The Project Gutenberg eBook of A History of North American Birds; Land Birds; Vol. 3 of 3

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: A History of North American Birds; Land Birds; Vol. 3 of 3

Author: Spencer Fullerton Baird

T. M. Brewer

Robert Ridgway

Release date: February 15, 2017 [eBook #54169]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Greg Bergquist, Jennifer Linklater, and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at
(This file was produced from images generously made
available by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)



(Conurus carolinensis.)







Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1874,
in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

S. J. Parkhill & Co., Boston, U. S. A.


Family Strigidæ. The Owls 4
Family Falconidæ. The Falcons 103
Subfamily Falconinæ 106
Family Cathartidæ. The American Vultures 335
Family Columbidæ. The Pigeons 357
Subfamily Columbinæ 357
Subfamily Zenaidinæ 374
Family Cracidæ. The Curassows 397
Subfamily Penelopinæ 397
Family Meleagrididæ. The Turkeys 402
Family Tetraonidæ. The Grouse 414
Family Perdicidæ. The Partridges 466
Subfamily Ortyginæ 466
I. Additions and Corrections 499
II. Explanation of Terms used in describing the External Form of Birds 524
III. Glossary of Technical Terms 535
Index of English Names.
Index of Scientific Names.
Index to the Plates.
Plates 57–64.


RAPTORES.1The Birds of Prey.

The group of birds usually known as the Raptores, or Rapacious Birds, embraces three well-marked divisions, namely, the Owls, the Hawks, and the Vultures. In former classifications they headed the Class of Birds, being honored with this position in consequence of their powerful organization, large size, and predatory habits. But it being now known that in structure they are less perfectly organized than the Passeres and Strisores, birds generally far more delicate in organization, as well as smaller in size, they occupy a place in the more recent arrangements nearly at the end of the Terrestrial forms.

The complete definition of the order Raptores, and of its subdivisions, requires the enumeration of a great many characters; and that their distinguishing features may be more easily recognized by the student, I give first a brief diagnosis, including their simplest characters, to be followed by a more detailed account hereafter.

Common Characters. Bill hooked, the upper mandible furnished at the base with a soft skin, or “cere,” in which the nostrils are situated. Toes, three before and one behind. Raptores.

Strigidæ. Eyes directed forwards, and surrounded by radiating feathers, which are bounded, except anteriorly, by a circle or rim of differently formed, stiffer feathers. Outer toe reversible. Claws much hooked and very sharp. Legs and toes usually feathered, or, at least, coated with bristles. The Owls.

Falconidæ. Eyes lateral, and not surrounded by radiating feathers. Outer toe not reversible (except in Pandion). Claws usually hooked and sharp, but variable. Head more or less completely feathered. The Hawks.

Cathartidæ. Eyes lateral; whole head naked. Outer toe not reversible; claws slightly curved, blunt. The Vultures.

The preceding characters, though purely artificial, may nevertheless serve to distinguish the three families of Raptores belonging to the North American Ornis; a more scientific diagnosis, embracing a sufficient number of osteological, and accompanying anatomical characters, will be found further on.

The birds of prey—named Accipitres by some authors, and Raptores or Rapaces by others, and very appropriately designated as the Ætomorphæ by Professor Huxley—form one of the most strongly characterized and sharply limited of the higher divisions of the Class of Birds. It is only recently, however, that their place in a systematic classification and the proper number and relation of their subdivisions have been properly understood. Professor Huxley’s views will probably form the basis for a permanent classification, as they certainly point the way to one eminently natural. In his important paper entitled “On the Classification of Birds, and on the Taxonomic Value of the Modifications of certain Cranial Bones observable in that Class,”2 this gentleman has dealt concisely upon the affinities of the order Raptores, and the distinguishing features of its subdivisions. In the following diagnoses the osteological characters are mainly borrowed from Professor Huxley’s work referred to. Nitzsch’s “Pterylography”3 supplies such characters as are afforded by the plumage, most of which confirm the arrangement based upon the osteological structure; while important suggestions have been derived from McGillivray’s “History of British Birds.”4 The Monographs of the Strigidæ and Falconidæ, by Dr. J. J. Kaup,5 contain much valuable information, and were they not disfigured by a very eccentric system of arrangement they would approach nearer to a natural classification of the subfamilies, genera, and subgenera, than any arrangement of the lesser groups which I have yet seen.

The species of this group are spread over the whole world, tropical regions having the greatest variety of forms and number of species. The Strigidæ are cosmopolitan, most of the genera belonging to both continents. The Falconidæ are also found the world over, but each continent has subfamilies peculiar to it. The Cathartidæ are peculiar to America, having analogous representatives in the Old World in the subfamily Vulturinæ belonging to the Falconidæ, The Gypogeranidæ are found only in South Africa, where a single species, Gypogeranus serpentarius (Gmel.), sole representative of the family, is found.

As regards the comparative number of species of this order in the two continents, the Old World is considerably ahead of the New World, which might be expected from its far greater land area. 581 species are given in Gray’s Hand List,6 of which certainly not more than 500, probably not more than 450, are valid species, the others ranking as geographical races, or are synonymous with others; of this number about 350 nominal species are accredited to the Old World. America, however, possesses the greatest variety of forms, and the great bulk of the Old World Raptorial fauna is made up chiefly by a large array of species of a few genera which are represented in America by but one or two, or at most half a dozen, species. The genera Aquila, Spizætus, Accipiter, Haliætus, Falco, Circus, Athene, Strix, and Buteo, are striking examples. As regards the number of peculiar forms, America is considerably ahead.

Family STRIGIDÆ.—The Owls.

Char. Eyes directed forward, and surrounded by a radiating system of feathers, which is bounded, except anteriorly, by a ruff of stiff, compactly webbed, differently formed, and somewhat recurved feathers; loral feathers antrorse, long, and dense. Plumage very soft and lax, of a fine downy texture, the feathers destitute of an after-shaft. Oil-gland without the usual circlet of feathers. Outer webs of the quills with the points of the fibres recurved. Feathers on the sides of the forehead frequently elongated into ear-like tufts; tarsus usually, and toes frequently, densely feathered. Ear-opening very large, sometimes covered by a lappet. Œsophagus destitute of a dilated crop; cœca large. Maxillo-palatines thick and spongy, and encroaching upon the intervening valley; basipterygoid processes always present. Outer toe reversible; posterior toe only about half as long as the outer. Posterior margin of the sternum doubly indented; clavicle weak and nearly cylindrical, about equal in length to the sternum. Anterior process of the coracoid projected forward so as to meet the clavicle, beneath the basal process of the scapula. Eggs variable in shape, usually nearly spherical, always immaculate, pure white.

The Owls constitute a very natural and sharply limited family, and though the species vary almost infinitely in the details of their structure, they all seem to fall within the limits of a single subfamily.

They have never yet been satisfactorily classified, and all the arrangements which have been either proposed or adopted are refuted by the facts developed upon a close study into the true relationship of the many genera. The divisions of “Night Owls,” “Day Owls,” “Horned Owls,” etc., are purely artificial. This family is much more homogeneous than that of the Falconidæ, since none of the many genera which I have examined seem to depart in their structure from the model of a single subfamily, though a few of them are somewhat aberrant as regards peculiarities in the detail of external form, or, less often, to a slight extent, in their osteological characters, though I have examined critically only the American and European species; and there may be some Asiatic, African, or Australian genera which depart so far from the normal standard of structure as to necessitate a modification of this view. In the structure of the sternum there is scarcely the least noticeable deviation in any genus7 from the typical form. The appreciable differences appear to be only of generic value, such as a different proportionate length of the coracoid bones and the sternum, and width of the sternum in proportion to its length, or the height of its keel. The crania present a greater range of variation, and, if closely studied, may afford a clew to a more natural arrangement than the one which is here presented. The chief differences in the skulls of different genera consist in the degree of pneumaticity of the bones, in the form of the auricular bones, the comparative length and breadth of the palatines, and very great contrasts in the contour. As a rule, we find that those skulls which have the greatest pneumaticity (e.g. Strix and Otus) are most depressed anteriorly, have the orbital septum thicker, the palatines longer and narrower, and a deeper longitudinal median valley on the superior surface, and vice versa.

The following classification is based chiefly upon external characters; but these are in most instances known to be accompanied by osteological peculiarities, which point to nearly the same arrangement. It is intended merely as an artificial table of the North American genera, and may be subjected to considerable modification in its plan if exotic genera are introduced.8

Genera and Subgenera.

A. Inner toe equal to the middle in length; inner edge of middle claw pectinated. First quill longer than the third; all the quills with their inner webs entire, or without emargination. Tail emarginated. Feathers of the posterior face of the tarsus recurved, or pointed upwards.

1. Strix. No ear-tufts; bill light-colored; eyes black; tarsus nearly twice as long as middle toe; toes scantily haired. Size medium. Ear-conch nearly as long as the height of the skull, with an anterior operculum for only a portion of its length; symmetrical.

B. Inner toe decidedly or much shorter than the middle; inner edge of middle claw not pectinated. First quill shorter than the third; one to six outer quills with their inner webs emarginated. Tail rounded. Feathers of the posterior face of the tarsus not recurved but pointed downwards.

I. Nostril open, oval, situated in the anterior edge of the cere, which is not inflated.

a. Cere, on top, equal to, or exceeding, the chord of the culmen; much arched. Ear-conch nearly as long as the height of the skull, with the operculum extending its full length; asymmetrical.

2. Otus. One or two outer quills with their inner webs emarginated. With or without ear-tufts. Bill blackish; iris yellow. Size medium.

Ear-tufts well developed; only one quill emarginated … Otus.

Ear-tufts rudimentary; two quills emarginated … Brachyotus.

b. Cere, on top, less than the chord of the culmen; gradually ascending basally, or level (not arched). Ear-conch nearly the height of the skull, with the operculum extending only a part of its full length, or wanting entirely.

† Anterior edge of the ear-conch with an operculum; the two ears asymmetrical.

3. Syrnium. Five to six outer quills with their inner webs emarginated. Top of cere more than half the culmen. Without ear-tufts. Bill yellow; iris yellow or black. Size medium or large.

Six quills emarginated; toes densely feathered, the terminal scutellæ concealed; iris yellow. Size very large … Scotiaptex.

Five quills emarginated; toes scantly feathered, the terminal scutellæ exposed; iris black. Size medium … Syrnium.

4. Nyctale. Two outer quills with inner webs emarginated. Top of cere less than half the culmen, level. Without ear-tufts. Bill yellow or blackish; iris yellow. Size small.

†† Anterior edge of the ear-conch without an operculum. The two ears symmetrical. Tail slightly rounded, only about half as long as the wing.

5. Scops. Two to five quills with inner webs emarginated; second to fifth longest. Bill weak, light-colored. Ear-conch elliptical, about one-third the height of the head, with a slightly elevated fringed anterior margin. Size small; ear-tufts usually well developed, sometimes rudimentary.

6. Bubo. Two to four outer quills with inner webs emarginated; third to fourth longest. Bill robust, black. Ear-conch elliptical, simple, from one third to one half the height of the skull. Size large. Ear-tufts well developed or rudimentary.

Ear-tufts well developed. Two to three outer quills with inner webs emarginated; lower tail-coverts not reaching end of the tail. Toes covered with short feathers, the claws exposed, and bill not concealed by the loral feathers … Bubo.

Ear-tufts rudimentary. Four outer quills with their inner webs emarginated; lower tail-coverts reaching end of the tail. Toes covered with long feathers, which hide the claws, and bill nearly concealed by the loral feathers … Nyctea.

††† Similar to the last, but the tail graduated, nearly equal to the wing.

7. Surnia. Four outer quills with inner webs emarginated. Third quill longest. Bill strong, yellow; ear-conch simple, oval, less than the diameter of the eye. Size medium; no ear-tufts.

II. Nostril, a small circular opening into the surrounding inflated membrane of the cere. Ear-conch small, simple, oval, or nearly round, without an operculum.

First quill shorter than the tenth.

8. Glaucidium. Third to fourth quills longest; four emarginated on inner webs. Tarsus about equal to the middle toe, densely feathered. Tail much more than half the wing, rounded. Bill and iris yellow. Size very small.

9. Micrathene. Fourth quill longest; four emarginated on inner webs. Tarsus a little longer than middle toe, scantily haired. Tail less than half the wing, even. Bill light (greenish ?); iris yellow. Size very small.

First quill longer than sixth.

10. Speotyto. Second to fourth quills longest; three emarginated on inner webs. Tarsus more than twice as long as middle toe, closely feathered in front to the toes, naked behind. Tail less than half the wing, slightly rounded. Bill yellowish; iris yellow. Size small.

In their distribution, the Owls, as a family, are cosmopolitan, and most of the genera are found on both hemispheres. All the northern genera (Nyctea, Surnia, Nyctale, and Scotiaptex), and the majority of their species, are circumpolar. The genus Glaucidium is most largely developed within the tropics, and has numerous species in both hemispheres. Otus brachyotus and Strix flammea are the only two species which are found all over the world,—the former, however, being apparently absent in Australia. Gymnoglaux, Speotyto, Micrathene, and Lophostrix are about the only well-characterized genera peculiar to America. Athene, Ketupa, and Phodilus are peculiar to the Old World. The approximate number of known species (see Gray’s Hand List of Birds, I, 1869) is about two hundred, of which two, as stated, are cosmopolitan; six others (Surnia ulula, Nyctea scandiaca, Glaucidium passerinum, Syrnium cinereum, Otus vulgaris, and Nyctale tengmalmi) are found in both halves of the Northern Hemisphere; of the remainder there are about an equal number peculiar to America and the Old World.

As regards the distribution of the Owls in the Nearctic Realm, a prominent feature is the number of the species (eighteen, not including races) belonging to it, of which six (Micrathene whitneyi, Nyctale acadica, Syrnium nebulosum, S. occidentale, Scops asio, and S. flammeola) are found nowhere else. Speotyto cunicularia and Bubo virginianus are peculiarly American species found both north and south of the equator, but in the two regions represented by different geographical races. Glaucidium ferrugineum and G. infuscatum (var. gnoma) are tropical species which overreach the bounds of the Neotropical Realm,—the former extending into the United States, the latter reaching to, and probably also within, our borders. Of the eighteen North American species, about nine, or one half (Strix flammea var. pratincola, Otus brachyotus, O. vulgaris var. wilsonianus, Syrnium cinereum, Nyctale acadica, Bubo virginianus, and Scops asio, with certainty, and Nyctea scandiaca var. arctica, and Surnia ulula var. hudsonia, in all probability), are found entirely across the continent. Nyctale tengmalmi, var. richardsoni, and Syrnium nebulosum, appear to be peculiar to the eastern portion,—the former to the northern regions, the latter to the southern. Athene cunicularia var. hypugaea, Micrathene whitneyi, Glaucidium passerinum var. californicum, Syrnium occidentale, and Scops flammeola, are exclusively western, all belonging to the southern portion of the Middle Province and Rocky Mountain region, and the adjacent parts of Mexico, excepting the more generally distributed Speotyto cunicularia, var. hypogæa, before mentioned. Anomalies in regard to the distribution of some of the species common to both continents, are the restriction of the American representative of Glaucidium passerinum to the western regions,9 and of Strix flammea to the very southern and maritime portions of the United States, the European representatives of both species being generally distributed throughout that continent. On the other hand, the northwest-coast race of our Scops asio (S. kennicotti) seems to be nearly identical with the Japanese S. semitorques (Schlegel), which is undoubtedly referrible to the same species.

As regards their plumage, the Owls differ most remarkably from the Hawks in the fact that the sexes are invariably colored alike, while from the nest to perfect maturity there are no well-marked progressive stages distinguishing the different ages of a species. The nestling, or downy, plumage, however, of many species, has the intricate pencilling of the adult dress replaced by a simple transverse barring upon the imperfect downy covering. The downy young of Nyctea scandiaca is plain sooty-brown, and that of Strix flammea immaculate white.

In many species the adult dress is characterized by a mottling of various shades of grayish mixed with ochraceous or fulvous, this ornamented by a variable, often very intricate, pencilling of dusky, and more or less mixed with white. As a consequence of the mixed or mottled character of the markings, the plumage of the Owls is, as a rule, difficult to describe.

In the variations of plumage, size, etc., with differences of habitat, there is a wide range, the usually recognized laws10 applying to most of those species which are generally distributed and resident where breeding. Of the eight species common to the Palæarctic and Nearctic Realms, all but one (Otus brachyotus) are modified so as to form representative geographical races on the two continents. In each of these cases the American bird is much darker than the European, the brown areas and markings being not only more extended, but deeper in tint. The difference in this respect is so tangible that an experienced ornithologist can instantly decide to which continent any specimen belongs. Of the two cosmopolitan species one, Otus brachyotus, is identical throughout; the other is modified into geographical races in nearly every well-marked province of its habitat. Thus in the Palæarctic Realm it is typical Strix flammea; in the Nearctic Realm it is var. pratincola; while Tropical America has at least three well-marked geographical races, the species being represented in Middle America by the var. guatemalæ, in South America by var. perlata, and in the West Indies by the var. furcata. The Old World has also numerous representative races, of which we have, however, seen only two, namely, var. javanica (Gm.), of Java, India, and Eastern Africa, and var. delicatula (Gould) of Australia, both of which we unhesitatingly refer to S. flammea.11

On the North American continent the only widely distributed species which do not vary perceptibly with the region are Otus brachyotus and O. vulgaris (var. wilsonianus). Bubo virginianus, Scops asio, and Syrnium nebulosum all bear the impress of special laws in the several regions of their habitat. Starting with the Eastern Province, and tracing either of these three species southward, we find it becoming gradually smaller, the colors deeper and more rufous, and the toes more scantily feathered. Scops asio reaches its minimum of size and maximum depth of color in Florida (var. floridana) and in Mexico (var. enano).

Of the other two I have not seen Florida specimens, but examples of both from other Southern States and the Lower Mississippi Valley region are much more rufous, and—the S. nebulosum especially—smaller, with more naked toes. The latter species is darkest in Eastern Mexico (var. sartori), and most rufescent, and smallest, in Guatemala (var. fulvescens). In the middle region of the United States, Scops asio (var. maccalli) and Bubo virginianus (var. arcticus) are more grayish and more delicately pencilled than from other portions. In the northwest coast region they become larger and much more darkly colored, assuming the clove-brown or sooty tints peculiar to the region. The var. kennicotti represents S. asio in this region, and var. pacificus the B. virginianus. The latter species also extends its range around the Arctic Coast to Labrador, and forms a northern littoral race, the very opposite extreme in color from the nearly albinescent examples of var. arcticus found in the interior of Arctic America.

A very remarkable characteristic of the Owls is the fact that many of the species exist in a sort of dimorphic condition, or that two plumages sufficiently unlike to be of specific importance in other cases belong to one species. It was long thought that these two phases represented two distinct species; afterwards it was maintained that they depended on age, sex, or season, different authors or observers entertaining various opinions on the subject; but it is now generally believed that every individual retains through life the plumage which it first acquires, and that young birds of both forms are often found in the same nest, their parents being either both of one form, or both of the other, or the two styles paired together.12 The normal plumage, in these instances, appears to be grayish, the pattern distinct, the markings sharply defined, and the general appearance much like that of species which do not have the other plumage. The other plumage is a replacing of the grayish tints by a bright lateritious-rufous, the pencillings being at the same time less well defined, and the pattern of the smaller markings often changed. This condition seems to be somewhat analogous to melanism in certain Falconidæ, and appears to be more common in the genera Scops and Glaucidium (in which it affects mainly the tropical species), and occurs also in the European Syrnium aluco. As studied with relation to our North American species, we find it only in Scops asio and Glaucidium ferrugineum. The latter, being strictly tropical in its habitat, is similarly affected throughout its range; but in the former we find that this condition depends much upon the region. Thus neither Dr. Cooper nor I have ever seen a red specimen from the Pacific coast, nor do I find any record of such an occurrence. The normal gray plumage, however, is as common throughout that region as in the Atlantic States. In the New England and Middle States the red plumage seems to be more rare in most places than the gray one, while toward the south the red predominates greatly. Of over twenty specimens obtained in Southern Illinois (Mt. Carmel) in the course of one winter, only one was of the gray plumage; and of the total number of specimens seen and secured at other times during a series of years, we can remember but one other gray one. As a parallel example among mammals, Professor Baird suggests the case of the Red-bellied Squirrels and Foxes of the Southern States, whose relationships to the more grayish northern and western forms appear to be about the same as in the present instance.

Genus STRIX, Savigny.


Strix pratincola.

Gen. Char. Size medium. No ear-tufts; facial ruff entirely continuous, very conspicuous. Wing very long, the first or second quill longest, and all without emargination. Tail short, emarginated. Bill elongated, compressed, regularly curved; top of the cere nearly equal to the culmen, straight, and somewhat depressed. Nostril open, oval, nearly horizontal. Eyes very small. Tarsus nearly twice as long as the middle toe, densely clothed with soft short feathers, those on the posterior face inclined upwards; toes scantily bristled; claws extremely sharp and long, the middle one with its inner edge pectinated. Ear-conch nearly as long as the height of the head, with an anterior operculum, which does not extend its full length; the two ears symmetrical?

The species of Strix are distributed over the whole world, though only one of them is cosmopolitan. This is the common Barn Owl (S. flammea), the type of the genus, which is found in nearly every portion of the world, though in different regions it has experienced modifications which constitute geographical races. The other species, of more restricted distribution, are peculiar to the tropical portions of the Old World, chiefly Australia and South Africa.

Synopsis of the Races of S. flammea.

S. flammea. Face varying from pure white to delicate claret-brown; facial circle varying from pure white, through ochraceous and rufous, to deep black. Upper parts with the feathers ochraceous-yellow basally; this overlaid, more or less continuously, by a grayish wash, usually finely mottled and speckled, with dusky and white. Primaries and tail barred transversely, more or less distinctly, with distant dusky bands, of variable number. Beneath, varying from pure snowy white to tawny rufous, immaculate or speckled. Wing, 10.70–13.50.

Wing, 10.70–12.00; tail, 4.80–5.50; culmen, .75–.80; tarsus, 2.05–2.15; middle toe, 1.25–1.30. Tail with four dark bands, and sometimes a trace of a fifth. Hab. Europe and Mediterranean region of Africa … var. flammea.13

Wing, 12.50–14.00; tail, 5.70–7.50; culmen, .90–1.00; tarsus, 2.55–3.00. Tail with four dark bands, and sometimes a trace of a fifth. Colors lighter than in var. flammea. Hab. Southern North America and Mexico … var. pratincola.

Wing, 11.30–13.00; tail, 5.30–5.90; tarsus, 2.55–2.95. Colors of var. flammea, but more uniform above and more coarsely speckled below. Hab. Central America, from Panama to Guatemala … var. guatemalæ.14

Wing, 11.70–12.00; tail, 4.80–5.20; tarsus, 2.40–2.75. Tail more even, and lighter colored; the dark bars narrower, and more sharply defined. Colors generally paler, and more grayish. Hab. South America (Brazil, etc.) … var. perlata.15

Wing, 12.00–13.50; tail, 5.60–6.00; culmen, .85–.95; tarsus, 2.70–2.85; middle toe, 1.45–1.60. Colors as in var. perlata, but secondaries and tail nearly white, in abrupt contrast to the adjacent parts; tail usually without bars. Hab. West Indies (Cuba and Jamaica, Mus. S. I.) … var. furcata.16

Wing, 11.00; tail, 5.00; culmen, about .85; tarsus, 2.05–2.45; middle toe, 1.30–1.40. Colors of var. pratincola, but less of the ochraceous, with a greater prevalence of the gray mottling. Tail with four dark bands Hab. Australia … var. delicatula.17

Wing, 11.00–11.70; tail, 5.10–5.40; culmen, .85–.90; tarsus, 2.30–2.45; middle toe, 1.35–1.45. Same colors as var. delicatula. Tail with four dark bands (sometimes a trace of a fifth). Hab. India and Eastern Africa … var. javanica.18

Strix flammea, var. pratincola, Bonap.

Strix pratincola, Bonap. List, 1838, p. 7.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 1844, 31, pl. xiii. f. 28.—Gray, Gen. B., fol. sp. 2.—Cassin, B. Cal. & Tex. 1854, p. 176.—Newb. P. R. Rep. VI, IV, 1857, 76.—Heerm. do. VII, 1857, 34.—Cass. Birds N. Am. 1858, 47.—Coues, Prod. Orn. Ariz. (P. A. N. S. Philad. 1866), 13.—Scl. P. Z. S. 1859, 390 (Oaxaca).—Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 330 (Texas).—? Bryant, Pr. Bost. Soc. 1867, 65 (Bahamas). Strix perlata, Gray, List Birds Brit. Mus. 1848, 109 (not S. perlata of Licht. !).—Ib. Hand List, I, 1869, 52.—Kaup, Monog. Strig. Pr. Zoöl. Soc. Lond. IV, 1859, 247. Strix americana, Aud. Synop. 1839, 24.—Brewer, Wilson’s Am. Orn. 1852, 687. Strix flammea, Max. Reise Bras. II, 1820, 265.—Wils. Am. Orn. 1808, pl. l, f. 2.—James, ed. Wilson’s Am. Orn. I, 1831, 111.—Aud. B. Am. 1831, pl. clxxi.—Ib. Orn. Biog. II, 1831, 403.—Spix, Av. Bras. I, 21.—Vig. Zoöl. Jour. III, 438.—Ib. Zoöl. Beech. Voy. p. 16.—Bonap. Ann. N. Y. Lyc. II, 38.—Ib. Isis, 1832, 1140; Consp. Av. p. 55.—Gray, List Birds Brit. Mus. 1844, 54.—Nutt. Man. 1833, 139. Ulula flammea, Jardine, ed. Wilson’s Am. Orn. II, 1832, 264. Strix flammea, var. americana, Coues, Key, 1872, 201.

Char. Average plumage. Ground-color of the upper parts bright orange-ochraceous; this overlaid in cloudings, on nearly the whole of the surface, with a delicate mottling of blackish and white; the mottling continuous on the back and inner scapulars, and on the ends of the primaries more faint, while along their edges it is more in the form of fine dusky dots, thickly sprinkled. Each feather of the mottled surface (excepting the secondaries and primaries) has a medial dash of black, enclosing a roundish or cordate spot of white near the end of the feather; on the secondaries and primaries, the mottling is condensed into obsolete transverse bands, which are about four in number on the former and five on the latter; primary coverts deeper orange-rufous than the other portions, the mottling principally at their ends. Tail orange-ochraceous, finely mottled—most densely terminally—with dusky, fading into whitish at the tip, and crossed by about five distinct bands of mottled dusky. Face white, tinged with wine-red; an ante-orbital spot of dark claret-brown, this narrowly surrounding the eye; facial circle, from forehead down to the ears (behind which it is white for an inch or so) soft orange-ochraceous, similar to the ground-color of the upper parts; the lower half (from ears across the throat) deeper ochraceous, the tips of the feathers blackish, the latter sometimes predominating. Lower parts snowy-white, but this more or less overlaid with a tinge of fine orange-ochraceous, lighter than the tint of the upper parts; and, excepting on the jugulum, anal region, and crissum, with numerous minute but distinct specks of black; under surface of wings delicate yellowish-white, the lining sparsely sprinkled with black dots; inner webs of primaries with transverse bars of mottled dusky near their ends.

Extreme plumages. Darkest (No. 6,884, ♂, Tejon Valley, Cal.; “R. S. W.” Dr. Heermann): There is no white whatever on the plumage, the lower parts being continuous light ochraceous; the tibiæ have numerous round spots of blackish. Lightest (No. 6,885, same locality): Face and entire lower parts immaculate snowy-white; facial circle white, with the tips of the feathers orange; the secondaries, primaries, and tail show no bars, their surface being uniformly and finely mottled.

Measurements (♂, 6,884, Tejon Valley, Cal.; Dr. Heermann). Wing, 13.00; tail, 5.70; culmen, .90; tarsus, 2.50; middle toe, 1.25. Wing-formula, 2, 1–3. Among the very numerous specimens in the collection, there is not one marked ♀. The extremes of a large series are as follows: Wing, 12.50–14.00; tail, 5.70–7.50; culmen, .90–1.10; tarsus, 2.55–3.00.

Hab. More southern portions of North America, especially near the sea-coast, from the Middle States southward, and along the southern border to California; whole of Mexico. In Central America appreciably modified into var. guatemalæ. In South America replaced by var. perlata, and in the West Indies by the quite different var. furcata.

Localities: Oaxaca (Scl. P. Z. S. 1859, 390); Texas (Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 330); Arizona (Coues, P. A. N. S. 1866, 49); ? Bahamas (Bryant, Pr. Bost. Soc. 1867, 65). Kansas (Snow, List of B. Kansas); Iowa (Allen, Iowa Geol. Report, II, 424).

6885 ½ NAT. SIZE.

Strix pratincola.

The variations of plumage noted above appear to be of a purely individual nature, since they do not depend upon the locality; nor, as far as we can learn, to any considerable extent, upon age or sex.

Habits. On the Atlantic coast this bird very rarely occurs north of Pennsylvania. It is given by Mr. Lawrence as very rare in the vicinity of New York, and in three instances, at least, it has been detected in New England. An individual is said, by Rev. J. H. Linsley, to have been taken in 1843, in Stratford, Conn.; another was shot at Sachem’s Head in the same State, October 28, 1865; and a third was killed in May, 1868, near Springfield, Mass.

In the vicinity of Philadelphia the Barn Owl is not very rare, but is more common in spring and autumn than in the summer. Its nests have been found in hollow trees near marshy meadows. Southward it is more or less common as far as South Carolina, where it becomes more abundant, and its range then extends south and west as far as the Pacific. It is quite plentiful in Texas and New Mexico, and is one of the most abundant birds of California. It was not met with by Dr. Woodhouse in the expedition to the Zuñi River, but this may be attributed to the desolate character of the country through which he passed, as it is chiefly found about habitations, and is never met with in wooded or wild regions.

Strix flammea.

Dr. Heermann and Dr. Gambel, who visited California before the present increase in population, speak of its favorite resort as being in the neighborhood of the Missions, and of its nesting under the tiled roofs of the houses. The latter also refers to his finding numbers under one roof, and states that they showed no fear when approached. The propensity of the California bird to drink the sacred oil from the consecrated lamps about the altars of the Missions was frequently referred to by the priests, whenever any allusion was made to this Owl. Dr. Gambel also found it about farm-houses, and occasionally in the prairie valleys, where it obtains an abundance of food, such as mice and other small animals.

Dr. Heermann, in a subsequent visit to the State, mentions it as being a very common bird in all parts of California. They were once quite numerous among the hollow trees in the vicinity of Sacramento, but have gradually disappeared, as their old haunts were one by one destroyed to make way for the gradual development and growth of that city. Dr. Heermann found a large number in the winter, sheltered during the day among the reeds of Suisun Valley. They were still abundant in the old Catholic Missions, where they frequented the ruined walls and towers, and constructed their nests in the crevices and nooks of those once stately buildings, now falling to decay. These ruins were also a shelter for innumerable bats, reptiles, and vermin, which formed an additional attraction to the Owls.

Dr. Cooper speaks of finding this Owl abundant throughout Southern California, especially near the coast, and Dr. Newberry frequently met with it about San Francisco, San Diego, and Monterey, where it was more common than any other species. He met with it on San Pablo Bay, inhabiting holes in the perpendicular cliffs bordering the south shore. It was also found in the Klamath Basin, but not in great numbers.

Mr. J. H. Clark found the Barn Owl nesting, in May, in holes burrowed into the bluff banks of the Rio Frio, in Texas. These burrows were nearly horizontal, with a considerable excavation near the back end, where the eggs were deposited. These were three or four in number, and of a dirty white. The parent bird allowed the eggs to be handled without manifesting any concern. There was no lining or nest whatever. Lieutenant Couch found them common on the Lower Rio Grande, but rare near Monterey, Mexico. They were frequently met with living in the sides of large deep wells.

Dr. Coues speaks of it as a common resident species in Arizona. It was one of the most abundant Owls of the Territory, and was not unfrequently to be observed at midday. On one occasion he found it preying upon Blackbirds, in the middle of a small open reed swamp.

It is not uncommon in the vicinity of Washington, and after the partial destruction of the Smithsonian Building by fire, for one or two years a pair nested in the top of the tower. It is quite probable that the comparative rarity of the species in the Eastern States is owing to their thoughtless destruction, the result of a short-sighted and mistaken prejudice that drives away one of our most useful birds, and one which rarely does any mischief among domesticated birds, but is, on the contrary, most destructive to rats, mice, and other mischievous and injurious vermin.

Mr. Audubon mentions two of these birds which had been kept in confinement in Charleston, S. C., where their cries in the night never failed to attract others of the species. He regards them as altogether crepuscular in habits, and states that when disturbed in broad daylight they always fly in an irregular and bewildered manner. Mr. Audubon also states that so far as his observations go, they feed entirely on small quadrupeds, as he has never found the remains of any feathers or portions of birds in their stomachs or about their nests. In confinement it partakes freely of any kind of flesh.

The Cuban race (var. furcata), also found in other West India islands, is hardly distinguishable from our own bird, and its habits may be presumed to be essentially the same. Mr. Gosse found the breeding-place of the Jamaica Owl at the bottom of a deep limestone pit, in the middle of October; there was one young bird with several eggs. There was not the least vestige of a nest; the bird reposed on a mass of half-digested hair mingled with bones. At a little distance were three eggs, at least six inches apart. On the 12th of the next month he found in the same place the old bird sitting on four eggs, this time placed close together. There was still no nest. The eggs were advanced towards hatching, but in very different degrees, and an egg ready for deposition was found in the oviduct of the old bird.

An egg of this Owl, taken in Louisiana by Dr. Trudeau, measured 1.69 inches in length by 1.38 in breadth. Another, obtained in New Mexico, measures 1.69 by 1.25. Its color is a dirty yellowish-white, its shape an oblong oval, hardly more pointed at the smaller than at the larger end.

An egg from Monterey, California, collected by Dr. Canfield, measures 1.70 inches in length by 1.25 in breadth, of an oblong-oval shape, and nearly equally obtuse at either end. It is of a uniform bluish-white. Another from the Rio Grande is of a soiled or yellowish white, and of the same size and shape.

Genus OTUS, Cuvier.

Char. Size medium. Ear-tufts well developed or rudimentary; head small; eyes small. Cere much arched, its length more than the chord of the culmen. Bill weak, compressed. Only the first, or first and second, outer primary with its inner web emarginated. Tail about half the wing, rounded. Ear-conch very large, gill-like, about as long as the height of the skull, with an anterior operculum, which extends its full length, and bordered posteriorly by a raised membrane; the two ears asymmetrical.

Species and Varieties.

A. Otus, Cuvier. Ear-tufts well developed; outer quill only with inner web emarginated.

Colors blackish-brown and buffy-ochraceous,—the former predominating above, where mottled with whitish; the latter prevailing beneath, and variegated with stripes or bars of dusky. Tail, primaries, and secondaries, transversely barred (obsoletely in O. stygius).

1. O. vulgaris. Ends of primaries normal, broad; toes feathered; face ochraceous.

Dusky of the upper parts in form of longitudinal stripes, contrasting conspicuously with the paler ground-color. Beneath with ochraceous prevalent; the markings in form of longitudinal stripes, with scarcely any transverse bars. Hab. Europe and considerable part of the Old World … var. vulgaris.19

Dusky of the upper parts in form of confused mottling, not contrasting conspicuously with the paler ground-color. Beneath with the ochraceous overlaid by the whitish tips to the feathers; the markings in form of transverse bars, which are broader than the narrow medial streak. Wing, 11.50–12.00; tail, 6.00–6.20; culmen, .65; tarsus, 1.20–1.25; middle toe, 1.15. Wing-formula, 2, 3–4–1. Hab. North America … var. wilsonianus.

2. O. stygius.20 Ends of primaries narrow, that of the first almost falcate; toes entirely naked; face dusky, or with dusky prevailing.

Above blackish-brown, thinly relieved by an irregular sparse spotting of yellowish-white. Beneath with the markings in form of longitudinal stripes, which throw off occasional transverse arms toward the edge of the feathers. Wing, 13.00; tail, 6.80; culmen, .90; tarsus, 1.55; middle toe, 1.50. Wing-formula, 2, 3–4, 1. Hab. South America.

B. Brachyotus, Gould (1837). Similar to Otus, but ear-tufts rudimentary, and the second quill as well as the first with the inner web emarginated.

Colors ochraceous, or white, and clear dark brown, without shadings or middle tints. Beneath with narrow longitudinal dark stripes upon the whitish or ochraceous ground-color; crown and neck longitudinally striped with dark brown and ochraceous.

3. O. brachyotus. Wings and tail nearly equally spotted and banded with ochraceous and dark brown. Tail with about six bands, the ochraceous terminal. Face dingy ochraceous, blackish around the eyes. Wing, about 11.00–13.00; tail, 5.75–6.10; culmen, .60–.65; tarsus, 1.75–1.80; middle toe, 1.20. Hab. Whole world (except Australia?).

Though this genus is cosmopolitan, the species are few in number; two of them (O. vulgaris and O. brachyotus) are common to both North America and Europe, one of them (the latter) found also in nearly every country in the world. Besides these, South Africa has a peculiar species (O. capensis) while Tropical America alone possesses the O. stygius.

Otus vulgaris, var. wilsonianus, Less.

? Strix peregrinator (?), Bart. Trav. 1792, p. 285.—Cass. B. Cal. & Tex. 1854, 196. Asio peregrinator, Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 1855, 207. Otus wilsonianus, Less. Tr. Orn. 1831, 110.—Gray, Gen. fol. sp. 2, 1844.—Ib. List Birds Brit. Mus. p. 105.—Cass. Birds Cal. & Tex. 1854, 81.—Ib. Birds N. Am. 1858, 53.—Coop. & Suck. 1860, 155.—Coues, Prod. 1866, 14. Otus americanus, Bonap. List, 1838, p. 7.—Ib. Consp. p. 50.—Wederb. & Tristr. Cont. Orn. 1849, p. 81.—Kaup, Monog. Strig. Cont. Orn. 1852, 113.—Ib. Trans. Zoöl. Soc. IV, 1859, 233.—Max. Cab. Jour. VI, 1858, 25.—Gray, Hand List, I, 1869, No. 540, p. 50. Strix otus, Wils. Am. Orn. 1808, pl. li, f. 1.—Rich. & Sw. F. B. A. II, 72.—Bonap. Ann. N. Y. Lyc. II, 37.—Ib. Isis, 1832, 1140.—Aud. Orn. Biog. IV, 572.—Ib. Birds Am. pl. ccclxxxiii.—Peab. Birds, Mass. 88. Ulula otus, Jard. ed. Wils. Am. Orn. I, 1831, 104.—Brewer, ed. Wils. Am. Orn. Synop. p. 687.—Nutt. Man. 130. Otus vulgaris (not of Fleming!), Jardine, ed. Wils. Am. Orn. 1832, II, 278.—Aud. Synop. 1831, 28.—Giraud, Birds Long Island, p. 25. Otus vulgaris, var. wilsonianus (Ridgway), Coues, Key, 1872, 204. Bubo asio, De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 25, pl. xii, f. 25.

Sp. Char. Adult. Upper surface transversely mottled with blackish-brown and grayish-white, the former predominating, especially on the dorsal region; feathers of the nape and wings (only), ochraceous beneath the surface, lower scapulars with a few obsolete spots of white on lower webs. Primary coverts dusky, with transverse series of dark mottled grayish spots, these becoming somewhat ochraceous basally; ground-color of the primaries grayish, this especially prevalent on the inner quills; the basal third (or less) of all are ochraceous, this decreasing in extent on inner feathers; the grayish tint is everywhere finely mottled transversely with dusky, but the ochraceous is plain; primaries crossed by a series of about seven quadrate blackish-brown spots, these anteriorly about as wide as the intervening yellowish or mottled grayish; the interval between the primary coverts to the first of these spots is about .80 to 1.00 inch on the fourth quill,—the spots on the inner and outer feathers approaching the coverts, or even underlying them; the inner primaries—or, in fact, the general exposed grayish surface—has much narrower bars of dusky. Ground-color of the wings like the back, this growing paler on the outer feathers, and becoming ochraceous basally; the tip approaching whitish; secondaries crossed by nine or ten narrow bands of dusky.

Ear-tufts, with the lateral portion of each web, ochraceous; this becoming white, somewhat variegated with black, toward the end of the inner webs, on which the ochraceous is broadest; medial portion clear, unvariegated black. Forehead and post-auricular disk minutely speckled with blackish and white; facial circle continuous brownish-black, becoming broken into a variegated collar across the throat. “Eyebrows” and lores grayish-white; eye surrounded with blackish, this broadest anteriorly above and below, the posterior half being like the ear-coverts. Face plain ochraceous; chin and upper part of the throat immaculate white. Ground-color below pale ochraceous, the exposed surface of the feathers, however, white; breast with broad longitudinal blotches of clear dark brown, these medial, on the feathers; sides and flanks, each feather with a medial stripe, crossed by as broad, or broader, transverse bars, of blackish-brown; abdomen, tibial plumes, and legs plain ochraceous, becoming nearly white on the lower part of tarsus and on the toes; tibial plumes with a few sagittate marks of brownish; lower tail-coverts each having a medial sagittate mark of dusky, this continuing along the shaft, forking toward the base. Lining of the wing plain pale ochraceous; inner primary coverts blackish-brown, forming a conspicuous spot.

38256 ½ ½

Otus wilsonianus.

♂ (51,227, Carlisle, Penn.; S. F. Baird). Wing formula, 2, 3–1, 4, etc. Wing, 11.50; tail, 6.20; culmen, .65; tarsus, 1.20; middle toe, 1.15.

♀ (2,362, Professor Baird’s collection, Carlisle, Penn.). Wing formula, 2, 3–4–1. Wing, 12.00; tail, 6.00; culmen, .65; tarsus, 1.25; middle toe, 1.15.

Young (49,568, Sacramento, Cal., June 21, 1867; Clarence King, Robert Ridgway). Wings and tail as in the adult; other portions transversely banded with blackish-brown and grayish-white, the latter prevailing anteriorly; eyebrows and loral bristles entirely black; legs white.

Hab. Whole of temperate North America? Tobago? (Jardine).

Localities: Tobago (Jardine, Ann. Mag. 18, 116); Arizona (Coues, P. A. N. S. 1866, 50).

The American Long-eared Owl is quite different in coloration from the Otus vulgaris of Europe. In the latter, ochraceous prevails over the whole surface, even above, where the transverse dusky mottling does not approach the uniformity that it does in the American bird; in the European bird, each feather above has a conspicuous medial longitudinal stripe of dark brownish: these markings are found everywhere except on the rump and upper tail-coverts, where the ochraceous is deepest, and transversely clouded with dusky mottling; in the American bird, no longitudinal stripes are visible on the upper surface. The ochraceous of the lower surface is, in the vulgaris, varied only (to any considerable degree) by the sharply defined medial longitudinal stripes to the feathers, the transverse bars being few and inconspicuous; in wilsonianus, white overlies the ochraceous below, and the longitudinal are less conspicuous than the transverse markings; the former on the breast are broader than in vulgaris, in which, also, the ochraceous at the bases of the primaries occupies a greater extent. Comparing these very appreciable differences with the close resemblance of other representative styles of the two continents (differences founded on shade or depth of tints alone), we were almost inclined to recognize in the American Long-eared Owl a specific value to these discrepancies.

Otus vulgaris.

The Otus stygius, Wagl., of South America and Mexico, is entirely distinct, as will be seen from the foregoing synoptical table.

Habits. This species appears to be one of the most numerous of the Owls of North America, and to be pretty generally distributed. Its strictly nocturnal habits have caused it to be temporarily overlooked in localities where it is now known to be present and not rare. Dr. William Gambel and Dr. Heermann both omit it from their lists of the birds of California, though Dr. J. G. Cooper has since found it quite common. It was once supposed not to breed farther south than New Jersey, but it is now known to be resident in South Carolina and in Arizona, and is probably distributed through all the intervening country. Donald Gunn writes that to his knowledge this solitary bird hunts in the night, both summer and winter, in the Red River region. It there takes possession of the deserted nests of crows, and lays four white eggs. He found it as far as the shores of Hudson’s Bay. Richardson states it to be plentiful in the woods skirting the plains of the Saskatchewan, frequenting the coast of the bay in the summer, and retiring into the interior in the winter. He met with it as high as the 16th parallel of latitude, and believed it to occur as far as the forests extend.

Dr. Cooper met with this species on the banks of the Columbia, east of the Dalles. The region was desolate and barren, and several species of Owls appeared to have been drawn there by the abundance of hares and mice. Dr. Suckley also met with it on a branch of Milk River, in Nebraska. It has likewise been taken in different parts of California, in New Mexico, among the Rocky Mountains, in the valley of the Rio Grande, at Fort Benton, and at Cape Florida, in the last-named place by Mr. Würdemann.

Dr. Cooper found this Owl quite common near San Diego, and in March observed them sitting in pairs in the evergreen oaks, apparently not much troubled by the light. On the 27th of March he found a nest, probably that of a Crow, built in a low evergreen oak, in which a female Owl was sitting on five eggs, then partly hatched. The bird was quite bold, flew round him, snapping her bill at him, and tried to draw him away from the nest; the female imitating the cries of wounded birds with remarkable accuracy, showing a power of voice not supposed to exist in Owls, but more in the manner of a Parrot. He took one of the eggs, and on the 23d of April, on revisiting the nest, he found that the others had hatched. The egg measured 1.60 by 1.36 inches. Dr. Cooper also states that he has found this Owl wandering into the barren treeless deserts east of the Sierra Nevada, where it was frequently to be met with in the autumn, hiding in the thickets along the streams. It also resorts to caves, where any are to be found.

Dr. Kennerly met with this bird in the cañons west of the Aztec Mountains, where they find good places for their nests, which they build, in common with Crows and Hawks, among the precipitous cliffs,—places unapproachable by the wolf and lynx.

On the Atlantic coast the Long-eared Owl occurs in more or less abundance from Nova Scotia to Florida. It is found in the vicinity of Halifax, according to Mr. Downes, and about Calais according to Mr. Boardman, though not abundantly in either region. In Western Maine, and in the rest of New England, it is more common. It has been known to breed at least as far south as Maryland, Mr. W. M. McLean finding it in Rockville. Mr. C. N. Holden, Jr., during his residence at Sherman, in Wyoming Territory, met with a single specimen of this bird. A number of Magpies were in the same bush, but did not seem either to molest or to be afraid of it.

The food of this bird consists chiefly of small quadrupeds, insects, and, to some extent, of small birds of various kinds. Audubon mentions finding the stomach of one stuffed with feathers, hair, and bones.

The Long-eared Owl appears to nest for the most part in trees, and also frequently to make use of the nests of other birds, such as Crows, Hawks, or Herons. Occasionally, however, they construct nests for themselves. Audubon speaks of finding such a one near the Juniata River, in Pennsylvania. This was composed of green twigs with the leaflets adhering, and lined with fresh grass and sheep’s wool, but without feathers. Mr. Kennicott sent me from Illinois an egg of this bird, that had been taken from a nest on the ground; and, according to Richardson, in the fur regions it sometimes lays its eggs in that manner, at other times in the deserted nests of other birds, on low bushes. Mr. Hutchins speaks of its depositing them as early as April. Richardson received one found in May; and another nest was observed, in the same neighborhood, which contained three eggs on the 5th of July. Wilson speaks of this Owl as having been abundant in his day in the vicinity of Philadelphia, and of six or seven having been found in a single tree. He also mentions it as there breeding among the branches of tall trees, and in one particular instance as having taken possession of the nest of a Qua Bird (Nyctiardea gardeni), where Wilson found it sitting on four eggs, while one of the Herons had her own nest on the same tree. Audubon states that it usually accommodates itself by making use of the abandoned nests of other birds, whether these are built high or low. It also makes use of the fissures of rocks, or builds on the ground.

As this Owl is known to breed early in April, and as numerous instances are given of their eggs being taken in July, it is probable they have two broods in a season. Mr. J. S. Brandigee, of Berlin, Conn., found a nest early in April, in a hemlock-tree, situated in a thick dark evergreen woods. The nest was flat, made of coarse sticks, and contained four fresh eggs when the parent was shot.

Mr. Ridgway found this Owl to be very abundant in the Sacramento Valley, as well as throughout the Great Basin, in both regions inhabiting dense willow copses near the streams. In the interior it generally lays its eggs in the deserted nests of the Magpie.

The eggs of this Owl, when fresh, are of a brilliant white color, with a slight pinkish tinge, which they preserve even after having been blown, if kept from the light. They are of a rounded-oval shape, and obtuse at either end. They vary considerably in size, measuring from 1.65 to 1.50 inches in length, and from 1.30 to 1.35 inches in breadth. Two eggs, taken from the same nest by Rev. C. M. Jones, have the following measurements: one 1.60 by 1.34 inches, the other 1.50 by 1.30 inches.

Otus (Brachyotus) brachyotus, Steph.

Strix brachyotus, Gmel. Syst. Nat. 289, 1789.—Forst. Phil. Trans. LXII, 384.—Wils. Am. Orn. pl. xxxiii, f. 3.—Aud. Birds Am. pl. ccccxxxii, 1831.—Ib. Orn. Biog. V, 273.—Rich. & Swains. F. B. A. II, 75.—Bonap. Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 37.—Thomps. N. H. Vermont, p. 66.—Peab. Birds Mass. p. 89. Ulula brachyotus, James. (Wils.), Am. Orn. I, 106, 1831.—Nutt. Man. 132. Otus brachyotus, (Steph.) Jard. (Wils.), Am. Orn. II, 63, 1832.—Peale, U. S. Expl. Exp. VIII, 75.—Kaup, Monog. Strig. Cont. Orn. 1852, 114.—Ib. Tr. Zoöl. Soc. IV, 1859, 236.—Hudson, P. Z. S. 1870, 799 (habits). Asio brachyotus, Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 259, 1855. Otus brachyotus americanus, Max. Cab. Jour. II, 1858, 27. Brachyotus palustris, Bonap. List. 1838, p. 7.—Ridgw. in Coues, Key, 1872, 204. Otus palustris, (Darw.) De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 28, pl. xii, f. 27, 1844. Brachyotus palustris americanus, Bonap. Consp. Av. p. 51, 1849. Brachyotus cassini, Brewer, Pr. Boston Soc. N. H.—Newb. P. R. Rep’t, VI, IV, 76.—Heerm. do. VII, 34, 1857.—Cassin (in Baird) Birds N. Am. 1858, 54.—Coop. & Suckl. P. R. Rep’t, XII, ii, 155, 1860.—Coues, P. A. N. S. (Prod. Orn. Ariz.) 1866, 14.—Gray, Hand List, I, 51, 1869. Brachyotus galopagoensis, Gould, P. Z. S. 1837, 10. Otus galopagoensis, Darw. Zool. Beag. pt. iii, p. 32, pl. iii.—Gray, Gen. fol. sp. 3; List Birds Brit. Mus. 108.—Bonap. Consp. 51. Asio galopagoensis, Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 1855, 211.

Sp. Char. Adult. Ground-color of the head, neck, back, scapulars, rump, and lower parts, pale ochraceous; each feather (except on the rump) with a medial longitudinal stripe of blackish-brown,—these broadest on the scapulars; on the back, nape, occiput, and jugulum, the two colors about equal; on the lower parts, the stripes grow narrower posteriorly, those on the abdomen and sides being in the form of narrow lines. The flanks, legs, anal region, and lower tail-coverts are always perfectly immaculate; the legs most deeply ochraceous, the lower tail-coverts nearly pure white. The rump has obsolete crescentic marks of brownish. The wings are variegated with the general dusky and ochraceous tints, but the markings are more irregular; the yellowish in form of indentations or confluent spots, approaching the shafts from the edge,—broadest on the outer webs. Secondaries crossed by about five bands of ochraceous, the last terminal; primary coverts plain blackish-brown, with one or two poorly defined transverse series of ochraceous spots on the basal portion. Primaries ochraceous on the basal two-thirds, the terminal portion clear dark brown, the tips (broadly) pale brownish-yellowish, this becoming obsolete on the longest; the dusky extends toward the bases, in three to five irregularly transverse series of quadrate spots on the outer webs, leaving, however, a large basal area of plain ochraceous,—this somewhat more whitish anteriorly. The ground-color of the tail is ochraceous,—this becoming whitish exteriorly and terminally,—crossed by five broad bands (about equalling the ochraceous, but becoming narrower toward outer feathers) of blackish-brown; on the middle feathers, the ochraceous spots enclose smaller, central transverse spots of blackish; the terminal ochraceous band is broadest.

Eyebrows, lores, chin, and throat soiled white, the loral bristles with black shafts; face dingy ochraceous-white, feathers with darker shafts; eye broadly encircled with black. Post-orbital circle minutely speckled with pale ochraceous and blackish, except immediately behind the ear, where for about an inch it is uniform dusky.

Lining of the wing immaculate delicate yellowish-white; terminal half of under primary coverts clear blackish-brown; under surface of primaries plain delicate ochraceous-white; ends, and one or two very broad anterior bands, dusky.

♂ (906, Carlisle, Penn.). Wing-formula, 2–1, 3. Wing, 11.80; tail, 5.80; culmen, .60; tarsus, 1.75; middle toe, 1.20.

6888 ½ ½

Otus brachyotus.


Otus brachyotus.

♀ (1,059, Dr. Elliot Coues’s collection, Washington, D. C.). Wing-formula, 2–3–1–4. Wing, 13.00; tail, 6.10; culmen, .65; tarsus, 1.80; middle toe, 1.20.

Hab. Entire continent and adjacent islands of America; also Europe, Asia, Africa, Polynesia, and Sandwich Islands.

Localities: Oaxaca (Scl. P. Z. S. 1859, 390); Cuba (Cab. Journ. III, 465; Gundl. Rept. 1865, 225, west end); Arizona (Coues, P. A. N. S. 1866, 50); Brazil (Pelz. Orn. Bras. I, 10); Buenos Ayres (Scl. & Salv. P. Z. S. 1868, 143); Chile (Philippi, Mus. S. I.).

In view of the untangible nature of the differences between the American and European Short-eared Owls (seldom at all appreciable, and when appreciable not constant), we cannot admit a difference even of race between them. In fact, this species seems to be the only one of the Owls common to the two continents in which an American specimen cannot be distinguished from the European. The average plumage of the American representative is a shade or two darker than that of European examples; but the lightest specimens I have seen are several from the Yukon region in Alaska, and one from California (No. 6,888, Suisun Valley).

Not only am I unable to appreciate any tangible differences between European and North American examples, but I fail to detect characters of the least importance whereby these may be distinguished from South American and Sandwich Island specimens (“galopagoensis, Gould,” and “sandwichensis, Blox.”). Only two specimens, among a great many from South America (Paraguay, Buenos Ayres, Brazil, etc.), are at all distinguishable from Northern American. These two (Nos. 13,887 and 13,883, Chile) are somewhat darker than others, but not so dark as No. 16,029, ♀, from Fort Crook, California. A specimen from the Sandwich Islands (No. 13,890) is nearly identical with these Chilean birds, the only observable difference consisting in a more blackish forehead, and in having just noticeable dark shaft-lines on the lower tail-coverts.

Otus brachyotus.

In the geographical variations of this species it is seen that the average plumage of North American specimens is just appreciably darker than that of European, while tropical specimens have a tendency to be still darker. I know of no bird so widely distributed which varies so little in the different parts of its habitat, unless it be the Cotyle riparia, which, however, is not found so far to the south. The difference, in this case, between the American and European birds, does not correspond at all to that between the two easily distinguished races of Otus vulgaris, Nyctale tengmalmi, Surnia ulula, and Syrnium cinereum.

A specimen from Porto Rico (No. 39,643) is somewhat remarkable on account of the prevalence of the dusky of the upper parts, the unusually few and narrow stripes of the same on the lower parts, the roundish ochraceous spots on the wings, and in having the primaries barred to the base. Should all other specimens from the same region agree in these characters, they might form a diagnosable race. The plumage has an abnormal appearance, however, and I much doubt whether others like it will ever be taken.

Habits. The Short-eared Owl appears to be distributed, in varying frequency, throughout North America, more abundant in the Arctic regions during the summer, and more frequently met with in the United States during the winter months. Richardson met with it throughout the fur countries as far to the north as the 67th parallel. Professor Holböll gives it as a bird of Greenland, and it was met with in considerable abundance by MacFarlane in the Anderson River district. Mr. Murray mentions a specimen received from the wooded district between Hudson’s Bay and Lake Winnipeg. Captain Blakiston met with it on the coast of Hudson’s Bay, and Mr. Bernard Ross on the Mackenzie River.

Mr. Dresser speaks of it as common at times near San Antonio during the winter months, keeping itself in the tall weeds and grass. It is given by Dr. Gundlach as an occasional visitant of Cuba.

Dr. Newberry met with it throughout Oregon and California, and found it especially common in the Klamath Basin. On the level meadow-like prairies of the Upper Pitt River it was seen associating with the Marsh Hawk in considerable numbers. It was generally concealed in the grass, and rose as the party approached. He afterwards met with this bird on the shores of Klamath Lake, and in the Des Chutes Basin, among grass and sage-bushes, in those localities associated with the Burrowing Owl (A. hypogæa). In Washington Territory it was found by Dr. Cooper on the great Spokane Plain, where, as elsewhere, it was commonly found in the long grass during the day. In fall and winter it appeared in large numbers on the low prairies of the coast, but was not gregarious. Though properly nocturnal, it was met with, hunting on cloudy days, flying low over the meadows, in the manner of the Marsh Hawk. He did not meet with it in summer in the Territory.

Dr. Heermann found it abundant in the Suisun and Napa valleys of California, in equal numbers with the Strix pratincola. It sought shelter during the day on the ground among the reeds, and, when startled from its hiding-place, would fly but a few yards and alight again upon the ground. It did not seem wild or shy. He afterwards met with the same species on the desert between the Tejon Pass and the Mohave River, and again saw it on the banks of the latter. Richardson gives it as a summer visitant only in the fur countries, where it arrives as soon as the snow disappears, and departs again in September. A female was killed May 20 with eggs nearly ready for exclusion. The bird was by no means rare, and, as it frequently hunted for its prey in the daytime, was often seen. Its principal haunts appeared to be dense thickets of young pines, or dark and entangled willow-clumps, where it would sit on a low branch, watching assiduously for mice. When disturbed, it would fly low for a short distance, and then hide itself in a bush, from whence it was not easily driven. Its nest was said to be on the ground, in a dry place, and formed of withered grass. Hutchins is quoted as giving the number of its eggs as ten or twelve, and describing them as round. The latter is not correct, and seven appears to be their maximum number.

Mr. Downes speaks of it as very rare in Nova Scotia, but Elliott Cabot gives it as breeding among the islands in the Bay of Fundy, off the coast, where he found several nests. It was not met with by Professor Verrill in Western Maine, but is found in other parts of the State. It is not uncommon in Eastern Massachusetts, where specimens are frequently killed and brought to market for sale, and where it also breeds in favorable localities on the coast. Mr. William Brewster met with it on Muskeget, near Nantucket, where it had been breeding, and where it was evidently a resident, its plumage having become bleached by exposure to the sun, and the reflected light of the white sand of that treeless island. It is not so common in the interior, though Mr. Allen gives it as resident, and rather common, near Springfield. Dr. Wood found it breeding in Connecticut, within a few miles of Hartford.

Dr. Coues gives it as a resident species in South Carolina, and Mr. Allen also mentions it, on the authority of Mr. Boardman, as quite common among the marshes of Florida. Mr. Audubon also speaks of finding it so plentiful in Florida that on one occasion he shot seven in a single morning. They were to be found in the open prairies of that country, rising from the tall grass in a hurried manner, and moving in a zigzag manner, as if suddenly wakened from a sound sleep, and then sailing to some distance in a direct course, and dropping among the thickest herbage. Occasionally the Owl would enter a thicket of tangled palmettoes, where with a cautious approach it could be taken alive. He never found two of these birds close together, but always singly, at distances of from twenty to a hundred yards; and when two or more were started at once, they never flew towards each other.

Mr. Audubon met with a nest of this Owl on one of the mountain ridges in the great pine forest of Pennsylvania, containing four eggs nearly ready to be hatched. They were bluish-white, of an elongated form, and measured 1.50 inches in length and 1.12 in breadth. The nest, made in a slovenly manner with dry grasses, was under a low bush, and covered over with tall grass, through which the bird had made a path. The parent bird betrayed her presence by making a clicking noise with her bill as he passed by; and he nearly put his hand on her before she would move, and then she hopped away, and would not fly, returning to her nest as soon as he left the spot. The pellets disgorged by the Owl, and found near her nest, were found to consist of the bones of small quadrupeds mixed with hair, and the wings of several kinds of coleopterous insects.

This bird was found breeding near the coast of New Jersey by Mr. Krider; and at Hamilton, Canada, on the western shore of Lake Ontario; Mr. McIlwraith speaks of its being more common than any other Owl.

A nest found by Mr. Cabot was in the midst of a dry peaty bog. It was built on the ground, in a very slovenly manner, of small sticks and a few feathers, and presented hardly any excavation. It contained four eggs on the point of being hatched. A young bird the size of a Robin was also found lying dead on a tussock of grass in another similar locality.

The notes of Mr. MacFarlane supply memoranda of twelve nests found by him in the Anderson River country. They were all placed on the ground, in various situations. One was in a small clump of dwarf willows, on the ground, and composed of a few decayed leaves. Another nest was in a very small hole, lined with a little hay and some decayed leaves. This was on a barren plain of some extent, fifty miles east of Fort Anderson, and on the edge of the wooded country. A third was in a clump of Labrador Tea, and was similar to the preceding, except that the nest contained a few feathers. This nest contained seven eggs,—the largest number found, and only in this case. A fourth was in an artificial depression, evidently scratched out by the parent bird. Feathers seem to have been noticed in about half the nests, and in all cases to have been taken by the parent from her own breast. Nearly all the nests were in depressions made for the purpose.

Mr. Dall noticed the Short-eared Owl on the Yukon and at Nulato, and Mr. Bannister observed it at St. Michael’s, where it was a not unfrequent visitor. In his recent Notes on the Avi-fauna of the Aleutian Islands, (Pr. Cal. Academy, 1873,) Dall informs us that it is resident on Unalashka, and that it excavates a hole horizontally for its nesting-place,—usually to a distance of about two feet, the farther end a little the higher. The extremity is lined with dry grass and feathers. As there are no trees in the island, the bird was often seen sitting on the ground, near the mouth of its burrow, even in the daytime. Mr. Ridgway found this bird in winter in California, but never met with it at any season in the interior, where the O. wilsonianus was so abundant.

The eggs of this Owl are of a uniform dull white color, which in the unblown egg is said to have a bluish tinge; they are in form an elliptical ovoid. The eggs obtained by Mr. Cabot measured 1.56 inches in length and 1.25 in breadth. The smallest egg collected by Mr. MacFarlane measured 1.50 by 1.22 inches. The largest taken by Mr. B. R. Ross, at Fort Simpson, measures 1.60 by 1.30 inches; their average measurement is 1.57 by 1.28 inches. An egg of the European bird measures 1.55 by 1.30 inches.

Genus SYRNIUM, Savigny.

Gen. Char. Size varying from medium to very large. No ear-tufts. Head very large, the eyes comparatively small. Four to six outer primaries with their inner webs sinuated. Tarsi and upper portion, or the whole of the toes, densely clothed with hair-like feathers. Tail considerably more than half as long as the wing, decidedly rounded. Ear-orifice very high, but not so high as the skull, and furnished with an anterior operculum, which does not usually extend along the full length; the two ears asymmetrical. Bill yellow.


Syrnium nebulosum.


Scotiaptex. Six outer quills with their inner webs emarginated. Toes completely concealed by dense long hair-like feathers. Iris yellow. (Type, S. cinereum.)

Syrnium, Swainson. Five outer quills with their inner webs emarginated. Toes not completely concealed by feathers; sometimes nearly naked; terminal scutellæ always (?) exposed. Iris blackish. (Type, S. aluco.)

The typical species of this genus are confined to the Northern Hemisphere. It is yet doubtful whether the Tropical American species usually referred to this genus really belong here. The genera Ciccaba, Wagl., and Pulsatrix, Kaup, have been instituted to include most of them; but whether these are generically or only subgenerically distinct from the typical species of Syrnium remains to be decided.

Our S. nebulosum and S. occidentale seem to be strictly congeneric with the S. aluca, the type of the subgenus Syrnium, since they agree in the minutest particulars in regard to their external form, and other characters not specific.

4337 ½ ½

Syrnium nebulosum.

Species and Varieties.

a. Scotiaptex, Swains.

1. S. cinereum. Iris yellow; bill yellow. Dusky grayish-brown and grayish-white, the former prevailing above, the latter predominating beneath. The upper surface with mottlings of a transverse tendency; the lower surface with the markings in the form of ragged longitudinal stripes, which are transformed into transverse bars on the flanks, etc. Face grayish-white, with concentric rings of dusky. Wing, 16.00–18.00; tail, 11.00–12.50.

Dark markings predominating. Hab. Northern portions of the Nearctic Realm … var. cinereum.

Light markings predominating. Hab. Northern portions of the Palæarctic Realm … var. lapponicum.

b. Syrnium, Sav.

Common Characters. Liver-brown or umber, variously spotted and barred with whitish or ochraceous. Bill yellow; iris brownish-black.

2. S. nebulosum. Lower parts striped longitudinally. Head and neck with transverse bars.

Colors reddish-umber and ochraceous-white. Face with obscure concentric rings of darker. Wing, 13.00–14.00; tail, 9.00–10.00. Hab. Eastern region of United States … var. nebulosum.

Colors blackish-sepia and clear white. Face without any darker concentric rings. Wing, 14.80; tail, 9.00. Hab. Eastern Mexico (Mirador) … var. sartorii.21

Colors tawny-brown and bright fulvous. Face without darker concentric rings (?). Wing, 12.50, 12.75; tail, 7.30, 8.50. Hab. Guatemala … var. fulvescens.22

3. S. occidentale. Lower parts transversely barred. Head and neck with roundish spots. Wing, 12.00–13.10; tail, 9.00. Hab. Southern California (Fort Tejon, Xantus) and Arizona (Tucson, Nov. 7, Bendire).

Syrnium (Scotiaptex) cinereum, Audubon.

Strix cinerea, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 291, 1788.—Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 58, 1790; Syn. I, 134; Supp. I, 45; Gen. Hist. I, 337.—Vieill. Nouv. Dict. Hist. Nat. VII, 23, 1816; Enc. Méth. III, 1289; Ois. Am. Sept. I, 48.—Rich. & Swains. F. B. A. II, pl. xxxi, 1831.—Bonap. Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 436; Isis, 1832, p. 1140.—Aud. Birds Am. pl. cccli, 1831; Orn. Biog. IV, 364.—Nutt. Man. p. 128.—Tyzenhauz, Rev. Zoöl. 1851, p. 571. Syrnium cinereum, Aud. Synop. p. 26, 1839.—Cass. Birds Cal. & Tex. p. 184, 1854; Birds N. Am. 1858, p. 56.—Brew. (Wils.) Am. Orn. p. 687.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 26, pl. xiii, f. 29, 1844.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 188, 1855.—Newb. P. R. R. Rept. VI, IV, 77, 1857.—Coop. & Suck. P. R. R. Rept. XII, II, 156, 1860.—Kaup, Tr. Zoöl. Soc. IV, 1859, 256.—Dall & Bannister, Tr. Chicago Acad. I, 1869, 173.—Gray, Hand List, I, 48, 1869.—Maynard, Birds Eastern Mass., 1870, 130.—Scotiaptex cinerea, Swains. Classif. Birds, II, 217, 1837. Syrnium lapponicum, var. cinereum, Coues, Key, 1872, 204. Strix acclamator, Bart. Trans. 285, 1792.

Sp. Char. Adult. Ground-color of the upper surface dark vandyke-brown, but this relieved by a transverse mottling (on the edges of the feathers) of white, the medial portions of the feathers being scarcely variegated, causing an appearance of obsolete longitudinal dark stripes, these most conspicuous on the scapulars and back. The anterior portions above are more regularly barred transversely; the white bars interrupted, however, by the brown medial stripe. On the rump and upper tail-coverts the mottling is more profuse, causing a grayish appearance. On the wing-coverts the outer webs are most variegated by the white mottling. The alula and primary coverts have very obsolete bands of paler; the secondaries are crossed by nine (last terminal, and three concealed by coverts) bands of pale grayish-brown, inclining to white at the borders of the spots; primaries crossed by nine transverse series of quadrate spots of mottled pale brownish-gray on the outer webs, those beyond the emargination obscure,—the terminal crescentic bar distinct, however; upper secondaries and middle tail-feathers with coarse transverse mottling, almost forming bars. Tail with about nine paler bands, these merely marked off by parallel, nearly white bars, enclosing a plain grayish-brown, sometimes slightly mottled space, just perceptibly darker than the ground-color; basally the feathers become profusely mottled, so that the bands are confused; the last band is terminal. Beneath with the ground-color grayish-white, each feather of the neck, breast, and abdomen with a broad, longitudinal ragged stripe of dark brown, like the ground-color of the upper parts; sides, flanks, crissum, and lower tail-coverts with regular transverse narrow bands; legs with finer, more irregular, transverse bars of dusky. “Eyebrows,” lores, and chin grayish-white, a dusky space at anterior angle of the eye; face grayish-white, with distinct concentric semicircles of blackish-brown; facial circle dark brown, becoming white across the foreneck, where it is divided medially by a spot of brownish-black, covering the throat.

♂ (32,306, Moose Factory, Hudson Bay Territory; J. McKenzie). Wing-formula, 4=5, 3, 6–2, 7–8–9, 1. Wing, 16.00; tail, 11.00; culmen, 1.00; tarsus, 2.30; middle toe, 1.50.

♀ (54,358, Nulato, R. Am., April 11, 1868; W. H. Dall). Wing-formula, 4=5, 3, 6–2, 7–8–9, 1. Wing, 18.00; tail, 12.50; culmen, 1.00; tarsus, 2.20; middle toe, 1.70.

Hab. Arctic America (resident in Canada?). In winter extending into northern borders of United States (Massachusetts, Maynard).

The relationship between the Syrnium cinereum and the S. lapponicum is exactly parallel to that between the Otus vulgaris, var. wilsonianus, and var. vulgaris, Surnia ulula, var. hudsonia, and the var. ulula, and Nyctale tengmalmi, var. richardsoni, and the var. tengmalmi. In conformity to the general rule among the species which belong to the two continents, the American race of the present bird is very decidedly darker than the European one, which has the whitish mottling much more prevalent, giving the plumage a lighter and more grayish aspect. The white predominates on the outer webs of the scapulars. On the head and neck the white equals the dusky in extent, while on the lower parts it largely prevails. The longitudinal stripes of the dorsal region are much more conspicuous in lapponicum than in cinereum.

Syrnium cinereum.

A specimen in the Schlütter collection, labelled as from “Nord-Europa,” is not distinguishable from North American examples, and is so very unlike the usual Lapland style that we doubt its being a European specimen at all.

Habits. The Great Gray or Cinereous Owl appears to be confined to the more northern portions of North America. It is rarely met with in any part of the United States, and only in winter, with the exception of Washington Territory, where it is presumed to be a resident. It is also said to be a resident in Canada, and to be found in the vicinity of Montreal. Mr. Lawrence does not include this bird in his list of the birds of New York, but Mr. Turnbull states that several have been taken as far south as New Jersey. Throughout New England it is occasional in the winter, but comparatively rare. Mr. Allen did not hear of any having been taken near Springfield. On the coast of Massachusetts they are of infrequent occurrence, and are held at high prices. A fine specimen was shot in Lynn in the winter of 1872, and is now in the collection of my nephew, W. S. Brewer. On the Pacific coast it is resident as far south as the mouth of the Columbia, and is found in winter in Northern California.

Dr. Richardson met with this Owl in the fur regions, where it seemed to be by no means rare. He mentions it as an inhabitant of all the wooded districts which lie between Lake Superior and latitude 67° and 68°, and between Hudson’s Bay and the Pacific. It was common on the borders of Great Bear Lake, in which region, as well as in a higher parallel of latitude, it pursues its prey during the summer months by daylight. It was observed to keep constantly within the woods, and was not seen to frequent the barren grounds, in the manner of the Snowy Owl, nor was it so often met with in broad daylight as the Hawk Owl, apparently preferring to hunt when the sun was low and the recesses of the woods deeply shadowed, when the hares and other smaller quadrupeds, upon which it chiefly feeds, were most abundant.

On the 23d of May, Dr. Richardson discovered a nest of this Owl, built on the top of a lofty balsam-poplar, composed of sticks, with a lining of feathers. It contained three young birds, covered with a whitish down, to secure which it was necessary to cut down the tree. While this was going on, the parent birds flew in circles around the tree, keeping out of gun-shot, and apparently undisturbed by the light. The young birds were kept alive for several weeks, but finally escaped. They had the habit, when any one entered the room in which they were kept, of throwing themselves back and making a loud snapping noise with their bills.

In February, 1831, as Audubon was informed, a fine specimen of one of these Owls was taken alive in Marblehead, Mass., having been seen perched upon a woodpile early in the morning. It was obtained by Mr. Ives, of Salem, by whom it was kept several months. It was fed on fish and small birds, and ate its food readily. It would at times utter a tremulous cry, not unlike that of the common Screech-Owl (Scops asio), and manifested the greatest antipathy to cats and dogs.

Dr. Cooper found this bird near the mouth of the Columbia River, in a brackish meadow partially covered with small spruce-trees, where they sat concealed during the day, or made short flights from one to another. Dr. Cooper procured a specimen there in June, and has no doubt that the bird is resident and breeds in that neighborhood. He regards it as somewhat diurnal in its habits, and states that it is especially active toward sunset.

Dr. Newberry speaks of this Owl as one generally distributed over the western part of the continent, he having met with it in the Sacramento Valley, in the Cascade Mountains, in the Des Chutes Basin, and in Oregon, on the Columbia River. Mr. Robert MacFarlane found it in great abundance in the Anderson River region. On the 19th of July, as we find in one of his memoranda, he met with a nest of this species near Lockhart River, on the route to Fort Good Hope. The nest was on the top of a pine-tree, twenty feet from the ground. It contained two eggs and two young, both of which were dead. The nest was composed of sticks and mosses, and was lined thinly with down. The female was sitting on the nest, but left it at his approach, and flew to a tree at some distance, where she was shot.

Mr. Donald Gunn writes that the Cinereous Owl is to be found both in summer and in winter throughout all the country commonly known as the Hudson Bay Territory. He states that it hunts by night, preys upon rabbits and mice, and nests in tall poplar-trees, usually quite early in the season.

A single specimen of this Owl was taken at Sitka by Bischoff, and on the 20th of April Mr. Dall obtained a female that had been shot at Takitesky, about twenty miles east of the Yukon, near Nulato. He subsequently obtained several specimens in that region. Mr. Dall describes it as very stupid, and easy to be caught by the hand during the daytime. From its awkward motions its Indian name of nūhl-tūhl, signifying “heavy walker,” is derived. So far as observed by Mr. Dall, this Owl appeared to feed principally upon small birds, and he took no less than thirteen crania and other remains of Ægiothus linaria from the crop of a single bird.

Specimens of this Owl have also been received by the Smithsonian Institution, collected by Mr. Kennicott, from Fort Yukon and from Nulato; from Mr. J. McKenzie, Moose Factory; from J. Lockhart, obtained at Fort Resolution and at Fort Yukon; from J. Flett, at La Pierre House; from B. R. Ross, at Big Island; and from Mr. S. Jones and Mr. J. McDougall, at Fort Yukon. These were all taken between February 11 and July 19.

One of the eggs of this Owl, referred to above in Mr. MacFarlane’s note, is in my cabinet. It is small for the size of the bird, and is of a dull soiled-white color, oblong in shape, and decidedly more pointed at one end than at the other. It measures 2.25 inches in length by 1.78 in breadth. The drawing of an egg of this species, made by Mr. Audubon from a supposed specimen of an egg of this species, referred to in the “North American Oölogy,” and which measured 2.44 by 2.00 inches, was probably a sketch of the egg of the Snowy Owl.

Syrnium nebulosum, Gray.

Strix nebulosa, Forst. Phil. Trans. XXII, 386 & 424, 1772.—Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 291, 1789.—Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 58, 1790; Syn. I, 133; Gen. Hist. I, 338.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 191, 1800.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 245, 1839; Nat. Misc. pl. xxv.—Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. pl. xvii, 1807; Nouv. Dict. Hist. Nat. VII, 32; Enc. Méth. III, 1292.—Aud. Birds Am. pl. xlvi, 1831; Orn. Biog. I, 242.—Temm. Man. Orn. pt. i, p. 88; pt. iii, p. 47.—Wern. Atl. Ois. Eur.—Meyer, Taschenb. Deutsch Vogelk. III, 21; Zusätze, p. 21.—Wils. Am. Orn. pl. xxxiii, f. 2, 1808.—Rich. & Swains. F. B. A. II, 81.—Bonap. Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 38; Isis, 1832, p. 1140.—Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. II, 57, 1832. Ulula nebulosa, Steph. Zoöl. XIII, pl. ii, p. 60, 1815.—Cuv. Reg. An. (ed. 2), I, 342, 1829.—James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, 107, 1831; IV, 280.—Bonaparte, List, page 7, 1838; Conspectus Avium, p. 53.—Gould, Birds Eur. pl. xlvi.—Less. Man. Orn. I, 113, 1828; Tr. Orn. p. 108.—Gray, Gen. B. fol. (ed. 2), p. 8, 1844.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 29, pl. x, f. 21, 1844. Syrnium nebulosum, Gray, Gen. B. fol. sp. 9, 1844; List Birds Brit. Mus. p. 104.—Cass. Birds Cal. & Tex. p. 184, 1854; Birds N. Am. 1858, 56.—Giraud, Birds Long Island, p. 24, 1844.—Woodh. in Sitgr. Rept. Expl. Zuñi & Colorad. p. 63, 1853.—Brew. (Wils.) Am. Orn. p. 687, 1852.—Kaup, Monog. Strig. Cont. Orn. 1852, p. 121.—Ib. Tr. Zoöl. Soc. IV, 256.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 189, 1855.—Max. Cab. Jour. VI, 1858, 28.—Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 330 (Texas, resident).—Coues, Key, 1872, 204.—Gray, Hand List, I, 48, 1869.

Sp. Char. Adult. Head, neck, breast, back, scapulars, and rump with broad regular transverse bars of ochraceous-white and deep umber-brown, the latter color always terminal; on the upper surface the brown somewhat exceeds the whitish in width, but on the neck and breast the white rather predominates. The lower third of the breast is somewhat differently marked from the upper portion, the brown bars being connected along the shaft of the feather, throwing the white into pairs of spots on opposite webs. Each feather of the abdomen, sides, flanks, and lower tail-coverts has a broad medial longitudinal stripe of brown somewhat deeper in tint than the transverse bars on the upper parts; the anal region is plain, more ochraceous, white; the legs have numerous, but rather faint, transverse spots of brown. Ground-color of the wings and tail brown, like the bars of the back; middle and secondary wing-coverts with roundish transverse spots of nearly pure white on lower webs; lesser coverts plain rich brown; secondaries crossed by six bands of pale grayish-brown, passing into paler on the edge of each feather,—the last is terminal, passing narrowly into whitish; primary coverts with four bands of darker ochraceous-brown; primaries with transverse series of quadrate pale-brown spots on the outer webs (growing deeper in tint on inner quills), the last terminal; on the longest are about eight. Tail like the wings, crossed with six or seven sharply defined bands of pale brown, the last terminal.

Face grayish-white, with concentric semicircular bars of brown; eyebrows and lores with black shafts; a narrow crescent of black against anterior angle of the eye. Facial circle of blackish-brown and creamy-white bars, the former prevailing along the anterior edge, the latter more distinct posteriorly, and prevailing across the neck in front, where the brown forms disconnected transverse spots.

♀ (752, Carlisle, Penn.). Wing-formula, 4–3, 5–2, 6; 1=9. Wing, 13.00; tail, 9.00; culmen, 1.05; tarsus, 1.90; middle toe, 1.50.

♂. A little smaller. (No specimen marked ♂ in the collection.)

Hab. Eastern North America, west to the Missouri; Rio Grande region.

A female (?) from Calais, Me., (4,966; G. A. Boardman,) is somewhat lighter-colored than the type, owing to the clearer white of the bars. It measures, wing, 13.50; tail, 9.80.

A specimen (4,357, January) from Washington, D. C., is quite remarkable for the very dark tints of plumage and the unusual prevalence of the brown; this is of a more reddish cast than in all other specimens, becoming somewhat blackish on the head and neck; anteriorly it prevails so as to almost completely hide the pale bars of the back and nape. The tail has no bars except three or four very obsolete ones near the end; beneath, the ochraceous tinge is quite deep. The toes, except their first joint, are perfectly naked; the middle one, however, has a narrow strip of feathering running along the outer side as far as the last joint. The darker shades of color, and more naked toes, seem to be distinguishing features of southern examples.

Syrnium nebulosum.

Habits. The Barred Owl has an extended range, having been met with nearly throughout North America, from about latitude 50° to Texas. Minnesota is the most western point to which, so far as I am aware, it has been traced. It is more abundant in the Southern States than elsewhere, and in the more northern portions of North America is somewhat rare. Richardson did not encounter it in the more arctic portion of the fur countries, nor has it, so far as I can learn, been observed on the Pacific coast. It is said to be of accidental occurrence in northern Europe.

In Louisiana, as Mr. Audubon states, it is more abundant than anywhere else; and Dr. Woodhouse speaks of it as very common in the Indian Territories, and also in Texas and New Mexico, especially in the timbered lands bordering the streams and ponds of that region. In July, 1846, while in pursuit of shore birds in the island of Muskeget, near Nantucket, in the middle of a bright day, I was surprised by meeting one of these birds, which, uninvited, joined us in the hunt, and when shot proved to be a fine male adult specimen.

The Barred Owl was found in great abundance in Florida by Mr. J. A. Allen, the only species of Owl at all common, and where its ludicrous notes were heard at night everywhere, and even occasionally in the daytime. At night they not unfrequently startle the traveller by their strange utterances from the trees directly over his head.

Mr. Dresser speaks of it as very abundant at all seasons of the year in the wooded parts of Texas. He was not able to find its nest, but was told by the hunters that they build in hollow trees, near the banks of the rivers.

According to Mr. Downes, this Owl is common throughout Nova Scotia, where it is resident, and never leaves its particular neighborhood. It breeds in the woods throughout all parts of that colony, and was observed by him to feed on hares, spruce and ruffed grouse, and other birds. It is said to be a quite common event for this bird to make its appearance at midnight about the camp-fires of the moose-hunter and the lumberer, and to disturb their slumbers with its cries, as with a demoniacal expression it peers into the glare of the embers. Distending its throat and pushing its head forward, it gives utterance to unearthly sounds that to the superstitious are quite appalling.

Mr. Wilson regarded this species as one of the most common of the Owls in the lower parts of Pennsylvania, where it was particularly numerous in winter, among the woods that border the extensive meadows of the Schuylkill and the Delaware River. He frequently observed it flying during the day, when it seemed to be able to see quite distinctly. He met with more than forty of these birds in one spring, either flying or sitting exposed in the daytime, and once discovered one of its nests situated in the crotch of a white oak, among thick foliage, and containing three young. It was rudely put together, made outwardly of sticks, intermixed with dry grasses and leaves, and lined with smaller twigs. He adds that this Owl screams in the day in the manner of a Hawk. Nuttall characterizes their peculiar hooting as a loud guttural call, which he expresses by ’koh-’koh-’ko-’ko-’ho, or as ’whah-’whah-’whah-’whah-aa, heard occasionally both by day and by night. It is a note of recognition, and may be easily imitated, and can be used as a means to decoy the birds. Nuttall received a specimen that had been shot in November, hovering, in the daytime, over a covey of Quail.

Mr. Audubon speaks of the peculiar hooting cries of this species as strangely ludicrous in sound, and as suggestive of an affected burst of laughter. He adds that he has frequently seen this nocturnal marauder alight within a few yards of his camp-fire, exposing its whole body to the glare of the light, and eying him in a very curious manner, and with a noticeable liveliness and oddness of motion. In Louisiana, where he found them more abundant than anywhere else, Mr. Audubon states that, should the weather be lowering, and indicative of the approach of rain, their cries are so multiplied during the day, and especially in the evening, and they respond to each other in tones so strange, that one might imagine some extraordinary fête was about to take place among them. At this time their gesticulations are said to be of a very extraordinary nature.

The flight of this Owl is described as remarkably smooth, light, noiseless, and capable of being greatly protracted. So very lightly do they fly, that Mr. Audubon states he has frequently discovered one passing over him, and only a few yards distant, by first seeing its shadow on the ground, in the bright moonlight, when not the faintest rustling of its wings could be heard.

This Owl has the reputation of being very destructive to poultry, especially to half-grown chickens. In Louisiana they are said to nest in March, laying their eggs about the middle of the month. Audubon states that they nest in hollow trees on the dust of the decomposed wood, and at other times take possession of the deserted nest of a crow, or of a Red-tailed Hawk. In New England I think they construct their own nest. Mr. William Street, of Easthampton, Mass., has twice found the nest of this Owl. On one occasion it had young, unfledged. Upon returning to get them, a few days later, they had disappeared, and as he conjectures, had been removed by their parents. Another time he found a nest in a lofty pine, and at a height of sixty feet. He saw and shot the old bird. He has often found them hiding themselves by day in a thick hemlock. In the winter of 1869, Mr. Street witnessed a singular contest between a Barred Owl and a Goshawk over a Grouse which the latter had killed, but of which the Owl contested the possession. The Hawk had decidedly the advantage in the fight, when the contest was arrested by shooting the Owl. He has noticed a pair of Barred Owls in his neighborhood for the past four years, and has never known them to hoot from the time they have reared their young to the 14th of February. They then begin about an hour after dark, and their hooting continues to increase until about the 8th of April, when they mate, at which time their hooting may be heard both day and night. There is a very great difference observable between the cries of the female and the utterances of the male. The latter seldom hoots, and there is as much difference between his voice and that of the female as between the crowing of a young bird and of the old cock.

In two instances I have known well-developed eggs of this Owl taken from the oviduct of the female in February. One of these cases occurred near Niagara Falls in the spring of 1852. The other, in 1854, was noticed by Professor William Hopkins, then of Auburn, N. Y., to whose kindness I was indebted for the egg the parentage of which is so unquestionable. It is purely white, almost globular, and, except in shape, hardly distinguishable from the egg of the domestic Hen. It is 2.00 inches in length, and 1.69 in breadth.

Syrnium occidentale, Xantus.

Syrnium occidentale, Xantus, P. A. N. S. Philad. 1859, 193.—Baird, Birds N. Am. App. pl. lxvi.—Coues, Key, 1872, 204.

Sp. Char. Adult (♂, 17,200, Fort Tejon, California; J. Xantus. Type of Xantus’s description). Above deep umber-brown, much as in S. nebulosum. Whole head and neck with circular and cordate spots of white, one near the end of each feather; on the scapulars and back, rump, wings, and tail, they are rather sparse and more transverse, but of very irregular form; they are most conspicuous on the scapulars and larger wing-coverts. Secondaries crossed with about six bands of paler brown, each spot growing white on the edge of the feather,—the last band terminal; primaries with seven transverse series of pale brown, or brownish-white, quadrate spots on outer webs, the last terminal; these spots are almost clear white on the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth quills. Tail with about eight very narrow, rather obsolete, bands of pale brown, growing whiter and more distinct terminally, the last forming a conspicuous terminal band. Ground-color of the lower parts dull white, somewhat tinged with ochraceous laterally; everywhere with numerous transverse spots and bars of brown like the back,—this predominating anteriorly, the white forming spots on opposite webs; on the lower tail-coverts the transverse spots or bars are very sharply defined and regular, the brown rather exceeding the white. Face, eyebrows, and lores soiled brownish-white, the former with obscure concentric semicircles of darker brownish. Facial circle blackish-brown, spotted posteriorly with white; across the neck in front, it is more broken. Legs white, with sparse obsolete transverse specks. Wing-formula, 4, 3, 5–6–2; 1=9. Wing, 13.10; tail, 9.00; culmen, .85; tarsus, 2.10; middle toe, 1.30. Length, “18”; extent, “40.”

Hab. Southern Middle Province of United States (Fort Tejon, California, Xantus; and Tucson, Arizona, Bendire).

Syrnium occidentale.

Habits. Nothing is on record concerning the habits of this bird.

Genus NYCTALE, Brehm.

Nyctale, Brehm, 1828. (Type, Strix tengmalmi, Gmel.)

Gen. Char. Size small. Head very large, without ear-tufts. Eyes moderate; iris yellow. Two outer primaries only with their inner webs distinctly emarginated. Tarsi and toes densely, but closely, feathered. Ear-conch very large, nearly as high as the skull, with an anterior operculum; the two ears exceedingly asymmetrical, not only externally, but in their osteological structure. Furcula not anchylosed posteriorly, but joined by a membrane.

12053 ½

Nyctale acadica.

Of this genus only three species are as yet known; two of these belong to the Northern Hemisphere, one of them (N. tengmalmi) being circumpolar, the other (N. acadica) peculiar to North America. The habitat of the remaining species (N. harrisi) is unknown, but is supposed to be South America. If it be really from that portion of the New World, it was probably obtained in a mountainous region.

Species and Races.

Common Characters. Above umber, or chocolate, brown, spotted with white (more or less uniform in the young); beneath white with longitudinal stripes of reddish-brown (adult), or ochraceous without markings (young).

A. Nostril sunken, elongate-oval, obliquely vertical, opening laterally; cere not inflated. Tail considerably more than half the wing. Bill yellow.

