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

Plate XCV. American lanier, or prairie falcon. Lanier falcon. Prairie hawk. (Falco mexicanus, var. polyagrus.),   pp. 141-142

Page 141

Blaock Flycatcher. (Sayornis nigricans.)
Fig. 6.
This is an abundant species in its resident territory, along rocky
streams, and in unwooded country, in the southwestern portions of
the United States.
Cooper says: "d They often sit for hours on the end of a barn or
other perch, uttering their monotonous, but not unpleasing, ditty,
which sounds like ' pittie, pittit,' alternately repeated, much like
the cry of the eastern Pewee or Phcebi-bird (S.fuscus), which is
their exact analogue in habits. They fly only short distances at a
time, turning and dodging quickly in pursuit of their prey, which
they capture with a sharp snap of the bill."
Say's Flycatcher. (Sayornis sayus.)
Fig- 7-
This is another of our abundant Western North American spe-
cies. Its habits are similar to the last-named-the Black Fly-
Blaok-headed Grosbeak. (Goniaphea melanocephala.)
Fig. 8.
"This interesting western ally and representative of our Rose-
breasted Song Grosbeak is of common and very general occur-
rence in the middle and western provinces of the United States.
The easternmost instance is, I believe, that recorded by Mr. Allen,
who found the bird in Middle Kansas, breeding, in June. He saw
young birds on the iith, and the eggs of a second brood toward
the end of the month. I have not observed any references beyond
the United States to the northward; in the other direction, the bird
appears to extend through Mexico, on the table-lands. Many re-
side in that country; others, obeying the mysterious impulse of
migration, enter the United States in April, and become exten-
sively dispersed, as we have just seen, retreating to their warm
winter quarters in the fall. In the mountains of Arizona, I found
it to be an abundant summer resident from the beginning of May
until the end of September. It appeared to shun the pine woods,
preferring ravines wooded with deciduous trees and upgrown to
shrubbery, as well as the thick willow-copses that fringe the
mountain streams. Like others of the same beautiful genus, it is
a brilliant and enthusiastic vocalist, its song resembling that of the
Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and having much similarity to that of the
Baltimore Oriole. As I have elsewhere remarked, its ordinary
chirp, or call-note, strikingly resembles that of Gambel's Plumed
Qjuail-so closely, indeed, that I never could tell which of the two
I was about to see, both species often being found together in the
creek bottoms. It feeds at times extensively upon willow-buds,
and similar soft, succulent vegetable matter; also upon seeds and
berries, in their season, and upon various insects. Mr. Allen has
noted its fondness for peas, causing it to be ungraciously regarded
by the agriculturists of Utah."-Coues.
Rusty Song-Sparrow. (Melospiza ru.fna.)
Fig. 9.
This is the more northern variety of our common Song-Sparrow,
represented on Plate IV, figures 4 and 5, described on page 4.
Its range extends from Alaska to California.
Townsend's Finch, or Sparrow. Slate-Colored Sparrow. Fox Spar-
row. (Passerella townsendii.)
Fig. zo.
This species is the Pacific Coast variety of the common Fox
Sparrow, figure 6, Plate LVI, and described on page 82. Cooper,
in his Ornithology of California, says:
- While, with us, they are rather shy and silent birds, frequent-
ing the woods and thick bushes, where they are constantly scratch-
ing among the dead leaves, gaining a scanty subsistance from seeds
and insects."
American Lanier, or Prairie Falcon. Lanier Falcon. Prairie Hawk.
(Fako mexicanus, var. polyagrus.)
Fig. r.
"The comparatively late discovery of this bird as an inhabitant
of the United States is particularly interesting, not only as giving
us a hitherto unknown representative of the familiar Lanier group
of Falcons of the Old World, but also as adding another to the
numerous instances of close alliance of Western American birds
to certain Old World forms.
"1 This interesting bird is of general distribution in open country
throughout the West, and rather common. It appears to be essen-
tially a prairie species, a circumstance probably explaining its oc-
currence in Illinois, where it was noted by Mr. J. D. Sargent and
Mr. R. Ridgway. Prof. Snow catalogues it as rare in winter in
Kansas. Dr. Hayden remarks that it is found at various points
along the Missouri and on the Platte, though not abundantly.
Several observers found it in New Mexico and Arizona. On the
Pacific coast, it is known to occur at various points, from Fort
Dallas, Oregon, where it was procured by Dr. Suckley, to Monte-
rey, whence came one of the types of the species. It appears to
be particularly abundant in the open portions of Southern Califor-
nia, where Dr. Cooper told me he often saw it, in company with
the Ferruginous Buzzard, resting on the ground, or flying low over
the surface in the neighborhood of the villages of the California
ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi), for which animals it was
doubtless on the watch. The only time I ever saw it alive was in
this region. While at Drumm Barracks, one of these birds dashed
past, returned in an instant, and alighted on the roof of the house,
while Dr. Cooper and I were standing on the porch. It had evi-
dent designs upon the Blackbirds, thousands of which were scur-
rying about. Watching the bird for a few moments, and perceiv-
ing it had no intention of leaving at that particular time, I went
into the house for my gun, and loaded for its especial benefit.
The bird watched the whole proceedings, eyeing me audaciously,
and never stirred from its perch until I made an irresistible appeal.
I found it to be a young bird, the iris brown, the feet dull bluish,
the claws black, the bill bluish black, with the base of the inder
mandible yellow.
"1 This Falcon is inferior to none of our country in strength and
spirit, unless it be that the Gyrfalcon surpasses it in this respect.
It even attacks and overpowers the great hares of the West (L.
callotis and allies)-animals actually larger and heavier than
itself."- Coucs.

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