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Barger, N. R. (ed.) / The passenger pigeon
Volume IX, Number 3 (July 1947)

Zirrer, Francis
The goshawk,   pp. 79-94 PDF (6.0 MB)


Page 79


Wisconsin Goshawks Select Birch
and Aspen As Nest Trees
h74 9444
By FRANCIS ZIRRER
l)uring my seventeen years of residence in the wilderness of north-
ern Wisconsin I saw this fine, bold, and daring predator upon many
occasions, especially in winter. My first real acquaintance with it and the
opportunity to study it at leisure, however, came in the beginning of
summer, 1933.
While on a field trip through the extensive, heavy hardwood and
mixed timber surrounding our log cabin and stretching for miles in
every direction, I heard suddenly a loud, angry keek, keek, keek, keek,
keek. At the same time something struck me on the head from behind.
knocking my cap off. In the semidarkness, caused by the dense foliage,
I saw a dark, shadowy form pass with lightning speed above my head and
disappear among the leaves.
For a moment I stood bewildered not knowing what had happened,
but when I heard the angry keek, keek, keek, keek again, and saw a
large bird with blazing, blood red eyes, bearing with unbelievable speed
at me, I quickly ducked. I realized that I was near the nest of a hawk and
that it was the goshawk, the most fierce, brave and reckless predator of
the northwoods-and, at the same time, the rarest of all. The bird passed
above my head and alighted on the lower limb of a big sugar maple
about two hundred feet away. Getting myself a stick for protection, I
scrutinized the neighboring trees for the nest. Of course I had no inten-
tion of striking the bird, but when the hawk, screaming at the top of its
voice, its eyes ablaze with fury, flew at me again, I raised the stick which
the bird (lodged. Though knowing that the nest could not be lar awav,
it took a while before I located it in a crotch of a giant yellow birch,
next
to the tree trunk about thirty-five feet above the ground. I saw one
nearly fully grown young at the rim of the nest, and, after some search,
three others aniong the foliage of this and a neighboring tree. While thus
engagedi, I was attacked again and again by the old bird, which, after a
few minutes was joined by another, probably the male. Swinging the
stick above my head, I was able to keep the attacking birds at a respectful
distance. Not wanting to frighten the birds unduly, I went homne, while
the hawks followed me to the road, screaming.
Next day when visiting the nest again I was attacked so unexpectedly
by the angry bird, that it not only knocked my cap off, but hit me so
severely on the head that it drew blood, and I felt the swelling fully two
weeks after. A few days later, however, the young hawks had become
sufficiently strong to leave the immediate vicinity of the nest and began
straying with the parents through the neighboring woods.
Yellow Birch Preferred As Nesting Site
Perhaps it would not be amiss to say here that in our neighborhood,
the northwestern corner of Rusk county where the yellow birch (Betula
lutea) abounds, the nests of the majority of our predators are constructed
in yellow birches. This is probably due to the fact that this tree abounds
79;


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