1. N. tengmalmi. Wing, 7.20; tail, 4.50; culmen, .60; tarsus, 1.00; middle toe, .67 (average).

Legs white, almost, or quite, unspotted; lower tail-coverts with narrow shaft-streaks of brown. (Light tints generally predominating.) Hab. Northern portions of Palæarctic Realm … var. tengmalmi.23

Legs ochraceous, thickly spotted with brown; lower tail-coverts with broad medial stripes of brown. (Dark tints generally predominating.) Hab. Northern portions of Nearctic Realm … var. richardsoni.

B. Nostril prominent, nearly circular, opening anteriorly; cere somewhat inflated. Tail scarcely more than half the wing. Bill black.

2. N. acadica. Wing, 5.25 to 5.80; tail, 2.60 to 3.00; culmen, .50; tarsus, .80; middle toe, .60. Juv. Face dark brown; forehead and crown brown; occiput brown; eyebrows and sides of chin white; throat and breast umber-brown. (= “albifrons,” Shaw = “kirtlandi,” Hoy.) Hab. Cold temperate portions of Nearctic Realm.

3. N. harrisi.24 Wing, 5.80; tail, 3.00; culmen, .50; tarsus, 1.00; middle toe, .80. Juv. (?) Face and forehead and anterior half of crown and whole nape ochraceous; posterior half of crown and occiput black; eyebrows and sides of chin ochraceous; throat and breast ochraceous. A narrow belt of black spots in ruff across throat. Hab. South America?

Nyctale tengmalmi, var. richardsoni, Bonap.

Nyctale richardsoni, Bonap. List. E. & N. A. Birds, p. 7, 1838; Consp. Av. p. 54, 1850.—Gray, Gen. B. fol. sp. 2, 1844.—Cass. Birds Cal. & Tex. p. 185, 1854; Birds N. Am. 1858, p. 57.—Kaup, Monog. Strig. Cont. Orn. 1852, p. 105 (sub. tengmalmi).—Ib. Tr. Zoöl. Soc. IV, 1859, 208.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 176, 1865.—Maynard, Birds Eastern Mass. 1870, 133.—Gray, Hand List, I, 51, 1869. Strix tengmalmi, Rich. & Swains. F. B. A. II, 94, pl. xxxii, 1831.—Aud. Birds Am. pl. ccclxxx, 1831; Orn. Biog. IV, 599, 1831.—Peab. Birds Mass. p. 91, 1841. Nyctale tengmalmi, Dall & Bannister, Tr. Chicago Acad. I, 1869, 273. Nyctale tengmalmi, var. richardsoni, Ridgway, Am. Nat. VI, May, 1872, 285.—Coues, Key, 1872, 206.

Sp. Char. Adult (♀, 3,886, Montreal, Canada, September, 1853; Broome). Upper surface brownish-olive or umber-brown. Forehead and crown with numerous elliptical (longitudinal) marks of white, feathers everywhere with large partly concealed spots of the same; these spots are largest on the neck and scapulars, on the latter of a roundish form, the outer webs of those next the wing being almost wholly white, the edge only brown; on the nape the spots form V-shaped marks, the spots themselves being somewhat pointed; below this is a transverse, less distinct collar, of more concealed spots; wing-coverts toward the edge of the wing with a few large, nearly circular, white spots; secondaries with two transverse series of smaller white spots, these crossing about the middle, remote from the end and base; outer feathers of the alula with two white spots along the margin; primary coverts plain; primaries with four or five transverse series of white spots; tail with the same number of narrow transverse spots, forming incontinuous bands, the spots not touching the shaft,—the last spot not terminal. Facial circle much darker brown than the crown, and speckled with irregular spots of white, these either medial or upon only one web; across the throat the circle becomes paler brown, without the white spotting. Eyebrows and face grayish-white; lores and eyelids blackish. Lower parts white, becoming pale ochraceous on the legs; sides of the breast, sides, flanks, and lower tail-coverts with daubs of brown (slightly lighter and more reddish than on the back), those of the breast somewhat transverse, but posteriorly they are decidedly longitudinal; front of tarsus clouded with brown. Wing-formula, 3, 4–2–5–6–7–1. Wing, 7.20; tail, 4.50; culmen, .60; tarsus, 1.00; middle toe, .67.

A female from Alaska (49,802, Nulato, April 28, 1867; W. H. Dall) is considerably darker than the specimen described above; the occiput has numerous circular spots of white, and the tarsi are more thickly spotted; no other differences, however, are appreciable. Two specimens from Quebec (17,064 and 17,065; Wm. Cooper) are exactly similar to the last, but the numerous white spots on the forehead are circular.

Hab. Arctic America; in winter south into northern border of United States; Canada (Dr. Hall); Wisconsin (Dr. Hoy); Oregon (J. K. Townsend); Massachusetts (Maynard).

The Nyctale richardsoni, though, without doubt, specifically the same as the N. tengmalmi of Europe, is, nevertheless, to be distinguished from it. The colors of the European bird are very much paler; the legs are white, scarcely variegated, instead of ochraceous, thickly spotted; the lower tail-coverts have merely shaft-streaks of brown, instead of broad stripes. Very perfect specimens from Europe enable me to make a satisfactory comparison.

Nyctale richardsoni.

From an article by Mr. D. G. Elliot in Ibis (1872, p. 48), it would appear that the young of N. tengmalmi is very different from the adult in being darker and without spots; a stripe from the eye over the nostrils, and a patch under the eye at the base of bill, white. It is probable, therefore, that the American race has a similar plumage, which, however, has as yet escaped the honor of a name; more fortunate than the young of N. acadica, which boasts a similar plumage. This (N. albifrons) Mr. Elliot erroneously refers to the N. tengmalmi, judging from specimens examined by him from the Alps, from Russia, and from Norway. The most striking difference, judging from the description, apart from that of size, appears to be in the whiter bill of the tengmalmi.

Habits. This race is an exclusively northern bird, peculiar to North America, and rarely met with in the limits of the United States. A few specimens only have been obtained in Massachusetts. Dr. Hoy mentions it as a bird of Wisconsin, and on the Pacific Dr. Townsend met with it as far south as Oregon, where it seems to be more abundant than on the eastern coast.

Mr. Boardman thinks that this Owl is probably a resident in the vicinity of Calais, where, however, it is not common. It was not taken by Professor Verrill at Norway, Maine. Mr. J. A. Allen regards it as a very rare winter visitant in Western Massachusetts, but obtained a specimen near Springfield in December, 1859. In the same winter another was shot near Boston, and one by Dr. Wood, near Hartford, Conn. Mr. Allen subsequently records the capture of a specimen in Lynn, Mass., by Mr. J. Southwick, in the winter of 1863, and mentions two other specimens, also taken within the limits of the State. It is not mentioned by Dr. Cooper as among the birds of California.

Specimens of this Owl were taken at Fort Simpson in May, and at Fort Resolution by Mr. B. R. Ross, at Big Island by Mr. J. Reid, at Fort Rae by Mr. L. Clarke, and at Fort Yukon by Mr. J. Lockhart and Mr. J. McDougall, and at Selkirk Settlement, in February and March, by Mr. Donald Gunn.

Mr. B. R. Ross states that though no specimens of this Owl were received from north of Fort Simpson, yet he is quite certain that it ranges to the Arctic Circle. He says it is a fierce bird, and creates great havoc among the flocks of Linnets and other small birds. Its nest is built on trees, and the eggs are three or four in number, of a pure white color and nearly round shape. It sometimes seizes on the deserted hole of a Woodpecker for a habitation.

Mr. Dall obtained a female specimen of this Owl at Nulato, April 28, where it was not uncommon. It was often heard crying in the evenings, almost like a human being, and was quite fearless. It could be readily taken in the hand without its making any attempt to fly away, but it had a habit of biting viciously. It was frequently seen in the daytime sitting on trees. According to the Indians, it generally nests in holes in dead trees, and lays six spherical white eggs. Richardson informs us that it inhabits all the wooded country from Great Slave Lake to the United States, and is very common on the banks of the Saskatchewan. It was obtained in Canada by the Countess of Dalhousie, but at what season the bird was met with is not stated; the Smithsonian Institution also possesses specimens from the vicinity of Montreal. It probably does not breed so far south as that place, or, if so, very rarely. Mr. Audubon procured a specimen near Bangor, Maine, in September, the only one he ever met with.

This Owl, according to Mr. Hutchins, builds a nest of grass half-way up a pine-tree, and lays two eggs in the month of May.

A drawing, taken by Mr. Audubon from a specimen in an English cabinet, represents a nearly spherical egg, the color of which is white with a slight tinge of yellowish, and which measures 1.18 inches in length by one inch in breadth.

The only authenticated eggs of this variety which have come under my notice are three collected at Fort Simpson, May 4, 1861, by B. R. Ross. One of these measures 1.28 by 1.06 inches.

Nyctale acadica, Bonap.

Strix acadica, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 296, 1789.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 206, 1800.—Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. I, 49, 1807.—Aud. Birds Am. pl. cxcix, 1831; Orn. Biog. V, 397.—Rich. & Swains. F. B. A. II, 97, 1831.—Bonap. Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, pp. 38, 436; Isis, 1832, p. 1140.—Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. II, 66.—Naum. Nat. Vög. Deutschl. (ed. Nov.) I, 434, pl. xliii, figs. 1 & 2.—Peab. Birds Mass. p. 90.—Nutt. Man. p. 137, 1833. Nyctale acadica, Bonap. List, p. 7, 1838; Consp. Av. p. 44.—Gray, Gen. B. fol. App. p. 3, 1844.—Kaup, Monog. Strig. Cont. Orn. 1852, p. 104.—Ib. Tr. Zoöl. Soc. IV, 1859, 206.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 176, 1855.—Newb. P. R. R. Rept. VI, 77, 1857.—Cass. Birds N. Am. 1858, 58.—Coop. & Suck. P. R. R. Rept. XII, II, 156, 1860.—Coues, Prod. B. Ariz. 14, 1866.—Gray, Hand List, I, 1869, 51.—Lord, Pr. R. A. I. IV, III (Brit. Columb.).—Ridgway, Am. Nat. VI, May, 1872, 285.—Coues, Key, 1872, 206.—Gray, Hand List, I, 51, 1869. Scotophilus acadicus, Swains. Classif. Birds II, 217, 1837. Strix passerina, Penn. Arct. Zoöl. p. 236, sp. 126, 1785.—Forst. Phil. Transl. LXII, 385.—Wils. Am. Orn. pl. xxxiv, f. 1, 1808. Ulula passerina, James. (Wils.), Am. Orn. I, 159, 1831. Strix acadiensis, Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 65, 1790. S. albifrons, Shaw, Nat. Misc. V, pl. clxxi, 1794; Zoöl. VII, 238, 1809.—Lath. Orn. Supp. p. 14. Bubo albifrons, Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. I, 54, 1807. Scops albifrons, Steph. Zoöl. XIII, II, 51. Nyctale albifrons, Cass. Birds Cal. & Tex. 187, 1854.—Bonap. Consp. Av. p. 54.—Cass. Birds N. Am. 1858, 57.—Gray, Hand List, I, 52, 1869. Strix frontalis, Licht. Abh. Ak. Berl. 1838, 430. Nyctale kirtlandi, Hoy, Proc. Ac. Nat. Sc. Phil. VI, 210, 1852. S. phalænoides, Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 206, 1800.—Lath. Ind. Orn. Supp. p. 16, 1802; Syn. Supp. II, 66; Gen. Hist. I, 372, 1828. Athene phalænoides, Gray, Gen. B. fol. sp. 43, 1844. Athene wilsoni, Boie, Isis, 1828, 315.

Sp. Char. Adult (♀, 120,044, Washington, D. C., Feb., 1859; C. Drexler). Upper surface plain soft reddish-olive, almost exactly as in N. richardsoni; forehead, anterior part of the crown, and the facial circle, with each feather with a short medial line of white; feathers of the neck white beneath the surface, forming a collar of blotches; lower webs of scapulars white bordered with brown; wing-coverts with a few rounded white spots; alula with the outer feathers broadly edged with white. Primary coverts and secondaries perfectly plain; five outer primaries with semi-rounded white spots on the outer webs, these decreasing toward the ends of the feathers, leaving but about four series well defined. Tail crossed with three widely separated narrow bands of white, formed of spots not touching the shaft on either web; the last band is terminal. “Eyebrow” and sides of the throat white; lores with a blackish suffusion, this more concentrated around the eye; face dirty white, feathers indistinctly edged with brownish, causing an obsoletely streaked appearance; the facial circle in its extension across the throat is converted into reddish-umber spots. Lower parts, generally, silky-white, becoming fine ochraceous on the tibiæ and tarsi; sides of the breast like the back, but of a more reddish or burnt-sienna tint; sides and flanks with longitudinal daubs of the same; jugulum, abdomen, lower tail-coverts, tarsi, and tibiæ, immaculate. Wing formula, 4–3=5–1=8. Wing, 5.40; tail, 2.80; culmen, .50; tarsus, .80; middle toe, .60.

Seven specimens before me vary from, wing, 5.25 to 5.80; tail, 2.60 to 3.00 (♀). The largest specimen is 12,053 (♀, Fort Tejon, California; J. Xantus). This differs from the specimen described in whiter face, more conspicuous white streaks on forehead, smaller, less numerous, red spots below, and in having a fourth white band on the tail; this, however, is very inconspicuous. 32,301 (Moose Factory; J. McKenzie), 9,152 (Fort Vancouver, February; Dr. J. G. Cooper), and 11,793 (Simiahmoo, October; Dr. C. B. Kennedy) are exactly like the type. There are no authentic males before me, though only two are marked as females; the extremes of the series probably represent the sexual discrepancy in size.

Young (♂, 12,814, Racine, Wisconsin, July, 1859; Dr. R. P. Hoy). Upper surface continuous plain dark sepia-olive; face darker, approaching fuliginous-vandyke,—perfectly uniform; around the edge of the forehead, a few shaft-lines of white; scapulars with a concealed spot of pale ochraceous on lower web; lower feathers of wing-coverts with a few white spots; outer feather of the alula scalloped with white; primary coverts perfectly plain; five outer primaries with white spots on outer webs, these diminishing toward the end of the feathers, leaving only two or three series well defined; tail darker than the wings, with three narrow bands composed of white spots, these not touching the shaft on either web. “Eyebrows” immaculate white; lores more dusky; face and eyelids dark vandyke-brown; sides of the chin white. Throat and whole breast like the back, but the latter paler medially, becoming here more fulvous; rest of the lower parts plain fulvous-ochraceous, growing gradually paler posteriorly,—immaculate. Lining of the wing plain dull white; under surface of primaries with dusky prevailing, but this crossed by bands of large whitish spots; the three outer feathers, however, present a nearly uniformly dusky aspect, being varied only basally. Wing formula, 3, 4–2=5 6–7, 1. Wing, 5.50; tail, 2.80; culmen, .45; tarsus, .80; middle toe, .65.

Hab. North America generally. Cold temperate portions in the breeding-season, migrating southward in winter. Mexico (Oaxaca, Sclater, P. Z. S. 1858, 295); California (Dr. Cooper); Cantonment Burgwyn, New Mexico (Dr. Anderson); Washington Territory (Dr. Kennerly).

Nyctale acadica. Young.

Nyctale acadica. Adult.

A specimen (15,917, ♂, Dr. C. B. Kennerly, Camp Skagitt, September 29, 1859) from Washington Territory is exactly similar to the young described above. No. 10,702 (Fort Burgwyn, New Mexico; Dr. Anderson) is much like it, but the facial circle is quite conspicuous, the feathers having medial white lines; the reddish-olive of the breast and the fulvous of the belly are paler, also, than in the type. No. 12,866, United States, (Professor Baird’s collection, from Audubon,) is perfectly similar to the last.

My reasons for considering the N. albifrons as the young of N. acadica are the following (see American Naturalist, May, 1872):—

1st. All specimens examined (including Hoy’s type of N. kirtlandi) are young birds, as is unmistakably apparent from the texture of their plumage.

2d. All specimens examined of the N. acadica are adults. I have seen no description of the young.

3d. The geographical distribution, the size and proportions, the pattern of coloration (except that of the head and body, which in all Owls is more or less different in the young and adult stages), and the shades of colors on the general upper plumage, are the same in both. The white “scalloping” on the outer web of the alula, the number of white spots on the primaries, and the precise number and position of the white bars on the tail, are features common to the two.

4th. The most extreme example of albifrons has the facial circle uniform brown, like the neck, has no spots on the forehead, and the face is entirely uniform dark brown; but,

5th. Three out of the four specimens in the collection have the facial circle composed of white and brown streaks (adult feathers), precisely as in acadica, and the forehead similarly streaked (with adult feathers). Two of them have new feathers appearing upon the sides of the breast (beneath the brown patch), as well as upon the face; these new feathers are, in the most minute respects, like the common (adult) dress of N. acadica.

The above facts point conclusively to the identity of the Nyctale “albifrons” and N. acadica. This species is easily distinguishable from the N. tengmalmi, which belongs to both continents, though the North American and European specimens are readily separable, and therefore should be recognized as geographical races.

Since the above was published in the American Naturalist for May, 1872, Dr. J. W. Velie, of Chicago, writing under date of November 20, 1872, furnishes the following proof of the identity of N. “albifrons” and N. acadica: “In 1868, I kept a fine specimen of “Nyctale albifrons” until it moulted and became a fine specimen of Nyctale acadica. I had, until the fire, all the notes about this interesting little species, and photographs in the different stages of moulting.”

Habits. The Little Acadian or Saw-Whet Owl, as this bird is more generally denominated, appears to have a widespread distribution over temperate North America. It is not known to be anywhere very abundant, though its nocturnal and secluded habits tend to prevent any intimate acquaintance either with its habits or its numbers in any particular locality. It is rarely found in the daytime out of its hiding-places. It was not met with by Richardson in the fur regions, yet it is generally supposed to be a somewhat northern species, occurring only in winter south of Pennsylvania, but for this impression there does not seem to be any assignable reason or any confirmatory evidence. It has been said to breed near Cleveland, Ohio, and its nest and eggs to have been secured. The taking of Kirtland’s Owl, which is now known to be the immature bird of this species, near that city, as well as in Racine, and at Hamilton, Canada, is also suggestive that this Owl may breed in those localities.

Dr. Townsend is said to have found this Owl in Oregon, Dr. Gambel met with it in California, Mr. Audubon has taken it both in Kentucky and in Louisiana, Mr. Wilson met with it in New Jersey, Mr. McCulloch in Nova Scotia, and Dr. Hoy in Wisconsin. Dr. Newberry met with this bird in Oregon, but saw none in California. Dr. Suckley obtained it at the Dalles, on the north side of the Columbia, in December. This was several miles from the timbered region, and the bird was supposed to be living in the basaltic cliffs of the vicinity. Dr. Cooper found one at Vancouver in February. It was dead, and had apparently died of starvation. Professor Snow speaks of it as rare in Kansas. Mr. Boardman and Professor Verrill both give it as resident and as common in Maine. It is rather occasional and rare in Eastern Massachusetts, and Mr. Allen did not find it common near Springfield. On one occasion I found one of these birds in April, at Nahant. It was apparently migrating, and had sought shelter in the rocky cliffs of that peninsula. It was greatly bewildered by the light, and was several times almost on the point of being captured by hand.

This Owl is not unfrequently kept in confinement. It seems easily reconciled to captivity, becomes quite tame, suffers itself to be handled by strangers without resenting the familiarity, but is greatly excited at the sight of mice or rats. Captain Bland had one of these birds in captivity at Halifax, which he put into the same room with a rat. The bird immediately attacked and killed the rat, but died soon after of exhaustion.

The notes of this Owl, during the breeding-season, are said to resemble the noise made by the filing of a saw, and it is known in certain localities as the Saw-Whet. Mr. Audubon, on one occasion, hearing these notes in a forest, and unaware of their source, imagined he was in the vicinity of a saw-mill.

According to Mr. Audubon, this Owl breeds in hollow trees, or in the deserted nests of other birds; and lays from four to six glossy-white eggs, which are almost spherical. He states, also, that he found near Natchez a nest in the broken stump of a small decayed tree not more than four feet high. He also mentions the occasional occurrence of one of these Owls in the midst of one of our crowded cities. One of them was thus taken in Cincinnati, where it was found resting on the edge of a child’s cradle. Mr. McCulloch, quoted by Audubon, gives an interesting account of the notes and the ventriloquial powers of this bird. On one occasion he heard what seemed to him to be the faint notes of a distant bell. Upon approaching the place from which these sounds proceeded, they appeared at one time to be in front of him, then behind him, now on his right hand, now on his left, again at a great distance, and then close behind him. At last he discovered the bird at the entrance of a small hole in a birch-tree, where it was calling to its mate. As he stood at the foot of the tree, in full sight of the bird, he observed the singular power it possessed of altering its voice, making it seem near or remote,—a faculty which he had never noticed in any other bird.

An egg given me by Mr. Rufus E. Winslow as one of this bird, and figured in the North American Oölogy, was undoubtedly that of a Woodpecker. It is of a crystalline whiteness, nearly spherical, and measures 1.13 inches in length by .87 of an inch in breadth.

A well-identified egg in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, taken by Mr. R. Christ at Nazareth, Penn., (No. 14,538, S. I.,) measures .95 of an inch by .88. The two ends are exactly similar or symmetrical. The egg is white, and is marked as having been collected April 25, 1867.

Genus SCOPS, Savigny.

Gen. Char. Size small, the head provided with ear-tufts. Bill light-colored; iris yellow. Three to four outer quills with inner webs sinuated. Wings long (more than twice the length of the tail, which is short and slightly rounded); second to fifth quills longest. Toes naked, or only scantily feathered. Ear-conch small and simple. Plumage exceedingly variegated, the colors different shades of brown, with rufous, black, and white, in fine mottlings and pencillings; feathers above and below usually with blackish shaft-streaks, those beneath usually with five transverse bars; primaries spotted with whitish, and outer webs of the lower row of scapulars the same edged terminally with black. Tail obscurely banded.


Scops asio.

The species of this genus are cosmopolitan, the greater number, however, being found in tropical regions. All the American species differ from S. zorca of Europe in having the fourth and fifth quills longest, instead of the second, and in having three to four, instead of only two, of the outer quills with the inner web sinuated, as well as in having the quills shorter, broader, and more bowed, and their under surface more concave. They may, perhaps, be distinguished as a separate subgenus (Megascops, Kaup). Of the American species all but S. asio (including its several races) have the toes perfectly naked to their very bases.

Species and Races.

Common Characters. Plumage brown, gray, or rufous, and whitish, finely mottled above; lower parts transversely barred, and with dark shaft-streaks. Outer webs of lower scapulars light-colored (white or ochraceous) and without markings. Tail crossed by rather obscure mottled light and dark bars of nearly equal width. Outer webs of primaries with nearly equal bands of whitish and dusky.

1. S. asio. Toes covered (more or less densely) with bristles, or hair-like feathers. Wing, 5.50–7.80; tail, 3.20–4.10; culmen, .50–.70; tarsus, 1.00–1.70; middle toe, .70–.80. Ear-tufts well developed; facial circle black.

Colors smoky-brown and pale fulvous, with little or none of pure white. Outer webs of the scapulars pale ochraceous-fulvous. Wing, 6.90–7.30; tail, 3.50–4.50. Hab. North Pacific region, from Western Idaho and Washington Territory, northward to Sitka … var. kennicotti.

Colors ashy-gray and pure white, with little or none of fulvous. Outer webs of the scapulars pure white. Varying to bright brick-red, or lateritious-rufous.

Mottlings coarse, the blackish median streaks above not sharply defined, and the bars beneath heavy and distinct.

Wing, 6.10–7.75; tail, 3.30–4.35. In the red plumage, white prevailing on the lower parts, where the red markings are not broken into transverse bars. Hab. United States; except the Southern Middle Province, the northwest region, and Florida … var. asio.

Wing, 5.50–6.00; tail, 2.75–3.10. In the red plumage, red prevailing on the lower parts, where the markings are much broken into transverse bars. Hab. Florida and Southern Georgia … var. floridanus.

Wing, 5.50–5.80; tail, 3.20–3.30. Gray plumage, like var. asio, but the mottling above much coarser, and the nape with a strongly indicated collar of rounded white spots in pairs, on opposite webs. Red plumage not seen. Hab. Eastern Mexico and Guatemala … var. enano.25

Mottlings fine, the blackish median streaks above very sharply defined and conspicuous; bars beneath delicate and indistinct.

Wing, 6.20–6.50; tail, 3.35–3.50. Hab. Southern Middle Province, and Southern California; Cape St. Lucas … var. maccalli.

2. S. flammeola. Toes perfectly naked, the feathering of the tarsus terminating abruptly at the lower joint. Wing, 5.40; tail, 2.80; culmen, .35; tarsus, .90; middle toe, .55. Ear-tufts short, or rudimentary. Facial circle rusty. Outer webs of the scapulars rusty-ochraceous, in striking contrast to the grayish of the wings and back. Other markings and colors much as in asio. Hab. Mountain regions of Mexico and California, from Guatemala to Fort Crook, Northern California.

Scops asio, Bonap.

Noctua aurita minor, Catesby, Carol. I, 1754, 7, pl. vii. Asio scops carolinensis, Briss. Orn. I, 1760, 497. Strix asio, Linn. Syst. Nat. 1758, 92.—Gmel. S. N. 1789, 287.—Lath. Ind. Orn. 1790, 54.—Ib. Syn. I, 123.—Ib. Supp. I, 42; Gen. Hist. I, 314.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 1800, 216.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 1809, 229.—Temm. Pl. Col. 80.—Wils. Am. Orn. 1808, pl. xlii, f. 1.—Jard. (ed. Wils.) Orn. I, 1831, 307.—Bonap. Ann. N. Y. Lyc. II, 36.—Ib. Isis, 1832, 1139.—Audubon, Birds N. A. 1831, pl. xcvii.—Ib. Orn. Biog. I, 486.—Brewer (ed. Wils.) Orn. 1852, p. 687.—Hobs. Nat. 1855, 169. Bubo asio, Vieill. Ois. Am., Sept., 1807, 53, pl. xxi.—Giraud, Birds Long Island, 1844, 28.—Max. Cab. J. VI, 1858, 23. Otus asio, Stephens, Zoöl. XIII, pt. ii, 1815, 57. Scops asio, Bonap. List, 1838, 6.—Less. Tr. Orn. 107.—Cass. Birds Cal. & Tex. 1854, 179.—Ib. Birds N. Am. 1858, 51.—Kaup, Monog. Strig. Cont. Orn. 1852, 112.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 1855, 199.—Heerm. P. R. Rept. II, 1855, 35.—Coop. & Suckl. P. R. Rept. 155.—Maynard, Birds Eastern Mass., 1870, 131.—Coues, Key, 1872, 202.—Gray, Hand List, I, 1869, 46. Ephialtes asio, Gray, Gen. B. fol. 1844, sp. 9.—Ib. List Birds Brit. Mus. 1844, p. 96.—Woodh. 1853, 62. Strix nævia, Gmel. S. N. 1789, 289.—Lath. Ind. Orn. 1790, p. 55.—Ib. Syn. I, 126; Gen. Hist. I, 321.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 1800, 217.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 1809, 230.—Wils. Am. Orn. 1808, pl. xix, f. 1. Asio nævia, Less. Man. Orn. I, 1828, 117. Otus nævius, Cuv. Reg. An. (ed. 2), I, 1829, 341. Surnia nævia, James. (ed. Wils.), Orn., 1831, I, 96 & 99.

a. Normal plumage.

Sp. Char. Adult. Ground-color above brownish-cinereous, palest on the head, purest ashy on the wings, minutely mottled with fine zigzag transverse bars of black, each feather with a medial ragged stripe of the same along the shaft. Inner webs of ear-tufts, outer webs of scapulars, and oval spots occupying most of the outer webs of the two or three lower feathers of the middle and secondary wing-coverts, white, forming (except on the first) conspicuous spots, those of the scapulars bordered with black. Secondaries crossed with about seven regular paler bands, each enclosing a more irregular dusky one; the ground-color, however, is so mottled with grayish, and the pale bands with dusky, that they are by no means sharply defined or conspicuous, though they are very regular; alula and primary coverts more sharply barred with cream-colored spots, those on the former nearly white; primaries with broad quadrate spots of creamy-white on outer webs, these forming from seven (♂) to eight (♀) transverse bands, the last of which is not terminal. Tail more irregularly mottled than the wings, and crossed by seven (♂) to eight (♀) narrow, obsolete, but continuous, pale bands.

Eyebrows white, the feathers bordered with dusky (most broadly so in ♂); cheeks, ear-coverts, and lower throat dull white, with transverse bars of blackish (most numerous in the ♂); chin immaculate; upper eyelid dark brown; facial circle black; neck and jugulum like the cheeks, but more strongly barred, and with blackish along the shaft. Ground-color of the lower parts white, each feather with a medial stripe of black, this throwing off distinct bars to the edge of the feather; the medial black is largest on sides of the breast, where it expands into very large conspicuous spots, having a slight rusty exterior suffusion; the abdomen medially, the anal region, and the lower tail-coverts, are almost unvaried white. Tibiæ and tarsi in the male dull white, much barred transversely with blackish; in the female, pale ochraceous, more sparsely barred with dark brownish. Lining of the wing creamy-white, varied only along the edge; light bars on under surface of primaries very obsolete.

♂ (16,027, Fort Crook, North California; John Feilner). Wing, 6.70; tail, 3.80; culmen, .61; tarsus, 1.35; middle toe, .72; ear-tufts, 1.00; wing-formula, 3=4, 5–2, 6, 1=9. “Length, 9.50; extent, 23.75.”

♀ (18,299, Hellgate, Montana; Jno. Pearsall). Wing, 7.80; tail, 4.10; culmen, .70; tarsus, 1.70; middle toe, .80; ear-tufts, 1.00.

Young ♂ (No. 29,738, Wood’s Hole, Mass., July 25, 1863; S. F. Baird. “Parent gray”). Secondaries, primaries, and tail, as in the adult, gray plumage; but the latter more mottled, the bands confused. Rest of the plumage everywhere grayish-white, with numerous transverse bars of dusky-brown; eyebrows and lores scarcely variegated dull white; facial circle obsolete.

♀ (41,891, Philadelphia, Penn.; J. Krider). Whole head, neck, back, rump, and entire lower parts transversely barred with dark brown and grayish-white, the bands of the former on the upper parts rather exceeding the white in width, but on the lower surface much narrower; scapulars with large transverse spots of white on the outer webs. Wings and tail as in the adult. Facial disk conspicuous. (More advanced in age than the preceding.)

b. Rufescent plumage.

Adult. General pattern of the preceding; but the grayish tints replaced by lateritious-rufous, very fine and bright, with a slight vinaceous cast: this is uniform, and shows no trace of the transverse dark mottling; there are, however, black shaft-lines to the feathers (these most conspicuous on the head above, and scapulars, and narrower and more sharply defined than in the gray plumage). The inner webs of the ear-tufts, outer webs of scapulars, and lower secondary and middle wing-coverts, are white, as in the gray plumage; those of the scapulars are also bordered with black. The secondaries, primaries, and tail are less bright rufous than the other portions, the markings as in the gray plumage, only the tints being different. The upper eyelid, and, in fact, all round the eye, fine light rufous; cheeks and ear-coverts paler, scarcely variegated; black facial circle rather narrower than in the gray plumage. Lower parts without the transverse bars of the gray plumage, but in their place an irregular clouding of fine light red, like the back; the lower parts medially (very broadly) immaculate snowy-white; most of the feathers having the red spotting show black shaft-stripes, but the pectoral spots are not near so large or conspicuous as in the gray bird. Tibiæ fine pale ochraceous-rufous; tarsi the same posteriorly, in front white with cuneate specks of rufous; lower tail-coverts each with a medial transversely cordate spot of dilute rufous, the shaft black. Lining of the wing with numerous rufous spots.

♂ (12,045, Washington, D. C., January). Wing, 6.30; tail, 3.00.

♀ (22,512, Maryland; R. G. Campbell). Wing, 6.70; tail, 3.50.

Young (29,792, Peoria, Illinois; Ferd. Bischoff). Wings and tail as in adult; markings on head and body as in the young gray bird, but white bars more reddish, and dark ones more brown.

Hab. Temperate North America, from the South Atlantic States to Oregon, and from the northern United States to Texas. Replaced in the southern Middle Province and Southern California by var. maccalli, in Florida by var. floridana, and on the northwestern coast region by var. kennicotti.

Localities: (?) Cuba (Cabanis, Journ. III, 465).

The above stages of plumage have caused ornithologists a great deal of perplexity; and it is only very recently that they have become correctly understood. Even yet many persist in regarding the red plumage as being that of the young bird.

Scops asio.

That these two very different plumages are entirely independent of age, sex, or season, and that they are purely individual, there can be no doubt; since in one nest there may often be found both red and gray young ones, while their parents may be either both red or both gray, the male red and the female gray, or vice versa. Occasionally specimens (such as No. 39,093, ♂, Neosho Falls, Kansas, April 13; parent of five eggs, and captured on the nest with a gray male) are exactly intermediate between these two plumages, it being difficult to decide which predominates; the combination is not only of the tints, but of the markings, of the two stages.

Habits. The habit of all the varieties of Scops asio in their different localities will be found after their zoölogical description.

Scops asio, var. floridana, Ridgway.

Scops asio, Allen, Bull. Mus. Comp. Zoöl. and other citations from Florida.

Char. Similar to var. asio, but much smaller, and the colors deeper. The gray stage very similar to that of var. asio, but the red phase very appreciably different, in there being a greater amount of rufous on the lower parts, the breast being nearly uniformly colored, and the rufous broken elsewhere into transverse broad bars, connected along the shaft. Wing, 5.50–6.00; tail, 2.75–3.10.

Hab. Florida and Lower Georgia.

This extreme southern form is much smaller than the more northern ones, being about the same in size as the var. enano (see p. 1374) of Middle America, and the S. atricapilla, Temm., of Tropical America generally. The colors, as may be expected, are also darker and richer.

In the collection of the Smithsonian Institution there are both red and gray birds from Florida; a red one (No. 5,857, Indian River; Dr. A. W. Wall) measures, wing, 5.50; tail, 2.70; culmen, .55; tarsus, 1.05; middle toe, .65; ear-tufts, .70. The colors are much darker than those of typical asio. The rufous of the neck, all around, shows obsolete darker transverse bars; the black border to the white scapular spots is restricted to the tip, as in the gray plumage; the inner webs of the ear-tufts are scarcely paler than the outer; the neck and face are deeper rufous, while the rufous of the lower parts is more general, and more in transverse rays; tibiæ and tarsi plain rufous; the middle of the abdomen and the anal region only are pure white.

Scops asio, var. maccalli, Cass.

Scops maccalli, Cass. Birds Cal. & Tex. p. 180, 1850; Birds N. Am. 1858, 52.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 200, 1865.—Coues, Prod. Orn. Ariz., p. 13, 1869.—Scl. & Salv. P. Z. S., 1868, 57 (= trichopsis, Wagl. Isis, 1832, 276! see remarks below).—Baird, Mex. Bound. II, 4, pl. i.—Gray, Hand List, I, 47, 1869. Scops asio, var. maccalli (Ridgway) Coues, Key, 1872, 203. Ephialtes choliba (not of Vieillot!), Lawr. Ann. N. Y. Lyc. VI, 1853, p. 4.

Char. Adult (9,147, Camp 118, New Mexico, February 10, 1854; Kennerly and Möllhausen). Above cinereous, the ashy appearance being caused by a minute transverse mottling of blackish and pale ashy, on a deeper ash ground; each feather with a distinct medial stripe of black, these broadest on the forehead; outer webs of only a few scapulars white, these not bordered with black; outer webs of two or three lower middle and secondary coverts white. Secondaries with about seven transverse, mottled pale bands; primaries with about eight transverse series of white spots; tail with about eight narrow pale bands.

Ear-coverts, cheeks, throat, neck, and jugulum finely and uniformly barred transversely with dusky and grayish-white; the facial circle interrupted across the throat, where in its place is a series of longitudinal black dashes.

Lower parts grayish-white, with numerous, very narrow transverse bars of dusky, rather more distant from each other than those of the neck, etc.; each feather with a medial narrow stripe of black, those on the breast forming conspicuous spots; tibiæ and tarsi dull soiled white, with numerous spots of dark brown; lower tail-coverts immaculate. Wing-formula, 3=4–2, 5, 6, 7, 8–1–9. Wing, 6.50; tail, 3.30; culmen, .55; tarsus, 1.15; middle toe, .70; ear-tufts, .85.

(A specimen from California (Stockton, E. S. Holden), kindly sent by Mr. Lawrence for examination, differs from the preceding in rather more brown ground-color above; the black shaft-streaks more obscure. In other respects as regards plumage it is the same, and is typical maccalli. The size is less, it measuring, wing, 6.20; tail, 3.10.)

Young (first full, but incomplete plumage; 16,932, Cape St. Lucas, Lower California). Secondaries, primaries, and tail as in the gray adult. Rest of the plumage transversely barred with grayish-white and dusky, the latter predominating on the upper parts; eyebrows and lores white; rings finely transversely mottled with white, this forming spots on the lower feathers; tibiæ and tarsi with numerous transverse dusky bars. Wing, 5.40; tail, 2.65; tarsi, 1.00; middle toe, .63. No. 16,933 (same locality, etc.) is similar, but smaller, measuring, 5.00, 2.00, 1.00, and .60.

Hab. Southern Middle Province of United States; Lower and Southern California.

Localities. (?) Oaxaca (Scl. 1858, 296); (?) Guatemala (Scl. Ibis, I, 220); (?) Texas (Dresser, Ibis, 1856, 330).

While the Scops maccalli is without doubt to be distinguished from S. asio, its being specifically distinct is not a matter of so much certainty; with a simple statement of the differences between the two, I shall leave the value of these differences to the appreciation of each one, according to his own fancy. The species is represented in the collection by but four specimens, two adult and two young. I have not seen the red plumage as described by Cassin.

The characters of this race, as given in the diagnosis, appear to be really constant; and there is not a specimen in the series of those from the west which may not readily be referred to one or the other.

The gray adult maccalli differs from that of asio in the much finer mottling of the general plumage; the medial black stripes of the feathers above being more sharply defined, and more distinct from the transverse zigzags. Below, the transverse dark bars are much finer, and nearer together. The face, neck, and jugulum more finely and uniformly barred. The white scapular spots have not the black border seen in asio. The size is smaller.

The young of maccalli differs from that of asio in much finer bars above, the dusky rather prevailing; below, also, the bars are finer and nearer together.

It is not necessary to compare this bird with any other than the S. asio, since it is not at all related to choliba, or any other southern species.

Scops maccalli is entirely distinct from the S. trichopsis, Wagler, notwithstanding the statement in the Ibis, for April, 1872 (p. 6), that “the name” is “really synonymous with S. trichopsis of Wagler, the bird being quite distinct from S. asio, as has been pointed out elsewhere.” (P. Z. S. 1868, p. 57.)

Scops asio, var. kennicotti, Elliot.

Scops kennicotti, Elliot, Pr. Ac. Nat. Sc. Phil. 1867, p. 69; Illust. Am. Birds, pl. xi.—Baird, Trans. Chicago Acad. Sc. I, II, 311, pl. xxvii, 1869.—Dall & Bannister, Tr. Chic. Ac. I, 1869, 273.—Gray, Hand List, I, 47, 1869.—Elliot, Illust. Birds Am. I, XXVII.—Finsch, Abh. Nat. III, 28.—Scops asio, var. kennicotti, (Ridgway) Coues, Key, 1872, 203. ? Scops asio, Coop. & Suck. P. R. R. Rept. XII, II, 155, 1860 (all citations from northwest coast).

Sp. Char. Adult (♂, 59,847, Sitka, Alaska, March, 1866; Ferd. Bischoff. Elliott’s type). Above umber-brown, with a reddish cast; feathers confusedly mottled transversely with dusky, and showing rounded spots of rufous, most conspicuous on the nape; each feather with a conspicuous medial broad ragged stripe of black, these stripes most conspicuous on the forehead and scapulars; outer webs of scapulars light rufous, bordered terminally with black. Wings of a more grayish cast than the back, but similarly variegated; lower feathers of the middle and secondary wing-coverts, each with a large oval pale rufous spot, covering most of the lower web. Secondaries crossed by six narrow obscure bands of pale rufous; primaries with seven somewhat rounded, quadrate spots of the same on the outer webs, forming as many transverse series; each light spot with a central dusky mottling. Tail more finely and confusedly mottled than the wings; the bands, though present, are so obsolete as to be scarcely traceable, and so irregular or badly defined as to be of uncertain number. The ear-tufts are black and rusty, the former along the shafts, and in transverse spots; on the outer webs the black predominates, on the inner the rusty.

The lores and basal half of the frontal bristles are white, the terminal half abruptly black; eyebrows about equally blackish and paler, the former bordering the feathers; eye surrounded by dark snuff-brown; cheeks and ear-coverts pale rusty, transversely barred with deeper rusty; facial circle not well defined, black. Chin and lores only white.

Ground-color of the lower parts dilute-rusty, becoming white on the flanks; each feather of the throat, jugulum, breast, sides, and flanks with a broad medial stripe of black, this throwing off very narrow, rather distant, bars to the edge; the spaces between these bars are alternately paler and deeper dilute-rusty; the black marks are broadest on the sides of the breast, where they have an external deep rusty suffusion; the abdomen medially, and the anal region, are scarcely maculate rusty-white; the lower tail-coverts have each a central cuneate longitudinal stripe of black. Tibiæ, tarsi, and lining of the wing, plain deep rusty. Wing-formula, 3=4, 5–2, 6–1=9. Wing, 7.40; tail, 4.00; culmen, .65; tarsus, 1.50; middle toe, .80.

No. 59,068 (Idaho; Dr. Whitehead) is considerably darker than the type, the ground-color above approaching to snuff-brown; it differs, however, in no other respect, as regards coloration; the size, however (as would be expected), is considerably smaller, measuring as follows: Wing, 6.80; tail, 3.50; culmen, .60; tarsus, 1.20; middle toe, .80. Wing-formula the same as in type.

Hab. Northwestern coast of North America, from Columbia River, northward; Idaho (Dr. Whitehead).

No. 4,530 (Washington Territory; Dr. Geo. Suckley) is just intermediate in all respects between typical kennicotti and asio, being referrible to either with equal propriety, though perhaps inclining most to the former.

This well-marked form is, according to recognized laws, properly to be regarded as only an extremely dark northwestern form of Scops asio. There is no deviation from the specific pattern of coloration, the difference being merely in the tints; while in this it corresponds in every way with other species as modified in the northwest coast region; the somewhat greater size, too, merely results from its more northern habitat.

The only characters which we find in kennicotti which cannot be recognized in asio are the smaller, more quadrate, and more rufous spots on the primaries, and more obsolete bands on the tail; but this is merely the consequence of the greater extension of the brown markings, thus necessarily contrasting the lighter spots. In these respects only does the Washington Territory specimen differ from the two typical examples before us, having the larger, more whitish, spots on primaries, and more distinct tail-bands, of asio.

Scops asio, var. kennicotti.

The Scops kennicotti must, however, be recognized as a well-marked geographical race, and, not taking into consideration any natural laws which influence changes in species, it would be very proper to recognize the validity of the present bird. If, however, the rule of which we speak will apply to others, as indeed it does to a majority of the birds of the region inhabited by the Scops kennicotti, the extreme conditions of some species of which are even more widely different than in the present instance, and which have been referred to their lighter representatives in consequence of the applicability of this law, we cannot possibly do otherwise with it.

In general appearance, size, and proportions, as well as in pattern and tints of coloration, except in their details, there is a wonderfully close resemblance in this race of S. asio to the S. semitorques, Schlegel, of Japan. Indeed, it is probable that the latter is also a mere geographical form of the same species. The only tangible points of difference are that in semitorques the jugulum is distinctly white centrally, there is a quite well-defined lighter nuchal band, with a more indistinct occipital one above it, and the pencillings on the lower parts are more delicate. The size and proportions are essentially the same; the shades of color are identical, while the markings differ only in minute detail, their pattern being essentially the same. In kennicotti the light nuchal collars are indicated, though they do not approach the distinctness shown by them in semitorques. Should they be considered as races of one species (S. asio), their differential characters may be expressed as follows:—

Var. semitorques.26 A well-defined nuchal collar, of mottled pale ochraceous; jugulum immaculate white centrally. Feathers of the lower parts with their transverse pencillings growing fainter towards the middle line, which is unvariegated white, from the central jugular spot to the anal region. Wing, 6.60–7.10; tail, 3.60–3.70; culmen, .60; tarsus, 1.25–1.40; middle toe, .80–.90. (Two specimens.) Hab. Japan.

Var. kennicotti. No well-defined nuchal band; jugulum closely barred centrally; feathers of the lower parts with their transverse pencillings not growing fainter toward the middle line, which is unvariegated white only on the abdominal portion; the medial black streaks to the feathers of the lower surface much broader, and transverse pencillings rather coarser. Wing, 6.90–7.30; tail, 3.50–4.50; culmen, .60–.65; tarsus, 1.35–1.45; middle toe, .80–.90. (Three specimens.) Hab. North Pacific coast of North America from Sitka to Washington Territory, and Western Idaho.

The zoölogical characters of the different varieties of the Scops asio having been thus indicated, we proceed to consider the species as a whole, and to point out the more important features of its habits and history.

Habits. The common Mottled Owl has an extended distribution throughout the temperate portion of North America. It is also the most numerous of this family wherever found. It does not appear to have been detected in any part of the Arctic regions. Although given on the authority of Fabricius as a bird of Greenland, it is not retained in the list of Reinhardt. It was not met with by Richardson, nor is any reference made to it in any of the Arctic notes furnished by Mr. MacFarlane or others. It is quite common throughout New England, as well as in the Central, the Western, and some of the Southern States. Mr. Boardman gives it as resident, but not very common, near Calais, where it breeds. It is found near Hamilton, Canada, according to McIlwraith, but it is not common, although Dr. Hall found it quite numerous in the vicinity of Montreal. Mr. Downes does not mention its occurrence in Nova Scotia. It was found breeding by Dr. Lincecum, at Long Point, Texas. It occurs in California, and as Scops kennicotti as far to the northwest as Sitka.

The Mottled Owl is nocturnal in its habits, never appearing abroad in the daylight except when driven out by the attacks of hostile birds that have discovered it in its retreat. Its eyes cannot endure the light, and it experiences great inconvenience from such an exposure. During the day it hides in hollow trees, in dark recesses in the forests, or in dark corners of barns, and comes out from its retreat just before dark. During the night it utters a very peculiar wailing cry, not unlike the half-whining, half-barking complaints of a young puppy, alternating from high to low, intermingled with deep guttural trills. These cries, which are sometimes prolonged until after midnight, usually elicit an answer from its mate or companions, and would seem to be uttered as a call soliciting a reply from some lost associate. When kept in confinement the Mottled Owl soon becomes familiarized to its new mode of life, and rarely attempts to injure its captors, though it will at first snap its bill in a threatening manner and manifest considerable irritation on being approached or handled. In the daytime they keep secluded, appear sleepy or stupid, with half-closed eyes, but, as night approaches, become quite lively and eager for their food. They utter their nocturnal cries in confinement, the doleful sounds of which are in singular contrast with the lively and excited air of the birds as they utter them. Their flight is noiseless and gliding, and they move in a manner so nearly silent as to be hardly perceptible. They are excellent mousers, and swallow their food whole, ejecting the indigestible parts, such as hair, bones, feathers, etc.

Wilson caught an adult bird, and kept it in confinement some time. At first it was restless and attempted to escape, beating against the glass of the window repeatedly, and several times with so much violence as to stun itself. In a few days it was reconciled to its situation, and became quite tame and familiar, and in the evening was very lively, sprightly, and active.

The food of the Screech-Owl is chiefly small quadrupeds, insects, and occasionally, when they have young, small birds. They destroy a vast number of mice, beetles, and vermin, and are of great service to the agriculturist, although their services are not appreciated, and they are everywhere persecuted and hunted down without mercy or justice.

The nest of this species is usually constructed in hollow trees or stumps, most frequently in orchards in the vicinity of farm-houses, and not more than six or seven feet from the ground. Mr. Audubon states, however, that he has sometimes found them at the height of thirty or forty. To show the provident habits of this Owl in procuring for its young a great superabundance of food, Mr. Nuttall mentions finding in the hollow stump of an apple-tree, which contained a single brood of these young Owls, several Bluebirds, Blackbirds, and Song-Sparrows.

Dr. Cooper, on the other hand, relates an instance where one of these Owls resided as an inmate in a dove-cot, where it was not known to do any injury to its inmates.

The Screech-Owl can hardly be said to construct any nest, but lines the hollow in which it rears its young with a few loose leaves, dry grasses, and feathers. The eggs are usually five or six in number; they are pure white, and nearly round. Their average measurement is 1.38 inches in length by 1.19 in breadth.

In regard to the distinctive peculiarities of var. maccalli, we are in possession of but little information. Its habits probably do not essentially vary from those of the common Scops asio, which it so closely resembles in other respects, and of which it is to be regarded as a geographical race. It was first taken by Mr. E. S. Holden, near Sacramento, and described by Mr. Lawrence as the Ephialtes choliba of Vieillot. It has since been found in other parts of California, in Northern Mexico, Arizona, and on the Rio Grande. It was obtained in Tamaulipas—where it is evidently rather common—by the late Dr. Berlandier, who had also procured its eggs. A single specimen of this Owl was obtained by Mr. A. Schott in Texas, and Mr. Dresser also obtained two small Owls which he doubtfully refers to this variety,—one near San Antonio, and the other in Bandera County. Lieutenant Bendire writes that it is quite common in the vicinity of Tucson, Arizona, though Dr. Coues did not meet with it. Dr. Kennerly observed it on Bill Williams Fork, in New Mexico. It was there found living in the large Cereus giganteus so common in that region, where it occupied the deserted holes of various kinds of Woodpeckers. It rarely made its appearance during the day, and then only to show its head from the hole, ready at any moment to disappear at the approach of danger. On one occasion it was observed among some very thick bushes near the water. It does not appear to have been met with by Dr. Cooper in California, where he refers all the Owls of this genus to the common asio. A single individual, referred doubtfully to this bird, was taken by Mr. Skinner in Guatemala. The eggs of this bird, taken in Tamaulipas by Dr. Berlandier, are of nearly globular shape, of a clear, almost crystal-white color, and measure 1.13 inches in length by 0.93 of an inch in breadth. As compared with the eggs of Scops asio they are much smaller, their relative capacity being only as five to eight.

The eggs of the var. asio vary greatly in size according to their locality. Those taken in Florida are so much smaller than those from Massachusetts as almost to be suggestive of specific differences. An egg from Hudson, Mass., taken by Mr. Jillson in April, 1870, measures 1.50 by 1.30 inches, while one from Monticello, Fla., taken by Mr. Samuel Pasco, measures 1.30 by 1.15 inches. Mr. T. H. Jackson, of Westchester, Penn., informs me that he has found a nest of this Owl containing six fresh eggs, on the 5th of April.

Scops flammeola, Licht.

Scops flammeola, Licht. Mus. Berol. Nomenclat. p. 7, 1854.—Kaup, Trans. Zoöl. Soc. IV, 226.—Schlegel, Mus. de Pays-Bas, Oti, p. 27.—Sclat. Proc. Zoöl. Soc. 1858, 96.—Scl. & Salv. P. Z. S. 1868, 57; Exot. Orn. VII, 99, pl. l, July, 1868.—Gray, Hand List, I, 47, 1869.—Elliot, Illust. Birds Am. I, pl. xxviii.—Coues, Key, 1872, 203.

Sp. Char. Adult (42,159, Orizaba Mountains, “rare,” February 3, 1865; Professor F. Sumichrast). Ground-color above pale cinereous, this overlaid on the top of the head, nape, and back by a brownish-olive shade, the ash showing pure only on the borders of the crown and on the wing-coverts and scapulars; the whole upper surface transversely mottled with white and blackish, the latter in the form of fine zigzag lines and a splash along the shaft, this expanding transversely near the end of the feather; the white is in the form of larger transverse spots, these largest across the nape. Outer webs of the scapulars fine light orange-rufous (becoming white beneath the surface), bordered terminally with black. Coverts along the lower edge of the wing spotted with pale rufous; outer webs of the several lower feathers of the middle and secondary wing-coverts with a large conspicuous spot of white. Secondaries crossed by four well-defined narrow pale ochraceous bands; primary coverts transversely spotted with the same; primaries with about five transverse series of very large white spots on the outer webs, the spots approaching ochraceous next the shaft and towards the end of the feather. Tail profusely mottled like the back, and crossed with about five ragged, badly defined pale bands, the last of which is not terminal. Ear-tufts inconspicuous.

Eyebrow white, feathers bordered with blackish; eye encircled with rusty rufous; lores strongly tinged with the same; cheeks, ear-coverts, neck, and jugulum with numerous transverse dusky bars upon a grayish-white ground. Facial circle rusty-rufous spotted with black; throat with a tinge of rufous; chin white.

Scops flammeola.

Lower parts, in general, white; each feather with a black shaft-stripe, this throwing off bars in pairs, across the feather; the medial stripes are very broad, forming longitudinal spots on the breast, and have here an external rufous suffusion; lower tail-coverts very sparsely marked. Tibiæ and tarsi white, with very sparse transverse dusky spots. Lining of the wing plain yellowish-white; bars on under surface of primaries very obsolete, except basally. Wing-formula, 3=4; 5, 2–6; 1=8. Wing, 5.40; tail, 2.45; culmen, .35; tarsus, .87; middle toe, .55.

Young (first full, but imperfect plumage: ♂, 24,172, Fort Crook, North California, August 23, 1860; John Feilner). Wings and tail as in the adult (last pale band of latter apparently terminal). Whole head and body with numerous, about equal, transverse bands of dusky and grayish-white; the two colors about equal, but on lower parts both are much wider and more distinct than above the white gradually increasing posteriorly. Breast and outer webs of scapulars with a rusty tinge, the latter scarcely variegated. Eyebrow white, feathers bordered with dusky; eye-circle and ear-coverts bright rusty-rufous; lores much tinged with the same. No facial circle. Wing, 5.50; tail, 2.70.

Hab. Guatemala and central Mexico, northward (along Sierra Nevada) to Fort Crook; California (breeding).

Habits. This is essentially a Mexican and Central American species, occurring among the mountains of Mexico and thence to Guatemala. One individual, however, the only one as yet recorded as taken in the United States, was obtained at Fort Crook by Captain John Feilner, and is now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. This was a young bird, evidently raised in that locality, and apparently showing that the species breeds in that vicinity. It has been taken also at Orizaba, in the State of Vera Cruz, Mexico. Nothing is known as to any peculiarities of habit. These are not probably different from those of the asio.

Genus BUBO, Dum.

Gen. Char. Size varying from medium to very large; head with or without ear-tufts. Bill black; iris yellow. Two to four outer quills with their inner webs emarginated. Third or fourth quill longest. Bill very robust, the lower mandible nearly truncated and with a deep notch near the end; cere gradually ascending basally (not arched) or nearly straight, not equal to the culmen. Tail short, a little more than half the wing, slightly rounded. Ear-conch small, simple, without operculum; the two ears symmetrical.


Bubo. Two to three outer quills with their inner webs emarginated. Ear-tufts well developed; loral feathers not hiding the bill, and the claws and terminal scutellæ of the toes exposed. Lower tail-coverts not reaching the end of the tail. (Type, B. maximus.)

Nyctea. Four outer quills with their inner webs emarginated. Ear-tufts rudimentary; loral feathers hiding the bill, and claws and entire toes concealed by long hair-like feathers. Lower tail-coverts reaching to end of the tail. (Type, N. scandiaca.)

The species of this genus are mostly of very large size, two of them (B. maximus and N. scandiaca) being the largest birds of the family. They are nearly cosmopolitan, and are most numerous in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Subgenus BUBO, Dum.

Species and Races.

1. B. virginianus. Lower parts transversely barred with black, and without longitudinal stripes. Above without longitudinal stripes on the anterior portions.

a. A conspicuous patch of white on the jugulum; lining of the wing immaculate, or only faintly barred. Wing, 14.00–16.00; tail, 8.00–10.00; culmen, 1.10–1.20; tarsus, 2.00–2.20; middle toe, 1.95–2.10.

Rufous tints of the plumage prevailing; face dingy rufous. Hab. Atlantic Province of North America … var. virginianus.

Lighter tints of the plumage prevailing; face dirty or fulvous white. All the colors lighter. Hab. Western Province of United States, and interior regions of British America. Upper Mississippi Valley in winter (Wisconsin, Hoy; Pekin, Illinois, Museum, Cambridge) … var. arcticus.

Dusky tints of the plumage prevailing; face dull grayish, barred with dusky. All the colors darker, chiefly brownish-black and grayish-white, with little or no rufous. Hab. Littoral regions of northern North America, from Oregon northward, and around the northern coast to Labrador … var. pacificus.

b. No conspicuous patch of white on the jugulum, which, with the lining of the wing, is distinctly barred with blackish. Wing, 12.00; tail, 7.50; culmen, 1.00; tarsus, 2.10; middle toe, 1.85.

Colors much as in var. virginianus, but more densely barred beneath, the dark bars narrower and closer together. Hab. South America … var. magellanicus.27

2. B. mexicanus.28 Lower parts longitudinally striped with black, and without transverse bars. Above with longitudinal stripes on the anterior portions. Wing, 11.20–12.00; tail, 6.00–6.50; culmen, .90; tarsus, 2.00; middle toe, 1.95. Hab. Middle and South America generally.

Subgenus NYCTEA, Stephens.

Nyctea, Stephens, Cont. Shaw’s Zoöl. XIII, 62, 1826. (Type Strix nyctea, Linn. N. Scandiaca, Linn.).

Species and Races.

1. N. scandiaca. Adult. Color pure white, more or less barred transversely with clear dusky, or brownish-black. Male sometimes almost pure white. Downy young, sooty slate-color. Wing, 16.00–18.00; tail, 9.00–10.00.

Dusky bars sparse, narrow, umber-brown. Hab. Northern parts of Palæarctic Realm … var. scandiaca.29

Dusky bars more numerous, broader, and clear brownish-black. Hab. Northern parts of Nearctic Realm … var. arctica.

Bubo virginianus, var. virginianus, Bonap.

Asio bubo virginianus, Briss. Orn. I, 484, 17, 1760. Strix virginiana, Gmel. Syst. Nat. I, 287, 1788.—Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 52; Syn. I, 119; Supp. I, 40; Gen. Hist. I, 304.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 210, pl. xiii.—Wils. Am. Orn. pl. l, f. 1.—Bonap. Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 37 and 435; Isis, 1832, p. 1139.—Aud. Birds Am. pl. lxi, 1831; Orn. Biog. I, 313.—Thomps. Nat. Hist. Vermont, pl. lxv.—Peab. Birds Mass. p. 87. Bubo virginianus, Bonap. List, p. 6, 1838; Consp. Av. p. 48.—Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. II, p. 257.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 24, pl. x, f. 2.—Nutt. Man. Orn. p. 124.—Max. Cab. Jour. 1853, VI, 23.—Kaup, Tr. Zoöl. Soc. IV, 1859, 241.—Coues, Key, 1872, 202. Bubo virginianus atlanticus, Cassin, Birds of Cal. & Tex. I, 178, 1854.—Birds N. Am. 1858, 49 (under B. virginianus). Otus virginianus, Steph. Zoöl. XIII, ii, 57, 1836. Ulula virginiana, James. (Wils.), Am. Orn. I, 100, 1831. Strix virginiana, α, Lath. Gen. Hist. I, 306, 1821. Strix bubo, δ, Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 52, 1790.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 215. Strix maximus, Bart. Trav. Carol. p. 285, 1792. Bubo ludovicianus, Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 210, 1800. Bubo pinicola, Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. pl. xix, 1807; Enc. Méth. p. 1282.

6886 ½ ½

Bubo virginianus.

Sp. Char. Adult ♂ (12,057, Philadelphia; C. Drexler). Bases of all the feathers yellowish-rufous, this partially exposed on the head above and nape, along the scapulars, on the rump, and sides of the breast. On the upper surface this is overlaid by a rather coarse transverse mottling of brownish-black upon a white ground, the former rather predominating, particularly on the head and neck, where it forms broad ragged longitudinal stripes (almost obliterating the transverse bars), becoming prevalent, or blended, anteriorly. The lower feathers of the scapulars, and some of the lower feathers of the middle and secondary wing-coverts, with inconspicuous transverse spots of white. On the secondaries the mottling is finer, giving a grayish aspect, and crossed with eight sharply defined, but inconspicuous, bands of mottled dusky; primary coverts with the ground-color very dark, and crossed with three or four bands of plain blackish, the last terminal, though fainter than the rest; ground-color of the primaries more yellowish, the mottling more delicate; they are crossed by nine transverse series of quadrate dusky spots. The ground-color of the tail is pale ochraceous (transversely mottled with dusky), becoming white at the tip, crossed by seven bands of mottled blackish, these about equalling the light bands in width; on the middle feathers the bands are broken and confused, running obliquely, or, in places, longitudinally. Outer webs of ear-tufts pure black; inner webs almost wholly ochraceous; eyebrows and lores white, the feathers with black shafts; face dingy rufous; eye very narrowly encircled with whitish; a crescent of black bordering the upper eyelid, and confluent with the black of the ear-tufts. Facial circle continuous black, except across the foreneck; chin, throat, and jugulum pure immaculate white, to the roots of the feathers. Beneath, white prevails, but the yellowish-rufous is prevalent on the sides of the breast, and shows as the base color wherever the feathers are disarranged. The sides of the breast, sides, and flanks have numerous sharply defined narrow transverse bars of brownish-black; anteriorly these are finer and more ragged, becoming coalesced so as to form conspicuous, somewhat longitudinal, black spots. On the lower tail-coverts the bars are distant, though not less sharply defined. The abdomen medially is scarcely maculate white. Legs and toes plain ochraceous-white.


Bubo virginianus.

Wing-formula, 2, 3–4–1, 5. Wing, 14.50; tail, 8.20; culmen, 1.10; tarsus, 2.00; middle toe, 2.00.

♀ (12,065, Maryland; R. J. Pollard). General appearance same as the male. Black blotches on head above and nape less conspicuous, the surface being mottled like the back, etc.; primary coverts with three well-defined narrow pure black bands; primaries with only six bands, these broader than in the male; secondaries with only five bands; tail with but six dark bands, these very much narrower than the light ones. Tibiæ and tarsi with sparse transverse bars of dusky. Wing-formula, 3, 2, 4–1=5. Wing, 16.00; tail, 9.00; culmen, 1.20; tarsus, 2.20; middle toe, 2.10.

Young. Wings and tail as in adult. Downy plumage of head and body ochraceous, with detached, rather distant, transverse bars of dusky. (12,062, Washington, D. C., May 20, 1859; C. Drexler.)

Hab. Eastern North America, south of Labrador; west to the Missouri; south through Atlantic region of Mexico to Costa Rica; Jamaica (Gosse).

Localities: (?) Oaxaca (Scl. 1859, 390; possibly var. arcticus); Guatemala (Scl. Ibis, I. 222); Jamaica (Gosse, 23); Texas (Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 330, breeds); Costa Rica (Lawr. IX, 132).

Specimens from the regions indicated vary but little, the only two possessing differences of any note being one (58,747,30 ♂) from Southern Illinois, and one (33,218, San Jose; J. Carmiol) from Costa Rica. The first differs from all those from the eastern United States in much deeper and darker shades of color, the rufous predominant below, the legs and crissum being of quite a deep shade of this color; the transverse bars beneath are also very broad and pure black. This specimen is more like Audubon’s figure than any other, and may possibly represent the peculiar style of the Lower Mississippi region. The Costa Rica bird is remarkable for the predominance of the rufous on all parts of the plumage; the legs, however, are whitish, as in specimens from the Atlantic coast of the United States. These specimens cannot, however, be considered as anything else than merely local styles of the virginianus, var. virginianus.

Bubo virginianus, var. arcticus, Swains.

? Strix wapacuthu, Gmel. Syst. Nat. 1789, p. 290. Strix (Bubo) arctica, Swains. F. B. A. II, 1831, 86. Heliaptex arcticus, Swains. Classif. Birds, I, 1837, 328; Ib. II, 217. Bubo virginianus arcticus, Cass. Birds N. Am. 1858, 50 (B. virginianus).—Blakiston, Ibis, III, 1861, 320. Bubo virginianus, var. arcticus, Coues, Key, 1872, 202. Bubo subarcticus, Hoy, P. A. N. S. VI, 1852, 211. Bubo virginianus pacificus, Cass. Birds Cal. & Tex. 1854, and Birds N. Am. 1858 (B. virginianus, in part only). Bubo magellanicus, Cass. Birds Cal. & Tex. 1854, 178 (not B. magellanicus of Lesson!). Bubo virginianus, Heerm. 34.—Kennerly, 20.—Coues, Prod. (P. A. N. S. 1866, 13).—Blakiston, Ibis, III, 1861, 320. ? Wapacuthu Owl, Pennant, Arctic Zoöl. 231.—Lath. Syn. Supp. I, 49.

Char. Pattern of coloration precisely like that of var. virginianus, but the general aspect much lighter and more grayish, caused by a greater prevalence of the lighter tints, and contraction of dark pencillings. The ochraceous much lighter and less rufous. Face soiled white, instead of deep dingy rufous.

♂ (No. 21,581, Camp Kootenay, Washington Territory, August 2, 1860). Wing, 14.00; tail, 8.60; culmen, 1.10; tarsus, 2.00. Tail and primaries each with the dark bands nine in number; legs and feet immaculate white. Wing-formula, 3, 2=4–5–1.

♀ (No. 10,574, Fort Tejon, California). Wing, 14.70; tail, 9.50; culmen, 1.10; tarsus, 2.10; middle toe, 2.00. Tail and primaries each with seven dark bands; legs transversely barred with dusky. Wing-formula, 3, 4, 2–5–1, 6.

Hab. Western region of North America, from the interior Arctic districts to the table-lands of Mexico. Wisconsin (Hoy); Northern Illinois (Pekin, Mus. Cambridge); Lower California; ? Orizaba, Mexico.

Localities: (?) Orizaba (Scl. P. Z. S. 1860, 253); Arizona (Coues, P. A. N. S. 1866, 49).

The above description covers the average characters of a light grayish race of the B. virginianus, which represents the other styles in the whole of the western and interior regions of the continent. Farther northward, in the interior of the fur countries, the plumage becomes lighter still, some Arctic specimens being almost as white as the Nyctea scandiaca. The B. arcticus of Swainson was founded upon a specimen of this kind, and it is our strong opinion that the Wapecuthu Owl of Pennant (Strix wapecuthu, Gmel.) was nothing else than a similar individual, which had accidentally lost the ear-tufts, since there is no other discrepancy in the original description. The failure to mention ear-tufts, too, may have been merely a neglect on the part of the describer.

Bubo virginianus, var. pacificus, Cass.

Bubo virginianus pacificus, Cassin, Birds N. Am. 1858, 49. Bubo virginianus, var. pacificus, Coues, Key, 1872, 202. Bubo virginianus, Coop. & Suckley, P. R. Rept. XII, II, 1860, 154.—Lord, Pr. R. A. S. IV, III (British Columbia). ? Dall & Bannister, Tr. Chicago Ac. I, 1869, 272 (Alaska).—? Finsch, Abh. Nat. III, 26 (Alaska).

Sp. Char. The opposite extreme from var. arcticus. The black shades predominating and the white mottling replaced by pale grayish; the form of the mottling above is less regularly transverse, being oblique or longitudinal, and more in blotches than in the other styles. The primary coverts are plain black; the primaries are mottled gray and plain black. On the tail the mottling is very dark, the lighter markings on the middle feathers being thrown into longitudinal splashes. Beneath, the black bars are nearly as wide as the white, fully double their width in var. arcticus. The legs are always thickly barred. The lining of the wings is heavily barred with black. Face dull grayish, barred with dusky; ear-tufts almost wholly black.

♂ (45,842, Sitka, Alaska, November, 1866; Ferd. Bischoff). Wing-formula, 3, 2=4–5–1, 6. Wing, 14.00; tail, 8.00; culmen, 1.10; tarsus, 2.05; middle toe, .95.

Face with obscure bars of black; ochraceous of the bases of the feathers is distinct. There are seven black spots on the primaries, eight on the tail; on the latter exceeding the paler in width.

♀ (27,075, Yukon River, mouth Porcupine, April 16, 1861; R. Kennicott). Wing-formula, 3, 2=4–5–1, 6. Wing, 16.00; tail, 9.80; culmen, 1.15; tarsus, 2.00. Eight black spots on primaries, seven on tail.

Hab. Pacific coast north of the Columbia; Labrador. A northern littoral form.

A specimen from Labrador (34,958, Fort Niscopec, H. Connolly) is an extreme example of this well-marked variety. In this the rufous is entirely absent, the plumage consisting wholly of brownish-black and white, the former predominating; the jugulum and the abdomen medially are conspicuously snowy-white; the black bars beneath are broad, and towards the end of each feather they become coalesced into a prevalent mottling, forming a spotted appearance.

Another (11,792, Simiahmoo, Dr. C. B. Kennerly) from Washington Territory has the black even more prevalent than in the last, being almost continuously uniform on the scapulars and lesser wing-coverts; beneath the black bars are much suffused. In this specimen the rufous tinge is present, as it is in all except the Labrador skin.

Habits. The Great Horned Owl has an extended distribution throughout at least the whole of North America from ocean to ocean, and from Central America to the Arctic regions. Throughout this widely extended area it is everywhere more or less abundant, except where it has been driven out by the increase of population. In this wide distribution the species naturally assumes varying forms and exhibits considerable diversities of coloring. These are provided with distinctive names to mark the races, but should all be regarded as belonging to one species, as they do not present any distinctive variation in habit.

Sir John Richardson speaks of it as not uncommon in the Arctic regions. It is abundant in Canada, and throughout all parts of the United States. Dr. Gambel met with it also in large numbers in the wooded regions of Upper California. Dr. Heermann found it very common around Sacramento in 1849, but afterwards, owing to the increase in population, it had become comparatively rare. Dr. Woodhouse met with it in the Indian Territory, though not abundantly. Lieutenant Couch obtained specimens in Mexico, and Mr. Schott in Texas.

Bubo virginianus.

In the regions northwest of the Yukon River, Mr. Robert Kennicott found a pair of these birds breeding on the 10th of April. The female was procured, and proved to be of a dark plumage. The nest, formed of dry spruce branches retaining their leaves, was placed near the top of a large green spruce, in thick woods. It was large, measuring three or four feet across at base. The eggs were placed in a shallow depression, which was lined with a few feathers. Two more eggs were found in the ovary of the female,—one broken, the other not larger than a musket-ball. The eggs were frozen on their way to the fort. Mr. Ross states that he found this Owl very abundant around Great Slave Lake, but that it became less common as they proceeded farther north. It was remarkably plentiful in the marshes around Fort Resolution. Its food consisted of shrews and Arvicolæ, which are very abundant there. It is very tame and easily approached, and the Chipewyan Indians are said to eat with great relish the flesh, which is generally fat.

Mr. Gunn writes that this Owl is found over all the woody regions of the Hudson Bay Territory. In the summer it visits the shores of the bay, but retires to some distance inland on the approach of winter. It hunts in the dark, preying on rabbits, mice, muskrats, partridges, and any other fowls that it can find. With its bill it breaks the bones of hares into small pieces, which its stomach is able to digest. They pair in March, the only time at which they seem to enjoy each other’s society. The nest is usually made of twigs in the fork of some large poplar, where the female lays from three to six pale-white eggs. It is easily approached in clear sunny weather, but sees very well when the sky is clouded. It is not mentioned by Mr. MacFarlane as found near Anderson River. Mr. Dall caught alive several young birds not fully fledged, June 18, on the Yukon River, below the fort. He also met with it at Nulato, where it was not common, but was more plentiful farther up the river.

Mr. Salvin found this species in August at Duenas and at San Geronimo, in Guatemala. At Duenas it was said to be resident, and is so probably throughout the whole country. It was not uncommon, and its favorite locality was one of the hillsides near that village, well covered with low trees and shrubs, and with here and there a rocky precipice. They were frequently to be met with on afternoons, and at all hours of the night they made their proximity known by their deep cry.

Dr. Kennerly found it in Texas in the cañon of Devil River, and he adds that it seemed to live indifferently among the trees and the high and precipitous cliffs. It was found throughout Texas and New Mexico, wherever there are either large trees or deep cañons that afforded a hiding-place during the day. Attracted by the camp-fires of Dr. Kennerly’s party, this Owl would occasionally sweep around their heads for a while, and then disappear in the darkness, to resume its dismal notes. Sometimes, frightened by the reverberating report of a gun, they would creep among the rocks, attempting to conceal themselves, and be thus taken alive.

Though frequently kept in captivity, the Great Horned Owl, even when taken young, is fierce and untamable, resenting all attempts at familiarity. It has no affection for its mate, this being especially true of the female. Mr. Downes mentions an instance within his knowledge, in which a female of this species, in confinement, killed and ate the male. Excepting during the brief period of mating, they are never seen in pairs.

Its flight is rapid and graceful, and more like that of an eagle than one of this family. It sails easily and in large circles. It is nocturnal in its habits, and is very rarely seen abroad in the day, and then only in cloudy weather or late in the afternoon. When detected in its hiding-place by the Jay, Crow, or King-bird, and driven forth by their annoyances, it labors under great disadvantages, and flies at random in a hesitating flight, until twilight enables it to retaliate upon its tormentors. The hooting and nocturnal cries of the Great Horned Owl are a remarkable feature in its habits. These are chiefly during its breeding-season, especially the peculiar loud and vociferous cries known as its hooting. At times it will utter a single shriek, sounding like the yell of some unearthly being, while again it barks incessantly like a dog, and the resemblance is so natural as to provoke a rejoinder from its canine prototype. Occasionally it utters sounds resembling the half-choking cries of a person nearly strangled, and, attracted by the watchfire of a camp, fly over it, shrieking a cry resembling waugh-hōō. It is not surprising that with all these combinations and variations of unearthly cries these birds should have been held in awe by the aborigines, their cries being sufficiently fearful to startle even the least timid.

It is one of the most destructive of the depredators upon the poultry-yard, far surpassing in this respect any of our Hawks. All its mischief is done at night, when it is almost impossible to detect and punish it. Whole plantations are often thus stripped in a single season.

The mating of this bird appears to have little or no reference to the season. A pair has been known to select a site for their nest, and begin to construct a new one, or seize upon that of a Red-tailed Hawk, and repair it, in September or October, keeping in its vicinity through the winter, and making their presence known by their continued hooting. Mr. Jillson found a female sitting on two eggs in February, in Hudson, Mass.; and Mr. William Street, of Easthampton, in the spring of 1869, found one of their nests on the 3d of March, the eggs in which had been incubated at least a week. If one nest is broken up, the pair immediately seek another, and make a renewed attempt to raise a brood. They rarely go more than a mile from their usual abode, and then only for food. Mr. Street’s observations have led him to conclude that they mate about February 20, and deposit their eggs from the 25th to the 28th. They cease to hoot in the vicinity of their nest from the time of their mating until their young have left them in June. On the 19th of March, 1872, Mr. Street found two of their eggs containing young nearly ready to hatch.

Mr. Street’s observations satisfied him that the period of incubation of this Owl is about three weeks. When they have young and are hard pressed for food, they hunt by day as well as by night, and at this time they hoot a good deal. The young are ready to leave their nest about six weeks after hatching. At this time their feathers are nearly all grown, except their head-feathers, which have hardly started. In the spring of 1872 Mr. Street found a young bird that had fallen from its nest. Though very small it was untamable, and not to be softened by any attentions. Its savage disposition seemed to increase with age. It readily devoured all kinds of animal food, and was especially fond of fish and snakes. It was remarkable for its cowardice, being always ridiculously fearful of the smallest dog, the near approach of one always causing extravagant manifestations of alarm. He was therefore led to conclude that it does not prey upon quadrupeds larger than a hare, that it rarely is able to seize small birds, and that reptiles and fish form no inconsiderable portion of its food. The young Owl in question assumed its full plumage in November, when less than eight months old. It was of full size in all respects except in the length of its claws, which were hardly half the usual size.

Mr. T. H. Jackson, of West Chester, Penn., has met with fresh eggs of this Owl, February 13, 22, and 28, and has found young birds in their nests from the 2d of March to the 28th.

Mr. Audubon states that while the Great Horned Owl usually nests in large hollows of decayed trees, he has twice found the eggs in the fissures of rocks. In all these cases, little preparation had been made previous to the laying of the eggs, the bed consisting of only a few grasses and feathers. Wilson, who found them breeding in the swamps of New Jersey, states that the nest was generally constructed in the fork of a tall tree, but sometimes in a smaller tree. They begin to build towards the close of winter, and, even in the Arctic regions, Sir John Richardson speaks of their hatching their eggs as early as March. The shape of the egg is very nearly exactly spherical, and its color is a dull white with a slightly yellowish tinge. An egg formerly in the old Peale’s Museum of Philadelphia, taken in New Jersey by Alexander Wilson the ornithologist, and bearing his autograph upon its shell, measures 2.31 inches in length by 2.00 in breadth. Another, obtained in the vicinity of Salem, Mass., measures 2.25 inches in length by 1.88 in breadth. In the latter instance the nest was constructed on a tall and inaccessible tree in a somewhat exposed locality. The female was shot on the nest, and, as she fell, she clutched one of the eggs in a convulsive grasp, and brought it in her claws to the ground. An egg obtained in Tamaulipas, Mexico, on the Rio Grande, by Dr. Berlandier, measures 2.18 inches in length by 1.81 in breadth.

An egg from Wisconsin, taken by Mr. B. F. Goss, may be considered as about the average in size and color. It is nearly spherical, of a clear bluish-white, and measures 2.30 by 2.00 inches.


Otus wilsonianus.

Nyctea scandiaca, var. arctica, Gray.

Strix arctica, Bartram, Trav. in Carolina, 1792, p. 285. Strix nyctea, (not of Linn.!) Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. 1807, pl. xviii.—Swains. & Rich. F. B. A. II, 1831, 88.—Bonap. Ann. N. Y. Lyc. II, 36.—Wils. Am. Orn. pl. xxxii, f. 1.—Aud. Birds Am. pl. cxxi.—Ib. Orn. Biog. II, 135.—Thomps. Nat. Hist. Vermont, p. 64.—Peab. Birds Mass. III, 84. Surnia nyctea (Edmondst.), James. (ed. Wils.), Am. Orn. I, 1831, 92.—Nutt. Man. p. 116.—Kaup, Tr. Zoöl. Soc. IV, 1859, 214. Syrnia nyctea (Thomps.), Jardine’s (ed. Wils.) Am. Orn. II, 1832, 46. Nyctea nivea, (Gray) Cass. Birds Cal. & Tex. 1854, 100.—Ib. Birds N. Am. 1858, 63.—Newton, P. Z. S. 1861, 394 (eggs).—Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 330 (Texas!).—Dall & Bannister, Tr. Chicago Acad. I, II, 1869, 273 (Alaska).—Coues, Key, 1872, 205. Nyctea candida, (Lath.) Bonap. List, 1838, 6.

Sp. Char. Adult. Ground-color entirely snow-white, this marked with transverse bars of clear dusky, of varying amount in different individuals.

♂ (No. 12,059, Washington, D. C., December 4, 1858; C. Drexler). Across the top of the head, and interspersed over the wings and scapulars, are small transversely cordate spots of clear brownish-black, these inclining to the form of regular transverse bars on the scapulars; there is but one on each feather. The secondaries have mottled bars of more dilute dusky; the primaries have spots of black at their ends; the tail has a single series of irregular dusky spots crossing it near the end. Abdomen, sides, and flanks with transverse crescentic bars of clear brownish-black. Wing, 16.50; tail, 9.00; culmen, 1.00; tarsus, 1.90; middle toe, 1.30. Wing-formula, 3, 2=4–5, 1.

♀ (No. 12,058, Washington, D. C., December 4, 1858). Head above and nape with each feather blackish centrally, producing a conspicuously spotted appearance. Rest of the plumage with regular, sharply defined transverse bars of clear brownish-black; those of the upper surface more crescentic, those on the lower tail-coverts narrower and more distant. Tail crossed by five bands, composed of detached transverse spots. Only the face, foreneck, middle of the breast, and feet, are immaculate; everywhere else, excepting on the crissum, the dusky and white are in nearly equal amount. Wing, 18.00; tail, 9.80; culmen, 1.10. Wing-formula, 3=4, 2–1=5.

Young (No. 36,434, Arctic America, August, 1863; MacFarlane). Only partially feathered. Wings and tail as in the adult female described, but the blackish bars rather broader. Down covering the head and body dark brownish or sooty slate, becoming paler on the legs.

Hab. Northern portions of the Nearctic Realm. Breeding in the arctic and subarctic regions, and migrating in winter to the verge of the tropics. Bermuda (Jardine); South Carolina (Bartram and Audubon); Texas (Dresser).

Localities: Texas, San Antonio (Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 330).

The Snowy Owls of North America, though varying greatly among themselves, seem to be considerably darker, both in the extremes and average conditions of plumage, than European examples. Not only are the dusky bars darker, but they are usually broader, and more extended over the general surface.

Habits. This is an exclusively northern species, and is chiefly confined to the Arctic Circle and the adjacent portions of the temperate zone. It is met with in the United States only in midwinter, and is much more abundant in some years than in others. Individual specimens have been occasionally noticed as far south as South Carolina, but very rarely. It has also been observed in Kentucky, Ohio, the Bermuda Islands, and in nearly every part of the United States.

Nyctea scandiaca.

In the Arctic regions of North America and in Greenland it is quite abundant, and has been observed as far to the north as Arctic voyagers have yet reached. Professor Reinhardt states that it is much more numerous in the northern than in the southern part of Greenland. Sir John Richardson, who, during seven years’ residence in the Arctic regions, enjoyed unusual opportunities for studying the habits of this Owl, says that it hunts its prey in the daytime. It is generally found on the Barren Grounds, but is always so wary as to be approached with difficulty. In the wooded districts it is less cautious.

Mr. Downes states that this Owl is very abundant in Nova Scotia in winter, and that it is known to breed in the neighboring province of Newfoundland. In some years it appears to traverse the country in large flocks. In the winter of 1861–62, he adds, these birds made their appearance in Canada in large numbers.

Mr. Boardman states that they are present in winter in the vicinity of Calais, but that they are not common. A pair was noticed in the spring of 1862 as late as the last of May, and, in Mr. Boardman’s opinion, were breeding in that neighborhood. In the western part of Maine Mr. Verrill found it also rather rare, and met with it only in winter. He states that it differs greatly in disposition from the Great Horned Owl, being naturally very gentle, and becoming very readily quite tame in confinement, differing very much in this respect from most large Raptores.

It makes its appearance in Massachusetts about the middle or last of November, and in some seasons is quite common, though never present in very large numbers. It is bold, but rather wary; coming into thick groves of trees in close proximity to cities, which indeed it frequently enters, but keeping a sharp lookout, and never suffering a near approach. It hunts by daylight, and appears to distinguish objects without difficulty. Its flight is noiseless, graceful, easy, and at times quite rapid. In some seasons it appears to wander over the whole of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains, Dr. Heermann having obtained a specimen of it near San Antonio, Texas, in the winter of 1857.

It is more abundant, in winter, near the coast, than in the interior, and in the latter keeps in the neighborhood of rivers and streams, watching by the open places for opportunities to catch fish. Mr. Audubon describes it as very expert and cunning in fishing, crouching on the edges of air-holes in the ice, and instantly seizing any fish that may come to the surface. It also feeds on hares, squirrels, rats, and other small animals. It watches the traps set for animals, especially muskrats, and devours them when caught. In the stomach of one Mr. Audubon found the whole of a large house-rat. Its own flesh, Mr. Audubon affirms, is fine and delicate, and furnishes very good eating. It is described as a very silent bird, and Mr. Audubon has never known it to utter a note or to make any sound.

Richardson states that a few remain in the Arctic regions even in midwinter, but usually in the more sheltered districts, whither it has followed the Ptarmigan, on which it feeds. When seen on the Barren Grounds, it was generally squatting on the earth, and, if disturbed, alighted again after a short flight. In the more wooded districts it is said to be bolder, and is even known to watch the Grouse-shooters, and to share in their spoils, skimming from its perch on a high tree, and carrying off the bird before the sportsman can get near it.

Mr. MacFarlane writes from Fort Anderson that he did not find this species abundant in that quarter, and that its eggs were unknown to him. Mr. B. R. Ross speaks of this Owl as widely distributed, but not common. He found it a winter resident, and has repeatedly seen it at that season near Fort Resolution, and it has been shot in February at Fort Norman. It is very destructive to the snares set by the Indians, eating the hares and breaking the snares, in which they are sometimes caught. The Indians are said to attract these birds near enough to be shot at, by tying a mouse or a piece of hare’s skin to a line, and letting it drag behind them.

Mr. Donald Gunn writes that the Snowy Owl is merely a visitor in the districts to the west of Lake Winnepeg, but is a constant inhabitant of the country surrounding Hudson Bay. There they hatch their young, from three to five in number, making their nests in the forks of some tall poplar-tree. They lay their eggs very early in the spring, and have hatched their young before other birds begin to nest. This account of their breeding differs from all other statements I have seen, and, if correct, is probably exceptional.

Although a bird of great vigilance, seldom permitting the hunter to get within range of shot, and equally careful in keeping at a distance from its foe in its flight, it is, Mr. Gunn states, readily deceived and decoyed within easy range by tying a bundle of dark rags to a piece of stout twine, and letting this drag from the end of the hunter’s snow-shoe. The hungry Owl pounces upon the bait, and the hunter turns and shoots it. These birds are sometimes quite fat, and are much prized for food by the Indians. At times they migrate from the more northern regions to the more inland districts. An instance of this took place in the winter of 1855–56. These birds made their appearance about the Red River Settlement in October, and before the latter end of December became very numerous, especially on the plains, where they were to be seen flying at any time of the day. In March all left that vicinity and disappeared. A few pass the summer near Lake Winnepeg, as occasional birds are seen there in the spring and fall. These migrations are supposed to be caused by unusual snow-falls and the scarcity of the animals on which they feed.

Mr. Dall found them rather rare in the valley of the Lower Yukon, and he has noticed them occasionally flying over the ice in the winter season.

Mr. Hutchins, in his manuscript observations on the birds of Hudson Bay Territory, speaking of this Owl as the Wapacuthu, states that it makes its nest in the moss on the dry ground, and lays from five to ten eggs in May. Professor Alfred Newton (Proc. Zoöl. Soc. 1861, p. 395) thinks there can be no doubt he refers to this Owl. Richardson states, as the result of his own inquiries, that it breeds on the ground, which the observations of Mr. Hearne confirm. Professor Lilljeborg (Naumannia, 1854, p. 78) found, June 3, 1843, on the Dovrefjeld, a nest of this species which contained seven eggs. It was placed on a little shelf, on the top of a bare mountain, far from the forest, and easy of access. Professor Nilsson was informed, on good authority, that in East Fiarmark the Snowy Owl is said by the Lapps to lay from eight to ten eggs in a little depression of the bare ground on the high mountains. Mr. John Wolley received similar information, and was told that the old birds sometimes attack persons that approach their nests. The 16th to the 24th of May is said to be the time when they usually breed. I received in 1860 an egg of this Owl from Herr Möschler. It had been taken near Okkak, a missionary station of the Moravians, in Labrador, and collected by the Esquimaux. The accounts given by these collectors confirm the statement that this bird always breeds on the ground in open places, and frequently lays quite a large number of eggs. This specimen measures 2.50 inches in length and 1.88 in breadth. It is oblong-oval in shape, equally rounded at either end, and of a dull soiled white. The egg is much discolored, apparently by its contact with the ground.

Mr. H. S. Hawkins (Ibis, 1870, p. 298) gives an account of the nest and eggs of this species, derived from a correspondent at one of the Moravian missionary stations on the coast of Labrador. The nest is said to consist of only a few feathers, and to be placed generally on a ledge of rocks where there is a slight hollow, sufficient to prevent the eggs from rolling out, but sometimes on the ground. The usual number of eggs is eight; these are not all laid and brooded at one time, but the first two are often hatched by the time the last is laid, so that you may find in one nest young birds, fresh eggs, and others more or less incubated.

Herr von Heuglin, in his Notes on the birds of Novaja Zemlia (Ibis, 1872, p. 61), mentions meeting with this Owl in Seal’s Bay, on Matthew’s Strait, in the Sea of Kara, where he found three nests with two young birds covered with down. The nest was formed of a shallow depression in the turf, without any lining. The food of the Snowy Owl, in Novaja Zemlia, during the summer time, consisted exclusively of a species of Myodes, which were very numerous. The down of the young is plain brownish-gray. They were easily tamed, and their comical gestures and vivacity are said to have been very amusing.

Captain C. F. Hall, the celebrated Arctic voyager, during one of his expeditions found a nest and four eggs of this species on the bare ground. These were packed up in an old moccasin, and sent, without emptying, to the Smithsonian Institution, where, after an interval of several months, they were successfully emptied, and are now among the choice treasures of the national museum.

Genus SURNIA, Duméril.

Surnia, Duméril, Zoöl. Anal. 1806, 34. (Type, Strix ulula, Linn.)

Gen. Char. Size medium; form elongated, and general aspect hawk-like. No ear-tufts. Four outer quills with their inner webs sinuated, the third longest; tail nearly as long as the wing, graduated. Ear-conch small, simple, oval. Bill strong, yellow; eyes small, the iris yellow. Tarsi and toes thickly covered with soft dense feathers; tarsus shorter than the middle toe. Plumage much more compact, and less downy, and remiges and rectrices stiffer and straighter than in other Owls.

The single species of this genus belongs exclusively to the cold temperate and arctic zones of the Northern Hemisphere, and is circumpolar. Though somewhat hawk-like in its appearance, it is nevertheless a true Owl, and possesses no affinities of structure with the Hawks, any more than other species of Strigidæ.

Species and Races.

