenseless. Open fields, especially in the vicinity of water,
are their favorite resorts. They appear heavy and indisposed to
active exertion, flying slowly and heavily, and often remaining
long motionless on their perch. They show some analogy to the
Owls in points of structure, as well as in their partially nocturnal
habits. This has long been noticed. Sir John Richardson says
' In the softness and fullness of its plumage, its feathered legs an
habits, this bird bears some resemblance to the Owls. It flie
slowly, sits for a long time on the bough of a tree, watching fc
mice, frogs, etc., and is often seen sailing over swampy pieces o
ground, and hunting for its prey by the subdued daylight, whic
illuminates even the midnight hours in the high parallels of lat
tnAde'  W;A an,   n o. ArvtnR   thait it  hahhiain11xr rcourepq o eupr thei
ows long after the sun has set, and Audubon calls it the most noc-
turnal of our species.
" The nest, which I have never seen, is said to be ordinarily
built of sticks, etc., in a high tree; sometimes, however, on cliffs,
as noted by Dr. Brewer. The eggs, three or four in number, and
measuring about 2* by if inches, run through the usual variations,
from dull whitish, scarcely or not at all marked, to drab or creamy,
largely blotched with different shades of brown, sometimes mixed
with purplish-slate markings."
Roseate Spoonbill.  (Plataica ajaja.)
Fig. 1.
The habitat of this bird is confined to the South Atlantic and
Gulf States. His northern limit is North Carolina, where he is
of extremely rare occurrence. He is a constant resident of the
southern extremities of the peninsula of Florida, and is extremely
abundant along the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico, and
particularly of Galveston Bay. His favorite haunts are the marshy
and muddy borders of ocean bays, the mouths of rivers, and bush-
covered islands, where, in the midst of an abundance of food, he
is enabled to breed in perfect security. The Indian river, Florida,
is another favorite breeding place, and here, in a single day, one
person has been known to kill sixty of these birds. The flesh is
tough and oily, but the feathers are very beautiful, and are made
into fans. So great is the demand for these feathers, that, at St.
Augustine, birds bring from one to two dollars each. The Ro-
seate is a very shy bird, and one extremely difficult to kill. He is
somewhat gregarious, associating with the Herons, and when
feeding, one of the number always acts the part of police. He
flies with his neck stretched forward to its full length, legs and feet
extended behind, and is possessed of much grace when on the
wing. When he alights, his wings expand, and, passing at least
twice over the spot, comes gently to the ground. He is essentially
nocturnal, though, when the tides are low, he is frequently seen
feeding by day. Few birds keep better watch of these ebbs and
flows, and when the tides are favorable, he may be seen standing
knee-deep in water, with his whole head and neck immersed in
the soft mud, searching for the small shell-fish, which are his
favorite food. His nest is usually made on the top of the man-
grove, is flat, and is formed of sticks of considerable size, and is
exceedingly coarse in construction. In this platform-like nest
three eggs are usually laid, the last not later than the middle of
February. These eggs are pure white, the shells slightly granu-
lated, are equally rounded at both ends, and measure 2.62 by x.87
inches. By the first of April the young are hatched, but it is not
until the third year that they attain full plumage, and for several
seasons after they continue to increase in size.
Qua-bird or Skuak-Night Heron. (Nyctiardeagardeni.)
Fig. 2.
The Sqawk or Night Heron is a common resident of the United
States and British Provinces. He breeds abundantly in New

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