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

Plate CXI. California vulture or condor. (Cathartes californianus.),   p. 168

Page 168

Band-tailed Buzzard or Hawk. (Buteo zonocercus.)
Fig. £5.
The habitat of this Hawk is Mexico and Guatemala, extending
its migrations at times into Arizona and California. Dr. Cooper
was the first to meet with this species, having shot one on the 23d
of February, i862, about five miles from the coast, and thirty
miles north of San Diego, California. Is was in the company of
other Hawks wintering in that State, and seemed to him to be a
rather sluggish and tame bird. Dr. Coues obtained a single speci-
men on the Gila River, and it is by him regarded as being restricted
within our borders to the warm valley of the Gila and Lower
Ferrugineous Buzzard; California Squirrel Hawk. (Archibuteo ferru-
gine us.)
Fig. i6,
This is believed to be the handsomest of our hawks inhabiting
Western North America.    It was first described by Professor
Lichtenstein, a Prussian naturalist. Dr. Coues says:
" This bird is known as the ' California Squirrel Hawk' in some
localities, but it is not to be inferred that they often capture the agile
aboreal Sciuri. The name is gained from their feeding extensively,
in California, upon the i ground squirrels' (Spermophilus beecheyi),
which abound in many parts of that State. The Hawks are al-
most always, too, observed in the vicinity of the settlements of
the S:permothili, standing on the ground where there are no trees,
or flying low over the surface, in either case on the alert to seize
any unlucky animal that may venture too far from home. They
are also said to perch in wait at the entrance of the burrows, ready
to clutch the first animal that shows his nose above ground.
"According to my observations in the West, the Ferrugineous
Buzzards have no partiality for watery places, thus differing from
the eastern Roughlegs. About Fort Whipple, the birds mostly re-
sorted to the open plains and the grassy glades intervening between
patches of pine-woods. They could easily be distinguished by their
size and the pure whiteness of the under parts, and were beautiful
objects, especially when circling overhead. They are common,
especially in winter, but were apparently resident. Their cries
were loudest and most frequent in the spring, resembling the syl-
lables ca, ca, ca, rapidly repeated in a high key."
Gray Hawk; Mexican Hawk. (Asturina tlagiata.)
Fig. 17.
This is another species of these beautiful Hawks that occasion-
ally extend their migrations across the borders, from Mexico and
Central America to the United States, and have been seen as far
inland as the Southern part of the State of Illinois by Mr. Ridge-
way, while hunting Swallow-tail and Mississippi Kites. It is said
to breed in the tops of lofty trees, and to have eggs of a greenish-
white color.
California Vulture or Condor. (Cathartes californianus.)
Fig. i.
The California Vulture is met with on the Pacific Coast, migrat-
ing as far east as the Sierra Nevada. Though a common bird
in California, Dr. Newberry found it much more shy and difficult to
shoot than its associate, the Turkey Buzzard; nor did he ever see
it in such numbers or exhibit such familiarity as the smaller species
which swarm, and are such efficient scavengers, in our Southern
cities. Dr. Coues says:
" It was long supposed, by savans as well as by those who might
not be expected to know better, that Vultures were chiefly guided
to their prey by scent; a belief that probably arose from consider-
ation of the size of their nostrils, and the very ' gamey' nature of
their usual food. One of the first problems that occupied the at-
tentionof Audubon was to discover whether the birds relied mainly
on sight or smell. He made a series of careful experiments, the
results of which he laid before the Wernerian Society of Edin-
burgh, December z6, 1826, in what he called his ' maiden speech,'
and has given a half-humorous account of the feelings with which
he attempted, on that, to him, momentous occasion, to demolish the
then existing beliefs, and establish the truth of what is now gener-
ally admitted-that Vultures are chiefly guided by their piercing
eye-sight. Another absurd belief was, and perhaps still is, that
Vultures prefer putrid flesh; in support of which one might point
to a group of Turkey Buzzards perched upon a carcass, awaiting
its decomposition. But the reason is that their beaks and claws are
not strong enough to tear sound hide; they can only attack a fresh
carcass at the eyes, nostrils, and vent, and when these parts are
demolished must wait until putrescence is established, or until some
carnivorous bird or quadruped makes an opening."
According to Dr. Townsend, in their walk they resemble a
turkey strutting on the ground with great dignity; but are clumsy
and awkward when they endeavor to hasten their movements, and
when they attempt to rise from the ground they always hop several
yards, in order to give an impetus to their heavy body.
Black Vulture; Carrion Crow. (Cathartes atratus.)
Fig. 2.
Near the sea-coast of our tropical and warmer portions of North
America, this Vulture is met with in great numbers, especially in
cities, where it is a semi-domesticated bird. In places where this
Vulture is a resident, it is very useful as a scavenger, and the ser-
vices it renders make it a welcome visitor. At a scene witnessed
by Mr. Wilson, near Charleston, where the carcass of a horse was
being devoured by these birds, he noticed the ground for hundreds
of yards around being black with them, counting at one time two
hundred and thirty-seven, while others were in the air flying
around. He saw them frequently attacking one another, fighting
with their claws and striking with their open wings, fixing their
claws in each other's head. They made a hissing sound with open
mouths, resembling that produced by thrusting a red-hot poker
into water, and occasionally a snuffling noise, as if clearing their
nostrils. At times one would emerge with a large fragment, and
in a moment would be surrounded by several others, who would
tear it to pieces and soon cause it to disappear.
Red-headed Vulture; Turkey Buzzard. (Cathartes aura.)
Fig. 3.
This Vulture has an extended distribution, and is met with in
most all parts of North America, more numerous in temperate
sections. We copy from Dr. Coues' interesting account the fol-
"Although the Cathartida are indolent, cowardly birds, they
sometimes-particularly the larger kinds-when pressed for food,
attack live animals, especially sick or disabled ones, and generally
overpower them in the end. Young pigs and lambs are sometimes
killed by the Turkey Buzzard, which is only of medium size.
But, in this connection, it should be remarked that whatever dam-
age they may thus effect is far outweighed by their good offices as
scavengers, in clearing away garbage and offal. This is the true
place of these foul and unseemly birds in nature's economy; they
ha4ry L11a uo^uty of tkiityr if no UthLr11- anu uir ULUAiJ.e iU
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