S. ulula. Above dark vandyke-brown, the head above dotted with white, and the scapulars spotted with the same. Beneath transversely barred with vandyke-brown and white, the bars regular, continuous, and sharply defined. Head and neck with two lateral, and one posterior medial, stripes of brownish-black, the space between them with white prevailing. Bill and iris yellow. Wing, about 9.00; tail, 6.80–7.00.

White spotting prevailing. Hab. Palæarctic Realm … var. ulula.31

Brown spotting prevailing. Hab. Nearctic Realm … var. hudsonia.

Surnia ulula, var. hudsonia (Gmelin).

Strix freti hudsonis, Briss. Orn. I, 520, 1760. Strix hudsonia, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 295, 1789.—Wils. Am. Orn. pl. l, f. 6, 1808.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 274, 1809.—Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. I, 50. Surnia hudsonia, James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, 90, 1831. Surnia ulula, var. hudsonica, (Ridgway) Coues, Key, 1872, 205. Strix canadensis, Briss. Orn. I, 518, pl. xxxvii, f. 2, 1789.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 273, 1809. Strix funerea (not of Linnæus!), Rich. & Swains. F. B. A. II, 92, 1831.—Aud. Birds Am. pl. ccclxxviii, 1831; Orn. Biog. IV. 550.—Bonap. Ann. Lyc. N. York, II, 35.—Brewer (Wils.), Am. Orn. p. 686.—Thomps. Hist. Vermont, p. 64.—Peab. Birds Mass. III, 83. Surnia ulula (not ulula of Linn.!), Cass. Birds Calif. & Tex. p. 191, 1854.—Birds N. Am. 1858, 64.—Gray, Hand List, I, 39, 1869.—Blackist. Ibis, III, 320.—Lord, Pr. R. A. I. IV, III (Brit. Columb.).—Kaup, Tr. Zoöl. Soc. IV, 1859, 214.—Dall & Bannister, Tr. Chicago Acad. I, II, 274.—Maynard, Birds Eastern Mass., 1870, 133.

Sp. Char. Adult. Above rich dark vandyke-brown, darker anteriorly, less intense and more grayish on tail. A narrow streak of brownish-black originating over the middle of eye, and extending backward above the upper edge of the ear-coverts, where it forms an elbow passing downward in a broad stripe over the ends of the ear-coverts; confluent with this, at about the middle of the vertical stripe, is another of similar tint, which passes more broadly down the side of the nape; between the last stripes (those of opposite sides) is another or medial one of less pure black, extending from the occiput down the nape. Every feather of the forehead, crown, and occiput with a central ovate dot of white; those anterior more circular, on the occiput less numerous and more linear. Between the lateral and posterior nuchal stripes the white prevails, the brown forming irregular terminal and transverse or medial spots; these grow more linear toward the back. Interscapulars plain; posterior scapulars variegated with partially concealed large transverse spots of white, the lower feathers with nearly the whole outer webs white, their confluence causing a conspicuous elongated patch above the wing. Rump with sparse, irregular, but generally transverse, spots of white; upper tail-coverts with broader, more regular bars of the same, these about equal to the brown in width. Lower feathers of the middle and secondary wing-coverts each with an ovoid spot of white on the outer web; secondaries crossed by about three transverse series of longitudinally ovoid white spots (situated on the edge of the feather), and very narrowly tipped with the same; primary coverts with one or two less continuous transverse series of spots, these found only on the outer feathers; primaries with about seven transverse series of white spots, these obsolete except on the five outer feathers, on which those anterior to the emargination are most conspicuous; all the primaries are very narrowly bordered with white at the ends. Tail with seven or eight very narrow bands of white, those on the middle feathers purely so, becoming obsolete exteriorly; the last is terminal. Eyebrows, lores, and face grayish-white, the grayish appearance caused by the blackish shafts of the feathers; that of the face continues (contracting considerably) across the lower part of the throat, separating a large space of dark brown, which covers nearly the whole throat, from an indistinct collar of the same extending across the jugulum,—this collar uniting the lower ends of the auricular and cervical dusky bands, the space between which is nearly clear white. Ground-color of the lower parts white, but everywhere with numerous very regular transverse bars of deep brown, of a tint more reddish than the back, the brown bars rather more than half as wide as the white ones; across the upper part of the breast (beneath the dark gular collar) the white invades very much and reduces the brown, forming a broad lighter belt across the jugulum; below this the brown bars increase in width, their aggregation tending somewhat to a suffusion, giving the white jugular belt better definition. On the legs and toes the bars are narrower, more distant, and less regular.

The whole lining of the wing is barred just like the sides. The dark brown prevails on the under surface of the primaries, etc.; the former having transverse, irregular, elliptical spots of white, these touching neither the shaft nor the edge: on the longest quill are seven of these spots; on all they are anterior to the emargination.

♂ (49,808, Nulato, Alaska, April 21, 1867; W. H. Dall). Wing-formula, 3, 4–2–5–6–1. Wing, 9.00; tail, 7.00; culmen, .70; tarsus (of another specimen; wanting in the present), .90; middle toe, .82.

♀ (49,807, Nulato, April 20; W. H. Dall). Wing-formula, 3, 4–2–5–6–7=1. Wing, 9.00; tail, 6.80; culmen, .70; middle toe, .80.

Hab. Arctic America, south in winter into northern United States; Wisconsin (Dr. Hoy); Massachusetts (Dr. Brewer; Maynard); Dakota and Montana (Mus. S. I.).

The Hawk Owl of North America is to be distinguished from that of Europe and Siberia by the same characters which distinguish the American Sparrow Owl from the European, namely, much darker shade of the brown and its greater prevalence. Three perfect specimens of the Old World bird (a pair from Lapland, and a specimen from Kamtschatka, Petropawloosk, W. H. Dall) agree in prevalence of the white over the head above, the confluence of the spots on the scapulars forming a larger, more conspicuous patch, and very broad and almost immaculate jugular belt; the brown bars beneath are very much narrower than in the American bird, and the tint is not different from that of the back. The legs and toes are scarcely variegated. While acknowledging the identity of the two representative forms, the differences are such as to entitle them to separation as races.

Habits. The American form of the Hawk Owl inhabits the northern portions of both continents, and is common in the Arctic portions. On the Atlantic coast of this continent it has been found as far south as Philadelphia and the State of New Jersey, but its presence south of latitude 45° is probably only occasional and rather rare. The European form, according to Mr. Dresser, has not been known to exist in the British Islands, but several instances are quoted of the occurrence of the American form in Great Britain. One was taken off the coast of Cornwall in March, 1830; another was shot near Yatton, in Somersetshire, on a sunny afternoon in August, 1847; a third had previously been taken at Maryhill, near Glasgow, in December, 1863. On the Pacific coast it has not been taken farther south than Alaska, though it is quite probable it may yet be found to be an occasional visitant in Washington Territory and Oregon, and even the northern portions of California. It remains all the winter in high northern latitudes, and the instances of its having been taken even in Massachusetts, so far as is now known, are not many. Wilson only met with two specimens. Audubon and Nuttall never met with one of these birds alive.

Surnia ulula.

Mr. Downes states that the Hawk Owl is very abundant in Nova Scotia in the winter time in some years, but may not be seen again for four or five seasons. It is common in Newfoundland, where it breeds in the Caribou districts. Mr. Downes often kept living specimens in confinement, which had been taken on board the Cunard steamers off the coast.

Mr. Boardman gives this species as resident, though rare, in the neighborhood of Calais, being occasionally found there in the breeding-season. In Oxford County, Maine, Professor A. E. Verrill says it is a common autumnal and winter visitant, and that it is quite abundant from the first of November to the middle of March, but not found there in the summer. Mr. Allen has never met with it in Western Massachusetts. Near Boston, in some seasons, it is not uncommon, though never occurring with any frequency, and only singly. It is found throughout the State, and is probably more common late in November than at any other time; several having been taken in Westfield, and also in Berkshire County, among the Green Mountains. I am not aware that any have been taken farther south than Philadelphia, near which city Mr. Edward Harris obtained one specimen, while another was shot at Haddington in 1866. Mr. McIlwraith calls it a rare winter visitant near Hamilton, Canada.

Richardson states that it is a common species throughout the fur countries from Hudson Bay to the Pacific, where it is killed by the hunters more frequently than any other, which may be attributed to its boldness and to its diurnal habits. During the summer season it feeds principally upon mice and insects, but in the regions in which it is found in winter, where the snow is very deep, and where this food is not procurable, it must depend on the Ptarmigan, and, indeed, is found a constant attendant upon the flocks of these birds in their spring migrations. When the hunters are shooting Grouse, it is said to be occasionally attracted by the report of the gun, and is often bold enough, when a bird has been killed, to pounce down upon it, although it is unable, from its inferior size, to carry it off. It is also said to occasionally hover round the fires made by the Indians at night.

To this account of its habits Richardson adds that it builds its nest on a tree, of sticks, grass, and feathers, and lays two white eggs. In regard to the number of eggs, he is now known to be inaccurate. Mr. MacFarlane met with this bird in considerable numbers in the region of Anderson River, where he found several nests, and all of which he made any record were built in pine-trees at considerable height from the ground. One nest is said to have been on the top of a pine about twenty feet in height, and was composed of small sticks and twigs, lined with moss. Both parents were obtained. This nest contained two young birds—one of which was about ten days old, the other about three weeks—and an addled egg. This nest was found on the 20th of June, showing that the bird began to incubate early in May.

Another nest, taken on the 28th of April, was found to contain six eggs. It was built in the top crotch of a tall pine, was composed of dry sticks, and lined with hay and a few feathers. A third nest also contained six eggs, and was lined with green mosses and deer’s hair. One nest contained as many as seven eggs, and all but one had as many as six. Mr. MacFarlane speaks of it as a winter resident.

Mr. B. R. Ross states that he found this bird throughout the Great Slave Lake district, but not plentiful. It winters in even the northernmost parts of the wooded country. It is said to build its nest not only on trees, but also on cliffs, and to lay as early as the last of March or the first of April. He states that the eggs are usually four in number, and describes them as of a dead white, of an oblong-oval shape, and as measuring 1.39 inches by 1.21. He received three eggs with the parent bird, taken at Lapierre’s House, and another parent, with nest and four eggs, from Salt River.

Mr. Dall found this the most common species of Owl about Nulato. Many of both sexes were obtained, and on the 16th of April he took from the ovary of a female an egg ready for laying. On the 5th of May Mr. Dall obtained six eggs which were laid on the top of an old birch stump, and fifteen feet from the ground. There was no nest other than that the rotten wood was somewhat hollowed out, and the eggs laid directly upon it. As he was climbing to the nest, the male bird which had been sitting on the nest attacked Mr. Dall, and knocked off his cap. The female did not appear.

Mr. Donald Gunn states that these Owls hunt in the daytime, and feed chiefly upon mice; and Mr. Dall seldom found anything but mice in their crops, and adds that it is very fond of flying, towards dusk, from the top of one tall spruce to another, apparently swinging or balancing itself, calling to its mate at intervals, while chasing or being chased by it.

Captain Drummond states, in “Contributions to Ornithology” (p. 37), that he noticed a bird of this species, on the wing, within a few yards of him, in the Bermudas.

Mr. Dresser, who had ample opportunities of observing the Hawk Owl in New Brunswick, where he found it by no means uncommon, describes it as a true day Owl. It was often seen by him hawking after prey in the strongest sunshine, or seated quietly blinking on the top of an old blasted tree, apparently undisturbed by the glare of the sun. In its general appearance, and particularly in its flight, it appeared to him to have considerable affinity to the Sparrow Hawk. In New Brunswick it affected the open plains or so-called blueberry barrens, where the open country is covered with low bushes and an occasional scathed tree. It would sit on one of these trees for hours in an upright hawk-like position, occasionally hunting over the ground, like the Kestrel of Europe, in search of small field-mice. It showed but little fear, and could be easily approached within gun-shot. When shot at and missed, it would take a short flight and return to its former perch. On one occasion Mr. Dresser, firing at one with a rifle, cut the branch close under the bird, which returned almost immediately to another branch, was a second time missed, and finally fell under a third shot.

Its note is said to be a shrill cry, similar to the call of the European Kestrel, and generally uttered on the wing. The stomach was generally found filled with small field-mice, and rarely contained any remains of small birds. They appeared to hunt after food chiefly early in the forenoon and in the evening. During the day they rested on some elevated perch. In the night they retired to rest like other diurnal Raptores.

An egg of this Owl, taken from the oviduct of its parent by Mr. B. R. Ross, April 16, at Fort Simpson, measures 1.50 inches in length by 1.20 in breadth. It is of oval shape, and of a dull-white color. Another egg measures 1.62 by 1.30 inches, is of a rounded oval, equally obtuse at either end, and of a yellowish-white color. It was taken by Mr. MacFarlane at Fort Anderson.


Gen. Char. Size very small; head rather small; bill and feet very strong and robust; no ear-tufts; tail long, about three fourths as long as the wing, rounded. Nostrils circular, opening in the middle of the inflated cere-membrane (except in G. siju). Tarsus about equal to the middle toe, densely feathered; toes haired. Four outer quills with their inner webs emarginated; third to fourth longest. Ear-conch very small, simple, rounded. Bill yellowish (except in G. phalænoides?); iris yellow.

The genus is most largely developed within the tropical regions, only one species (G. passerinum) belonging to the cold temperate zone, and this is found on both continents. They are the most robustly organized of all Owls, and, for their size, are very predatory, as in the next genus (Micrathene), though themselves hardly larger than a Sparrow, they frequently feed upon small birds, and, no doubt, often destroy the passerine species of nearly their own size. Like the most of the group to which this genus belongs, they are diurnal in their habits, and fly about during the brightest sunshine. They inhabit chiefly dense forests, and for this reason, are less well known than the more easily accessible Owls.


Glaucidium californicum.

The following synopsis includes only the North American and Mexican species of Glaucidium. In tropical America are several others very distinct from those here given.

Species and Races.

Common Characters. Above brown, varying from nearly gray to bright ferruginous, in some species this color interrupted by a more or less distinct whitish nuchal collar, with an adjacent blackish spot (sometimes concealed) on each side of the neck. Tail with narrow bands. Beneath white, the sides striped with brown or blackish. Throat and jugulum white, with a dusky collar between. Crown speckled or streaked with lighter; wings more or less spotted with the same.

A. Markings on the crown circular, or dot-like.

1. G. passerinum. Tail with six to eight narrow white bands. Upper parts varying from brownish-gray to chocolate-brown. Ground-color of the lower parts pure white.

Tail, and stripes on sides, not darker than the back; tail-bands six, and continuous; toes rather thickly feathered. Hab. Europe … var. passerinum.32

Tail, and stripes on sides, much darker than the back; tail-bands 7 (♂)–8 (♀), not continuous; toes only scantily haired. Wing, 3.50–4.00; tail, 2.50–2.80; culmen, .43–.48; tarsus, .60; middle toe, .55. Hab. Western Province of North America. Table-lands of Mexico … var. californicum.

B. Markings on the crown longitudinal and linear.

2. G. infuscatum. Tail dark brown, crossed by six to seven non-continuous bands of white, narrower than the dark ones. Above varying from grayish-brown to reddish-umber and sepia. Beneath white, the stripes on the sides grayish-brown or dark brown, like the back.

Above dark sepia, or blackish-brown. Tail brownish-black or deep black. Wing, 3.70–3.90; tail, 2.50–2.90; culmen, .45; tarsus, .65–.80; middle toe, .65–.70. Hab. Eastern South America … var. infuscatum.33

Above grayish, or reddish-umber. Tail clear dark brown, or grayish-umber.

Wing, 3.60–3.90; tail, 2.35–2.75; culmen, .45–.50; tarsus, .65–.80; middle toe, .60–.70. Hab. Middle America, from the Rio Grande (probably in Texas) to Panama … var. gnoma.34

3. G. ferrugineum. Tail crossed by seven to nine continuous bands of dark brown and bright rufous, of nearly equal width. Above varying from grayish-brown to bright ferruginous; beneath varying from pure white to pale rufous, the stripes on the sides like the back. Wing, 3.70–4.15; tail, 2.20–2.90; culmen, .45–.50; tarsus, .70–.80; middle toe, .70–.75. Hab. Tropical America, from southern border of United States to Southern Brazil.

Glaucidium passerinum, var. californicum (Sclater).

Glaucidium californicum, Sclater, Proc. Zoöl. Soc. Lond. 1857, p. 4. Glaucidium passerinum, var. californicum (Ridgway) Coues, Key, 1872, 206. Strix passerinoides (not of Temminck!), Aud. Orn. Biog. V, 271, 1831. Glaucidium infuscatum (not of Temm.!), Cass. Birds of Cal. & Tex. p. 189, 1854.—Newb. P. R. R. Rept. VI, IV, 77, 1857. Glaucidium gnoma (not of Wagler!), Cass. Birds N. Am. 1858, 62.—Heerm. P. R. R. Rept. VII, 31, 1857.—Coop. & Suck. P. R. R. Rept. XII, II, 158, 1860.—Coues, Prod. Orn. Ariz. p. 14, 1866.—Cab. Jour. 1862, 336.—Lord. Int. Obs. 1865, 409 (habits).—Gray, Hand List, I, 42, 1869.—Cab. Ueb. Berl. Mus. 1869, 207.

Sp. Char. Adult (♂, 12,054, Puget Sound, Washington Territory; Dr. C. B. Kennerly). Above, including the auriculars, umber-brown, with a faint reddish cast; this tinge most apparent in a sharply defined band across the throat. The continuity of the brown above is interrupted by a scarcely observable collar round the nape of concealed whitish; this is discernible only laterally, where there is also an inconspicuous black space. Whole head above, and neck behind, with numerous small circular spots of reddish-white; back, scapulars, and wings more sparsely and more minutely marked with the same; the two or three lower feathers of the secondary coverts have each a terminal, somewhat oval, larger spot of pure white. Secondaries crossed by three (exposed) bands of pure white, and narrowly tipped with the same; the bands formed by semicircular spots on the outer webs. Primaries almost plain, but showing faintly defined obsolete bands,—the third, fourth, and fifth with two or three conspicuous white spots on outer webs, beyond their emargination; primary coverts perfectly plain. Tail considerably darker than the wings, and purer umber; crossed with seven narrow bands of pure white, the last of which is terminal and not well defined,—these bands are formed by transverse spots, not touching the shaft on either web. Lores, sides of the forehead, sides of the throat (beneath the cheeks and ear-coverts), and lower parts in general, pure white; the ante-orbital white continuing back over the eye to its middle, but not beyond it. Lateral portion of the neck and breast (confluent with the gular belt), and sides, umber, like the back, but more numerously, though more obsoletely, speckled, the spots rather larger and more longitudinal on the sides. Breast, abdomen, anal region, and lower tail-coverts with narrow longitudinal stripes of nearly pure black. Jugulum immaculate. Tarsi mottled on the outside with brown. Lining of the wing white; a transverse patch of blackish across the ends of the under primary coverts, formed by the terminal deltoid spot of each feather; a blackish stripe, formed of blended streaks (parallel with the edge of the wing), running from the bend to the primary coverts. Under surface of primaries dusky, with transverse spots of white anterior to the emargination; these white spots on the longest quill are eight in number. Axillars plain white.

Wing, 3.60; tail, 2.60; culmen, .45; tarsus, .60; middle toe, .55. Wing-formula, 4, 3, 5–2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 1.

♀ (36,874, Fort Whipple, near Prescott, Arizona, October 11, 1864; Dr. Coues). In general appearance scarcely different from the male. Upper surface more ashy, the specks of whitish less numerous, being confined chiefly to the head; those on the scapulars, however, are large, though very sparse. The middle wing-coverts have each a conspicuous roundish white spot near the end of the outer web; the secondary coverts are similarly marked, forming a band across the wing. The primaries and tail are as in the male, except that the latter has eight, instead of seven, white bands. The brown of the gular band extends upward over the throat to the recurved feathers of the chin; the white dots in the brown of the sides are considerably larger and (though very irregular) more circular than in the male; the stripes on the abdomen, etc., are rather broader and less deeply black than in the male. Wing, 4.00; tail, 2.80; culmen, .48. (Wing-formula as in male.)

Hab. Pacific Province of North America, from Vancouver Island southward; Arizona (Fort Whipple); Colorado (El Paso Co., Aiken); Table-lands of Mexico (Coll., G. N. Lawrence). Perhaps whole of the Western Province, from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific.

One specimen in the collection (59,069) differs from those described in much darker colors. The original label is lost, but it was probably received from the northwest coast, as the darker, more reddish colors bear about the same relation to the paler gray tints of the southern birds that the dark northwest coast style of Scops asio (var. kennicotti) does to the true asio. The stripes beneath are nearly pure black, the general tint above being a reddish sepia-brown. Wing, 3.65; tail, 2.70.

The Glaucidium californicum requires comparison only with the G. passerinum of Europe, to which it is quite closely related, though easily distinguishable by the characters pointed out in the diagnoses; it is not at all like gnoma, nor indeed any other American species, with which it has been confounded by nearly all ornithologists, even by Cabanis, in his excellent paper above cited.

Glaucidium californicum.

I have seen only one Mexican specimen of this species, which is one in Mr. Lawrence’s collection; the locality is not given, but it is probably from the higher regions of the interior. It differs in no respect, except in size, from North American examples; it measures, wing, 3.40; tail, 2.60.

Habits. This species, one of the smallest of our North American Owls, was first obtained on the Columbia River by Dr. Townsend, near Fort Vancouver; and subsequently, Dr. Merideth Gairdner procured several others from the same locality, which were sent to the Edinburgh Museum. Dr. Townsend’s specimen was said to have been taken on the wing at midday.

Dr. Cooper met with a single specimen in Washington Territory early in November, 1854. He observed it among a flock of Sparrows, that did not seem at all disturbed by its presence. At first he mistook it for one of these birds. Its stomach was found to contain only insects.

Dr. Suckley obtained two specimens at Puget Sound, where he found it moderately abundant. It seemed to be diurnal in its habits, gliding about in shady situations in pursuit of its prey. He saw one about midday in a shady alder-swamp near Nisqually. It flitted noiselessly past him several times, alighting near by, on a low branch, as if to examine the intruder.

Near a small lake in the neighborhood of Fort Steilacoom, Dr. Suckley frequently heard the voice of a diminutive Owl, which he supposed to come from one of these birds, as this is the only small species of the family he ever saw in that neighborhood. The notes were subdued and clear, like the soft, low notes of a flute.

Dr. Newberry procured specimens of the Pigmy Owl on the Cascade Mountains, in Oregon, where, however, it was not common. It occurs also in California, as he saw several individuals in San Francisco that had been obtained in that State, but he did not meet with any in the Sacramento Valley. It was apparently confined to wooded districts, which is probably the reason why it is not more frequent in the open country of California. He adds that it flies about with great freedom and activity by day, pursuing the small birds upon which it subsists, apparently as little incommoded by the light as they are. It is, however, doubtful whether it subsists, to any large extent, on small birds. So far as observed it appears to feed almost exclusively on insects, although the Owl taken by Townsend is said to have had the entire body of a Regulus in its stomach.

Dr. Cooper speaks of this Owl as not uncommon in the middle part of California, though he did not meet with it in the southern part of the State. It is probable that it is occasional in Southern California, as it has been found in Mexico, where however, it is undoubtedly rare, as Mr. Ridgway informs me that only a single specimen of this Owl, among a hundred others from Mexico, has ever been seen by him.

Dr. Heermann met with this beautiful little species among the mountainous districts of the mining regions of California, where it was by no means rare. It was, however, seldom captured by him, and he regarded its flying by night as the reason; but this view is not corroborated by the observations of others. In 1852 he procured three specimens on the borders of the Calaveras River, others were taken on the Cosumnes River, and Mr. J. G. Bell, of New York, met with it on the American River, thus demonstrating its wide and general distribution throughout the State.

Mr. John K. Lord met with a pair on Vancouver Island. He characterizes the bird as of shy and solitary habits, always hiding among the thick foliage of the oak or pine, except when feeding. Early one spring, while collecting specimens of the smaller migrant birds, he was favored with unusual opportunities for watching their habits. The pair had made their home in the hollow of an oak-tree that stood in an open patch of gravelly ground near a small lake. The remains of an Indian lodge which was close to the place enabled Mr. Lord to watch closely the habits of this interesting pair. In the first morning twilight the Owls were up and in motion, hungry after a whole night’s fasting. Their flight was short, quick, and jerking, similar to that of the Sparrow Hawk, but wholly unlike the muffled, noiseless flap of the Night Owls. Their food was found to be entirely insectivorous, chiefly grasshoppers and field-crickets, with an occasional beetle or butterfly. When in pursuit of food, they perch on a small branch near the ground, and sit bolt upright in an indolent drowsy manner until their quick eye detects an insect, when they suddenly pounce upon it, hold it down with their small but powerful claws, and with their sharp beaks tear it to pieces. Only the soft abdominal parts are thus eaten. As soon as their hunger is satiated they return to the tree, cuddling close together, and doze away the greater part of the day. In the evening twilight the Owls again come out of their hole and take erratic flights around their abode, chasing each other up and down the plain, and performing all kinds of inexplicable manœuvres. Occasionally they settle on the ground, but never long at a time.

Mr. Lord never observed them to capture an insect while on the wing, and a very small quantity of food seemed to supply their wants. As soon as it became dark they retired to their nest, and there apparently passed the night.

To this account Mr. Lord adds, that early in May two small eggs were laid, white in color, round and very rough on their surface, a large knot-hole in the branch of the tree having been selected as the nesting-place. Nothing of any kind was used as a lining, the eggs being deposited on the bare wood. The length of time occupied in incubation Mr. Lord was not able to ascertain in consequence of the shortness of his stay.

Glaucidium ferrugineum, Kaup.

Strix ferruginea, Max. Reis. Bras. I, 105, 1820; Trav. Bras. p. 88; Beitr. III, 234.—Temm. Pl. Col. 199.—Lath. Gen. Hist. I, 373. Noctua f., Steph. Zoöl. XIII, pt. ii, p. 69.—Less. Man. Orn. I, 111; Tr. Orn. 104.—Cuv. Règ. An. (ed. 2), I, 346.—Tschudi, Av. Consp. Wiegm. Archiv. 1844, 267; Faun. Per. pp. 19, 117. Surnia f., Bonap. Oss. Cuv. Règ. An. p. 56; Isis, 1833, 1053. Athene f., Gray, Gen. B. fol. sp. 17; List B. Brit. Mus. p. 92.—Bonap. Consp. Av. p. 38.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 162, 1855. Glaucidium f., Kaup, Mon. Strig. Cont. Orn. 1852, 104.—Burm. Thier. Bras. II, 141, 146.—Caban. Ueb. Berl. Mus. 1869, 206.—Coues, Am. Nat. VI, 370 (Arizona).—Ib. Key, 1872, 206. ? Athene nana (King), Gray, Gen. 1844, pl. xii (normal plumage).

a. Normal plumage.

Sp. Char. Adult (♂, 23,792, Mazatlan, Mexico; J. Xantus). Upper surface umber-brown, more ashy anteriorly, posteriorly more brownish. Head above with a few narrow longitudinal lines of yellowish-white, anteriorly and laterally; a quite distinct collar of whitish spots across the nape, the black lateral spaces rather obsolete; scapulars with a few conspicuous oval spots of pure white; two lower feathers of secondary coverts each with a similar spot on outer web. Secondaries darker brown, crossed with five bands of dull rufous, the last not terminal; outer webs of primaries with semicircular pale spots along the margin, these nearly white beyond the sinuation of the feathers, anteriorly brownish. Tail bright rufous, crossed with about seven distinct bands of dark brown, these hardly equalling the rufous in width, which is also terminal. Longitudinal stripes of the sides of the same soft grayish-brown tint as the head; tarsi sparsely speckled with the same on outer side. Wing-formula, 4, 5, 3–6–7, 2, 8; first shortest. Wing, 3.70; tail, 2.20; culmen, .45; tarsus, .70; middle toe, .70.

b. Rufescent plumage.

Adult. Upper surface continuously deep lateritious-rufous, all the lighter markings almost obliterated. Bars on the tail scarcely traceable. Black cervical transverse space conspicuous. Sides of the breast and stripes of the sides duller rufous than the tint above; white of ground-color with yellowish tinge; legs pale rufous, deepest on outer side, immaculate. Gular collar blackish.

♂ (43,055, La Palma, Costa Rica, January 27, 1866; José Zeledon). Wing-formula, 4=5, 3–6–2; first shortest. Wing, 3.80; tail, 2.40.

♀ (33,216, San José, Costa Rica; J. Carmiol). Wing-formula, 4, 3=5–6, 2; first shortest. Wing, 4.15; tail, 2.90; tarsus, .80; middle toe, .75.

Hab. Whole of eastern South America, and Middle America (both coasts) north into southern border of United States (Arizona, Bendire; probably entire southern border).

The numerous specimens examined come from the Rio Grande of Texas (across the whole breadth of Middle America) to Paraguay, everywhere the same species, those from the extremes of its range showing scarcely any difference.

A specimen of the ferruginous plumage, in the collection of the Philadelphia Academy, is remarkable for the great intensity and uniformity of the rufous; the entire plumage, in fact, being of this color, a fine light tint of which replaces the white below. There is no trace of bars on either wings or tail.

In the very large series before me I find in individuals every possible shade between the two extremes described. Over fifty specimens have come under my notice.

Habits. This little Owl claims a place in our fauna on the strength of several specimens taken in Southern Arizona by Captain Bendire. It is a southern bird, found throughout the whole of Mexico, and ranges thence though the whole of South America, except the Pacific coast, as far south as Southern Brazil. In Mexico it is as abundant on the Pacific as on the eastern coast, and is by far the most common Owl of its genus found in that country.

Mr. E. C. Taylor states that he found this bird pretty common in Trinidad, where it is said to fly about in the daytime, apparently indifferent to the blazing tropical sun, and is much smaller than any other species of Owl he met with.

Genus MICRATHENE, Coues.

Micrathene, Coues, P. A. N. S. Philad. 1866, 57. (Type, Athene whitneyi, Cooper.)

Gen. Char. Size very small (the smallest Owl known); head small, and without ear-tufts. Bill and feet weak. Tail short, less than half the wing, even. Nostril small, circular, opening in the middle of the much inflated ceral membrane. Tarsus a little longer than the middle toe, naked, scantily haired, as are also the toes. Four outer quills with their inner webs sinuated; fourth longest. Ear-conch very small, simple, roundish. Bill pale greenish; iris yellow.


Micrathene whitneyi.

This well-marked genus is represented by a single species, found in the Colorado region of the United States, and in Western Mexico. It is the smallest of all known Owls, and has the general aspect of a Glaucidium. From the fact that feathers of birds were found in its stomach, we may reasonably infer that it is of exceedingly rapacious habits, like the species of that genus.


M. whitneyi. Above grayish olive-brown, sprinkled with small, rather obscure, spots of pale rusty, and interrupted by a whitish nuchal collar; outer webs of the lower series of scapulars pure white. Wings spotted with white and pale fawn-color; tail grayish-brown, crossed by five to six narrow interrupted bands of pale fawn-color. Eyebrows and lores pure white; a cravat of the same on the chin. Beneath white, marked with large, rather longitudinal, ragged blotches of pale rusty, mottled with dusky. Bill pale greenish; iris yellow. Length, 5.50–6.25; extent of wings, 14.25–15.25 (measurements of freshly killed specimens). Wing, 4.00–4.40; tail, 1.90–2.30. Hab. Fort Mohave, California (April), and Socorro Island, west coast of Mexico.

Micrathene whitneyi, Coues.

Athene whitneyi, Cooper, Proc. Cal. Acad. Sc. 1861, p. 118. Micrathene whitneyi, Coues, Pr. Ac. Nat. Sc. Philad. 1866, 15.—Elliot, Illust. Am. B. I, xxix.—Grayson (Lawrence), Ann. N. Y. Lyc.—Coues, Key, 1872, 207.

Sp. Char. Adult (♂, 208, J. G. Cooper, Fort Mohave, California, April 26, 1861). Above umber-brown (less pure and uniform than in Glaucidium), each feather with an irregular, transversely elliptical spot of pale rufous, these largest on the forehead, bordering the white eyebrows; the feathers everywhere minutely mottled transversely with darker, this being most noticeable where bordering the yellowish spots. Scapulars with their outer webs almost wholly white. Wings with the ground-color a little darker than the back; lesser coverts with numerous spots of light rufous, there being two on each feather, one concealed; middle and secondary coverts with a very large oval spot of pure white terminating the outer webs, the white spot on the latter preceded by a pale rufous one. Secondaries with five (exposed) bands of pale ochraceous (the last terminal), these passing into white on the edge; primary coverts with three large ochraceous spots; primaries with about six (including the terminal) conspicuous spots of the same, those anterior to the emargination, on the third, fourth, and fifth quills, almost white. Tail like the wings, but more uniform; crossed by six irregular narrow bands of pale ochraceous, the last, or terminal, of which is not well defined; these do not touch the shaft, and on the inner webs they are pure white. Lores and eyebrows, cheeks, lining of the wings, and ground-color of the lower parts, white; ear-coverts and sub-orbital space like the crown, but more rusty; lateral lower parts much washed with plumbeous, this especially prevalent on the flanks. Behind the sharply defined white of the cheeks is a black transverse wash. Throat, jugulum, breast, and abdomen, with each feather having a medial longitudinal ragged-edged blotch of pale rufous, these blotches most clearly defined on the abdomen, more confused anteriorly; anal region and tibiæ almost immaculate; tibiæ with numerous transverse narrow blackish bars, on a pale ochraceous ground. Lining of the wing faintly spotted at the bend, and on the primary coverts, the terminal half of which is plain dusky; under surface of primaries blackish, with obscure transverse paler spots,—those anterior to the emargination almost white; those beyond darker, the last being scarcely distinguishable; on the longest quill eight can be detected. Wing-formula, 4, 3=5–2, 6, 7, 8, 9–1. Length, “6.25”; extent, “15.25”; wing, 4.40; tail, 2.30; culmen, .35; tarsus, .80; middle toe, .60.

A male from Socorro Island (49,678, Colonel A. J. Grayson) is less adult than the preceding. The upper plumage is more brownish and more mottled; the rufous spots, though deeper and larger, are less sharply defined; the spots on the primaries are all ochraceous; the bands on the tail are broader, though of the same number. Beneath the longitudinal blotches do not appear, but the rusty rufous covers nearly the whole surface, leaving the medial portion only white, and this not well defined; the rusty shows ragged minute transverse bars of blackish. The whitish collar round the nape is also better defined than in the type. Wing, 4.20; tail, 2.10. Wing-formula, 4, 3=5–6, 2–7, 8, 9, 10, 1. Length, 5.20; extent, 14.25.

Another specimen, 50,765, from the same locality, also apparently immature, is just like the preceding in plumage. It measures, wing, 4.00; tail, 1.90.

Micrathene whitneyi.

Habits. The type specimen of this diminutive species was shot at Fort Mohave, in the Colorado Valley, latitude 35°, April 26, 1861, and two others have since been taken on the Socorro Islands, off the western coast of Mexico, by Colonel Grayson. It is smaller even than the little California Pygmy Owl, and is therefore the smallest known to inhabit North America. It resembles that species in its colors, but is thought by Dr. Cooper to be more similar to the burrowing Owls in its generic characters. It was found in a dense thicket, on a very windy morning, and where it may have taken only a temporary refuge, after having been blown down from some of the caverns in the barren mountains surrounding the valley. In its stomach were found the remains of insects and the feathers of small birds. Several specimens of this Owl were taken in Arizona by Captain Bendire, one of which is now in the collection of the Boston Society of Natural History. Captain Bendire also found one of their nests, with two fully fledged young ones, in a hole of a mesquite stump.

Genus SPEOTYTO, Gloger.

Gen. Char. Size small; head small, and without ear-tufts. Bill moderately strong, pale yellowish. Tarsi more than twice as long as the middle toe, feathered in front, naked behind; toes scantily haired. Tail short, less than half the wing, nearly even, or very slightly rounded. Three outer quills with their inner webs emarginated; second to fourth longest. Ear-conch very small, simple, roundish. Diurnal and terrestrial.

5896 ½ ½

Speotyto hypogæa.

This genus is peculiar to America, where it is distributed over the whole of the southern and the western half of the northern continent, as well as in some of the West India Islands. There appears to be but one well-characterized species,35 this one modified into representative races in the several geographical provinces over which it ranges. The species is terrestrial, inhabiting the abandoned burrows of Armadillos and Rodents. It is diurnal, possessing as much freedom of sight, hearing, and motion in the brightest sunlight, as any species of the Falconidæ.

Species and Races.

S. cunicularia. Colors umber-brown and ochraceous-white, the former predominating above, the latter prevailing below. Upper parts spotted with whitish; lower parts transversely barred with brown on the breast and sides, and sometimes on the abdomen. A white gular patch, and jugular collar, with a brown band between them. Legs, crissum, anal and femoral regions, always immaculate.

A. Primaries with broad regular bars of ochraceous-white on both webs; primary coverts with large spots of the same.

Brown markings of the lower parts irregularly transverse, and ragged. White spots on the upper parts nearly equal in extent to the brown.

Wing, 6.15–6.40; tail, 2.90–3.60; culmen, .58–.62; tarsus, 1.50–1.80; middle toe, .65. Hab. Peru … var. grallaria.36

Brown markings on the lower parts regularly transverse, and not ragged. White spots on the upper parts much less than the brown in extent.

Wing, 7.00–7.50; tail, 3.30–4.00; culmen, .70; tarsus, 1.70–1.85; middle toe, .85. Outer tail-feathers and inner webs of primaries with the white much greater in amount than the brown (sometimes continuous along outer webs of the latter). Hab. Southern South America (Chile, Buenos Ayres, Paraguay, etc.) … var. cunicularia.37

Wing, 6.40–7.00; tail, 3.00–3.30; culmen, .50–.60; tarsus, 1.50–1.70; middle toe, .80. Outer tail-feathers and inner webs of the primaries with the white less in extent than the brown (never continuous along outer webs of the primaries). Hab. Middle America, and Western Province of North America … var. hypogæa.

B. Primaries without broad or regular bars of whitish on either web; primary coverts plain brown.

Brown markings on the lower parts regularly transverse, and equal in extent to the white. White spots on the upper parts very small, reduced to mere specks on the dorsal region.

Wing, 6.40; tail, 3.40; culmen, .60; tarsus, 1.82; middle toe, .85. Outer tail-feathers and inner webs of the primaries with the light (ochraceous) bars only about one fourth as wide as the brown (disappearing on the inner quills). Hab. Guadeloupe … var. guadeloupensis.38

Spheotyto cunicularia, var. hypogæa, Bonap.

Strix hypogæa, Bonap. Am. Orn. I, 72, 1825. Athene hypogæa, Bonap. Consp. Av. p. 39, 1850.—Woodh. (Sitgr.) Expl. Zuñi and Colorado, p. 62, 1853.—Cass. Birds N. Am. 1858, 59.—Newb. P. R. R. Rept. VI, 77, 1857.—Coop. & Suck. P. R. R. Rept. XII, ii, 157, 1860.—Gray, Hand List, I, 52, 1869. Speotyto cunicularia, var. hypogæa, (Ridgway) Coues, Key, 1872, 207. Strix cunicularia (not of Molina!), Aud. B. Am. pl. ccccxxxii, 1831; Orn. Biog. V, 264; Synop. p. 22.—Nutt. Man. Orn. p. 118, 1844.—Bonap. Am. Orn. p. 68, pl. vii, f. 2, 1825; Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 36.—James. (Wils.), Am. Orn. IV, 30.—Say, Long’s Exp. Rocky Mts., II, 36, 200. Ulula cunicularia, Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. III, 325, 1832. Athene cunicularia, Bonap. List, p. 6; Consp. Av. p. 38. Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 160, 1855.—Cassin, Birds N. Am. 1858, 60.—Coop. & Suck. P. R. R. Rept. XII, II, 157, 1860.—Canfield, Am. Nat. 1869, 583 (habits). Strix californica, Aud. B. Am. pl. ccccxxxii, 1831. Athene socialis, Gamb. Pr. Acad. Nat. Sc. Phil. III, 47, 1846.

Sp. Char. Adult. Above earth-brown, the whole surface covered with numerous spots of dull white,—those on the scapulars roundish, and in pairs (on both webs); of similar form, but larger and more sparse, on the wings. Anteriorly they become more longitudinal (nearly linear), and medial; on the rump and upper tail-coverts, they are nearly obsolete. Secondaries crossed by four distinct bands of dull white, the last terminal; primaries with five to six transverse series of semi-rounded spots of ochraceous-white on their outer webs; primary coverts with about three transverse series of whitish spots. Tail with five to six bands of dull white, or pale ochraceous (the last terminal), composed of transverse oval spots, those on the middle pair of feathers not touching either the shaft or the edge. Ear-coverts uniform brown, becoming gradually paler beneath the eye and on the cheeks; eyebrows, a transverse chin-patch,—covering the whole chin and jaw and reaching back beneath the auriculars, and another across the jugulum, immaculate cottony-white; shafts of the loral bristles blackish; a broad, well-defined collar across the throat, between the white malar and jugular bands, deep brown, mixed with paler spots.

Beneath white with a faint ochraceous tinge, especially on the legs; the breast, abdomen, and sides with transverse spots of brown, this often predominating on the breast; legs, anal region, and crissum, immaculate. Whole lining of the wing immaculate creamy-white, the primary coverts, however, with large terminal spots of dusky; under surface of the primaries grayish-brown, deeper terminally, and with large, transversely ovate spots of ochraceous-white (about five in number on the longest quill), and growing larger basally.

♂. Wing, 6.40–7.00; tail, 3.00–3.30; culmen, .55–.60; tarsus, 1.50–1.70; middle toe, .80. (Smallest, No. 5,183, Fort Pierre, Nebraska; largest, No. 6,881, Sacramento, California.)

♀. Wing, 6.50–6.80; tail, 3.15–3.30; culmen, .51–.55; tarsus, 1.50–1.60; middle toe, .80. (Smallest, No. 45,020, Laredo, Texas; largest, No. 3,971, San José, Lower California.)

Juv. Upper surface earth-brown, as in the adult, but entirely uniform, except the wings and tail; upper tail-coverts, and a large oval patch on the wing (covering the middle coverts and the posterior half of the lesser-covert region), plain isabella-white; the anterior portion of the lesser-covert region darker brown than the back. Gular region well-defined pure white; jugular collar conspicuous and unspotted. Whole lower parts immaculate isabella-white.

Hab. Western Province of United States, from the Plains to the Pacific, and from the Rio Grande to Cape St. Lucas; Mexico.

Localities: Xalapa (Scl. 1857, 290); Texas (Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 330; resident).

Specimens never vary in the pattern of coloration, and but little in the relative amount of the brown and white spotting; the shade of the brown and the depth of the ochraceous tinge vary considerably, however, in different individuals,—but irrespective of locality,—the brown being paler and the white purer in summer than in fall and winter, after the new dress is freshly assumed. The brown on the breast varies considerably in quantity, being sometimes nearly uniform, thereby abruptly contrasting with the white jugular band, and again frequently with the brown hardly greater in amount than the white, the two colors being in regular bars, as on the sides and flanks.

There is certainly but one species, or even race, of Burrowing Owl in North America. This is represented in the Smithsonian collection by over fifty specimens, including examples from all parts of its range. Upon a close inspection of all the specimens in this extensive series, I was very much surprised to find so little variation; indeed, all the specimens are so much alike that a detailed description of the colors of one would answer for almost any individual. The shade of color varies mainly according to the age of the feathers, those newly acquired having a darkness of tint and a softness of texture not seen in those more worn (as in midsummer dress), which have a bleached or faded appearance. I fail entirely to detect the different styles of plumage which Mr. Cassin has described, and his diagnoses of two supposed species will not at all hold good when applied to specimens from either of the two regions which they were considered to characterize.

Examining critically the large series at my command, I find that the principal discrepancy among individuals is the amount of feathering on the tarsus; this extending to the toes was supposed to characterize the A. cunicularia of North America the habitat of which was considered as restricted in North America to the west of the Rocky Mountains (see Cassin, Birds of North America, as cited above); the nearly naked tarsus was believed to be characteristic of the A. hypogæa, as restricted, and the habitat assigned to this was “from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains.” Now, dividing the series under examination into two sets, according to this feature, we have, first, cunicularia from the following localities: from the Rio Grande, all specimens but one; Tongue River, Montana; and Petaluma, Santa Clara, and San Francisco, California. Next, hypogæa represents the following localities, besides places within the range ascribed to it: Utah; Lower California, including Cape St. Lucas, all specimens; San Diego, California, several specimens; Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Fort Tejon, California; and Tamaulipas, Mexico.

Though we have but one species or form in North America, the South American bird is different: this is the true cunicularia of Molina, and though not specifically distinct from our bird, is nevertheless an easily recognized geographical race. It is larger, the wing measuring from 7.00 to 7.50, instead of 6.40 to 7.00; the brown of the plumage is appreciably darker than that of most specimens of hypogæa, but less extended; on the outer web of the primaries the white spots are larger,—sometimes confluent along the edge,—and on their inner webs the white largely prevails, the dusky bars appearing only towards the ends; the outer tail-feather is almost wholly white, instead of having brown bars, broader than the white ones. Of the var. cunicularia there are eight specimens in the collection (chiefly from Paraguay, Buenos Ayres, and Chile), while numerous others, in various collections, have been examined besides. All the American forms of this subgenus seem clearly referrible to one species, as being at the most but geographical races.

Habits. The Burrowing Owl of North America inhabits the country between the Pacific coast and the Mississippi River, especially in the lower plains in Nebraska and in Kansas, as well as in particular districts in Utah, Arkansas, New Mexico, the Indian Territory, Texas, Arizona, California, and Mexico. They are usually very abundant, congregating together in large communities, and differing from most members of their family by living and breeding in burrows in the ground. Their habits are peculiar and interesting.

Speotyto hypogæa.

Thomas Say, during Colonel Long’s expedition to the Rocky Mountains, was the first of American naturalists to meet with this bird. He encountered it in our trans-Mississippian Territories, where he described it as residing exclusively in the villages of the prairie-dog, whose excavations are so commodious as to make it unnecessary for the bird to dig for itself, which it is able to do when occasion requires. These villages are very numerous, and variable in their extent, sometimes covering only a few acres, and at others spreading over the surface of the country for miles together. They are composed of slightly elevated mounds, having the form of a truncated cone, about two feet in width at base, and seldom rising as high as eighteen inches above the surface. The entrance is at the top or on the side. From the entrance the passage descends vertically one or two feet, and thence it continues obliquely downward until it terminates in the snug apartment where these animals enjoy their winter’s sleep, and where they and the Owls are common, but unfriendly, occupants.

Mr. Dresser noticed this bird at all seasons, in the prairie country of Texas. They were rather common near the Rio Leon and Medina, and in one place he found they had taken possession of some deserted rat-holes. He obtained several specimens near San Antonio and at Eagle Pass. In the latter place he found them quite common on the sand plains near the town. The stomachs of those he shot were found to contain coleopterous insects and field-mice.

Dr. Newberry states that he found this species in Northern California, in several places between San Francisco and Fort Reading, and again at the Klamath Basin, though less frequently at the northward than in the Sacramento Valley. There they occupied the burrows made by the Beechey’s and the Douglass’s Spermophile. He usually saw them standing at the entrance to these burrows, often permitting him to approach within gun-shot, and before taking to flight twisting their heads about and bowing with many ludicrous gestures, apparently in order to aid their imperfect sight, and to get a better view of the intruder. When shot at or otherwise alarmed, they fly with an irregular jerking motion, dropping down much like a Woodcock.

Dr. Suckley obtained a specimen near Fort Benton, on the Upper Missouri, in Dakotah, and Dr. Cooper procured others thirty-five miles west of Fort Kearney, in Nebraska, in August. He saw them in great numbers on the plains of Nebraska, and did not observe any difference in habits between them and the birds of California.

This species was found in Texas, near Fort Davis, and also at El Paso, by Mr. J. H. Clark. It was taken in Tamaulipas, Mexico, by Lieutenant Couch. Mr. Clark remarks that they were seen by him only in the prairie-dog towns, and were found in conjunction with the rattlesnake, and accuses them of feeding upon the young of the prairie-dog; but this ungrateful requital of the hospitality given them in the burrows of this marmot is discredited by Dr. Kennerly and others, who regard the apparent harmony in which the two dwell together as altogether incompatible with this habit.

This species is also found on our Pacific coast, west of the Rocky Mountains, as far north as British Columbia. Mr. Lord met with it along the entire course of the boundary-line. It was not by any means plentiful, but pairs of them were occasionally seen. While in camp at the Dalles he dug out several squirrel-holes. In one he found two eggs of this species, the female bird, a racer-snake, and a female ground-squirrel (Spermophilus douglassi). The Owl he found to be strictly of diurnal habits, feeding principally on crickets, grasshoppers, large beetles, and larvæ. He thinks it never captures small animals or birds, and regards it as a peaceful and harmless bird.

Dr. Kennerly met with this species near Los Angeles, California. At any hour of the day they might be seen seated upon the mounds erected around the holes of the marmot, or else with head protruding from its orifice, disappearing immediately when approached. When molested, they commence bowing and chattering in a somewhat ludicrous manner at the intruder, or fly swiftly away, keeping near the earth and alighting suddenly in the vicinity of a burrow to renew these amusing motions. He found it very abundant in the valley of the San Gabriel River, where it associated with the large ground-squirrel of that region.

Dr. Heermann, who found them common on the extensive open prairies, speaks of its sight as very clear by day, and adds that it will not allow the hunter on foot to approach within shooting distance; but that, if approached on a horse or a mule, it may be easily shot. The nests he found were formed of a few straws carelessly thrown together at the bottom of its tortuous burrow, which is from six to eight feet in length. The eggs were usually four in number, and are described as nearly spherical, and as pure white.

Dr. Townsend states that this Owl resorts to the forsaken burrows of marmots and badgers, but never lives on terms of intimacy with either. The nest he describes as of fine grass, and placed at the extremity of the hole. The eggs are uniformly four in number, pale white, and about the size of those of the common House Pigeon.

Dr. Gambel, who observed this bird in California, states that he has occasionally found it in solitary burrows, and also that it often makes use of the holes dug by the Spermophilus beecheyi. They occasionally dig their own burrows, and live in scattered companies of four or five. Dr. Gambel also states that the bird is a resident of California throughout the year.

Mr. Darwin, in the Zoölogy of the Beagle, met with the var. cunicularia in crossing the pampas of South America. In Banda Oriental, he says, it is its own workman, and excavates its burrows on any level spot of sandy soil; but in the pampas, or wherever the Bizcacha is found, it uses those made by that animal. It usually preys on mice and reptiles. Lieutenant Gilliss gives a similar account of it, from observations made in Chile.

Mr. Nathaniel H. Bishop met with cunicularia on the banks of the river San Juan, in Banda Oriental, where a few pairs were seen, devouring mice and insects. After crossing the river Las Vacas, and coming upon a sandy waste covered with scattered trees and low bushes, he again encountered it. Upon the pampas of the Argentine Republic they were found in great numbers, from a few miles west of Rosario to the vicinity of San Luis, where the pampas end. On these immense plains of grass it lives in company with the Bizcacha (Lagostomus trichodactylus), dwelling with it in perfect harmony, and during the day, while the animal is sleeping, a pair of Owls stand a few inches within the main entrance of the burrow, and at the first sound, be it near or distant, leave their station and remain outside the hole, or upon the mound that forms the roof of their domicile. At the approach of man, both birds, with their irides dilated, mount above him in the air, and keep up an alarm-note until he passes. Then they quietly settle down in the grass, or return to their former place. On the pampas Mr. Bishop did not observe them taking their prey during the daytime, but as soon as the sun had set, the Bizcacha and Owls both leave their holes in search of food, the young of the former playing about the birds as they alight near them. They do not associate in companies, there being but one pair to a hole. Each couple keep separate from their neighbors, and at night do not stray from their homes.

It is both diurnal and nocturnal, and feeds at all hours. Outside the town of San Juan, which lies upon the eastern base of the Andes, Mr. Bishop had a fine opportunity to watch their habits in a locality differing entirely from the pampas. The country around San Juan is a dreary desert, covered with low thorn-trees, and over this waste a few Owls are found, principally near the town itself, in the vicinity of the pastures that are cultivated by irrigation. They mate in September and October. “One evening,” Mr. Bishop writes, “I was attracted by a strange sound that I supposed proceeded from a frog, but it proved to be the love-note of a little Athene cunicularia, and which was answered by its mate. It alighted upon a post, and commenced turning around upon it, with throat dilated, and emitting a guttural sound. These antics were continued for more than a minute, it occasionally bowing its head in a mysterious manner. The female soon after joined it, and they flew away. Each night it perched upon a tall flagstaff and uttered its love-note. Close by the house was a lagoon, the borders of which were swampy, and over this a pair often hovered in search of food. I watched one that kept on the wing for nearly two hours, some fifty feet from the ground, and during that time did not change its position in any other way than by rising or falling a few feet. A boy brought me a female with five eggs, that had been taken from a burrow five feet from the mouth. The bird was very fierce, and fought me with her wings and beak, uttering all the while a long shrill note, resembling a file drawn across the teeth of a saw. I supplied her with eleven full-grown mice, which she devoured during the first thirty-six hours of her confinement. It is said to place a small nest of feathers at the end of the hole, in which are deposited five white eggs.”

The eggs of the var. cunicularia are of a rounded-oval shape, more obtuse at one end than at the other, measure 1.30 inches in length by 1.05 in breadth, and are of a uniform white color, with a slightly bluish tinge.

6885 ½ NAT. SIZE.

Strix pratincola. (See page 10.)

The egg of the A. hypogæa is of a rounded-oval shape, equally obtuse at either end, and averages 1.35 inches in length by 1.13 in breadth, and is of a uniform clear white color. This description is taken from an egg obtained by Mr. E. S. Holden near Stockton in California. Captain Bendire writes that he has found as many as nine, and once even ten, eggs in the nest of the North American species.


The crania of the Owls present many features of interest, which may serve a good purpose in the definition of the sections and the genera, and to which attention has been occasionally called in the preceding pages. The tendency to asymmetry is especially marked in some species, and the better to illustrate this and other features we append several plates, in which the corresponding views are placed side by side.39 The figures and accompanying lettering tell their own story, without any necessity of a labored description.

R. R.

Syrnium aluco (copied from Kaup).

Athene noctua (from Kaup).

Nyctale richardsoni.









































(All natural size.)







Family FALCONIDÆ.—The Falcons.

Char. Eyes directed laterally, and eyelids provided with lashes. Toes invariably naked, and tarsus usually naked and scutellate (feathered only in Aquila and Archibuteo). Outer toe not reversible (except in Pandion). Head never with ear-tufts, and never wholly naked (except in the Vulturinæ, of the Old World).

The above characters are about the only readily observable points in the external anatomy in which the Falconidæ differ strikingly from the Strigidæ and Cathartidæ, and may serve to distinguish the birds of this family from those of the two others. The osteological characters, however, as expressed on page 1328, are more decided and important in a taxonomic point of view, and serve to separate the Hawk family as a well-defined group.

In the following treatment of the North American Falconidæ, I confine that part relating to the systematic arrangement strictly to the species embraced within the province of our work, for the reason that in a forthcoming monograph of all the American species I hope to present a systematic classification based upon the species of the whole world. All preliminary details regarding the general characteristics and distinctive peculiarities of the family, as well as all discussions and generalizations upon the subject, will therefore be omitted here.

The following synopsis of the North American genera is intended as an artificial arrangement which may enable the student to identify, by simple and readily understood characters, the forms belonging to this country.40


A. Nasal bones almost completely ossified, the nostril being a small orifice, with a conspicuous central bony tubercle; its form nearly or quite circular, or linear and oblique (in Polyborus), with its upper end the posterior one Falconinæ.

1. Falco. Nostril circular. Commissure with a prominent tooth and notch; lower mandible abruptly truncated and notched. Primaries stiff and hard, and more or less pointed, the first to the second longest, and the outer one or two with their inner webs cut, the angular emargination being near the end of the quill. Middle toe much more than half as long as the tarsus; claws strongly curved, very acute.

2. Polyborus. Nostril linear, oblique, the upper end the posterior one; commissure without prominent tooth nor notch; lower mandible not distinctly truncated or notched. Primaries soft, obtuse, the third longest, and the outer four or five with their inner webs cut, the shallow sinuation being toward the middle of the quill. Middle toe less than half the tarsus; claws weakly curved, very obtuse. Face and cheeks naked, and scantily haired.

B. Nasal bones very incompletely ossified, the nostril being a large, more or less oval, opening, of oblique direction, its lower end being invariably the posterior one; without a bony tubercle, and never perfectly circular. (Accipitrinæ.)

a. Sides of the head densely feathered close up to the eyelids.

3. Pandion. Outer toe reversible; claws contracted and rounded on their under surface, and not graduated in size.41 Wing long, third quill longest; outer four with inner webs emarginated. Tail rather short, rounded.

4. Nauclerus. Outer toe not reversible; claws not contracted or rounded on under side, and graduated in size. Wing long, third quill longest; outer two with inner webs sinuated. Tail excessively lengthened and forked, the lateral pair of feathers more than twice as long as the middle pair.

b. Sides of the head with a more scantily feathered orbital space, with a projecting superciliary “shield” covered with a naked skin.

* A well-developed membrane, or “web,” between the outer and middle toes at the base.

† Tarsus about equal to the middle toe.

§ Claws short and robust; two outer quills with their inner webs cut.

5. Ictinia. Commissure irregularly toothed and notched; front of tarsus with transverse scutellæ. Tail emarginated; third quill longest.

6. Elanus. Commissure without irregularities; front of tarsus with minute roundish scales. Tail double-rounded; second quill longest.

§§ Claws long and slender; five outer quills with inner webs cut.

7. Rostrhamus. End of bill bent downward, with a long pendent hook; inner edge of middle claw slightly pectinated, or serrated. Tail emarginated; third or fourth quill longest.

†† Tarsus very much longer than the middle toe.

¶ Front of tarsus unfeathered, and, with the posterior face, covered with a continuous series of broad transverse scutellæ.

α. Form very long and slender, the head small, the tail and legs long and claws excessively acute; bill weak, compressed, very high through the base, the culmen greatly ascending basally, and the cere much arched; commissure usually with a very prominent “festoon.”

8. Circus. Face surrounded by a “ruff” of stiffened, differently formed feathers, as in the Owls. Tarsus more than twice as long as the middle toe. Wing very long, hardly concave beneath; third to fourth quill longest; outer four with inner webs sinuated.

9. Nisus. Face not surrounded by a ruff. Tarsus less than twice as long as the middle toe. Wing short, very concave beneath, the outer quill much bowed; third to fifth quills longest; outer five with inner webs sinuated.

β. Form short and heavy, the head larger, the tail shorter, the legs more robust. Bill stronger, less compressed, lower through the base, the upper outline less ascending basally, and the cere less arched. Commissure variable.

10. Antenor. Form heavy, the wings and tail moderately long, and feet very robust; bill rather elongated, the commissural lobe prominent, and the base of the culmen somewhat depressed. Fourth quill longest; outer five with inner webs cut. Lores naked, and almost destitute of bristles.

11. Onychotes. Outstretched feet reaching beyond end of tail; tibial plumes short, close, not reaching below the joint. Wing short, rounded, very concave beneath, the fourth quill longest; outer five with inner webs sinuated. Tail short, but little more than half the wing, slightly rounded. Claws very long, and extremely acute.

12. Asturina. Bill and feet as in Antenor; lores densely bristled; wing short, rounded, concave beneath, the third to fourth quills longest; outer four with their inner webs cut.

13. Buteo. Form of Antenor, but primaries longer and more pointed, the fourth usually longest, and the outer three or four with inner webs cut. Bill and feet as in Asturina. Tail moderate, or rather short, nearly even, or slightly rounded.

¶¶ Front of the tarsus densely feathered down to the base of the toes.

14. Archibuteo. Feathering of the tarsus interrupted behind by a bare strip along the full length; middle toe less than half as long as the tarsus. Nostril broadly oval, obliquely horizontal; bill weak, the upper outline of the cere much ascending basally. Feathers of the nape normal, blended. Third to fourth quills longest; outer four or five with inner webs cut.

15. Aquila. Feathering of the tarsus uninterrupted behind; middle toe more than half as long as the tarsus. Nostril narrowly oval, obliquely vertical; bill strong, the upper outline of the cere nearly parallel with the lower. Feathers of the nape lanceolate, distinct. Fourth quill longest; five to six with inner webs cut.

** No trace of membrane between outer and middle toes.

16. Haliætus. Tarsus feathered in front one third, or more, of the way down; the naked portion with an imperfectly continuous frontal, and less well defined posterior, series of transverse plates, and covered elsewhere with roundish granular scales. Feathers of the neck, all round, lanceolate, distinct. Bill very large, the chord of the culmen more than twice as long as the cere on top; nostril oval, obliquely vertical. Third to fifth quills longest; outer six with inner webs cut. Tail rounded or cuneate, sometimes consisting of fourteen feathers.

The foregoing diagnoses embrace merely the more conspicuous external characters whereby the genera may be most readily distinguished by the student. The following table presents additional accompanying characters afforded by the osteological and anatomical structure, of more importance in defining with precision the several groups embraced in our fauna.

A. Scapular process of the coracoid produced forward so as to meet the clavicle42 (Huxley). Nasal bones almost completely ossified, the nostril being a small, usually circular opening, with a raised or “rimmed” margin, and conspicuous, usually central, bony tubercle. Inferior surface of the supermaxillary bone with a prominent median angular ridge. Superciliary process of the lachrymal consisting of a single piece. (Falconinæ.43)

B. Scapular process of the coracoid not produced forward so as to meet the clavicle (Huxley). Nasal bones incompletely ossified, the nostrils being very large, and without bony rim or tubercle. Inferior surface of the supramaxillary bone without a median ridge. Superciliary process of the lachrymal variable. (Accipitrinæ.)

a. Superciliary process of the lachrymal composed of a single, excessively abbreviated piece;44 posterior margin of the sternum with a pair of indentations, and without foramina. (Pandion and Nauclerus.)

b. Superciliary process of the lachrymal double, or composed of two pieces, joined by a cartilaginous “hinge,” and reaching nearly across the orbit. Posterior margin of the sternum without indentations, and usually with a pair of foramina. (All except Pandion and Nauclerus.)

† Septum of the orbits and nostrils incompletely ossified (the former always and the latter usually) and with foramina; posterior margin of the sternum most produced backwards laterally, and incompletely ossified, there being usually a pair of foramina. Intestinal canal short, broad, with the duodenum simple, forming a single loop (McGillvray). A well-developed “web” between the outer and middle toes. (All but Haliætus.)

†† Septum of the orbits and nostrils completely ossified, and without any trace of foramina; posterior margin of the sternum produced medially into a convex lobe, and without any trace of foramina. Intestinal canal extremely elongated, attenuated, with the duodenum arranged in several convolutions (McGillvray). No trace of a web between outer and middle toes. (Haliætus.)

Subfamily FALCONINÆ.

Genus FALCO, Auct.

Gen. Char. Bill strong, its breadth at the base equalling or exceeding its height; upper outline of cere on a level with, or rather lower than, the base of the culmen; gonys much arched, the chord of the arch equalling about half that of the culmen. Near the tip of the upper mandible is a prominent tooth on the commissure, and near the end of the lower mandible, which is truncated, is a deep notch corresponding; the end of the upper mandible is compressed, giving the situation of the tooth an inflated appearance when viewed from above. Nostrils circular, with a conspicuous central tubercle. Orbital region bare; projecting superciliary shield conspicuous, arched, but not very prominent. Tail shorter than wing, the feathers hard and stiff. Primaries very strong, elongated, tapering rapidly toward their points; only the first or first and second with their inner webs emarginated, the cutting being angular, and near the end of the quill. Tarsus never with a single series of transverse scutellæ either in front or behind; middle toe very long.

13077, ♀. ½


One primary only with inner web emarginated; first to second longest; first longer than fourth.

Tarsus longer than middle toe, and feathered far below the knee; first quill shorter than third. Coloration of the sexes alike; old and young slightly different in pattern and tints. Size large … Hierofalco.

Tarsus not longer than middle toe, and scarcely feathered below the knee; first quill equal to or longer than the third. Coloration of the sexes alike; old and young very different in pattern and tints. Size, very small to large … Falco.

Two primaries with inner webs emarginated; second to third longest; first shorter than fourth.

Basal joint of toes without transverse scutellæ; tarsus about equal to middle toe.

Coloration of the sexes in adult plumage very different in tints; in the young alike, the young ♂ resembling the adult ♀. Size small … Æsalon.

Basal joint of toes with transverse scutellæ; tarsus longer than middle toe.

Coloration of the sexes very different, in pattern and tints, at all ages; old and young alike. Scutellæ of the toes and tarsus interrupted at the digito-tarsal joint; tarsus much longer than middle toe. Bill small, the cere on top less than one fourth the culmen. Size small … Tinnunculus.

Coloration of the sexes alike at all ages; old and young slightly different in pattern and tints. Scutellæ of tarsus and toes uninterrupted from “knees” to claws; tarsus but little longer than middle toe. Bill large, the cere on top about one third the culmen. Size medium; form very slender … Rhynchofalco.

Subgenus HIEROFALCO, Cuvier.

Species and Races.

1. F. gyrfalco. Wing, 13.00–17.00; tail, 8.50–11.50; culmen, .85–1.05; tarsus, 2.10–3.00; middle toe, 1.80–2.25.45 Ground-color varying from entirely pure white to wholly dusky, but generally bluish (in adult) or grayish-brown (in young) above, and white beneath. Adult. All the markings transverse.46 No lighter nuchal band. Young. Markings of the lower surface longitudinal, the upper parts without transverse bars (except on the tail47).

a. Lower parts with white predominating, or wholly white.

Lower tail-coverts never with markings. No tinge of blue anywhere on the plumage, the ground-color of which is entirely pure white at all ages.

1. Adult. Upper parts, excepting head and neck, with transverse crescentic bars of dark plumbeous; lower parts immaculate, or else without well-defined markings. Young. Upper parts with longitudinal stripes of dark plumbeous; lower parts usually conspicuously striped. Hab. Greenland (in the breeding-season); in winter, occasionally wandering into the northern portions of Europe and North America … var. candicans.

Lower tail-coverts always with markings. A tinge of ashy-blue more or less prevalent above. Young dusky above.

Head and neck above abruptly lighter than the back. Young plain grayish-brown above, with conspicuous whitish borders to the feathers.

2. Adult. Upper parts white, passing into bluish posteriorly; everywhere (except on head and neck) with sharply defined, transverse (not crescentic, but continuous) bars of dark plumbeous. Abdomen and flanks with transverse spots of the same. Young without irregular light mottling to the plumage above, and with broad longitudinal stripes beneath. Hab. Iceland and Southern Greenland, in the breeding-season; in winter, south into Northeastern United States, and Northern Europe … var. islandicus.

Head and neck above abruptly darker than the back. Young (of var. sacer) variegated grayish-brown above, without light borders to the feathers.

3. Adult. Top of the head streaked with whitish; back with sharply defined, continuous, narrow transverse bars, of creamy-white. Hab. Interior regions of Continental Arctic America (Slave Lake, Yukon, and McKenzie River district) … var. sacer.

4. Adult. Top of head not streaked with whitish; back without sharply defined bars of the same. Hab. Continental Arctic Europe (Scandinavia) and Siberia. Migrating south, in winter, to Bengal (Hardwicke) … var. gyrfalco.48

b. Lower parts with dusky predominating, or wholly dusky.

5. Adult. Almost entirely dusky, without well-defined markings anywhere. Hab. Littoral regions of the Hudson Bay Territory and Labrador … var. labradora.

2. F. lanarius. Wing, 11.50–16.00; tail, 6.60–9.50; culmen, .70–1.00; tarsus, 1.90–2.40; middle toe, 1.65–2.00. Ground-color varying from pale grayish-plumbeous to dark sepia-brown; beneath white, with sparse markings, these coalesced into a broken patch on the flanks. Adult. Above obscurely barred transversely with pale ashy and brownish-dusky, the former prevailing posteriorly, the latter anteriorly; a lighter nuchal band. Spots on the sides and flanks transverse. Young. Above brown, varying from grayish-drab to dark sepia, the feathers usually bordered with paler (rusty in youngest individuals); markings beneath all longitudinal.

a. Outer webs of tail-feathers with large well-defined light spots; outer webs of the primaries sometimes with light spots on the basal portion; secondaries without distinct spots on the outer webs. Lower tail-coverts immaculate.

Wing, 13.65–16.00; tail, 8.40–9.50; culmen, .85–1.00; tarsus, 1.95–2.15; middle toe, 1.85–1.95. Top of the head white, with narrow streaks of dark brown. Hab. Central and Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and adjoining portions of Africa … var. lanarius.49

b. Outer webs of tail-feathers without distinct light spots, or without any at all; outer webs of primaries with no trace of spots; secondaries with light spots on outer webs. Lower tail-coverts sparsely spotted.

Wing, 12.00–14.25; tail, 7.60–9.00; culmen, .75–.90; tarsus, 2.15–2.40; middle toe, 1.70–2.00. Top of head brown, with narrow black streaks. Adult. Above with obscure transverse spots of bluish. Young. Above with feathers bordered with rusty … var. polyagrus.

Wing, 11.50; tail, 6.60; culmen, .70; tarsus, 1.90; middle toe, 1.65. Above uniform dark brown, with a faint plumbeous cast, the feathers without trace of light or rusty edges; outer web of tail-feathers without trace of light spots. Hab. Mexico … var. mexicanus.50

Wing, 13.60–14.30; tail, 8.25–9.00; culmen, .80–.87; tarsus, 1.85–1.90; middle toe, 1.85–1.90. Colors similar to the last; entire auriculars white; mustache narrow and conspicuous. Hab. Southern Asia … var. jugger.51

The only point of difference in the external anatomy between the Lanner Falcons and Gerfalcons consists in the different degree of feathering on the upper part of the tarsus; this is much denser and extends farther down and more around the posterior face in the Gerfalcons, but they, being inhabitants of a very northern latitude, need this protection against the rigor of the climate. These slight specific differences are illustrated by the figures on page 1430. The same difference is observable in many birds whose habitat extends through a great range of latitude, as, for instance, the Pediocætes phasianellus, the northern race of which has the feathers covering the base of the toes so long as to reach beyond the claws and nearly conceal them, while in the southern form (var. columbianus) the toes are almost completely naked.

My determination of the number and character of the geographical races of F. gyrfalco is the result of a very careful critical examination of over sixty specimens, aided by the important conclusions of Mr. Hancock (Annals and Magazine of Natural History, 2d ser., XIII, 110; London, 1834), Schlegel (Falcones, Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle des Pays-Bas, 1862), Pelzeln (Uebersicht der Geier und Falken der Kaiserlichen ornithologischen Sammlung, April, 1863), and Alfred Newton (History of British Birds, revised ed., part 1, June, 1871, pp. 36–52, and Proc. Acad. Nat. Sc. Philadelphia, July, 1871, pp. 94, 95), in their important papers bearing upon this subject, which, though they each express the peculiar individual views of the writer, together clear up pretty satisfactorily the problem of the number, character, and habitats of the several races, as well as the different phases of variation to which each is subject.

43139, ♀. ½

Falco sacer.

43139, ♀. ¼

5482, ♀. ½

Falco polyagrus.

43139, ♀. ½

5482, ♀. ½

In studying the F. lanarius, I have experienced most discouraging difficulties from the want of sufficient series of the Old World races, and from the unsatisfactory character of most descriptions and figures of them, besides being much perplexed by the confusion of their synonymy by different authors. In consequence of this, my diagnoses of the four races of which alone I have seen examples may be very unsatisfactory as regards the characters by which they may be most readily distinguished. Having seen the adult of only a single one of these four races, I am therefore compelled to base my differential characters upon the immature stages.

In addition to the four races of F. lanarius characterized above, there are several geographical forms belonging to the Old World, chiefly intertropical Asia and Africa. These are the var. babylonicus, Scl. and Irby, (Gray’s Hand List, I, p. 20, No. 173,) of Southeastern Europe and Western Asia; var. barbarus, L. (Gray’s Hand List, p. 20, No. 174), of Northern Africa; and var. tanypterus, Licht. (Gray’s Hand List, No. 175), of both the preceding regions, which Mr. Gurney writes me “is simply the intertropical race of F. lanarius, from which it only differs in being of a darker shade throughout.” The F. saker, Schleg. (Gray’s Hand List, No. 176), seems, to judge from the descriptions and figures which I have seen, to be also merely a form of the same species, but I have seen no specimens of it.

Falco (Hierofalco) gyrfalco, Linn.
Var. candicans, Gmelin.

Accipiter falco freti hudsonis, Bris. Orn. I, 356, 1763. A. gyrfalco, Briss. Orn. I, 370, pl. xxx, f. 2, 1763. Falco rusticolus, Fabr. Faun. Grœn. p. 55, 1780.—Lath. Syn. Supp. I, 15, 1781. F. candicans, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 275, 1788.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 101, 1800.—Benick, Isis, 1824, 882.—Schleg. Krit. Ubers. p. 1, 1844.—Bonap. Rev. Zool. 1850, 484; Consp. Av. p. 33.—Cassin, Proc. Ac. Nat. Sc. Phil. 1855, 278; Birds N. Am. 1858, 13.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 77, 1855.—Blasius, Cab. Jour. 1862, 43 (thinks all boreal ones same in Europe and America).—Elliot, Birds N. Am. pl. xii. Hierofalco candicans, Cuv. Reg. An. ed. 1, I, 312, 1817; ed. 2, I, 323, 1829.—Less. Man. Orn. I, 80, 1828; Tr. Orn. p. 97, pl. xvi, p. 2.—Gray, Hand List I, 18, 1869. Falco islandicus, Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 32, 1790; Syn. I, 71, A, B; Gen. Hist. I, 72, A, 1821.—Steph. Zool. XIII, pt. ii, p. 39, 1826.—Gould, B. Eur. pl. xix.—Aud. Birds Am. 1831, pl. ccclxvi. F. buteo β, Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 24, 1790; Gen. Hist. I, 80, A. F. lagopus, β, Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 19, 1790; Syn. Supp. I, 36; Gen. Hist. I, 68, A. F. grœnlandicus, Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 157, 1800. Hierofalco grœnlandicus, Brehm. Voy. Deutsch, I, 16, 1831. F. gyrfalco, Bonap. List, p. 4, 1838.

Sp. Char. Adult (♀, 18,577, Greenland; Univ. Zool. Mus. Copenhagen). Ground-color entirely pure white; whole upper surface (posterior to the nape) with transverse crescentic bars of dark plumbeous-brown, generally about two on each feather, the first concealed by the feather which overlaps. Primaries crossed at regular intervals with quadrate spots of the same tint, these becoming fused toward ends of quills, forming a terminal dusky space of two or three inches in extent; tips of all the quills narrowly white; the black bars do not extend quite to the primary coverts, and decrease both in extent and regularity toward the base. Middle tail-feathers crossed with seven or eight imperfect bars of dusky, the shafts of the feathers blackish; rest of tail immaculate, the shafts pure white. Nape with a very few fine shaft-streaks of dusky. Whole lower surface of body and wing utterly immaculate. Wing-formula, 2–3–1. Wing, 16.50; tail, 9.00; culmen, 1.05; tarsus, 2.10–1.35; middle toe, 2.20; inner, 1.50; outer, 1.50; posterior, 1.00.

(No. 56,152, ♀, Greenland; Schlüter Collection.) Head above, occiput, nape, and upper half of ear-coverts, with sparse shaft-streaks of black, these most numerous on the latter region; primaries barred to the coverts. Tail entirely crossed by eleven plumbeous bars. Bars above clearer plumbeous. The snowy-white beneath is relieved by a few minute variable flecks of dusky upon the lower part of the abdomen, becoming larger as they approach the sides. Wing-formula, 2–3–1. Wing, 16.70; tail, 9.30.

Juv. transition stage? (♂ 56,047, “Hoher Norden”; Schlüter Collection). Markings above quite different from those of the two preceding; each feather has a large central longitudinal sagittate spot of dusky, leaving only the borders (of the exposed portion) white; on the primaries the dusky is almost confined to the terminal portion; the rump and upper tail-coverts have each feathers with a medial longitudinal stripe of dusky. The tail is immaculate, but the shafts of the middle feathers are dusky. The neck, breast, abdomen, and sides have numerous cuneate marks of dusky, one near the end of each feather. The lining of the wing, even, has a few narrow streaks. Wing, 14.75; tail, 9.40.

No. 56,049 (♀, Greenland, Schl. Coll.) is similar in pattern of markings, but above the dusky is more extended, forming the predominating color; the rump, etc., has broad sagittate spots instead of narrow stripes; the primaries are barred to the coverts; the tail is crossed by about ten continuous bands of dusky. Beneath the lanceolate spots or streaks cover the whole surface, except the anal region, lower tail-coverts, and throat. On the lining of the wing the streaks are less sparse than in the preceding, though they are by no means numerous. Wing, 15.75; tail, 9.50.

Falco candicans.

Juv. first plumage (♀, 56,053, Greenland; Schlüter Coll.). All the markings are longitudinal, instead of directly the reverse. The upper parts have longitudinal tear-shaped stripes, a medial one on each feather; they are sparse, however, on the wings; the rump has narrow shaft-lines of dusky. The tail and upper coverts are immaculate, but the shafts of all the feathers are nearly pure black. The bars on the primaries are found only immediately next the dusky terminal space. The streaks beneath are not very numerous, and are found only on the breast, upper part of abdomen, and on the sides; the nape and sides of the neck are, however, thickly streaked.

(No. 17,966, ♀, Moose Factory, Hudson Bay Territory.) In character of markings resembling the last, but the stripes are fainter and narrower; they are also less numerous. On the under parts they are wanting. Unfortunately, the tail of this specimen, which is the only North American one in the collection, is missing.

In all specimens the anal region and lower tail-coverts are immaculate.

Hab. Greenland, and continent of North America, north of Hudson Bay (breeding in latter region). Of irregular occurrence in winter throughout the circumpolar regions; Ural Mountains (Eversman); Behring’s Strait (Bannister).


National Museum, 7; Boston Society, 2; Philadelphia Academy, 3; New York Museum, 6; collection of R. Ridgway, 1. Total, 19.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
14.40–14.75 9.70–00.00 .90–0.00 2.15–2.45 1.95–2.00 3
15.75–16.25 10.00–11.00 .98–1.00 2.20–2.50 2.05–2.15 6
Var. islandicus, Sabine.

Accipiter falco islandicus, Briss. Orn. I, 336, 1763. Falco islandicus, Sab. Linn. Trans. XII, 528, 1818.—Temm. Man. Orn. pt. x; 17, pt. iii, p. 9; Tab. Meth. p. 2, 1836.—Faber, Prod. Island. Orn. 1822, p. 2; Isis, 1827, 62.—Rich. & Swains. F. B. A. II, 27, 1831.—Hoy, Mag. Nat. Hist. Ser. 1, VI, 107.—Hancock, Ann. Nat. Hist. II, 247; Rev. Zoöl. 1839, 123.—Bonap. Consp. Av. p. 24.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 77, 1855.—Cassin, Birds N. Am. 1858, 13. Hierofalco islandicus, Gray, Gen. B. p. 3 (ed. 2, p. 4), 1844; Hand List, I, 18, 1869. Falco candicans islandicus, Schleg. Krit. übers, p. 1, 1844. Falco lanarius, Faber, Isis, 1827, 68. Falco gyrfalco, Keyserling & Blasius, Wirbelth. Eur. p. 135, 1840.

Sp. Char. Adult (♂, Iceland; No. 12, Coll. Geo. N. Lawrence). Ground-color of the plumage dull white, gradually becoming somewhat bluish posteriorly, this color especially noticeable on the tail. Whole upper parts crossed with broad transverse bands of dark plumbeous, these bands continuous, and more than twice as wide as the pale ones, except on the upper tail-coverts and tail, where the bands of the two colors are more regularly defined and about equal; in addition to the transverse bands, the feathers anteriorly have narrow borders of white. Tail with the dark bands twelve in number; the terminal pale band is purer white than the others. The dusky plumbeous prevails on the primaries, and is unvariegated beyond the middle portion; the anterior half, however, is marked with quadrate ragged spots, of a slightly yellowish-white; all are margined terminally with purer white. Each feather of the head and neck with a narrow medial streak of dusky, but the general aspect abruptly lighter than the back; the streaks are more condensed along the upper and terminal portion of the ear-coverts. Jugulum and breast with a medial narrow streak on each feather; abdomen with more elliptical streaks; sides with circular and cordate spots, and flanks and tibiæ with transverse spots; lower tail-coverts with narrow shaft-streaks of dusky. Lining of the wing with sparse narrow streaks of dusky; under surface of primaries with white prevailing, this, however, crossed by narrow bars of dusky, these numbering about sixteen on the longest. Wing-formula, 2–3–1. Wing, 14.60; tail, 7.80; culmen, 1.00; tarsus, 2.30; middle toe, 2.00.

Juv. (No. 20,344, Iceland). Ground-color of head, neck, and lower parts, white. Upper surface grayish umber-brown, becoming paler and more grayish on the tail; each feather above sharply bordered (both webs, all round) with dull white, producing a somewhat squamate appearance; in places, a few obsolete hidden spots of yellowish-white. Tail ashy-drab (feathers somewhat paler along edges), crossed with about eleven transverse series of spots of ochraceous or creamy white; these very obsolete on middle feathers, and sharply defined only on inner webs; the last is terminal. Primaries plain brown, somewhat darker than the back, and becoming insensibly darker terminally; skirted with white, and somewhat mottled or irregularly spotted toward their bases with yellowish-white. Head and neck, each feather, with a medial streak of dusky, but white the prevailing aspect; these streaks condensed and somewhat suffused along upper border of ear-coverts, and from the lores along cheeks, forming an obsolete “mustache”; every feather beneath (including lining of wings) with a medial broad stripe of clear plumbeous vandyke-brown, the shaft pure black; under surface of primaries with transverse spaces of white, these numbering thirteen on the longest. Wing-formula, 2–3, 1. Wing, 15.00; tail, 9.20.

Hab. Iceland and Southern Greenland. Northeastern North America in winter, straggling accidentally south to the New England States; Rhode Island (Museum, Cambridge); Norway, Maine “not uncommon” (Verrill); Massachusetts (Peabody & Jillson); Long Island (Cab., G. N. Lawrence).

Falco islandicus.

No. 56,050, Greenland (Schlüter Collection), is moulting, and assuming the adult dress; the adult and young stages above described being nearly equally combined. No. 56,055, from Greenland, differs from the other young individuals which I have seen in being considerably darker. The feathers of the upper surface are not bordered with whitish, but are merely paler on their edges, along which are specks of yellowish. On the head and neck the dark streaks predominate, while the stripes below are very broad. It approaches quite nearly toward the young of var. sacer.

The only specimen of this race which I have seen from Continental North America, is a young individual, obtained during the winter of 1864–65, near Providence, R. I., taken by Mr. Newton Dexter, and now in the Cambridge Museum, where I had the pleasure of seeing it.


National Museum, 5; Boston Society, 3; Philadelphia Academy, 9; Coll. G. N. Lawrence, 2; Museum Comp. Zoöl., 1; New York Museum, 5. Total, 25.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
14.35–14.75 8.80–10.00 .91–1.00 2.20–3.00 1.95–2.15 9
16.25–16.50 10.00–11.50 1.00–1.05 2.30–2.70 2.00–2.25 10
Var. sacer, Forster.

Falco sacer, Forster, Phil. Trans. LXII, 1772, 383 and 423.—Coues, Birds of New England, 1868, 6.—Baird, Trans. Chicago Acad. Sc. I, ii, 271. ? Falco cinereus, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 267, 1789.

Sp. Char. Adult (♂, 51,689, Yukon, mouth of Porcupine River; Strachan Jones). Whole upper surface with numerous transverse bands of brownish-plumbeous and ashy-white. Anteriorly the light bars are about half the width of the dark ones; posteriorly they gradually increase, the bands of the two colors being about of equal width on the upper tail-coverts and tail; with the increase of the lighter bars, they become more ashy, and, correspondingly, the darker ones are more plumbeous; on the rump there is but little contrast between the bands of the two, causing a prevalent bluish cast. The bands are everywhere continuous, the light ones being interrupted only by the black shaft; there are generally on the anterior portions about three light bars on each feather, the last always terminal. Tail tipped with white, and crossed with equal continuous bands of hoary-plumbeous and ashy-white; the latter eleven in number, and finely sprinkled with deeper ash. Primaries brownish-plumbeous, plain past the middle portion, but on the anterior half with quadrate spots of creamy white on the outer web. Head above brownish-plumbeous, this prevailing; but along the median line the feathers are edged with buffy white; forehead dull white, this continuing back in a streaked superciliary stripe to the occiput; cheeks very thinly marked with fine streaks of dusky, this prevailing along the upper border of the ear-coverts; a deeper dusky suffusion beneath the anterior angle of the eye. Lower surface pure white; chin and throat, only, immaculate; jugulum with very sparse, narrow longitudinal streaks of blackish; sides with scattered cordate or nearly circular spots, these larger and transverse on the flanks and tibiæ; abdomen with scattered minute elliptical spots; lower tail-coverts with minute irregular sagittate or transverse spots of dusky. Under surface of the wing white; each feather of the lining with a medial tear-shaped streak of dusky; primaries crossed with narrow bars of dusky, fifteen in number on the longest. Wing-formula, 2–3–4–1–5. Wing, 13.50; tail, 8.60; culmen, .90; tarsus, 2.15; middle toe, 1.87.

♀ (43,139, Fort Anderson, May 24, 1864, “♀ and two eggs”; R. MacFarlane). Generally similar to the male. Head above conspicuously streaked, but the dusky prevailing. Above the transverse bands are less regular and continuous, anteriorly the plumbeous largely prevailing; posterior portions, however, as in the male, but on the rump the bands are more distinct. Beneath, the markings are more numerous, larger, and broader; those on the jugulum linear; those of the abdomen medially elliptical; laterally they are transversely cordate, and on the flanks in form of broad transverse spots, or broad bars; on the tibiæ and lower tail-coverts they form regular transverse bars,—on the latter, quite distant. Wing-formula, 2–3–4, 1. Wing, 15.50; tail, 9.50; tarsus, 2.15 and .80; middle toe, 1.95.

Juv. (♂, 55,400, Alaska, Nulato, February 10, 1868; W. H. Dall). Above plumbeous-umber, precisely as in young of islandicus, but on the rump having a decided ashy cast. No white edges to the feathers, as in islandicus, but, instead, numerous irregular transverse spots or obsolete ragged bars of cream-color or pale ochraceous-buff; the whole upper surface is quite thickly variegated with these irregular markings. Tail crossed with thirteen narrow bands of creamy-white, these so thickly mottled with dusky on the outer webs as to be obscure, but on inner webs they are regular and sharply defined; the last is terminal. Primaries plain dusky, skirted obscurely with paler, and marked toward bases with obsolete mottled spots of cream-color. Head streaked with dusky and creamy-white, the former predominating on upper surface, along upper edge of ear-coverts, and across the cheeks, on the latter forming a mustache; the white prevails over the ear-coverts in a broad supra-oral stripe, and on the forehead and lores. Beneath, soft dull white; chin and upper part of throat, only, immaculate; each feather with a broad medial stripe of clear dark plumbeous-brown, on the flanks and tibiæ prevailing, the whitish assuming the form of roundish spots; lining of the wing similarly marked; prevailing aspect of under surface of primaries white, crossed with narrow bars of ashy, fifteen in number on the longest. Wing-formula, 2, 3–1=4. Wing, 14.00; tail, 8.40.

Hab. Interior regions of Arctic America; Anderson River, McKenzie, Yukon, and Severn River regions. Breeding abundantly in the former district, whence numerous specimens of skins and eggs have been received by the Smithsonian Institution.

In the young specimen described, there are one or two new feathers appearing on the rump and upper tail-coverts, precisely as in the blue plumage, and proving conclusively their relationship. The species is as different from the Iceland bird in the young stage as in the mature. The most readily apparent differences are, lack of sharp white edges of feathers above, and in their stead numerous ragged transverse spots of yellowish; dark aspect of head above, etc.

Specimens vary considerably in the shades of color and distribution of the markings, but the types of the above descriptions are the lightest of the series. The darkest example is No. 43,144½ (“♀ and eggs”), Fort Anderson, May 22, 1864. In this the whole head and neck (except underneath) are continuous blackish-plumbeous, only the middle of the auriculars being faintly streaked; the back is nearly plain dusky, and even on the wings the bars are very obscure and much reduced in width. The rump is plain ashy-blue, the darker bars being nearly obsolete. The longitudinal markings on the pectoral region are enlarged into conspicuous stripes, while on the sides and flanks the transverse bars form heavy spots. The transverse bars on the tibiæ are ashy-blue; those on the crissum clear plumbeous, and regularly transverse. Wing, 15.75; tail, 9.30. Upon comparing this specimen with the figures of a pair of var. gyrfalco, by Wolf, in Newton’s Oötheca Wolleyana, I can discover no difference at all; thus it would seem that our bird occasionally closely approaches in tints and markings this race of Continental Europe, of which I have seen only one immature example, and no adults.

I cannot agree with Mr. Newton in considering the Gerfalcons of the interior of Arctic America as identical with the Iceland form, though that distinguished ornithologist considers them so in his paper in the Proceedings of the Philadelphia Academy for July, 1871, basing his conclusion upon the specimens from which the above descriptions were taken, which had been sent over to England for comparison. I have never yet seen a specimen of islandicus which could not be distinguished, by the characters given in my synopsis, from these examples, while they can be separated from that race by the characters which Mr. Newton himself gives, in his diagnostic table in the paper above cited, for distinguishing the adults of islandicus and gyrfalco.

The var. sacer is evidently separable from both islandicus and gyrfalco, and about as much related to one as to the other; combining the size and proportions of the former with the colors of the latter, while in the wide amount of individual variation of plumage its lighter extreme approaches one, while its darkest phase approximates as closely to the average plumage of the other.


National Museum, 6.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
13.35–14.25 8.50–9.00 .86–.93 2.15–2.40 1.80–1.95 3
15.50–16.00 10.00–10.50 1.00–.00 2.35–2.55 2.00–2.15 3
Var. labradora, Audubon.

Falco labradora, Aud. B. Am. pl. cxcvi, 1831.

Sp. Char. Adult (♀ breeding plumage? 30,375, Rigolet, Labrador; Mr. Conolly). Ground-color of the plumage uniform, very deep, clear, dark plumbeous-brown, continuously uniform above; larger scapulars, secondaries, secondary coverts, and primaries more dilute along edges, however, the tint palest and broadest terminally. Tail perfectly uniform, except at the end; the tip being narrowly whitish, and about half an inch anterior to this, a transverse series of hidden irregular transverse creamy-white spots. The head (except beneath) is unvariegated. Beneath, the dark tint inclines more to blackish clove-brown, more dilute on the tibiæ; feathers edged laterally with white, this prevailing on the throat, but everywhere else far less than the dusky in amount; on the tibiæ and lower tail-coverts the white is in the form of irregular spots. Anal region unvariegated; lining of the wing with circular spots of white along the outer webs of the feathers. Under surface of primaries with plumbeous prevalent, but this crossed with mottlings of whitish, forming transverse bars; but terminally and basally they become confused or lost. Wing-formula, 2, 3–1, 4. Wing, 16.20; tail, 9.50; tarsus, 2.00–.90; middle toe, 2.05; inner, 1.50; outer, 1.50; posterior, .90.

Hab. Labrador; south and westward in winter, and shores of Hudson Bay.

Nos. 17,063 (♀, Quebec, W. Cooper) and 34,960 (♀, Fort Nescopec, Labrador) differ from the preceding in having ten small narrow transverse spots of reddish-white on the tail-feathers, forming as many indistinct bands; these spots touch neither the shaft nor the edge of the feather, and are almost concealed, unless the tail is spread; on the latter specimen they are very obsolete, the subterminal one only being distinct, as in the specimen selected for description. The upper tail-coverts also show faintly indicated spots, and the former specimen has the wing-coverts with very narrow irregular spots on the edge of the feathers. In this specimen there is also one feather in the scapulars which has broader white edges; it also has the white below about equal to the black in amount; the anal region, however, in all, is unvaried blackish, and the transverse oblique bands on the lower tail-coverts are a constant feature.

No. 41,185 (♀, Fort Nescopec, Labrador; H. Conolly) is the darkest of all. In this the blackish plumbeous-brown is uniform over the whole surface; even the throat is unvariegated. Abdomen with a few of the feathers edged with white, and sides with a few small circular spots of the same; lower tail-coverts transversely spotted with white; tibiæ scarcely variegated, showing only narrow indistinct whitish edges. Mottling on inner webs of primaries reduced so as to be scarcely visible. Tail with the usual number (two) of irregular whitish bars,—one terminal, the other near the end.


National Museum, 2; Boston Society, 1. Total, 3.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
14.50–00.00 9.00–00.00 .90–0.00 2.12–0.00 1.90–0.00 1
15.50–15.75 9.50–10.00 1.00–1.05 2.00–2.35 2.00–2.10 2

Habits. In treating of the general habits of the Gerfalcons of North America it will not be necessary, nor will it be possible, to give the distinctive peculiarities belonging to the several forms in which these Falcons occur. Whether, on account of their variations of plumage, we consider them as races or as specifically distinct, does not affect their history in this respect. There is no good reason for presuming that they have any very noticeable variations as to any of their habits, although certain writers claim for some of them certain well-marked peculiarities of character.

In the matter of geographical distribution they are all, for the most part, rarely seen, even in midwinter, south of the 50th parallel of north latitude, and are found in the summer as far north as the Arctic Ocean. The Gerfalcon of the McKenzie River region, occurring from the Slave Lake to Anderson River and the Yukon, is the form elsewhere given as the F. sacer. Along our eastern coast region occurs another form, the F. labradora, which is the bird met with in Labrador, and described by Mr. Audubon. The F. candicans or grœnlandicus is a form peculiar to Greenland, visiting also, in the winter, the Hudson’s Bay region; while the F. islandicus, a well-known European form, occurs in Greenland also, and occasionally farther south.

Holböll, in his account of the birds of Greenland (Isis, 1845), appears to recognize but one species of Gerfalcon as occurring there, to which he gives the name of islandicus. This is, he states, the most abundant Falcon in Greenland, and is equally common in the northern and in the southern parts. Their great variations in color he regarded as indicative of differences in ages to only a very limited extent, and as in no respect specific. These differences in color were found among both nestlings and breeding birds, white and dark birds being found together in both circumstances. The white birds were more numerous in Northern Greenland, and the dark ones oftener seen in the southern portion.

He found the young birds moulting throughout the winter. On the 4th of January, 1840, he shot a young female that showed signs of moulting about the head and neck, with a striped white appearance from the sprouting feathers. The ovaries were quite well developed, and it was evident that the birds of this species breed in the first season after their birth. Holböll adds that they breed in January, that their eggs are of nearly the same color as those of the Ptarmigan, but are twice as large. They nest usually in inaccessible cliffs. They prey chiefly upon water-fowl and Ptarmigans, and usually build near “bird rocks,” from which they obtain the young without much trouble. He mentions having once seen one with a young Larus tridactylus in each foot, and another with two Tringa maritima carried in the same manner. Its rapidity of flight Holböll did not regard as very great. He had for years kept pigeons, and only lost two young birds, which were seized when at rest. Almost every day, especially in October and November, these Falcons would chase the old Pigeons unsuccessfully, and were often shot when they followed them too near the house. They were not particularly shy, and were occasionally decoyed and killed by throwing a dead bird towards them.

During the summer they are most numerous along the bays, especially where there are “bird-rocks” near. In September they go southerly along the coast, and also in October and November. At this time they are not rare, and approach the houses of the Danes, near which they are often seen fighting with the Ravens. Their spring migrations are not so regular as they are in the autumn, or perhaps at this time they do not approach the houses so frequently. When they are near the settlements, it is noticed that in the morning they fly towards the south, and in the evening towards the north.

Richardson speaks of the Gerfalcon as a constant resident in the Hudson Bay territory, where it is known as the Speckled Partridge-Hawk, and also as the Winterer. Its southern limit he could not give, but he never met with it south of 52°. He traced it northward to the coast of the Arctic Sea, and probably to the most northern Georgian islands. He cites Captain Sabine as authority for its occurring as far north as latitude 74° on the west coast of Greenland. Richardson often met with it during his journeys over the Barren Grounds, where its habitual prey was the Ptarmigan, and where it also destroyed Plover, Ducks, and Geese. He relates that in the middle of June, 1821, a pair of these birds attacked him as he was climbing to the vicinity of their nest, which was built on a lofty precipice on the borders of Point Lake, in latitude 65° 30′. The bird flew in circles, uttering loud and harsh screams, stooping alternately with such velocity that their motions through the air produced a loud rushing noise. They struck their claws within an inch or two of his head. Keeping the barrel of his gun close to his cheek, and suddenly elevating its muzzle when they were in the act of striking, he found that they invariably rose above the obstacle with the rapidity of thought, showing equal power of motion. They bore considerable resemblance to the Snowy Owl, but their flight was much more rapid.

Mr. MacFarlane, in the memoranda of his collections in the neighborhood of Anderson River and Fort Anderson, furnishes notes of eighteen nests of the Gerfalcon obtained by him in that region. With only two exceptions, these were placed near the tops of pines, or other trees, at distances from the ground varying from ten to twenty-five feet. In some instances the nest was placed on the very top of the tree, in others on a lower limb against the trunk. They were composed of twigs and small branches, and lined with mosses, hay, deer’s hair, feathers, and other substances. The parents were always very much excited whenever their nests were approached, making a great noise, and not unfrequently their loud screams drew attention to nests that would otherwise have escaped notice. In one instance a nest had been built on a ledge of rocks thirty miles northwest of Fort Anderson. It was composed of a few withered twigs, and lined with mosses and hay. It was found on the 27th of May, and contained two eggs nearly fresh, and two in a state of greater development. One nest, placed on a broad branch of a tree, near the trunk, was of considerable size. Another nest was on the ground, on the side of a steep and high hill. The earliest date of finding these nests is given as the 10th of May. The eggs then found were fresh. The ground at that time was still thickly covered with snow, and the weather was very cold. In a nest found five days later the eggs contained partially developed embryos. In nearly every instance the eggs seem to have been in different stages of development in the same nest. In some, young birds were in the same nest with eggs only partially developed, and in another an egg perfectly fresh was in the same nest with others nearly ready to hatch. A nest found July 3 contained young about two days old; another, on May 27, had eggs with large embryos; and one, on June 25, had young nearly ready to fly.

Mr. Donald Gunn claims that this Falcon is the only Hawk that is resident in the Arctic regions throughout the year. It is known to the Indians by the name of Pepunesu, and this name is applied to it because it passes the winter with them. It is a very powerful bird, and commits great havoc among the Partridges, so much so that in former times the Hudson Bay Company gave a reward of a quart of rum to every hunter who brought in the head of one of these Falcons. All the other Hawks are only summer visitors.

Mr. Bannister was informed by the residents of St. Michaels that a Hawk, presumed to be this species, is not unfrequent there, though he did not happen to meet with it. On his voyage home, on the 21st of October, 1866, when off the coast of Kamtschatka, north of Behring’s Island, one alighted in the rigging of the ship, and continued with them for several hours.

Although very rare in any part of the United States, occasional individuals have been taken in different localities, and in one instance a pair was known to breed for several successive seasons in Vermont. This information I have from Mr. Clarence King, who, when a lad at school in the town of Dummerston, observed a pair nesting among some high cliffs, and informed me of the fact at the time of the occurrence. One of these birds is recorded by Mr. Lawrence as having been taken on Long Island in the winter of 1856.

Mr. Boardman gives it as occurring near Calais in winter, but very rare. Professor Verrill found them not uncommon in Oxford County, Me., where they were frequently seen during winter, flying about the extensive meadows near Norway; but they were very shy and watchful, and it was hardly possible to procure a specimen. It is very unusual in Eastern Massachusetts, and only very rarely and occasionally have specimens been taken. Mr. Jillson obtained a specimen, in 1840, at Seekonk. One was shot, in 1864, near Providence, R. I., by Mr. Newton Dexter.

Mr. Audubon relates that, August 6, 1833, his son, John W. Audubon, found a nest of this Falcon among some rocky cliffs near Bras d’Or, Labrador, containing four young birds ready to fly, two of which were procured. The nest was placed among the rocks, about fifty feet from their summit and more than a hundred from their base. It was inaccessible, but, having been examined from above, was seen to be empty. It was composed of sticks, sea-weeds, and mosses, was about two feet in diameter, and was almost flat. Its edges were strewed with the remains of their food, and beneath the nest was an accumulation of the wings of Ptarmigans, Mormons, Uriæ, etc., mingled with large pellets of fur, bones, and various substances.

Their flight is spoken of as similar to that of the Peregrine Falcon, but more elevated, majestic, and rapid. Their cries were also like those of that Falcon, being very loud, shrill, and piercing. Occasionally this bird was seen to alight on one of the high stakes placed on the shore. There it would stand, in the position of a Tern, for a few moments, and then would pounce upon a Puffin, as the latter bird was standing at the entrance of its burrow, unaware of the approach of its enemy. The weight of the Puffin seemed to form no impediment to the Hawk in its flight.

The European Gerfalcons are said to seldom appear south of the 52d parallel of latitude, or north of 74°. They are nowhere numerous, and were formerly much sought for, and purchased, at immense prices, for purposes of falconry. Great differences were supposed to exist in regard to the habits and other peculiarities of the several races. The Iceland Falcons commanded the highest prices, and were regarded as a species quite distinct from the F. gyrfalco. The former was much the more valuable, both as more rare, and as a bird of higher courage and of a more rapid and bolder flight, and a bird that could, on that account, be “flown” successfully at larger game.

The Gerfalcons, in Europe, build on the rocky coasts of Norway and Iceland, and are said to defend their young with great courage and determination. They are comparatively rare in the British Islands, especially the more southern portions. Even in the Orkneys it is only an occasional visitor.

All the eggs of the several forms of Gerfalcon that I have seen present common characteristics, and do not differ from each other more than eggs known to belong to the same species of Hawk are frequently found to vary. One from Greenland, presumed to belong to the candicans, measures 2.37 inches in length by 1.71 in breadth. The predominant color of its markings is a deep reddish-brown, very generally and nearly equally diffused over its surface, concealing the ground-color, which is lighter and of a yellowish-brown shade.

An egg of the islandicus, from Iceland, has the same measurements, but is so slightly yet uniformly marked with light yellowish-brown as to seem to be of one color only,—a light brown, shaded with yellow.

An egg from Norway, of the form gyrfalco, is 2.42 inches in length, 1.71 in breadth, has a ground-color of a dirty yellowish-white, and is marked with spots, dottings, and confluent blotches of yellowish-brown, more so about the larger end.

The series of eggs of Falco sacer in the Smithsonian Collection exhibits the following range of variation in size, color, and markings: length, from 2.30 to 2.45 inches; breadth, 1.60 to 1.90 inches; ground-color usually a light reddish-ochre, varying to pinkish on the one hand, and to rufous on the other. They are usually sprinkled all over with small spots, which are sometimes not distinguishable from the ground-color when this is very deep, and again larger and quite conspicuous.

An egg of the variety candicans, from Greenland (No. 2,606, S. I.), measures 2.25 inches by 1.80. In color and in markings it is like the average eggs of variety sacer, namely, pale rufous, sprinkled over with a slightly deeper shade.

Falco lanarius.
Var. polyagrus, Cassin.

Falco polyagrus, Cassin, B. Cal. & Tex. 1853, 88.—Ib. P. A. N. S. 1855, 277; B. N. Am. 1858, 12.—Heerm. Pacific R. Rep’t, II, 1855, 31.—Kennerly, P. R. R. III, 1856, 19.—Coop. & Suckl. P. R. R. XII, 1860, 143.—Coues, P. A. N. S. 1866, 7.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 1855, 85.—Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 323.—Gray, Hand List, I, 1869, 20. Falco lanarius, var. mexicanus, Ridgway in Coues’ Key, 1872.

Sp. Char. Adult (♂, No. 59,063, Wahsatch Mountains, Utah, May 23, 1868; parent of eggs; L. E. Ricksecker). Above cinereous-drab, becoming gradually paler and more bluish posteriorly, barred, indistinctly, everywhere with a more dusky tint, the shafts of all the feathers blackish; anteriorly the darker shade predominates, while posteriorly the bluish prevails; on the anterior portions the light bars are much restricted in width, and of a more ochraceous tint. Tail plain, very pale ashy-drab, narrowly tipped with reddish-white, this changing to pale rusty on the middle pair; the concealed portion of the feathers outside the shaft show obsolete, or faint traces of, darker bars, which on the middle pair are apparently about eleven in number. On the inner webs the paler bars become broader than the darker ones, and incline to ochraceous in tint, the lateral feather being edged externally with this color. Primaries plain ashy-drab, with a hoary tinge, growing insensibly darker terminally, and with a slightly paler apical margin. Head and neck above, dark umber-brown, with conspicuous shaft-streaks of black. Lores, a broad superciliary stripe (somewhat interrupted above the eyes), white, finely and sparsely streaked, the two stripes confluent across the occiput; a broad heavy “mustache” from the lores and rictus downward and obliquely backwards, across the maxilla, and a wider postocular stripe, like the crown. Beneath continuous white, with a faint ochraceous tinge on the abdomen and crissum; abdomen and sides of the breast with a few scattered, small, ovate spots of vandyke-brown; sides transversely spotted with vandyke-brown, the spots coalesced into a broken patch on the flanks; outside of the tibiæ with transverse spots of the same. Axillars plain, clear vandyke-brown, with a few nearly obsolete rusty specks near their ends; lining of the wing clear white, the feathers with central spaces of dusky-brown, which toward the edge become aggregated into a longitudinal patch; inner webs of the primaries with broad transverse spots of white, which reach nearly to the shaft; they are about thirteen in number on the longest quill. Feet yellow; base of the bill tinged with the same. Wing-formula, 2, 3–1, 4. Wing, 12.00; tail, 7.50; tarsus, 1.90; middle toe, 1.70; outer, 1.22; inner, 1.12; posterior, .77.

♀ (not adult? 18,258, Fort Buchanan, New Mexico; Dr. Irwin). Above continuous umber-drab, growing gradually lighter posteriorly, the tail being pale drab; no transverse bars (except a few concealed obsolete ones on back and secondaries), but all the feathers faintly bordered with paler rusty-brown, these edgings being on upper tail-coverts almost white. Tail tipped with creamy-white, and with many transverse spots or broad bars of the same on inner webs, outer feather irregularly skirted with the same, and all decidedly paler than the ground-color along their edges. Head as in the male, but forehead white, and superciliary stripe more continuous. Breast and abdomen with longitudinal lanceolate or cuneate streaks of dark vandyke-brown; patch of same on flanks more continuous than in the male; axillars unvariegated clear dark vandyke-brown; longest primary with eleven transverse spots of white; posterior outer face of tibiæ with sagittate spots of dark brown. Wing-formula, 2, 3–1, 4. Wing, 14.25; tail, 8.00; tarsus, 2.10; middle toe, 2.00.

Juv. (♂, 32,207, South Fork of the Platte River, July 19, 1838; C. S. McCarthy). Above darker umber than the last, each feather distinctly bordered terminally with rusty-ochraceous. Beneath with a deeper cream-colored tinge, streaks blacker; flank-patch more conspicuous and uniform; axillars unvariegated dusky. Wing-formula, 2, 3–1=4. Wing, 13.25; tail, 7.25.

Hab. Western division of North America, eastward to Illinois; Oregon to Lower California, and Texas. Localities: Texas, San Antonio and Eagle Pass (Dresser); Arizona (Coues).

The different stages of plumage are in this by no means so well defined as in other species, there being nearly the same general appearance in all. There is, also, very little variation in different specimens of the same age. No. 8,504, (♀, Dalles, Oregon; Dr. George Suckley) has the black markings on the sides of the breast more circular, and the vandyke-black of the axillars with a few circular white spots on the edges of the feathers. Wing, 14.50; tail, 8.40. Nos. 17,204 (♀, San José, Lower California; John Xantus, January, 1860) and 18,258 (♂ ? Fort Buchanan, N. M.) have the upper surface almost perfectly continuous grayish-drab, the first absolutely unvariegated by markings, though the feathers fade a little on edges. Beneath, the white is very pure; the streaks are numerous, sharply defined and longitudinal. Wing, 13.25; tail, 7.50 (17,204).

The American Lanner Falcon is so very closely related to the Lanners of Europe and Asia (var. lanarius and var. jugger) that it is very difficult to indicate the differences which separate them. The two Old World forms above named are more unlike each other than they are from the two American races; the var. jugger differing from mexicanus apparently only in larger size; and the var. lanarius, more like polyagrus than it is like either jugger or mexicanus, differs from polyagrus mainly in the greater amount of white on the plumage, this imparting a lighter aspect to the pileum, and causing a greater development of the light spots on the outer webs of the primaries and rectrices.

Falco polyagrus.

The var. polyagrus, compared with var. lanarius, is much darker, having, at all ages, the crown uniformly brown, with darker streaks, instead of having these streaks upon a white ground. The “mustache” is more distinct in the American bird, while in the European the bands on the tail are much more distinct, and the spots forming them are on the outer webs, as well as on the inner, instead of on the latter alone; the dark bars between the light spots are in the American bird much narrower and more numerous, and in the young the light ones come to the edge of the web, instead of being enclosed within the dark color. Two very young birds (i.e. in first perfect plumage) appear almost identical until closely examined, the chief differences being a lighter tint to the crown in the European, and heavier dark stripes on the breast, besides the peculiar character of the tail-spots, which are always distinctive. In shades of color, there is not the slightest difference.

I have seen no specimen of any of the Old World forms in the plumage corresponding to that transversely barred above, described here as the adult, though figures of the adult lanarius indicate a very similar plumage. The series of the latter race at my command is unfortunately limited to a very few immature specimens. One marked “ad.” (56,051, Hungary; Schlüter Coll.) measures as follows: Wing, 14.50; tail, 8.00; culmen, .83; tarsus, 1.90; middle toe, 1.80. Its colors are as described in the synopsis (p. 1429) for the young bird.

The var. mexicanus and var. jugger, which are both much darker, and more uniform in the coloring of the upper parts, than var. polyagrus, are more nearly alike; in fact, the only tangible difference that I can find between a specimen of the former in the Museum of the Boston Society of Natural History (No. 1,438, ♂, Juv. Lafr. Collection; “Mexico”) and two examples of the latter in the New York Museum, consist in the larger size of the var. jugger (see synopsis), besides its whiter cheeks and more isolated and distinct “mustache.” A direct comparison of these two races may show other tangible points of distinction, or, on the contrary, may show even these slight distinguishing features to be inconstant. The former result is, however, most reasonably to be expected.


National Museum, 9; Boston Society, 2; Philadelphia Academy, 4; Museum Comp. Zoöl. 1; G. N. Lawrence, 2; R. Ridgway, 5. Total, 23.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
12.00–00.00 7.60–0.00 .00–.75 .00–2.15 .00–1.70 6
13.25–14.25 8.00–9.00 .85–.90 2.05–2.40 1.85–2.00 12

Habits. This is an exclusively western species, occurring from the valley of the Mississippi to the Pacific coast. Specimens have been obtained as far east as Illinois. Several others have been taken on the Upper Missouri and the Yellowstone Rivers, in Nebraska, at Fort Thorne, New Mexico, and on the Little Colorado River. A specimen was shot by Dr. Heermann on the Farallones, on the California coast; but Dr. Cooper thinks it rarely visits the coast border, though he several times saw, near San Diego, a bird which he supposed to belong to this species. At Martinez, in December, 1863, he succeeded in shooting one as it flew from its perch at the approach of the wagon in which he was riding.

It is said to extend its migrations in summer to the Upper Columbia, avoiding the densely forest-clad regions. Dr. Heermann saw a young unfledged individual at San Francisco, from which it may be inferred that a few may breed within the State.

The first individual of this species was taken by Dr. Townsend during his trip across the continent, in 1834. It was obtained among the mountainous regions of Oregon, near the sources of the Platte River. Mr. Cassin states that Dr. Heermann procured several specimens in the Sacramento Valley.

Mr. Cassin remarks that this species, except in its greatly superior size and strength, bears a very close resemblance to the well-known Jugger Falcon of India, a bird much used for the purposes of falconry.

Dr. Kennerly, who procured a single specimen of this species while his party was encamped on the Little Colorado, found it busily engaged in seeking its prey among the bushes that grew along the river-bank. It was shy, and was procured with difficulty.

Dr. Suckley speaks of this Hawk as not at all rare in Oregon. He procured a specimen of it at Fort Dalles, in the beginning of the winter of 1854–55, which had been killed in the act of carrying off a barn-yard fowl of about its own weight, and which it had just seized near the door of a dwelling-house,—an act demonstrative of a union of courage, ferocity, and strength inferior to none of its congeners.

Dr. Cooper characterizes this as one of the shyest of Hawks, as it is also one of the swiftest, flying with rapid flappings of the wings. It seems to prefer the borders of prairies, where it catches hares, quails, and even larger game.

Mr. Ridgway informs me that this Hawk was seen by him in Southern Illinois, near Mt. Carmel, September 27, 1871. It had been obtained once before within the limits of Illinois, but in the northwestern part of the State, at Rock Island, by I. Dickenson Sergeant, of Philadelphia, and presented by him to the Academy of Natural Science.

Its nest and eggs were taken in Utah by Mr. Ricksecker. I have no notes in regard to the former. A finely marked specimen of one of the eggs procured by him is in my cabinet. It measures 2.15 inches in length by 1.65 in breadth. It is of a somewhat less rounded-oval shape than are the eggs of the anatum. The ground-color is a rich cream, with a slightly pinkish tinge, and is beautifully marked with blotches of various sizes, shapes, and shades of a red-brown tinged with chestnut, and with occasional shadings of purplish. These are confluent about one end, which in the specimen before me chances to be the smaller one. It very closely resembles the eggs of the European F. lanarius.

An egg in the Smithsonian Collection (15,596), taken at Gilmer, Wyoming Territory, May 13, 1870, by Mr. H. R. Durkee, has a ground-color of pinkish-white, varying in two eggs to diluted vinaceous, thickly spotted and minutely freckled with a single shade of a purplish-rufous. In shape they are nearly elliptical, the smaller end being scarcely more pointed than the larger. They measure 2.27 by 1.60 to 1.65 inches. The nest was built on the edge of a cliff. Its eggs were also taken by Dr. Hayden while with Captain Raynolds, at Gros Vent Fork, June 8, 1860.

Subgenus FALCO, Mœhring.

51293, ♂. ¼

F. aurantius.

52814, ♀.

F. rufigularis (nat. size).

51293, ♂. ½

F. aurantius.

51293, ♂. NAT. SIZE.

F. aurantius.

52814, ♀.

F. rufigularis (nat. size).

The following synopsis of the three American species of this subgenus may serve to distinguish them from each other, though only two of them (F. aurantius and F. rufigularis) are very closely related. The comparative characters of the several geographical races of the other one (F. communis), which is cosmopolitan in its habitat, being included under the head of that species, may explain the reasons why they are separated from each other.

Species and Races.

A. First and second quills equal and longest; first with inner web emarginated, second with inner web slightly sinuated. Young with longitudinal stripes on the lower parts. Adult and young stages very different.

1. F. communis. Wing, 11.50–14.30; tail, 7.00–8.50; culmen, .72–.95; tarsus, 1.65–2.20; middle toe, 1.80–2.30.52 Second quill longest; first shorter than, equal to, or longer than third. Adult. Above plumbeous, darker anteriorly, lighter and more bluish posteriorly; anteriorly plain, posteriorly with darker transverse bars, these growing more sharply defined towards the tail. Beneath ochraceous-white, varying in tint from nearly pure white to deep ochraceous, those portions posterior to the jugulum transversely barred, more or less, with blackish or dark plumbeous; anterior lower parts (from the breast forward) without transverse bars. Young. No transverse bars on the body, above or below. Above blackish-brown, varying to black, the feathers usually bordered terminally with ochraceous or rusty; forehead usually more or less washed with the same. Beneath ochraceous, varying in shade; the whole surface with longitudinal stripes of blackish. Inner webs of tail-feathers and primaries with numerous transverse elliptical spots of ochraceous. Hab. Cosmopolitan.

a. Young dark brown above, the feathers bordered with rusty or whitish. Beneath white or ochraceous, with narrow longitudinal stripes of dusky. Inner webs of tail-feathers with transverse bars.

Auriculars white, cutting off the black of the cheeks with a prominent “mustache.”

Beneath pure white, the breast and middle of the abdomen without markings. Wing, 12.75; tail, 7.30; culmen, .80; tarsus, 2.00; middle toe, 1.80. Hab. Eastern Asia … var. orientalist.53

Beneath pale ochraceous, the breast always with longitudinal dashes, or elliptical spots, of dusky; middle of abdomen barred. Wing, 11.50–14.30; tail, 7.00–8.50; culmen, .72–.95; tarsus, 1.65–2.20; middle toe, 1.80–2.30. Hab. Europe … var. communis.54

Beneath varying from deep ochraceous to nearly pure white, the breast never with distinct longitudinal or other spots, usually with none at all. Middle of abdomen barred, or not. Wing, 11.30–14.75; tail, 6.00–9.00; culmen, .75–1.00; tarsus, 1.60–2.10; middle toe, 1.75–2.20. Hab. America (entire continent) … var. anatum.

Auriculars black, nearly, or quite, as far down as the lower end of the “mustache.”

Beneath varying from deep ochraceous to white, the breast streaked or not. Lower parts more uniformly and heavily barred than in the other races. Young with narrower streaks beneath. Wing, 11.15–12.60; tail, 6.11–8.00; culmen, .81–.90; tarsus, 1.60–2.05; middle toe, 1.75–2.15. Hab. Australia … var. melanogenys.55

b. Young unvariegated brownish-black above. Beneath brownish-black, faintly streaked with white, or nearly unvariegated. Inner webs of tail-feathers without transverse bars.

Wing, 14.90–15.09; tail, 8.50; culmen, .95–1.00; tarsus, 2.10; middle toe, 2.15–2.21. Hab. Northwest coast of North America, from Oregon to Sitka … var. pealei.

B. Second quill longest; first with inner web emarginated, the second with inner web not sinuated. Young without longitudinal stripes on lower parts. Adult and young stages hardly appreciably different.

Above plumbeous or black; beneath black from the jugulum to the tibiæ, with transverse bars of white, ochraceous, or rufous; throat and jugulum white, white and rufous, or wholly ochraceous, with a semicircular outline posteriorly; tibiæ, anal region, and crissum uniform deep rufous, or spotted with black on an ochraceous or a white and rufous ground. Adult. Plumbeous above, the feathers darker centrally, and with obscure darker bars posteriorly; jugulum immaculate. Young. Black above, the feathers bordered terminally with rusty, or else dark plumbeous without transverse bars; jugulum with longitudinal streaks.

2. F aurantius.56 Wing, 9.50–12.00; tail, 5.40–6.25; culmen, .96; tarsus, 1.50–1.60; middle toe, 1.75–2.10. Second quill longest; first longer than third. Crissum ochraceous, or white and rufous, with large transverse spots of black; upper tail-coverts sharply barred with pure white or pale ash. Adult. Above plumbeous-black, the feathers conspicuously bordered with plumbeous-blue. Throat and jugulum immaculate; white centrally and anteriorly, deep rufous laterally and posteriorly. Tibiæ plain rufous. Young. Above uniform dull black, the feathers sometimes bordered inconspicuously with rusty. Throat and jugulum varying from white to ochraceous or rufous (this always deepest laterally and posteriorly). Tibiæ sometimes thickly spotted transversely with black. Hab. Tropical America, north to Southern Mexico.

3. F. rufigularis.57 Wing, 7.20–9.00 (♂, wing, 7.70; tail, 3.95–5.50; culmen, .45–.58; tarsus, 1.20–1.55; middle toe, 1.15–1.40). Second quill longest; first longer than third. Crissum uniform deep reddish-rufous, rarely barred with white and dusky. Upper tail-coverts obsoletely barred with plumbeous.

Adult. Above plumbeous-black, the feathers lightening into plumbeous-blue on the edges and ends, and showing obscure bars on the posterior portions. Throat and jugulum ochraceous-white, the ochraceous tinge deepest posteriorly and without any streaks. Young. Above plumbeous-black, without lighter obscure bars, or with a brownish cast, and with faint rusty edges to the feathers. Throat and jugulum deep soft ochraceous, deepest laterally, the posterior portion usually with a few longitudinal streaks of dusky. Hab. Tropical America, north to Middle Mexico.

Falco communis, Gmel.
Var. anatum, Bonap.

? Accipiter falco maculatus, Briss. Orn. I, 329. ? Falco nævius, Gmel. S. N. 1789, 271. Falco communis ζ, and F. communis η, Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 31. Falco communis, Coues, Key, 1872, 213, f. 141. Falco peregrinus, Ord. Wils. Am. Orn. 1808, pl. lxvi.—Sab. L. Trans. XII, 529.—Rich. Parry’s 2d Voy. App. 342.—Ib. F. B. A. II, 1831, 23.—Bonap. N. Y. Lyc. II, 27.—Ib. Isis, 1832, 1136; Consp. 1850, 23, No. 4.—King, Voy. Beag. I, 1839, 532.—James. Wils. Am. Orn. 677, Synop. 1852, 683.—Wedderb. Jard. Contr. to Orn. 1849, 81.—Woodh. Sitgr. Zuñi, 1853, 60.—Giraud, B. Long Island, 1844, 14.—Peale, U. S. Ex. Ex. 1848, 66.—Gray, List B. Brit. Mus. 1841, 51. Falco anatum, Bonap. Eur. & N. Am. B. 1838, 4.—Ib. Rev. Zoöl. 1850, 484.—Bridg. Proc. Zoöl. Soc. pl. xi, 109.—Ib. Ann. N. H. XIII, 499.—Gosse, B. Jam. 1847, 16.—Cass. B. Cal. & Tex. 1854, 86.—Ib. Birds N. Am. 1858, 7.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 13, pl. iii, f. 8.—Nutt. Man. 1833, 53.—Peab. B. Mass. 1841, 83.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 1855, 83.—Blakist. Ibis, III, 1861, 315.—March, Pr. Ac. N. S. 1863, 304. Falco nigriceps, Cass. B. Cal. & Tex. I, 1853, 87.—Ib. Birds N. Am. 1858, 8.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 85.—Coop. & Suckl. P. R. R. Rep’t, VII, ii, 1860, 142.—Gray, Hand List, I, 1869, 19, No. 166.—Sharpe, Ann. & Mag. N. H. Falco orientalis, (Gm.) Gray, Hand List, I, 1869, 19, No. 165 (in part). ? Falco cassini, Sharpe, Ann. & Mag. N. H.

Sp. Char. Adult (♂, 43,134, Fort Resolution, Brit. N. Am., June; J. Lockhart). Upper parts dark bluish-plumbeous, approaching black anteriorly, but on rump and upper tail-coverts becoming fine bluish plumbeous-ash. On the head and neck the continuous plumbeous-black covers all the former except the chin and throat, and the back portion of the latter; an invasion or indentation of the white of lower parts up behind the ear-coverts separating that of the cheeks from the posterior black, throwing the former into a prominent angular patch; forehead and lores grayish. All the feathers above (posterior to the nape) with transverse bars of plumbeous-black, these most sharply defined posteriorly, where the plumbeous is lightest. Tail black, more plumbeous basally, very faintly paler at the tip, and showing ten or eleven transverse narrow bands of plumbeous, these most distinct anteriorly; the bars are clearest on inner webs. Alula, primary and secondary coverts, secondaries and primaries, uniform plumbeous-black, narrowly whitish on terminal margin, most observable on secondaries and inner primaries. Lower parts white, tinged with delicate cream-color, this deepest on the abdomen; sides and tibiæ tinged with bluish. Chin, throat, and jugulum immaculate; the breast, however, with faint longitudinal shaft-streaks of black; sides, flanks, and tibiæ distinctly barred transversely with black, about four bars being on each feather; on the lower tail-coverts they are narrower and more distant; on the abdomen the markings are in the form of circular spots; anal region barred transversely. Lining of the wing (including all the under coverts) white tinged with blue, and barred like the sides; under surface of primaries slaty, with elliptical spots or bars of creamy-white on inner webs, twelve on the longest. Wing-formula, 2–1–3. Wing, 12.25; tail, 6.00; tarsus, 1.60; middle toe, 1.85; outer, 1.40; inner, 1.20; posterior, .80; culmen, .80.

♀ (13,077, Liberty Co., Georgia; Professor J. L. Leconte). Like the male, but ochraceous tinge beneath deeper; no ashy wash; bands on the tail more sharply defined, about ten dark ones being indicated; outer surface of primaries and secondaries with bands apparent; tail distinctly tipped with ochraceous-white. Inner web of longest primary with thirteen, more reddish, transverse spots. White of neck extending obliquely upward and forward toward the eye, giving the black cheek-patch more prominence. Markings beneath as in the male. Wing-formula the same. Wing, 14.50; tail, 7.00; tarsus, 1.95; middle toe, 2.10; culmen, .95.

Juv. (♂, 53,193, Truckee River, Nevada, July 24, 1867; R. Ridgway: first plumage). Above plumbeous-black, tail more slaty. Every feather broadly bordered terminally with dull cinnamon; these crescentic bars becoming gradually broader posteriorly, narrower and more obsolete on the head above. Tail distinctly tipped with pale cinnamon, the inner webs of feathers with obsolete transverse spots of the same, these touching neither the edge nor the shaft; scarcely apparent indications of corresponding spots on outer webs. Region round the eye, and broad “mustache” across the cheeks, pure black, the latter more conspicuous than in the older stages, being cut off posteriorly by the extension of the cream-color of the neck nearly to the eye. A broad stripe of pale ochraceous running from above the ear-coverts back to the occiput, where the two of opposite sides nearly meet. Lower parts purplish cream-color, or rosy ochraceous-white, deepest posteriorly; jugulum, breast, sides, flanks, and tibiæ with longitudinal stripes of plumbeous-black, these broadest on flanks and abdomen, and somewhat sagittate on the tibiæ; lower tail-coverts with distant transverse bars. Lining of the wing like the sides, but the markings more transverse; inner web of longest primary with nine transverse purplish-ochre spots. Wing-formula, 2–1, 3. Wing, 12.50; tail, 7.00. Length, 16.50; expanse, 39.25. Weight, 1½ lbs. Basal half of bill pale bluish-white, cere rather darker; terminal half (rather abruptly) slate-color, the tip deepening into black; iris very dark vivid vandyke-brown; naked orbital space pale bluish-white, with a slight greenish tint; tarsi and toes lemon-yellow, with a slight green cast; claws jet-black.

Hab. Entire continent of America, and neighboring islands.

Localities: Guatemala (Scl. Ibis I, 219); Veragua (Salv. P. Z. S. 1867, 158); Sta. Cruz (Newton, Ibis, I, 63); Trinidad (Taylor, Ibis, 1864, 80); Bahamas (Bryant, Pr. Bost. Soc. 1859, VII); Cuba (Cab. Journ. II, lxxxiii); (Gundl. Repert. 1865, 225); Jamaica, (Gosse, B. Jam. 16; March, Pr. Ac. N. S. 1863, 304, et Mus. S. I.); Tierra del Fuego (Sharpe, Ann. & Mag. N. H.; “F. cassini, Sharpe”).

The young plumage above described corresponds exactly with that of young peregrinus from Europe, a comparison of the specimen above described with one of the same age from Germany (54,064, Schlüter Col.) showing no differences that can be expressed. Many American specimens in this plumage (as 19,397, Fort Simpson) show a wash of whitish over the forehead and anterior part of the crown; having before us but the one specimen, we cannot say whether or not this is ever seen in the European bird. Specimens more advanced in season—perhaps in second year—are colored as follows: The black above is more brownish, the feathers margined with pale brown,—these margins broader, and approaching to white, on the upper tail-coverts; the tail shows the ochraceous bars only on inner webs. The supraoral stripe of the youngest plumage is also quite apparent.

A still younger one from the same locality (No. 37,397) has the upper plumage similar to the last, the pale edges to the feathers, however, more distinct; tail with conspicuous spots. White beneath clearer, and invading the dusky of the head above as far back as the middle of the crown; the supraoral stripe is distinct, scarcely interrupted across the nape.

In the adult plumage the principal variation is in the extent and disposition of the bars beneath. In most individuals they are regularly transverse only laterally and posteriorly, those on the belly being somewhat broken into more irregular cordate spots, though always transverse; in no American specimen, however, are they as continuously transverse as in a male (No. 18,804) from Europe, which, however, in this respect, we think, forms an exception to most European examples, at least to those in the Smithsonian Collection. All variations in the form, thickness, and continuity of the markings below, and in the distinctness of the bars above, are individual.

Very old males (as 49,790, Fort Yukon; 27,188, Moose Factory (type of Elliott’s figure of F. peregrinus, in Birds of America); and 42,997, Spanishtown, Jamaica) lack almost entirely the reddish tinge beneath, and have the lateral and posterior portions strongly tinged with blue; the latter feature is especially noticeable in the specimen from Jamaica, in which also the bars are almost utterly wanting medially. Immature birds from this island also lack to a great degree the ochraceous tinge, leaving the whitish everywhere purer.

A female adult European bird differs from the average of North American examples in the conspicuous longitudinal streaks on the jugulum; but in a male these are hardly more distinct than in 13,077, ♀, Liberty Co., Georgia; 11,983, “United States”; 35,456, Peel’s River; 35,449, ♀, and 35,445, ♀, Fort Yukon, Alaska; 35,452, La Pierre’s Hous., H. B. Ter.; 35,459 ♂, Fort Anderson; and 28,099 ♀, Hartford, Conn. In none of these, however, are they so numerous and conspicuous as in a European female from the Schlüter Collection, which, however, differs in these respects only from North American specimens.

A somewhat melanistic individual (in second year? 32,735, Chicago, Ill.; Robert Kennicott) differs as follows: Above continuously pure black; upper tail-coverts and longer scapulars bordered terminally with rusty-whitish. Tail distinctly tipped with white; the inner webs of feathers with eight elliptical transverse bars of pale ochraceous, and indications of corresponding spots of the same on outer webs, forming as many inconspicuous bands. Beneath ochraceous-white; the neck, breast, and abdomen thickly marked with broad longitudinal stripes of clear black,—those on the jugulum cuneate, and on the breast and abdomen broadly sagittate; the tibiæ with numerous cordate spots, and sides marked more transversely; lower tail-coverts with narrow distant transverse bars. On the chin and throat only, the whitish is immaculate, on the other portions being somewhat exceeded in amount by the black. Inner web of longest primary with seven transverse elliptical bars of cream-color. Wing, 12.20; tail, 9.40.

Whether the North American and European Peregrine Falcons are or are not distinct has been a question undecided up to the present day; almost every ornithologist having his own peculiar views upon the relationship of the different forms which have been from time to time characterized. The most favorably received opinion, however, seems to be that there are two species on the American continent, and that one of these, the northern one, is identical with the European bird. Both these views I hold to be entirely erroneous; for after examining and comparing critically a series of more than one hundred specimens of these birds, from every portion of America (except eastern South America), including nearly all the West India Islands, as well as numbers of localities throughout continental North and South America, I find that, with the exception of the melanistic littoral race of the northwest coast (var. pealei), they all fall under one race, which, though itself exceedingly variable, yet possesses characters whereby it may always be distinguished from the Peregrine of all portions of the Old World.

There is such a great amount of variability, in size, colors, and markings, that the F. nigriceps, Cassin, must be entirely ignored as being based upon specimens not distinguishable in any respect from typical anatum. Judging from the characters assigned to the F. cassini by its describer (who evidently had a very small series of American specimens at his command), the latter name must also most probably fall into the list of synonymes of anatum.

Slight as are the characters which separate the Peregrines of the New and Old World, i.e. the immaculate jugulum of the former and the streaked one of the latter, they are yet sufficiently constant to warrant their separation as geographical races of one species; along with which the F. melanogenys, Gould (Australia), F. minor, Bonap. (South Africa), F. orientalis, Gmel. (E. Asia), and F. calidus, Lath. (Southern India and East Indies), must also rank as simple geographical races of the same species. Whether the F. calidus is tenable, I am unable to state, for I have not seen it; but the others appear to be all sufficiently differentiated. The F. radama, Verreaux (Gray’s Hand List, p. 19, No. 170), Mr. Gurney writes me, is the young female of var. minor. Whether the F. peregrinator, Sundevall (Gray’s Hand List, No. 169), is another of the regional forms of F. communis, or a distinct species, I am not able at present to say, not having specimens accessible to me for examination.

Mr. Cassin’s type of “nigriceps” (13,856, ♂, July), from Chile, is before me, and upon comparison with adult males from Arctic America presents no tangible differences beyond its smaller size; the wing is a little more than half an inch, and the middle toe less than the eighth of an inch, shorter than in the smallest of the North American series,—a discrepancy slight indeed, and of little value as the sole specific character; the plumage being almost precisely similar to that of the specimen selected for the type of the description at the head of this article. In order to show the little consequence to be attached to the small size of the individual just mentioned, I would state that there is before me a young bird, received from the National Museum of Chile, and obtained in the vicinity of Santiago, which is precisely similar in plumage to the Nevada specimen described, and in size is even considerably larger, though it is but just to say that it is a female; the wing measures 13.25, instead of 12.50, and the middle toe, 2.00, instead of 1.85. No. 37,336, Tres Marias Islands, Western Mexico,—a young male in second year,—has the wing just the same length as in the smallest North American example, while in plumage it is precisely similar to 26,785, of the same age, from Jamaica. No. 4,367, from Puget’s Sound, Washington Territory,—also a young male,—has the wing of the same length as in the largest northern specimen, while the plumage is as usual.

Two adult females from Connecticut (Nos. 28,099 and 32,507, Talcott Mt.) are remarkable for their very deep colors, in which they differ from all other North American examples which I have seen, and answer in every particular to the description of F. cassini, Sharpe, above cited. The upper surface is plumbeous-black, becoming deep black anteriorly, the head without a single light feather in the black portions; the plumbeous bars are distinct only on the rump, upper tail-coverts, and tail, and are just perceptible on the secondaries. The lower parts are of a very deep reddish-ochraceous, deepest on the breast and abdomen, where it approaches a cinnamon tint,—the markings, however, as in other examples. They measure, wing, 14.75; tail, 7.50; culmen, 1.05–1.15; tarsus, 2.00; middle toe, 2.30. They were obtained from the nest, and kept in confinement three years, when they were sacrificed to science. The unusual size of the bill of these specimens (see measurements) is undoubtedly due to the influence of confinement, or the result of a modified mode of feeding. The specimens were presented by Dr. S. S. Moses, of Hartford.

An adult male (No. 8,501) from Shoal-water Bay, Washington Territory, is exactly of the size of the male described. In this specimen there is not the slightest creamy tinge beneath, while the blue tinge on the lower parts laterally and posteriorly is very strong. No. 52,818, an adult female from Mazatlan, Western Mexico, has the wing three quarters of an inch shorter than in the largest of four northern females, and of the same length as in the smallest; there is nothing unusual about its plumage, except that the bars beneath are sparse, and the ochraceous tinge quite deep. No. 27,057, Fort Good Hope, H. B. T., is, however, exactly similar, in these respects, and the wing is but half an inch longer. In No. 47,588, ♂, from the Farallones Islands, near San Francisco, California, the wing is the same length as in the average of northern and eastern specimens, while the streaks on the jugulum are nearly as conspicuous as in a male from Europe.

In conclusion, I would say that the sole distinguishing character between the Peregrines from America and those from Europe, that can be relied on, appears to be found in the markings on the breast in the adult plumage; in all the specimens and figures of var. communis that I have seen, the breast has the longitudinal dashes very conspicuous; while, as a general rule, in anatum these markings are entirely absent, though sometimes present, and occasionally nearly as distinct as in European examples. Therefore, if this conspicuous streaking of the breast is found in all European specimens, the American bird is entitled to separation as a variety; but if the breast is ever immaculate in European examples, then anatum must sink into a pure synonyme of communis. The var. melanogenys is distinguished from both communis and anatum by the black auriculars, or by a greater amount of black on the side of the neck, and by more numerous and narrower bars on the under surface. In the former feature examples of anatum from the southern extremity of South America approach quite closely to the Australian form, as might be expected from the relative geographical position of the two regions. The var. minor is merely the smaller intertropical race of the Old World, perhaps better characterized than the tropical American form named F. nigriceps by Cassin, the characters of which are so unimportant, and withal so inconstant, as to forbid our recognizing it as a race of the same rank with the others.


National Museum, 45; Boston Society, 4; Philadelphia Academy, 22; Museum Comp. Zoöl. 5; New York Museum, 3; G. N. Lawrence, 6; R. Ridgway, 3. Total, 88.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
11.30–13.00 6.00–7.50 .75–0.80 1.60–1.90 1.78–2.05 29
13.00–14.75 7.30–9.00 .85–1.00 1.95–2.10 1.95–2.20 28
Var. pealei, Ridgway.

? ? Accipiter falco niger, Briss. Orn. I, 337. ? ? Falco niger, Gmel. S. N. 1789, 270. Falco polyagrus, Cass. B. Cal. & Tex. pl. xvi (dark figure).

Sp. Char. In colors almost exactly similar to F. gyrfalco, var. labradora. Above continuous dark vandyke-brown, approaching brownish-black on the head, which is variegated only on the gular region, and inclining to grayish-brown on the tail; the whole surface entirely free from spots or markings of any kind. Beneath similar in color to the upper parts, but the feathers edged with whitish, this rather predominating on the throat; flanks and tibiæ with roundish white spots; lower tail-coverts with broad transverse bars of white. Lining of the wing with feathers narrowly tipped with white; inner webs of primaries with narrow, transverse elliptical spots of cream-color; inner webs of tail-feathers with badly defined, irregular, similar spots, or else with these wanting, the whole web being plain dusky-brown.

No. 12,022 (♀, Oregon; T. R. Peale). Wing, 15.00; tail, 8.50; culmen, .95; tarsus, 2.10; middle toe, 2.15. (Figured by Cassin as F. polyagrus, in Birds of California and Texas, pl. xvi.)

No. 45,814 (♀, Sitka, Alaska, May, 1866; F. Bischoff). Wing, 14.90; tail, 8.50; tarsus, 2.10; middle toe, 2.20. The two similar in color, but in the latter the white streaks on the lower parts a little broader, and the middle of the auriculars slightly streaked.

Hab. Northwest coast of North America, from Oregon to Sitka.

This curious race of Falco communis is a good illustration of the climatic peculiarity of the northwest coast region, to which I have often referred before; the same melanistic tendency being apparent in birds of other species from the same region, as an example of which I may mention the Black Merlin (Falco æsalon, var. suckleyi), which is a perfect miniature of the present bird.

Habits. The Great-footed Hawk of North America is very closely allied to the well-known Peregrine Falcon of Europe, and so closely resembles it that by many writers, even at the present day, it is regarded as identical with it. Without doubt, the habits of the two races are very nearly the same, though the peculiarities of the North American bird are not so well known as are those of the European. In its distribution it is somewhat erratic, for the most part confined to the rocky sea-coast, the river-banks, and the high ground of the northeastern parts of America. It is known to breed in a few isolated rocky crags in various parts of the country, even as far to the south as Pennsylvania, and it occurs probably both as migrant and resident in several of the West India Islands, in Central and in South America. A single specimen was taken by Dr. Woodhouse in the Creek country of the Indian Territory. Two individuals are reported by Von Pelzeln as having been taken in Brazil. The Newtons met with it in St. Croix. Mr. Gosse found it in Jamaica, and Dr. Gundlach gives it as a bird of Cuba. Jardine states it to be a bird of Bermuda, and also that it has been taken in the Straits of Magellan. A single specimen was taken at Dueñas, Guatemala, in February, by Mr. Salvin.

On the Pacific coast this Falcon has been traced as far south as the limit of the land. Dr. Cooper met with only two pairs, in March, 1854, frequenting a high wooded cliff at Shoal-water Bay. Dr. Suckley procured a single specimen from Steilacoom. Dr. Cooper states that the habits of these corresponded with those described for the F. anatum and F. peregrinus, and that, like these Falcons, it is a terror to all land animals weaker than itself. It is said to breed on the rocky cliffs of the Pacific.

An individual of this bird was taken by Colonel Grayson at the Tres Marias Islands. When shot, it was endeavoring to capture a Sparrow-hawk, indicating its indifference as to the game it pursues. He adds that this bird attacks with vigor everything it sees, from the size of a Mallard Duck down, and is the terror of all small birds. Its range must be very great, as it often ventures far out to sea. On his passage from Mazatlan to San Francisco, in 1858, on the bark Carlota, one of these Falcons came on board more than a hundred miles off the coast of Lower California, and took up its quarters on the main-top yard, where it remained two days, during which time it captured several Dusky Petrels. It would dart headlong upon these unsuspecting birds, seldom missing its aim. It would then return to its resting-place and partly devour its prize. At other times it dropped its victims into the sea in wanton sport. Finally, as if tired of this kind of game, it made several wide circles around the ship, ascended to a considerable height, and departed in the direction of the Mexican shore.

This Falcon is found along the Atlantic coast from Maine to the extreme northern portion, breeding on the high rocky cliffs of Grand Menan and in various favorable situations thence northward. A few breed on Mount Tom, near the Connecticut River in Massachusetts, on Talcott Mountain in Connecticut, in Pennsylvania, and near Harper’s Ferry, in Maryland.

Mr. Boardman has several times taken their eggs from the cliffs of Grand Menan, where they breed in April, or early in May. In one instance he found the nest in close proximity to that of a pair of Ravens, the two families being apparently on terms of amity or mutual tolerance.

For several years two or more pairs of these birds have been known to breed regularly on Mount Tom, near Northampton. The nests were placed on the edges of precipitous rocks very early in the spring, the young having been fully grown by the last of June. Their young and their eggs have been taken year after year, yet at the last accounts they still continued to nest in that locality. Dr. W. Wood has also found this species breeding on Talcott Mountain, near Hartford. Four young were found, nearly fledged, June 1. In one instance four eggs were taken from a nest on Mount Tom, by Mr. C. W. Bennett, as early as April 19. This was in 1864. Several times since he has taken their eggs from the same eyrie, though the Hawks have at times deserted it and sought other retreats. In one year a pair was twice robbed, and, as is supposed, made a third nest, and had unfledged young as late as August. Mr. Allen states that these Hawks repair to Mount Tom very early in the spring, and carefully watch and defend their eyrie, manifesting even more alarm at this early period, when it is approached, than they evince later, when it contains eggs or young. Mr. Bennett speaks of the nest as a mere apology for one.

This Hawk formerly nested on a high cliff near the house of Professor S. S. Haldeman, Columbia, Penn., who several times procured young birds which had fallen from the nest. The birds remained about this cliff ten or eleven months of the year, only disappearing during the coldest weather, and returning with the first favorable change. They bred early in spring, the young leaving the nest perhaps in May. Professor Haldeman was of the opinion that but a single pair remained, the young disappearing in the course of the season.

Sir John Richardson, in his Arctic expedition in 1845, while descending the Mackenzie River, latitude 65°, noticed what he presumed to be a nest of this species, placed on the cliff of a sandstone rock. This Falcon was rare on that river.

Mr. MacFarlane found this species not uncommon on the banks of Lockhart and Anderson Rivers, in the Arctic regions. In one instance he mentions finding a nest on a cliff thirty feet from the ground. There were four eggs lying on a ledge of the shale of which the cliff was composed. Both parents were present, and kept up a continued screaming, though at too great a distance for him to shoot either. He adds that this bird is by no means scarce on Lockhart River, and he was informed that it also nests along the ramparts and other steep banks of the Upper Anderson, though he has not been able to learn that it has been found north of Fort Anderson. In another instance the nest was on a ledge of clayey mud,—the eggs, in fact, lying on the bare ground, and nothing resembling a nest to be seen. A third nest was found on a ledge of crumbling shale, along the banks of the Anderson River, near the outlet of the Lockhart. This Hawk, he remarks, so far as he was able to observe, constructs no nest whatever. At least, on the Anderson River, where he found it tolerably abundant, it was found to invariably lay its eggs on a ledge of rock or shale, without making use of any accessory lining or protection, always availing itself of the most inaccessible ledges. He was of the opinion that they do not breed to the northward of the 68th parallel. They were also to be found nesting in occasional pairs along the lime and sandstone banks of the Mackenzie, where early in August, for several successive years, he noticed the young of the season fully fledged, though still attended by the parent birds.

In subsequent notes, Mr. MacFarlane repeats his observations that this species constructs no nest, merely laying its eggs on a ledge of shale or other rock. Both parents were invariably seen about the spot. In some instances the eggs found were much larger than in others.

Mr. Dall mentions shooting a pair near Nuk´koh, on the Yukon River, that had a nest on a dead spruce. The young, on the 1st of June, were nearly ready to fly. It was not a common species, but was found from Nulato to Sitka and Kodiak.

In regard to general characteristics of this Falcon, they do not apparently differ in any essential respects from those of the better-known Falco communis of the Old World. It flies with immense rapidity, rarely sails in the manner of other Hawks, and then only for brief periods and when disappointed in some attempt upon its prey. In such cases, Mr. Audubon states, it merely rises in a broad spiral circuit, in order to reconnoitre a space below. It then flies swiftly off in quest of plunder. These flights are made in the manner of the Wild Pigeon. When it perceives its object, it increases the flappings of its wings, and pursues its victim with a surprising rapidity. It turns, and winds, and follows every change of motion of the object of pursuit with instantaneous quickness. Occasionally it seizes a bird too heavy to be managed, and if this be over the water it drops it, if the distance to land be too great, and flies off in pursuit of another. Mr. Audubon has known one of this species to come at the report of a gun, and carry off a Teal not thirty steps distant from the sportsman who had killed it. This daring conduct is a characteristic trait.

This bird is noted for its predatory attacks upon water-fowl, but it does not confine itself to such prey. In the interior, Richardson states that it preys upon the Wild Pigeon, and upon smaller birds. In one instance Audubon has known one to follow a tame Pigeon to its house, entering it at one hole and instantly flying out at the other. The same writer states that he has seen this bird feeding on dead fish that had floated to the banks of the Mississippi. Occasionally it alights on the dead branch of a tree in the neighborhood of marshy ground, and watches, apparently surveying, piece by piece, every portion of the territory. As soon as it perceives a suitable victim, it darts upon it like an arrow. While feeding, it is said to be very cleanly, tearing the flesh, after removing the feathers, into small pieces, and swallowing them one by one.

The European species, as is well known, was once largely trained for the chase, and even to this day is occasionally used for this purpose; its docility in confinement, and its wonderful powers of flight, rendering it an efficient assistant to the huntsman. We have no reason to doubt that our own bird might be made equally serviceable.

Excepting during the breeding-season, it is a solitary bird. It mates early in February, and even earlier in the winter. Early in the fall the families separate, and each bird seems to keep to itself until the period of reproduction returns.

In confinement, birds of this family become quite tame, can be trained to habits of wonderful docility and obedience, and evince even an affection for the one who cares for their wants.

This species appears to nest almost exclusively on cliffs, and rarely, if ever, to make any nests in other situations. In a few rare and exceptional cases this Falcon has been known to construct a nest in trees. Mr. Ord speaks of its thus nesting among the cedar swamps of New Jersey; but this fact has been discredited, and there has been no recent evidence of its thus breeding in that State. Mr. Dall found its nest in a tree in Alaska, but makes no mention of its peculiarities.

The eggs of this species are of a rounded-oval shape, and range from 2.00 to 2.22 inches in length, and from 1.60 to 1.90 in width. Five eggs, from Anderson River, have an average size of 2.09 by 1.65 inches. An egg from Mount Tom, Mass., is larger than any other I have seen, measuring 2.22 inches in length by 1.70 in breadth, and differs in the brighter coloring and a larger proportion of red in its markings. The ground is a deep cream-color, but is rarely visible, being generally so entirely overlaid by markings as nowhere to appear. In many the ground-color appears to have a reddish tinge, probably due to the brown markings which so nearly conceal it. In others, nothing appears but a deep coating of dark ferruginous or chocolate-brown, not homogeneous, but of varying depth of coloring, and here and there deepening into almost blackness. In one egg, from Anderson River, the cream-colored ground is very apparent, and only sparingly marked with blotches of a light brown, with a shading of bronze. An egg from the cabinet of Mr. Dickinson, of Springfield, taken on Mount Tom, Massachusetts, is boldly blotched with markings of a bright chestnut-brown, varying greatly in its shadings.

Subgenus ÆSALON, Kaup.

This subgenus contains, apparently, but the single species F. lithofalco, which is found nearly throughout the Northern Hemisphere, and in different climatic regions is modified into geographical races. Of these, North America possesses three, and Europe one; they may be distinguished as follows:—

Species and Races.

F. lithofalco. Second and third quills longest; first usually shorter than, occasionally equal to, or rarely longer than, the fourth. Adult female, and young of both sexes. Above brownish, varying from pale earth-brown, or umber, to nearly black, plain, or with obscure transverse spotting of lighter; tail with five to eight lighter bands, which, however, are sometimes obsolete, except the terminal one. Beneath ochraceous-white, longitudinally striped with brown or dusky over the whole surface. Adult male (except in var. suckleyi and richardsoni?). Above plumbeous-blue, with darker shaft-streaks; tail with more or less distinct bands of black, and paler tip. Beneath much as in the female and young, but stripes usually narrower and more reddish. Wing, 7.20–9.00; tail, 4.90–6.30; culmen, .45–.60; tarsus, 1.30–1.60; middle toe, 1.15–1.51.

a. Adult male plumbeous-blue above; sexes very unlike in adult dress. Female and young without transverse spotting on upper parts.

Adult male. Tail deep plumbeous, tipped with ash, with six transverse series of dusky spots (which do not touch the shaft nor edge of the feathers) anterior to the subterminal zone, the black of which extends forward along the edge of the feather. Inner web of the longest primary with ten transverse spots of white. Streaks on the cheeks enlarged and blended, forming a conspicuous “mustache.” Pectoral markings linear black. The ochraceous wash deepest across the nape and breast, and along the sides, and very pale on the tibiæ. Adult female. Above brownish-plumbeous, the feathers becoming paler toward their margins, and with conspicuous black shaft-streaks. Tail with eight (three concealed) narrow bands of pale fulvous-ashy; longest primary with ten light spots on inner web. Outer webs of primaries with a few spots of ochraceous. Young. Similar to the ♀ adult, but with a more rusty cast to the plumage, and with more or less distinct transverse spots of paler on the upper parts. Wing, 7.60–9.00; tail, 5.10–6.30; culmen, .45–.55; tarsus, 1.35–1.47; middle toe, 1.15–1.35. Hab. Europe … var. lithofalco.58

Adult male. Tail light ash, tipped with white, and crossed by three or four nearly continuous narrow bands of black (extending over both webs, and crossing the shaft), anterior to the broad subterminal zone, the black of which does not run forward along the edge of the feathers. Inner web of longest primary with seven to nine transverse spots of white. Streaks on the cheeks sparse and fine, not condensed into a “mustache.” Pectoral markings broad clear brown. Ochraceous wash weak across the nape and breast, and along sides, and very deep on the tibiæ. Adult female. Above plumbeous-umber, without rusty margins to the feathers, and without conspicuous black shaft-streaks. Tail with only five (one concealed) narrow bands of pale ochraceous; outer webs of primaries without ochraceous spots; inner web of outer primary with eight spots of white. Young. Like the adult female, but darker. Wing, 7.90–8.25; tail, 5.15–5.25; tarsus, 1.00; middle toe, 1.25. Hab. Entire continent of North America; West Indies … var. columbarius.

b. Adult male not bluish? sexes similar? upper parts with lighter transverse spots.

Adult. Above light grayish-umber, or earth-brown, with more or less distinct lighter transverse spots; secondaries crossed by three bands of ochraceous spots, and outer webs of inner primaries usually with spots of the same. Tail invariably with six complete and continuous narrow bands of dull white. Beneath white, with broad longitudinal markings of light brown, these finer and hair-like on the tibiæ and cheeks, where they are sparse and scattered, not forming a “mustache.” Top of the head much lighter than the back. Young. Similar, but much tinged with rusty above, all the white portions inclining to pale ochraceous. Wing, 7.70–9.00; tail, 5.00–6.30; culmen, .50–.60; tarsus, 1.40–1.65; middle toe, 1.20–1.51. Second and third quills longest; first equal to fourth, slightly shorter, or sometimes slightly longer. Hab. Interior plains of North America, between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, from the Arctic regions to Texas … var. (?) richardsoni.

c. Adult male not bluish? sexes similar? upper parts without transverse spots, and tail without lighter bands, except at the tip.

Above plain brownish-black; the tail narrowly tipped with whitish, but without other markings; inner webs of the primaries without lighter spots. Beneath pale ochraceous broadly striped with sooty-black. Wing, 7.35–8.50; tail, 5.25–5.75; culmen, .50–.55; tarsus, 1.30–1.62; middle toe, 1.25–1.35. Hab. Northwest coast region from Oregon to Sitka … var. suckleyi.

Falco (Æsalon) lithofalco (Gmelin).
Var. columbarius, Linnæus.

Falco columbarius, Linn. Syst. Nat. 1766, p. 128.—Gmel. Syst. Nat. 1789, p. 281.—Lath. Ind. Orn. I, 44, 1790; Syn. I, 101, sp. 86; Supp. I, 27, 1802; Gen. Hist. I, 278, 1821.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 83, 1800.—Shaw. Zoöl. VII, 188, 1812.—Wils. Am. Orn. pl. xv, fig. 3, 1808.—Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, p. 254, 1808.—James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, 61.—Brew. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, 683, 1852.—Rich. Faun. Bor. Am. II, 35, 1831.—Aud. Syn. B. A. p. 16, 1839; Orn. Biog. I, 466.—Bonap. Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 28; Isis, 1832, p. 1136; Eur. & N. Am. B. p. 4, 1838.—Nutt. Man. I, 60, 1833.—Cuv. Règ. An. (ed. 2), I, 322, 1829.—Less. Tr. Orn. p. 92, 1831.—Forst. Phil. Trans. LXII, 382, 1772.—Swains. Classif. B. II, p. 212, 1837.—Jard. Ann. Nat. Hist. XVIII, 118.—Gosse, B. Jam. p. 17, 1847.—Sagra, Hist. Nat. Cuba Ois. p. 23.—Wedderb. Jard. Cont. Orn. 1849, p. 81.—Hurdis, Jard. Cont. Orn. 1850, p. 6.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 15, pl. iv, f. 9, 1844.—Giraud, B. Long Isl. p. 17.—Blackist. Ibis, III, 315. Tinnunculus columbarius, Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. I, pl. xi, 1807; Nouv. Dict. Hist. Nat. XII, 104, 1819; Enc. Méth. III, 1236, 1823. Hypotriorchis columbarius, Gray, List B. B. Mus. p. 55, 1844; Gen. B. fol. sp. 11, 1844.—Cass. B. Calif. & Tex. p. 90, 1854.—Woodh. (Sitg.) Exp. Zuñi & Colorad. p. 60, 1853.—Heerm. P. R. R. Rept. II, 31, 1855.—Newb. P. R. Rept. VI, 74, 1857.—Cass. B. N. Am. p. 9, 1858.—Cooper & Suck. P. R. R. Rept. XII, 1860, 142.—Coues, Pr. A. N. S. Phil. 1866, 6.—Brewer, Oölogy, 12. Lithofalco columbarius, Bonap. Consp. Av. p. 26, 1850. Æsalon columbarius, Kaup, Monog. Falc. Cont. Orn. p. 54, 1850.—Gray, Hand List, I, 21, 1869. Falco obscurus, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 281, 1789.—Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 44, 1790; Syn. Supp. I, 38, 1802; Gen. Hist. I, 272, 1821.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, p. 123, 1800. Falco intermixtus, Daud. Tr. Orn. II, p. 141, 1800.—Lath. Gen. Hist. I, 136, 1821. F. temerarius, Aud. B. Am. pls. lxxv, xcii, 1831; Orn. Biog. I, 380, 1831. F. auduboni, Blackw. Res. Zoöl. 1840. Accipiter palumbarius, Catesb. Carol. I, pl. iii, 1754.

Sp. Char. Adult male. Above cinereous, varying in shade, but generally of a slaty-bluish cast; each feather with a distinct shaft-streak of black, these lines most conspicuous on the head above. Tail with a very broad subterminal band of black, about one inch in width; there are indications of three other bands, their continuity and distinction varying with the individual, but generally quite conspicuous, and each about half the width of the terminal one; the subterminal black band is succeeded by a terminal one of white, of about three-sixteenths of an inch in width, sometimes broader; on the lateral feathers the black bands are always conspicuous, being in form of transverse oblong spots, crossing the shaft, but less extended on the outer web, which is often immaculate except at the end, the broad terminal band always extending to the edge of the feather. Primaries dusky-black, margined terminally more or less distinctly with whitish (sometimes fading on the edge only); on the inner web is a series of about eight transverse oval spots of white, and generally corresponding to these are indications of bluish-ashy spots on the outer web. Beneath white, this purest on the throat, which is immaculate: there is generally a more or less strong tinge of fulvous beneath, this always prevalent on the tibiæ, and on a distinct collar extending round the nape, interrupting the blue above; the tibiæ frequently incline to ochraceous-rufous. Lateral portions of the head with fine streaks of dusky, these thickest on upper edge of the ear-coverts, leaving a distinct whitish superciliary streak, those of opposite sides meeting on the forehead. Breast, upper part of the abdomen, sides, and flanks, with longitudinal stripes of umber, each with a shaft-streak of black; on the flanks their shape is modified, here taking the form of spots running in chain-like series; tibiæ with narrower and darker streaks; lower tail-coverts with narrow central streaks like those on the tibiæ. Frequently there is a strong bluish shade on flanks and lower tail-coverts, sometimes replacing the brown of the spots on the former, and clouding in a similar form the latter. Length, 11.00; extent, 23.75; wing, 7.75.

Adult female. Pattern of coloration as in the male, but the colors different. The blue above replaced by dark umber-brown with a plumbeous cast, and showing more or less distinct darker shaft-lines; these on the head above very broad, giving a streaked appearance; white spots on inner webs of primaries more ochraceous than in the male. Tail dark plumbeous-brown, shading into blackish toward end, with five rather narrow ochraceous or soiled white bars, the first of which is concealed by the upper coverts, the last terminal. White beneath, less tinged with reddish than in the male, the tibiæ not different from the other portions; markings beneath as in the male.

Juv. Above plumbeous-brown, tinged with fulvous on head, and more or less washed with the same on the rump; frequently the feathers of the back, rump, scapulars, and wings pass into a reddish tinge at the edge; this color is, however, always prevalent on the head, which is conspicuously streaked with dusky. Tail plumbeous-dusky, darker terminally, with five regular light bars, those toward the base ashy, as they approach the end becoming more ochraceous; these bars are more continuous and regular than in the adult female, and are even conspicuous on the middle feathers. Primaries dusky, passing on edge (terminally) into lighter; spots on the inner webs broader than in the female, and pinkish-ochre; outer webs with less conspicuous corresponding spots of the same. Beneath soft ochraceous; spots as in adult female, but less sharply defined; tibiæ not darker than abdomen.

Hab. Entire continent of North America, south to Venezuela and Ecuador; West India Islands.

Localities: Ecuador (high regions in winter, Scl. P. Z. S. 1858, 451); Cuba (Cab. Jour. II, lxxxiii, Gundlach, Sept. 1865, 225); Tobago (Jard. Ann. Mag. 116); S. Texas (Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 323, breeding?); W. Arizona (Coues, Pr. A. N. S. 1866, 42); Costa Rica (Lawr. IX, 134); Venezuela (Scl. & Salv. 1869, 252).


National Museum, 42; Boston Society, 11; Philadelphia Academy, 10; Museum Comp. Zoöl., 7; New York Museum, 3; G. N. Lawrence, 2; R. Ridgway, 4. Total, 79.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
7.20–7.90 4.90–5.50 .48–.50 1.30–1.40 1.15–1.25 34
8.00–8.55 5.50–6.00 .55–.60 1.55–1.60 1.35–0.00 32

The plumage of the adult male, which is not as often seen as that of the younger stages and adult female, is represented in the Smithsonian Collection by fifteen specimens, from various parts of North America. Of these, an example from Jamaica exhibits the purest shades of color, though agreeing closely with some specimens from the interior of the United States; the cinereous above being very fine, and of a light bluish cast. The upper tail-coverts are tipped with white; the tail is a quarter of an inch longer than in any North American specimen, one half-inch longer than the average; the wing, however, is about the same.

A specimen from Santa Clara, California (4,475, Dr. J. G. Cooper), like most of those from the Pacific coast, has the cinereous very dark above, while beneath the ochraceous is everywhere prevalent; the flanks are strongly tinged with blue; the black bars of the tail are much broken and irregular. A specimen from Jamaica (24,309, Spanish Town; W. T. March), however, is even darker than this one, the stripes beneath being almost pure black; on the tail black prevails, although the bands are very regular. Nos. 27,061, Fort Good Hope, British America, 43,136, Fort Yukon, Alaska, and 51,305, Mazatlan, Mexico, have the streaks beneath narrow and linear; the ochraceous confined to the tibiæ, which are of a deep shade of this color.

Falco columbarius.

A specimen from Nicaragua (No. 40,957, Chinandega) is like North American examples, but the reddish tinge beneath is scarcely discernible, and confined to the tibiæ, which are but faintly ochraceous; the markings beneath are broad and deep umber, the black shaft-streak distinct.

In the adult female there is as little variation as in the male in plumage, the shade of brown above varying slightly, also the yellowish tinge beneath; the bars on the tail differ in continuity and tint in various specimens, although they are always five in number,—the first concealed by the coverts, the last terminal. In 19,382, Fort Simpson, British America, and 2,706, Yukon, R. Am. (probably very old birds), the light bars are continuous and pale dull ashy.

The young vary about the same as adults. Nos. 19,381, Big Island, Great Slave Lake; 5,483, Petaluma, California; and 3,760, Racine, Wisconsin,—are young males moulting, scattered feathers appearing on the upper parts indicating the future blue plumage.

Var. suckleyi, Ridgway.

Sp. Char. A miniature of F. peregrinus, var. pealei. Above, uniform fuliginous-black, the secondaries and tail-feathers very narrowly but sharply tipped with white, and the primaries passing into whitish on their terminal margin; nuchal region with concealed spotting of pale rusty or dingy whitish. Beneath, longitudinally striped with fuliginous-black, or dark sooty-brown, and pale ochraceous; the former predominating on the breast, the latter prevailing on the throat and anal region. Sides and flanks nearly uniform dusky, with roundish white spots on both webs; lower tail-coverts with a broad sagittate spot of dusky on each feather. Lining of the wing fuliginous-dusky, with sparse, small roundish spots of white. Inner webs of primaries plain dusky, without spots, or else with them only faintly indicated. Tail plain dusky-black, narrowly tipped with white, and without any bands, or else with them only faintly indicated.

Male (No. 4,477, Shoalwater Bay, Washington Territory; J. G. Cooper). Wing, 7.35; tail, 5.25; culmen, .50; tarsus, 1.30; middle toe, 1.25.

Female (No. 5,832, Fort Steilacoom, Washington Territory, September, 1856; Dr. George Suckley). Wing, 8.50; tail, 5.70; culmen, .55; tarsus, 1.62; middle toe, 1.35.

Hab. Coast region of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington Territory (probably northward to Alaska). Puget Sound, Steilacoom, Yreka, California (Oct.), and Shoalwater Bay (National Museum).

The plumage of this race is the chief point wherein it differs from the other forms of the species; and in its peculiarities we find just what should be expected from the Oregon region, merely representing as it does the melanistic condition so frequently observable in birds from the northwest coast.

The upper parts are unicolored, being continuous blackish-plumbeous from head to tail. The tail is tipped with white, but the bars are very faintly indicated, being in No. 4,499 altogether wanting, while in 21,333 they can scarcely be discovered, and only four are indicated; in the others there is the usual number, but they are very obsolete. In No. 4,499, the most extreme example, the spots on the inner webs of the primaries are also wanting; the sides of the head are very thickly streaked, the black predominating, leaving the superciliary stripe ill-defined; the throat is streaked, and the other dark markings beneath are so exaggerated that they cover all portions, and give the prevailing color; the under tail-coverts have broad central cordate black spots.

Another specimen from this region (4,476, Puget Sound) is similar, but the spots on primaries are conspicuous, as in examples of the typical style; indeed, except in the most extreme cases, these spots will always be found indicated, leading us to the unavoidable conclusion that the specimens in question represent merely the fuliginous condition of the common species; not the condition of melanism, but the peculiar darkened plumage characteristic of many birds of the northwest coast, the habitat of the present bird; it should then be considered as rather a geographical race, co-equal to the Falco gyrfalco, var. labradora, F. peregrinus, var. pealei, and other forms, and not confounded with the individual condition of melanism, as seen in certain species of Buteones.


National Museum, 6.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
7.35–7.70 5.25–5.60 .48–.50 1.30–1.45 1.20–0.00 3
8.25–8.50 5.70–5.80 .55–.60 1.50–1.60 1.35–1.40 3

Second quill longest; first quill equal to, a little shorter than, or a little longer than, the fourth.

Var. richardsoni, Ridgway.

Falco æsalon, Rich. & Swains. F. B. A. II, pl. xxv, 1831.—Nutt. Man. Orn. II, 558.—Coues, P. A. N. S. Philad. 1866, p. 42 (in text). Falco (Hypotriorchis) richardsoni, Ridgway, P. A. N. S. Philad. Dec. 1870, 145. Falco richardsoni, Coues, Key, 1872, p. 214.

Sp. Char. Adult male like the female and young? The known stages of plumage more like the adult female and young of var. lithofalco (F. æsalon, Auct.) than like var. columbarius.

Adult male (Smithsonian, No. 5,171, mouth of the Vermilion River, near the Missouri, October 25, 1856; Lieutenant Warren, Dr. Hayden). Upper plumage dull earth-brown, each feather grayish-umber centrally, and with a conspicuous black shaft-line. Head above approaching ashy-white anteriorly, the black shaft-streaks being very conspicuous. Secondaries, primary coverts, and primaries margined terminally with dull white; the primary coverts with two transverse series of pale ochraceous spots; outer webs of primaries with spots of the same, corresponding with those on the inner webs. Upper tail-coverts tipped, and spotted beneath the surface, with white. Tail clear drab, much lighter than the primaries, but growing darker terminally, having basally a slightly ashy cast; crossed with six sharply defined, perfectly continuous bands (the last terminal) of ashy-white. Head, frontally, laterally, and beneath,—a collar around the nape (interrupting the brown above),—and the entire lower parts, white, somewhat ochraceous, this most perceptible on the tibiæ; cheeks and ear-coverts with sparse, fine hair-like streaks of black; nuchal collar, jugulum, breast, abdomen, sides, and flanks with a medial linear stripe of clear ochre-brown on each feather; these stripes broadest on the flanks; each stripe with a conspicuously black shaft-streak; tibiæ and lower tail-coverts with fine shaft-streaks of brown, like the broader stripes of the other portions. Chin and throat, only, immaculate. Lining of the wing spotted with ochraceous-white and brown, in about equal amount, the former in spots approaching the shaft. Inner webs of primaries with transverse broad bars of pale ochraceous,—eight on the longest. Wing-formula, 2, 3–4, 1. Wing, 7.70; tail, 5.00; culmen, .50; tarsus, 1.30; middle toe, 1.25; outer, .85; inner, .70; posterior, .50.

Adult female (58,983, Berthoud’s Pass, Rocky Mountains, Colorado Territory; Dr. F. V. Hayden, James Stevenson). Differing in coloration from the male only in the points of detail. Ground-color of the upper parts clear grayish-drab, the feathers with conspicuously black shafts; all the feathers with pairs of rather indistinct rounded ochraceous spots, these most conspicuous on the wings and scapulars. Secondaries crossed with three bands of deeper, more reddish ochraceous. Bands of the tail pure white. In other respects exactly as in the male. Wing-formula, 3, 2–4–1. Wing, 9.00; tail, 6.10; culmen, .55; tarsus, 1.40; middle toe, 1.51.

Young male (40,516, Fort Rice, Dacotah, July 20, 1865; Brig.-Gen. Alfred Sully, U. S. A., S. M. Rothammer). Differing from the adult only in minute details. Upper surface with the rusty borders of the feathers more washed over the general surface; the rusty-ochraceous forms the ground-color of the head,—paler anteriorly, where the black shaft-streaks are very conspicuous; spots on the primary coverts and primaries deep reddish-ochraceous; tail-bands broader than in the adult, and more reddish; the terminal one twice as broad as the rest (.40 of an inch), and almost cream-color in tint. Beneath pale ochraceous, this deepest on the breast and sides; markings as in the adult, but anal region and lower tail-coverts immaculate; the shaft-streaks on the tibiæ, also, scarcely discernible. Wing, 7.00; tail, 4.60.

Hab. Interior regions of North America, between the Mississippi Valley and the Rocky Mountains, from Texas to the Arctic regions.


National Museum, 10; Museum Comp. Zoöl., 2; R. Ridgway, 3. Total, 15.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
7.75–8.60 5.70–6.00 .50–.60 1.42–1.55 1.20–1.30 8
8.50–9.00 6.00–6.30 .55–.58 1.55–1.65 1.35–1.40 7

Since originally describing this bird, I have seen additional examples, and still consider it as an easily recognized race, not at all difficult to distinguish from columbarius. Now, however, I incline strongly to the theory that it represents merely the light form of the central prairie regions, of the common species; since its characters seem to be so analogous to those of the races of Buteo borealis and Bubo virginianus of the same country. It is doubtful whether some very light-colored adult males, supposed to belong to columbarius, as restricted, should not in reality be referred to this race, as the adult plumage of the male. But having seen no adult males from the region inhabited by the present bird obtained in the breeding-season, I am still in doubt whether the present form ever assumes the blue plumage.

As regards the climatic or regional modifications experienced by the Falco lithofalco on the American continent, the following summary of facts expresses my present views upon the subject. First: examples identical in all respects, or at least presenting no variations beyond those of an individual character, may be found from very widely separated localities; but the theory of explanation is, that individuals of one race may become scattered during their migrations, or wander off from their breeding-places. Second: the Atlantic region, the region of the plains, and the region of the northwest coast, have each a peculiar race, characterized by features which are also distinctive of races of other birds of the same region, namely, very dark—the dark tints intensified, and their area extended—in the northwest coast region; very light—the light markings extended and multiplied—in the middle region; and intermediate in the Atlantic region.

Habits. The distribution of the well-known Pigeon Hawk is very nearly coextensive with the whole of North America. It is found in the breeding-season as far to the north as Fort Anderson, on the Anderson and McKenzie rivers, ranging even to the Arctic coast. Specimens were taken by Mr. Ross at Lapierre House and at Fort Good Hope. Several specimens were taken by Mr. Dall at Nulato, where, he states, it is found all the year round. They were also taken by Bischoff at Kodiak. During the breeding-season it is found as far south as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the northern portions of Maine, and probably Vermont and New York. It is abundant on the Pacific coast.

In the winter months it is to be met with throughout the more temperate portions of North America, in Mexico, Central America, and Northern South America. Dr. Woodhouse mentions finding this species very abundant especially among the wooded banks of watercourses throughout Texas, New Mexico, and the Indian Territory.

Mr. March states that this Hawk is a permanent resident in the island of Jamaica, more frequently found among the hills than on the plains, and has been known to breed there. It is a visitant of Cuba. Dr. Cooper thinks they are not very common in Washington Territory, though, as they are found there throughout the summer, they undoubtedly breed there. In August, 1855, Dr. Cooper shot one of a small family of young that had but recently left their nest. They migrate southward in winter, and are abundant in California in October and November.

Dr. Suckley found them abundant about Fort Steilacoom early in August. Near Puget Sound this species is thought to breed in the recesses of the Cascade Mountains, only coming down upon the open plains late in the summer. Dr. Newberry found it paired and nesting about the Klamath Lakes, and states that it also occupies all the region south of the Columbia, in Oregon. Mr. Dresser states that he found this Falcon common about Bexar and the adjoining counties during the entire year, and that they occasionally breed near the Medina River. I have been unable to find any satisfactory evidence that this Hawk ever breeds in any part of Massachusetts, or anywhere south of the 44th parallel in the Eastern States, except, perhaps, in mountainous regions.

This Hawk is remarkable for its rapid flight, and its courage and its enterprise in attacking birds as large as or even larger than itself, though generally it only preys upon smaller birds, such as Grakles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Robins, and Pigeons. Dr. Cooper states that having been attracted by an unusual screaming of some bird close to the house, he was surprised to find that one of these Hawks had just seized upon a Flicker, a bird as large as itself, the weight of which had brought it to the ground, and which it continued to hold in its claws even after it had been mortally wounded. Dr. Heermann once found one of these birds just preparing to feed on a large and plump California Partridge.

In Tamaulipas, Mexico, where Lieutenant Couch found it quite common, he speaks of it as being very quiet, flying but little, and generally watching for its quarry from the limb of a dry tree. Mr. Audubon makes no mention of any peculiarities of habits. Mr. Nuttall was evidently unfamiliar with it, stating it to be unknown in New England, and a resident of the Southern States only.

In Nova Scotia, Mr. Downes speaks of it as common, breeding in all the wooded parts of the country. It is said to be not troublesome to the farmer, but to feed upon the smaller birds. He mentions that once, on his voyage to Boston, one of these birds flew aboard and allowed itself to be captured, and was kept alive and fed readily, but soon after escaped.

Mr. B. R. Ross, in his notes on the birds and nests obtained by him in the country about Fort Resolution, Lapierre House, and Good Hope, mentions this bird as the most common of the true Falcons in that district, where it ranges to the Arctic coast. Its nest is said to be composed of sticks, grass, and moss, and to be built generally in a thick tree, at no great elevation. The eggs, he adds, are from five to seven in number, 1.60 inches in length by 1.20 in breadth. Their ground-color he describes as a light reddish-buff, clouded with deep chocolate and reddish-brown blotches, more thickly spread at the larger end of the egg, where the under tint is almost entirely concealed by them. This description is given from three eggs procured with their parent at Fort Resolution.

From Mr. MacFarlane’s notes, made from his observations in the Anderson River country, we gather that one nest was found on the ledge of a cliff of shaly mud on the banks of the Anderson River; another nest was on a pine-tree, eight or nine feet from the ground, and composed of a few dry willow-twigs and some half-decayed hay, etc. It was within two hundred yards of the river-bank. A third nest was in the midst of a small bushy branch of a pine-tree, and was ten feet from the ground. It was composed of coarse hay, lined with some of a finer quality, but was far from being well arranged. Mr. MacFarlane was confident that it had never been used before by a Crow or by any other bird. The oviduct of the female contained an egg ready to be laid. It was colored like the others, but the shell was still soft, and adhered to the fingers on being touched. In another instance the eggs were found on a ledge of shale in a cliff on the bank, without anything under them in the way of lining. He adds that they are even more abundant along the banks of the McKenzie than on the Anderson River.

Mr. MacFarlane narrates that on the 25th of May an Indian in his employ found a nest placed in the midst of a pine branch, six feet from the ground, loosely made of a few dry sticks and a small quantity of coarse hay. It then contained two eggs. Both parents were seen, but when fired at were missed. On the 31st he revisited the nest, which still contained only two eggs, and again missed the birds. He again went to the nest, several days after, to secure the parents, and was much surprised to find that the eggs were gone. His first supposition was that some other person had taken them, but, after looking carefully about, he perceived both birds at a short distance; and this caused him to institute a search, which soon resulted in his finding that the eggs had been removed by them to the face of a muddy bank at least forty yards distant from the original nest. A few decayed leaves had been placed under them, but nothing else in the way of protection. A third egg had been added since his previous examination. These facts Mr. MacFarlane carefully investigated, and vouches for their entire accuracy.

Another nest, containing four eggs, was on the ledge of a shaly cliff, and was composed of a very few decayed leaves placed under the eggs.

Mr. R. Kennicott found a nest, June 2, 1860, in which incubation had already commenced. It was about a foot in diameter, was built against the trunk of a poplar, and its base was composed of sticks, the upper parts consisting of mosses and fragments of bark.

Mr. Audubon mentions finding three nests of this bird in Labrador, in each of which there were five eggs. These nests were placed on the top branches of the low firs peculiar to that country, composed of sticks, and slightly lined with moss and a few feathers. He describes the eggs as 1.75 inches long, and 1.25 broad, with a dull yellowish-brown ground-color, thickly clouded with irregular blotches of dark reddish-brown. One was found in the beginning of July, just ready to hatch. The young are at first covered with a yellowish down. The old birds are said to evince great concern respecting their eggs or young, remaining about them and manifesting all the tokens of anger and vexation of the most courageous species. A nest of this Hawk (S. I. 7,127) was taken at St. Stephen, N. B., by Mr. W. F. Hall; and another (S. I. 15,546) in the Wahsatch Mountains, by Mr. Ricksecker. The latter possibly belonged to the var. richardsoni.

The nest of this bird found in Jamaica by Mr. March was constructed on a lofty tree, screened by thick foliage, and was a mere platform of sticks and grass, matted with soft materials, such as leaves and grasses. It contained four eggs, described as “round-oval or spherical” in shape, measuring “1.38 by 1.13 inches, of a dull clayish-white, marked with sepia and burnt umber, confluent dashes and splashes, irregularly distributed, principally about the middle and the larger end.” Four others, taken from a nest in the St. Johns Mountains, were oblong-oval, about the same size and nearly covered with chocolate and umber blotches. Mr. March thinks they belong to different species.

Mr. Hutchins, in his notes on the birds of Hudson’s Bay, states that this species nests on rocks or in hollow trees; that the nest consists of sticks and grass, lined with feathers; and describes the eggs as white, thinly marked with red spots. In the oviduct of a Hawk which Dr. Richardson gives as Falco æsalon, were found “several full-sized white eggs, clouded at one end by a few bronze-colored spots.” A nest was found by Mr. Cheney at Grand Menan, from which he shot what he presumed to be the parent bird of this species. Its four eggs agreed with the descriptions given by Hutchins and Richardson much more nearly than with the eggs of this species. The eggs found by Mr. Cheney may have been very small eggs of A. cooperi, in which case the presence of the columbarius on the nest cannot be so easily explained.

Three eggs, two from Anderson River and one from Great Slave Lake, range from 1.53 to 1.60 inches in length, and from 1.20 to 1.22 in breadth, their average measurements being 1.56 by 1.21. They have a ground-color of a rich reddish-cream, very generally covered with blotches and finer markings of reddish-brown, deepening in places almost into blackness, and varying greatly in the depth of its shading, with a few lines of black. In one the red-brown is largely replaced by very fine markings of a yellowish sepia-brown, so generally diffused as to conceal the ground and give to it the appearance of a light buff. Mr. Ridgway, after a careful analysis of the varying markings and sizes of twenty-one eggs, has kindly given the following:—

“Extremes of twenty-one eggs (mainly from Forts Yukon, Anderson, Resolution, and MacKenzie rivers): largest (10,687, Yukon, June), 1.75 × 1.28; smallest (8,808, Anderson River, June), 1.55 × 1.20. The ground-color varies from creamy-white to deep purplish-rufous, there being one egg (4,090, Great Slave Lake, June 6, 1860) entirely and uniformly of the latter color; the lightest egg (normally marked, 2,663, Saskatchewan) is creamy-white, thickly sprinkled with dilute and deep shades of sepia-brown, thickly on large end, and sparsely, as well as more finely, on the smaller end. The markings vary in color from dilute indian-red to blackish-chestnut.

H. richardsoni is larger than columbarius, and probably has a larger egg. There are no eggs such as Richardson describes in the series of columbarius in the Smithsonian Collection.”

The var. richardsoni was recognized by Richardson as distinct from the more common columbarius; and a single specimen, killed at Carlton House, and submitted to Swainson, was pronounced by him, beyond doubt, identical with the common Merlin of Europe. Other specimens have since been procured, and are now in the Smithsonian Collection. They are recognized by Mr. Ridgway as identical with Richardson’s bird, but quite distinct from the Æsalon of authors. He has named the species in honor of its first discoverer. Of its history and habits little is known. A single pair were seen by Richardson in the neighborhood of Carlton House, in May, 1827, and the female was shot. In the oviduct there were several full-sized white eggs, clouded at one end with a few bronze-colored spots. Another specimen, probably also a female, was shot at the Sault St. Marie, between Lakes Huron and Superior, but this was not preserved.

Mr. Hutchins, in his notes on the Hudson’s Bay birds, states that the Pigeon Hawk “makes its nest on the rocks and in hollow trees, of sticks and grass, lined with feathers, laying from two to four white eggs, thinly marked with red spots.” As Hutchins has been found to be generally quite accurate in his statements, and as this description does not at all apply either to the nest or the eggs of the columbarius, it is quite possible that he may have mistaken this species for the Pigeon Hawk, and that this description of eggs and nests belongs not to columbarius, but to richardsoni.

Subgenus RHYNCHOFALCO, Ridgway.


F. femoralis. Wing, 9.30–11.60; tail, 6.30–8.80; culmen, .60–.80; tarsus, 1.62–2.00; middle toe, 1.35–1.70. Second and third quills longest; first equal to or shorter than fourth. Adult (sexes similar). Above uniform plumbeous, the secondaries broadly tipped with whitish. Tail darker terminally, crossed by about eight narrow, continuous bands of white, and tipped with the same. A broad postocular stripe, middle area of the auriculars, and entire throat and jugulum, white, unvariegated; the latter with a semicircular outline posteriorly, and the former changing to orange-rufous on the occiput, where the stripes of the two sides are confluent. Sides entirely uniform blackish (confluent on the middle of the abdomen), with narrow bars of white; posterior lower parts immaculate light ochraceous. Young similar, but the jugulum with longitudinal stripes of blackish. Hab. Whole of Tropical America, exclusive of the West Indies, north to the southern border of the United States.

42076, ♀. ½

42076, ♀. ¼

42076, ♀.

Falco (Rhynchofalco) femoralis, Temminck.

Falco femoralis, Temm. Pl. Col. 121, 343, 1824.—Spix, Av. Braz. I, 18 (quot. Pl. Cl. 121), 1824.—Vig. Zoöl. Journ. I, 339.—Steph. Zoöl. XIII, pt. 2, p. 39, 1826.—Less. Man. Orn. I, 79, 1828; Tr. Orn. p. 89, 1831.—Cuv. Reg. An. (ed. 2), I, 322, 1817.—Swains. Classif. B. II, 212, 1837.—Nordm. Erm. Reis. um die Erde, Atl. p. 16.—Bridg. Proc. Zoöl. Soc. pt. 11, p. 109; Ann. Nat. Hist. XIII, 499.—D’Orb. Voy. Am. Merid. Av. p. 116, 1835.—Tschudi, Consp. Av. Wieg. Arch. 1844, p. 266; Faun. Per. p. 108, 1844.—Cass. Proc. Ac. Nat. Sc. Philad. 1855, p. 178.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 88, 1855. Brewer, Oölogy, 1857, 14, pl. iii, f. 22. Hypotriorchis femoralis, Gray, Gen. B. fol. sp. 13, 1844; List B. Brit. Mus. p. 56, 1844.—Hartl. Syst. Ind. Azar. p. 3, 1847.—Cass. B. N. Am. p. 11, 1858.—Coues, Pr. Ac. Nat. Sc. Phil. 7, 1866.—Gray, Hand List, I, 21, 1869. Falco fuscocœrulescens, Vieill. Nouv. Dict. Hist. Nat. XI, 90, 1819. Falco cyanescens, Vieill. Enc. Méth. III, 1234 (No. 40, Azara, juv. teste, Hartl.). Falco thoracicus, Licht. Verz. Doubl. p. 62, 1823.

Sp. Char. Adult (sexes similar). Above uniform plumbeous, secondaries broadly whitish at ends; tail with continuous narrow bands of white. A postocular, broad stripe (changing to reddish on nape, where the two of opposite sides are confluent), middle area of auriculars, and entire throat and jugulum, white, unvariegated. Sides entirely uniform blackish (confluent on middle of abdomen), with narrow bars of white; posterior lower parts light ochraceous, immaculate. ♂. Wing, 9.90; tail, 6.70; tarsus, 1.62; middle toe, 1.45. ♀. Wing, 11.30; tail, 7.80; tarsus, 1.70; middle toe, 1.55.

Young. Similar to the adult, but with broad longitudinal stripes of blackish on the breast.

Adult male (No. 30,896, Mirador, E. Mexico; Dr. C. Sartorius). Above brownish-slate, becoming gradually darker anteriorly, the head above being pure dark plumbeous; on the rump and upper tail-coverts the tint inclines to fine cinereous. Secondaries passing very conspicuously into white terminally; primaries plumbeous-dusky, their inner webs with (the longest with twelve) very regular, narrow, transverse bars of white (the outer web plain). Lining of the wing white (becoming more ochraceous toward the edge); under coverts barred and serrated with dusky, the white, however, predominating. Tail black, basally with a perceptible plumbeous cast; crossed with eight narrow, transverse bands of white,—the first two of which are concealed by the coverts, the last terminal and about .27 of an inch in width; the rest are narrower, diminishing in width as they approach the base. Upper tail-coverts bordered terminally with ashy-white, the longer with one or two transverse bars of the same. Forehead (narrowly) white, this extending down across the lores to the angle of the mouth; a broad, conspicuous supraoral stripe, originating above the middle of the eye, and running back above the ear-coverts to the occiput (where the two of opposite sides are confluent), white, more fulvous-orange on the occiput; a broad dark plumbeous stripe running from the posterior angle of the eye back over upper edge of ear-coverts, and continuing (broadly) down the side of the neck; another, but much smaller one, of similar color, starting at lower border of bare suborbital space, passing downward across the cheeks, forming a “mustache,” leaving the middle area of the ear-coverts, the chin, throat, and whole breast, white, the pectoral portion defined with a semicircular outline posteriorly. Broad area covering the sides of the breast, sides, and flanks (meeting rather narrowly across the upper part of the abdomen), black, with narrow, rather indistinct, transverse bars of white. Femorals, tibiæ, abdomen, anal region, and lower tail-coverts fine ochraceous-rufous, palest posteriorly, the whole region immaculate. Wing-formula, 3, 2–4–1, 5. Wing, 9.90; tail, 6.70; tarsus, 1.62; middle toe, 1.45.

Adult ♀ (42,076. Mirador; Sartorius). Similar to the male in almost every respect. Plumbeous above rather darker and more uniform, although the difference is scarcely perceptible. Secondaries more broadly tipped with white, and upper tail-coverts more conspicuously barred with the same. White bars of the black areas beneath scarcely observable. Tail with eight white bars, as in the male longest primary with fourteen white bars on inner web of longest. Wing-formula, 3, 2–4–5=1. Wing, 11.30; tail, 7.80; tarsus, 1.70; middle toe, 1.55.

Juv. a (intermediate stage). ♂ (37,334, Mazatlan, W. Mexico; Col. A. J. Grayson). Plumbeous above darker and more brownish, uniform from rump to head, the former strongly tinged with rusty, this bordering the feathers. Tail darker and more brownish; white bars ten in number, instead of eight, narrower, and tinged with brownish; longest primary with thirteen bars of white on inner web. Lining of the wing black, leaving only a broad ochraceous stripe along the edge; feathers of the black portion with small circular white spots along their edges. Breast strongly tinged with ochraceous, and with large longitudinal blotches of black of cuneate form, and so crowded as to give almost the predominating color; the black patches lack entirely the white bars. Wing-formula, 3=2–4–1–5. Wing, 10.00; tail, 7.20.

♀ (55,019, Mazatlan, Grayson). Similar to the last, but lacking the rusty tinge on the rump; tail with eight white bars, as in the adult; pectoral stripes narrower and less numerous than in the preceding, and white bars distinguishable on the black areas. Wing-formula, 3, 2–4–1–5. Wing, 11.30; tail, 8.20.

b (first plumage). ♂ (45,693 and 49,508, Buenos Ayres, Conchitas; William H. Hudson). Similar to immature male (37,334). Above dull umber-drab, darker on the head; feathers of back, scapular, rump, and wings fading on edges; rump much tinged with rusty, this bordering the feathers. Tail with nine very obsolete, narrow, dull white bars, these not touching the edge of the feather on either web. Longest primary with ten transverse white bars on inner web. Beneath pale ochraceous, almost as deep anteriorly as posteriorly; dark areas restricted to a large patch on each side, and dull dark brown (very similar to the wings), instead of black, and scarcely varied; breast and upper part of abdomen (between the blackish lateral patches) with large longitudinal cuneate blotches of the same. “Winter visitor.”

Hab. Whole of South America; northward through Central America and Mexico, across the Rio Grande, into Texas and New Mexico.

Localities: Guatemala (Scl. Ibis, I, 219); Cathagena (Cassin, Pr. An. N. S. 1860, 132); La Plata (Burm. Reise, 437); Mexiana (Scl. & Salv. 1867, 590); Brazil (Pelz. O. Bras. I, 4); Buenos Ayres (Scl. & Salv. 1868, 143); Chile (Philippi); W. Peru (Scl. & Salv. 1858, 570; 1869, 155); Venezuela (Scl. & Salv. 1869, 252).

A specimen from Paraguay (58,738, ♂ ? Capt. T. J. Page, U. S. N.) has the slaty above lighter than in the Mirador male, approaching to ash. The white bars on the black side-patches are very numerous and regular; the white of the forehead is more sharply defined, and the deep rufescent-ochre of the posterior portion of the postocular stripe is even deeper than that of the tibiæ, etc.; the breast has a few narrow blackish streaks. The bars on wings and tail, however, are as in Mexican examples. This specimen probably denotes greater age than any other in the series.

Another specimen (29,809, ♀, Mirador), perhaps very young, is rather different from the others in the coloration of the lower parts; the rufous of the posterior portions is very deep, and the anterior light places are much tinged with ochraceous, the supraloral stripe being tinged throughout with the same; across the breast is a series of small tear-shaped spots of black, forming an imperfect band; there are, however, no other differences.

Nos. 29,520 (♀, Chile, Berlin Museum) and 29,521 (♂, Venezuela) differ from the rest only in a deeper tinge of ochraceous anteriorly beneath, the occipital stripes being very red.

No. 18,497 (♂, from the Rio Pecos, Texas) is in the plumage described as that of the young male, having the rusty tinge on rump, and more numerous bands on tail; the breast is almost as deeply ochraceous as the tibiæ, and the broad black patches of the sides scarcely meet across the abdomen, being there broken into streaks.

Falco femoralis.

A female, nearly adult, from Buenos Ayres (45,692, Conchitas; W. H. Hudson), has the feathers of the upper parts faintly edged with white; the rump and upper tail-coverts conspicuously barred with the same. The head above is decidedly more bluish than in northern examples, each feather with a shaft-line of black. The tail has only seven white bars,—these, however, very sharply defined, and very pure white; the longest primary has eleven white bars. The lower plumage is similar to that of the immature male from the Rio Pecos, Texas (No. 18,497). This specimen has the second and third quills equal.


National Museum, 14; Boston Society, 5; Philadelphia Academy, 2; New York Museum, 1; G. N. Lawrence, 1; R. Ridgway, 2. Total, 25.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
9.20–10.70 6.30–8.00 .60–.68 1.70–1.85 1.35–1.50 12
11.00–11.60 7.80–8.80 .71–.80 1.80–2.00 1.55–1.70 9

Habits. Only two specimens of this Hawk have been taken within the limits of the United States. One was obtained by Dr. Heermann on the vast plains of New Mexico, near the United States boundary-line. It appeared to be flying over the prairies in search of small birds and mice, at times hovering in the manner of the common Sparrow Hawk (Tinnunculus sparverius). It appears to be resident throughout a large part of Mexico, and in Central and South America. The other is from the Rio Pecos of Texas, collected by Dr. W. W. Anderson.

Mr. Darwin, in his Zoölogy of the Voyage of the Beagle, mentions obtaining one specimen in a small valley on the plains of Patagonia, at Port Desire, in latitude 47° 44′ south. M. D’Orbigny supposed latitude 34° to be the extreme southern limit of the species. Lieutenant Gilliss brought specimens from Chile.

Mr. Darwin states that the F. femoralis nests in low bushes, this corresponding with the observations of Mr. Bishop. He found the female sitting on her eggs in the beginning of January. According to M. D’Orbigny, it prefers a dry, open country with scattered bushes, which Mr. Darwin confirms. Mr. Bishop informs me that he met with this Hawk in the greatest abundance upon those vast plains of South America known as the Pampas, in which no trees except the ombû are found, and that it there nests exclusively on the tops of low bushes, hardly more than a foot or two from the ground. The bird was not at all shy, like most Hawks, but was easily approached so nearly as to be readily recognized.

Mr. Bridges states, in the Proceedings of the London Zoölogical Society (1843, p. 109), that the H. femoralis is trained in some parts of South America for the pursuit of smaller gallinaceous birds, and that it is highly esteemed by the Chilian falconers. It very soon becomes quite docile, and will even follow its master within a few weeks of its capture.

I am indebted to Mr. N. H. Bishop for specimens of the eggs of this Hawk obtained by him on the Pampas. The nest contained but two, and was built on the top of a low bush or stunted tree, hardly two feet from the ground. It was constructed, with some pains and elaboration, of withered grasses and dry leaves.

The eggs measure, one 1.81 inches in length by 1.69 in breadth, the other 1.78 by 1.63. This does not materially vary from the measurement given by Darwin. The ground-color of the egg is white. This, however, is so thickly and so generally studded with fine brown markings, that the white ground to the eye has a rusty appearance, and its real hue is hardly distinguishable. Over the entire surface of the egg is distributed an infinite number of fine dottings, of a color most nearly approaching a raw terra-sienna brown. Over this again are larger blotches, lines, and splashes of a handsome shade of vandyke-brown. In one egg these larger markings are much more frequent than in the other. The latter is chiefly marked with the finer rusty dottings, and has a more dingy appearance.

Subgenus TINNUNCULUS, Vieillot.

The characters of this subgenus have been sufficiently defined in the diagnosis on page 1427, so that it will be necessary for me only to add a few less important ones.

53198, ♀.

53198, ♀. ½

53198, ♀.

53198, ♀. ½

Tinnunculus sparverius.

The subgenus Tinnunculus is one which is well characterized by peculiarities of manners and habits as well as by features of structure. The species are the most arboreal of the Falcons, and their curious habit of poising in a fixed position as they hover over some object of food which they are watching is probably peculiar to them, and has been remarked of the Old World as well as of the American species. In their structure they are the most aberrant members of the subfamily belonging to the Northern Hemisphere and in their weak bill and feet, lengthened tarsi, obtusely tipped quills, more rounded wings, and more lengthened tail, exhibit a decided step toward Hieracidea, an Australian genus which is almost exactly intermediate in all the characters of its external structure between the true Falcons and the South American genus Milvago, of the Polyborine group.

The subgenus is most largely developed in the Old World, where are found about a dozen nominal species, of which perhaps one half must be reduced to the rank of geographical races. America possesses three species, two of which are restricted to the West India islands, while the other extends over the entire continent.

There is no reason whatever for separating the American species from those of the Old World, and the subgenus Pœcilornis, established upon these by Kaup, is not tenable.

Since the publication of my first paper upon the American forms of Tinnunculus,59 a large amount of additional material has fallen under my observation; the total number of examples critically examined and compared together amounting to over three hundred and fifty skins of which I have kept a record, besides many others which have come casually to my notice. This abundant material merely confirms the views I first expressed, in the paper alluded to, regarding the number and definition of the forms; their comparative relation to each other being the only respect in which I have reason to modify my arrangement.

In my first paper on the American Tinnunculi, three distinct species were recognized; one (sparverius) belonging to the whole of Continental America and the Lesser Antilles, one (leucophrys, Ridgway) to Cuba and Hayti, and one (sparveroides, Vig.) peculiar to Cuba. The first is one modified in different climatic regions into several geographical races, as follows: Var. sparverius, L., North and Middle America, exclusive of the gulf and Caribbean coast region; var. isabellinus, Swains., the eastern coast region of Tropical America, from Guiana to Florida; var. dominicensis, Gmel. (Lesser Antilles); var. australis, Ridgw. (South America in general); and var. cinnamominus, Swains. (Chile and Western Brazil). That each of these races is well characterized, the evidence of a series abundantly sufficient to determine this point enables me to assert without reserve; for I find in each instance that the characters diagnosed in my synopsis hold good as well with a large series as with a few specimens.

The following synopsis, essentially the same as that before published, may, to most persons, explain satisfactorily my reasons for recognizing so many races of T. sparverius,—a proceeding which, I am sorry to say, does not meet with favor with all ornithologists.60 Though there are at the present time three well-characterized or permanently differentiated species of Tinnunculus on the American continent, yet it is, to my mind, certain that these have all descended from a common ancestral stock, for evidence in proof of this is found in many specimens which I consider at least strongly “suggestive” of this fact; some specimens of var. isabellinus from Florida having blue feathers interspersed over the rump, thereby showing an approximation toward the uniformly blue upper surface of the adult male of T. sparveroides of the neighboring island of Cuba; while in the latter bird the embryonic plumage of the male is very similar to the permanent condition of the male of sparverius.

Synopsis of the American Species.

A. Back always entirely rufous (with or without black bars.) Lower parts white, or only tinged with ochraceous; front and auriculars distinctly whitish.

a. Inner webs of primaries barred entirely across, with white and dusky; “mustache” across the cheeks conspicuous; no conspicuous superciliary stripe of white.

1. T. sparverius.61 Crown bluish, with or without a patch of rufous. ♂. Wings and upper part of head slaty, or ashy-blue; scapulars, back, rump, and tail reddish-rufous; primaries, basal half of the secondaries, and a broad subterminal zone across the tail, black. ♀. The bluish, except that of the head, replaced by rufous, which is everywhere barred with blackish, and of a less reddish cast. Hab. Entire continent of America, also Lesser Antilles, north to St. Thomas.

b. Inner webs of primaries white, merely serrated along the shaft with dusky; “mustache” obsolete or wanting; a conspicuous superciliary stripe of white.

2. T. leucophrys.62 Similar to sparverius, except as characterized above. Hab. Cuba and Hayti.

B. Back rufous only in the ♀. Lower parts deep ferruginous-rufous; front and auriculars dusky.

3. T. sparveroides.63 ♂. Above, except the tail, entirely dark plumbeous, with a blackish nuchal collar; primaries and edges and subterminal portion of tail-feathers, black. Beneath deep rufous (like the back of sparverius and leucophrys), with a wash of plumbeous across the jugulum; throat grayish-white. Inner webs of primaries slaty, with transverse cloudings of darker. ♀. Differing from that of the above species in dark rufous lower parts and dusky, mottled inner webs of primaries. Second and third quills longest; first shorter than or equal to fourth. Hab. Cuba (only?).

The distinguishing characters of F. sparverius having been given in the foregoing synopsis, I will here consider this species in regard to the modifications it experiences in the different regions of its geographical distribution.

The whole of continental America, from the Arctic regions to almost the extreme of South America, and from ocean to ocean, is inhabited, so far as known, by but this one species of Tinnunculus. But in different portions of this vast extent of territory the species experiences modifications under the influence of certain climatic and other local conditions, which are here characterized as geographical races; these, let me say, present their distinctive characteristics with great uniformity and constancy, although the differences from the typical or restricted sparverius are not very great. The F. sparverius as restricted, or what is more properly termed var. sparverius, inhabits the whole of North and Middle America (both coasts included, except those of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea), south to the Isthmus of Panama. Throughout this whole region it is everywhere nearly the same bird. This variety appears to represent the species in its greatest purity, being a sort of central form from which the others radiate. The most typical examples of the var. sparverius are the specimens in the large series from the elevated regions or plateau of Mexico and Guatemala. In these the rufous of the crown is most extended (in none is it at all restricted), and the ashy portions are of the finest or bluest and lightest tint.

All specimens, of quite a large series, from the peninsula of Lower California, are considerably smaller than any others, the smallest (1,693 ♂ ad. San José; J. Xantus) measuring, wing, 6.50; tail, 4.20, and tarsus, 1.30; the dwarfed size of these, however, is their only distinguishing feature. Two specimens (50,199, ♂, Cape Florida, and 10,345, ♀, Indian Key) from Florida differ from others in the unusual development of the bill, which toward the end is more suddenly curved, and the point considerably lengthened; these specimens have, also, only a tinge of rufous on the crown, thus showing a proximity to the var. isabellinus. The large bill, however, is no more than would be looked for in specimens from that region.

Along the Gulf border of the United States, and the Caribbean and North Atlantic coasts of South America (probably the whole Atlantic coast of tropical and subtropical America), the true sparverius is changed into what Swainson has called “Falco isabellinus,” which differs from the former only in having the cinereous of the crown and wings considerably darker (as well as less bluish), approaching plumbeous; the rufous of the crown is totally absent, or only present in faint touches; the lower parts are of a deeper ochraceous, and the black spots on the breast and sides sparse.

Allied to the last in tints of coloration, and apparently a direct offshoot from it, is the dominicensis of Gmelin (based upon description by Brisson), which inhabits the Lesser Antilles, from Trinidad northward to Porto Rico. Although I consider this (var. dominicensis) as a modified form of the var. isabellinus, yet it is the one of all the varieties referrible to sparverius which deviates most widely from the typical or original style. The characters of this are, tints those of var. isabellinus, but, in addition, the tail has numerous more or less complete black bands, while those of the back and scapulars are very broad and numerous; also, the crown has a decided rufous patch; the bill, too, is larger than in any other American member of the genus. A style of considerable uniformity spreads over the whole of South America, including both coasts, from Bogota to the Parana, excepting the northeastern coast region, before mentioned as inhabited by the var. isabellinus. It differs from all the other styles, except the cinnamominus of Chile, in having the lower parts continuously dull white, any ochraceous tinge being scarcely perceptible; there is seldom a trace of rufous on the crown, which has the light bluish tint seen in var. sparverius, and the black zone of the tail is scarcely more than half as wide as in the northern races. In size, also, it somewhat exceeds the others. Swainson named this “Falco gracilis”; but the F. (Tinnunculus) gracilis of Lesson being a different species, and the name as applied to it of prior date, I have bestowed upon the present bird the name var. australis.

In Chile and Brazil (Western ?) we find a form resembling the last in some respects, but differing in points of almost specific value. It differs from all the other American members of the genus in having the tail continuously rufous to the extreme tip, the black zone being considerably narrower than the terminal rufous, the lateral tail-feather immaculate rufous, etc. The grayish of the head is much darker and more slaty than in the var. australis. This is, without doubt, the Falco cinnamominus of Swainson, the specimens in the collection corresponding exactly with the description by that author.

The rufous patch on the crown must not be too much considered, as it is of all characters perhaps the most treacherous, though its presence or absence is in a measure characteristic of the several varieties. Neither does the exact number of spots on the lateral tail-feather prove sufficiently constant to serve as a character in which the least reliance can be placed, though Swainson attaches considerable value to it. I have found that, besides varying almost with the individual, in some specimens the feathers of opposite sides did not correspond.

About two hundred and fifty specimens form the basis of the following synopsis.

A. Tail tipped with white; outer tail-feathers (one or more) variegated.

a. ♂. Head above, and wings, fine bluish-ash; usually one tail-feather only (the outer) variegated.

1. Vertex with a conspicuous patch of rufous. ♂. Black zone of the tail 1.00 in width; breast strongly tinged with ochraceous; spots of black on the breast or sides circular. ♀. Above fulvous-rufous, the whole breast and sides with longitudinal dashes of a lighter tint of the same. Hab. Continent of North America north of Panama (except Caribbean and Gulf coast) … var. sparverius.

2. Vertex with only a trace of rufous, or none at all. ♂. Black zone of tail only .60 in width; breast nearly pure white; spots of black usually only on the sides, elliptical. ♀. Above vinaceous-rufous; longitudinal markings beneath deeper brown. Hab. Continent of South America (except North Atlantic and Caribbean coast) … var. australis.64

b. ♂. Head above, and wings, dark bluish-plumbeous; several outer tail-feathers variegated.

3. Vertex without any rufous. ♂. Anterior portions beneath deep ochraceous, without spots. Tail without indication of bars anterior to the subterminal one; black bars above confined to larger scapulars. ♀. Above ferruginous, with the black bars broader and blacker than in either of the preceding. Hab. Gulf, Caribbean, and Atlantic coasts of tropical continental America (Florida to Cayenne) … var. isabellinus.

4. Vertex with a patch of rufous. ♂. Black spots beneath numerous, large and circular. Tail with more or less complete black bars anterior to the subterminal band, sometimes regularly barred to the base; black bars above covering entire rufous surface. ♀. Similar to that of isabellinus, but markings beneath more numerous, and pure black instead of brown. Hab. Lesser Antilles, north to St. Thomas … var. dominicensis.65

B. Tail tipped with deep rufous; outer tail-feather unvariegated.

5. Head above dark slaty-plumbeous, without any rufous. ♂. Tail continuous rufous to the extreme tip, the subterminal black band narrower than the terminal rufous one, and not continuous; the outer feather entirely rufous, without any black. In other respects much like var. australis. (♀ not seen.) Hab. Chile and Western Brazil … var. cinnamominus.66

Falco (Tinnunculus) sparverius, Linn.
Var. sparverius, Linnæus.

Accipiter (Æsalon) carolinensis, Briss. Orn. I, 385, 1760. Accipiter minor, Catesb. Carol. I, 5, 1754. Falco sparverius, Linn. Syst. Nat. p. 128, 1766.—Penn, Arct. Zoöl. pp. 211, 212.—Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 284.—Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 42; Synop. I, 110, sp. 94; Gen. Hist. I, 290.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 142, pl. xii.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, pl. xxvi.—Wils. Am. Orn. pl. xvi, f. 1, pl. xxxii, f. 2.—James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, 56, 60.—Less. Tr. Orn. p. 95.—Benn. gard. Zoöl. Soc. II, 121.—Steph. XIII, ii, 38.—Cuv. Reg. Anim. (ed. 2), I, 322.—Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, 262; II, 51.—Rich. & Swains. F. B. A. pl. xxiv.—Wagl. Isis, 1831, 517.—Bonap. Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 27; Isis, 1832, 1136.—Vieill. Enc. Méth. III, 1234 (in part).—Aud. Birds Am. pl. cxlii; Orn. Biog. II, 246, pl. cxlii.—Brew. (Wils.) Synop. p. 684; Am. Oölogy, p. 16, pl. xi, figs. 13 and 15 a.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 16, pl. vii. f. 16.—Peab. Birds Mass. III, 69.—Nutt. Man. I, 58. Tinnunculus sparverius, Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. pls. xii, xiii.—Bridg. Proc. Zoöl. Soc. pt. xi, 109.—Gray, Gen. B. fol. sp. 10; List Brit. B. Mus. p. 60.—Woodh. Sitgr. Exp. Zuñi & Colorad. p. 60.—Cass. Proc. Ac. Nat. Sc. Phil. 1855, 278.—Birds Cal. & Tex. p. 92; Birds N. Am. 1858, 13.—Ridgw. P. A. N. S. 1870, 148.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 99, 1855. Cerchneis sparverius, Bonap. List Eur. & N. Am. B. p. 5, 1838. Pœcilornis sparverius, Kaup, Monog. Falc. Cont. Orn. 1850, 53. Tinnunculus phalœna, Lesson, Mam. et d’Ois. 1847, 178 (San Blas & Acapulco).

Sp. Char. Adult male (12,025, Washington, D. C.; W. Wallace). Forehead, lateral and posterior, regions of the vertex, occiput, and wings, bluish-ash. Vertex, nape, scapulars, interscapulars, rump, upper tail-coverts, and tail, fine cinnamon-rufous; scapulars and back barred with black, the bars broadest and most conspicuous posteriorly. Tail tipped with white, and with a broad sharply defined subterminal zone of black, about one inch in width; lateral feather, with outer web and terminal half of inner, ashy-white, the latter with one or two distinct transverse spots anterior to the subterminal one. Wing-coverts with more or less conspicuous cordate spots of black, rather sparsely distributed; basal two-thirds of secondaries and whole of primaries deep black; the latter whitish around the terminal margin and with nine transverse bands of white on inner web of longest (second), the white rather exceeding the black, the points of which do not reach the edge of the feather; lining of the wing white with conspicuous cordate spots of black. Front and superciliary region more hoary than the forehead, almost approaching white. Whole lateral region of the head, with chin, throat, and lower parts, white; the neck, breast, and sides, however, with a deep tinge of ochraceous, the tint hardly approaching the depth of color seen on the nape. On the head there are (considering both sides) seven black spots; the first originating in front of the bare anteorbital space (leaving the lores white), and extending in a stripe downward across the maxillæ, forming a conspicuous “mustache”; the second crosses the tips of the ear-coverts, in form of an oblong transverse spot; the third is smaller, situated as far behind the last as this, and is posterior to the “mustache,” crossing the side of the neck; the last is an odd nuchal spot separating the ash of the occiput from the rufous of the nape. Breast and sides with circular or cordate spots of pure black; these varying in size, but generally larger on the sides. Other lower parts immaculate. Wing-formula, 2=3–4, 1. Wing, 7.10; tail, 4.50; tarsus, 1.32; middle toe, .98; culmen, .45.

Adult female (10,751, Fort Bridger, Utah; C. Drexler). Blue above confined to the head, which shows the rufous patch as in the male; entire upper parts rufous, lighter and less purplish than in the male, everywhere barred with black. Tail with twelve sharply defined narrow bars of black; the subterminal broadest, and about three eighths of an inch in width. Longest primary with eleven transverse spaces of pale rufous, nearly twice as wide as the dusky ones, which scarcely touch the edge. Beneath yellowish-white, paler than in the male, breast and sides with rusty longitudinal spots. Head as in the male. Wing, 7.60; tail, 5.20; tarsus, 1.50; middle toe, .90; bill, .50. Wing-formula, 2=3–4–1.

Young male (5,581, Medicine Bow Creek, Nebraska, August 7, 1856; W. S. Wood). Exactly like the adult male, but with the rufous darker, approaching to chestnut; spots beneath inclining to a tear-shaped form, and, though more numerous, are not so well defined as in the adult; also rufescent tinge beneath more general; blue of the wings with scarcely any spots; white terminal band of tail tinged with rufous. Sometimes the two or three outer feathers are clouded with ash, and possess indication of bars, formed of irregular black spots.

Young female (40,520, Fort Rice, Dacota; S. M. Rothhammer). Generally like the adult, but with rufous above darker, approaching ferruginous; the bars everywhere broader, and purer black; rufous vertical patch streaked centrally with black; spots beneath larger, darker, approaching reddish umber.

Hab. Continental North America (only), across to both coasts, and from Arctic regions to Isthmus of Panama; not in West Indies.

This form ranges over the whole of continental North America, from Panama northward into the British Provinces, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Throughout the whole of this extensive area the bird exhibits very little variation, in fact, none not of an almost individual character, consisting mainly in the varying amount of ashy-white and black on the lateral tail-feather, and also, to a less extent, in the depth of the ochraceous tint on the breast, and the abundance and size of the black spots on the sides or flanks. In the Gulf region of the United States it passes gradually into var. isabellinus through intermediate specimens. We have seen Florida skins (kindly lent to us by Mr. J. A. Allen) from Miami (♂, January 29, 1872), Cedar Keys (♂, February 28, 1871), and Florida Keys (♂, February 14, 1871). Of these, only the first (No. 14,491) deviates noticeably from the typical style; it inclines toward var. isabellinus in sparsity of black spots on flanks and restricted rufous on the crown, but in the pure light ash of the crown and wings, and faint ochraceous of the breast, it resembles more the var. sparverius. Wing, 6.50; tail, 4.70. The two other specimens measure as follows: No. 14,487, Florida Keys, wing, 6.90; tail, 5.00. No. 14,492, Cedar Keys, wing, 6.90; tail, 5.00. The former is peculiar in having some of the upper tail-coverts either partly or entirely ashy.

Mexican specimens represent the race in the greatest purity or exaggeration of its characteristic features, in pure and light bluish-ash of wings and crown, greatest extent of rufous on crown, etc. California specimens often exhibit what I have not noticed in eastern examples, though possibly occurring in them; that is, in adult males the cere and feet are of a deep orange-red—almost vermilion color.


National Museum, 104; Boston Society, 26; Philadelphia Academy, 7; Mus. Comp. Zoöl., 66; New York Museum, 7; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 4; Cab. R. Ridgway, 4. Total, 218.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
6.50–8.00 4.50–5.70 .50–.00 1.25–1.55 .95–0.00 117
6.80–8.40 4.90–5.80 .55–.55 1.40–1.45 .90–1.00 95
Var. isabellinus, Swainson.

Falco isabellinus, Swainson, An. Menag. p. 281, 1838. Tinnunculus sparverius, var. isabellinus, Ridgway, P. A. N. S. Phil. Dec. 1870, p. 149. Tinnunculus dominicensis (not of Gmel.!), Strickl. Orn. Syn. 1, 100, 1855 (in part only).

Sp. Char. Adult male (3,841, Prairie Mer Rouge, La., June, 1853; “J. F.”). Much like var. sparverius, but considerably darker in colors; plumbeous, crown dark with no rufous on vertex, nor darker shaft-lines. Rufous above more purplish-castaneous; cinereous of wings much darker; neck, jugulum, breast, and sides deep soft ochraceous, spots very few, and restricted to the sides. Wing, 7.00; tail, 4.70; tarsus, 1.25; middle toe, .90; culmen, .50. Wing-formula, 2, 3–4, 1.

Adult female (58,339, Jacksonville, Fla., June 10, 1869; C. J. Maynard). Differing from the female of var. sparverius in much darker colors, the rufous inclining to castaneous; bars broader, more sharply defined, pure black. Head above pure dark plumbeous, conspicuously different from the fine light ash of var. sparverius; vertex with touches only of rufous; markings beneath narrower, and nearly pure black, upon a deeper ochraceous ground. Wing, 7.20; tail, 4.50; tarsus, 1.20; middle toe, .83; culmen, .42. Primaries, 2, 3–1, 4.

Hab. North Atlantic and Caribbean coasts of South America, from Demerara northward, along the Gulf coast of Mexico and United States, through Texas and Louisiana to Florida.

This form, though quite different in its extreme condition from true sparverius, gradually grades into it. Few, if any, other specimens possess in so exaggerated a degree all the distinctive characters of those described, though all from the regions indicated agree in having darker colors and less rufous on the crown than specimens from the interior of North and Middle America.

A series of six adult male Sparrow Hawks from Florida, kindly loaned me for examination by Mr. J. A. Allen, includes three typical examples of this littoral race of subtropical continental America. They all agree in very deep dark colors, entire absence or merely slight indication of rufous on the vertex, and deeply ochraceous breast, with few markings. No. 14,499 (Miami, Fla., June 19, 1871) is remarkable for lacking entirely the black spots on wings and flanks, and bars on the back or longer scapulars; the three outer tail-feathers are almost wholly ashy-white, with about five transverse spots of black; the terminal white band is strongly tinged with ash; there is no trace of rufous on the crown. Wing, 6.80; tail, 4.80.

In the unspotted wings and sides and unbarred scapulars there is a resemblance in this specimen to F. leucophrys; which, however, has the ash very much lighter, the black “mustache” obsolete or wanting, the lower breast pure white instead of deep ochraceous; the under surface of the primaries plain white, with shallow dusky serrations along the shaft, instead of being heavily barred with dusky; always has a patch of rufous on the crown, a conspicuous frontal and superciliary stripe of white, and an entirely differently marked tail. In its much barred tail it also resembles the var. dominicensis to a slight extent; but the latter has the middle feathers also barred, and always has the scapulars, generally the entire dorsal region, heavily barred with black, and the wings, breast, and sides heavily spotted; the bill is larger, and there is always more or less rufous on the crown. The other two specimens are more like the average; they both have a mere trace of rufous on the crown, conspicuous bars on the scapulars, and spots on the wings. No. 5,188 (Hibernia, Fla., February 3, 1869) has only a few black specks on the flanks; the outer tail-feather ashy-white, with seven transverse black spots across inner web. Wing, 6.80; tail, 4.80. No. 5,373 (Hawkinsville, Fla., March 12, 1869) is similar, but has the flanks distinctly spotted with black, and the outer tail-feather with inner web plain pale rufous, with only the subterminal large black spot. Wing, 6.80; tail, 4.80.

A series of ten specimens (five males and five females) from Florida, kindly sent me for examination by Mr. C. J. Maynard, contains nothing but var. sparverius, with a few individuals inclining slightly toward var. isabellinus. The extreme are measurements of the series as follows: ♂. Wing, 6.60–6.90; tail, 4.50–4.70. ♀. Wing, 6.90–7.50; tail, 4.80–5.10. Four out of the five males have the deeply ochraceous unspotted breast of var. isabellinus, but all have more or less rufous on the crown, while the ash is of that light shade seen in var. sparverius. No. 476 has the upper tail-coverts mixed with feathers which are either wholly or partially ash, while the light bands of the outer tail-feathers are much tinged with the same; the scapulars are almost wholly fine ash, like the wings, and with heavy black bars. The females likewise all incline toward var. isabellinus, all having the dark bars above equal to or broader than the rufous ones. No. 6,441 is transversely spotted on the flanks with heavy black bars, and is scarcely distinguishable from females of var. dominicensis.

An adult male labelled as coming from Cuba, but probably from the southeastern United States, in the collection of the Boston Society, is so deeply colored as to strongly resemble the young male of T. sparveroides. There is not a trace of rufous on the crown, which is dark plumbeous; the lower parts are entirely deep rufous, except the throat, inclining more to ochraceous on the tibiæ and crissum; the whole lower surface entirely free from spots of any kind. The tail is very uniformly marked, being wholly rufous, except the usual narrow terminal band, or the outer web of lateral feathers, which are white,—the latter with a few indications of black spots near the shaft,—and the usual subterminal zone of black, which is very regular and continuous. Though in these respects so closely resembling the young ♂ of T. sparveroides, it may be distinguished from it by the sharp definition of the black markings on the side of the head and on the wing-coverts, and of the black bars on the inner webs of the primaries. We have every reason to doubt whether this specimen was actually collected in Cuba, since so many of the specimens in the Lafresnaye Collection are incorrectly labelled as regards locality.

A young ♂ from Georgia, in the same collection, is somewhat similar, but differs in the following respects. The rufous beneath is confined to the breast, sides, and abdomen, but is as deep (i.e. only a shade or two lighter than that on the back); the two outer pairs of tail-feathers are mostly ashy-white, with large spots of black.


National Museum, 4; Boston Society, 2; Mus. Comp. Zoöl., 3; Philadelphia Academy, 4; New York Museum, 2; G. N. Lawrence, 4. Total, 19.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
7.00–7.70 4.86–5.50 .50–.00 1.30–1.50 .90–.00 11
7.20–7.70 5.00–5.30 .45–.50 1.35–1.40 .85–.00 5

Habits. The common Sparrow Hawk of America has an extended distribution throughout the greater portion of North America, although it was not observed by Mr. MacFarlane, nor by any other collectors in the higher Arctic regions, nor was it met with by Mr. Dall in Alaska. Mr. Kennicott found it nesting at Fort Resolution (lat. 62°), on Great Slave Lake, and Mr. Clark at Fort Rae. These are the highest points to which we have any knowledge of its having been traced.

Tinnunculus sparverius.

Sir John Richardson speaks of it as abundant on the banks of the Saskatchewan, in the neighborhood of Carlton House. It probably breeds throughout North America, from Hudson’s Bay to Mexico, and from Maine to California, though it is rare in a large portion of the New England States. It is, however, quite abundant in the vicinity of Calais, Me., in New Brunswick, and in Nova Scotia, though less abundant about Halifax. It has not been taken, or if so only very rarely, in Eastern Massachusetts, though it has been known to breed in Williamstown and Amherst, in the western part of the State. It is equally rare in Rhode Island and in Connecticut. Dr. Woods, of East Hartford, knew of a pair which entered a dove-cot in that place, destroyed its inmates, and laid four eggs. They committed so many depredations on the neighbors’ chickens that they were shot.

Mr. Ridgway found this species exceedingly abundant in all portions of the West. In the cañons of the East Humboldt Mountains it was observed to have nests in holes on the faces of the limestone cliffs.

The Sparrow Hawk is a bird of irregular flight, now momentarily hovering over a particular spot, suspending itself in the air, and then shooting off in another direction. At other times it may be seen perched on the top of a dead tree, or on a projecting branch, sitting there in an almost perpendicular position for an hour or more at a time. It frequently jerks its tail, and appears to be reconnoitring the ground below for small birds, mice, or lizards, on which it chiefly preys. When it alights, it closes its long wings so suddenly that, according to Wilson, they seem to disappear. It often approaches the farm-house early in the morning, skulking about the barnyard in pursuit of mice, and occasionally of young chickens. Frequently it plunges into a thicket, as if at random, but always with an object in view, and with a sure and fatal aim.

Wilson once observed one of this species perched on the highest top of a large poplar, and, just as he was about to take aim, it swept down with the rapidity of an arrow into a thicket of briers, where he shot it, and found a small Field Sparrow quivering in its grasp. It is said to be fond of watching along hedge-rows and in orchards, where small birds usually resort. When grasshoppers are plentiful, they form the principal part of its food. The young are fed with the usual food of the parents,—mice, small birds, grasshoppers, etc. It also feeds upon small snakes, but rarely, if ever, touches anything that it has not itself killed, and has been known to reject its prey when, after having been killed, it proved to be in unsuitable condition for food.

Mr. Audubon states that the flight of this species is never protracted. It seldom flies far at a time; a few hundred yards are all the distance it usually goes before alighting. It rarely sails long on the wing at a time; a half-hour is its utmost extent. In pursuing a bird, it flies with great rapidity, but never with the speed of the Sharp-shinned and other Hawks. Its cry is so similar to that of the Kestrel of Europe that it might be readily mistaken for it but for its stronger intonation. At times it gives out these notes as it perches, but they are principally uttered while on the wing. Mr. Audubon has heard them imitate the feeble cries of their offspring, when these have left the nest and are following their parents.

The young birds, when they first appear, are covered with a white down. They grow with great rapidity, and are soon able to leave their nest, and are well provided for by their parents until they are able to take care of themselves. They feed at first on grasshoppers and crickets.

At Denysville, Me., these Hawks were observed to attack the Cliff Swallows, while sitting on their eggs, deliberately tearing open their covered nests, and seizing their occupants for their prey.

In winter, these birds, for the most part, desert the Northern and Middle States, but are resident south of Virginia. They can be readily tamed, especially when reared from the nest. Mr Audubon raised a young Hawk of this species, which continued to keep about the house, and even to fly to it for shelter when attacked by some of its wilder kindred, and never failed to return at night to roost on its favorite window-shutter. It was finally killed by an enraged hen, whose chickens it attempted to seize.

This Hawk constructs no nest, but makes use of hollow trees, the deserted hole of a Woodpecker, or even an old Crow’s nest. Its eggs are usually as many as five in number, and Mr. Audubon once even met with seven in a single nest. The ground of the eggs is usually a dark cream-color or a light buff. In their markings they vary considerably. Five from a nest in Maryland were covered throughout the entire surface with small blotches and dottings of a light brown, at times confluent, and, except in a single instance, not more frequent at the larger end than the smaller. The contents of a nest obtained by Mr. Audubon on the Yellowstone River had a ground-color of a light buff, nearly unspotted, except at the larger end, with only a few large blotches and splashes of a deep chocolate. In others, interspersed with the light-brown markings are a few of a much deeper shade. In some, the eggs are covered with fine markings of buff, nearly uniform in size and color; and others again are marked with lines and bolder dashes of brown, of a distinctly reddish shade, over their entire surface, and often so thickly as nearly to conceal the ground. The eggs are nearly spherical. The average length is 1.38 inches by a breadth of 1.13. They are subject to variation in size, but are uniform as to shape. They range in length from 1.48 to 1.32 inches, and in breadth from 1.08 to 1.20 inches.

The eggs of Tinnunculus sparveroides, from Cuba, and of var. cinnamominus from Chile, differ in size and markings from those of North American birds. Their ground-color is much whiter, is freer from markings which have hardly any tinge of rufous, but are more of a yellowish-brown. The Cuban egg measures 1.28 by 1.08 inches; the Chilian, 1.25 by 1.08.

Genus POLYBORUS, Vieillot.

Gen. Char. General aspect somewhat vulturine, but bearing and manners almost gallinaceous. Neck and legs very long. Bill very high and much compressed, the commissure very straight and regular, and nearly parallel with the superior outline; cere very narrow, its anterior outline vertical and straight. Nostril very small, linear, obliquely vertical, its upper end being the posterior one; situated in the upper anterior corner of the cere. Lateral and under portions of the head naked and scantily haired, the skin bright-colored (reddish or yellow in life). Occipital feathers elongated. Wings and tail long, the latter rounded; five outer quills with inner webs sinuated; third to the fourth longest; first shorter than the sixth, sometimes shorter than the seventh. Feet almost gallinaceous, the tarsus nearly twice as long as the middle toe, but stout; outer toe longer than the inner; posterior toe much the shortest; claws long, but slender, weakly curved, and obtuse. Tarsus with a frontal series of large transverse scutellæ, the lower fourth to sixth forming a single row, the others disposed in two parallel series of alternating plates; the other parts covered by smaller hexagonal scales.

37871, ♀. NAT. SIZE.

37871, ♀. ¼

37871, ♀. ¼

Wing and tail.

37871, ♀. ¼

Polyborus auduboni.

This well-marked genus contains but a single species, the P. tharus, Mol., which extends its range over the whole of tropical and subtropical America, exclusive of some of the West India Islands. North and south of the Isthmus it is modified into geographical races, the southern of which is var. tharus, Mol., and the northern var. auduboni, Cass.

The closely related genera Phalcobænas, Milvago, Ibycter, and Daptrius are peculiar to South America and the southern portion of Middle America, most of them being represented by two or more species. They all form a well-marked and peculiarly American group, for which I shall retain Schlegel’s term Polybori.

Their habits are quite different in many respects from those of other Falconidæ, for they combine in many respects the habits of the gallinaceous birds and those of the Vultures. They are terrestrial, running and walking gracefully, with the exception of the species of Ibycter and Daptrius, which are more arboreal than the others, and are said also to feed chiefly upon insects, instead of carrion.

Species and Races.

P. tharus. Wing, 14.50–17.70; tail, 10.00–11.00; culmen, 1.20–1.48; tarsus, 3.20–4.20; middle toe, 1.75–2.30.

Adult. Forehead, crown, occiput, back, rump, abdomen, sides, and tibiæ, and terminal zone of the tail, dull black. Neck, breast, tail-coverts, and tail, dingy whitish. Interscapulars, breast, and tail with transverse dusky bars.

Young. Blackish areas replaced by dull brown; region of the transverse bars marked, instead, with longitudinal stripes.

Adult. Whole body, with middle wing-coverts, variegated with transverse bars of black and white; tail-coverts barred. Terminal zone of the tail about 2.00 wide. Young. Longitudinal stripes over the whole head and body, except throat, cheeks, and tail-coverts; tail-coverts transversely barred. Hab. South America … var. tharus.67

Adult. Transverse bars confined to the breast and interscapulars; rest of body continuous black; tail-coverts without bars; wing-coverts unvariegated. Terminal zone of tail about 2.50 wide. Young. Longitudinal stripes confined to the breast and interscapulars; rest of the body continuous brown. Tail-coverts without bars. Hab. Middle America, and southern border of United States, from Florida to Cape St. Lucas … var. auduboni.

Polyborus tharus, var. auduboni, Cassin.

Polyborus auduboni, Cassin, Proc. Acad. Nat. Sc. Philad. 1865, p. 2. Polyborus vulgaris (“Vieill.”), Aud. Orn. Biog. II, 350, 1834 (not of Vieillot!). Polyborus brasiliensis (“Gmel.”), Aud. Birds Am. Oct. ed. I, 21, 1840 (not of Gmelin!). Polyborus tharus (“Mol.”) Cassin, Birds of Cal. & Tex. I, 113; 1854 (not of Molina!); Brewer, Oölogy, 1857, p. 58, pl. xi, figs. 18 & 19; Baird, Birds N. Am. 1858, p. 45.—Heerm. P. R. R. Rept. VII, 31, 1857.—Coues, Prod. Orn. Ariz. p. 13, 1866.—Owen, Ibis, III, 67.—Gurney, Cat. Rapt. B. 1864, 17.—Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 329 (Texas).

Sp. Char. Adult male (12,016, Texas; Capt. McCall). Forehead, crown, occiput, and nape, wings, scapulars, rump, belly, thighs, and anal region continuous deep dull black; chin, neck, jugulum, breast, and tail-coverts (upper and lower), soiled white. Breast with numerous cordate spots of black, these growing larger posteriorly, and running in transverse series; back with transverse bars of white, which become narrower and less distinct posteriorly. Basal two-thirds of tail white, crossed by thirteen or fourteen narrow transverse bands of black, which become narrower and more faint basally; outer web of lateral feather almost entirely black; broad terminal band of the tail uniform black (2.40 inches in width); third, fourth, fifth, and sixth primaries grayish just beyond the coverts, this portion with three or four transverse bars of white. Middle portion of primaries beneath, faintly barred with white and ashy; the barred portion extending obliquely across. Third quill longest, fourth a little shorter, second shorter than fifth; first 3.60 inches shorter than longest. Wing, 16.70; tail, 9.60; tarsus, 3.40; middle toe, 2.10.

Adult female. Plumage similar; white more brownish; abdomen with indication of bars. Wing, 15.50; tail, 8.70; tarsus, 3.30; middle toe, 2.20.

Young (42,130, ♀, Mirador, Mexico; Dr. C. Sartorius). Black of adult replaced by dingy dark brown, this darkest in the hood; white and dusky regions gradually blended, the feathers of the breast being whitish, edged (longitudinally) with brown. No trace of the transverse bars, except on the tail, which is like that of the adult.

Hab. Middle America north of Darien; southern border of United States from Florida to Lower California; Cuba.

Localities: Guatemala (Scl. Ibis, I, 214); Cuba (Cab. Journ. II, lxxix; Gundl. Rept. 1865, 221, resident); ? Trinidad (Taylor, Ibis, 1864, 79); Texas (Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 329, breeds); Arizona (Coues); Costa Rica (Lawr. IX, 132); Yucatan (Lawr. 16, 207.)


National Museum, 16; Boston Society, 2; Philadelphia Academy, 4; Museum Comp. Zoöl., 1; R. Ridgway, 2. Total, 25.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
14.60–16.50 9.00–10.00 1.20–1.48 3.20–3.60 1.90–2.00 6
14.75–16.00 8.80–10.00 1.20–1.45 3.55–3.75 2.00–2.10 8

Polyborus tharus, var. auduboni.

Habits. The Caracara Eagle, as this bird is called, though it seems to possess, to a large degree, the characteristics of a Vulture, and hardly any of the true aquiline nature, is found in all the extreme southern portions of the country, in Florida, Texas, Southern Arizona, and California. Audubon met with it abundantly in Florida in the winter of 1831. Mr. Boardman has seen it quite common at Enterprise, associating with the Vultures. Dr. Woodhouse, while encamped on the Rio Saltado, near San Antonio, in Texas, frequently saw the Caracaras, and always in company with the Vultures, which he says they greatly resemble in their habits, excepting that they were much more shy. He could, however, readily approach them when on horseback. Mr. Dresser also frequently encountered it in Texas in the vicinity of San Antonio, and speaks of it as abundant from the Rio Grande to the Guadaloupe, but never noticed any farther east. In Arizona, Dr. Coues says, it is not a rare bird in the southern and western portions of that Territory. Lieutenant Couch likewise describes them as exceedingly abundant from the Rio Grande to the Sierra Madre. He speaks of killing a male bird on the nest, which was in a low tree and composed of sticks. He adds that this bird destroys the Texas field-rats (Sigmodon berlandieri) in large numbers.

Dr. Heermann met with this species on the Colorado River, near Fort Yuma, in company with the Cathartes aura. He found it so shy that it was impossible to procure a specimen. He found it along the Gila River, and again met with it in Texas wherever there were settlements. At San Antonio, wherever there were slaughter-houses, he met with them in great numbers, twenty or thirty being often seen at a time.

Grayson gives the Caracara as quite abundant in the Tres Marias. Although it subsists mainly on dead animals and other offal, it is said to sometimes capture young birds, lizards, snakes, and land-crabs. It generally carries its prey in its beak; but Colonel Grayson states that he has seen it also bear off its food in its claws, as Hawks do. It walks with facility on the ground, and was often met with in the thick woods, walking about in search of snakes. Mr. Xantus found it nesting at Cape San Lucas, placing its nest on the top of the Cereus giganteus. It occurs also in the West Indies, especially in the island of Cuba, where it is known to breed. Eggs were obtained and identified by the late Dr. Berlandier, of Matamoras, in Northern Mexico, on the Rio Grande, in considerable numbers.

Mr. Salvin (Ibis, I, 214) says the Caracara is universal in its distribution in Central America, appearing equally abundant everywhere. At Duenas it was a constant resident, breeding on the surrounding hills. Its food seemed to consist largely of the ticks that infested the animals. In Honduras Mr. G. C. Taylor found them very common, quite tame, and easily shot. They feed on carrion and offal, were often seen scratching among the half-dry cow-dung, and are “a very low caste bird.” Mr. E. C. Taylor (Ibis, VI, 79) frequently saw this bird on the shores of the Orinoco. It was very tame, and generally allowed a near approach, and when disturbed did not fly far. He did not meet with it in Trinidad.

On the Rio Grande the popular name of this species is Totache, while in Chile the P. tharus is called Traro, but its more common name throughout South America is Carrancha.

According to Audubon, the flight of this bird is at great heights, is more graceful than that of the Vulture, and consists of alternate flapping and sailing. It often sails in large circles, gliding in a very elegant manner, now and then diving downwards and then rising again.

These birds feed on frogs, insects, worms, young alligators, carrion, and various other forms of animal food. Mr. Audubon states that he has seen them walk about in the water in search of food, catching frogs, young alligators, etc. It is harmless and inoffensive, and in the destruction of vermin renders valuable services. It builds a coarse, flat nest, composed of flags, reeds, and grass, usually on the tops of trees, but occasionally, according to Darwin, on a low cliff, or even on a bush.

Mr. R. Owen, who found this bird breeding near San Geronimo, Guatemala, April 2 (Ibis, 1861, p. 67), states that the nest was built on the very crown of a high tree in the plain. It was made of small branches twisted together, and had a slight lining of coarse grass. It was shallow, and formed a mass of considerable size. The eggs were four in number, and are described as measuring 2.15 inches by 1.60, having a light red ground-color, and spotted and blotched all over with several shades of a darker red.

Dr. Heermann found the nest of this species on the Medina River. It was built in an oak, and constructed of coarse twigs and lined with leaves and roots. It was quite recently finished, and contained no eggs. Mr. Dresser states that it breeds all over the country about San Antonio, building a large bulky nest of sticks, lined with small roots and grass, generally placed in a low mesquite or oak tree, and laying three or four roundish eggs, similar to those of the Honey Buzzard of Europe. He found several nests in April and through May, and was told by the rancheros that its eggs are found as late as June. The nests found in the collection of Dr. Berlandier, of Matamoras, were coarse flat structures, composed of flags, reeds, and grass. The nests, though usually built on the tops of trees, are occasionally found, according to Darwin, on a low cliff, or even on a bush. The number of the eggs is rarely, if ever, more than three or four. Four eggs, taken by Dr. Berlandier near the Rio Grande, exhibit a maximum length of 2.44 inches; least length, 2.25; average, 2.41. The diameter of the smallest egg is 1.75 inches; that of the largest, 1.88; average, 1.81. These eggs not only present the great and unusual variation in their length of nearly eight per cent, but very striking and anomalous deviations from uniformity are also noticeable in their ground-color and markings. The ground-color varies from a nearly pure white to a very deep russet or tan-color, and the markings, though all of sepia-brown, differ greatly in their shades. In some, the ground-color is nearly pure white with a slight pinkish tinge, nearly unspotted at the smaller end, and only marked by a few light blotches of a sepia-brown. These markings increase both in size and frequency, and become of a deeper shade, as they are nearer the larger end, until they become almost black, and around this extremity they form a large confluent ring of blotches and dashes of a dark sepia. Others have a ground-color of light russet, or rather white with a very slight wash of russet, and are marked over the entire surface, in about equal proportion, with irregular lines and broad dashes of dark sepia. Again, in others the ground is of the deepest russet or tan-color, and is marked with deep blotches of a dark sepia, almost black. The eggs are much more oblong than those of most birds of prey, and in this respect also show their relation to the Vultures, rather than to the Hawks or Eagles. They are pyriform, the smaller end tapers quite abruptly, and varies much more, in its proportions, from the larger extremity, than the eggs of most true Hawks.

Lieutenant Gilliss found the South American race exceedingly numerous throughout Central and Southern Chile. It was constantly met with along the roads, and wherever there was a chance of obtaining a particle of flesh or offal. At the annual slaughtering of cattle they congregate by hundreds, and remain without the corral, awaiting their share of the rejected parts. It was so tame, from not being molested, that it could be taken with the lasso, but when thus captured, it fights desperately, and no amount of attention or kindness can reconcile it to the loss of liberty.

Throughout South America it is one of the most abundant species, its geographical range extending even to Cape Horn. Mr. Darwin found the Polyborus nowhere so common as on the grassy savannas of the La Plata, and says that it is also found on the most desert plains of Patagonia, even to the rocky and barren shores of the Pacific.

Genus PANDION, Savigny.

Gen. Char. Bill inflated, the cere depressed below the arched culmen; end of bill much developed, forming a strong, pendent hook. Anterior edge of nostril touching edge of the cere. Whole of tarsus and toes (except terminal joint) covered with rough, somewhat imbricated, projecting scales. Outer toe versatile; all the claws of equal length. In their shape, also, they are peculiar; they contract in thickness to their lower side, where they are much narrower than on top, as well as perfectly smooth and rounded; the middle claw has the usual sharp lateral ridge, but it is not very distinct. All the toes perfectly free. Tibiæ not plumed, but covered compactly with short feathers, these reaching down the front of the tarsus below the knee, and terminating in an angle. Primary coverts hard, stiff, and acuminate, almost as much so as the quills themselves; third quill longest; first longer than fifth; second, third, and fourth sinuated on outer webs; outer three deeply emarginated, the fourth sinuated, on inner webs.

Of this remarkable genus, there appears to be but a single species, which is almost completely cosmopolitan in its habitat. As in the case of the Peregrine Falcon and Barn Owl, different geographical regions have each a peculiar race, modified by some climatic or local influence. These races, however, are not well marked, and are consequently only definable with great difficulty.

Species and Races.

P. haliætus. Wing, 15.20–21.50; tail, 7.00–11.11; culmen, 1.20–1.40; tarsus, 2.00–2.15; middle toe, 1.60–2.00. Second or third quills longest. Above clear dark grayish-brown, inclining to brownish-black, plain, or variegated with white. Tail brownish-gray (the inner webs almost entirely white), narrowly tipped with white, and crossed by about six or seven nearly equal bands of dusky-black. Head, neck, and entire lower parts, snowy-white; the breast with or without brown spots or wash. A dusky stripe on side of head (from lores across the ear-coverts), and top of head more or less spotted, or streaked, with the same. Adult. Upper parts plain. Young. Feathers of the upper parts bordered terminally with white. Sexes alike (?).

Wing, 17.00–20.50; tail, 7.00–10.00; culmen, 1.20–1.45; tarsus, 1.95–3.15; middle toe, 1.50–1.90. Second or third quills longest (in eighteen specimens from Europe and Asia). First longer than fifth. Breast always (?) spotted with brownish, or uniformly so; top of head with the black streaks usually predominating. Tail with six to seven narrow black bands, continuous across both webs. Hab. Northern Hemisphere of the Old World … var. haliætus.68

Wing, 17.50–21.50; tail, 8.70–10.50; culmen, 1.25–1.40; tarsus, 2.00–2.40; middle toe, 1.70–2.00. Second and third quill longest. Breast often entirely without spots; top of head and nape usually with dark streaks predominating. Tail with six to seven narrow black bands, continuous across both webs. Hab. Northern Hemisphere of the New World … var. “carolinensis.”

Wing, 17.50–19.50; tail, 9.00–10.00; culmen, 1.25–1.40; tarsus, 2.10; middle toe, 1.70–1.95. Third quill longest, but second just perceptibly shorter (eight specimens, including Gould’s types). Breast with the markings sometimes (in two out of the eight examples) reduced to sparse shaft-streaks, but never (?) entirely immaculate. Top of the head with the white streaks usually predominating, sometimes (in three out of the eight specimens) immaculate white (the occiput, however, always with a few streaks). Tail with six to seven white bands on the inner webs, which (according to Kaup) do not touch the shaft. Hab. Australia … var. “leucocephalus.”69

Pandion haliætus, var. carolinensis (Gmel.).

Falco carolinensis, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 263, 1789.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 69, 1800. Pandion carolinensis, Bonap. List, pt. iii, 1838; Consp. Av. p. 16.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 64, 1855.—Aud. Birds Am. pl. lxxxi, 1831.—Cass. Birds Cal. & Tex. p. 112, 1854.—Brewer, Oölogy, 1857, p. 53, pl. iii, fig. 33, 34.—Newb. P. R. R. Rept. VI, iv, 75, 1857.—Heerm. VII, 21, 1857.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 8, pl. vi, fig. 18.—Cass. Birds N. Am. 1858, p. 44.—Coop. & Suck. P. R. R. Rept. XII, ii, 153, 1860.—Coues, Prod. Orn. Ariz. 1866, p. 13.—Gray, Hand List, I, 15, 1869.—Max. Cab. Journ. VI, 1858, 11.—Lord, Pr. R. A. I. IV, 1864, 110 (Brit. Columb.; nesting).—Fowler, Am. Nat. II, 1868, 192 (habits). Falco cayennensis, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 263, 1789.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, p. 69, 1800. Falco americanus, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 257.—Lath. Index Orn. p. 13, 1790; Syn. I, 35, 1781; Gen. Hist. I, 238, 1821.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 50.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 88. Aquila americana, Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. I, pl. iv, 1807. Pandion americanus, Vieill. Gal. Ois. pl. ii, 1825.—Vig. Zoöl. Journ. I, 336.—Swains. Classif. B. II, 207, 1837. Aquila piscatrix, Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. I, pl. iv, 1807. Accipiter piscatorius, Catesby, Carolina, I, pl. ii, 1754. A. falco piscator antillarum, Briss. Orn. I, 361, 1760. A. falco piscator carolinensis, Briss. Orn. I, 362. Pandion haliætus, Rich. Faun. Bor. Am. II, 20, 1831.—Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. II, 103, 1832.—James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, 38, 1831.—Aud. Orn. Biog. I, 415, 1831.—Gray, List B. Brit. Mus. p. 22, 1844. ? Pandion fasciatus, Brehm, Allgem. deutsch. Zeitung, II, 1856, 66 (St. Domingo).

Sp. Char. Adult male (17.227, San José, Lower California, December 15, 1859; J. Xantus). Upper surface dark vandyke-brown, with a faint purplish cast; quills black. Every feather with a conspicuous, sharply defined terminal crescent of pure white. Tail brownish-drab, narrowly tipped with white, and crossed with seven (one concealed) regular bands of dusky; inner webs almost wholly white, the black bands sharply defined and continuous; shafts entirely white. Ground-color of the head, neck, and entire lower parts, pure white; a broad stripe from the eye back across upper edge of the ear-coverts to the occiput brownish-black; white head also sparsely streaked with blackish, these streaks suffusing and predominating medially; nape faintly tinged with ochraceous, and sparsely streaked. Breast with large cordate spots of brown, fainter than that of the back, a medial spot on each feather, the shaft black; rest of lower parts immaculate. Lining of the wing white, strongly tinged with ochraceous; the brown of the outer surface encroaching broadly over the edge. Under primary-coverts with broad transverse spots or bars; under surface of primaries grayish-white anterior to the emargination irregularly mottled with grayish; axillars immaculate. Wing-formula, 2=3, 4–1, 5. Wing, 20.00; tail, 8.80; culmen, 1.35; tarsus, 2.15–1.10; middle toe, 1.90; outer, 1.75; inner, 1.40; posterior, 1.15; posterior outer and inner claws of equal length, each measuring 1.20 (chord); middle, 1.15. “Iris yellow; feet greenish-yellow.”

Adult female (290, S. F. Baird’s Collection, Carlisle, Pa., April 17, 1841). Dark brown of the upper surface entirely uniform, there being none of the sharply defined white crescents so conspicuous in the male.70 Tail brown to its tip, the dusky bands obscure, except on inner webs. On the top of the head, the dusky is more confined to a medial stripe. Pectoral spots smaller, less conspicuous. Under surface of primaries more mottled with grayish. Wing-formula, 3, 2–4–1, 5. Wing, 20.50; tail, 9.15; culmen, 1.35; tarsus, 2.15; middle toe, 1.70.

12013, ♂. ½

12013, ♂. ½

17227, ♂. ¼

Pandion carolinensis.

Hab. Whole of North America, south to Panama; N. Brazil; Trinidad, Cuba, and other West India Islands.

Localities: Belize (Scl. Ibis, I, 215); Cuba (Cab. Journ. II, lxxx, nests; Gundl. Repert. Sept. 1865, 1, 222); Bahamas (Bryant, Pr. Bost. Soc. VII, 1859); Panama (Lawr. VIII, 63); Trinidad (Taylor, Ibis, 1866, 79); Arizona (Coues, Pr. A. N. S. 1866, 49); N. Brazil (Pelz. Orn. Bras. I, 4).

In eight out of twelve North American adult specimens, there is but the slightest amount of spotting on the breast; in two of these (4,366, Puget Sound, and 12,014, Oregon), none whatever; in 17,228 (♂, Cape St. Lucas), 2,512 (♂ S. F. B. Carlisle, Pa.), 34,065 (♀, Realejo, Central America), and 5,837 (Fort Steilacoom), there is just a trace of these spots.

The specimens described are those having the breast most distinctly spotted. Specimens vary, in length of wing, from 17.50 to 20.50. There appears to be no sexual difference in size.

The distinctness or identity of the European and North American Ospreys can only be determined by the comparison of a very large series; this we have not been able to do, and although it is our belief that they should not be separated, the impressions received from a close inspection of the specimens before us (twenty-seven American and eighteen European) seem to indicate the propriety of distinguishing them as races.

The male of the pair described appears to be perfectly identical, in all respects except size, with a very perfect, finely mounted European male; indeed, the only discrepancy is in the size, the wing of the European bird being only nineteen inches, instead of twenty inches as in the American. The female, however, differs from European females in having the brown on the breast in the form of detached faint spots, instead of a continuous grayish-brown wash, more or less continuous.

The types of our descriptions are the only specimens of the American series which show even an approach to the amount of spotting on the breast constant in birds from Europe.

The American bird, as indicated by the series before us, would seem to be rather the larger; for the European specimens measure uniformly about an inch less than the American in length of the wing.

In all the American specimens, of both sexes, the shafts of the tail-feathers are continuously white, while in the European they are clear white only at the roots or for the basal half.

While, in consideration of the above facts, I am for the present compelled to recognize the American Pandion under the distinctive name of carolinensis, I may say, that, if any European birds occur with the breast immaculate,—no matter what the proportion of specimens,—I shall at once waive all claims to distinctness for the American bird.


National Museum, 7; Philadelphia Academy, 3; New York Museum, 1 (Brazil); Boston Society, 6; Museum Cambridge, 9; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 1; Coll. R. Ridgway, 1. Total, 28.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
19.00–20.50 10.00–10.50 1.35–0.00 2.25–2.40 1.80–1.85 5
18.75–19.00 8.80–9.50 1.25–1.35 2.00–2.25 1.70–1.80 4

Second and third quills longest; first shorter or longer than fifth.

Habits. The Fish Hawk of North America, whether we regard it as a race or a distinct species from that of the Old World fauna, is found throughout the continent, from the fur regions around Hudson’s Bay to Central America. According to Mr. Hill, it is seen occasionally in Jamaica, and, as I learn by letter from Dr. Gundlach, is also occasionally met with in the island of Cuba; but it is not known to breed in either place. Dr. Woodhouse, in his report of the expedition to the Zuñi River, speaks of this Hawk as common along the coasts of Texas and California. Dr. Heermann mentions it as common on the borders of all the large rivers of California in summer; and Dr. Gambel also refers to it as abundant along the coast of that State, and on its rocky islands, in which latter localities it breeds. I am not aware that it has ever been found farther south than Texas, on the eastern coast. On the Pacific coast it appears to have a more extended distribution both north and south, but nowhere to be so abundant as on certain parts of the Atlantic coast.

Pandion haliætus (European specimen).

Mr. Bischoff obtained this species about Sitka, where he found it breeding, and took its eggs; and Mr. Dall procured several specimens near Nulato in May, 1867, and in 1868. They were not uncommon, frequenting the small streams, and were summer visitors, returning to the same nest each season. Colonel Grayson found it breeding as far south as the islands of the Tres Marias, in latitude 31° 30′ north. The nest was on the top of a giant cactus. Mr. Xantus describes it as breeding on the ground at Cape St. Lucas.

In the interior it was met with by Richardson, but its migrations do not appear to reach the extreme northern limits of the continent. That observing naturalist saw nothing of this bird when he was coasting along the shores of the Arctic Sea, nor did Mr. Hearne find it on the barren grounds north of Fort Churchill. Its eggs were collected on the Mackenzie River by Mr. Ross, and on the Yukon by Messrs. Lockhart, Sibbiston, McDougal, and Jones. At Fort Yukon, Mr. Lockhart found it nesting on a high tree (S. I. 15,676).

On the Atlantic coast it is found from Labrador to Florida, with the exception of a portion of Massachusetts around Boston, where it does not breed, and where it is very rarely met with. It is most abundant from Long Island to the Chesapeake, and throughout this long extent of coast is very numerous, often breeding in large communities, to the number of several hundred pairs. Away from the coast it is much less frequent, but is occasionally met with on the banks of the larger rivers and lakes, and in such instances usually in solitary pairs. Dr. Hayden found it nesting in the Wind River Mountains on the top of a large cottonwood tree.

Mr. Allen reports this species as abundant everywhere in Florida, and as especially so around the lakes of the Upper St. Johns, where it commences nesting in January. At Lake Monroe he counted six nests from a single point of view. It is said by fishermen to occur on the coast of Labrador, but it is not cited as found there by Mr. Audubon, nor is it so given by Dr. Coues. It is, however, very common on the coast of Nova Scotia, breeding in the vicinity of most of the harbors. It is given by Mr. Boardman as common near Calais, where it arrives about the 10th of April, and remains until the middle of September. It is found along the whole coast more or less abundantly, especially near the heads of the numerous estuaries.

In Central America it is cited by Salvin as occurring abundantly on both the coast regions, and is particularly common about Belize, where it is believed to breed. It is said by Mr. Newton to be found on the island of St. Croix at all times except during the breeding-season. It was also occasionally seen at Trinidad by Mr. E. C. Taylor.

The Fish Hawk appears to subsist wholly on the fish which it takes by its own active exertions, plunging for them in the open deep, or catching them in the shallows of rivers where the depth does not permit a plunge. Its abundance is measured somewhat by its supply of food; and in some parts of the country it is hardly found, in others it appears in solitary pairs, and again in a few districts it is quite gregarious.

The American Fish Hawk is migratory in its habits, leaving our coasts early in the fall of the year, and returning soon after the close of the winter. Sir John Richardson states that the time of its arrival in the fur regions is as early as April, and on the coast it has been noticed in the middle of March. It breeds on the coast of Nova Scotia late in June, on that of Maine earlier in the same month, in New Jersey and Maryland in May, and still earlier in California.

It is said to arrive on the New Jersey coast with great regularity about the 21st of March, and to be rarely seen there after the 22d of September. It not unfrequently finds, on its first arrival, the ponds, bays, and estuaries ice-bound, and experiences some difficulty in procuring food. Yet I can find no instance on record where our Fish Hawk has been known to molest any other bird or land-animal, to feed on them, though their swiftness of flight, and their strength of wing and claws, would seem to render such attacks quite easy. On their arrival the Fish Hawks are said to combine, and to wage a determined war upon the White-headed Eagles, often succeeding by their numbers and courage in driving them temporarily from their haunts. But they never attack them singly.

The Fish Hawk nests almost invariably on the tops of trees, and this habit has been noticed in all parts of the country. It is not without exceptions, but these are quite rare. William H. Edwards, Esq., found one of their nests constructed near West Point, New York, on a high cliff overhanging the Hudson River. The trees on which their nests are built are not unfrequently killed by their excrement or the saline character of their food and the materials of their nest. The bird is bold and confiding, often constructing its nest near a frequented path, or even upon a highway. Near the eastern extremity of the Wiscasset (Me.) bridge, and directly upon the stage-road, a nest of this Hawk was occupied several years. It was upon the top of a low pine-tree, was readily accessible, the tree being easily climbed, and was so near the road that, in passing, the young birds could frequently be heard in their nest, uttering their usual cries for food.

The nests are usually composed externally of large sticks, often piled to the height of five feet, with a diameter of three. In a nest described by Wilson, he found, intermixed with a mass of sticks, corn-stalks, sea-weed, wet turf, mullein-stalks, etc., the whole lined with dry sea-grass (Zostera marina), and large enough to fill a cart and be no inconsiderable load for a horse.

When the nest of this Hawk is visited, especially if it contain young, the male bird will frequently make violent, and sometimes dangerous, attacks upon the intruder. In one instance, in Maine, the talons of one of these Hawks penetrated through a thick cloth cap, and laid bare the scalp of a lad who had climbed to its nest, and very nearly hurled him to the ground. A correspondent quoted by Wilson narrates a nearly similar instance of courageous and desperate defence of the young. They are very devoted in their attentions to their mates, and supply them with food while on the nest. Wilson relates a touching instance of this devotion, where a female that had lost one leg, and was unable to fish for herself, was abundantly supplied by her mate.

In some localities the Fish Hawk nests in large communities, as many as three hundred pairs having been observed nesting on one small island. When a new nest is to be constructed, the whole community has been known to take part in its completion. They are remarkably tolerant towards smaller birds, and permit the Purple Grakle (Quiscalus purpureus) to construct its nests in the interstices of their own. Wilson observed no less than four of these nests thus clustered in a single Fish Hawk’s nest, with a fifth on an adjoining branch.

The eggs of the Fish-Hawk are usually three in number, often only two, and more rarely four. They are subject to great variations as to their ground-color, the number, shade, and distribution of the blotches of secondary coloring with which they are marked, and also as to their size and shape. Their ground-color is most frequently a creamy-white, with a very perceptible tinge of red. This varies, however, from an almost pure shade of cream, without any admixture, to so deep a shade of red that white ceases to be noticeable. Their markings are combinations of an almost endless variation of shades of umber-brown, a light claret-brown, an intermingling of both these shades, with occasional intermixtures of purplish-brown. They vary in length from 2.56 to 2.24 inches, and in breadth from 1.88 to 1.69 inches. It would be impossible to describe with any degree of preciseness the innumerable variations in size, shape, ground-color, or shades of markings, these eggs present. They all have a certain nameless phase of resemblance, and may be readily distinguished from any other eggs except those of their kindred. There are, however, certain shades of wine-colored markings in the eggs of the Fish Hawk of Europe, and also in that of Australia, that I have never noticed in any eggs of the American bird; but that this peculiarity is universal I am not able to say. The smallest egg of the carolinensis measures 2.31 by 1.62 inches; the largest, 2.56 by 1.88.

The European egg is smaller than the American, is often, but not always, more spherical, and is less pointed at the smaller end. Among its varieties is one which is quite common, and is very different from any I have ever observed among at least five hundred specimens of the American which I have examined.

An Osprey’s egg in my collection, taken near Aarhuus, in Denmark, by Rev. H. B. Tristram, of Castle Eden, England, measures only 2.12 inches in length,—shorter by a fourth of an inch than the smallest American,—in breadth 1.62 inches; its ground-color is a rich cream, with a slight tinge of claret, and it is marked over its whole surface with large blotches of a beautifully deep shade of chocolate.

In their habits the European and the American birds seem to present other decided differences. The American is a very social bird, often living in large communities during the breeding-season. The European is found almost invariably in solitary pairs, and frequents fresh water almost exclusively. The American, though found also on large rivers and lakes, is much the most abundant on the sea-shore. The European bird rarely builds on trees, the American almost always. The latter rarely resorts to rocky cliffs to breed, the European almost uniformly do so. There is no instance on record of the American species attacking smaller birds or inferior land animals with intent to feed on them. The European species is said to prey on Ducks and other wild-fowl.

Genus NAUCLERUS, Vigors.

Gen. Char. Form swallow-like, the tail excessively lengthened and forked, and the wings extremely long. Bill rather small, and narrow; commissure faintly sinuated; upper outline of the lower mandible very convex, the depth of the mandible at the base being only about half that through the middle; gonys drooping terminally, nearly straight. Side of the head densely feathered close up to the eyelids. Nostril ovoid, obliquely vertical. Feet small, but robust; tarsus about equal to middle toe, covered with large, very irregular scales; toes with transverse scutellæ to their base; claws short, but strongly curved; grooved beneath, their edges sharp. Second or third quill longest; first shorter than, equal to, or longer than, the fourth; two outer primaries with inner webs sinuated. Tail with the outer pair of feathers more than twice as long as the middle pair.

The genus contains but a single species, the N. forficatus, which is peculiarly American, belonging to the tropical and subtropical portions on both sides of the equator. The species is noted for the elegance of its form and the beauty of its plumage, as well as for the unsurpassed easy gracefulness of its flight. It has no near relatives in the Old World, though the widely distributed genus Milvus represents it in some respects, while the singular genus Chelictinia, of Africa, resembles it more closely, but is much more intimately related to Ictinia and Elanus.

52994, ♂. ½

52994, ♂. ½

52994, ♂. ¼ ¼

Nauclerus forficatus.


N. forficatus. Head, neck, entire lower surface, and band across the rump, immaculate snowy-white; upper surface plain polished blackish, with varying lights of dark purplish-bronze (on the back and shoulders) and bluish-slaty, with a green reflection in some lights. Young, with dusky shaft-streaks on the head and neck, and the feathers of the upper parts margined with white. Wing, 15.40–17.70; tail, 12.50–14.50; culmen, .70–.80; tarsus, 1.00–1.30; middle toe, 1.15–1.20. Hab. The whole of tropical, subtropical, and warm-temperate America. Accidental in England.

Nauclerus forficatus, (Linn.) Ridgway.

Accipiter cauda furcata, Catesby, Carolina, I, pl. iv, 1754. Falco forficatus, Linn. Syst. Nat. I, 89, 1758. Falco furcatus, Linn. Syst. Nat. p. 129, 1766.—Penn. Arct. Zoöl. p. 210, No. 108, pl. x.—Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 262. Nauclerus forficatus, Ridgway, P. A. N. S. Phil. Dec. 1870, 144.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 152.—Shaw, Nat. Misc. pl. cciv; Zoöl. VII, 107.—Wils. Am. Orn. pl. li, f. 3, 1808.—Aud. Birds Am. pl. 72, 1831; Orn. Biog. I, 368; V, 371.—Bonap. Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 31; Isis, 1832, 1138. Milvus furcatus, Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. pl. x, 1807. Elanoides furcatus, Gray, List B. Brit. Mus. p. 44, 1844.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 141, 1855.—Owen, Ibis, II, 1860, 240 (habits). Nauclerus furcatus, Vig. Zoöl. Journ. II, 387; Isis, 1830, p. 1043.—Less. Man. Orn. I, 101; Tr. Orn. p. 73.—Swains. Classif. B. I, 312; II, 210, 1837.—Bonap. List, p. 4; Cat. Ucc. Eur. p. 20; Consp. Av. p. 21.—Gould, B. Eur. pl. xxx.—Aud. Synop. p. 14, 1839.—Rich. Schomb. Reis. Brit. Guian. p. 735.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, p. 12, pl. vii, f. 15.—Gray, Gen. B. fol. sp. 1, pl. ix, f. 9; Gen. & Subgen. Brit. Mus. p. 6.—Brew. (Wils.) Synop. Am. Orn. p. 685.—Woodh. Sitgr. Exp. Zuñi & Colorado, p. 60.—Kaup, Monog. Falconidæ, Cont. Orn. 1850, p. 57.—Brewer, Oölogy, I, 1857, 38.—Cass. Birds N. Am. 1858, 36.—Coues, Prod. Orn. Ariz. 1866, p. 12.—Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 525 (Texas, nesting).—Gray, Hand List, I, 27, 1869. Elanus furcatus, Vig. Zoöl. Journ. I, 340.—Steph. Zoöl. XIII, pl. ii, p. 49.—Cuv. Règ. An. (ed. 2), I, p. 334.—James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, 75.—Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. II, 275.—Jard. Orn. Eur. p. 29.—Nutt. Man. p. 94. Accipiter milvus carolinensis, Briss. Orn. I, 418, 1760. Elanoides yetapa, Vieill. Enc. Méth. III, 1205, 1823.

Sp. Char. Adult, male and female. Whole head and neck, lining of wings, broad band across the rump, and entire lower parts, pure white. Interscapulars and lesser wing-coverts, rich, dark, soft, bronzed purplish-black. Rest of upper parts, including lower part of rump, upper tail-coverts, and tail, more metallic slaty-black, feathers somewhat greenish basally, more bluish terminally, with a peculiar, soft milky appearance, and with very smooth compact surface. Tertials almost entirely white, black only at tips. White on under side of wing occupying all the coverts, and the basal half of the secondaries. Wing, 15.40–17.70; tail, 12.50–14.50; tarsus, 1.00–1.30; middle toe, 1.15–1.20.

Younger. Similar, but with the beautiful soft purplish-bronzed black of shoulders and back less conspicuously different from the more metallic tints of other upper parts. Young (youngest? 18,457, Cantonment Burgwyn, New Mexico). The black above less slaty, with a brownish cast, and with a quite decided gloss of bottle-green; secondaries, primary coverts, primaries, and tail-feathers finely margined terminally with white. Feathers of the head and neck with fine shaft-lines of black.

Hab. Whole of South and Middle America, and southern United States; very rarely northward on Atlantic coast to Pennsylvania; along the Mississippi Valley to Minnesota and Wisconsin; breeding in Iowa (Sioux City) and Illinois; exceedingly abundant in August in southern portion of the latter State; Cuba; accidental in England.

Localities: Guatemala (Scl. Ibis. I, 217); Cuba (Cab. Journ. II, lxxxiii); Brazil (Cab. Journ. V, 41); Panama (Lawr. VII, 1861, 289); N. Texas (Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 325, common, breeding); Veragua (Salv. 1867, 158); Costa Rica (Lawr. IX, 134); Minnesota (thirty miles north of Mille Lac, lat. 47°; Trippe, Birds of Minn., Pr. Essex Inst. VI, 1871, p. 113).

A pair marked as from England (56,099, ♀, and 56,100, ♂, “in England geschossen”; Schlüter Collection) are smaller than the average of American skins, the female measuring, wing, 15.50; tail, 13.00. The colors of this female, however, are as in American examples. The male has the plumage somewhat different from anything we have seen in the small series of American specimens. The whole upper parts are a polished violaceous slaty-black, this covering the back and lesser wing-coverts, as well as other upper parts. Were a large series of American specimens examined, individuals might perhaps be found corresponding in all respects with the pair in question.


National Museum, 9; Philadelphia Academy, 3; New York Museum, 4 (Brazil); Boston Society, 1; Cambridge Museum, 2; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 3; Coll. R. Ridgway, 1. Total, 23.

Nauclerus forficatus.

Habits. The Swallow-tailed Hawk has an extended distribution in the eastern portion of North America. It is irregularly distributed; in a large part of the country it occurs only occasionally and in small numbers, and is probably nowhere abundant except in the southwestern Gulf States, or along the rivers and inland waters. On the Atlantic coast it has been traced, according to Mr. Lawrence, as far north as New York City. According to Mr. Nuttall, individuals have been seen on the Mississippi as far as St. Anthony’s Falls, in latitude 44°. It is found more or less common along the tributaries of the Ohio and Mississippi, where it is essentially a prairie bird, and breeds in Southern Wisconsin, in Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas, and throughout Illinois. It has been taken in Cuba, and occasionally also in Jamaica. It is found in Central America, and in South America to Northern Brazil, Buenos Ayres, and, according to Vieillot, to Peru. It nests in South Carolina and in all the States that border on the Gulf of Mexico, frequenting the banks of rivers, but is not found near the seaboard.

Mr. Thure Kumlien noticed a pair of these Hawks in the neighborhood of Fort Atkinson, Wis., in the summer of 1854, and had no doubt they were breeding, though he was not able to find their nest.

Mr. Osbert Salvin, in a letter from San Geronimo, in the Vera Paz (Ibis, 1860, p. 195), states that he has positive information that this Hawk breeds in the mountains about Coban, his chief collector having found a nest there with young the previous year. Specimens had been before that received by Mr. Sclater, forwarded by Mr. Skinner, from the neighborhood of Cajabon, Guatemala. It was said to be more numerous at Belize.

Mr. Dresser informs us that he was so fortunate as to find this graceful bird very abundant in some parts of Texas, and he had a good opportunity of observing and admiring it in its true home. It was occasional about San Antonio de Bexar, where it was usually seen late in July before heavy rains. Near the Rio Grande or in Texas he did not see it at all. At Peach Creek and near Gonzales he found it not unfrequent; and on the Colorado, Brazos, and Trinity Rivers it was one of the most common birds. It only remains there during the summer months, arriving early in April, and breeding later than the other birds of prey. On the 26th of May he found them very abundant on a creek near the Colorado, but none had commenced breeding. They were preparing their nests; and, from the number he saw about one large grove, he judged that they breed in society. On his wounding one of them, the rest came flying over his head in the manner of Seagulls, uttering harsh cries; and he counted forty or fifty over him at one time. He was informed that these Kites build high up in oak, sycamore, or cottonwood trees, sometimes quite far from the creeks.

Mr. Dresser describes this bird as exhibiting a singularly pleasing appearance on the wing, gliding in large circles, without apparent effort, in very rapid flight. The tail is widely spread, and when sailing in circles the wings are almost motionless. One was noticed as it was hunting after grasshoppers. It went over the ground as carefully as a well-trained pointer, every now and then stooping to pick up a grasshopper, the feet and bill seeming to touch the insect simultaneously. They were very fond of wasp grubs, and would carry a nest to a high perch, hold it in one claw, and sit there picking out the grubs. Their stomachs were found to contain beetles and grasshoppers.

Dr. Woodhouse speaks of this Hawk as common in Texas, and also in the country of the Creek and Cherokee nations. He confirms the accounts which have been received of its fondness for the neighborhood of streams, and adds that along the Arkansas and its tributaries it was very abundant.

Mr. Ridgway states that this Hawk arrives in Richland County, Ill., in May, and lives during the summer on the small prairies, feeding there upon small snakes, particularly the little green snake (Leptophis æstivus) and the different species of Eutænia. It builds its nest there among the oak or hickory trees which border the streams intersecting the prairies. Towards the latter part of summer it becomes very abundant on the prairies, being attracted by the abundance of food, which at that season consists very largely of insects, especially Neuroptera. It is most abundant in August, and in bright weather dozens of them may be seen at a time sailing round in pursuit of insects.

Mr. Audubon speaks of the movements of this bird in flight as astonishingly rapid, the deep curves they describe, their sudden doublings and crossings, and the extreme ease with which they seem to cleave the air, never failing to excite admiration. In the States of Louisiana and Mississippi, where, he adds, these birds are very abundant, they arrive in large companies in the beginning of April, and utter a sharp and plaintive note. They all come from the westward; and he has counted upwards of a hundred, in the space of an hour, passing over him in an easterly direction. They feed on the wing, and their principal food is said to be grasshoppers, caterpillars, small snakes, lizards, and frogs. They sweep over the fields, and seem to alight for a moment to secure a snake or some other object. They also frequent the creeks, to pick up water-snakes basking on the floating logs.

On the ground their movements are said to be awkward in the extreme. When wounded, they rarely strike with their talons, or offer serious resistance. They never attack other birds or quadrupeds to prey upon them.

This Hawk is a great wanderer, and a number of instances are on record of its having been taken in Europe. One of these was in Scotland, in 1772; another in England, in 1805.

Mr. R. Owen (Ibis, 1860, p. 241), while travelling from Coban to San Geronimo, in Guatemala, among the mountains, came suddenly upon a large flock of two or three hundred of these Hawks, which were pursuing and preying upon a swarm of bees. At times they passed within four or five yards of him. Every now and then the neck was observed to be bent slowly and gracefully, bringing the head quite under the body. At the same time the foot, with the talons contracted as if grasping some object, would be brought forward to meet the beak. The beak was then seen to open and to close again, and then the head was again raised and the foot thrown back. This movement was repeatedly observed, and it was quite clear to him that the birds were preying upon the bees.

This Hawk constructs its nest on tall trees, usually overhanging or near running water. The nest is like that of the Crow in its general appearance. It is constructed externally of dry twigs and sticks, intermixed with which are great quantities of the long Spanish moss peculiar to the Southern States, and lined with dry grasses, leaves, and feathers. One found by Dr. C. Kollock, of Cheraw, S. C., in May, 1855, containing young, was on a large tree, not near the trunk, but on one of the projecting branches, and difficult of approach.

The eggs are described by Mr. Audubon as from four to six in number, of a greenish-white color, with a few irregular blotches of dark brown at the larger end. The drawing of an egg, obtained by Dr. Trudeau in Louisiana, and which was made by that gentleman, is very nearly spheroidal, and its measurements are, length 1.75 inches, breadth 1.56. It corresponds with Mr. Audubon’s description of the egg of this Hawk.

An egg in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, taken in Iowa by Mr. Krider, does not correspond very well with the description and figure mentioned. It measures 1.80 in length by 1.40 in breadth; its form is very regularly oval, both ends being of nearly the same shape. The ground-color is a creamy white, one end (the smaller) splashed with large confluent blotches of ferruginous, and the remainder of the surface more sparsely spotted with the same; these rusty blotches are relieved by smaller, sparser spots of very dark brown.

Dr. Cooper, in a letter dated Sioux City, May 21, 1860, mentions finding the nest of this Hawk in a high tree in Northwestern Iowa, latitude 41° 30′. The bird had not begun to lay.

Genus ELANUS, Savigny.

Gen. Char. Bill rather small and narrow, the tip normal; commissure moderately sinuated; upper outline of lower mandible greatly arched, the height at base less than half that through middle; gonys almost straight, declining downward toward tip. Nostril roundish, in middle of cere. Tarsus and toes (except terminal joint) covered with small roundish scales; under surface of claws just perceptibly flattened; sharp lateral ridge on middle claw very prominent; a very slight membrane between outer and middle toes. Second quill longest, third very slightly shorter; first just exceeding fourth; second and third with outer webs slightly sinuated; inner web of first emarginated, of second sinuated. Tail peculiar, emarginated, but the lateral feather much shorter than the middle, the one next to it being the longest.

5895. ½

5895. ½

5895. ¼

Elanus leucurus.

The species of this well-marked genus are confined to the tropical and subtropical portions of the world, and appear to be only two in number, of which one is cosmopolitan, and the other peculiar to the Old World.

Species and Races.

Common Characters. Above pearly ash, becoming white or whitish on the head and tail, with a large black patch covering the lesser-covert region. Lower surface continuous pure white; a black spot on front of, and partly around, the eye.

1. E. leucurus. A large black patch on the lining of the wing, in the region of the primary coverts. First quill very much shorter than the third; second quill longest.

Black patch on lining of the wing restricted to the primary coverts; lesser coverts, on outer surface, not conspicuously bordered anteriorly with white.

Above deep bluish-ash, with the inner webs of the secondaries appreciably paler, sometimes abruptly white. Wing, 11.60–12.65; tail, 6.80–7.80; culmen, .65–.80; tarsus, 1.20–1.50; middle toe, .94–1.20. Hab. Tropical and subtropical America … var. leucurus.

Above pale ash, with the inner webs of the secondaries hardly, or not at all, appreciably paler than the outer. Wing, 11.00–12.50; tail, 6.20–7.00; culmen, .70–.77; tarsus, 1.10–1.66; middle toe, 1.05–1.08. Hab. Western Australia … var. axillaris.71

Black patch on the lining of the wing extending over the whole of the lesser coverts; lesser coverts, on the outside, conspicuously bordered anteriorly with white.

Similar to var. axillaris, except as above. Wing, 11.75–12.30; tail, 6.30–7.00; culmen, .75–.80; tarsus, 1.10–1.40; middle toe, 1.15–1.25. Hab. Southern Australia … var. scriptus.72

2. E. cæruleus. No black on lining of the wing. First quill usually longer than the third, never very much shorter; second longest. Colors darker than in E. leucurus.

Wing, 12.00; tail, 6.10; culmen, .75; tarsus, 1.25; middle toe, 1.20. No ashy tinge on side of breast. Hab. Southern Europe and North Africa … var. cæruleus.73

Wing, 9.50–10.70; tail, 5.40–5.75; culmen, .65–.70; tarsus, 1.05–1.10; middle toe, 1.00–1.10. Sides of the breast strongly tinged with ashy. Hab. Southern Africa and India … var. minor.74

Elanus leucurus (Vieillot).

Milvus leucurus, Vieill. Nouv. Dict. Hist. Nat. XX, 556, 1816; Enc. Méth. III, 1205, 1823. Elanoides leucurus, Vieill. Enc. Méth. III, 1205, 1823. Elanus leucurus, Bonap. Eur. & N. Am. Birds, p. 4, 1838; Consp. Av. p. 22, 1850.—Gray, Gen. B. fol. sp. 4, 1844; List B. Brit. Mus. p. 46, 1844.—Rich. Schomb. Reis. Brit. Guiana, p. 735.—Cass. B. Cal. & Tex. p. 106, 1854; Birds N. Am. 1858, 37.—Kaup, Monog. Falc. Cont. Orn. 1850, p. 60.—Heerm. P. R. R. Rept. VII, 31, 1857.—Coop. & Suck. P. R. R. Rept. XII, ii, 149, 1860.—Coues, Prod. Orn. Ariz. p. 12, 1866.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 138, 1855.—Gray, Hand List, I, 28, 1869. Falco melanopterus, Bonap. Journ. Ac. Phil. V, 28; Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 31; Isis, 1832, p. 1137. Milvus dispar, Less. Man. Orn. I, 99, 1828. Falco dispar, Bonap. Am. Orn. pl. xi, f. 1, 1825; Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 435.—Aud. Am. B. pls. cccli, ccclvii; Orn. Biog. IV, 367, 1831.—Temm. pl. cl. 319 (Juv.).—James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. IV. 13, 1831. Elanus dispar, Cuv. Reg. An. (ed. 2), I, 334, 1829.—Less. Tr. Orn. p. 72, 1831.—Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. III, 378, 1832.—Bridg. Proc. Zoöl. Soc. pt. ii, p. 109; Ann. Nat. Hist. XIII, 500.—Aud. Syn. B. p. 13, 1831.—Brew. (Wils.) Synop. p. 685, 1852.—Nutt. Man. p. 93, 1833. E. leucurus, Brewer, Oölogy.

Sp. Char. Adult. Upper surface, including occiput, nape, interscapulars, scapulars, rump, upper tail-coverts, and wings (except lesser and middle coverts), soft, delicate, rather light bluish-cinereous, becoming gradually white on anterior portion of the head above. Rest of the head, with the tail, lining of the wing, and entire lower parts, pure white, sometimes with a very faint tinge of pale pearl-blue, laterally beneath; two middle tail-feathers ashy, but much lighter than the rump; shafts of tail-feathers black, except toward ends. Bristly loral feathers (forming ante-orbital spot, extending narrowly above the eye), a very large patch on the shoulder, covering lesser and middle wing-coverts, and large quadrate spot on under side of wing (on first row of primary coverts), deep black. Under side of primaries deep cinereous (darker than outer surface); under surface of secondaries nearly white. Second quill longest; third scarcely shorter (sometimes equal, or even longest); first longer than fourth. Tail slightly emarginated, the longest feather (next to outer) being about .50 longer than the middle, and .60 (or more) longer than the lateral, which is shortest.

Male. Wing, 12.50; tail, 7.10; tarsus, 1.20; middle toe, 1.15.

Female. Wing, 12.80; tail, 7.10; tarsus, 1.45; middle toe, 1.35.

Specimens not perfectly adult have the primary coverts, secondaries, and inner primaries, slightly tipped with white.

Still younger individuals have these white tips broader, the tail more ashy, and the upper parts with numerous feathers dull brown, tipped narrowly with white; the breast with sparse longitudinal touches of brownish.

Young (♀, 48,826, Santiago, Chile, May, 1866; Dr. Philippi). Occiput and nape thickly marked with broad streaks of dusky, tinged with rusty; scapulars umber-brown, tipped with rusty; all the feathers of wings narrowly tipped with white; tail-feathers with a subterminal irregular bar of dark ashy; breast tinged with rufous, and with badly defined cuneate spots of deeper rusty. Wing, 12.25; tail, 7.50. (Perhaps not the youngest stage.)

Hab. Tropical and warm temperate America (except the West Indies), from Chile and Buenos Ayres to Florida, South Carolina, Southern Illinois, and California; winter resident in latter State.

Localities: Xalapa (Scl. 1857, 201); Guatemala (Scl. Ibis, I, 220); Brazil (Pelz. Orn. Bras. I, 6); Buenos Ayres (Scl. & Salv. 1869, 160); Venezuela (Scl. & Salv. 1869, 252).

Specimens are from Santa Clara, California, Fort Arbuckle, Mirador and Orizaba, Mexico, Chile, and Buenos Ayres; from all points the same bird.

This species presents a very close resemblance to the E. melanopterus of Europe, and the most evident specific difference can only be detected by raising the wing, the under side of which is quite different in the two, there being in the European bird no trace whatever of the black patch so conspicuous in the American species. The primaries, also, on both webs are lighter ash, while the ash of the upper parts in general is darker than in leucurus and invades more the head above, the forehead merely approaching white. The tail is more deeply emarginated, and the proportions of the primaries are quite different, the second being much longer than the third, and the first nearly as long as the second, far exceeding the third, instead of being about equal to the fourth. In the melanopterus, too, the black borders the eye all round, extending back in a short streak from the posterior angle, instead of being restricted to the anterior region and upper eyelid, as in leucurus.

A specimen of “E. axillaris” from Australia (13,844, T. R. Peale) appears, except upon close examination, to be absolutely identical in all the minutiæ of coloration, and in the wing-formula, with E. leucurus; and differs only very slightly in the measurements of bill and feet, having these proportionally larger, as will be seen from the table. Another (32,577, H. Mactier Warfield) has the upper parts so pale as to be nearly white.

A young specimen of E. axillaris differs from that of E. leucurus as follows: the occiput, nape, and dorsal region are stained or overlaid by dull ashy-rufous, instead of dark brownish-ashy; more blackish on the head. No other differences are appreciable.

A very characteristic distinction between leucurus and axillaris is seen in the coloration of the inner webs of the secondaries: in the former, they are abruptly lighter than the outer webs, often pure white, in very striking contrast to the deep ash of the outer surface; in the latter, both webs are of about the same shade of ash, which is much paler than in the other race. Occasional specimens of leucurus occur, however, in which there is little difference in tint between the two webs.


National Museum, 10; Philadelphia Academy, 2; New York Museum, 2; Boston Society, 4; Cambridge Museum, 2; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 2; Coll. R. Ridgway, 2. Total, 24.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
11.80–12.50 7.30–7.60 .66–.80 1.30–1.50 1.00–1.15 8
11.60–12.65 7.20–7.80 .70–.72 1.25–1.40 1.10–1.20 8

Habits. The Black-shouldered Hawk is a southern, western, and South American species. On the Pacific it is found to occupy a much more northern range of locality than in the eastern States, where it is not found above South Carolina and Southern Illinois. Specimens have been taken near San Francisco in midwinter.

Several individuals of this species, precisely identical with others from the United States, were taken by Lieutenant Gilliss, in the astronomical expedition to Chile. Its range in South America does not appear to be confined, as was supposed, to the western coast, as specimens are recorded by Von Pelzeln as having been obtained by Natterer in Brazil, at Ytarare, Irisanga, and San Joaquin, on the Rio Branco, in August, February, and January. These were taken on the heights. They are also found in the countries of Mexico and Central America.

Elanus leucurus.

This species has been met with in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, and probably occurs also in New Mexico and Arizona. Dr. Gambel describes them as very abundant in California, where they are said to be familiar in their habits, and breed in clumps of oaks, in the immediate vicinity of habitations. Dr. Heermann also speaks of them as common in that State. But neither of these naturalists appears to have met with their nests or eggs. It is not mentioned either as a bird of Cuba or Jamaica by Mr. Lembeye, Dr. Gundlach, Mr. Gosse, or Mr. March.

Dr. Cooper speaks of this bird as a beautiful and harmless species, quite abundant in the middle districts of California, remaining in large numbers, during winter, among the extensive tulé marshes of the Sacramento and other valleys. He did not meet with any during winter at Fort Mohave, nor do they seem to have been collected by any one in the dry interior of that State, nor in the southern part of California. He has met with them as far north as Baulines Bay, and near Monterey, but always about streams or marshes. Their food consisted entirely of mice, gophers, small birds, and snakes, and they were not known to attack the inmates of the poultry-yard.

Bonaparte, who first introduced the species into our fauna, received his specimen from East Florida. The late Dr. Ravenel obtained one living near Charleston, S. C., which he kept several days without being able to induce it to eat. Mr. Audubon received another, taken forty miles west of Charleston by Mr. Francis Lee. This gentleman, as quoted by Audubon, mentioned its sailing very beautifully, and quite high in the air, over a wet meadow, in pursuit of snipe. It would poise itself in the manner of the common Sparrow Hawk, and, suddenly closing its wings, plunge towards its prey with great velocity, making a peculiar sound with its wings as it passed through the air. Its cries on being wounded resembled those of the Mississippi Kite. It was so shy that Mr. Lee was only able to approach it on horseback.

Audubon states that Mr. Ward, his assistant, found this species breeding on the Santee River early in the month of March. Their nests were said to be placed on low trees near the margin of the river, and to be not unlike those of the common Crow, but without the substantial lining of its nests. Mr. Ward also mentioned seeing them flying over the cane-brakes, in pursuit of large insects, in the manner of the Mississippi Kite, and finding the birds very shy.

In Southern Illinois it has been known to occur as far north as Mount Carmel, where Mr. Ridgway saw a pair in July, flying about among the dead trees bordering a lagoon near the Wabash River.

Mr. Audubon, in his visit to Texas, saw several of these birds flying at a small elevation over the large marshes, and coursing in search of its prey in the manner of the common Marsh Harrier.

Dr. Heermann found the extensive marshes of Suisun, Napa, and Sacramento Valleys the favorite resorts of these birds, especially during the winter, and there they seemed to find a plentiful supply of insects and mice. They ranged over their feeding-grounds in small flocks from a single pair up to six or seven. He fell in with an isolated couple in the mountains between Elizabeth Lake and Williamson’s Pass, hovering over a small freshwater marsh. In July and August the young were quite abundant, from which Dr. Heermann inferred that it does not migrate for the purposes of incubation. Dr. Gambel, who procured his specimens at the Mission of St. John, near Monterey, describes it as flying low and circling over the plains in the manner of a Circus, and as feeding on the small birds. It was easy of approach when perched on trees, and uttered a loud shrill cry when wounded, and fought viciously.

Lieutenant Gilliss, who found them in Chile, describes the nest as composed of small sticks, and states that the number of the eggs is from four to six, and that they are of a dirty yellowish-white with brownish spots. The common name of this Hawk in Chile is Bailarin (from the verb bailar, to dance or balance), from the graceful and easy manner in which it seems almost to float upward or to sink in the air.

An egg of this species, in the collection of the Boston Society of Natural History, measures 1.64 inches in length by 1.48 in breadth. In shape it is very nearly spherical, and equally obtuse at either end. The ground-color, though nowhere very distinctly apparent, appears to be of a dull white, strongly tinged with a reddish hue. Distributed over the entire egg are broad deep flashes of a dark mahogany-brown, intermingled with others of a similar color, but lighter in shading. These cover the egg more or less completely, in the greater portion of its surface. This egg was taken near Fort Arbuckle, Indian Territory, May 9, 1861, by J. H. Clark, Esq., and sent to the Smithsonian Institution.

Genus ICTINIA, Vieillot.

1485, R. R. ½

Ictinia mississippiensis.

1486, R. R. ¼

Ictinia mississippiensis.

32974, ♀. ½

32974, ♀. ½

32974, ♀. ¼

I. plumbea.

Gen. Char. Form falcon-like; the neck short, wings long, and pointed, the primaries and rectrices strong and stiff, and the organization robust. Bill short and deep, the commissure irregularly toothed, and notched; gonys very convex, ascending terminally; cere narrow; nostril very small, nearly circular; feet small, but robust; tarsus about equal to middle toe, with a distinct frontal series of broad transverse scutellæ; claws rather short, but strongly curved, slightly grooved beneath, their edges sharp. Third quill longest; first of variable proportion with the rest. Tail moderate, the feathers wide, broader terminally, and emarginated.

This genus is peculiar to America, the two most closely related genera being Elanus on the one hand and Harpagus on the other. Its species belong to the tropical and subtropical regions, one of them (I. plumbea) generally distributed throughout the intertropical portions, the other (I. mississippiensis) peculiar to Mexico and the southern United States.

In their habits, they are very aerial, like the genus Nauclerus, sailing for the greater time in broad circles overhead, occasionally performing graceful evolutions as they gyrate about. Like Nauclerus, they are also partially gregarious, and, like it, feed chiefly on insects and small reptiles, which they eat while flying.


Common Characters. Adult. Uniform plumbeous, becoming lighter (whitish) on the head, and darker (blackish) on the primaries and tail. Inner webs of primaries with more or less rufous. Young. Beneath whitish, striped longitudinally with brownish; above much variegated: tail with several narrow whitish bands.

1. I. mississippiensis. Adult. Wings lighter than the tail, the secondaries hoary whitish; inner webs of primaries with only obscure spots of rufous, the outer webs with a very obscure stripe of the same. Tail wholly black. Young. Stripes beneath reddish-umber; lower tail-coverts with longitudinal shaft-streaks of the same. Second to third quills longest; first shorter than seventh and longer than sixth. Wing, 10.60–12.30; tail, 6.00–7.00; culmen, .60–.65; tarsus, 1.30–1.55; middle toe, 1.00–1.10. Hab. Prairies and savannas of the southern United States and Northern Mexico, from Wisconsin and Georgia to Mirador.

2. I. plumbea.75 Adult. Wing concolor with the tail, the secondaries black; inner webs of the primaries almost wholly rufous; outer webs with only a trace of rufous. Tail with about three bands of pure white, formed by transverse spots on the inner webs. Young. Stripes beneath brownish-black; lower tail-coverts transversely spotted with the same; upper parts darker. Third quill longest; first shorter or longer than the seventh. Tail more nearly square. Wing, 10.50–12.20; tail, 5.60–6.80; culmen, .62–.70; tarsus, 1.15–1.50; middle toe, 1.00–1.05. Hab. Tropical America, from Paraguay to Southern Mexico.

Ictinia mississippiensis (Wilson).

Falco mississippiensis, Wils. Am. Orn. pl. 25, f. 1, 1808.—Lath. Gen. Hist. I, 275.—James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, 72, 1831. Nertus mississippiensis, Boie, Isis, 1828, 314. Milvus mississippiensis, Cuv. Règ. An. (ed. 2), I, 335, 1829. Ictinia mississippiensis, Gray, Gen. B. fol. sp. 2; List B. Brit. Mus. p. 48, 1844; Gen. & Sub-Gen. Brit. Mus. p. 6, 1855.—Cass. B. Cal. & Tex. p. 106, 1854.—Kaup, Ueb. Falk. Mus. Senck. p. 258, 1845; Monog. Falc. Cont. Orn. 1850, p. 57.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 140, 1855.—Brewer, Oölogy, I, 1857, 41.—Coues, Prod. Orn. Ariz. p. 13, 1866.—Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 327 (Texas).—Gray, Hand List, I, 28, 1869. Falco plumbeus, Aud. Orn. Biog. II, 108, pl. cxvii; V, p. 374, 1831. Ictinia plumbea, Bonap. Eur. & N. Am. B. p. 4, 1838; Ann. N. Y. Lyc. II, 30; Isis, 1832, p. 1137.—Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, 368, pl. 25, f. 1, 1832.—Brew. (Wils.) Synop. 685, 1852.—Aud. Synop. B. Am. p. 14, 1839.—Woodh. (Sitgr.) Exp. Zuñi & Colorad. p. 61, 1853.—Nutt. Man. 92, 1833.

Sp. Char. Adult male (No. 1,486, Coll. R. Ridgway, Richland Co., Ill., August 19, 1871). Head, neck, secondaries, and entire lower parts plumbeous-ash, becoming, by a gradual transition, lighter on the head and secondaries, where the shade is pale cinereous; the head anteriorly, and the tips of the secondaries, being silvery-white. Lores and eyelids black. Rest of the plumage dark plumbeous, approaching plumbeous-black on the lesser wing-coverts, primaries, and upper tail-coverts, the tail being nearly pure black. Primaries with an indistinct narrow concealed stripe of chestnut-rufous on the outer webs, and larger spots of the same on the inner webs; feathers of the head, neck, and lower parts abruptly pure white beneath the surface, this showing in partially exposed spots on the pectoral region and crissum. Scapulars also with large concealed white spots. Shafts of primaries and tail-feathers black on both sides. Wing-formula, 3, 2–4–5–6, 1. First primary angularly, the second concavely, emarginated. Tail emarginated, lateral feather longest; depth of fork, .40. Wing, 11.75; tail, 6.80; culmen, .63; tarsus, 1.20; middle toe, 1.15.

Adult female (No. 1,487, Coll. Ridgway, Richland Co., Ill., August 19, 1871). Similar to the male, but head and secondaries decidedly darker, hardly approaching light ash; scarcely any trace of rufous on the primaries, none at all on outer webs; shafts of tail-feathers white on under side. Wing, 11.80; tail, 7.25. Bill, cere, eyelids, and interior of mouth, deep black; iris deep lake-red; rictus orange-red; tarsi and toes pinkish orange-red; lower part of tarsus and large scutellæ of toes dusky. (Notes from fresh specimens, the ones above described.)

Immature male (transition plumage; 1,488, Coll. Ridgway, Richland Co., Ill., August 21, 1871.) Similar to the adult female, but the white spots on basal portion of pectoral and crissal feathers distinctly exposed; secondaries not lighter than rest of the wing. Tail-feathers with angular white spots extending quite across the inner webs, producing three distinct transverse bands when viewed from below. Inner web of outer primary mostly white anterior to the emargination. Wing, 10.50; tail, 6.25. Color of bill, etc., as in the adult, but interior of mouth whitish, and the iris less pure carmine.

Immature female (Coll. Philadelphia Academy, Red Fork of the Arkansas, 1850; Dr. Woodhouse). Similar to the last. Wing, 11.10; tail, 6.31.

Young female (first plumage; Coll. Philadelphia Academy, North Fork Canadian River, September 19, 1851; Dr. Woodhouse). Head, neck, and lower parts white, with a yellowish tinge; this most perceptible on the tibiæ. Each feather with a medial longitudinal ovate spot of blackish-brown; more reddish on the lower parts. The chin, throat, and a broad superciliary stripe, are immaculate white. Lower tail-coverts each with a medial acuminate spot of rusty, the shaft black. Upper parts brownish-black; wing-coverts, scapulars, and interscapulars, feathers of the rump, and the upper tail-coverts, narrowly bordered with ochraceous-white, and with concealed quadrate spots of the same; primary coverts, secondaries, and primaries sharply bordered terminally with pure white. Tail black (faintly whitish at the tip), with three (exposed) obscure bands of a more slaty tint; this changing to white on the inner webs, in the form of angular spots forming the bands. Lining of the wing pale ochraceous, transversely spotted with rusty rufous; under primary-coverts with transverse spots of white. Wing, 11.90; tail, 6.40.

Hab. Central Mexico and Southern United States; common as far north as Georgia (accidental in Pennsylvania, Vincent Barnard), on the Atlantic coast, and Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, in the Mississippi Valley. Exceedingly abundant summer bird on the prairies of Southern Illinois.

Localities: Coban (Salvin, Ibis, III, 1861, 355); E. and N. Texas (Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 327); Chester Co., Pa. (breeds; Barnard.)


National Museum, 6; Philadelphia Academy, 4; New York Museum, 1; Cambridge Museum, 1; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 1; R. Ridgway, 3. Total, 16.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
10.60–11.85 6.00–6.80 .60–.65 1.35–1.55 1.00–1.10 6
11.30–12.30 6.50–7.00 .60–.65 1.30–1.40 1.00–1.05 5

Habits. This Hawk appears to be confined to the extreme southern and southwestern portion of the Gulf States. It is not known to occur farther north than South Carolina on the Atlantic, though on the Mississippi it has been traced much farther north. It is most abundant about the Mississippi. It was first discovered by Wilson near Natchez, where he found it quite abundant. Mr. Say afterwards observed it far up the Mississippi, at one of Major Long’s cantonments. On Captain Sitgreave’s expedition to the Zuñi and Colorado Rivers, it was found to be exceedingly abundant in Eastern Texas, as well as in the Indian Territory, more particularly on the Arkansas River and its tributaries.

Dresser states that he found this Hawk by no means an unfrequent bird in Texas, and generally in the same localities with the Nauclerus forficatus. It was not very common near San Antonio, but was occasionally found, and even breeds there, as he procured both the old and the young birds during the summer. In travelling eastward in the month of May, he first noticed them near the Rio Colorado, and was told by the negroes on one of the plantations that they were then nesting. On the 20th of May he shot a female on the banks of that river, from which he extracted a fully formed egg. It was almost round, and rather large for the size of the bird. Eastward from the Colorado he also saw this Hawk quite often.

Ictinia mississippiensis.

Though the species, no doubt, occurs in Mexico, Mr. Sclater states that all the Mexican Ictiniæ which he has seen, collected by Sallè, Boucard, and others, have belonged to I. plumbea (Ibis, 1860, p. 104). A single specimen from Coban, Central America, was obtained by Mr. Salvin, but I. plumbea was by far the most common species of Ictinia in Vera Paz.

This species was first discovered within the territory of the United States by Wilson, in his visit to Natchez. He had noticed the bird sailing about in easy circles, and at a considerable height in the air, generally in company with the Turkey Buzzards, whose manner of flight it almost exactly imitated, so much so as to make it appear either a miniature of that species, or like one of them at a great distance, both being observed to soar at great heights previous to a storm. Wilson conjectures that this apparent similarity of manner of flight may be attributable to their pursuit of their respective kinds of food,—the Buzzard on the lookout for carrion, and the birds of the present species in search of those large beetles that are known to fly in the higher regions of the air, and which, in the three individuals dissected by him, were the only substances found in their stomachs. For several miles, as he passed near Bayou Manahak, the trees were swarming with a kind of Cicada, or locust, that made a deafening noise. He there observed a number of these birds sweeping about among the trees in the manner of Swallows, evidently in pursuit of the insects, which proved indeed, on dissection, to be their principal food.

One of these Hawks was slightly wounded by Wilson, and though disabled and precipitated from a great height exhibited evidence of great strength and an almost unconquerable spirit. As he approached to pick it up, the bird instantly gave battle, striking rapidly with its claws, wheeling round and round, and defending itself with great vigilance and dexterity, while its dark red eye sparkled with rage. His captor wished to preserve it alive, but, notwithstanding all his precautions in seizing it, the Hawk struck one of its claws into his hand with great force, and this could only be disengaged by Wilson’s dividing the sinew of the heel with a pen-knife. As long as the bird afterwards lived with Wilson, it seemed to watch every movement, erecting the feathers of the back of its head, and eying him with a savage fierceness. Wilson was much struck with its great strength, its extent of wing, its energy of character, and its ease and rapidity of flight.

Audubon regards this species as remarkable for its devotion to its young, and narrates that in one instance he saw the female bird lift up and attempt to carry out of his reach one of her fledglings. She carried it in her claws the distance of thirty yards or more.

He also describes their flight as graceful, vigorous, and protracted. At times the bird seems to float in the air as if motionless, or sails in broad and regular circles, then, suddenly closing its wings, is seen to slide along to some distance, and then renews its curves. At other times it sweeps in long undulations with the swiftness of an arrow, passing within touching distance of a branch on which it seeks an insect. Sometimes it is said to fly in hurried zigzags, and at others to turn over and over in the manner of a Tumbler Pigeon. Audubon has often observed it make a dash at the Turkey Buzzard, and give it chase, as if in sport, and so annoy this bird as to drive it to a distance. It feeds on the wing with great ease and dexterity. It rarely, if ever, alights on the earth; and, when wounded, its movements on the ground are very awkward. It is never known to attack birds or quadrupeds of any kind, though it will pursue and annoy foxes and Crows, and drive them to seek shelter from its attacks. The Mississippi Kite is said to be by no means a shy bird, and may be easily approached when alight, yet it usually perches so high that it is not always easy to shoot it.

In Southern Illinois, Mr. Ridgway found this Kite to be a very abundant summer bird on the prairies. There it is found from May till near the end of September, and always associated with the Swallowtail (Nauclerus forficatus.) It breeds in the timber which borders the streams intersecting the prairies; but it is not until the hottest weather of July and August that it becomes very abundant, at this time feeding chiefly upon the large insects which swarm among the rank prairie herbage. Its particular food is a very large species of Cicada, though grasshoppers, and occasionally small snakes (as the species of Eutænia, Leptophis æstivus, etc.), also form part of its food. Its prey is captured by sweeping over the object and picking it up in passing over, both the bill and feet being used in grasping it; the food is eaten as the bird sails, in broad circles, overhead. Mr. Ridgway describes the flight of this Kite as powerful and graceful in the extreme, and accompanied by beautiful and unusual evolutions.

According to Mr. Audubon, the nest of this species is always placed in the upper branches of the tallest trees. It resembles a dilapidated Crow’s nest, and is constructed of sticks slightly put together, Spanish moss, strips of pine bark, and dry leaves. The eggs are three in number, nearly globular, and are described by Mr. Audubon as of a light greenish tint, blotched thickly over with deep chocolate-brown and black; but the eggs thus described are those of some totally different species.

The same writer mentions that a pair of these Hawks, whose nest was visited by a negro sailor, manifested the greatest displeasure, and continued flying with remarkable velocity close to the man’s head, screaming, and displaying the utmost rage.

The description given by Mr. Audubon of the egg of this species, and also that in my North American Oölogy, of the drawing of an egg said to be of this bird, taken in Louisiana by Dr. Trudeau, do not correspond with an egg in the cabinet of the Boston Society of Natural History, formerly in that of the late Dr. Henry Bryant. This egg measures 1.50 inches in length by 1.32 in breadth, is very nearly globular, but is also much more rounded at one end, and tapering at the other. It is entirely unspotted and of a uniform chalky whiteness, with an underlying tinge of a bluish green. It was found by Mr. C. S. McCarthy in the Indian Territory, on the north fork of the Canadian River, June 25, 1861. The nest was made of a few sticks, and was in the fork of a horizontal branch, fifteen feet from the ground. There were two eggs in the nest.

It was also found breeding by Mr. J. H. Clark at Trout Creek, Indian Territory, June 21, and by Dr. E. Palmer at the Kiowa Agency (S. I. 13,534).

Genus ROSTRHAMUS, Lesson.

Rostrhamus, Less. 1831. (Type, Falco hamatus, Illig.)

Gen. Char. Wings and tail large, the latter emarginated. Bill very narrow, the upper mandible much elongated and bent, the tip forming a strong pendent hook; lower mandible drooping terminally, the gonys straight; the upper edge arched, to correspond with the concavity of the regular commissure. Nostril elongate-oval, horizontal. Tarsus short, about equal to middle toe, with a continuous frontal series of transverse scutellæ; claws extremely long and sharp, but weakly curved; inner edge of the middle claw slightly pectinated. Third to fourth quills longest; outer five with inner webs sinuated.

53081, ♀. ¼

53081, ♀. ½

53081, ♀. ½

Rostrhamus sociabilis.

The species of this genus are two in number, and are peculiar to the tropical portions of America, one of them being confined to the Amazon region, the other extending to Florida in one direction and Buenos Ayres on the other. Their nearest allies are the species Circus and Elanus, like them inhabiting marshy localities, where their food is found, which consists, in large part, of small mollusca.

Species and Races.

Common Characters. Adult. Prevailing color plumbeous-black, or bluish-plumbeous; the tail and primaries black. Entirely concolored, or with white tail-coverts. Cere and feet orange-red. Young. Spotted with blackish-brown and ochraceous, the former prevailing above, the latter beneath.

1. R. sociabilis. Tail-coverts, with terminal and basal zones of the tail, white; that of the tail more or less shaded with grayish-brown. Adult. Uniform blackish-plumbeous, darker on the head, quills, and tail. Hab. South America, West Indies, and Florida.

Plumbeous of a glaucous cast, the head dark plumbeous, and the wing-coverts lighter, inclining to grayish-brown. Wing, 13.25–15.50; tail, 6.75–8.25; bill, .85–1.04; tarsus, 1.70–2.40; middle toe, 1.40–1.55. (2 sp. P. A. N. S.) Hab. Florida and West Indies … var. plumbeus.

Plumbeous of a blackish cast, the head deep black, and the wing-coverts not lighter, and not inclining to brownish. Wing, 12.90–14.00; tail, 7.60–7.80; bill, .90–1.25; tarsus, 1.50–1.80; middle toe, 1.45–1.65. Hab. South America … var. sociabilis.76

2. R. hamatus.77 Tail-coverts, with end and base of the tail, slaty-black. Adult. Uniform bluish-plumbeous, darker on the head, wings, and tail. Tail uniform black, or with two narrow, interrupted, white bands across the middle portion (♂, Brazil, B. S. Coll.). Wing, 11.00–12.00; tail, 5.00–7.00; bill, 1.02–1.07; tarsus, 1.75–1.90; middle toe, 1.45. Hab. Amazon region of South America.

Rostrhamus sociabilis, var. plumbeus, Ridgway.

Rostrhamus sociabilis, Vieill. D’Orb. Hist. Nat. Cuba, av. p. 15.—Cass. Birds N. Am. 1858, 38.—Maynard, Birds Florida, Prospectus, 1872.

Sp. Char. Adult male (No. 61,187, Everglades, Florida; C. J. Maynard). Prevailing color plumbeous, becoming black on the secondaries, primaries, and tail, somewhat brownish-ashy on the wing-coverts, and with a glaucous cast on the neck, the head becoming nearly black anteriorly. Tail-coverts (the longer of the upper and all of the lower) and base of the tail pure white, this occupying more than the basal half of the outer feather, and changing into grayish-brown next the black; tail with a terminal band of grayish-brown, about .75 wide. Inner webs of primaries marbled, anterior to their emargination, with grayish and white. Tibiæ tinged with rusty fulvous. Wing-formula, 4, 3, 5–2–6–7, 1. Wing, 14.01; tail, 7.25; culmen, .95; tarsus, 1.90; middle toe, 1.55; hind claw, 1.10, the toe, .90. Bill deep black; cere and naked lore bright orange-red; feet deep orange-red.

Young female (Cuba; Dr. Gundlach, Coll. G. N. Lawrence). Prevailing color above brownish-black, with a glaucous cast on the dorsal region; tail deep black, with a faint greenish-bronze reflection, with white and grayish base and tip, as in the adult. Each feather of the upper parts rather broadly tipped with ochraceous-rufous; crown, occiput, and auriculars streaked longitudinally with the same. Prevailing color of the head and lower parts deep ochraceous, on the head forming a broad superciliary stripe from the forehead back to the occiput; throat and cheeks streaked longitudinally with dusky; crissum immaculate; other lower parts, including lining of the wing, thickly covered with large transverse spots of brownish-black. Upper tail-coverts white, with a blackish shaft-line; tail with the basal third white anteriorly and brownish-ashy next the black, and with a terminal band, about 1.00 wide, of brownish-ashy, passing into white at the tip. Under surface of primaries cream-color anterior to the emargination, towards the ends grayish, with transverse spots of dusky. Wing-formula, 4, 3=5–2–6–7, 1. Wing, 13.90; tail, 8.25; tarsus, 1.90; middle toe, 1.55.

An older specimen in young plumage (11,755, Florida) differs as follows: The colors generally are lighter, the ochraceous being more prevalent and lighter in tint; the throat is immaculate, and the markings beneath more longitudinal. The secondaries and primaries are broadly tipped with ochraceous. Wing, 14.00; tail, 7.20; tarsus, 1.95; middle toe, 1.50.

Hab. West Indies and Southern Florida.


National Museum, 3; Coll. C. J. Maynard, 7; Philadelphia Academy, 2; Museum Comp. Zoöl., 3; Coll. R. Ridgway, 1. Total, 16.

Habits. The Black Kite is a Central and South American species, well known in that section, but having no other claim to be regarded as a bird of North America than its presence in a restricted portion of Florida, where it is, in the extreme southern section, not very uncommon, and where it is also known to breed. It was first taken in that peninsula by Mr. Edward Harris, and subsequently by Dr. Heermann. It was supposed by Mr. Harris to breed in Florida, from his meeting with young birds; and this supposition has been confirmed by Mr. Maynard, who has since found them nesting, and procured their eggs.

Mr. Salvin met with what he presumed to be this species in Central America, ascribing the immense flights of Hawks seen by him in the month of March, in the Pacific Coast region, migrating in a northwesterly direction, to this Kite. The bird was well known to the Spaniards under the name of Asacuani,—a term that has become proverbial for a person who is constantly wandering from place to place. Mr. Leyland obtained a single specimen of the Rostrhamus near the Lake of Peten. In the spring of 1870, Mr. Maynard met with several individuals of this species among the Florida everglades. He first observed one on February 18, but was not able to secure it. Visiting the same spot ten days later, with Mr. Henshaw, three birds of this species were shot, and the nest of one was discovered. It was at that time only partly completed, was small, flat, and composed of sticks somewhat carelessly arranged. It was built upon the top of some tall saw-grass, by which it was supported. This grass was so luxuriant and thick that it bore Mr. Maynard up as he sought to reach the nest, which did not contain any eggs. On the 24th of March, Mr. Maynard discovered another nest of this species. It was built in a bush of the Magnolia glauca, and was about four feet from the water. It contained one egg. It was about one foot in diameter, was quite flat, and was composed of sticks carelessly arranged, and lined with a few dry heads of the saw-grass. The female was shot, and found to contain an egg nearly ready for exclusion, but as yet unspotted. Other eggs were subsequently procured through the aid of Seminole Indians, by whom this Hawk is called So-for-funi-kar.

Rostrhamus sociabilis (young).

The usual number of eggs laid by this Kite is supposed to be two, as in three instances no more were found, and this was said to be their complement by the Indians. It also appeared to be somewhat irregular in the time of depositing its eggs.

This Hawk is described as very sociable in its habits, unlike, in this respect, most other birds of prey. Six or eight specimens were frequently seen flying together, at one time, over the marshes, or sitting in company on the same bush. In their flight they resemble the common Marsh Hawk, are very unsuspicious, and may be quite readily approached. The dissection of the specimens showed that this bird feeds largely on a species of freshwater shell (Pomus depressa of Say).

The egg of this species taken in Florida by Mr. Maynard is of a rounded oval shape, equally obtuse at either end, and measures 1.70 inches in length by 1.45 in breadth. The ground-color is a dingy white, irregularly, and in some parts profusely, blotched with groups of markings of a yellowish brown, shading from a light olive-brown to a much duller color, almost to a black hue. These markings in the specimen seen are not grouped around either end, but form a confluent belt around the central portions of the egg. The following description is given by Mr. Maynard of the other specimens taken by him.

Egg No. 1. Ground-color bluish-white, spotted and blotched everywhere with brown and umber. Dimensions, 1.72 × 1.45. No. 2. Ground-color same as No. 1. Two large irregular blotches of dark brown and umber on the larger end, with smaller confluent blotches and streaks of the same, covering nearly the entire surface of that end; smaller end much more sparsely spotted with the same. Dimensions, 1.76 × 1.40. No. 3. Ground-color dirty brown. The entire egg, except the small end, covered with a washing of dark brown, which forms dark irregular blotches at various points, as if the egg had been painted and then taken in the fingers before drying. Dimensions, 1.55 × 1.55.

Genus CIRCUS, Lacepede.

1042, ♀. ½



Circus hudsonius.

Gen. Char. Form very slender, the wings and tail very long, the head small, bill weak, and feet slender. Face surrounded by a ruff of stiff, compact feathers, as in the Owls (nearly obsolete in some species). Bill weak, much compressed; the upper outline of the cere greatly ascending basally, and arched posteriorly, the commissure with a faint lobe; nostril oval, horizontal. Loral bristles fine and elongated, curving upwards, their ends reaching above the top of the cere. Superciliary shield small, but prominent. Tarsus more than twice the middle toe, slender, and with perfect frontal and posterior continuous series of regular transverse scutellæ; toes slender, the outer longer than the inner; claws strongly curved, very acute. Wings very long, the third or fourth quills longest; first shorter than the sixth; outer three to five with inner webs sinuated. Tail very long, about two thirds the wing; rounded.

The relationships of this well-marked genus are, to Accipiter on the one hand, and Elanus on the other; nearest the former, though it is not very intimately allied to either. I cannot admit the subgenera proposed by various authors (see synonomy above), as I consider the characters upon which they are based to be merely of specific importance, scarcely two species being exactly alike in the minute details of their form.

The species are quite numerous, numbering about twenty, of which only about four (including the climatic sub-species, or geographical races) are American. North America possesses but one (C. hudsonius, Linn.), and this, with the C. cinereus, Vieill., of South America, I consider to be a geographical race of C. cyaneus of Europe.

The birds of this genus frequent open, generally marshy, localities, where they course over the meadows, moors, or marshes, with a steady, gliding flight, seldom flapping, in pursuit of their food, which consists mainly of mice, small birds, and reptiles. Their assault upon the latter is sudden and determined, like the “Swift Hawks,” or the species of Accipiter.

In the following synopsis, I include only the three forms of C. cyaneus, giving the characters of the European race along with those of the two American ones.

Species and Races.

C. cyaneus. Wing, 12.50–16.00; tail, 9.00–10.70; culmen, .60–.80; tarsus, 2.42–3.25; middle toe, 1.10–1.55. Third to fourth quills longest; first shorter than sixth or seventh; outer four with inner webs sinuated. Adult male.78 Above pearly-ash, with a bluish cast in some parts; breast similar; beneath white, with or without rufous markings. Adult female. Above brown, variegated with ochraceous on the scapulars and wing-coverts; beneath yellowish-white or pale ochraceous, with a few longitudinal stripes of brown. Young (of both sexes). Like the adult female, but darker brown above, the spotting deeper ochraceous, or rufous; beneath pale rufous, the stripes less distinct.

Tail and secondaries without a subterminal band of dusky; lower parts without any markings.

Wing, 12.50–15.00; tail, 9.00–10.70; culmen, .60–.75; tarsus, 2.70–2.85; middle toe, 1.10–1.35. Hab. Europe … var. cyaneus.79

Tail and secondaries with a subterminal band of dusky; lower parts with rufous markings.

Wing, 12.90–16.00; tail, 9.00–10.50; culmen, .65–.75; tarsus, 2.90–3.25; middle toe, 1.20–1.55. Lower parts with scattered irregular specks, or small cordate spots, of reddish-rufous. Hab. North and Middle America … var. hudsonius.

Wing, 12.40–14.50; tail, 8.50–10.50; culmen, .62–.81; tarsus, 2.42–3.00; middle toe, 1.20–1.50. Lower parts with numerous regular transverse bars of reddish-rufous Hab. South America … var. cinereus.80

Circus cyaneus, var. hudsonius (Linn.).

Falco hudsonius, Linn. Syst. Nat. p. 128, 1766.—Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 277, 1789.—Lath. Syn. I, 91, sp. 76, 1781; Gen. Hist. I, p. 97, sp. C. 1821.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 173, 1800.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 165, 1809. Circus hudsonius, Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. pl. ix, 1807.—Cass. B. Cal. & Tex. p. 108, 1854; Birds N. Am. 1858, p. 38.—Heerm. P. R. R. Rep’t, II, 33, 1855.—Kennerly, P. R. R. Rep’t, III, 19, 1856.—Newb. P. R. R. Rep’t, VI, 74, 1857.—Coop. & Suck. P. R. R. Rep’t, XII, ii, 150, 1860.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 150, 1855.—Coues, Prod. B. Ariz. 13, 1866.—Blakist. Ibis, 1861, 319.—Lord, Pr. R. A. I. IV, 1864, 110 (Brit. Coll.). Circus cyaneus hudsonius, Schleg. Mus. Pays-Bas, Circi, 2, 1862. Circus cyaneus, var. hudsonius, (Ridgway) Coues, Key, 1872, 210.—Gray, Hand List, I, 37, 1869. Strigiceps hudsonius, Bonap. Consp. Av. p. 35, 1850. Falco spadicens, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 273, 1789.—Forst. Phil. Trans. LXII, 383, 1772. Falco buffoni, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 277, 1789.—Lath. Gen. Hist. I, 98, D, 1821. Falco uliginosus, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 278, 1789.—Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 40, 179; Syn. I, 90, 1781; Gen. Hist. I, 271, 1821.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 173, 1800.—Wils. Am. Orn. pl. li, f. 2, 1808.—Sab. App. Frankl. Exp. p. 671. Circus uliginosus, Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. I, 37, 1807.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 20, pl. iii, figs. 5, 6, 1844.—James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, 88, 1831.—Max. Cab. Journ. VI, 1858, 20. Strigiceps uliginosus, Bonap. Eur. & N. Am. B. p. 5, 1838.—Kaup, Monog. Falc. Cont. Orn. 1850, p. 58. Falco cyaneus & β. Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 40, 1790; Syn. I, 91, 7 sp. 6 A.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 164, 1809. Falco cyaneus, Aud. B. Am. pl. ccclvi, 1831.—James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. IV, 21, 1831.—Bonap. Am. Orn. pl. 12; Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 33; Isis, 1832, p. 1538.—Peab. B. Mass. p. 82, 1841. Circus cyaneus, Bonap. Ann. Lyc. N. Y. p. 33.—Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. II, 391.—Rich.

Measurements.—♂. Wing, 12.50–13.25; tail, 9.00–9.30; culmen, .60–.70; tarsus, 2.75–2.90; middle toe, 1.10–1.25. Specimens, 8. ♀. Wing, 13.50–15.00; tail, 9.50–10.70; culmen, .75; tarsus, 2.70–2.85; middle toe, 1.25–1.35. Specimens, 4.

Observations.—The adult female of cyaneus is distinguishable from that of hudsonius by lighter colors and less distinct ochraceous blotches on the shoulders. & Swains. Faun. Bor. Am. pl. xxix, 1831.—Aud. Synop. p. 19, 1839.—Brew. (Wils.) N. Am. Orn. Syn. 685, 1852.—Peab. U. S. Expl. Exp. p. 63, 1848.—Woodh. in Sitgr. Rep’t, Exp. Zuñi & Colorad. p. 61, 1853.—Nutt. Man. Orn. U. S. & Can. p. 109, 1833.—Giraud. B. Long Isl’d, p. 21, 1844.—Gray, List B. Brit. Mus. p. 78, 1844.

Sp. Char. Adult male (10,764, Washington, D. C., December). Head, neck, breast, and upper parts light cinereous, palest anteriorly where it is uninterruptedly continuous; occiput somewhat darker, with a transverse series of longitudinal dashes of white, somewhat tinged with reddish. Back, scapulars, and terminal third of secondaries, with a dusky wash, the latter fading at tips; five outer primaries nearly black, somewhat hoary on outer webs beyond their emargination; lesser wing-coverts faintly mottled with paler, or with obsolete dusky spots. Upper tail-coverts immaculate pure white. Tail bluish-cinereous, mottled with white toward base; crossed near the end with a distinct band of black, and with about five narrower, very obscurely indicated ones anterior to this; tip beyond the subterminal zone fading terminally into whitish. Whole under side of wing (except terminal third or more of primaries) pure white; immaculate, excepting a few scattered transverse dusky spots on larger coverts. Rest of under parts pure white everywhere, with rather sparse transverse cordate spots of rufous. Wing, 14.00; tail, 9.20; tarsus, 2.80; middle toe, 1.30. Third and fourth quills equal, and longest; second intermediate between fifth and sixth; first 5.81 inches shorter than longest.

Another specimen differs as follows: The fine cinereous above is replaced by a darker and more brownish shade of the same, the head and breast much tinged with rusty. Tail much darker, the last black band twice as broad and near the tip; other bands more numerous (seven instead of five), and although still very obscure on middle feathers are better defined than in the one described; inner webs of tail-feathers (especially the outer ones) tinged with cream-color; white of lower parts tinged with rufous; the deep rufous transverse bars on the breast and sides broader, larger, and more numerous than in No. 16,764; abdomen and tibiæ with numerous smaller cordate spots of rufous; lower tail-coverts with large cordate spots of the same, and a deep stain of paler rufous; lining of wings more variegated. Wing, 14.10; tail, 9.00; tarsus, 2.90; middle toe, 1.30.

Adult female (16,758, Hudson’s Bay Territory; Captain Blakiston). Umber-brown above; feathers of the head and neck edged laterally with pale rufous; lores, and superciliary and suborbital stripes dull yellowish-white, leaving a dusky stripe between them, running back from the posterior angle of the eye. Lesser wing-coverts spattered with pale rufous, this irregularly bordering and indenting the feathers; feathers of the rump bordered with dull ferruginous. Tail deep umber, faintly fading at the tip, and crossed by six or seven very regular, sharply defined, but obscure, bands of blackish; the alternating light bars become paler and more rufous toward the edge of the tail, the lateral feathers being almost wholly pale cream-color or ochraceous, darker terminally; this tint is more or less prevalent on the inner webs of nearly all the feathers. Ear-coverts dull dark rufous, obsoletely streaked with dark brown; the feathers of the facial disk are fine pale cream-color, each with a middle stripe of dark brown; throat and chin immaculate dirty-white, like the supraorbital and suborbital stripes. Beneath dull white, with numerous broad longitudinal stripes of umber-brown; these broadest on the breast, growing gradually smaller posteriorly. Under surface of primaries dull white, crossed at wide intervals with dark-brown irregular bars, of which there are five (besides the terminal dark space) on the longest quill.

Juv. (♀, 15,585, Bridger’s Pass, Rocky Mountains, August; W. S. Wood). Upper parts very dark rich clove-brown, approaching sepia-black; feathers of the head bordered with deep ferruginous, and lesser wing-coverts much spotted with the same, the edges of the feathers being broadly of this color; secondaries and inner primaries fading terminally into whitish; upper tail-coverts tinged with delicate cream-color (immaculate). Tail with four very broad bands of black, the intervening spaces being dark umber on the two middle feathers, on the others fine cinnamon-ochre; the tip also (broadly) of this color. Ear-coverts uniform rich dark snuff-brown, feathers of a satiny texture; feathers of facial disk the same centrally, edged with fine deep rufous. Entire lower parts deep reddish-ochraceous or fulvous-rufous, growing gradually paler posteriorly; immaculate, with the exception of a few faint longitudinal stripes on the breast and sides. Under side of wing as in the last, but much tinged with rufous.

Hab. Entire continent of North America, south to Panama; Cuba, and Bahamas.

Localities: Oaxaca (Scl. 1859, 390); Orizaba (Scl. 1857, 211); Guatemala, winter (Scl. Ibis, I, 221); Cuba (Cab. Journ. II, lxxxiii; Gundlach, Repert. 1865, 222, winter); City of Mexico (Scl. 1864, 178); E. Texas (Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 328, resident); W. Arizona (Coues); Bahamas (Bryant, Pr. Bost. Soc. 1867, 65); Costa Rica (Lawr. IX, 134).


National Museum, 53; Museum Comp. Zoöl., 24; Boston Society, 8; Philadelphia Academy, 10; Cab. of G. N. Lawrence, 5; R. Ridgway, 6. Total, 106.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
12.90–13.85 9.90–9.80 .60–.65 2.85–2.90 1.20–0.00 34
13.00–16.00 8.80–10.50 .70–.75 2.85–3.25 1.22–1.55 32

Habits. The Marsh Hawk is one of the most widely distributed birds of North America, breeding from the fur regions around Hudson’s Bay to Texas, and from Nova Scotia to Oregon and California. It is abundant everywhere, excepting in the southeastern portion of the United States. Sir John Richardson speaks of it as so common on the plains of the Saskatchewan that seldom less than five or six are in sight at a time (in latitude 55°). Mr. Townsend found it on the plains of the Columbia River and on the prairies bordering on the Missouri. The Vincennes Exploring Expedition obtained specimens in Oregon. Dr. Gambel and Dr. Heermann found it abundant in California. Dr. Suckley’s party obtained specimens in Minnesota; Captain Beckwith’s, in Utah; Captain Pope, Lieutenant Whipple, and Dr. Henry, in New Mexico; and Lieutenant Couch, in Tamaulipas, Mexico. Dr. Woodhouse met with it abundantly from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, throughout the summer, showing conclusively that it breeds in those different sections of country. De la Sagra, Lembeye, and Dr. Gundlach, all give it as a bird of Cuba, but not as breeding there.

Dall records it as very rare on the Yukon, and an occasional summer visitor only at St. Michael’s, where an individual was killed as late as November. Donald Gunn states that it makes its appearance in the fur countries about the opening of the rivers, and departs about the beginning of November. It preys upon small birds and mice, is very slow on the wing, flies very low, and in a manner very different from all other kinds of Hawks.

In Nova Scotia it is very abundant, and is very destructive of young game. Mr. Downes regards it as an indiscriminating feeder upon fish, snakes, and even worms. He took two green snakes from the stomach of one of them.

Circus hudsonius (male and female).

Mr. Dresser found them abundant throughout the whole country east of the Rio Nueces at all seasons of the year. They were more abundant in full blue plumage than elsewhere. Near San Antonio he met with them on the prairies, where they feed on the small green lizards which abound there, and which they are very expert in catching. Dr. Coues mentions them as very abundant in Arizona. Dr. Kennerly met with them on both sides of the Rio Grande wherever there was a marsh of any extent. Flying near the surface, just above the weeds and canes, they round their untiring circles hour after hour, darting after small birds as they rise from cover. Pressed by hunger, they will attack even wild Ducks. Dr. Kennerly also observed them equally abundant in the same localities in New Mexico. Dr. Newberry mentions finding this Hawk abundant beyond all parallel on the plains of Upper Pitt River. He saw several hundred in a single day’s march.

In Washington Territory both Dr. Suckley and Dr. Cooper found this Hawk abundant throughout the open districts, and especially so in winter. Dr. Cooper found it no less common in California, and among several hundreds saw but two birds in the blue plumage. Near Fort Laramie he found it no less common, but there, at least one half were in the blue plumage. From this he infers that the older birds seek the far interior in preference to the seaboard.

Mr. Allen mentions it as common in winter about the savannas in Florida, and Mr. Salvin states that it is a migratory species in Guatemala. It occurred in the Pacific Coast Region, and examples were also received from Vera Paz.

In evidence of the nomadic character of the Marsh Hawk it may be mentioned that specimens asserted to be of this species are in the Leyden Museum that were received from the Philippines and from Kamtschatka.

In Wilson’s time this Hawk was quite numerous in the marshes of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, where it swept over the low grounds, sailing near the earth, in search of a kind of mouse very common in such situations, and was there very generally known as the Mouse Hawk. It is also said to be very serviceable in the Southern rice-fields in interrupting the devastations made by the swarms of Bobolinks. As it sails low and swiftly over the fields, it keeps the flocks in perpetual fluctuation, and greatly interrupts their depredations. Wilson states that one Marsh Hawk was considered by the planters equal to several negroes for alarming the Rice-birds. Audubon, however, controverts this statement, and quotes Dr. Bachman to the effect that no Marsh Hawks are seen in the rice-fields until after the Bobolinks are gone. Dr. Coues, on the other hand, gives this Hawk as resident throughout the year in South Carolina.

According to Audubon, the Marsh Hawk rarely pursues birds on the wing, nor does it often carry its prey to any distance before it alights and devours it. While engaged in feeding, it may be readily approached, surprised, and shot. When wounded, it endeavors to make off by long leaps; and when overtaken, it throws itself on the back and fights furiously. In winter its notes while on the wing are sharp, and are said to resemble the syllables pee-pee-pee. The love-notes are similar to those of the columbarius.

Mr. Audubon has found this Hawk nesting not only in lowlands near the sea-shore, but also in the barrens of Kentucky and on the cleared table-lands of the Alleghanies, and once in the high covered pine-barrens of Florida.

After having paired, the Marsh Hawks invariably keep together, and labor conjointly in the construction of the nest, in sitting upon the eggs, and in feeding the young. Their nests are variously constructed as to materials, usually chiefly of hay somewhat clumsily wrought together into the form of a nest, but never very nicely interwoven; occasionally, in more northern localities, they are lined with feathers, in some cases with pine-needles and small twigs.

Richardson states that all the nests of this Hawk observed by him were built on the ground by the side of small lakes, of moss, grass, feathers, and hair, and contained from three to five eggs, of a bluish-white color, and unspotted. The latter measured 1.75 inches in length, and were an inch across where widest. The position and manner of constructing the nest correspond with my own experience, but the size of the eggs does not. The nests have been invariably on the ground, near water, built of dry grass, and lined with softer materials.

Mr. Audubon gives a very minute account of a nest which he found on Galveston Island, Texas. It was about a hundred yards from a pond, on a ridge just raised above the marsh, and was made of dry grass; the internal diameter was eight, and the external twelve inches, with the depth of two and a half. No feathers were found. This absence of a warm lining in Texas really proves nothing. A warm lining may be required in latitude 65° north, and the same necessity not found in one of 29°. A nest observed in Concord, Mass., by Dr. H. R Storer, was on the edge of a pond, and was warmly lined with feathers and fine grasses. Many other instances might be named.

The eggs found in the Galveston nest were four in number, smooth, considerably rounded or broadly elliptical, bluish-white, 1.75 inches in length, and 1.25 in breadth. Another nest, found under a low bush on the Alleghanies, was constructed in a similar manner, but was more bulky; the bed being four inches above the earth, and the egg slightly sprinkled with small marks of pale reddish-brown.

The prevalent impression that the eggs of this Hawk are generally unspotted, so far as I am aware, is not correct. All that I have ever seen, except the eggs above referred to from Texas, and a few others, have been more or less marked with light-brown blotches. These markings are not always very distinct, but, as far as my present experience goes, they are to be found, if carefully sought. In 1856 I received from Dr. Dixon, of Damariscotta, a nest with six eggs of a Hawk of this species. The female had been shot as she flew from the nest. With a single exception, all the eggs were very distinctly blotched and spotted. In shape they were of a rather oblong-oval, rounded at both ends, the smaller end well defined. They varied in length from 2.00 to 1.87 inches, and in breadth from 1.44 to 1.38 inches. Their ground-color was a dirty bluish-white, which in one was nearly unspotted, the markings so faint as to be hardly perceptible, and only upon a close inspection. In all the others, spots and blotches of a light shade of purplish-brown occured, in a greater or less degree, over their entire surface. In two, the blotches were large and well marked; in the others, less strongly traced, but quite distinct.

The nest was found in a tract of low land, covered with clumps of sedge, on one of which it had been constructed. It is described as about the size of a peck basket, circular, and composed entirely of small dry sticks, “finished off or topped out with small bunches of pine boughs.” There was very little depth to the nest, or not enough to cover the eggs from view in taking a sight across it. “No feathers were found in or about it. It was simply made of small dry sticks, about six inches thick, with about one inch of pine boughs for finishing off the nest.” The eggs were found about the 20th of May. They contained young at least two weeks advanced, showing that the bird began to lay in the latter part of April, and to sit upon her eggs early in the following month.

It will be thus seen that the eggs of this Hawk vary greatly in size and shape, and in the presence or absence of marking, varying in length from 1.75 to 2.00 inches, and in breadth from 1.25 to 1.50, and in shape from an almost globular egg to an elongated oval. Some are wholly spotless, and others are very strongly and generally blotched with well-defined purplish-brown.

This Hawk was found breeding in the Humboldt Valley by Mr. C. S. M‘Carthy, on the Yellowstone by Mr. Hayden, at Fort Benton by Lieutenant Mullan, at Fort Resolution by Mr. Kennicott, at Fort Rae and at Fort Simpson by Mr. Ross, at La Pierre House by Lockhart, and on the Lower Anderson by Mr. MacFarlane.

Genus NISUS, Cuvier.

Gen. Char. Form slender, the tail long, the wings short and rounded, the feet slender, the head small, and bill rather weak. Bill nearly as high through the base as the length of the chord of the culmen, its upper outline greatly ascending basally; commissure with a prominent festoon. Superciliary shield very prominent. Nostril broadly ovate, obliquely horizontal. Tarsus longer than the middle toe, the frontal and posterior series of regular transverse scutellæ very distinct, and continuous, sometimes fused into a continuous plate (as in the Turdinæ!). Outer toe longer than the inner; claws strongly curved, very acute. Wing short, much rounded, very concave beneath; third to fifth quills longest; first usually shortest, never longer than the sixth; outer three to five with inner webs cut (usually sinuated). Tail long, nearly equal to wing, usually rounded, sometimes even, more rarely graduated (Astur macrourus) or emarginated (some species of subgenus Nisus).


Less than one third of the upper portion of the tarsus feathered in front, the feathering widely separated behind; frontal transverse scutellæ of the tarsus and toes uninterrupted in the neighborhood of the digito-tarsal joint, but continuous from knees to claws. Tarsal scutellæ sometimes fused into a continuous plate … Nisus.

More than one third (about one half) of the upper portion of the tarsus feathered in front, the feathering scarcely separated behind; frontal transverse scutellæ of the tarsus and toes interrupted in the region of the digito-tarsal joint, where replaced by irregular small scales. Tarsal scutellæ never fused … Astur.

The species of this genus are exceedingly numerous, about fifty-seven being the number of nominal “species” recognized at the present date. Among so many species, there is, of course, a great range of variation in the details of form, so that many generic and subgeneric names have been proposed and adopted to cover the several groups of species which agree in certain peculiarities of external structure. That too many genera and subgenera have been recognized is my final conclusion, after critically examining and comparing forty of the fifty-seven species of Gray’s catalogue (Hand List of Birds, I, 1869, pp. 29–35). The variation of almost every character ranges between great extremes; but when all the species are compared, it is found that, taking each character separately, they do not all correspond, and cross and re-cross each other in the series in such a manner that it is almost impossible to arrange the species into well-defined groups. From this genus I exclude Lophospiza, Kaup (type, L. trivirgatus); Asturina, Vieill. (type, A. nitida); Rupornis, Kaup (type, R. magnirostris); Buteola, Dubus (= Buteo, type, B. brachyura, Vieill.); included by Gray under Astur, as subgenera, and Tachyspiza, Kaup (type, T. soloensis); and Scelospiza, Kaup (type, S. francesii); which are given by Gray as subgenera of Micronisus, Gray (type, Accipiter gabar), the species of the typical subgenus of which, as arranged in Gray’s Hand List, I refer to Nisus. All these excluded names I consider as representing distinct genera.

The species of this genus are noted for their very predatory disposition, exceeding the Falcons in their daring, and in the quickness of their assault upon their prey, which consists chiefly of small birds.

Subgenus NISUS, Cuvier.

10759, ♂. NAT. SIZE

Nisus fuscus.

26588, ♀. ½

26588, ♀. ½

Nisus cooperi.

The species of this subgenus are generally of small size and slender form; but with a graceful and apparently delicate structure they combine remarkable strength and unsurpassed daring. They differ from the species of Astur mainly in less robust organization. The species are very numerous, and most plentiful within the tropical regions. The Old World possesses about thirty, and America about fifteen, nominal species. Several South American species are intimately related to the two North American ones, and may prove to be only climatic races of the same species; thus, erythrocnemis, Gray (Hand List, p. 32, No. 305) may be the intertropical form of fuscus, and chilensis, Ph. and Landb. (Hand List, No. 314), that of cooperi. But the material at my command is too meagre to decide this.

26588, ♀. ¼

Nisus cooperi.

26588, ♀. ¼

Nisus cooperi.

10759, ♂. ½

Nisus fuscus.

In consequence of the insufficient material for working up the South American species, I shall omit them all from the following synopsis of the North American species and races.82

Species and Races.

Common Characters. Adult. Above bluish slate-color; the tail with obscure bands of darker, and narrowly tipped with white. Beneath transversely barred with white and pinkish-rufous; the anal region and crissum immaculate white. Young. Above grayish umber-brown, the feathers bordered more or less distinctly with rusty; scapulars with large white spots, mostly concealed; tail-bands more distinct than in the adult. Beneath white, longitudinally striped with dusky-brown.

1. N. fuscus. Middle toe shorter than the bare portion of the tarsus, in front; tarsal scutellæ fused into a continuous plate in the adult male. Tail nearly even. Top of head concolor with the back; tail merely fading into whitish at the tip. Concealed white spots of the scapulars very large and conspicuous. Wing, 6.45–8.80; tail, 5.70–8.20; culmen, .40–.60; tarsus, 1.85–2.25; middle toe, 1.10–1.55. Hab. Whole of North America and Mexico.

2. N. cooperi. Middle toe longer than the bare portion of the tarsus, in front; tarsal scutellæ never fused. Tail much rounded. Top of the head much darker than the back; tail distinctly tipped with white; concealed white spots of the scapulars very small, or obsolete. Wing, 8.50–11.00; tail, 7.50–10.50; culmen, .60–.80; tarsus, 2.10–2.75; middle toe, 1.30–1.85. Hab. Whole of North America and Mexico.

Adult. Rufous markings beneath, in form of detached bars, not exceeding the white ones in width; dark slate of the pileum and nape abruptly contrasted with the bluish-plumbeous of the back; upper tail-coverts narrowly tipped with white; scapulars with concealed spots of white. Young. White beneath pure; tibiæ with narrow longitudinal spots of brown. Wing, 9.00–11.00; tail, 8.00–9.80; culmen, .65–.80; tarsus, 2.45–2.75; middle toe, 1.55–1.85. Hab. Eastern region of North America; Eastern Mexico … var. cooperi.

Adult. Rufous markings beneath, in form of broader bars, connected along the shaft, almost uniform on the breast; black of the pileum and nape fading gradually into the dusky plumbeous of the back; upper tail-coverts not tipped with white, and scapulars without concealed spots of the same. Young. White beneath strongly tinged with ochraceous; tibiæ with broad transverse spots of brown. Wing, 8.50–10.60; tail, 7.50–10.50; culmen, .60–.75; tarsus, 2.10–2.75; middle toe, 1.30–1.75. Hab. Western region of North America; Western Mexico … var. mexicanus.

Nisus fuscus (Gmel.) Kaup.

Falco fuscus, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 283, 1789.—Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 43, 1790; Syn. I, 98, 1781; Gen. Hist. I, 283, 1821.—Mill. Cim. Phys. pl. xviii, 1796.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 86, 1800.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 161, 1809.—Aud. B. Am. pl. ccclxxiii, 1821; Orn. Biog. IV. 522, 1831.—Brew. (Wils.) Am. Orn. 685, 1852.—Peab. B. Mass. III, 78, 1841.—Thomp. Nat. Hist. Verm. p. 61, 1842.—Nutt. Man. 87, 1833. Accipiter fuscus, Bonap. Eur. & N. Am. B. p. 5, 1838; Consp. Av. 32, 1850.—Gray, List B. Brit. Mus. 38, 1844; Gen. B. fol. sp. 4, 1844.—Cass. B. Cal. & Tex. 95, 1854; Proc. Ac. Nat. Sc. Phil. 1855, 279; Birds N. Am. 1858, 18.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 108, 1855.—Woodh. Sitgr. Exp. Zuñi & Colorad. p. 61, 1853.—Cooper & Suckley, P. R. R. Rep’t, VII, ii, 146, 1860.—Heerm. Williamson’s Rep. 33.—Newb. Williamson’s Rep. 74.—Coues, Pr. Ac. Nat. Sc. Phil. Jan. 1866, p. 7.—Blakist. Ibis, III, 1861, 317 (fresh eggs).—Gray, Hand List, I, 32, 1869. Astur fuscus, De Kay, N. Y. Zoöl. II, 17, pl. ii, fig. 2 (juv. ♂), 1844.—Giraud, B. Long Isl’d, p. 19, 1844. Nisus fuscus, Kaup, Monog. Falc. Cont. Orn. 1850, p. 64. Falco dubius, Gmel. Syst. Nat. 1789, p. 281.—Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 43, 1790; Syn. Supp. I, 37, 1802; Gen. Hist. I, 279, 1821.—Daud. Tr. Orn. 1800, II, 122. Falco velox, Wils. Am. Orn. pl. xlv, f. 1, 1808.—Bonap. An. Lyc. N. Y. II, 29, 1433; Isis, 1832, p. 1137. Accipiter velox, Beech. Voy. Zoöl. p. 15. Astur velox, James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, 68, 1831. Falco pennsylvanicus, Wils. Am. Orn. pl. xlvi, fig. 1, 1808.—Lath. Gen. Hist. I, 280, 1820.—Temm. Pl. Col. 67. Accipiter pennsylvanicus, Vig. Zoöl. Journ. I, 338.—Steph. Zoöl. XIII, ii, 32, 1815.—Rich. Faun. Bor.-Am. II, 44, 1831.—Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. II, pp. 210, 215, 1832.—Swains. Classif. B. II, 215, 1837. Astur pennsylvanicus, Less. Man. Orn. I, 92.—James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, 70, 1831. Nisus pennsylvanicus, Cuv. Règ. An. (ed. 2), I, 334, 1829.—Less. Tr. Orn. p. 59, 1831. Falco columbarius, var., Shaw. Zoöl. VII, 189, 1809. Accipiter ardosiacus, Vieill. Enc. Méth. III, 1274, 1823. Accipiter fringilloides (not of Vigors!), Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. II, 215, 1832. ? Nisus pacificus, Lesson, Man. et d’Oiseaux, 1847, 177 (Acapulco to California. Square tail). Accipiter fuscus, Brewer, Oölogy, 1857, 18, pl. III, f. 23, 29; pl. V, f. 54.

Sp. Char. Adult male (11,990, District of Columbia; A. J. Falls). Above deep plumbeous, this covering head above, nape, back, scapulars, wings, rump, and upper tail-coverts; uniform throughout, scarcely perceptibly darker anteriorly. Primaries and tail somewhat lighter and more brownish; the latter crossed by four sharply defined bands of brownish-black, the last of which is subterminal, and broader than the rest, the first concealed by the upper coverts; tip passing very narrowly (or scarcely perceptibly) into whitish terminally. Occipital feathers snowy-white beneath the surface; entirely concealed, however. Scapulars, also, with concealed very large roundish spots of pure white. Under side of primaries pale slate, becoming white toward bases, crossed by quadrate spots of blackish, of which there are seven (besides the terminal dark space) on the longest. Lores, cheeks, ear-coverts, chin, throat, and lower parts in general, pure white; chin, throat, and cheeks with fine, rather sparse, blackish shaft-streaks; ear-coverts with a pale rufous wash. Jugulum, breast, abdomen, sides, flanks, and tibiæ with numerous transverse broad bars of delicate vinaceous-rufous, the bars medially somewhat transversely cordate, and rather narrower than the white bars; laterally, the pinkish-rufous prevails, the bars being connected broadly along the shafts; tibiæ with rufous bars much exceeding the white ones in width; the whole maculate region with the shaft of each feather finely blackish. Anal region scarcely varied; lower tail-coverts immaculate, pure white. Lining of the wing white, with rather sparse cordate, or cuneate, small blackish spots; axillars barred about equally with pinkish-rufous and white. Wing, 6.60; tail, 5.70; tarsus, 1.78; middle toe, 1.20. Fifth quill longest; fourth but little shorter; third equal to sixth; second slightly shorter than seventh. Tail perfectly square.

Adult female (19,116, Powder River; Captain W. F. Raynolds, U. S. A.). Scarcely different from the male. Above rather paler slaty; the darker shaft-streaks rather more distinct than in the male, although they are not conspicuous. Beneath with the rufous bars rather broader, the dark shaft-streaks less distinct; tibiæ about equally barred with pinkish-rufous and white. Wing, 7.70; tail, 6.90; tarsus, 2.10; middle toe, 1.40. Fourth and fifth quills equal and longest; third equal to sixth; second equal to seventh; first three inches shorter than longest.

Young male (41,890, Philadelphia; J. Krider.) Above umber-brown; feathers of the head above edged laterally with dull light ferruginous; those of the back, rump, the upper tail-coverts, scapulars, and wing-coverts bordered with the same; scapulars and rump showing large, partially exposed, roundish spots of pure white. Tail as in adult. Sides of the head and neck strongly streaked, a broad lighter supraoral stripe apparent. Beneath white, with a slight ochraceous tinge; cheeks, throat, and jugulum with fine narrow streaks of dusky-brown; breast, sides, and abdomen with broader longitudinal stripes of clear umber (less slaty than the back), each with a darker shaft-line; on the flanks the stripes are more oval; tibiæ more dingy, markings fainter and somewhat transverse; anal region and lower tail-coverts immaculate white.

Young female (12,023, Fort Tejon, California; J. Xantus). Similar in general appearance to the young male. Markings beneath broader, and slightly sagittate in form, becoming more transverse on the flanks; paler and more reddish than in the young male; tibiæ with brownish-rufous prevailing, this in form of broad transverse spots.

Hab. Entire continent of North America, south to Panama; Bahamas (but not West Indies, where replaced by A. fringilloides, Vig.).

Localities: Oaxaca (Scl. 1858, 295); Central America (Scl. Ibis, I, 218); Bahamas (Bryant, Pr. Bost. Soc. VII, 1859); City of Mexico (Scl. 1864, 178); Texas, San Antonio (Dresser, Ibis, 1866, 324); Western Arizona (Coues); Mosquito Coast (Scl. & Salv. 1867, 280); Costa Rica (Lawr. IX, 134).


National Museum, 51; Philadelphia Academy, 14; New York Museum, 7; Boston Society, 5; Museum, Cambridge, 9; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 1; Coll. R. Ridgway, 4; Museum W. S. Brewer, 1. Total, 92.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
6.45–7.00 5.70–5.90 .40–.00 1.85–1.95 1.10–1.20 30
7.50–8.80 6.90–8.20 .50–.60 2.20–2.25 1.45–1.55 40

Specimens from different regions vary but little in size. The largest are 4,198, ♀, San Francisco, Cal., winter, 16,957, ♀, Hudson’s Bay Territory, and 55,016, ♀, Mazatlan, Mexico, in which the wing ranges from 8.40 to 8.50, the tail 7.00. The smallest females are 45,826, Sitka, Alaska, and 11,791, Simiahmoo, W. T., in which the wing measures about 7.80. A female (32,499) from Orizaba, Mexico, one (8,513) from Fort Yuma, Cal., and one (17,210) from San Nicholas, Lower California, have the wing 8.00, which is about the average. The largest males are 54,336, Nulato, Alaska, 58,137, Kodiak, Alaska, 27,067, Yukon, mouth of Porcupine, and 55,017, Mazatlan, Mexico, in which the wing measures 7.00, the tail 5.60. The smallest males are 5,990, Orange, N. J., 8,514, Shoalwater Bay, W. T., 21,338, Siskiyou Co., Cal., 37,428, Orizaba, Mexico, and 5,584, Bridger’s Pass, Utah; in this series the wing measures 6.50–6.70, the tail 5.40–5.60. A specimen from Costa Rica measures: wing 6.70, tail 5.35. Thus the variation in size will be seen to be an individual difference, rather than characteristic of any region. Some immature specimens from the northwest coast of North America (as 45,828, ♂, Sitka, Rus. Am., 5,845, ♂, Fort Steilacoom, W. T., 11,791, Simiahmoo, Puget Sound, and 8,514, Shoalwater Bay, W. T.) are much darker than others, the brown above inclining to blackish-sepia; no other differences, however, are observable. An adult from the Yukon (54,337, ♀) has the rufous bars beneath remarkably faint, although well defined; another (19,384, ♀, Fort Resolution), in immature plumage, has the longitudinal markings beneath so faint that they are scarcely discernible, and the plumage generally has a very worn and faded appearance. A male in fine plumage (10,759, Fort Bridger, Utah) has the delicate reddish-rufous beneath so extended as to prevail, and with scarcely any variegation on the sides and tibiæ; the bars on the tail, also, are quite obsolete.

Habits. This species is one of the most common Hawks of North America, and its geographical range covers the entire continent, from Hudson’s Bay to Mexico. Sir John Richardson mentions its having been met with as far to the north as latitude 51°. Drs. Gambel and Heermann, and others, speak of it as abundant throughout California. Audubon found it very plentiful as far north as the southern shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It has been obtained in New Mexico by Mr. McCall, in Mexico by Mr. Pease, in Washington Territory by Dr. Cooper and Dr. Suckley, in Alaska by Mr. Dall, at Fort Resolution by Mr. Kennicott, at Fort Simpson by Mr. B. R. Ross, etc. Messrs. Sclater and Salvin give it as a rare visitant of Guatemala. It has been ascertained to breed in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wisconsin, California, and Pennsylvania, and it probably does so not only in the intervening States and Territories, but also in all, not excepting the most southern, Florida, where its nest was found by Mr. Wurdemann.

Nisus fuscus.

Dr. Woodhouse, who frequently observed this bird skimming over the prairies while in search of its prey, states that its flight is so peculiar that there is no difficulty in recognizing it, when taken in connection with its form, short wings, and long tail, being very swift and irregular in its movements, first high in the air, then close to the ground, suddenly disappearing among the grass when it has seized the object of which it was in pursuit.

Mr. Dresser met with this Hawk in Texas, but nowhere south or west of San Antonio, where it remains through the breeding-season, nesting in the dense cedar-thickets.

Mr. Audubon regarded it as the very miniature of the Goshawk, in its irregular, swift, vigorous, varied, and yet often undecided, manner of flight, and on occasion greatly protracted. When in search of its prey, it is said to pass over the country, now at a moderate height, now close over the land, and with a surprising swiftness. It advances by sudden dashes, and pounces upon the object of its pursuit so suddenly as to render hopeless any attempt to escape. It has frequently been known to seize and kill a bird so large that it was unable to carry it, and had to drop to the ground with it. In one instance Mr. Audubon saw it strike a Brown Thrush, which it had darted into a thicket of briers to seize, emerging at the opposite side. As Mr. Audubon ran up, the Hawk attempted twice to rise with its prey, but was unable to carry it off, and relinquished it. The Thrush was quite dead, and had evidently been killed instantly.

Mr. Downes, of Halifax, who speaks of this Hawk as common in Nova Scotia, breeding all over that province, adds that it does not molest the poultry-yards, being too weak to attack large prey. But this is not universally the case. They are frequently destructive both to dove-cots and to the younger inhabitants of the poultry-yard. Mr. Nuttall narrates that in the thinly settled parts of Alabama and Georgia it seemed to abound, and was very destructive to young chickens, a single one having been known to come regularly every day until it had carried off twenty or thirty. He was eyewitness to one of its acts of robbery, where, at noonday and in the near presence of the farmer, the Hawk descended and carried off one of the chickens. In another instance the same writer mentions that one of these Hawks, descending with blind eagerness upon its prey, broke through the glass of the greenhouse at the Cambridge Botanic Garden, fearlessly passed through a second glass partition, and was only brought up by a third, when it was caught, though very little injured.

At times this Hawk is seen to fly high, in a desultory manner, with quick but irregular movements of the wings, now moving in short and unequal circles, pausing to examine the objects below, and then again descending rapidly and following a course only a few feet from the ground, carefully examining each patch of small bushes in search of small birds.

Besides the smaller birds, young chickens, and pigeons, this Hawk has been known to occasionally feed on small reptiles and insects, as also upon the smaller quadrupeds.

Mr. Audubon speaks of having met with three nests of this species, and all in different situations. One was in a hole in a rock on the banks of the Ohio River; another was in the hollow of a broken branch, near Louisville, Ky., and the third in the forks of a low oak, near Henderson, Ky. In the first case, the nest was slight, and simply constructed of a few sticks and some grasses, carelessly interwoven, and about two feet from the entrance of the hole. In the second instance there was no nest whatever, but in the third the birds were engaged in the construction of an elaborate nest. The number of the eggs was four in one instance, and five in another. He describes them as almost equally rounded at both ends; their ground-color white, with a livid tinge, but scarcely discernible amid the numerous markings and blotches of reddish-chocolate with which they were irregularly covered. In a nest which was large and elaborately constructed of sticks, and contained five eggs, found by Dr. H. R. Storer in Concord, Mass., there was a single egg which nearly corresponds with this description. It is, however, the only one among many specimens that at all agrees with it. This specimen is a little more than usually elongate, and its ground-color, which is a purplish-white, is nearly concealed by its blotches of various shades of sepia-brown. In every other instance the egg is very nearly spherical, the ground-color white, and beautifully marked with large confluent blotches of sepia, varying in depth from quite a light to a very dark shade. In one, these confluent markings form a broad belt around the centre of the egg. In others, they are chiefly distributed about the larger end. The contrast between the white ground and the dark confluent dashes of brown is very striking. Except in size, the eggs of this bird bear a marked resemblance to those of the Sparrow Hawk of Europe. In a few instances, the brown markings have an intermixture of red and purple. The egg measures 1.35 by 1.15 inches.

In nearly every instance the nest of this Hawk has been constructed in trees. It is usually large in proportion to the size of the bird, and its materials are somewhat elaborately put together; it is composed chiefly of large sticks and twigs, and the whole platform is covered with a thin lining of dry leaves, mosses, grass, etc. Mr. John Krider, of Philadelphia, found a nest in New Jersey, in the vicinity of that city, which was built on the edge of a high rock.

Mr. Robert Kennicott met with the nest of this species at Fort Resolution. It was composed entirely of small dry spruce twigs, with the exception of a half-dozen small flat bits of the scaly outer bark of the spruce, laid in the bottom, and forming a sort of lining. No feathers or other softer materials were used. The nest was shallow and broad. The base was about eighteen inches in diameter, and was about eight feet from the ground. It was in a small spruce in a thick wood and on high ground. When disturbed, the female flew off a short distance; but on Mr. Kennicott’s hiding himself returned and flew near the nest, continually uttering a harsh rapid note. Near the nest were marks indicating the place where the male passed the nights perched on a dry stick near the ground.

Mr. B. R. Ross observed these birds nesting thickly along the cliffs of the Upper Slave River. They were more rare northward of Fort Simpson than F. columbarius.

Mr. William Street, of Easthampton, informs me that he has found this Hawk nesting on Mount Tom, where he has known of six of their nests in one season. In the spring of 1872 he found three nests, on the 24th and 25th of May. They contained two eggs each. One of these, on the 27th contained three eggs, of which he took one; on the 3d of June two more eggs had been laid. Two of these were taken, after which the birds deserted the nest and resorted to an old squirrel’s nest, where they had four more eggs, depositing one every third day. They arrive at Mount Tom about the 1st of May. Their nests are made entirely of sticks, larger on the outside, and smaller within. They usually build in a hemlock-tree, selecting a thick clump. They are very noisy when they are at work building their nest, and often betray their presence by their cries. The younger the pair the more noisy they are. This Hawk appears to live nearly altogether on small birds. Mr. Street mentions having found ten or twelve skeletons in a single nest of this species.

Nisus cooperi (Bonap.).
Var. cooperi, Bonap.

Falco cooperi, Bonap. Am. Orn. pl. x, fig. 1, 1825; Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 433; Isis, 1832, 1137.—James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. IV, 1831, 3.—Peab. B. Mass. III, 78. Accipiter cooperi, Gray, List B. Brit. Mus. 38, 1844; Gen. B. fol. sp. 6.—Cass. Birds Cal. & Tex. p. 96, 1854; Birds N. Am. 1858, 16.—Sclat. Pr. Z. S. 1859, 389 (difference from A. pileatus, Max.).—Heerm. P. R. R. Rep’t, VII, 31, 1857.—Coop. & Suckl. P. R. R. Rep’t, XII, ii, 145, 1860.—Coues, Prod. Orn. Ariz. p. 7, 1866.—Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 323 (Texas).—Blakist. Ibis, III, 1861, 317.—Scl. & Salv. Ex. Orn. I, 1869, 170.—Gray, Hand List, I, 32, 1869. Astur cooperi, Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. III, 363, 1832.—Bonap. List, p. 5; Rev. Zool. 1850, 489; Consp. Av. 31.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 18, pl. iv, p. 5.—Newb. P. R. R. Rep’t, VI, iv, 74, 1857.—Max. Cab. Journ. VI, 1858, 13. Falco stanleyi, Aud. B. Am. pls. xxxvi, cxli; Orn. Biog. I, 186. Accipiter pileatus (not of Max.!), Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 109, 1855. Accipiter cooperi, Brewer, Oölogy, 1857, 20, pl. v, f. 55.

Sp. Char. Adult male (No. 10,086). Forehead, crown, and occiput blackish-plumbeous; the latter snowy-white beneath the surface; rest of upper parts slaty-plumbeous, the nape abruptly lighter than the occiput; feathers of the nape, back, scapulars, and rump with darker shaft-lines; scapulars with concealed cordate and circular spots of white; upper tail-coverts sharply tipped with white. Tail more brownish than the rump, sharply tipped with pure white, and crossed with three broad, sharply defined bands of black, the first of which is concealed, the last much broadest; that portion of the shaft between the two exposed black bands white. Lores grayish; cheeks and throat white, with fine, hair-like shaft-streaks of blackish; ear-coverts and sides of neck more ashy, and more faintly streaked. Ground-color beneath pure white; but with detached transverse bars of rich vinaceous-rufous, crossing the jugulum, breast, sides, flanks, abdomen, and tibiæ; the white bars everywhere (except on sides of the breast) rather exceeding the rufous in width; all the feathers (except tibial plumes) with distinct black shaft-lines; lower tail-coverts immaculate, pure white. Lining of the wing white, with numerous cordate spots of rufous; coverts with transverse blackish bars; under side of primaries silvery-white, purest basally (tips dusky), crossed with quadrate bars of dusky, of which there are six (the first only indicated) upon the longest quill (fourth). Wing, 9.20; tail, 7.80; tarsus, 2.35; middle toe, 1.60. Fourth quill longest; third shorter than fifth; second intermediate between sixth and seventh; first, 2.80 shorter than longest; graduation of tail, 1.00.

Adult female (26,588, Washington, D. C.; Elliott Coues). Similar to the male. Forehead tinged with brownish; upper plumage much less bluish. Neck and ear-coverts uniformly rufous, with black shaft-streaks, there being no ashy wash as in the male. Tail decidedly less bluish than in the male, crossed with four bands, three of which are exposed. The rufous bars beneath less vinaceous than in the male, but of about the same amount, rather predominating on the tibiæ. Wing, 10.70; tail, 9.00; tarsus, 2.45; middle toe, 1.80. Fourth and fifth quills longest and equal; third longer than sixth; second intermediate between sixth and seventh; first three inches shorter than longest.

Young male (55,498, Fort Macon, N. C., February; Dr. Coues). Above grayish-umber; feathers of forehead, crown, and nape faintly edged laterally with pale rusty; occiput unvaried blackish, feathers white beneath the surface. Wing-coverts, scapulars, and interscapulars narrowly bordered with pale yellowish-umber; rump and upper tail-coverts bordered with rusty. Tail paler umber than the back, narrowly tipped with white, and crossed by four bands of brownish-black, the first of which is only partially concealed. Scapulars and upper tail-coverts showing much concealed white, in form of roundish spots, on both webs. Beneath clear white, without any yellowish tinge; throat with a medial and lateral series of clear dark-brown streaks; jugulum, breast, sides, flanks, and abdomen with numerous stripes of clear sepia, each showing a darker shaft-streak; tibiæ with longitudinal streaks of paler and more rusty brown; lower tail-coverts immaculate.

Young female (6,876 “Sacramento Valley, Cal.”; Dr. Heermann—probably from Pennsylvania). Similar to young male; more varied, however. The black middle streaks of feathers of head above narrower, causing more conspicuous streaks; white spots of scapular region considerably exposed; longitudinal stripe beneath narrower and more sparse.

Hab. North America in general, but rare in the western division; Eastern Mexico. Not found in West Indies, where replaced by A. gundlachi, Lawr.

Localities: Southeastern Texas (Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 323, breeds); Arizona (Coues, Prod. 1866, 43); Costa Rica (Lawr. IX, 134).


National Museum, 12; Philadelphia Academy, 16; New York Museum, 3; Boston Society, 2; Cambridge Museum, 1; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 7; Coll. R. Ridgway, 4; Museum, W. S. Brewer, 1. Total, 46.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
9.00–9.30 8.00–8.50 .65–.00 2.45–2.65 1.55–1.60 7
10.20–11.00 9.00–9.80 .75–.80 2.60–2.75 1.65–1.85 12
Var. mexicanus, Swainson.

Accipiter mexicanus, Swains. F. Bor.-Am. II, 1831, 45.—Jard. (ed. Wils.) Am. Orn. II, 1832, 215.—Bonap. Consp. 32 (under A. fuscus).—Cass. B. Cal. & Tex. 96.—Ib. P. A. N. S. 1855, 279; Birds N. Am. 1858, 17.—Coop. & Suckl. P. R. R. Rep’t, VII, ii, 1860, 146.—Coues, P. A. N. S. Philad. 1866, 18.—Gray, Hand List, I, 1869, 33.

Adult male (12,024, Fort Tejon, Cal.; J. Xantus). Forehead, crown, and occiput plumbeous-black, feathers of the latter with basal two-thirds snowy-white, partially exposed. Upper plumage deep plumbeous, darkest anteriorly, the back being scarcely lighter than the nape; rump fine bluish-plumbeous. No concealed white on the upper parts. Tail brownish-plumbeous, narrowly tipped with pure white, and with four sharply defined broad bands of black,—the first of which is faintest, and concealed by the coverts, the last broadest; shafts of tail-feathers deep brown throughout. Primaries and secondaries much darker than the tail, more bluish; less so, however, than the scapulars. Lores whitish, quite in contrast with the black of the forehead; cheeks and ear-coverts dark ashy, slightly washed with reddish, and with obscure darker streaks; chin and throat white, with sparse hair-like shaft-streaks of black. Breast, abdomen, sides, flanks, and tibiæ fine vinaceous-rufous; feathers (except on tibiæ) with fine hair-like shaft-streaks of black (much narrower than in cooperi); breast, abdomen, sides, and flanks with pairs of transverse ovoid white spots, not touching the shaft; on the abdomen the white and rufous bars are of about equal width; on the tibiæ the rufous is deepest, and exceeds the white; anal region barred with rufous, more faintly than the abdomen; lower tail-coverts snowy-white. Sides of the neck deep reddish-ashy, this washing the whole side of the breast. Lining of the wing reddish-white, with numerous crowded, cordate, somewhat blended spots of rufous; larger coverts transversely spotted with blackish; under side of primaries silvery-white (blackish for about the terminal inch), crossed with quadrate spots of blackish, of which there are about seven on the longest quill (fourth); the basal ones are, however, so much broken, that the number varies in different individuals.

Young male (Fort Tejon, California). Forehead, crown, occiput, and nape deep rusty-rufous; feathers with broad longitudinal streaks of pure black. Rest of upper parts deep umber, darkest on the back; feathers of back and rump, the upper tail-coverts, scapulars, and wing-coverts, broadly bordered with rusty; scapulars with concealed white spots. Tail ashy-umber, tipped (more broadly than in adult) with ashy-white, crossed by four broad bands of brownish-black; the last (or subterminal) of which is broadest, the first concealed by the coverts. Secondaries and primaries similar in color to the tail, but darker; the first showing five obsolete darker bands, and tipped (rather broadly) with pale cinnamon-rufous. Ear-coverts and cheeks fulvous-white, thickly streaked with dark brown. Lower parts white, washed with ochraceous on jugulum and breast; each feather with a central longitudinal lanceolate stripe of clear umber, the shaft of each black; these streaks are very narrow on the throat, broadest on the breast and flanks. Tibiæ with transversely ovate spots, and transverse bars of reddish-umber; lower tail-coverts with narrow shaft-streaks of darker brown. Lining of wing with cordate and ovate spots of dark brown.

Young female (42,136, Orizaba, Mexico; M. Botteri). Similar to the young male; feathers of back, etc., less broadly margined with rusty. Ochraceous wash on lower parts more decided; stripes beneath broader and less lanceolate; on the sides broadly ovate, and on the flanks in form of broad transverse bars; tibiæ more thickly spotted transversely; lower tail-coverts immaculate. Wing, 9.00; tail, 7.80; tarsus, 2.25; middle toe, 2.50. Fourth quill longest; third shorter than fifth; second intermediate between sixth and seventh; first, 2.90 shorter than longest. Graduation of tail, .90.

Hab. Western region of North America; Mexico.


National Museum, 22; Boston Society, 2; Museum, Cambridge, 2; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 2; Philadelphia Academy, 2; Coll. R. Ridgway, 2. Total, 32.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
8.50–9.85 7.50–9.20 .60–.70 2.10–2.75 1.30–1.65 24
10.20–10.60 9.30–10.50 .70–.75 2.65–2.75 1.65–1.75 4

Habits. This common Hawk appears to have a very general distribution over the United States, from South Carolina to New Brunswick, on the Atlantic; from Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, in the interior, to the Saskatchewan, and from Southern California to Washington Territory, on the Pacific. Mr. Boardman mentions it as found near Calais, but rare. Mr. Verrill cites it as occurring in Western Maine, but not common. I have received its eggs from South Carolina, where it is resident throughout the year. Mr. Dresser met with it not uncommon near San Antonio, and found it breeding on the Altascosa and Medina Rivers. Dr. Coues says it is generally distributed throughout the Territory of Arizona. Dr. Newberry found it common about San Francisco, and extending north of the Columbia River. Mr. A. Schott obtained a specimen on the Colorado River in Southern California, and Dr. Gambel and Dr. A. L. Heermann speak of it as common throughout that State, while Dr. Cooper and Dr. Suckley mention it as frequent both in Oregon and in Washington Territory. A single specimen was taken by Mr. Salvin in Guatemala. Dr. Cooper states that this Hawk is often killed about the farm-yards of Washington Territory, where it seizes on chickens before the very eyes of the owner, darting down like lightning, and disappearing again before he can see what has caused the disturbance. It is said to be a constant resident, and to breed within the Territory.

Nisus cooperi.

Mr. Audubon describes the flight of this Hawk as rapid, protracted, and even, and as performed at a short distance from the ground, or over the forest. It is said to move along in a silent gliding manner, and with a swiftness even superior to that of the Wild Pigeon, rarely deviating from a straight course except to seize its prey, and seldom mounting in the air in circles. It is very bold and daring, Mr. Audubon having known one to attack and kill a cock much larger and heavier than itself. It frequently attacks and kills the common Ruffed Grouse. It breeds in especial abundance in the Middle States, and particularly along the banks of the Potomac River. I have received reliable information of its nesting in Vermont, Massachusetts, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina, and probably nearly all of the States. Mr. Gosse did not meet with it in Jamaica.

Mr. Audubon states that he found its nest usually placed in the forks of the branch of an oak-tree, towards its extremity. In general appearance it resembles that of the common Crow, being composed externally of numerous crooked sticks, and having a slight lining of grasses and a few feathers. The eggs he describes as three or four in number, almost globular, large for the size of the bird, of a dull white color, granulated and rough to the touch.

Dr. Hoy, in a communication to the Boston Natural History Society, mentions finding four nests of this Hawk in a single season, and his careful observations of the habits of the parent birds enabled him to ascertain that in each instance the birds began to sit constantly upon their nest as soon as a single egg had been deposited, and that, as a consequence, the eggs having been deposited at varying intervals, each one was found in a different stage of incubation from the other. In not a single instance did he visit a nest without finding the parent bird occupying it.

These nests were all composed of sticks, rudely lined with strips of bark and a few bunches of Usnea barbata. The nests were quite shallow and small for a Hawk. Most of the eggs were sparingly sprinkled with umber-brown. One set of these eggs was blotched with bluish-green, which soon faded out. While the nests were being molested, the parent Hawk would fly from tree to tree, uttering, in rapid succession, quick-quick-quick-quick.

Dr. Hoy states that the male of this species, during the nesting-season, may frequently be seen flying high in the air, sporting, vaulting, and turning somersaults on the wing, which habit has given to it the name of Tumbler-Hawk. No Hawk is harder to shoot, and none commits greater havoc among barn-yard fowls than this species. He has seen one strike a large hen while she was flying wildly for safety, and kill her on the spot, though it was obliged to abandon the game, as it proved too heavy to carry off.

I have specimens of its eggs from South Carolina, obtained by the young sons of Rev. M. A. Curtis, of Society Hill. Mr. Curtis, Sen., furnished me with the following description of its nest: “The nest of the Cooper’s Hawk was built in the triple fork of a tall black gum (Nyssa multiflora), near the top of the tree, which stood in a swamp. It was formed of a layer of small sticks, ⅓ to ½ inch in diameter. Its external diameter varied from 1½ to 2 feet. This layer was ⅞ of an inch in thickness, with only a slight depression in the centre, hardly enough to keep the eggs from rolling out. A few thin pieces of pine bark formed the bed for the eggs.”

Another nest, obtained in Randolph, Vt., by Charles S. Paine, Esq., is thus described by him: “The nest was built of hemlock twigs, and lined with small, thin pieces of hemlock bark, such as hang loosely on the tree. The Hawk, when the nest was approached, did not whistle, as some others of that family do, but uttered a cry of ge! ge! ge! ge! This was repeated several times, with great rapidity, by both male and female.”

The average size of the eggs of this bird is 1.56 by 1.94 inches. The color is usually a uniform dull white, but is occasionally tinged with as light bluish shade. They are nearly spherical, though not more so than the eggs of several species, and are equal at either end. Their surface is slightly granulated. The number of the eggs varies from three to four, though occasionally there are five in a nest.

The maximum length of the egg of this species is 2.00 inches, the minimum 1.85; the maximum breadth 1.60, the minimum 1.50 inches. In occasional instances I have known the eggs of this species more or less distinctly marked, especially about the larger end, with blotches of a light yellowish-brown. Those most distinctly marked in this manner were taken and identified by Mr. Paine.

A nest of this Hawk, found by Dr. J. W. Velie, was built on a poplar-tree, about forty feet from the ground, and was composed of sticks and lined with moss and leaves. There was a small cleared space of three or four rods in extent, in the middle of which the tree stood, and about a quarter of a mile from the main channel of the Mississippi River, on Rock Island.

The Cooper Hawk was found on Mount Tom by Mr. William Street, nesting for the most part in pine or hemlock trees, usually choosing one in a thick clump. They begin to lay about the first of May, usually depositing four eggs. They are very shy, and it is almost impossible to get within shot of them, even when they have young. They rarely molest the poultry-yard, but seem to live chiefly on small birds and animals. They leave their nest at once whenever it is approached, and will not return until the intruder has gone.

The var. mexicanus, originally described by Mr. Swainson from Mexican specimens obtained near Real del Monte, has been ascertained to cross our boundaries, and is found in all the territory between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific, as far north as Washington Territory. Dr. Cooper has never met with this Hawk, but supposes its general habits, and especially those regulating its migrations, closely resemble those of A. cooperi, to which the bird itself, in all but size, is so similar. Dr. Coues speaks of it as a common resident species in Arizona. He states that he has seen young birds of this species, reared by the hand from the nest, become so thoroughly domesticated as to come to their master on being whistled for, and perch on his shoulder, or follow him when shooting small birds for their food. They were allowed their entire liberty. Their ordinary note was a shrill and harsh scream. A low, plaintive, lisping whistle was indicative of hunger.

Dr. Suckley, who met with this bird on Puget Sound, where a specimen was shot on a salt marsh, states that, while soaring about, it resembled in its motions the common Marsh Hawk, or Hen Harrier (Circus hudsonius).

Subgenus ASTUR, Lacepede.

The characters of this subgenus have been sufficiently indicated on page 221, so that it is unnecessary to repeat them here. The species of Astur are far less numerous than those of Nisus, only about six, including geographical races, being known. They are found in nearly all parts of the world, except tropical America, the Sandwich Islands, and the East Indies.

58982, ♀. ½

58982, ♀. ½

Astur atricapillus.

Species and Races.

A. palumbarius. Wing, 12.00–14.50; tail, 9.50–12.75; culmen, .80–1.00; tarsus, 2.70–3.15; middle toe, 1.70–2.20. Fourth quill longest; first shortest. Adult. Above, continuously uniform slate-color, or brown; the tail with several more or less distinct broad bands of darker, and narrowly tipped with white. Beneath white, with transverse lines or bars of the same color as the upper surface. Top of the head blackish; a streaked whitish superciliary stripe. Young. Above much variegated with brown and pale ochraceous; bands on the tail more sharply defined. Beneath pale ochraceous, with longitudinal stripes of dark brown.

Adult. Above umber-brown, without conspicuously darker shaft-streaks; top of the head dull dusky. Markings on the lower parts in the form of sharply defined, broad, detached, crescentic bars, and of an umber tint; throat barred. Tail with five broad, well-defined bands of blackish. Wing, 12.25–14.25; tail, 9.40–11.10; culmen, .80–.95; tarsus, 2.80–3.15; middle toe, 1.80–2.20. Hab. Northern portions of the Old World … var. palumbarius.83

Adult. Above bluish slate-color, with conspicuous darker shaft-streaks; top of the head deep black; markings on the lower parts in the form of irregularly defined, narrow, zigzag bars, or fine lines, of a bluish-slaty tint; throat not barred. Tail with only about four indistinct bands of blackish. Wing, 12.00–14.70; tail, 9.50–12.75; culmen, .80–1.00; tarsus, 2.70–3.20; middle toe, 1.70–2.00. Hab. Northern portions of North America … var. atricapillus.

Astur palumbarius, var. atricapillus (Wils.).

Falco atricapillus, Wils. Am. Orn. 1808, pl. lii, f. 3.—Bonap. Nouv. Giorn. Pisa, XXV, pt. ii, p. 55. Astur atricapillus, Bonap. Os. Cuv. Règ. An. p. 33.—Ib. List, 1838, 5; Consp. 31.—Wils. Am. Orn. II, 284.—Kaup, Monog. Falc. Jardine’s Contr. Orn. 1850, 66.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 19, pl. ii, fig. 4 (ad.), f. 5 (♂ juv.).—Nutt. Man. 85.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 118.—Newb. P. R. Rep. VI, iv, 74.—Coop. & Suck. P. R. Rep. XII, ii, 144.—Lord, Pr. R. A. I. IV, 1860, 110.—Blakiston, Ibis, III, 1861, 316.—Gray, Hand List, I, 1869, 29.—Brewer, Oölogy, 1857, 17. Falco palumbarius, Sab. Frankl. Exp. 670.—Bonap. Ann. N. Y. Lyc. II, 28.—Aud. Edinb. J. Nat. Geog. Sc. III, 145.—Ib. B. Am. pl. cxli; Orn. Biog. II, 241.—Giraud, B. Long Isl’d, 18.—Peab. B. Mass. III, 77. Astur palumbarius, Sw. & Rich. F. B. A. II, pl. xxvi.—James. Wils. Am. Orn. I, 63.—Aud. Syn. B. Am. 18.—Brewer, Wils. Am. Orn. 685, pl. i, fig. 5.—Gray, List B. Brit. Mus. 63.

Sp. Char. Adult male (44,940, Boston, Mass.; E. A. Samuels). Above continuous bluish-slate, shafts of the feather inconspicuously black; tail darker and less bluish, tipped with white (about .25 of an inch wide) and crossed by five broad, faintly defined bars of blackish, these most distinct on inner webs (the first concealed by the upper coverts, the second partially so; the last, or subterminal one, which is about twice as broad as the rest, measuring about one inch in width). Primaries darker than the tail (but not approaching black). Forehead, crown, occiput, and ear-coverts pure plumbeous-black; feathers snowy-white beneath the surface, much exposed on the occiput; a broad conspicuous supraoral stripe originating above the posterior angle of the eye, running back over the ear-coverts to the occiput, pure white, with fine streaks of black; lores and cheeks grayish-white. Lower parts white; the whole surface (except throat and lower tail-coverts) covered with numerous narrow transverse bars of slate; on the breast these are much broken and irregular, forming fine transverse zigzags; posteriorly they are more regular, and about .10 of an inch wide, the white a very little more. Chin, throat, and cheeks without transverse bars, but with very sharp shaft-lines of black; breast, sides, and abdomen, a medial longitudinal broad streak of slate on each feather, the shaft black; on the tibiæ, where the transverse bars are narrower and more regular, the shaft-streaks are also finer; anal region finely barred; lower tail-coverts immaculate pure white. Lining of the wing barred more coarsely and irregularly than the breast; under surface of primaries with white prevailing, this growing more silvery toward the ends; longest (fourth) with six oblique transverse patches of slate, the outlines of which are much broken. Wing-formula, 4, 5, 3–6–2; 1=10. Wing, 13.00; tail, 9.50; tarsus, 3.70, naked portion, 1.35; middle toe, 2.00; inner, 1.21; outer, 1.37; posterior, 1.00.

No. 8,508 (Fort Steilacoom, Puget Sound, Washington Territory; Dr. Suckley. Var. striatulus, Ridgway). Similar to No. 44,940, but the upper surface more bluish, the shafts of the feathers more conspicuously black; the dorsal feathers nearly black around their borders. Tail-bands nearly obsolete. Lower parts with the ground-color fine bluish-ash, sprinkled transversely with innumerable zigzag dots of white, these gradually increasing in width posteriorly, where they take the form of irregular transverse bars; crissum sparsely and coarsely sprinkled with slaty. Each feather of the lower parts with a very sharply defined narrow shaft-stripe of deep black, these contrasting conspicuously with the bluish, finely marked ground-color. Under surface of primaries uniform slaty to their bases, the usual white spots being almost obsolete. Wing-formula, 4–5, 3–6–2–7–8–9, 1. Wing, 12.50; tail, 9.10; tarsus, 2.60, the naked portion, 1.40; middle toe, 1.75.

Adult female (12,239, Brooklyn, N. Y.; J. Ackhurst). Almost precisely similar to the male. Slate above less bluish; bands on tail more distinct, five dark ones (about .75 of an inch in width) across the brownish-slate; obscure light bands indicated on outer webs of primaries, corresponding with those on inner webs; lores more grayish than in male; bars beneath more regular; longitudinal streaks blacker and more sharply defined. Wing, 14.25; tail, 11.25; tarsus, 1.60–1.20; middle toe, 1.95; inner, 1.40; outer, 1.45; posterior, 1.30.

No. 59,892, (Colorado; F. V. Hayden, var. striatulus, Ridgway). Similar to male No. 8,508, described above, but differing as follows: interscapulars uniform with the rest of the upper surface; tail-bands appreciable, much broader than in ♀, No. 12,239, the subterminal one being 1.61, the rest 1.10, wide, instead of 1.10 and .70. The longest upper tail-coverts with narrow white tips; white spots on inner webs of primaries more distinct. Black shaft-streaks on lower surface broader and more conspicuous. Wing-formula, 4, 3, 5–6–2–7, 1=10. Wing, 14.70; tail, 11.50; tarsus, 2.50; the naked portion, 1.10; middle toe, 2.00.

Young male (second year, No. 26,920, Nova Scotia, June; W. G. Winton). Plumage very much variegated. Head above, nape, and anterior portion of the back, ochraceous-white, each feather with a central stripe of brownish-black, these becoming more tear-shaped on the nape. Scapulars, back, wing-coverts, rump, and upper tail-coverts umber-brown; the feathers with lighter edges, and with large, more or less concealed spots of white,—these are largest on the scapulars, where they occupy the basal and middle thirds of the feathers, a band of brown narrower than the subterminal one separating the two areas; upper tail-coverts similarly marked, but white edges broader, forming conspicuous terminal crescentic bars. Tail cinereous-umber, with five conspicuous bands of blackish-brown, the last of which is subterminal, and broader than the rest; tip of tail like the pale bands; the bands are most sharply defined on the inner webs, being followed along the edges by the white of the edge, which, frequently extending along the margin of the black, crosses to the shaft, and is sometimes even apparent on the outer web; the lateral feather has the inner web almost entirely white, this, however, more or less finely mottled with grayish, the mottling becoming more dense toward the end of the feather; the bands also cross more obliquely than on the middle feathers. Secondaries grayish-brown, with five indistinct, but quite apparent, dark bands; primaries marked as in the adult, but are much lighter. Beneath pure white, all the feathers, including lower tail-coverts, with sharp, central, longitudinal streaks of clear dark-brown, the shafts of the feathers black; on the sides and tibiæ these streaks are expanded into a more acuminate, elliptical form; the crissum only is immaculate, although the throat is only very sparsely streaked; on the ear-coverts the streaks are very fine and numerous, but uniformly distributed.

No. 18,404 (west of Fort Benton, on the Missouri, May 16, 1864; Captain Jas. A. Mullan, var. striatulus). Similar to No. 26,920, but colors much darker. Upper parts with dark brown prevailing, the pale borders to the feathers very narrow, and the basal very restricted and concealed; upper tail-coverts deep ashy-umber, tipped narrowly with white, and with large subterminal, transversely cordate, and other anterior bars of dusky. Tail ashy-brown, much darker than in No. 26,920, with five broad, sharply defined bands of blackish, without any distinct light bordering bar. White of the lower parts entirely destitute of any yellowish tinge, the stripes much broader than in No. 26,920, and deep brownish-black, the shafts not perceptibly darker; tibiæ with transverse bars of dusky; lower tail-coverts with transverse spots of the same. Wing, 12.25; tail, 9.70.

Young female (second year, No. 26,921, Nova Scotia; W. G. Winton). Head above, nape, rump, and upper tail-coverts, with a deep ochraceous tinge; the characters of markings, however, as in the male. Bands on the tail more sharply defined, the narrow white bar separating the black from the grayish bands more continuous and conspicuous; lateral feathers more mottled; grayish tip of tail passing terminally into white. Beneath with a faint ochraceous wash, this most apparent on the lining of the wings and tibiæ; streaks as in the male, but rather more numerous, the throat being thickly streaked.

No. 11,740 (Puget Sound, October 26, 1858; Dr. C. B. Kennerly. Var. striatulus). Similar to No. 18,404, but more uniformly blackish above; tip of tail more distinctly whitish; stripes beneath broader and deeper black, becoming broader and more tear-shaped posteriorly, some of the markings on the flanks being cordate, or even transverse. Wing-formula, 4, 5, 3–6, 2–7–8–9–10=1. Wing, 13.00; tail, 10.80; tarsus, 2.80; middle toe, 1.80.

Young female (first year, No. 49,662, Calais, Me.; G. A. Boardman). Differs from the female in the second year (No. 26,921) as follows: On the wings and upper tail-coverts the yellowish-white spots are less concealed, or, in fact, this forms the ground-color; secondary coverts ochraceous-white, with two very distant transverse spots of dark brown, rather narrower than the white spaces; tips of feathers broadly white; secondaries grayish-brown, tipped with white, more mottled with the same toward bases, and crossed by five bands of dark brown, the first two of which are concealed by the coverts, the last quite a distance from the end of the feathers; upper tail-coverts white, mottled on inner webs with brown, each with two transverse broad bars, and a subterminal cordate spot of dark brown, the last not touching the edge of the feather, and the anterior bars both concealed by the overlaying feather. Tail grayish-brown, tipped with white, and with six bands of blackish-brown; these bordered with white as in the older stage. Markings beneath as in the older stage, but those on the sides more cordate. Wing-formula, 4, 5, 3–6–7–2–8–9, 1, 10. Wing, 14.00; tail, 11.50.

In regard to the form indicated in the above descriptions as “var. striatulus, Ridgway,” I am as yet undecided whether to recognize it as a geographical race, or to merely consider the two adult plumages as representing different ages of the same form. Certain it is that there is a decided difference in the young plumage, between the birds of this species from the eastern portion of North America and those from the western regions; these differences consisting in the very much darker colors of the western individuals, as shown by the above descriptions. My first impression in regard to the adult dress, after making the first critical examination of the series at my command, was, that the coarsely mottled specimens were confined to the east, and that those finely mottled beneath were peculiar to the west; and this view I am not yet prepared to yield. I have never seen an adult bird from any western locality which agrees with the eastern ones described above; all partake of the same characters as those described, in being finely and faintly mottled beneath, with sharp black shaft-streaks, producing the effect of a nearly uniform bluish ground, the black streaks in conspicuous contrast, the tail-bands nearly obsolete, etc. But occasional, not to say frequent, individuals obtained in the eastern States, which agree in these respects with the western style, rather disfavor the view that these differences are regional, unless we consider that these troublesome individuals, being, of course, winter migrants, have strayed eastward from the countries where they were bred. The Colorado female described above exhibits a rather suspicious feature in having a single feather, on the lower parts, which is coarsely barred, as in the eastern style, while all the rest are finely waved and marbled as in the western. If this would suggest that the differences supposed to be climatic or geographical are in reality only dependent on age, it would also indicate that the finely mottled individuals are the older ones.

If future investigations should substantiate this suggestion as to the existence of an eastern and a western race of Goshawk in North America, they would be distinguished by the following characters:—

Var. atricapillus. Adult. Markings of the lower surface coarse and ragged; feathers of the pectoral region with broad medial longitudinal streaks of the same slaty tint as the transverse bars, and with only the shafts black. Tail-bands distinct. Young. Pale ochraceous markings prevailing in extent over the darker (clear grayish-umber) spotting. Stripes beneath narrow, clear brownish; those on the flanks linear. Wing, 12.25–14.25; tail, 10.00–12.75; culmen, .80–1.00; tarsus, 2.90–3.15; middle toe, 1.70–1.95. Hab. Eastern region of North America.

Var. striatulus. Adult. Markings of the lower parts fine and delicate, and so dense as to present the appearance of a nearly uniform bluish-ashy surface; feathers of the pectoral region without the medial stripes of slaty, but with broad shaft-streaks of deep black, contrasting very conspicuously with the finely mottled general surface. Tail-bands obsolete. Young. Darker (brownish-black) markings prevailing in extent over the lighter (nearly clear white) ones. Stripes beneath broad, brownish-black; those on the flanks cordate and transverse. Wing, 12.00–13.60; tail, 9.50–12.20; culmen, .85–1.00; tarsus, 2.70–3.15; middle toe, 1.70–.185. Hab. Western region of North America.

Var. atricapillus.

National Museum, 8; Philadelphia Academy, 7; New York Museum, 3; Boston Society, 2; G. N. Lawrence, 4; W. S. Brewer, 2; Museum, Cambridge, 2; R. Ridgway, 2. Total, 30.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
12.25–13.00 10.00–10.50 .80–.85 2.90–3.05 1.70–1.80 5
14.00–14.25 11.50–12.75 .90–1.00 2.90–3.15 1.80–1.95 7
Var. striatulus.

National Museum, 9; R. Ridgway, 1; Museum, Cambridge, 1 (Massachusetts!). Total, 11.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
12.00–13.25 9.50–10.00 .85–.90 2.70–3.00 1.70–1.80 8
13.50–13.60 11.80–12.20 .90–1.00 3.00–3.15 1.85–0.00 2

Astur atricapillus.

Habits. The dreaded Blue Hen Hawk, as our Goshawk is usually called in New England, is a bird of somewhat irregular occurrence south of the 44th parallel. It occurs in the vicinity of Boston from November to March, but is never very common. In other parts of the State it is at times not uncommon at this season. It is common throughout Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Northern Maine, and may undoubtedly be found breeding in the northern portions of New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. In the summer of 1872, Mr. George Baxter, of Danville, Vt., procured a nest containing three young birds, which were sent to the New York Central Park. Mr. Downes speaks of it as “far too common” in the vicinity of Halifax, where it is very destructive to Ducks, Pigeons, and poultry. Mr. Boardman gives it as common near Calais, where it breeds, and where he has taken its eggs. Mr. Verrill mentions it as resident in Western Maine, where it is one of the most common Hawks. Mr. Allen found it usually rare near Springfield, but remarkably common during the winter of 1859–60. He afterwards mentions that since then, and for the last ten winters, he has known them to be quite common during several seasons. Mr. C. J. Maynard is confident that this species occasionally breed in Massachusetts. He once observed a pair at a locality in Weston, until the latter part of May. It was found breeding in Iowa by Mr. S. N. Marston. Mr. Victor Brooke records in the Ibis, 1870, p. 538, the occurrence, in Ireland, of an example of this species. It was shot in the Galtee Mountains, in February, 1870. The bird was a mature female, with the ovary somewhat enlarged. The stomach contained the remains of a rabbit.

On the Pacific coast it is comparatively rare in California, though much more abundant farther north, in Oregon and in Washington Territory. Dr. Cooper noticed several in the dense spruce forests of Washington Territory, and regarded it as a special frequenter of dark woods, where other Hawks are rarely seen. Dr. Suckley also obtained several specimens of this bird both at Fort Dalles and at Fort Steilacoom.

Sir John Richardson met with this Hawk and procured several specimens in the Arctic regions, and Captain Blakiston also met with it in the valley of the Saskatchewan. He states that it ranges throughout the interior from Hudson’s Bay to the Rocky Mountains and Mackenzie River. He found it breeding on the Saskatchewan, and one of his specimens was shot on its nest. The Goshawk was obtained at Sitka by Bischoff; and a pair was taken by Mr. Dall, April 24, 1867, within a few miles of Nulato Fort, on the Yukon River. The nest was on a large poplar, thirty feet above the ground, and made of small sticks. No eggs had been laid, but several nearly mature were found in the ovary of the female. The nest was on a small island in a thick grove of poplars, a situation which this species seemed to prefer. Mr. Dall adds that this was the most common Hawk in the valley of the Yukon, where it feeds largely on the White Ptarmigan (Lagopus albus), tearing off the skin and feathers, and eating only the flesh. Mr. Dall received skins from the Kuskoquim River, where it was said to be a resident species.

Dr. Suckley speaks of this Hawk as bold, swift, and strong, never hesitating to sweep into a poultry-yard, catch up a chicken, and make off with it almost in a breath. Its manner of seizing its prey was by a horizontal approach for a short distance, elevated but a few feet from the ground, a sudden downward sweep, and then, without stopping its flight, making its way to a neighboring tree with the struggling victim securely fastened in its talons. For strength, intrepidity, and fury, Dr. Suckley adds, it cannot be surpassed. It seems to display great cunning, seizing very opportune moments for its attacks. In one instance it was several days before he was able to have one of these birds killed, although men were constantly on the watch for it. So adroit was it in seizing opportunities to make its attacks, that it regularly visited the poultry-yard three times a day, and yet always contrived to escape unmolested. He found these birds much more plentiful during some months than at other times, and attributed it to their breeding in the retired recesses of the mountains, remaining there until their young were well able to fly, and then all descending to the open plains, where they obtain a more abundant supply of food.

Mr. Audubon states that in Maine the Goshawk was said to prey upon hares, the Canada and Ruffed Grouse, and upon Wild Ducks. They were so daring as to come to the very door of the farm-house, and carry off their prey with such rapidity as to baffle all endeavors to shoot them. Mr. Audubon found this Hawk preying upon the Wild Ducks in Canoe Creek, near Henderson, Ky., during a severe winter; as the banks were steep and high, he had them at a disadvantage, and secured a large number of them. They caught the Mallards with great ease, and, after killing them, tore off the feathers with great deliberation and neatness, eating only the flesh of the breast.

The flight of this bird he describes as both rapid and protracted, sweeping along with such speed as to enable it to seize its prey with only a slight deviation from its course, and making great use of its long tail in regulating both the direction and the rapidity of its course. It generally flies high, with a constant beat of the wings, rarely moving in large circles in the manner of other Hawks. It is described as a restless bird, vigilant and industrious, and seldom alighting except to devour its prey. When perching, it keeps itself more upright than most other Hawks.

Audubon narrates that he once observed one of these birds give chase to a large flock of the Purple Grakles, then crossing the Ohio River. The Hawk came upon them with the swiftness of an arrow; the Blackbirds, in their fright, rushing together in a compact mass. On overtaking them, it seized first one, and then another and another, giving each a death-squeeze, and then dropping it into the water. In this manner it procured five before the poor birds could reach the shelter of a wood; and then, giving up the chase, swept over the waters, picking up the fruits of its industry, and carrying each bird singly to the shore.

Mr. Audubon, who observed these Hawks in the Great Pine Forest of Pennsylvania, and on the banks of the Niagara River, near the Falls, describes a nest as placed on the branches of a tree, and near the trunk. It was of great size, and resembled that of a Crow in the manner of its construction, but was much flatter. It was made of withered twigs and coarse grass, with a lining of fibrous strips of plants resembling hemp. Another, found by Mr. Audubon in the month of April, contained three eggs ready to be hatched. In another the number was four.

Mr. Dall states that the eggs are usually four in number, of a greenish-white color, and were usually all laid by the first of May. An egg of this bird, obtained by Mr. Dall at Nulato, April 27, 1858, measures 2.28 inches in length and 1.90 in breadth. It is of a rounded-oval shape, and is of a uniform dead-white color, with hardly a tinge of green. Another, obtained by Mr. Charles Pease near the head-waters of the Unalakleet River, measures 2.32 by 1.80 inches, and the ground-color is more distinctly greenish-white. A few small spots of a bronze-brown are scattered in isolated marking irregularly over the egg. Lieutenant Bendire writes that he has found the eggs of this Hawk in Montana; that their number in a set is usually two, and an unspotted white.

Genus ASTURINA, Vieillot.

Asturina, Vieill. 1816. (Type, Falco nitidus, Latham.)

Gen. Char. Somewhat similar to Astur, but of much heavier and more robust build; tarsi longer and stouter, tail shorter and less rounded, wings longer, etc. Bill more elongated than in Astur, the cere longer, and the festoon on the commissure more developed; nostril oval, horizontal. Wings rather short, but less concave beneath than in Astur; third to fourth quill longest; first shorter than eighth or ninth; four outer quills with their inner webs sinuated. Tail considerably shorter than the wing, slightly emarginated, the lateral pair of feathers longest. Feet large and robust, when outstretched reaching almost to the end of the tail; tarsi very robust compared to the toes, about one and a half times as long as the middle toe, the frontal and posterior rows of transverse scutellæ very distinct and regular; outer toe longer than inner; claws strong, well curved, but not very acute. Sexes alike in color; old and young plumages very different.

34002, ♀. ½

34002, ♀. ¼

34002, ♀. ½

Asturina plagiata.

This genus is peculiar to tropical America, and contains but a single species, the A. nitida, with its two climatic races, nitida of South America and plagiata of Middle America. The species of Rupornis, Kaup (R. magnirostris and R. leucorrhoa), have been associated with the species of the present genus, but they are very distinct. The genera (or, more properly, subgenera) most nearly related to Asturina are Leucoptrinis, Kaup, of tropical America, and Kaupifalco, Bonap., of Western Africa. The former differs mainly in more or less rounded, instead of emarginated, tail, and in having the old and young plumages similar; the latter in having the posterior face of the tarsus without a well-defined row of transverse scutellæ.

Species and Races.

A. nitida. Wing, 9.80–11.50; tail, 6.70–8.00; culmen, .80–1.00; tarsus, 2.50–2.90; middle toe, 1.40–1.75. Adult. Above clear ash, paler on the head and darker on the rump; the general surface with more or less appreciable transverse bars, or indications of bars, of a paler shade, and with darker shafts. Upper tail-coverts immaculate white. Tail deep black, fading into pale grayish-brown at the end, narrowly tipped with white, and crossed by two to three white bands. Lower parts, including the tibiæ, axillars, and throat, regularly barred with deep ash and white, the two colors about equal in extent; chin and crissum immaculate white. Young. Above blackish-brown, variegated with pinkish-ochraceous. Tail umber, tipped with pinkish-brown or dull whitish, and crossed by six to seven narrow bands of black. Beneath white, sometimes tinged with ochraceous; the breast, abdomen, and sides with longitudinal tear-shaped spots of black.

Adult. Upper surface distinctly barred, the lighter bars predominating; the top of the head as distinctly barred as the lower parts. Young. Tibiæ immaculate white or pale ochraceous. Culmen, .80–.90. Hab. South America, from S. E. Brazil and W. Ecuador, to Panama … var. nitida.84

Adult. Upper surface only obsoletely barred, or almost uniform; the top of the head without any bars. Young. Tibiæ transversely barred with dusky. Culmen, .75–.80. Hab. Middle America, north to the southern border of the United States; straying northward in the Mississippi Valley, to Southern Illinois … var. plagiata.

Asturina nitida, var. plagiata (Schleg.).

Asturina nitida, Cass. Birds N. Am. 1858, 35.—Scl. & Salv. Ibis, 1859, 217.—Salv. Ibis, 1861, 68.—Scl. P. Z. S. 1857, pp. 201, 227; 1859, pp. 368, 389; 1864, 178.—Lawr. Ann. N. Y. Lyc. IX, 133.—Owen, Ibis, III, 1868 (egg white). Asturina cinerea, Cass. P. A. N. S. 1855, 283 (not of Vieill.!). Asturina plagiata, Schleg. Mus. Pays-Bas. Asturinæ, p. 1.—Scl. & Salv. P. Z. S. 1868, 173; 1869, 130.—Gray, Hand List, I, 30, 1869.—Ridgw. Am. Nat. VI, July, 1872, 430; VII, April, 1873, 203; (Southern Illinois, August).

Sp. Char. Adult male (51,343, Mazatlan, Mexico; Ferd. Bischoff. “Length, 16.00; extent, 38.00”). Above deep, rather dark cinereous, becoming paler and finer on the head above, where the feathers have the shafts (finely) black; wings with obsolete lighter bars; rump almost black. Upper tail-coverts immaculate pure white. Tail pure black, tipped with pale grayish-brown (this passing terminally into white); about 1½ inches from the tip is a continuous band of white, half an inch in width; and a little over an inch anterior to this is another narrower and less perfect one. Primaries approaching black at ends; the tips broadly edged with dull white, as also the ends of secondaries. Head uniform fine delicate ashy, becoming white on chin and throat, and approaching the same on the forehead; shafts of feathers on head above, and neck, black; neck with obsolete paler transverse bars, these most distinct on jugulum; the breast, abdomen, sides, flanks, axillars, and tibiæ are regularly barred transversely with cinereous and pure white, the bars of each about equal, the white, however, gradually increasing, and the ashy bars narrowing posteriorly, the tibiæ being finely barred; lower tail-coverts immaculate pure white. Lining of the wing white, with very sparse, faint, transverse zigzag bars next the axillars and on larger coverts; under surface of primaries white anterior to their emargination, beyond which they are more silvery, leaving about an inch of the terminal portion black, the end of each, however, ashy; outer two quills crossed by narrow bars of ashy, the rest with indications of the same, near the shaft. Fourth quill longest; third scarcely shorter; second shorter than fifth; first intermediate between eighth and ninth. Wing, 10.50; tail, 7.00; tarsus, 2.60; middle toe, 1.50.

Adult female (34,002, Mazatlan, June; Colonel Grayson). Cinereous above darker, the fasciæ of the wings hardly observable; front and throat scarcely whitish; rump almost pure black; second tail-band much broken and restricted. Ashy prevailing on the jugulum; ashy bars beneath rather broader. Wings, 11.00; tail, 7.50; tarsus, 2.80; middle toe, 1.70.

Young male (35,060, Rio de Coahuyana, W. Mexico, October; J. Xantus). Above, from bill to upper tail-coverts, dark bistre-brown, almost black; feathers of the head and neck edged laterally with pinkish-ochraceous, or sulphuret of manganese color; scapulars with nearly whole outer webs of this color, they being blackish only along edges and at ends; middle wing-coverts spotted with the same. Secondaries and primaries faintly tipped with whitish; secondaries with indications of darker bands, and outer webs of primaries with still more obscure ones; upper tail-coverts white, with sagittate specks of black, one or two on each. Tail umber-brown (considerably lighter than the wings), tipped with pinkish-ash (this passing terminally into dull white), and crossed with six or seven bands of black (these becoming gradually, but very considerably, narrower toward the base). Beneath white, with vinaceous tinge (this deepest laterally); breast, abdomen, and sides with large tear-shaped or cuneate spots of black; tibiæ with numerous transverse bars of the same.

Young female. Similar to last, but the brown lighter, and more approaching umber.

Hab. Middle America (from coast to coast), from Costa Rica and Guatemala to southern border of United States. Arizona, breeding (Bendire). Southern Illinois (Richland Co.) June (Ridgway).


National Museum, 13; Philadelphia Academy, 3; Boston Society, 5; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 1; R. Ridgway, 2. Total, 24.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
9.80–11.50 7.20–7.80 .85–.95 2.50–2.70 1.55–1.70 7
9.50–11.30 6.70–8.00 .80–1.00 2.75–2.70 1.40–1.75 4
⚪? 10.00–11.70 6.80–8.00 .90–.95 2.65–2.80 1.50–1.65 4

Habits. This is a Mexican and Central American Hawk, which occasionally crosses the borders of the United States, having been seen by Mr. Ridgway in Southern Illinois, and found breeding, by Captain Bendire, in Arizona, near Tucson. It has been found in the State of New Leon, one of the most northern provinces of Mexico, by Lieutenant Couch, who has, however, supplied no notes as to any peculiarities in its habits. It was said to breed in the tops of lofty trees, and to have eggs of a greenish-white, resembling those of Astur atricapillus. In Central America it is said by Salvin to be abundant in the hot country on both coast regions of the Republic of Guatemala, but it is not found in the temperate regions. Its food consists of lizards, and its flesh is in consequence very rank.

Asturina plagiata.

Mr. Robert Ridgway has met with this Hawk as far to the north as Southern Illinois. It was seen and twice shot at on the 19th of August, 1871, on Fox Prairie, in Richland County. Mr. Ridgway came across it while hunting Swallow-tail and Mississippi Kites. The bird, while being annoyed by these Hawks, was well seen, and there cannot be the slightest doubt as to its identity.

Mr. Robert Owen found this Hawk, known in Guatemala by the local name of Gavilan, a common name for the whole race of birds of prey, breeding at San Geronimo, April 3, 1860. The nests are usually found in the high trees which are scattered over the plain, and not unfrequently within a few yards of the Indian ranchos. Two eggs seemed to be the complement laid by one bird. These eggs are described by Mr. Owen as all white, without any natural coloring. The inner coating of the shell is sea-green, seeming to confirm the apparently close connection between the genera of Astur and Asturina.

Mr. G. C. Taylor met what he presumed to be this Hawk in great abundance at Comayagua, Honduras, in January. He saw a pair making their nest on the top of a lofty cotton-tree.

Captain Bendire found this species not uncommon and breeding in the vicinity of Tucson, in Arizona. He found two nests, one of which was taken June 6, the other a few days later. They were very slightly built of sticks and strips of bark, and placed in low trees on the banks of Reledo Creek. The nest contained two eggs. These are of a rounded oval shape, are quite tapering at one end and rounded at the other. They are of a uniform bluish-white color and unspotted, and measure 2.00 inches in length by 1.60 inches in breadth.

Genus ANTENOR, Ridgway.

42559, ♀. ¼

42559, ♀. ½

42559, ♀. ½

Parabuteo harrisi.

Gen. Char. Similar to Asturina, but form heavier, the bill and wings more elongated, the tail slightly rounded, and the lores almost naked. Bill very much as in Asturina, but more elongated, the top of the cere longer in proportion to the culmen, and the commissural lobe more anterior; the upper and lower outlines more nearly parallel. Nostril oval, horizontal, with an exposed cartilaginous tubercle. Lores nearly naked, with scant bristles. Wing long (much as in Buteo); the fourth or fifth quill longest, and the first shorter than the eighth to the tenth; outer four with inner webs sinuated. Tail long, more than two thirds the wing; even or slightly rounded. Feet robust, when outstretched reaching nearly to the end of the tail; tarsus nearly twice the length of the middle, very robust, the frontal and posterior rows of scutellæ very distinct; outer toe longer than the inner; claws strong, well curved, and acute. Sexes alike; young and old plumages very different.

This genus includes a single species, the P. unicinctus, with its two climatic races, unicinctus of South America and harrisi of Middle America. It is most nearly related to the genus Urubitinga, of tropical America, the species of which are sluggish and almost Caracara-like in their habits, though they are hardly more so than our own Buteones. The genus Craxirex of Gould having been founded upon Buteo galapagoensis, a species strictly congeneric with B. borealis, it is necessary that a new generic name should be instituted for the present species, since it so well merits separation to that rank. I accordingly propose the name given at the head of this chapter.

Species and Races.

P. unicinctus. Wing, 11.65–14.60; tail, 9.00–11.00; culmen, .82–1.10; tarsus, 2.78–3.75; middle toe, 1.52–2.00. Adult. General color brownish-black or blackish-brown, uniform, or slightly variegated by light spotting; the lesser wing-coverts and tibiæ deep rufous, or chestnut. Tail black; the end and base white, as are also the tail-coverts. Young. Plumage greatly variegated. Above blackish-brown, the feathers edged with rusty; head and neck streaked with pale ochraceous. Lower parts pale ochraceous or yellowish-white, the breast and abdomen with longitudinal ovoid spots of blackish; tibiæ with transverse bars of dark rusty; lower tail-coverts with black shaft-streaks. Lesser wing-covert region only washed with rufous. Tail grayish-brown, whitish at the tip, and crossed by narrow bands of dusky.

Adult with the blackish much broken up by lighter spotting. Wing, 11.65–14.60; tail, 9.00–10.50; culmen, .82–1.02; tarsus, 2.78–3.40; middle toe, 1.52–1.85. Hab. South America … var. unicinctus.86

Adult with the blackish continuous and uniform. Wing, 12.35–14.50; tail, 9.80–11.00; culmen, .90–1.10; tarsus, 3.15–3.75; middle toe, 1.65–2.00. Hab. Middle America, north into southern border of United States … var. harrisi.

Parabuteo unicinctus, var. harrisi (Ridgway).

Falco harrisi, Aud. B. Am. pl. cccxcii, 1831.—Ib. Orn. Biog. V, 30. Buteo harrisi, Aud. Synop. 1839, 5.—Bonap. List, 3.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 11.—Craxirex unicinctus, var. harrisi, Ridgway, P. A. N. S. Philad. Dec. 1870, p. 142. Buteo unicinctus, var. harrisi, Coues, Key, 1872, 215. “Craxirex unicinctus, Temm.Cass. Birds N. Am. 1858, 46.—Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 329 (Texas).—Coues, P. A. N. S. 1866, 13 (Arizona).

Sp. Char. Adult male (17,230, Cape St. Lucas, Lower California; J. Xantus). General plumage uniform sooty-black, purest on the tail, somewhat tinged with chestnut on the rump. Lesser wing-coverts and lateral half of each web of middle coverts, also the tibiæ, rich deep chestnut, perfectly uniform. Upper and lower tail-coverts, and broad basal and terminal zones of tail, pure white, the anterior band concealed (except on outer feathers) by the upper coverts, and about twice the width of the last, which is about 1 inch wide. Tail-coverts with a few irregular narrow shaft-streaks of blackish. Lining of wing deep chestnut, like the shoulders; each greater covert with a black shaft-streak; primaries beneath plain black. Wing, 14.50; tail, 10.00; tarsus, 3.25; middle toe, 2.00. Fourth and fifth quills longest and equal; third considerably shorter; second intermediate between sixth and seventh; first 3.40 shorter than longest.

Adult female (42,559, Iztlan, Mexico; Colonel Grayson). Generally similar to the male; the black, however, less pure and more brownish, the chestnut more extended, the whole rump being of this color, the last feathers merely being blackish in the middle. White of tail-coverts without blackish streaks. Wing, 14.60; tail, 10.30; tarsus, 3.25; middle toe, 1.95.

Immature male (second year, 50,763, Tepic, Mexico; Colonel Grayson). Upper parts similar to adult, but less uniform; the nape and back with feathers edged with rusty; sides of head and neck very much streaked. Breast and abdomen light ochraceous, with large longitudinal oval spots of black; tibiæ light ochraceous, with rather distant transverse bars of dark rusty-brown; lower tail-coverts ochraceous-white, with black shaft-lines. Rufous on the wings more extended and more broken; none on the rump. Terminal band of tail narrower and less sharply defined than in adult; inner webs of primaries with basal two-thirds white, irregularly mottled with dusky. “Iris chestnut-brown; cere, chin, and space round the eyes yellow.”

Immature female (second year, 15,260, Fort Buchanan, New Mexico; Dr. Irwin). Black spots beneath larger and more irregularly defined; tibiæ strongly barred with dark rufous; posterior edge of basal band of tail much broken.

Hab. Middle, or northern tropical, America, from the Isthmus of Panama northward into the southern United States; Mississippi (Audubon); Texas (Mus. S. I.; Dresser); Arizona (Coues).

Localities: Guatemala (Scl. Ibis, I, 216).


National Museum, 13; Philadelphia Academy, 3; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 2; Coll. R. Ridgway, 1. Total, 19.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
12.35–13.75 9.80–10.20 .90–.95 3.15–3.20 1.65–1.70 8
14.25–14.50 10.80–11.00 1.08–1.10 3.40–3.75 1.90–2.00 6

Habits. This Hawk has a very limited range within the United States, and Mr. Audubon, who was the first to meet with it there, obtained only a single specimen from Louisiana. Supposing it to be an undescribed species, he named it in honor of his friend, Mr. Edward Harris.

Parabuteo harrisi.

This species is occasionally found in the lower portions of the States of Mississippi and Louisiana, but becomes much more abundant in the southwestern sections of the latter State, and in Texas is common, especially about the mouth of the Rio Grande. In one variety or the other it is frequently met with throughout Mexico, and Central America, and is also said to be an occasional visitant of Cuba and Jamaica.

Mr. Dresser found this Hawk common throughout Texas to the Colorado River, beyond which he noticed but few. It was the only Hawk he noticed at Matamoras in the summer. He describes it as a heavy, sluggish bird, seldom seen on the wing, and subsisting, so far as he could see, entirely on carrion. All along the road from Brownsville to San Antonio, he noticed it either perched on some tree by the roadside, or busy, in company with Vultures and Caracaras, regaling on some offensive carrion. He found it breeding in the neighborhood of San Antonio, Medina, and Altascosa Rivers, having eggs in the month of May. A nest found on the 4th of May, near the Medina River, was built of sticks, very slightly lined, and was placed in a low hackberry-tree. The eggs were four in number, and described as white, with a faint bluish tinge, very sparingly spotted and blotched with red.

Other writers also agree in representing this Hawk as heavy and sluggish in habit, and as frequenting streams of water, and its food as consisting chiefly of the reptiles and smaller animals which frequent the banks of rivers and creeks. It builds its nests on low trees, in the immediate vicinity of its hunting-ground, and often over the water, constructing them of coarse flags and water-plants. The nests are usually not very large for the birds, are flattened or with very slight depressions, and the materials are very loosely put together. The eggs are from three to five in number, usually white and unspotted, occasionally with more or less of a yellowish or tawny tinge. In some instances they are faintly marked with light dashes or stains of a yellowish-brown, and, more rarely, are also marked with small blotches of sepia-brown, and with smaller dottings of purplish-drab. Their average measurement is, length 2.13, breadth 1.69 inches.

Our knowledge of the eggs of these Hawks is derived from the collection of the late Dr. Berlandier, of Matamoras, in the Province of Tamaulipas, Mexico. In the cabinet of that gentleman were several varieties, now in the possession of the Smithsonian Institution, and presented to it by Lieutenant Couch.

Onychotes gruberi, Type, (41703. California.)

41703 ¼ ½

Onychotes gruberi.

Genus ONYCHOTES, Ridgway.

Onychotes, Ridgway, P. A. N. S. Philad. Dec. 1870, 142. (Type, O. gruberi, nov. sp.)

Gen. Char. Bill short, the tip remarkably short and obtuse, and only gradually bent; cere on top about equal to the culmen, very broad basally in its transverse diameter, and ascending, in its lateral outline, on a line with the culmen; commissure only faintly lobed. Nostril nearly circular, with a conspicuous (but not central or bony) tubercle; cere densely bristled below the nostril, almost to its anterior edge; orbital region finely bristled. Tarsus very long and slender, nearly twice the length of the middle toe; toes moderate, the outer one decidedly longer than the inner; claws very long, strong, and sharp, and curved in about one quarter the circumference of a circle. Tibial feathers short and close, the plumes scarcely reaching below the joint. Feathers of the forehead, gular region, sides, and tibiæ, with white filamentous attachments to the end of the shafts. Wing very short, much rounded, and very concave beneath; fourth quill longest; first shorter than ninth; four primaries emarginated, and one sinuated, on inner webs; five sinuated on outer webs. Tail about two thirds as long as wing, rounded. Outstretched feet reaching beyond end of tail.

This genus has no very near relatives among the American Falconidæ, nor, indeed, among those of other portions of the world. It is, perhaps, most closely related to the genus Rupornis, of South America, from which, however, it is very distinct. It is represented by a single species, the type of which, supposed to have come from California, still remains unique.

The elongated legs, reaching considerably beyond the rather short tail, the close thigh-plumes, the long and extremely acute claws (somewhat like those of Rostrhamus), with the short, rounded, and very concave wing, are its most striking peculiarities. Besides these distinguishing features, the short, thick bill, very deep through the base, and the filamentous attachments to the shafts of the feathers of certain parts of the body, are also very characteristic. The latter feature may possibly be a mark of immaturity, but I have seen nothing like it in other Raptores, and it seems to be more analogous to the nuptial ornaments seen in the Cormorants (Phalocrocoracidæ).


O. gruberi. Wing, 10.10; tail, 6.50; culmen, about .80; tarsus, 2.70; middle toe, 1.45; posterior claw, 1.00, its digit .80. Immature (?). Uniform grayish-umber, tinged with dull rufous on the neck; lining of the wing and tibiæ dull grayish-cinnamon. Primaries inclining to black, and showing just discernible, obscure hoary bars on their basal half. Tail brownish-gray, with a hoary cast nearer the shaft (not paler at the tip), and crossed with nine or ten narrow bars of dusky, these becoming hardly distinguishable basally and terminally. Inner webs of the primaries plain white anterior to their emargination. Head laterally and beneath obsoletely streaked with whitish. Hab. “California.”

Onychotes gruberi, Ridgway.

Onychotes gruberi, Ridgway, Pr. Ac. Nat. Sc. Phil. Dec. 1870, p. 149.

Onychotes gruberi.

Sp. Char. Immature? (41,703, “California”; F. Gruber). Outstretched feet reaching beyond tail. General plumage dull dark-bistre, with a grayish-umber cast in some lights, darkest on the head above and back; the posterior lower parts paler and more reddish; throat and neck much tinged with pale rusty (this obsoletely bordering the feathers, which here have fine whitish filaments attached to the shafts); primaries uniform black. Tail like the rump, but with a more hoary tinge (not paler at the tip), and crossed with seven or eight very narrow obscure bars of darker, the last of which is distant an inch or more from the end. Lining of wing dark bistre, much tinged with rusty, this prevalent toward the edge; under surface of primaries white anterior to their emargination, beyond which they are ashy, approaching black at ends; ashy portion with distant, very obsolete, dusky bars, but the cheeks and throat streaked obsoletely with this color. No distinct white anywhere about the head or neck. Wing, 10.00; tail, 5.80; tarsus, 2.70; middle toe, 1.40; inner, .90; outer, 1.10; posterior, .80; hind claw, 1.00 (chord); inner claw, .91; on front of tarsus, twelve exposed large transverse scutellæ; only 1.70 of the tarsus exposed.

The type of this species still remains unique. It was sent to the Smithsonian Institution by Mr. Gruber, who labelled it as having been obtained in California. Nothing is known of its habits.

Genus BUTEO, Cuvier.

Gen. Char. Form robust and heavy, the wings long, and rather pointed, the tail moderate and rounded, the bill and feet strong. Bill intermediate between that of Astur and that of Parabuteo. Wing long and rather pointed, the third to fifth quill longest, the first shorter than eighth; three to four with inner webs emarginated. Tail moderate, slightly rounded.

1750, ♀. ½

1750, ♀.

10571, ♀. ½

10571, ♀. ¼

Buteo borealis (1750; 10571).

52763, ♂. ½

Buteo zonocercus (52763).

58505, ♀. ¼

Buteo swainsoni (58505).

The species of this genus are very numerous, especially within the tropics, and are found all over the world, except in Australia. About thirty nominal species are known, of which about fifteen distinct species, not including geographical races, belong to America. A single species, B. solitarius (Pandion solitarius, Peale), (Gray’s Hand List, I, 15, No. 136,) belongs to the Sandwich Islands. The genus seems to be wanting in the Australian and East Indian regions.

The following species and races belong to the North American fauna.

Species and Races.

A. Three outer primaries with their inner webs cut or emarginated.

1. B. pennsylvanicus. Wing, 9.85–11.40; tail, 6.30–8.00; culmen, .70–.80; tarsus, 2.15–2.80; middle toe, 1.20–1.40. Third to fourth quill longest; first shorter than seventh. Adult. Tail dull black, paler at the tip, crossed by two to four bands of dilute umber, or brownish-white, varying in width, but the last always broadest. Upper tail-coverts tipped and barred with white. Lower parts dull rufous-brown, nearly unbroken on the breast, but posteriorly much variegated with roundish transverse spots of white, forming broad transverse bars, interrupted by the dusky shaft. Upper parts dark umber, darker on the back. Young. Tail dull grayish-umber, growing darker terminally, narrowly tipped with whitish, and crossed by about six narrow and indistinct bands of dusky; these gradually becoming obsolete basally, the last much broader. Lower parts white, or light ochraceous, with longitudinal spots of dark brown or blackish on the sides of the breast and abdomen, and roundish or transversely cordate ones on the sides, flanks, and tibiæ. A conspicuous “mustache” on the cheeks, from the rictus down. Upper parts much as in the adult. Hab. Eastern North America, and Middle America, south to Bogota and Caraccas.

2. B. swainsoni. Wing, 12.00–17.00; tail, 6.50–9.00; culmen, .80–.95; tarsus, 2.95–2.70; middle toe, 1.50–1.70. Third to fourth (usually third) quills longest; first usually longer than seventh. Adult. Tail dark grayish-brown, sometimes with a hoary cast, crossed by five to seven, or more, narrow bands of dusky, usually very obscure, and becoming obsolete basally. Colors of other portions extremely variable; the upper parts, however, continuous, unvariegated, dark brown, or blackish; the lower parts sometimes also entirely dusky, except the tail-coverts, which are always (?) barred with white. Normal plumage. A dark area covering the jugulum and breast, dull rufous in the ♂, and dark grayish-brown in the ♀. Other lower parts whitish, sometimes pure, and nearly immaculate, but usually more or less tinged with ochraceous and rufous, and transversely barred with various shades of brown. Young. Tail hoary brownish-gray, crossed by numerous, very indistinct, narrow bands of darker, and faintly tipped with whitish. Ground-color of the head, neck, and lower parts, light ochraceous, or cream-color (sometimes nearly white), the anterior upper parts with large longitudinally ovate spots of black; these assuming the form of streaks on the head and neck. Sides of the breast with an aggregation of larger spots of the same, and sides with sparser hastate or deltoid spots. Upper parts purplish-black, more or less variegated with ochraceous; the relative proportion of the two colors varying with the individual.

Wing, 14.40–17.00; tail, 8.00–9.50; culmen, .80–.95; tarsus, 2.30–2.70; middle toe, 1.50–1.70. Weight 1½–3½ lbs. Hab. Western Province of North America, from the Mississippi Valley, and the region of the Great Lakes (Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, to Arkansas, also Canada and Massachusetts) to the Pacific … var. swainsoni.

Wing, 12.00–15.30; tail, 6.50–9.00; culmen, .85–.90; tarsus, 1.95–2.60; middle toe, 1.50–1.60. Colors similar, but the young paler than that of var. swainsoni. Adult unknown. Hab. Middle and South America, and southern border of the western United States, from New Mexico to Buenos Ayres (two specimens, Costa Rica, and Buenos Ayres, Mus. S. I.) … var. oxypterus.

B. Four outer primaries with their inner webs cut.

a. Form light, the legs slender; tail of adult without a subterminal band of black more distinct than the others.

3. B. zonocercus. Wing, 15.50–17.40; tail, 8.50–10.75; culmen, .90; tarsus, 2.50–2.80; middle toe, 1.60–1.85. Entirely deep black, with more or less concealed pure white spotting. Adult. Tail carbonaceous-black, with three very broad zones, of pure white on inner webs and ash on the outer webs. Young. Tail dark brown, the inner webs more or less, sometimes entirely, white, crossed by numerous oblique bands of black. Hab. Mexico (chiefly western?) and adjacent southwestern portions of the United States (Arizona, Coues; Southern California, San Diego, Cooper).

4. B. lineatus. Wing, 11.25–14.25; tail, 8.00–10.00; culmen, .75–.90; tarsus, 2.70–3.25; middle toe, 1.30–1.50. Fourth to fifth quill longest; first shorter than seventh. Outer webs of the primaries with quadrate spots of whitish; lesser wing-coverts dark rufous; lower parts rufous more or less barred with whitish, or whitish spotted longitudinally with dusky. Adult. Head, neck, lesser wing-coverts, and lower parts deep rufous, the lower parts more or less barred posteriorly with whitish. Primaries and tail black; the former with quadrate spots of pure white on the outer webs, and the latter crossed by six narrow bands of pure white, and tipped with the same. Young. Head, neck, and lower parts whitish, usually more or less tinged with ochraceous, and with longitudinal markings of dusky. Primaries and tail dusky; the former mostly ochraceous anterior to the sinuation of their outer webs, the latter crossed by numerous narrow bands of pale grayish-brown, these becoming paler and more ochraceous toward the base. Lesser wing-coverts more or less tinged with dark rufous.

Adult. Lower parts light rufous barred with white. Young. White prevailing on the lower parts. Hab. Eastern Province of the United States … var. lineatus.

Adult. Lower parts deep dark rufous, almost free from bars, except posteriorly. Young. Dark spotting on the lower parts predominating. Hab. Pacific Province, and southern Western Province, of the United States … var. elegans.

b. Form robust and heavy, the tarsus stout; tail of the adult with a subterminal band of black broader than the other.

5. B. borealis. Wing, 13.25–17.75; tail, 8.50–11.30; culmen, .90–1.15; tarsus, 2.70–3.40; middle toe, 1.60–1.95. Weight, 2½ to 4 lbs. Third to fifth quill longest; first shorter than seventh and shorter than tenth. Colors extremely variable, ranging from entirely pure white beneath, through various shades of ochraceous and rusty, and greater or less amount of darker spots and bars, to an entirely uniform brownish-black. Adult. Tail deep rufous, generally paler at the tip; with or without black bars. Young. Tail grayish-brown, crossed by nine or ten bands of black, much narrower than the gray ones. Lower parts always with white predominating.

Tibiæ and lower tail-coverts without transverse bars, at any age. Lower parts with white always predominating. Tail never with more than one bar of black.

Feathers of the head and neck edged laterally with rufous; scapulars and wing-coverts much variegated with whitish; upper tail-coverts white, barred with rufous. Throat with blended streaks of blackish, this usually predominating; tibiæ and lower tail-coverts plain yellowish-white. Hab. Eastern Province of North America, to the Missouri plains … var. borealis.

Similar, but colors much paler, the lower parts entirely pure white, with little or no spotting on the abdomen. Tail usually destitute of the black subterminal band. Hab. Plains, from Texas to Minnesota … var. krideri.

Similar to the last, but lower parts strongly tinged with rufous on the tibiæ, and upper parts much darker. Tail always destitute of the subterminal black band. Young not distinguishable from that of var. calurus. Hab. Cape St. Lucas … var. lucasanus.

Whole head, neck (except the throat), and upper parts, continuously uniform unvariegated brownish-black; that of the neck meeting narrowly across the lower part of the throat, leaving the whole throat almost immaculate white. Posterior lower parts fine, deep pinkish-ochraceous; tibiæ deep reddish-ochraceous; upper tail-coverts plain rufous. Hab. Central America (from Tres Marias, Western Mexico, to Costa Rica and Veragua) … var. costaricensis.

Tibiæ and lower tail-coverts always with distinct transverse bars. Tail often with more or less complete transverse bars of black to the base. Lower parts with an excess of ochraceous and darker markings, frequently wholly blackish.

Varying, from individuals distinguishable from the darker examples of var. borealis only by the presence of bars on the tibiæ and crissum, through others with various degrees of rufous tinge and dusky spotting and barring beneath, to a perfectly melanistic condition, in which the bird is almost uniformly black, and the tail with continuous, regular bars of black to the base. Hab. Western Province of North America, from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific … var. calurus.

6. B. harlani. Wing, 15.00–16.20; tail, 8.80–10.50; culmen, 1.00; tarsus, 2.75–2.90; middle toe, 1.50–1.70. Lateral toes nearly equal; tibial plumes much developed, reaching below the bases of the toes. Entirely brownish-black (except the tail), the concealed bases of the feathers snowy-white. Adult. Tail confusedly mottled with dusky and white, upon a grayish ground; sometimes more or less tinged with rufous. Young. Tail grayish-brown, with nine very regular, sharply defined bands of brownish-black, about equal in width to the gray ones. Lower parts wholly dusky. Hab. Southwestern United States, east of the Rocky Mountains, from Kansas to Texas.

7. B. cooperi. Wing, 15.75; tail, 9.10; culmen, 1.10; tarsus, 3.25; middle toe, 1.70. Adult. Head, neck, and beneath, pure white, the head above and nape streaked with dusky; lining of the wing white, with a large black patch. Above nearly uniform dusky, the primaries plumbeous. Tail longitudinally mottled with light rufous, cinereous, and dusky; the former prevailing. Hab. Santa Clara County, California.

Buteo pennsylvanicus (Wils.).

Falco pennsylvanicus, Wils. Am. Orn. VI, 92, pl. liv, f. 1, 1812.—Lath. Gen. Hist. I, 263, 1821.—Aud. B. Am. pl. xci, 1831; Orn. Biog. I, 461, 1831.—Bonap. Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 29, 434; Isis, p. 1137, 1832.—Nutt. Man. I, 105, 1833.—Temm. Pl. Col. 67, 1836. Buteo pennsylvanicus, Bonap. Ois. Cuv. Règ. An. p. 35, 1830; Eur. & N. Am. B. p. 3, 1838; Consp. Av. p. 19, 1850.—Aud. Syn. p. 7, 1839.—Brew. (Wils). Am. Orn. Syn. p. 648, 1852.—Gray, Gen. sp. 8, 1844; List B. Brit. Mus. p. 16, 1844.—Cass. B. Cal. & Tex. Syn. p. 100, 1854.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 32, 1855.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 11, pl. v, fig. 11, 1844.—Cass. Birds N. Am. 29, 1858.—Gray, Hand List, B. 7, 1869.—Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 325 (Texas). Astur pennsylvanicus, Cuv. Règ. An. (ed. 2), I, 332, 1829.—James. (Wils.) Orn. I, 65. Falco latissimus, Wils. Am. Orn. (last ed.) VI, 92, pl. liv, f. 1, 1812. A. ? latissimus, Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. II, 294. Falco wilsoni, Bonap. Obs. Wils. Nouv. Journ. Ac. Sc. N. Y. III, 348. Pœcilopternis wilsoni, Kaup, Mon. Fal. Cont. Orn. p. 75, 1850. Sparvius platypterus, Vieill. Enc. Méth. III, 1273 (quot. Wils. pl. liv, fig. 1), 1823.

Sp. Char. Adult. Upper surface dark umber-brown, the feathers gradually paler toward edges; on the back, the feathers more uniformly dusky, causing a prevalent blackish appearance. Rump and upper tail-coverts blackish vandyke-brown; the latter tipped with pure white, and with a concealed bar of same, about the middle of each feather. Tail dull black, with an obscure terminal band of dull brown, this fading terminally into whitish; across the middle of the tail a broad band of dull light umber (in some individuals approaching dull white) about ¾ of an inch in width; about as far anterior to the main band as this is from the tip is another much narrower and more obscure band of the same color, crossing just beyond the ends of the coverts, or concealed by them. Primaries uniform brownish-black, fading on terminal edge into pale brown. Head above, and broad but inconspicuous “mustache,” running from beneath the lore downward across the cheek, dull black; the crown posteriorly, with the occiput and nape, having the dull black much broken, caused by the lateral streaks of dull rufous on all the feathers; this dull rufous tint prevails on the rest of the head and neck, as well as the breast, leaving the lores and chin and lateral portion of frontlet alone whitish; throat streaked with blackish. Beneath dull brownish-rufous; that of the breast almost unvaried; medially, however, are roundish spots of white on opposite webs, but these are not confluent; posteriorly these spots become gradually more numerous and more transverse, forming on the flanks transverse bands, almost continuous; on the tibiæ the white prevails, the rufous bars being more distant, and connected only by a brown shaft-line; lower tail-coverts less numerous, transverse spots of dull rufous. Lining of the wing ochraceous-white, with sparse, rather small, irregularly deltoid spots of dull rufous; under surface of the primaries unvaried white, as far as their emargination, beyond which they are black. Fourth quill longest; third a little shorter; second intermediate between fifth and sixth; first about equal to the ninth. Female (extremes 30,969, Brookline, Mass., and 30,895, Mirador, Mexico; the latter the larger.) Wing, 11.00–11.30; tail, 6.80–7.10; tarsus, 2.30; middle toe, 1.30. Male (32,309, Moose Factory, Hudson’s Bay Territory). Wing, 10.50; tail, 6.30; tarsus, 2.30; middle toe, 1.20.

Young male, second year? (39,106, Remedios, Cuba, June; N. H. Bishop). Upper parts similar to adult, but a reddish tint appreciably washing the edges of the interscapulars and (less noticeably so) the scapulars. Bands on tail nearly as in adult; but very near the base is a fourth, very narrow and faintly defined, pale band, while the bases of all the feathers are much mottled with white. Dull rufous of the breast not continuous, but in the form of large longitudinal broad spots, occupying the greater middle portion of each feather; abdomen, sides, and tibiæ with smaller and more cordate spots of dull rufous; the lower tail-coverts immaculate; the decided ochraceous tinge beneath, deepest posteriorly.

Young, first year (11,984, Washington, D. C.). The blackish above is much variegated, being broken by the narrow rusty borders to interscapulars, rump, and lesser wing-coverts; the broader and more ochraceous borders to scapulars and greater wing-coverts, and partially concealed whitish spotting on the former. Upper tail-coverts white, with broad bars of blackish-brown; secondaries and primaries edged terminally with whitish. Tail dull umber-brown, growing darker terminally; narrowly tipped with white, and crossed with six obscure, narrow bands of dusky, the (concealed) bases of all the feathers white. Superciliary region, cheeks, chin, throat, and entire lower parts, delicate pale ochraceous, or whitish cream-color; a conspicuous “mustache,” a medial longitudinal series of streaks on the throat, with large longitudinal ovate spots on sides of breast, cordate spots on sides and flanks, and sagittate spots on tibiæ, clear blackish-brown. The ochraceous deepest on the abdomen and crissum. Wing beneath as in adult.

A very young bird, scarcely fledged (33,598, Milltown, Me.; G. A. Boardman), differs from the last in a much more continuous black shade above, the deeper ochraceous beneath, and larger, as well as more numerous, blackish spots beneath.

In the adult plumage of this species, the principal variation is in the continuity or distinctness of the anterior light band on the tail, and the extent and depth of shade of the brown beneath. The first feature is characteristic of most specimens, only one (55,980, ♂, Costa Rica) being without it; it is broadest and most conspicuous, as well as less concealed by the coverts, in the females, and this appears to be the principal sexual difference. The dull brownish-rufous of the under parts is most prevalent in a specimen from Mirador, Mexico (30,895, ♀ ? September; Dr. Sartorius), in which specimen the breast is almost continuously of this color, and the lower tail-coverts are strongly barred (or transversely spotted) with the same; the ground-color beneath is also more ochraceous than in any other individual. In the Costa-Rican specimen (the one lacking the anterior tail-band), the brown beneath is quite different from that of the others, being of a much more ashy shade; the lower tail-coverts are also immaculate. The brown markings beneath are most sparse in 20,389, from Coban, Vera Paz (January; O. Salvin); in this, also, the tail-bands are very distinct, and almost white.

A young bird from Costa Rica (30,412; Dr. Frantzius) is exactly similar to No. 27,048, from Fort Garry, Selkirk Settlement.


National Museum, 18; Philadelphia Academy, 6; Boston Society, 3; New York Museum, 2 (Caraccas); Museum, Cambridge, 2; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 5; Coll. R. Ridgway, 2. Total, 38.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
9.85–10.70 6.50–7.00 .70–.00 2.15–2.80 1.20–1.38 11
11.00–11.40 7.00–8.00 .70–.78 2.20–2.70 1.30–1.40 14

Hab. Eastern North America southward along Gulf coast through Louisiana, into Mexico and Central America; Cuba, Ecuador, Upper Amazon, Caraccas (N. Y. Museum).

Localities: Ecuador, winter (Scl. 1858, 451); Orizaba (Scl. 1857, 211); Upper Amazon (Scl. 1857, 261); Cuba (Cab. Journ. II, lxxxii; Gundlach, Rept. 1865, 223; resident); Panama (Lawr. VII, 1861, 288); S. E. Texas (Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 325; breeds); Costa Rica (Lawr. IX, 133).

Habits. The Broad-winged Hawk appears to be distributed over eastern North America, somewhat irregularly, as far north as the British Provinces, and as far west at least as the Mississippi. It has been found in Florida by Mr. Wurdemann, where it was said to be not uncommon. It is a resident in Cuba, where it breeds; but it has not been taken in Jamaica. It has also been detected in Guatemala by Mr. Skinner. Audubon states that he never met with it in Louisiana, but Mr. Dresser found it not uncommon from the Nueces eastward. In September he noticed several near the Mission of San Patricio, and during the winter obtained several specimens near San Antonio. In May he shot a young bird on the Medina River, and early in June he found a nest containing young on the Colorado. It was on a high cottonwood-tree, and in an almost inaccessible position.

Buteo pennsylvanicus.

It is not mentioned by Mr. Downes as occurring in Nova Scotia, though I think it quite probable it may be found there; but it is quite common near Calais, both in Eastern Maine and in New Brunswick. Professor Verrill gives it as a common summer visitant in Oxford County, Me., near Norway, and as still more abundant near the Umbagog Lakes, and apparently the most common Hawk in that vicinity. He found its nest, June 12, containing two eggs nearly hatched. It is to be met with throughout Massachusetts, having been found breeding near Williamstown, Springfield, and also in the vicinity of Boston. Its nest was also met with in Middlebury, Vt., by the late Professor Adams. Mr. McIlwraith, of Hamilton, Canada, has noted extensive migrations of this Hawk in March of different years, as many as twenty or thirty being in view at one time, passing at a considerable height, and moving in circles towards the northwest. Others, that appeared to be stragglers from the main body, were met with in the woods. Dr. Hoy states it to be rather common near Racine, and Mr. Kumlien has obtained it in the vicinity of Lake Koskonong. From all these data it may naturally be inferred that this Hawk has a pretty general distribution from Florida to Texas, and from New Brunswick to the Mississippi Valley, probably extending northward into the Saskatchewan Valley and south-westerly to Central America.

The Broad-winged Hawk was first described by Wilson, who shot a single specimen that had been feeding on a meadow-mouse. On his approach it uttered a whining whistle and flew to another tree. Another of the same species was observed, and its movements were in wide circles, with unmoving wings. Nuttall never met with it, and regarded it as very rare.

Audubon characterizes this Hawk as spiritless, inactive, and deficient in courage, seldom chasing other birds of prey, but itself frequently annoyed by the little Sparrow-Hawk, the Kingbird, and the Martin. It only attacks birds of a weak nature, young chickens, and ducklings, and feeds on small animals and insects. It is usually found singly, is easily approached, and when wounded throws itself on its back, erects its top feathers, utters a hissing sound, and attempts to defend itself with its talons.

A nest of this bird, found by Mr. Audubon, is said to have been about the size of that of the Crow, and to have been placed in the larger branches of a tree, near the trunk. It was composed externally of dry sticks and briers; internally, of small roots, and lined with numerous large feathers. The nest found by Professor Adams, near Middlebury, Vt., was quite large, and was coarsely constructed of sticks, and lined only with fibrous roots and fine grass. In this instance the eggs were three. This is the more usual number, though occasionally four or five are found.

Mr. Boardman informs me that Mr. Audubon’s account of the spiritless manner in which one of these Hawks suffered him to capture it on its nest does not at all correspond with his own experience. He has, on the contrary, found it one of the most courageous and spirited of its family. On one occasion, when a man employed by him was ascending to a nest, a parent bird assailed the disturber with great fury, tore his cap from his head, and would have done the man serious injury had it not been shot. In another instance one of these birds attacked a boy climbing to its nest, and fastened its talons in his arm, and could not be removed until it was beaten off and killed with a club.

The eggs of this Hawk have an average length of 2.09 inches, and an average breadth of 1.61. The smallest egg measures 1.94 by 1.50 inches, and the largest 2.11 by 1.72 inches, showing considerable variation in their relative capacity, but not so much as is found among the eggs of other species. In shape, the eggs are of a slightly rounded oval, one end a little less obtuse than the other. The ground-color is of a grayish or dirty white, occasionally with a slightly silvery shading. These are marked, usually over the entire egg, in irregular distribution, with varying shades of brown. The more common is a light tawny or reddish-brown. Intermingled with these blotches are often found a peculiar faint purplish-brown, dull shading of a light yellowish-brown, and a deep rich shade of purplish-brown, approaching occasionally almost in intensity to black. These may occur separately, or they may all be found blended in the same egg. The size, shape, and peculiar coloring of the eggs of this Hawk make them readily recognizable, though not readily permitting a satisfactory description.

A nest of this Hawk, taken by Mr. J. P. Ritchie, May 18, 1863,—the parent female of which was secured also,—is described as having been made of large sticks, very loosely put together, lined with a few pieces of bark. It was placed in the crotch of a tree, close to the trunk, and twenty feet from the ground, and contained two eggs.

Buteo swainsoni, Bonap.
Var. swainsoni, Bonap.

Buteo swainsoni, Bonap. Comp. List, p. 3, 1838; Consp. Av. p. 19, 1850; Proc. Ac. N. S. Phil. p. 280, 1855; Birds N. Am. 19, 1858.—Heerm. P. R. R. Rep’t, II, 32, 1855.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 30, 1855.—Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 324 (Texas).—Gamb. Journ. Ac. N. S. Phil. n. δ. I, 27.—Coues, Prod. B. Ariz. 9, 1866.—Blakist. Ibis, III, 1861, 317 (fresh eggs).—Gray, Hand List, I, 7, 1869. Falco buteo, Penn. Arct. Zoöl. II, 207, sp. 103 (♀ Juv.), 1785.—Aud. B. Am. pl. ccclxxii, 1831; Orn. Biog. IV, 508, 1831. Falco obsoletus, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 268, 1789.—Kerr, Trans. Gmel. II, 501, 1792.—Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 28, sp. 61, 1790; Synop. Supp. I, p. 30; Gen. Hist. I, p. 254, 1821.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 104, 1800.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 152, 1812. Buteo cinereus, Vieill. Ois. Am. 1807. Buteo vulgaris, Rich. & Swains. F. B. Am. p. 5, 1831.—Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. II, 56, 1808.—Brew. (Wils.) Am. Orn. p. 303; Synop. p. 684, 1852. Buteo montanus, Nutt. Man. Orn. U. S. & Canad. I, 112, 1833. Buteo bairdi, Hoy, Proc. Ac. Sc. Phil. VI, 451, 1853.—Cassin, B. of Cal. & Tex. pl. xli, 1854; Birds N. Am. 21, 1858.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 37, 1855. Buteo insignatus, Cass. B. Cal. & Tex. p. 102, pl. xxxi, 1854; Birds N. Am. 23, 1858.—Heerm. P. R. R. Rep’t, VII, 31, 1857.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 38, 1855.—Coues, Prod. B. Ariz. 9, 1866.—Bryant, Proc. Bost. Soc. X, 1865, 90 (= swainsoni). ? Buteo gutturalis, Max. Cab. Journ. VI, 1858, 17 (and eggs).

Sp. Char. Form robust and strong, like B. borealis; wings long and pointed; only three outer primaries with their inner webs cut. Feet robust, the tarsi strong. Dimensions: Wing, 14.40–17.00; tail, 8.00–9.50; culmen, .80–.95; tarsus, 2.30–2.70; middle toe, 1.50–1.70. Weight, 1½–3½ lbs. Colors: Tail dark grayish-brown with a hoary cast, crossed by numerous obscure narrow bands of a darker shade. Adult, uniform blackish-brown above; upper tail-coverts barred with white. Throat and lower parts posterior to the breast white or pale ochraceous; a broad patch across the breast uniform brown,—reddish-rufous in the male, and grayish-umber in the female,—the whole lower surface varying to entirely uniform dull brownish-black, though intermediate shades. Young, with the ground-color of the plumage soft ochraceous, or cream-color; the head, neck, dorsal region, and sides of the breast, with tear-shaped spots of brownish-black, with a faint purple reflection. Upper parts purplish-black, variegated with ochraceous, sometimes almost wholly black. Tail as in the adult, but more hoary.

a. Normal plumage.

Adult male (53,105, Truckee River, Nevada, July; C. King, R. Ridgway). Head, neck, and upper parts blackish-brown; scapulars slightly variegated with a rufous mottling; upper tail-coverts white tinged with rufous, and with transverse bars of blackish-brown, about six on each feather. Tail dark brown like the back, approaching black terminally, basally with a slight hoary cast; crossed by about ten narrow, very obscure bands of nearly black. Front and whole throat clear white, immaculate, and sharply defined against the surrounding blackish; lores dusky. Whole breast, cinnamon-rufous (forming a wide, sharply defined band), marked laterally with the brown of the neck; each feather with a shaft-line of black; rest of lower parts, including whole lining of the wing, continuous ochraceous white, the latter region unvariegated; sides with sparse, faint, transverse bars of rufous, and shaft-lines of darker. Under side of primaries light slate anterior to emargination, beyond which they are black; slaty portion crossed by very obscure bars of darker. Fourth quill longest, third scarcely shorter; second equal to fifth; first intermediate between seventh and eighth. Length, 19.75; extent, 48.00; wing, 15.40; tail, 8.00; tarsus, 2.32; middle toe, 1.60. (Weight 1½ lbs.) Bill slate-black, bluish basally; cere, and angle of mouth, light dull lemon yellow; iris deep hazel; tarsi and toes deep chrome yellow, claws black.

58505, ♀. ½

58505, ♀. ½

Buteo swainsoni (Nevada).

Adult female (58,507, Great Salt Lake City, Utah, May; C. King, R. Ridgway). Similar to the male, but pectoral area blackish-brown, like the back; blackish-brown of upper surface untinged with rufous, all the feathers, however, fading on edges; bands of the tail scarcely distinguishable on outer webs; white of forehead very restricted; lining of the wing barred with small cordate or deltoid spots of black; under surface of primaries plain deep slate. Abdomen and sides variegated with a few irregular longitudinal spots, and on the latter, transverse bars of dark brown; tibiæ with faint bars of rufous. Fourth quill longest; third scarcely shorter; second very slightly shorter than fifth; first intermediate between seventh and eighth. Length, 21.50; extent, 54.00; wing, 16.50; tail, 8.50; tarsus, 2.70; middle toe, 1.70. (Weight, 2¾ lbs.)

Young (10,761, Rocky Mountains, September; C. Drexler). Head, neck, and entire lower parts fine delicate light ochraceous, or cream-color; feathers of the crown, occiput, and neck, each with a medial stripe of black, of less amount, however, than the ochraceous; forehead, supraoral region, and ear-coverts, with only a few very fine hair-like shaft-streaks; on the chin, and across the cheeks, are longitudinal spaces of blended streaks of black, the latter forming a conspicuous “mustache”; sides of the breast with large ovate spots of black; middle of the breast with less numerous, smaller, and more longitudinal ones of the same; sides, flanks, and abdomen, with broad hastate spots, more irregular and transverse on the former; throat, tibiæ, anal region, and lower tail-coverts immaculate. Upper surface generally, deep black; feathers bordered with pale ochraceous, the scapulars and middle wing-coverts much variegated with the same. Secondary coverts, secondaries, and primaries narrowly tipped with white. Upper tail-coverts pale ochraceous, barred with black. Tail ashy-brown, very much lighter than the rump (more hoary than in the adult), narrowly, but clearly, tipped with white, and crossed by ten or twelve narrow bands of black, more distinct than in the adult. Under surface of primaries more whitish than in the adult.

(b. Melanistic condition; = B. insignatus of Cassin.)

Adult male (22,567, Onion River; R. McFarlane). Entirely brownish black, whole under surface of wings included; lower tail-coverts equally barred with white and black. Tail blackish slate, narrowly paler at the tip, and crossed with numerous oblique bars of dusky black; upper tail-coverts barred obsoletely with lighter slaty-brown. Wing, 15.00; tail, 8.00; tarsus, 2.20; middle toe, 1.50. Fourth quill longest; third, next; second, shorter than fifth; first, slightly shorter than eighth.

Adult female (12,927, Utah Valley, July; C. S. McCarthy). Similar; lower tail-coverts white, tinged with rusty, and barred with brown; tibiæ tinged with chestnut. Wing, 16.50; tail, 8.80; tarsus, 2.60; middle toe, 1.65. Third and fourth quills equal and longest; third shorter than fifth; first equal to eighth.


National Museum, 27; Philadelphia Academy, 2; Boston Society, 1; Museum, Cambridge, 1; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 2; W. Brewster, 1; R. Ridgway, 5. Total, 39.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
14.40–15.25 8.25–9.00 .80–.90 2.30–2.65 1.50–1.60 11
14.75–16.50 9.00–0.00 .80–.95 2.50–2.70 1.55–1.65 11

Hab. Western regions of North America, east to the Mississippi Valley, north to the Arctic regions; Wisconsin; Arkansas; Canada; Massachusetts.

Localities: S. Texas (Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 324); Arizona (Coues?); Guatemala (Scl. Ibis, I, 216, “insignatus”).

The young plumage described above is the Buteo bairdi, Hoy, of authors. The melanistic plumage is B. insignatus, Cassin.

The young birds of this species are as variable as the adults; thus, No. 53,210, ♂, has the fine ochraceous of the lower parts entirely free from spots, except across the breast; on the upper parts the ochraceous spotting is so extended as to almost prevail, while another, from the same nest, has the black beneath exceeding the ochraceous, the tibiæ being thickly spotted, and the lower tail-coverts barred. Both these specimens belong to a brood of four, which were hardly able to fly, and were shot, with their parents, the male of which is the one described, while the female (No. 53,206) is a very dark example of insignatus, Cassin.

The type of bairdi, and another Wisconsin specimen, are in the collection of the Philadelphia Academy. In plumage, they are unlike any others I have seen, though there is as little resemblance between these two as between any I have compared. Dr. Hoy’s type (Racine, Wisc., January, 1854) differs from others, in exceedingly pale colors; the cream-color beneath is scarcely spotted, there being only a few triangular spots and shaft-lines of black on the sides; the lining of the wing is entirely immaculate. Above, the black is unusually continuous; the under surface of the primaries is unusually white. Wing, 15.00; tail, 8.00.

The other specimen (Menonomee Marsh, Milwaukee, Wisc., spring of 1851) is just the opposite extreme in plumage, being unusually dark, for a young bird. Beneath, the black spots are so large as to nearly cover the whole surface, while the continuity of the black of the upper part is almost unbroken. The head above, and nape, and broad “mustache” stripe from angle of mouth down to the jugulum, with nearly the whole pectoral area, unbroken black, leaving the gular region and side of the head pale, but thickly streaked. Wing, 15.00; tail, 8.80; tarsus, 2.35; middle toe, 1.50. These specimens may be said to form about the extremes of the young plumage. An Iowa skin (No. 59,052; Ricksecker) is like the average of far-western examples.

The melanistic condition bears to the normal plumage of swainsoni precisely the same relation that the black calurus, Cassin, does to the usual style of the western variety of borealis (borealis var. calurus = montanus, Cassin); the variable series, connecting these two extremes, and designated by the name borealis var. calurus, which covers the whole, finds an exact parallel in the present species.

A specimen from the Platte (5,576, ♂, August; W. S. Wood) is entirely dark rufous-brown beneath (excepting the lower tail-coverts), with the shafts of the feathers black.

This species is entirely distinct specifically from the B. vulgaris of Europe. The latter has four, instead of only three, outer primaries deeply emarginated, and is very dissimilar in every stage of plumage.

Var. oxypterus, Cassin.

(Normal young plumage.)

Buteo oxypterus, Cass. P. A. N. S. VII, 1855, 282.—Ib. Birds N. Am. 1858, 30.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 1855, 28.—Coues, P. A. N. S. 1866, 9.—Gray, Hand List, I, 8.—Cooper, Birds Cal. 1870, 480. Buteo albicaudatus, “Vieill.,” Sclater, P. Z. S. 1869, 634, No. 22.

(Melanistic plumage.)

Buteo fuliginosus, Sclater, P. Z. S. Lond. 1858, 356.—Ib. Trans. Z. S., July, 1858, 267, pl. lxii.—Ridgway, P. A. N. S. Dec. 1870, 142.

Sp. Char. Adult; melanistic plumage (No. 12,117, Mazatlan, Mexico; Colonel Abert). Entirely fuliginous-black, darkest on head and back; no white on forehead. Tail cinereous-umber, crossed with seven very regular and continuous bands of black, the subterminal one of which is broadest. Lower tail-coverts, and larger under wing-coverts, with transverse bands of dull white; lining of the wing unvaried black; under surface of primaries silvery-white, that portion beyond their emargination black, the whitish portion crossed by distant, very obsolete, transverse bars. Third quill longest; fourth and fifth scarcely shorter, and nearly equal; second equal to sixth; first shorter than eighth. Tail square; scutellæ of the tarsus very faintly defined, or, in fact, scarcely detectable (probably accidental), Wing, 13.00; tail, 7.00; tarsus, 1.95; middle toe, 1.55.

Young male; normal plumage (No. 8,550, Fort Fillmore, New Mexico; Dr. T. C. Henry, U. S. A.). Head, neck, and lower parts, soiled ochraceous-white. Feathers of the head above, and neck laterally and behind, with medial stripes of blackish-brown; jugulum, breast, sides, flanks, and abdomen, with large rounded spots of blackish-brown; tibiæ with transverse bars of the same; lower tail-coverts almost immaculate. A conspicuous “mustache” of blended dusky streaks, from angle of the mouth across the cheeks, the dusky suffusing the lores. Whole oral region scarcely variegated pale yellowish; whole chin and throat immaculate.

Prevailing tint above, blackish-brown, becoming purplish-black on primaries; whole outer surface of wing plain, but interscapular region somewhat variegated with partially concealed, irregular blotches of deeper ochraceous than the lower parts; upper tail-coverts with pairs of indistinct white spots. Tail grayish-brown (white at extreme base), crossed with about ten narrow, indistinct, but regular bands of dusky. Lining of the wings yellowish-white, with sparse cordate spots of blackish, this tint prevailing over the under primary coverts; under surface of the primaries pure purplish-black after their emargination, but anteriorly plain hoary brown, growing paler basally. On inner webs are very indistinct transverse spots of dusky, touching neither the edge nor shaft of the feather, and entirely concealed when the wing is closed. Shafts of primaries pure white on under side; on outer, dark brown. Wing-formula, 3–4–2–5–6–7–1, 8. Three outer primaries emarginated on inner webs; second, third, and fourth, sinuated on outer. Wing, 13.70; tail, 7.00; tarsus, 2.10; middle toe, 1.35. Primaries project beyond secondaries, 5.50. (Cassin’s type.)

12117. ½

12117. ½

Buteo oxypterus (Mazatlan).

Young female (33,508, San José, Costa Rica; J. Carmiol). Differs from the type chiefly in lighter colors. The whole forehead very broadly immaculate dull white, this continuing back to the occiput in a broad unstreaked superciliary stripe; along the upper edge of the ear-coverts is a rusty suffusion, with condensed, fine dusky streaks, forming an indistinct stripe separating the wholly white ear-coverts from the supraoral stripe; the “mustache” is very conspicuous; the breast has a few large tear-shaped spots of clear blackish-brown, and the sides have very sparse, irregular, and more sagittate spots of the same; the whole posterior parts are immaculate. The upper parts are more variegated with paler, the wing-coverts and rump having the feathers irregularly bordered with whitish. The upper tail-coverts are white, barred with dark brown. Tail, hoary brown, crossed by nine or ten nearly obsolete, narrow bands of dusky. Whole lining of the wings immaculate, except the conspicuous patch on the primary coverts. The whole under surface of the primaries is uniform slaty, gradually deepening into black towards ends. Wing-formula, 3–4–2–5–6–7, 1. Wing, 15.00; tail, 8.00; tarsus, 2.45; middle toe, 1.55. Primaries project beyond secondaries, 6.00.

Hab. Tropical America, from the southern border of the United States to Buenos Ayres.

The melanistic specimen described above agrees perfectly with Mr. Sclater’s excellent figure of his B. fuliginosus above cited, and the only discrepancy in the description is in the measurements,—those given for the B. fuliginosus being, wing 12.00, tail 6.50, and tarsus 2.60. This difference—certainly not great—very likely indicates the proportions of the sexes, while the discrepancy as regards the length of the tarsus, it is probable, results from a different mode of measurement.

The present form is very nearly related to the true B. swainsoni, and, though distinguishable, we find it difficult to express points of absolute difference. The essential distinctions, however, are the longer primaries and lighter colors of the present bird, there being in the immature plumage of oxypterus no approach to the deep, fine ochraceous, the characteristic and prevalent tint of the young B. swainsoni. The spots beneath are more sparse, and there does not appear to be that tendency to their aggregation on the sides of the breast as generally seen in swainsoni.

Both agree, however,—and differ from all other species,—in the unbarred slate-color of the under surface of primaries, the plain black of the outer surface, conspicuous “mustache,” obscurely barred gray tail, etc. In fact, the general pattern is almost exactly the same, while there is little difference in relative proportions.

In view of the very appreciable, though rather indefinite, differences above indicated, and the obscure history of the present bird, we prefer, at least until more familiar with its different stages, to recognize it under the above name.

A third specimen, from Buenos Ayres (Conchitas; William H. Hudson),—exactly similar, in all particulars, to the two specimens described,—was labelled by Mr. Sclater, B. albicaudatus, Vieill., which is usually placed as a synonyme under B. pterocles, an exclusively South American species; though belonging strictly to the same section of the genus with the present bird and B. swainsoni, it is quite distinct, the Smithsonian Collection containing numerous examples illustrating the several stages of plumage.

Habits. Taking the two varieties together, this species appears to range over the entire continent of America, from the Arctic regions to the cold-temperate portion of South America. In Arctic America it appears to have a western distribution, though extending far to the north during the breeding-season, and being more or less nomadic during the winter. A single well-marked specimen was taken by Mr. Brewster, in the winter of 1871–72, in the eastern part of Massachusetts. It was first noticed by Dr. Richardson, and was by him supposed to be identical with the common Buzzard of Europe. It was met with in the fur country, where it was migratory, arriving there early in April, and departing again about the end of September. It frequented the low alluvial points of land which stretch out under the high banks of rivers, where it might be observed sitting for a long while motionless on the bough of a tree, waiting patiently for some small birds or quadrupeds to pass within its reach. As soon as it perceived anything of the kind, it would glide silently into the air and sweep easily but rapidly down upon its prey. One of Dr. Richardson’s specimens was found to have two whole toads in its stomach.

Dr. Richardson states that this Buzzard builds its nest on a tree, of short sticks, lining it sparingly with deer’s hair. The eggs, from three to five in number, are described as equalling in size those of the domestic fowl, and as having a greenish-white color, with a few large dark brown blotches at the larger end. It was seen by the doctor as far to the north as the 57th parallel.

Mr. Audubon’s drawing and description of this bird were taken from a specimen obtained by Dr. Townsend from the Columbia River. A number of specimens have been obtained by the various government exploring expeditions. A single specimen was taken by Mr. Dresser near San Antonio, in Texas.

Captain Blakiston (Ibis, 1861, p. 317) obtained several specimens of this Buzzard at the forks of the Saskatchewan River, in the stomach of one of which he found three toads. He states that it was quite abundant in that neighborhood. He adds that Mr. Bourgeau procured several specimens of the eggs, identified by also obtaining the parents. These eggs are said to have been white, more or less blotched with red. Mr. Bernard Ross also obtained this bird on the Mackenzie River, where it was rare.

Buteo swainsoni (adult).

This Hawk was observed by Mr. Dall, in Alaska, a skin having been obtained at Koyukuk, May 26, from an Indian. Mr. Dall states that it prefers the thickets and woody places, is not so often seen as some of the other species. It generally builds a very large nest of sticks, and begins to lay about the last of April. The young are hatched out about the 30th of May. It was only a summer visitor. He found not only the bones of rabbits, squirrels, and mice about its nest, but also those of ducks, and in one instance part of a white-fish.

Dr. Heermann obtained an egg of this species in Northern California, which had a yellowish-white ground-color, marked with obscure cloudings of a purplish-gray, and irregular patches of a light tone of umber brown. It measured 2.31 inches in length, and 1.84 in breadth.

We are indebted to Dr. W. J. Hoffmann for the following interesting note in relation to the nesting of this species: “On the 28th of May, 1871, we encamped on Antelope Creek, forty miles north of the Central Pacific Railroad Station, Argenta, Nevada. The stream of water, which is small, is fringed with willows, averaging about twelve feet in height. Strolling along the underbrush, I came to the nest of the Buteo swainsoni, which was built on the top of a willow, and in its construction took in several distinct limbs, so as to give better support. The nest, about two feet across and one foot in thickness, was constructed of thin sticks and fragments of roots. The inside was lined with leaves of tule and grass. The nest contained two eggs. Only eight feet from this nest, on the same bush, and at the same height, a female of Icterus bullocki was on her nest. These birds appeared to be living together in harmony, having been in constant sight of each other for several weeks, as the condition of the eggs proved. I deem this remarkable only as showing a rapacious and an insectivorous bird living so closely together that one might at any time have been made the prey of the other by a single spread of the wings.”

Buteo swainsoni (young).

Dr. Gideon Lincecum, of Washington County, Texas, speaks of this species as one of the common Hawks of the Texan prairies. He states that it nests on the ground in the prairie; lays six eggs, sometimes on tall trees,—when it chooses to rear its young in the forest. It is apt to pounce on a brood of young poultry when it sees them, but being rather timid does not like to go about the houses. Its principal food is grasshoppers, prairie rats and mice, and small birds. Dr. Lincecum has often seen it when the grass on the prairie was burning, in the spring of the year, constantly on the wing, in front of the fire, catching the grasshoppers, rats, mice, and any small game that is driven out of the grass by the crackling fire; and it will keep in the smoke so close to the fire that it soon becomes almost as black as soot. He further remarks that, “when any one approaches their nest on the prairie, they will make a pretty bold attempt to frighten or decoy him away from it. It first tries to lead the intruder off, by alighting in the grass near by, and screeching loudly as if something was greatly the matter; you approach him, and with much seeming difficulty it makes out to move off a little farther, still screeching louder than before, and this piece of deception it will repeat time after time, improving a little in its powers of locomotion as it gets you farther from the nest, until it judges it is far enough,—that you have lost the place in the unmarked sea of grass,—when it seems to fly as well as ever; it circles round once or twice, going still farther off, and settles silently down in the deep grass. This last performance is to induce the belief that it has returned to the nest. But if you refuse to be led astray by these manœuvres, and remain about its nest, it will make a good fight. One came very near knocking off my hat one day when I did not know I was intruding on its premises.”

The Buteo bairdi of Hoy is now ascertained to be only an immature form. It was first met with in Wisconsin, and since then has been taken in various western localities.

A pair of these birds was found by Mr. Ricksecker, breeding in this plumage, in Utah. The nest was built in a young aspen-tree. The egg is marked with larger and more deeply marked blotches than usual, and is nearly of an exact oval shape, measuring 2.30 inches in length by 1.75 in breadth. The ground-color is white, with a slight tinge of rufous, over which are diffused, over the whole surface, fine markings of a reddish, rust-tinged brown. Besides these the larger end, and some other portions of the surface, are boldly dashed with large blotches of the same color, but of a deeper shade.

A black Buzzard, originally described as Buteo insignatus, is now known to be only an individual melanistic condition of the species. It was first met with in the vicinity of Montreal, and the specimen belonging to the Natural History Society of that city was described as new by Mr. John Cassin. A similar specimen was taken by Mr. Macfarlane at Fort Anderson, where it was breeding. It was met with rather abundantly by Dr. Heermann on the San Joaquin River, in California, and seen along his route for a considerable distance. He described it as sluggish in its habits, perching for hours in a quiescent state on some tall tree, and permitting the hunter to approach without showing any signs of fear.

Buteo swainsoni, var. oxypterus (young).

Dr. Cooper found this bird pretty common in the vicinity of San Diego, in March, 1862, when they were apparently migrating northward. In their habits they appeared to resemble the larger varieties of Buzzards. Mr. Salvin obtained a single specimen of a Hawk at Duenas, which is referred by Mr. Gurney to this variety (Ibis, I, 216).

The variety oxypterus, of this species, was first described from an immature specimen obtained at Fort Fillmore, New Mexico. It ranges southward throughout tropical America to Buenos Ayres.

Buteo zonocercus, Sclater.

?? Buteo albonotatus, G. R. Gray, Isis, 1847, p. 329. Buteo zonocercus, Sclater, Trans. Zoöl. Soc. Lond. IV, pt. vi, 263, 1858.—Coues, Pr. A. N. S. 1866, 46.—Elliot, Birds N. A. pl. xxxiii.—Gray, Hand List I, 8, 1869.—Cooper, Birds Cal. 1870, 479.

52763, ♂. ½

52763, ♂. ½

52763, ♂. ¼

Buteo zonocercus.

Sp. Char. Adult (36,872, Hassayampa River, Arizona Territory, August; Dr. Coues). Entirely carbonaceous black; forehead pure white, and feathers of occiput, neck, and breast the same beneath the surface; this on under parts, showing as transverse, ovate spots on webs of feathers, partially exposed. Tail black, faintly tipped with pale ashy, crossed (about 1¾ inches from the end) by a band of hoary plumbeous, nearly an inch in width; about half an inch anterior to this is another plumbeous band, about as broad as the black one which separates it from the last; and about the same distance, near the base, is another, much narrower, and less continuous ashy band. The outlines of these bands are rather irregular; and on the inner webs the plumbeous is replaced by snowy white, which, not exactly corresponding to the plumbeous of outer webs, is rather more extended, as well as more sharply defined, forming three very conspicuous transverse zones (decreasing in width towards the base like those on outer webs), observable only when the tail is spread, or from below. On the two middle feathers both webs are plumbeous and black; and on the lateral feathers, the white prevails on the inner web, the black bands being broken up into narrow zigzags. Primaries less intensely black than the back, and showing obscure transverse bands of deeper black; lining of the wing unvariegated black; under surface of primaries pale plumbeous, passing into hoary white on edges, and crossed from base to ends with very irregular, transverse bars of blackish, these breaking up into a mottling, or blended speckling, along the edges of the feathers. Owing to moulting stage, the wing-formula cannot be ascertained. Wing, 15.50; tail, 8.50; tarsus, 2.50; middle toe, 1.60. Length, 19½; extent, 47½.

Young male (52,763, Mazatlan, Mex.; Colonel A. J. Grayson). Generally similar to the preceding; feathers of neck, back, and under parts more conspicuously spotted with white beneath the surface, these spots considerably exposed on the breast and upper tail-coverts. Tail deep dark vandyke-brown, faintly tipped with paler, and crossed with numerous narrow oblique bands of black; subterminal one broadest, being about three fourths of an inch in width; the next one is not a fourth as wide, and crosses about an inch anterior to the last; the distance between the black bands diminishes towards the base of the tail, so that after the seventh of these, no more can be distinguished. Inner webs passing into whitish towards edges, this prevailing on lateral feathers. Fourth quill longest; third scarcely shorter; fifth but little shorter than third; second intermediate between fifth and sixth; first equal to eighth. Wing, 15.30; tail, 8.80; tarsus, 2.40; middle toe, 1.60. Length, 15¾; alar extent, 48. Bill black at tip, bluish-brown at base; iris dark brown.

Hab. Guatemala, Mexico, and adjoining parts of United States; Arizona (Coues); Santa Clara Co., Cal. (Cooper).


National Museum, 2; Philadelphia Academy, 2. Total, 4.

There can be but little doubt that this plumage denotes a younger stage of the same species as the B. zonocercus of Sclater. The adult bird described above is moulting, and two tail-feathers of the old plumage, which have not yet been cast, are precisely like those of this specimen, the new ones being entirely different, as will be seen by the description. Taking with this the exact similarity of the pattern of under side of primaries, as well as the plumage in general, and the sameness of proportions, one cannot but be convinced of their identity. The localities of the two specimens are also so near that it is scarcely possible they are distinct.

The plumage of this stage is parallel, in its relation to the adult, with that of the young of B. albifrons var. minutus, both differing from the mature stage in nearly the same particulars, the more numerous bands on the tail distinguishing the young of nearly all Buteos from adults of the same species.

An adult specimen from Mexico, in the collection of the Philadelphia Academy (without number or other indications on the label), though resembling the two specimens described, in all essential points, differs from them in regard to the coloration of the tail. The main differences are as follows: Tail deep black basally and subterminally, the tip (very narrowly) and a middle zone about 2.00 inches broad, and 1.80 from the tip, being duller and more brownish-black, this irregularly defined anteriorly, but of sharp regular definition along the posterior border; the subterminal black band is very precisely defined on the inner webs, and anterior to this nearly the whole inner web is white, irregularly blotched with black towards the base, however; the markings of somewhat longitudinal direction; the outer webs are black to the very base. Wing, 16.50; tail, 9.00; tarsus, 2.70; middle toe, 1.80. Wing-formula, 4, 3–5–2–6–7, 1.

Whether this is a progressive stage of plumage or a mere individual peculiarity, I do not feel certain, but am inclined to the latter opinion. Both this specimen and the immature one described are labelled B. albonotatus, Gray; I have been unable to refer to Gray’s original description; if there is no doubt of its being pertinent to the immature stage described, then this will be the name of the species, as it has priority; I should much regret, however, to discard the very appropriate and characteristic name zonocercus, for the other, as Mr. Sclater’s species is so satisfactorily described and accurately figured, while the original description of albonotatus is very meagre and difficult of reference.

Buteo zonocercus (adult).

Habits. This Hawk is a Mexican and Guatemalan species which occasionally strays into our borders in Arizona and in Southern California. Dr. Cooper was the first of our naturalists to meet with this species within the United States, shooting an individual on the 23d of February, 1862, thirty miles north of San Diego, and within five of the coast. It was associating with specimens of B. insignatus and other Hawks wintering there, and seemed rather sluggish and tame. He saw no other Black Hawks in that neighborhood. Two years afterwards, September 24, 1864, Dr. Coues also procured a single specimen on the Gila River. He regards the species as restricted, within our borders, to the warm valley of the Gila and the Lower Colorado. We possess no information in regard to any distinctive specific habits it may possess. This species was first described by Dr. Sclater from a Guatemalan specimen.

The bird described as B. albonotatus is presumed to be identical with this species. It was observed by Mr. Salvin on the southern slope of the Cordillera, in Guatemala, which appears to be the true habitat of this species, but even there it cannot be said to be common. He states that, like many others of its class, it is a feeder on beetles and locusts.

Buteo lineatus, Gmelin.
Var. lineatus, Gmelin.

Falco lineatus, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 268, 1789.—Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 27, 1790; Syn. I, 56, sp. 36, 1781; Gen. Hist. I, 268, 1821.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 158, 1800.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 153, 1812.—Wils. Am. Orn. pl. liii, f. 3, 1808.—Aud. Orn. Biog. I, 296, 1831; Syn. p. 7, 1839. Cuvier, Reg. Anim. ed. 2, I, 334, 1829. Buteo lineatus, Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. II, 290, 1832.—Aud. Syn. p. 7, 1839.—Brewer, (Wils.) Am. Orn. 684, 1852.—Cassin, Birds Cal. & Tex. Syn. 99, 1854; Birds N. Am. 1858, 28.—Bonap. Comp. Av. p. 19, 1850.—Kaup, Web. Falk. Mus. Senck. 1845, p. 261.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 30, 1855.—Brewer, Oölogy, 1857, 28, pl. iii, f. 25.—Max. Cab. Journ. VI, 1858, 19.—Gray, Hand List, I, 7, 1869. Poecilopternis lineatus, Kaup, Mon. Fal. Cont. Orn. p. 76, 1850. Falco hyemalis, Gmel. Syst. Nat. 274, 1789.—Lath. Ind. Orn. 35, 1790; Syn. I, 79, sp. 62, 1781; Gen. Hist. I, p. 91.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 110, 1800.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 153, 1812.—Wils. Am. Orn. pl. 35, fig. I, 1808.—Bonap. Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 33; Isis, p. 1138, 1832.—Aud. B. Am. pl. lvi, 71, 1831; Orn. Biog. I, 364, 1831. F. hyemalis, var. Lath. Ind. Orn. Supp. p. 8, 1801; Syn. Supp. II, 39, 1802. Circus hyemalis, Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. pl. vii, 1807.—James. Wils. Am. Orn. I, 88 & 87, 1808. B. hyemalis, Less. Tr. Orn. p. 81, 1831.—Bonap. Eur. & N. Am. B. p. 3, 1838. Astur hyemalis, Jard. Wils. Orn. II, 72, 1808.—Vieill. Enc. Méth. III, 1273, 1823. Nisus hyemalis, Cuv. Reg. An. ed. 2, I, 334, 1829. Buteo fuscus, Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. pl. v, 1807. Astur fuscus, Bonap. Oss. Cuv. Reg. An. p. 37, 1830. Falco buteoides, Nutt. Man. I, 100, 1832. Buteo cooperi (not of Cassin), Allen, Am. Nat. III, 1869, 518 (young of B. lineatus!)

Sp. Char. Adult male (32,509, Washington, D. C., January). Head, neck, and interscapulars deep rufous (above becoming darker posteriorly), each feather with a medial stripe of blackish-brown. Throat and cheeks almost destitute of rufous tinge, the ground being dull white,—the dusky forming an indistinct “mustache,” and an imperfect, obsolete collar (formed by confluent, or suffused streaks), across the throat. Breast, sides, abdomen, and tibiæ rather light rufous, becoming paler posteriorly; breast with shaft-streaks of blackish; the rufous of sides of breast almost unvaried; abdomen, sides, and middle of the breast, with transverse bars of ochraceous white; tibiæ uniform pale ochraceous; anal region and lower tail-coverts, immaculate white. Lesser wing-coverts chestnut-rufous, feathers with black shaft-streaks, these becoming larger posteriorly; scapulars and middle wing-coverts edged broadly with rufous, and obsoletely spotted on inner webs with white.—this somewhat exposed; secondaries dark clear brown, tipped and crossed with two (exposed) bands of white; primaries black, fading at tips into dilute grayish-brown, and with quadrate spots of white on outer webs. Rump uniform blackish-brown; upper tail-coverts tipped and banded with black. Tail clear brownish-black, crossed with six sharply defined narrow bands of white, the last of which is terminal, and the first two concealed by the upper coverts. Lining of the wing nearly uniform pale rufous, with very sparse, deeper rufous, somewhat transverse spots; under surface of primaries silvery white, crossed by broad bands, these where the white is clearest being pale rufous, bordered with dusky, but as the white grows more silvery they darken into black; the longest (fourth) has eight of these spots, including the subterminal, very broad one. Fourth quill longest; fifth, just perceptibly shorter; third, a little shorter; second, considerably longer than sixth; first equal to ninth. Wing, 13.00; tail, 8.50; tarsus, 2.90; middle toe, 1.33.

Adult female (11,991, Washington, D. C.; Dr. W. Wallace). Generally similar to the male, but rufous more extended, this tinging the outer webs of secondaries and primaries. On the under parts the rufous is rather deeper, and the tibiæ are strongly barred, and even the lower tail-coverts have obsolete spots of the same. Wing, 13.75; tail, 9.00; tarsus, 2.90; middle toe, 1.50.

Younger (41,683, Washington, D. C.; Dr. Coues). Upper plumage precisely as in adult, but the black prevailing on head above, and nape. Beneath ochraceous-white, deepest on the tibiæ; breast, abdomen, sides, and tibiæ, with diamond-shaped spots of dark rufous-brown, connected along the shaft of the feathers, running thus, in a peculiar, longitudinal, chain-like series (19.50; 42.50; cere, legs, and feet bright chrome-yellow; anterior scales of tarsus with greenish tinge).

Young male (No. 1,210). Ground-color of head, neck, and under parts white; feathers of head and neck, with medial stripes of dark clear vandyke-brown, leaving a superciliary space, and the ear-coverts scarcely striped; a blackish suffusion over cheeks, forming a “mustache,” and large longitudinal spot of the same on middle of throat; breast, abdomen, sides, and flanks, with rather sparse, irregularly sagittate spots of clear vandyke-brown, those on the sides of breast more longitudinal; tibiæ, with a faint ochraceous tinge, and with sparse, small, and irregular specks of brown; lower tail-coverts with a very few distant isolated bars of the same. Upper parts generally, clear dark vandyke-brown; interscapulars and wing-coverts edged (most broadly beneath the surface) with pale rufous; middle wing-coverts with much white spotting on upper webs, partially exposed; wing-coverts generally, and scapulars, narrowly bordered with white; secondaries narrowly tipped with white, and crossed with about four (exposed) bands of paler grayish-brown; primaries inclining to black; faintly margined at ends, with whitish; outer webs anterior to the emargination, rufous-white, with distant, narrow bars of blackish, these widening on inner quills; upper tail-coverts white with transverse spots of blackish. Tail dark vandyke-brown, narrowly tipped with white, and crossed with numerous narrow bands of pale grayish-brown, these obsolete towards the base. Lining of the wing pale ochraceous, with a few irregularly cordate spots of dark brown toward edge of wing; under surface of primaries mostly white, the dusky bars not extending across the web, except on inner quills. Wing, 13.25; tail, 9.30; tarsus, 2.85; middle toe, 1.40.

Young female (11,994, Washington, D. C., January; C. Drexler). Almost precisely similar; tibiæ unspotted; light bands of the tail more sharply defined basally, and pale mottled rufous, instead of pale ashy brown. Wing, 14.50; tail, 9.60; tarsus, 3.10; middle toe, 1.45.

Hab. Eastern N. Am.; south to Florida; west to Texas and the tributaries of the Missouri.

Localities: Orizaba, Scl. 1857, 211; S. E. Texas, Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 325 (breeds); Iverness Shore, England (Feb. 26, 1863), Newcome, Ibis, 1865, 549.


National Museum, 19; Philadelphia Academy, 14; Boston Society, 8; Mus. Cambridge, 16; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 4; Coll. R. Ridgway, 4. Total, 65.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
11.25–13.50 8.00–9.70 .75–.90 2.70–3.25 1.30–1.50 20 Northern.
13.35–14.25 9.00–10.00 .80–.90 3.10–3.20 1.35–1.50 7 Northern.

This specimen may possibly indicate a mere individual variation, rather than a progressive stage of plumage.

A male (25,198, Washington, D. C., February) is as strongly barred beneath as described in the female; thus it would appear that any differences in plumage in the sexes are nothing more than individual discrepancies.

The yellowish outer webs of the primaries constitute a feature which will serve to distinguish the young of the Buteo lineatus from that of every other North American species.

A series of twelve specimens from Florida, in the Museum of Comparative Zoölogy, at Cambridge, shows that the birds of this species from that peninsula are very much smaller than northern ones; and though that of the adults does not differ appreciably, the plumage of the young birds is considerably darker than in northern specimens, and occasionally approaches quite nearly to that of the young of var. elegans, the markings on the lower parts, including the tibiæ, being often in the form of transverse spots.

The extreme measurements of this series are as follows: Wing, 10.90–12.75; tail, 7.70–8.50; culmen, .80–.90; tarsus, 2.90–3.20; middle toe, 1.25–1.45. Specimens, 12.

Var. elegans, Cassin.

Buteo elegans, Cass. P. A. N. S. 1855, 281.—Ib. B. N. Am. 1858, 28, plate.—Heerm. P. R. Rep. II, 32.—Kennerly, P. R. Rep. III, 19.—Newb. VII, 75.—Coop. & Suckl. XII, ii, 147.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 38.—? Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 325 (Texas).—Coues, P. A. N. S. 1866, 9 (Arizona).—Gray, Hand List, I, 7.—Cooper, Birds Cal. 1870, 477.

Sp. Char. Adult male (10,573, Ft. Tejon, California, “Oct. 22, 1857”; J. Xantus). Head, neck, interscapulars, anterior scapulars, lesser wing-coverts, lining of the wing, and entire lower parts, dark lateritious-rufous, inclining to chestnut on the shoulders. The upper parts so colored have each feathers with a medial-ovate space of dull black, giving a striped appearance; the lesser wing-coverts, however, have each only a narrow shaft-line of black, these growing larger as they approach the middle coverts. There is a strong black suffusion over the cheeks, forming an obscure “mustache”; orbit blackish, throat streaked with the same. The dark lateritious-rufous of the jugulum and breast is perfectly continuous and uniform, varied only by the obsoletely darker shafts of the feathers; sides and flanks transversely barred with white; lining of the wing, and tibiæ, with very ill-defined bars of paler rufous; anal region and lower tail-coverts with broader and more sharply defined bars of the same. Scapulars and middle wing-coverts brownish-black, narrowly tipped, and irregularly spotted transversely, with pure white; secondaries and greater coverts brownish-black, tinged with rufous, and broadly tipped and crossed, with sharply defined bands of pure white, of which there are on secondaries about six exposed (including the terminal band); primaries and their coverts deep black (tinged anterior to their emargination with rufous), tipped with pure white, and having spots of white on outer webs. Rump and upper tail-coverts brownish-black, with indistinct transverse bands of white, the latter sharply tipped with the same. Tail clear brownish-black sharply tipped with white, and with about five sharply defined bands of the same, about .30 of an inch in width. Under surface of secondaries and primaries white to near the ends, where they are black; the tips, however, again white; the white portion crossed by regular transverse bands, those where the white is purest being light rufous, but as the white shades toward the black they become dusky; the rufous bars are, however, bordered with dusky. Fifth quill longest; third and fourth longer than sixth; second a little shorter than sixth; first intermediate between ninth and tenth. Wing, 12.50; tail, 8.00; tarsus, 2.90; middle toe, 1.40.

Young. Predominating color, blackish-brown; this existing on under parts in large, confluent sagittate spots, which are longitudinal on throat and jugulum, and more transverse on sides, abdomen, tibiæ, and lower tail-coverts, the ground-color of lower parts being dull ochraceous. The head and neck, all around, presenting a uniform, streaked appearance, the edges of the feathers being ochraceous, but the black far exceeding this in amount. Interscapulars and scapulars bordered with rusty rufous; wing-coverts more broadly bordered with ochraceous, and with much concealed dull white spotting; lesser wing-coverts, with a strong wash of rich dark rufous; secondaries tipped with white, and crossed by two or three (exposed) broad bands of dull ashy; primaries brownish-black, narrowly tipped with white, and with ill-defined restricted spots of the same on outer webs. Rump uniform blackish-brown, feathers faintly bordered with rusty; upper tail-coverts tipped and barred with white. Tail brownish-black tipped with white, and crossed with five narrow bands of dull light ashy. Lining of wing dull, dingy ochraceous, with numerous transverse bars of brown; fourth quill longest; third shorter than fifth; second longer than sixth; first equal to ninth. Wing (male, 10,572, Fort Tejon), 12.00; tail, 8.40; tarsus, 2.82; middle toe, 1.35. Female (4,520, Santa Clara, Cal.; Dr. Cooper), wing, 13.00; tail, 9.00; tarsus, 2.90; middle toe, 1.52.

Hab. Pacific, and southern portion of the middle Provinces of the United States; Mexico.

Localities quoted: Texas (San Antonio, winter), (Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 325); Arizona (Coues, P. A. N. S. 1866, 9); city of Mexico (Scl. & Salv. P. Z. S. 1869, 364).


National Museum, 4; Philadelphia Academy, 4; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 1; R. Ridgway, 2. Total, 11.


Wing, 12.00–13.00; tail, 8.75–9.50; culmen, .78–.90; tarsus, 3.00–3.12; middle toe, 1.40–1.50.

The young of the Buteo elegans differs most remarkably from that of B. lineatus; the pattern of coloration appears scarcely the same, for the ochraceous on outer webs of primaries, anterior to their emargination,—which is a feature distinguishing the immature lineatus from all other Buteos,—is in the present bird almost obliterated by the extension of the dusky.

Habits. The Red-shouldered Hawk has an extended distribution, being found more or less abundant from Florida to Nova Scotia, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast it is replaced by the Buteo elegans. Mr. J. A. Allen found it by far the most abundant of this family in Florida. In Texas the two races, lineatus and elegans, appear to occur together, Mr. Dresser having met with both near San Antonio. The Red-shouldered Hawk was noticed by this writer from the river Neuces eastward. He found it breeding in the heavily wooded river bottoms of the Medina, and several others of the rivers of Texas, but did not succeed in procuring the eggs. It breeds abundantly in Florida, and thence throughout the United States as far north as Northern Vermont, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Lieutenant Bland notices it as a common and migratory species in Nova Scotia, but Mr. Downes speaks of it as rare near Halifax, where he only met with two specimens. Mr. Boardman gives it as quite common near Calais, breeding there and probably resident. In Western Maine Mr. Verrill regarded the species as a not very common summer resident, where it was also known to breed, as he met with its nest and eggs May 24, 1860. It is quite common in Eastern Massachusetts, where it is found all the year, but where it is more abundant in the fall, from the addition of northern migrants, than at any other time. A few are found throughout the winter, keeping about open springs and in sheltered situations. Mr. Allen also speaks of it as not uncommon in the western part of the same State. It was not taken or seen by Richardson in northern regions, nor does it appear to have been observed in any of the West India Islands.

The history and habits of this very common Hawk seem to have been involved, among earlier writers, in a confusion that seems hardly explicable. Wilson described and always regarded the young and old as two distinct species, calling the former hyemalis, giving to it a northern residence, and the mature bird lineatus. Mr. Audubon repeated this error at first, and sought to demonstrate its correctness by giving to the two forms very dissimilar habits. Bonaparte believed these forms to be identical, and Nuttall did the same, but was altogether in error as to its distribution. He was not aware of its presence in Massachusetts, where it is at times the most abundant of the raptorial birds. This writer only met with it in the Southern States, where he found it very common in swampy situations. He speaks of its having a quailing cry of mutual recognition, which is a plaintive echoing note, like keé-oó, which is continued with little intermission for nearly twenty minutes. He describes the species as not shy, and as very easily approached. These Hawks remain mated throughout the year, and their affectionate treatment of each other is in striking contrast with the selfish indifference of the Red-tail species when their breeding-season is ended.

Nuttall observed it feeding on frogs, cray-fish, and even insects, and rarely troubling larger game. In only one instance did he see one descend upon a Plover. Wilson saw them attack Plover, Sand-pipers, Larks, and even Hawks; but the last is very rare and exceptional. I have never known one of this species to molest the poultry-yard. From 1828 to 1838, during my stay in Roxbury, a pair of these Hawks were residents within a few hundred yards of the house, where, as they never molested the tenants of the barn-yard, they were not allowed to be disturbed. Their breeding-place we could not find, but they kept about an open spring during the winter, feeding upon small game, and were not at all shy. One of them unfortunately was wounded, and was kept in confinement several days. It was the male bird, in full adult plumage, and was by no means wild, feeding readily upon what was given to it, even with our near presence. It would not tolerate a too great familiarity, but manifested great irritation if we attempted to approach it. Its wing had been badly shattered, and it finally died from mortification of the wound. It would never submit to be handled, and fought desperately when we sought to have its limb bound up. After we gave up this attempt as impossible it became rather more familiar, and would even at last greet me with a welcome cry of recognition, and take its food from my hand.

Wilson, in speaking of the adult bird, states that this Hawk has a high and very irregular flight, and is quite different from that of species with longer wings. In his account of the immature plumage, he notes its arrival in Pennsylvania early in November, and its departure in March. He speaks of it as a dexterous catcher of frogs, and adds that it sometimes so stuffs itself that it can fly with difficulty. He has found the remains of ten frogs in the stomach of a single individual.

The Red-shouldered Hawk constructs a large nest, not unlike that of the Crow, in the forked branches of a high tree. It is composed externally of sticks, and is lined with moss and soft leaves. The eggs are four in number, and occasionally three or two. When the nest is approached, the bird utters loud, frequent, and peculiar cries of alarm and resentment, not unlike keé-oó! rapidly repeated, but makes no attempt at resistance. The pair return year after year to the same nest, even when it has been robbed the previous season.

The eggs of this Hawk are of a very uniform spheroidal-oval shape, but slightly pointed at one end, and exhibit certain very general characteristics in the colors of their markings, but vary greatly in their size. The length varies from 2.20 to 2.00, and the breadth from 1.81 to 1.56. The ground-color is usually a dingy white, rarely pure white, and frequently with decidedly brownish tinge. The blotches are most frequently of a yellowish umber color; sometimes blotches of sienna-brown, slate-drab, and more obscure shades of brown are present, and these colors are not unfrequently confusedly mingled. An egg from Cheraw, S. C., has a ground-color of a light drab, tinged with slate and without any blotches whatever. It is not uncommon to find these nearly unspotted eggs in the same nest with others very boldly and profusely blotched. The Cheraw egg measures 2.00 by 1.56 inches; an egg from Massachusetts, 2.20 by 1.81: their relative capacity being nearly as three to four. They average about 2.10 by 1.68 inches.

Mr. L. Heiligbrodt found the nest of this Hawk near Austin, Texas. One egg was taken from the nest, and in a few days after a second was found to have been deposited (S. I. 15,894).

The handsome variety known as B. elegans is generally spoken of by all familiar with its habits, as well as with its appearance, as the almost exact counterpart of the Red-shouldered Hawk, replacing that form on the west coast.

Buteo elegans.

In regard to its distinctive specific habits but little is as yet known, but it is probable they are not essentially different from those of the lineatus, Dr. Cooper bearing positive testimony to this fact. He found this Hawk common in the southern part of the State, especially near San Diego, but he did not meet with any in the Colorado Valley. On his approach to one of them, it would always fly off from its usual perch, circling up high into the air, and uttering short shrill screams in rapid succession in the manner of the lineatus. He noticed a pair constantly at one place near a ranch, and supposed they were about building there, but was not able to find the nest.

Among the memoranda of Mr. Xantus, made at Fort Tejon, Cal., is one dated May 9, mentioning the finding the nest of this species. It contained four eggs, was built in an old decayed tree, in a swamp, and was about fifteen feet from the ground. The nest was large and made of sticks.

Buteo borealis (Gmel.).

Sp. Char. Form heavy and robust; wings moderate, the third to fifth quill longest; the first shorter than the seventh; outer four with inner webs cut. Feet strong, the tarsi and toes robust, and claws not very acute. Dimensions: Wing, 13.50–17.25; tail, 8.50–11.30; culmen, .90–1.15; tarsus, 2.70–3.40; middle toe, 1.60–1.95; weight, 2½ to 4 lbs. Colors: Adult: tail, deep lateritious-rufous, paler at the tip, and usually with a subterminal bar of black (sometimes without any bar, and sometimes with numerous bars to the base). Above blackish-brown, more or less variegated with whitish on the scapulars and wing-coverts; beneath white, usually with a belt of blackish spots across the abdomen; sometimes wholly dusky or blackish beneath, but the pectoral region always appreciably lighter than the abdomen; under surface of primaries plain white anterior to their emargination. Young. Tail grayish-brown, with nine or ten narrow, sharply defined bands of blackish. Pattern of other parts as in the adult, but the white purer, and the plumage generally with less rufous.

Hab. Entire continent of North America; West Indies.

The plumage varies from wholly dusky blackish, with a paler, more brownish, pectoral area, and the tail of the adult with numerous black bars, or indications of bars, to the very base (var. calurus), through various proportionate degrees of rufous and dusky, to entirely pure white beneath, without any spotting; the tail of the adult without a single black bar (vars. krideri and lucasanus).

Var. borealis, Gmelin.

Falco borealis, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 266, 1789.—Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 25, 1790; Syn. I, p. 50, 1780; Supp. II, 34, 1787; Gen. Hist. I, p. 265, 1821.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 157, 1800.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 112, 1812.—Wils. Am. Orn. pl. lii, fig. 1, 1808.—Sab. Frankl. Exp. p. 670.—Wagl. Isis, p. 517, 1831.—Bonap. Ann. N. Y. Lyc. II, pp. 32, 434; Isis, p. 1138, 1832.—Aud. Birds Am. pl. li, 1831; Orn. Biog. I, p. 265, 1831; Syn. VI.—Gray, Genera, 1840.—Rich. F. B. A. II, 50, 1831.—Nutt. Man. I, 102, 1840.—Gosse, Birds Jam. II, 1847.—Dough. Cab. I, 229, pl. xxx, 1830. Buteo borealis, Vieill. Nouv. Dict. Hist. Nat. IV, p. 478, 1819; Enc. Méth. III, p. 1222, 1823.—Vig. Zoöl. Journ. I, p. 340; Zoöl. Beech. Voy. p. 15.—Steph. Zoöl. XIII, pt. 2, p. 47, 1826.—Less. Tr. Orn. p. 79, 1831.—James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, pp. 82, 84, 1808.—Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. II, pp. 280, 282, 1808.—Brew. (Wils.) Am. Orn. p. 450; Synop. p. 684.—Bonap. Eur. & N. Am. B. p. 3, 1838; Consp. Av. p. 19.—Aud. Synop. p. 6, 1839.—Gray, Gen. B. fol. sp. 6, 1844; List B. Brit. Mus. p. 34, 1844.—Pucher. Rev. Zoöl. p. 214, 1850.—Gosse, B. Jam. p. 11, pl. ii, 1847.—Cass. B. Cal. & Tex. Syn. p. 97, 1854; Proc. Ac. Sc. Philad. p. 279, 1855.—Gamb. Journ. Ac. Nat. Sc. Phil. N. S. I, p. 26.—Nutt. Man. Orn. U. S. & Canad. p. 102, 1833.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, p. 9, pl. viii, f. 17 (Juv.), 1844.—Peab. Bost. Journ. Nat. Hist. III, p. 80, 1837.—Thomp. Hist. Verm. App. p. 63, 1853.—Peale, U. S. Expl. Exp. p. 62, 1848.—Towns. Sit. Exp. Zuñi & Color. p. 59.—Kaup, Ueb. Falk. Mus. Senck. p. 261, 1845.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 29, 1855.—Max. Cab. Journ. VI, 1858, 17.—Blakist. Ibis, III, 1861, 318.—Wood, Am. Nat. III, 1869, 393.—Gray, Hand List, I, 1869, 7. Astur borealis, Cuv. Règ. An. (ed. 2), I, 332, 1829.—Swains. Class. B. I, 316; II, 215, 1837, Pœcilopternis borealis, Kaup, Isis, Mon. Falc. Cont. Orn. 1850, p. 76. Falco leverianus, Gmel. Syst. Nat. 266, 1789.—Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 181, 1790; Syn. Supp. I, 31, 1787; Gen. Hist. I, 620, 1821.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 126, 1800.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 151, 1812.—Wils. Am. Orn. pl. lii (Juv.), 1808.—Aud. Orn. Biog. I, 265. Buteo leverianus, Vig. Zoöl. Journ. I, 340.—Steph. Zoöl. XIII, pt. 2, p. 47, 1815. Falco aquilinus, Bartr. Tran. p. 390, 1791. Accipiter ruficaudus, Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. pl. xiv, bis. 1807. Buteo fulvus, Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. p. 34; Nouv. Dict. Hist. IV, p. 468 (quot. F. jamaicensis), 1819. Buteo ferrugineocaudus, Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. pl. vi, 1807.—Cuv. Règ. An. (ed. 2), I, 337. Buteo americanus, Vieill. Nouv. Dict. Nat. IV, 477 (quot.), Ois. Am. Merid. pl. vi, Enc. Méth. III, 1224, 1823. ? Buteo gallinivorus, Vieill. Ois. Buteo borealis, Brewer, N. A. Oölogy, 1857.

Sp. Char. Adult. Upper parts rich blackish-brown, approaching black on the back; scapulars and middle wing-coverts edged and barred beneath the surface with dull white, and tinged along edges with ochraceous. Wings generally of a paler shade than the back; secondaries fading into nearly white at tips, and, with the greater coverts, obscurely barred with darker; primaries nearly black, tips edged with pale brown, this passing into whitish. Rump uniform blackish-brown, feathers obscurely bordered with rusty. Upper tail-coverts ochraceous-white, nearly pure terminally, and with about two distinct transverse bars of deep rufous. Tail rich uniform lateritious-rufous, passing narrowly into white at the tip, and about an inch (or less) from the end crossed by a narrow band of black. Head and neck with the feathers medially blackish-brown, their edges rusty-rufous, causing a streaked appearance; the rufous prevailing on the sides of the occiput, the ear-coverts, and neck. The blackish almost uniform on the forehead and on the cheeks, over which it forms a broad “mustache”; lores and sides of frontlet whitish. Throat white, with broad stripes of pure slaty-brown; lower parts in general ochraceous-white; tibiæ and lower tail-coverts immaculate; across the abdomen and flanks (immediately in front of the tibiæ) is a broad interrupted belt of longitudinal black blotches, those on the abdomen tear-shaped, on the flanks larger and more irregular, throwing off bars toward the edge of the feathers; whole pectoral area variegated only with a few shaft-streaks of black (these growing broader laterally), and sometimes washed with rusty. Lining of the wing ochraceous-white, with sparse diamond-shaped spots of pale rufous, and shaft-streaks of darker; under surface of primaries white anterior to their emargination, beyond which they gradually deepen into black; the innermost ones are finely mottled with slaty, and with imperfect transverse bars of the same.

Male. Wing, 13.50–16.50; tail, 8.50–10.00; culmen, .95–1.08; tarsus, 1.40–3.20; middle toe, 1.60–1.70. Weight, 2½–3 lbs.

Female. Wing, 15.25–17.75; tail, 9.50–10.50; culmen, 1.00–1.15; tarsus, 3.15–3.40; middle toe, 1.70–1.80. Weight, 3–4 lbs.

Young (28,154, Philadelphia; J. Krider). Above similar to the adult, but lacking entirely any rufous tinge, the scapulars and wing-coverts more variegated with whitish. Tail light grayish-brown (very much lighter than the rump), tinged, especially basally, with rufous, narrowly tipped with white, and crossed with nine or ten narrow, curved bands of black; upper tail-coverts white, with broad bars of black. Head as in the adult, but the rufous wanting, leaving the streaks black and white; forehead more broadly white; chin and throat wholly white, the latter with a collar of dusky streaks across the lower part; whole pectoral region entirely immaculate, pure white; abdominal band as in the adult; tibiæ somewhat tinged with ochraceous, unvariegated.

Hab. Eastern North America; not in West Indies, nor west of the Missouri.

Localities: (?) Bahamas (Bryant, Pr. Bost. Soc. 1867, 64).


National Museum, 9; Philadelphia Academy, 13; Boston Society, 8; Museum, Cambridge, 15; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 3; Coll. R. Ridgway, 2. Total, 50.

The true Buteo borealis, as restricted, may always be distinguished from the var. calurus, its western representative, by its having the posterior lower parts (tibiæ and lower tail-coverts) entirely free from transverse bars, and by lacking indications of transverse bars on the tail, anterior to the conspicuous subterminal one. It differs from the var. costaricensis, in having the head and neck conspicuously striped with rufous, and the throat thickly striped with black, almost obliterating the white; in the conspicuous abdominal belt of large black spots, and in having the tibiæ lighter ochraceous than the breast; from the var. lucasanus and var. krideri, it is distinguished by having the black tail-band, more spotted under parts, and in the upper tail-coverts being white, banded with rufous, instead of plain white, or deep rufous, uniform with the tail.

A specimen (No. 1,750, Carlisle, Pa.; S. F. Baird) appears at first sight much like the var. calurus, being very dark; the tibiæ, anal region, and the lower tail-coverts are, however, not barred as in this, and the tail possesses but the subterminal band.

An immature specimen (No. 21,488; John Krider) from Philadelphia has the tibiæ quite distinctly barred, but less conspicuously so than in young of var. calurus.

Var. krideri, Hoopes.

Buteo krideri, Hoopes, P. A. N. S. Philad. 1873, p. —

Sp. Char. Adult. Similar to var. borealis, but beneath continuous pure white, without rufous tinge, and without distinct spots across the abdomen, or lacking them entirely; above much lighter, the brown, light rufous, and white being about equal in amount. Upper tail-coverts immaculate white; tail pale rufous, the shafts pure white, and the webs mixed with white along their edges, its amount increasing toward the base; no trace of a dusky subterminal bar, or else only indicated by badly defined spots.

Young. Differing from that of var. borealis in the immaculate, snowy-white lower parts, nearly equal extent of the white and dusky on the upper parts, and whitish cast of the tail.

Two females (one shot from nest of two eggs, near Alexandria, Minn., May 8, 1872,87 and the other, also shot from nest of two eggs, near Pelican Lake, Minn., May 21, 187288) are entirely absolutely pure white beneath, there being but the faintest indications of markings in the region of the usual abdominal belt; even the whole under side of the wing is almost immaculate. The ground-color of the upper parts is pale grayish-brown, about equally variegated transversely, on the scapulars and tertials, with white. In one of them, the sides of the head and neck are pale fawn-color, the “mustache” from the rictus brownish-black in conspicuous contrast; the upper parts are nearly equally variegated with brown, light rufous, and white, the latter predominating posteriorly. The upper tail-coverts are immaculate white. The tail-feathers are light rufous, with pure white shafts, considerably mixed with white along the edges of the feathers, the white considerably increasing towards the base of the tail. Of the subterminal dusky band there is no trace in one specimen, while in the other it is indicated by transverse spots, while the inner webs along the shafts are much variegated with transverse dusky spots. The male specimen (shot at Chippewa Lake, Minn., from nest (!) of two eggs May 19, 187289) is considerably darker, nearly like the average plumage of eastern var. borealis. Still the white of the lower parts is remarkably pure, being of an almost snowy clearness, without any trace whatever of an ochraceous tinge.

No. 8,532, Devil’s River, Texas (Nov. 1855; Dr. C. B. Kennerly), differs only in being a little less pure white beneath, the lower parts being very appreciably tinged with rufous posteriorly.

Hab. Plains of the United States, from Minnesota to Texas (Devil’s River, M. S. I.).

Var. lucasanus, Ridgway.

Buteo borealis var. lucasanus, Ridgway,” Coues, Key, 1872, 216 (under B. borealis).

Sp. Char. Adult. General appearance of the normal plumage of var. calurus, but the upper parts more uniformly blackish, and the upper tail-coverts and tail uniform rufous, the latter without a trace of a black bar. Beneath nearly uniform reddish ochraceous, or light rufous, the usual abdominal belt merely indicated by a few inconspicuous spots; no trace of transverse bars on the lower parts. Female ? (No. 16,925, Cape St. Lucas, Sept. 15, 1859; J. Xantus). Wing, 16.00; tail, 9.50; tarsus, 3.00; middle toe, 1.60. Wing-formula 5, 4, 3, 2–6–7–8–9, 1, 10.

Young. Not distinguishable, by positive characters, from that of var. calurus.

Hab. Peninsula of Lower California.

All adult specimens from the peninsula of Lower California agree with that described above, in the peculiar features which I consider as characterizing a well-marked local race. The present form is most nearly related, in its adult dress, to the var. krideri of the plains, in its unbarred tail and immaculate lower plumage, but differs from this in having the upper parts nearly black instead of almost white, the upper tail-coverts deep rufous, like the tail, instead of white, and the lower parts rufous instead of white; in the rufous lower plumage and very dark upper parts, it closely resembles var. costaricensis90 of Central America and Southern Mexico, but the latter has a barred tail, entirely continuous black above, plain white throat patch, and other minor differences, besides having a quite different young plumage. As to the young plumage of var. lucasanus, I cannot find any character by which it can with certainty be distinguished from that of var. calurus.

Var. calurus, Cassin.

Buteo calurus, Cassin, Proc. Acad. Nat. Sc. Phil. VII, 281, 1855; Birds N. Am. 1858, 22.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 38, 1855.—Coues, Prod. Orn. Ariz. p. 8, 1866.—Gray, Hand List, I, 7, 1869. Buteo montanus (not of Nuttall!), Cassin, Birds N. Am. 1858, 26.—Newb. P. R. R. Rept. VI, iv, 1857.—Heerm. P. R. R. Rept. VII, 31, 1857.—Coop. & Suck. P. R. R. Rept. XII, ii, 147, 1860.—Coues, Prod. Orn. Ariz. p. 7, 1866.—Buteo swainsoni (not of Bonap!), Cass. B. Cal. & Tex. p. 98, 1854.

Sp. Char. Adult. Similar to var. borealis, but darker, with more rufous and blackish in the plumage; tibiæ always, and flanks and crissum usually, barred with rufous; throat with the dark streaks suffused and widened, so as to form the prevailing color. Tail with indications of transverse bars anterior to the usual subterminal one, these varying in number and distinctness with the individual. Whole plumage sometimes sooty black, the breast, however, covered by an appreciably paler patch, usually of a somewhat rufous hue. Tail sometimes with regular and continuous narrow bands to the very base.

Young. Very much darker than that of var. borealis, the pattern being similar, but the dark markings much expanded and more numerous; tibiæ with heavy transverse spots of dusky.

Hab. Western region of North America, from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific; south into Mexico; West Indies (Jamaica and Cuba, Mus. S. I.).

Localities quoted: (?) Xalapa (Sclater, P. Z. S. 1859, 368); Oaxaca (Scl. P. Z. S. 1859, 389); (?) Cuba (Cab. Journ. II. lxxxii; Gundl. Rep. 1865, 223; resident. “B. borealis”); S. E. Texas (Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 324).


National Museum, 44; Philadelphia Academy, 18; Boston Society, 6; Coll. G. N. Lawrence, 2; R. Ridgway, 5. Total, 75.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
13.50–16.00 9.50–10.00 .90–1.10 2.90–3.30 1.70–1.80 30 N. Am.
16.00–17.25 9.50–11.30 1.00–1.08 3.30–3.40 1.80–1.95 16 N. Am.
13.25–14.00 9.00–0.00 1.00–0.00 3.30–0.00 1.80–0.00 2 Jamaican.
14.50–0.00 9.00–0.00 1.10–0.00 3.25–0.00 1.75–0.00 1 Jamaican.
15.50–0.00 9.50–0.00 1.15–0.00 3.10–0.00 1.85–0.00 1 Cuban.

A large collection of specimens of this race presents a series connecting borealis with the black form known as “calurus”; every possible condition between the two being indicated in the range of individual variation. The lightest styles as distinguished from var. borealis always have the tibiæ barred with rufous; the crissum, also, is generally barred, on the throat the blackish-brown predominates, and the tail has more or less perfect bars to the roots of the feathers; generally, however, these are merely indicated by projections from the shafts.

The extreme condition of this is the melanistic form which Mr. Cassin described as “Buteo calurus”; the darkest example of which (5,481, Petaluma, Cal.; E. Samuels) is entirely blackish-brown, wings and scapulars with feathers somewhat paler at tips; breast inclining to dark sepia-brown, the feathers with black shaft-streaks; tibial feathers faintly tipped with pale grayish-brown; lower tail-coverts tipped and barred with rufous; upper tail-coverts deep rufous barred with black; tail deep chestnut-rufous, the subterminal black band very broad, and anterior to this are nine or ten imperfect narrower black bands.

These fuliginous examples have always a more or less appreciably lighter pectoral area, corresponding to the white of this region seen in the lighter styles.

Of this race, almost each individual has its own characteristic markings, and scarcely two are to be found alike in a very large series from Western North America. All the specimens from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, and from the table-lands of Mexico, as well as from Cuba and Jamaica, are referrible to this variety, although we are not aware that in the latter region the bird ever becomes black. In the latter island this species (as is also the case with many other birds) seems to be remarkably subject to albinism. In the peninsula of Lower California it is replaced by the var. lucasanus, and in Central America by the very different var. costaricensis; from both of which it may be distinguished by the numerous transverse rufous bars crossing the posterior under parts, which character serves also to distinguish the lightest examples from the eastern typical borealis.

A specimen (50,761; Colonel Grayson) from the Socorro Island, S. W. Mexico, is like some Fort Tejon specimens.

No. 41,759 (immature), Merida, Yucatan (Dr. Schott), is remarkably light colored, or, rather, is unusually variegated with whitish above; the tail, also, is almost white; the bands, however, very conspicuous. The lower parts are as thickly spotted as in specimens from Washington Territory.

The young bird of this western style is as different from that of the eastern as is the adult, and the essential differences are about the same,—i.e. darker colors, or a predominance, or, rather, increase in size, of the dark markings. The numerous heavy transverse spots on the tibia constitute a persistent feature of the young of the var. calurus, as compared with the almost, or perfectly, immaculate white of those in var. borealis.

It being certain that the Buteo montanus of Nuttall is really the B. swainsoni, and not the variety of borealis so called by Mr. Cassin, it becomes necessary to drop this name in connection with the present bird, and transfer it as a synonyme to swainsoni. In its place, Mr. Cassin’s name calurus must be substituted, under which was described the melanistic condition of the present variety of borealis.

In describing his B. montanus, Nuttall cites Audubon’s plate of “Falco buteo,” which, of course, is a name by which the B. swainsoni was first designated before it was distinguished from the B. vulgaris of Europe. Audubon’s plate represents, unmistakably, the adult female of the Buteo swainsoni.

Habits. The well-known Red-tailed Hawk is widely distributed throughout North America from the West Indies and Central America to the Arctic regions, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

According to Sir John Richardson, it is common in the fur countries, which it visits in summer, and where a few are known to breed. Specimens were taken by his party on the Rocky Mountains, the plains of the Saskatchewan, and at the York factory. These were all between the 53d and the 57th parallels of latitude.

Buteo borealis (adult).

Mr. Salvin cites it as generally and plentifully distributed throughout Guatemala, from whence numerous examples in all stages of plumage, from the young to the adult, were transmitted by Mr. Skinner. It was also found at Dueñas by him. Mr. Swainson states that this Hawk was taken on the plains of Mexico by Mr. Taylor. A single specimen was received by Mr. Lawrence from Panama. Mr. Gosse states that it is the most common bird of this family in Jamaica, where it is a resident, and where it breeds. Mr. Lembeye and Dr. Gundlach both include it in their lists of the birds of Cuba, and the latter marks it as breeding in that island. It has been observed in Florida by Mr. Allen, and is not uncommon in all the New England States, where it is resident throughout the year. In the Southern States it is most abundant in the winter months.

Specimens of this bird are recorded in the government reports as obtained from the Yellowstone, from the Pecos River in Texas, and from Fort Fillmore in New Mexico. Mr. Dresser found it common throughout all of Texas in all seasons of the year, breeding in all parts, but preferring the heavily timbered country. He obtained its eggs from Systerdale and from the Medina River.

This Hawk is a strong and powerful bird, with a firm, steady, and protracted flight, frequently at a great elevation, and often moving quite a distance without any apparent motion of the wings. It is said to generally descend upon its prey from some fixed position, as the branch of a tree, and rarely to dart upon it when flying. It is a cautious bird, and rarely ventures near a house for poultry except when the dwelling is isolated and near its own haunts. It preys chiefly upon small quadrupeds, small birds, and reptiles. It usually darts upon a snake from the branch of a tree, and seizing it near the head bears it writhing through the air. In the valley of the Saskatchewan, Richardson states that it watches for the marmots, and when one imprudently ventures from its burrow, darts upon it, bears it a short distance off, and tears it to pieces.

As they fly, these birds utter a very peculiar and unpleasantly harsh cry or scream, which they repeat very frequently. Capt. Blakiston observed this at the Red River settlement, and speaks of it as the Squealing Hawk.

Though said to be thus generally cautious in exposing itself to danger in approaching a poultry-yard, it is not always thus cautious. Mr. Downes mentions an instance where one of these birds entered a garden in Halifax to pounce upon a tame Crow, and was captured alive by the owner.

Mr. Audubon states that after rearing their young they no longer remain mated, but separate and evince rather jealous hostility to each other than good-will. When one has taken any prey in sight of another, the latter will pursue and struggle with it for possession of the plunder. In these fights they scream vociferously while struggling for possession.

In the Southern States these Hawks begin to build in February; in the Middle States, from March the 24th to April 15th; and in New England usually from April to May. They construct a large nest, composed externally of coarse sticks and twigs, and lined with dried grasses, moss, and leaves, built for the most part in the fork of a lofty tree. The eggs are usually four in number.

Mr. Augustus Fowler of Danvers, who is familiar with the habits of this bird, writes me that in Massachusetts they usually begin to build their nests about the first of April, selecting some tall tree near the middle of the woods, the branches of which form a crotch near its trunk. To this chosen spot the female carries a sufficient quantity of sticks for its outside (the male taking no very active part in the matter), and for its inside she uses the bark from the dead branches of the chestnut, which she beats and pecks to pieces with her bill, making it soft and pliable, or gathers the fallen leaves of the pine, or some other soft material, which she finds conveniently, as a lining, which is about one inch in thickness. It is thirteen inches in diameter from outside to outside, and seven inches in diameter on the inside, while its depth is two and a half inches. The female usually lays five eggs, which are spherical, of a dirty-white color, and marked with large blotches of brown; on some they cover almost the whole egg, while others are marked mostly on the large end, and some even of the same nest are so faintly marked as to appear almost wholly white. They are 2.12 inches in length and 1.95 in diameter.

In Jamaica, according to Mr. March, these Hawks do not confine themselves to any particular mode or place for breeding, height seeming to be their chief object. He has found their nest in a quite accessible tree, not more than twenty feet from the ground, and near a frequented path. In another instance a pair nested for several years on the roof of the turret of the belfry of the Spanishtown Cathedral church. The nest he describes as a platform of dry sticks, more than a foot across and two or three inches thick. The bed of the nest is about six inches across and two deep, of fine inner bark, grass, and leaves, containing four or five eggs, nearly spherical, measuring 2.25 by 2.75 inches, of a dirty or clayish white, dashed with blotches and spots of vandyke-brown and umber, often running with a light shade into the ground-color.

The eggs of the Red-tail exhibit great variations in nearly every respect except their shape, which is pretty uniformly a spheroidal-oval. Their ground-color varies from white to a dingy rusty drab, their markings vary greatly in colors, shades, size, frequency, and distribution. In some the markings are small, few, and light, and the egg appears to be of an almost homogeneous brownish-white. In others the ground is completely concealed by large and confluent blotches of deep and dark purplish-brown, burnt umber, and a peculiar shade known as Dutch umber. In some the markings are distributed in fine and frequent granulations, diffused over the entire surface of the egg, producing the effect of a color of uniform umber brown, through which the ground of yellowish-white can only be traced by a magnifying-glass. Four eggs in my cabinet average 2.22 inches in length by 1.72 in breadth. The largest egg measures 2.55 by 1.90 inches; the smallest, 2.10 by 1.70. The capacity of the largest to the smallest is nearly as five to four.

The season in which this Hawk deposits its eggs varies considerably. Mr. Jackson of West Chester, Penn., gives March 24 the earliest, and April 15 the latest, in which he has met with its fresh eggs.

Mr. Ridgway obtained two eggs of this Hawk at Mount Carmel, Ill., on the 6th of March, the nest having been commenced early in February. It was placed on the summit of a black-gum tree (Nyssa multiflora), and rested upon the topmost branches, about ninety feet from the ground. It was lined with corn-husks, gathered from a field close by. The eggs (No. 12,740, S. I. Collection) measure, respectively, 2.45 and 2.50 in length, by 1.95 and 2.00 in breadth. Their color is plain bluish-white, entirely free from markings of any kind.

In California, the var. calurus is stated to be common in all parts of the State not destitute of trees, and to reside permanently wherever found, pairing only during the breeding-season. They prey upon hares and other small quadrupeds, upon smaller birds, and upon reptiles. Dr. Cooper states that at times, when food is plenty, they become excessively fat. They are known to occasionally seize a fowl from the farm-yard. During the middle of the day, in the cold weather, they are said to soar very high in the air, and occasionally to disappear also in the manner of their eastern relatives, the Buteo borealis. They are said to be abundant and resident species in Washington Territory, having been found by Dr. Suckley quite numerous at Puget Sound, but scarcer on the Upper Columbia, east of the Cascade Mountains. It seems to be more daring than is common with the borealis, for Dr. Suckley states that while he was stationed at Fort Steilacoom he noticed that the poultry-yards were as much harassed by this Hawk as by the Goshawk, not hesitating to seize poultry from the very doors of the dwelling-houses.

Dr. Kennerly states that this Hawk was met with by him between the coast of Texas at Indianola, and the Rio Grande at El Paso del Norte. It seemed to feed indifferently upon reptiles, particularly lizards, and the smaller quadrupeds and birds.

Dr. Cooper states that the nests of this species are numerous in the valleys and on the lower mountains of California. They are generally built in the forks of a sycamore or other large trees, and formed of twigs pretty finely constructed, and with a very distinct cavity. Eggs, taken by Dr. Cooper near San Diego, were laid about the 20th of March, and were three in number. They measured 2.28 by 1.76 inches, were of a dull yellowish-white, with faint brown spots. While Dr. Cooper was climbing to the nest, the old birds darted towards him from a neighboring bluff, but when within a few feet of his head they turned away and did not attempt to make an assault.

Two eggs belonging to the variety calurus were obtained by Mr. E. Samuels near Petaluma, Cal., in 1856; measure 2.31 inches in length by 1.87 in breadth. The shape of one egg is an almost exact ovoid, slightly tending to a spheroid, one end being hardly perceptibly larger than the other. Its ground-color is a very light buff, the spottings and markings giving to it the effect of a yellowish-white. It is marked over the entire surface with blotches, dashes, and lines of a light tint of a brown tending to vandyke. These are mixed with markings of a lighter purplish-brown. The markings, of both shades, are chiefly oblong in shape, and run with the length of the egg. They bear no resemblance to any eggs of the B. borealis that I have ever seen, and are unlike those of other Hawks so far as I am aware. It was built on the top of a large evergreen-oak, at least seventy feet from the ground, and was constructed entirely of large, coarse sticks, lined with a few stray feathers. The male bird was shot as it flew from the nest, which was so hidden by the thick branches that it would have escaped detection.

The black form of this species was first described by Mr. Cassin as Buteo calurus, in 1855, from a specimen procured by Dr. Henry near Fort Webster, New Mexico. In this plumage it was afterwards met with by Mr. Emanuel Samuels, near Petaluma, in California, who found it breeding, and was fortunate enough to secure the parent bird on its nest.

The nest was built near the top of an evergreen-oak, at the height of about sixty feet from the ground, and contained two eggs just on the point of hatching. It was constructed of sticks, and was lined with moss. Both birds were about the spot. The male bird, manifesting much more courage than his mate in resistance to the intruders, was shot. The female was wounded, but escaped.

One of these eggs measures 2.25 inches in length by 1.79 in breadth. Its capacity is considerably less than that of the specimens just described; its shape is a much more oblong-oval; one end is evidently more pointed than the other. Its ground-color is a dirty cream-white, covered, chiefly at the larger end, with blotches and smaller markings of a dark shade of a brown almost exactly corresponding with that known as vandyke-brown, with smaller markings and spottings of a lighter shade of the same. The latter are distributed at intervals over its entire surface.

A nest, found by Mr. Xantus near Fort Tejon, is stated by him to have been found in a swamp. It was built in a water-oak, was about fifteen feet from the ground. The nest was very large and was built of coarse sticks. It contained four eggs.

Buteo harlani (Audubon).

Falco harlani, Aud. B. Am. 1831, pl. xxxvi; Ib. Orn. Biog. I, 441.—Brewer (Wils.), Am. Orn. Synop. 1852, 684. Buteo harlani, Bonap. List, 1838, 3.—Aud. Synop. 1839, 6.—Gray, List B. Brit. Mus. 18.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 11.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 30.—Cass. Birds N. Am. 1858, 24 (adult, but not the description of young, which is that of B. borealis, var. calurus).—Coues, P. A. N. S. 1866, 43.—Gray, Hand List, I, 7 (under B. borealis).—Ridgway, P. A. N. S. Dec. 1870, 142.—Coues, Key, 1872, 216.

Sp. Char. Form strong and heavy, like B. borealis, but still more robust; tibial plumes unusually developed, long and loose, their ends reaching to or beyond the base of the toes; lateral toes nearly equal. Four outer primaries with inner webs cut. Dimensions: Wing, 14.25–15.75; tail, 8.80–10.00; culmen, 1.00; tarsus, 2.75–3.25; middle toe, 1.50–1.70. Colors: Nearly uniform black, varying from a sooty to a carbonaceous tint, with more or less of concealed pure white. Adult. Tail confusedly mottled longitudinally, with grayish, dusky, and white, often tinged or mixed with rufous, the different shades varying in relative amount in different individuals; a subterminal band of black. Young. Tail grayish-brown, crossed by about nine very regular and sharply defined, broad bands of black, about equal in width to the gray ones.

Adult male (Lawrence, Kansas, Oct., 1871; in Collection of Kansas University). General color deep, almost carbonaceous, black, showing much exposed white on the head, neck, and breast, all the feathers of which are snowy white beneath the surface, the black being merely in the form of tear-shaped spots on the terminal portion of the feather; chin, lores, and front pure white; upper parts in general, the posterior lower parts and the lining of the wing, with the black unbroken, but all the feathers—except the under wing-coverts—more or less spotted with white beneath the surface, on a grayish ground; these spots being usually arranged in pairs on each side of the shaft, on the flanks; tail-coverts, above and below, spotted irregularly with bright rufous, in nearly equal amount with the black and white. Alulæ, primary coverts, and primaries, with quadrate spots of plumbeous on their outer webs, forming transverse bands; under surface of primaries plumbeous-gray except at ends, but much broken by coarse marbling of white, this prevailing anteriorly, where it is much confused, but posteriorly about equal with the grayish, and exhibiting a tendency to form quadrate spots. Tail, with the ground-color white, but this nearly hidden on the upper surface by a longitudinal mottling of dark and light ashy, this growing more uniform terminally, where it becomes slightly suffused with reddish and crossed by a subterminal, broad but broken and irregular, band of black, the tip again very narrowly grayish and reddish.

6851. ½

Buteo harlani.

Wing-formula, 4, 3, 5–2, 6; 1=10. Wing, 15.00; tail, 8.80; culmen, 1.00; tarsus, 2.75; middle toe, 1.50; lateral toes equal. Plumage of the flanks, abdomen, tibiæ, and crissum remarkably lengthened and lax, the latter reaching within two inches of the tip of the tail, and the tibial plumes reaching to the base of the toes.

Adult female (6,851, Rio Grande, lat. 32°; Dr. T. C. Henry, U. S. A.). Whole plumage purplish black, or chocolate-black, with a purplish lustre; feathers everywhere pure white at bases, this exposed, however, only on the occiput, or where the feathers are disarranged. Forehead, lores, and chin white. Secondaries and primaries more brown than other portions, crossed by distinct bands of black,—about six on the secondaries. Whole lining of the wing and upper tail-coverts continuous, unvariegated black. Under surface of the primaries ashy-white, more slaty terminally; ends with distinct, and other portions with obsolete mottled, bars of dusky. Tail ashy-brown on outer webs, white on inner; both with a confused, rather longitudinal mottling of blackish; terminally, there is a broad nearly continuous subterminal band indicated by blotches, these mixed very slightly with a rufous tinge. Primaries injured by shot, therefore proportions of the quills cannot be determined. Wing 15.75; tail, 9.10; culmen, 1.00; tarsus, 2.90; middle toe, 1.60; outer, 1.15; inner, 1.15.

Young (Phil. Acad. Coll.; San Antonio, Texas, 1860; Dr. A. L. Heermann). Like the preceding, but basal white rather more exposed, and somewhat fulvous on the breast; the sides, axillars, lining of the wing, and lower tail-coverts have very obsolete transverse spots of the same. Under surface of primaries unvariegated silvery white anterior to their emargination, beyond which they are more hoary, along the edge black, this portion with about five transverse spots of black. Tail grayish ashy-brown to the tip, crossed with about nine very sharply defined bands of black, of equal width with the gray ones. Lores grayish-white. Wing-formula, 4, 3, 5–2–6–7–8=1. Wing, 14.25; tail, 10.00; tarsus, 3.25; middle toe, 1.70.

Hab. Southern Mississippi Valley, from Louisiana (Aud.) and Texas (Mus. S. I.); north to Eastern Kansas (Coll. Kansas Univ.).

Localities quoted: Guatemala (Sclater, Ibis I, 216 (?)); Arizona (Coues, P. A. N. S. 1866, 43).

There is not a doubt in my mind as to the propriety of separating this bird from any close relationship to the B. borealis, nor of the correctness of considering it the B. harlani of Audubon. It only can be referred to Audubon’s plate and description, both of which agree perfectly with the younger plumage described.

The specimens Mr. Cassin describes as the “adult” B. harlani are really such; but those which he describes as the “young” are the young of the Western Red-tail (B. borealis var. calurus). The California specimens to which Mr. Cassin refers, as identified by Mr. Lawrence as B. harlani, are in reality the melanistic condition of B. swainsoni, or the “insignatus” of Cassin. The present bird appears to be restricted to Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and adjacent portions, north to Kansas, and probably Eastern Mexico.

Habits. This Hawk was first described by Audubon from a pair obtained by him near St. Francisville, Louisiana. They had bred in that neighborhood for two seasons, were shy and difficult of approach, and for a long while eluded his pursuit. The female was shot while sailing over his head, and wounded in the wing. He endeavored to preserve it alive and to carry it as a present to the Zoölogical Society, but it refused all food and died in a few days. This specimen is now in the British Museum. The male bird was also obtained a few days later, and this too was brought to him yet alive but also wounded. It was even more fierce and wilder than the female, would erect the feathers on its head, open its bill, and prepare to strike with its talons when any object was brought near to it.

This species, though smaller than the Red-tail, to which he regarded it as allied, Audubon thought greatly superior to it in flight and daring. Its flight is described as rapid, greatly protracted, and so powerful as to enable it to seize the prey with apparent ease, or effect its escape from its stronger antagonist, the Red-tail, which pursued it on all occasions. It had been seen to pounce upon a fowl, kill it almost instantly, and afterwards drag it along the ground several hundred yards. It was not seen to prey on hares or squirrels, but seemed to evince a marked preference for poultry, partridges, and the smaller species of wild duck. He saw none of the young, but was told that they appeared to be of a leaden-gray color at a distance, and at the approach of winter became as dark as their parents.

Mr. Dresser states that he noticed this bird on several occasions near San Antonio but was not fortunate enough to shoot one. He received one specimen that had been shot by a lad on the Medina River. He was informed by a man living near there, who was a good sportsman and a careful observer, that he had several times found their nests, and Dr. Heermann is said to have obtained the eggs there several years before. Dr. Coues did not meet with it in Arizona, where it probably, however, will yet be found. Specimens have been received from Mexico, as is stated by Cassin, and a Buzzard, which Mr. Salvin referred to this species, was seen by him near Dueñas, where it was by no means common.

A specimen of this species has recently been taken in Kansas, near Lawrence, as recorded by Professor Snow, and fully identified at the Smithsonian Institution.

Buteo cooperi, Cassin.

Buteo cooperi, Cass. P. A. N. S. Philad. VIII, 1856, 253.—Ib. Birds N. Am. 1858, 31, pl. xvi.—Coop. & Suck. P. R. R. Rept. XII, ii, 1860, 148.—Gray, Hand List, I, 8.—Ridgway, P. A. N. S. Dec. 1870, 142.—Coues, Key, 1872, 43.

8525. ½

Buteo cooperi.

Sp. Char. Adult (8,525, Santa Clara, California, Oct. 1856; Dr. J. G. Cooper). Head, neck, and whole lower parts white; feathers of the head and neck with medial longitudinal streaks of black, the white prevailing on the occiput and superciliary region,—the black predominating over the cheeks, forming a “mustache”; throat with fine lanceolate blackish streaks; sides of the breast with broader, more cuneate markings of the same; flanks with narrow, lanceolate stripes, these extending sparsely across the abdomen; tibiæ, and lower tail-coverts immaculate, the inner face of the former, however, with faint specks. Upper plumage in general dark plumbeous-brown, inclining to black on the back; plumbeous clearest on primaries, which are uniformly of this color, the inner ones inclining to fine cinereous. Scapulars and wing-coverts spattered with white beneath the surface. Rump black; upper tail-coverts white tinged with rufous, and with irregular, distant transverse bars of blackish. Tail with light rufous prevailing, but this broken up by longitudinal daubs and washes of cinereous, and darker mottlings running longitudinally on both webs; basally, the ground-color approaches white; tips white, and a distinct, but very irregular, subterminal band of black, into which the longitudinal mottlings melt; outer webs of lateral feathers entirely cinereous, and without the black band. Under side of the wing white, with a large black space on the lining near the edge; under surface of primaries white anterior to their emargination, finely mottled with ashy, and with indistinct transverse bands terminally. Fourth quill longest; third shorter than fifth; second equal to sixth; first equal to tenth. Wing, 15.75; tail, 9.10; tarsus, 3.25; middle toe, 1.70.

Buteo cooperi (adult).

This remarkable Hawk is certainly not to be referred to the B. borealis, as has been suggested, the proportions of the two being quite different, while there is no similarity of plumage. In plumage, Buteo cooperi very closely resembles the adult of Archibuteo ferrugineus, and the suggestion has been made that it is a hybrid between this and the Red-tail. The markings of the head, and the general tint of the upper parts, are almost precisely as in the former bird, while the tail is exactly similar in character of markings, the only difference being the more reddish tinge and black subterminal band, which are, in fact, the only characters approximating it to the Buteo borealis. The feet are, however, very much stronger than in the A. ferrugineus, while the tarsus is very much longer than in borealis, scarcely more so, however, than in the former. The black patch on the lining of the wing, however, is a feature shared by neither of these birds, being one entirely peculiar to the Buteo cooperi. But one specimen—the one described above—is known to have been obtained. Mr. J. A. Allen, in his “Notes on some of the Rarer Birds of Massachusetts” (see “American Naturalist,” Vol. III, p. 518, and a separate paper, p. 14), mentions the capture of this species near Cambridge, Mass., but probably did not actually see it. The specimen in question being in the possession of Mr. C. J. Maynard, he kindly sent it to the Smithsonian Institution. On examination, it proved to be a young Buteo lineatus, differing from the average in somewhat lighter colors.

Hab. Santa Clara County, California.

The nearest ally of this species is the B. ferox, of the Palæarctic Realm (Northern Asia and Africa and portions of Europe), which has exactly the size and proportions of the present bird, and in certain stages a very similar plumage. I have not seen an unquestionable adult of B. ferox, but specimens almost adult, in the collection of the Boston Society of Natural History, from the Himalaya Mountains, come remarkably close to B. cooperi in plumage, having like it a black spot on the under side of the wing, but apparently on the under primary-coverts, instead of on the lining, near the edge; the tail is also very similarly colored. Upon the whole, I consider the B. cooperi to be a good species, with B. ferox, Gmelin, of Asia, etc., as its nearest relative, unless it proves to be a hybrid between Buteo borealis and Archibuteo ferrugineus, which I think is less likely to be the case.

Habits. A single individual of this bird was shot by Dr. Cooper near Mountain View in Santa Clara Valley, California, in November, 1855. It still remains unique in collections, and during his more recent explorations Dr. Cooper has not been able to obtain any additional specimens or see any like it. Those he mistook for this bird and to which he refers in his report on the birds of Washington Territory, he is satisfied were only the Archibuteo ferrugineus. The suggestion of Sclater, that the bird is not distinct from Buteo erythronotus, is negatived, according to Mr. Ridgway, by the fact of their actually belonging to different sections of the genus.

Genus ARCHIBUTEO, Brehm.

Char. Similar to Buteo, but bill and feet weaker, wings longer, and tarsi feathers in front, to the toes. Bill small, compressed anteriorly, but very broad through the gape; upper outline of the cere ascending basally; nostril broadly oval, nearly horizontal. Tarsus densely feathered in front and on the sides down to the base of the toes; naked behind, where covered with irregular scales. Tarsus more than twice as long as the middle toe; basal half of the toes covered with small scales; outer toe longer than the inner; claws long, strongly curved, acute. Feathering of the head and neck normal. Wing very long; the third to fourth quill longest; first shorter than seventh; outer four or five with inner webs deeply emarginated. Tail moderate, rounded. Plumage full and soft.

The relationship of this well-marked genus appears to be nearest to Buteo and Circus, with an approach to Circætus in character of the plumage, especially the wing. The Old World species, belonging to the subgenus (?) Butaquila, numbering two or three, according to different authors, I have not seen, and consequently cannot say whether they are really congeneric with the American species or not. Exclusive of these, two species are known, both of which belong to North America, one of them (A. lagopus) being found also in Europe and Africa. These differ very considerably from each other, in the details of external structure, probably quite as much as they do from the Asiatic forms above mentioned. The following synopsis will express the differences between the two North American species, and between the American and European races of the one common to both continents.

54338, ♀. ½

54338, ♀. ½

54338, ♀. ½

54338, ♀. ¼

41720, ♀. ½

41720, A. ferrugineus.

54338, ♀. ½

54338, Archibuteo lagopus.

Species and Races.

Common Characters. Tail more or less white basally; inner webs of the primaries white, without bars, anterior to their emargination. Head and neck with longitudinal streaks of whitish and dusky (except in melanistic individuals of lagopus var. sancti-johannis).

1. A. ferrugineus. Wing, 15.90–17.60; tail, 9.50–11.00; culmen, 1.00–1.20; tarsus, 3.10–3.45; middle toe, 1.40–1.65. Bill wide, the base very broad and depressed. Beneath, continuous pure white, without conspicuous spots, except sometimes a few scattered ones along the sides and across the abdomen; breast immaculate, or with only narrow shaft-streaks. Upper parts always with more or less rufous. Adult. Upper parts and tibiæ fine rufous, the former with longitudinal spots, the latter with transverse bars, of blackish. Secondaries and primaries plumbeous, the latter with a hoary cast. Tail white, washed with pale ash, and more or less stained along the edges of the feathers (longitudinally) with light rufous; sometimes with a badly defined indication of a dusky subterminal bar. Young. Above dark grayish-brown, with only the borders of the feathers rufous or ochraceous; tibiæ white, with sparse transverse spots of dark brown. Tail white only on basal third, and on inner webs, the remaining portion brownish-ashy, with several more or less distinct darker bands. Hab. Western North America, from Arizona, California, and Oregon, east to the Great Plains.

2. A. lagopus. Wing, 15.75–18.20; tail, 8.70–10.50; culmen, .80–1.00; tarsus, 2.30–2.80; middle toe, 1.30–1.50. Bill narrow, compressed; beneath more or less spotted with dusky, which usually predominates; breast with large spots of dusky; no rufous on upper parts, nor on tibiæ. Adult. Whitish, with transverse dusky spots. On the lower parts, the dusky spots or cloudings, largest and most suffused anteriorly (on the jugulum and breast). Terminal portion of the tail with several irregular dusky bands. (Sometimes almost entirely black, varying in shade from a brownish to a carbonaceous tint!) Young. Above grayish-brown, longitudinally spotted with dusky, and more or less edged with pale ochraceous, or rusty whitish. Beneath ochraceous-white, with the spots largest and most suffused posteriorly, forming a wide, more or less continuous belt across the abdomen; markings on the jugulum and breast longitudinal. Terminal portion of the tail without transverse bars.

Spots on the jugulum, in the adult, suffused into a nearly uniform patch. Never melanistic (?). Hab. Europe … var. lagopus.91

Spots on the jugulum, in the adult, scattered. Frequently melanistic. Hab. North America … var. sancti-johannis.

Archibuteo ferrugineus (Licht).

Falco ferrugineus, Licht, Berl. Trans. 1838, p. 429. Lagopus ferrugineus, Fraser, Proc. Zoöl. Soc. Lond. 1844, p. 37. Archibuteo ferrugineus, Gray, Gen. B. fol. sp. 3, 1844.—Cass. B. of Cal. & Tex. 1854, p. 104; Birds N. Am. 1858, 34.—Bonap. Consp. Av. p. 18.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 41, 1855.—Heerm. P. R. R. Rept. VII, 31, 1857.—Coop. & Suck. P. R. R. Rept. XII, ii, 149, 1860.—Coues, Prod. Orn. Ariz. p. 10, 1866 (anatomical notes).—Blakist. Ibis, III, 1861, 318 (Saskatchewan; eggs).—Fraser, Pr. Z. S. 1844, 37.—Gray, Hand List, I, 10, 1869. Archibuteo regalis, Gray, List B. Brit. Mus. p. 39, 1844; Gen. B. fol. pl. vi.

Sp. Char. Adult male (41,719, Fort Whipple, Arizona, Dec. 2, 1864; Dr. Coues). Ground-color of head and neck white; each feather with a medial streak of black, these growing broader posteriorly, and along the upper border of the ear-coverts are so blended as to form an indistinct stripe back from the eye. Entire lower parts (except tibia) and whole under surface of the wing continuous pure white; breast with a faint tinge of delicate ochraceous; tibia and tarsus reddish-white, tinged with or inclining to deep ferruginous on upper portion, and with numerous transverse bars of darker ferruginous and blackish; sides of the breast with a very few hair-like shaft-streaks of black; flanks with a few distant, dark ferruginous bars; axillars with two or three cordate spots of ferruginous near ends; feathers of the lining next the body, with blended irregularly hastate spots of rufous; under primary coverts shading into cinereous on terminal half, and with obscure broadly hastate spots of a darker shade of the same; primaries slaty beyond their emargination, deepening gradually toward their tips. Back, scapulars, and lesser and middle wing-coverts fine rufous, each feather with a broad median, longitudinal spot of brownish plumbeous-black, these on the back rather exceeding the rufous; longer wing-coverts and secondaries ashy-umber, with very obsolete transverse bands of darker; primary coverts more ashy, and more distinctly banded; primaries fine chalky cinereous, this lightest on outer four; shafts pure white. Rump nearly uniform brownish-black,—posterior feathers rufous with medial black blotches; upper tail-coverts snowy white on outer webs, inner webs more rufous; a few concealed blackish transverse spots. Tail pale pearly ash, becoming white basally, and with a wash of dilute rufous along the edge of outer webs; inner webs white, with an ashy tinge thrown in longitudinal washes; outer feathers nearly white, with faint pale ashy longitudinal mottlings; shafts of tail-feathers pure white. Fourth quill longest; third but little shorter; second very much shorter than fifth; first intermediate between seventh and eighth. Wing, 16.75; tail, 9.20; tarsus, 2.95; middle toe, 1.35.

“Length, 22.50; extent, 54.50. Iris clear light yellow; cere, edges of commissure, and feet bright yellow; bill very dark bluish horn; mouth, purplish flesh-color, livid bluish along edges.”

Adult female (41,720, Fort Whipple; Dr. Coues). Almost exactly like the male, but black spots on rufous portions of upper parts much restricted, forming oblong spots in the middle of each feather; rump almost entirely rufous, variegated, however, with black. Longitudinal lines on breast more distinct; transverse bars on flanks and abdomen more numerous; tibial and tarsal feathers wholly deep rufous or ferruginous, the bars more blackish. Third and fourth quills equal and longest; second intermediate between fifth and sixth; first equal to eighth. Wing, 17.25; tail, 9.75; tarsus, 2.95; middle toe, 1.40. “Length, 23.25; extent, 56.50. Iris light ochraceous-brown.”

Young female (6,883, Los Angeles, California; Dr. Heermann). General plumage above, grayish-brown; interscapulars, scapulars, lesser and middle wing-coverts, and feathers of head and neck, edged laterally with light rufous; secondaries passing broadly into pale ashy at ends; primaries slaty-brown, with obscure darker bands; no appearance of these, however, on secondaries; rump entirely blackish-brown; upper tail-coverts wholly white. Tail hoary slate, basal third (or more) white, the junction of the two colors irregular and broken; tip obscurely paler; feathers obscurely blackish along edges, and with obsolete transverse spots of the same; white prevailing on inner webs. Beneath entirely pure white, scarcely variegated; tibiæ and tarsi with a few scattered small transverse spots of blackish; flanks with larger, more cordate spots of the same. (Breeds in this plumage.)

Hab. Western North America from California to the Missouri, and from the Saskatchewan to Texas.

Localities: Texas (Fort Stockton), (Dresser, Ibis, 1865, 325); Western Arizona (Coues. Pr. A. N. S., 1866, 40).


Nat. Mus., 10; Philad. Acad., 2; Boston Soc., 2; Coll. R. Ridgway, 2. Total, 16.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
15.90–17.00 9.50–10.50 1.00–1.18 3.10–3.45 1.40–1.50 6
17.00–17.60 10.50–11.00 1.08–1.20 3.20–3.40 1.60–1.65 6

The variations in this species are very slight, and never sufficient to mislead the student. One specimen (26,590, ♂; Fort Tejon, Cal.; J. Xantus) differs from the adults described in having the abdomen quite closely barred, the streaks on the breast distinct, the rufous above tinging the secondary coverts, and spreading over the upper tail-coverts, while the tibiæ and tarsi are of a very deep ferruginous,—the bars black.

In a specimen from the Platte (5,577, ♂; W. S. Wood) white prevails on the tibiæ, the bars being dark ferruginous upon a white ground; the flanks are similarly marked, the other lower parts, however, immaculate; there is much concealed white on the scapulars. The rufous tinge of the tail is very deep, while there is a transverse series of black blotches, indicating the course of a transverse band near the end.

Habits. The California Squirrel Hawk appears to be an exclusively western species, occurring as far to the east as Nebraska and Kansas, and as far to the north as the Plains of the Saskatchewan and Washington Territory. It occurs as far to the southeast as Texas, and has been found also in New Mexico and in Arizona.

This species was first noticed and described in a paper on the natural history of California published in the Transactions of the Royal Academy of Berlin, in 1838, by Professor Lichtenstein, a Prussian naturalist. It was first brought to the notice of American naturalists by Mr. Edward M. Kern, of Philadelphia, who accompanied Colonel Fremont in his expedition of 1846, and who brought home specimens.

Dr. Coues found it quite abundant about Fort Whipple, where it was especially numerous in the winter, and where also he thinks it probable that it is a permanent resident. He found it more generally frequenting meadows, plains, and the more open woods. He usually found their stomachs filled with arvicolæ and other small quadrupeds peculiar to that country. It could always be readily recognized by its conspicuously white under parts, contrasted with its dark chesnut tibiæ and reddish back.

Archibuteo ferrugineus.

At San Pedro, on the southern coast of California, he again found this Hawk very common. It there alights very freely on the ground, where he often observed it. At Fort Whipple he only saw it on trees. At San Pedro its choosing thus the bare plain may have been a matter of necessity.

Dr. Kennerly observed a single individual of this species in a “prairie-dog-town” of large extent, near Fort Davis. It was intently watching at the hole of one of these animals. While in this position, it was observed to strike at the prairie-dog with its claw, when one of these animals protruded its head. As it was very intently watching its prey, it was easily approached and shot.

Dr. Heermann observed this Hawk in the valley of the Sacramento, where he thought it rather rare, but afterwards, during his connection with the government surveying party under Lieutenant Williamson, in the southern part of the State, he found it very abundant. On one occasion five or six individuals were in view at the same moment, among the mountains, sixty miles east of San Diego. It was there much more abundant than any other species. As large tracts of that country frequented by these birds are entirely without trees, they alight on the ground or on some slightly elevated tuft of grass, or a stone, where they sit patiently for hours watching for their prey, which was always found to consist of mice and other small quadrupeds. In one instance the crop was found filled with the remains of a ground squirrel.

Dr. Heermann states that he found the nest and eggs of this bird on the Consumnes River. The nest was in the fork of an oak, and was composed of coarse twigs and lined with grasses; the eggs were two in number, white with faint brown dashes. The nest was placed in the centre of a large bunch of mistletoe, and would have escaped notice had not the Hawk, in flying, betrayed her retreat.

The eggs, however, differ essentially in size from those mentioned by Capt. Blakiston, and it is quite possible that Dr. Heermann was mistaken in his identification. One of these eggs was figured in the North American Oölogy, and resembles much more an egg of Swainson’s Buzzard than any egg I have since seen of this species.

The specimens procured by Mr. Kerr were taken in the Tulare Valley, in January, 1846, and are stated in his notes to have been remarkably fat, and in excellent condition generally, so that some of his party shot these birds whenever opportunity offered, for the mess-kettle, and considered them very good eating.

Dr. Cooper states that in the spring and fall these Hawks abound in Southern California, migrating in summer through the interior plains of the Columbia and the Platte Rivers, at least as far north as the Dalles. He found it in winter at Martinez, and is of the opinion that few migrate beyond the State. It was usually to be seen slowly sailing over the plains, sometimes in circles, and occasionally pouncing down obliquely on its prey, which consists principally of the large ground squirrel. It rarely, if ever, attacks poultry, and limits its prey to wild animals, and is therefore a decided friend to the farmer.

Capt. Blakiston met with this bird breeding between the north and the south branches of the Saskatchewan River, April 30, 1858. The nest was placed in an aspen-tree, twenty feet from the ground, was composed of sticks, two and a half feet across, and lined with buffalo wool. The eggs were four in number. Those taken from another nest near the same locality were five in number. This nest was in a tree, and was only ten feet above a lake. Two eggs were taken by Mr. Bourgeau on the Saskatchewan Plains, July 9. These differences in seasons, from April to July, are suggestive either of great variations in the time of nesting, or of there being two broods in a season. The eggs obtained by Capt. Blakiston measured, one 2.60 by 2.00 inches, the other 2.50 by 1.95 inches, and are described as having been white with large distinct blotches and smaller specks of two shades of brown. The other was more obscurely blotched with a paler brown, and at the same time freckled all over.

An egg of this species taken by H. R. Durkee near Gilmer in Wyoming Territory, May 9, 1870, measures 2.43 inches in length by 1.95 in breadth. The ground-color is a creamy white, over which are very uniformly distributed on every part of the egg, in nearly equal proportions, blotches, plashes, and smaller markings of a dark burnt umber. The nest from which this egg was taken was composed of sticks, and was placed among rocks. The nest contained but one egg. The parent bird was secured, and there was no question as to identification.

Archibuteo lagopus, var. sancti-johannis (Penn.).

Falco sancti-johannis, Penn. Arct. Zoöl. pl. ix, 1785.—Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 273, 1789.—Lath. Index Orn. p. 34, 1790; Syn. I, 77; Gen. Hist. I, 276.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 105, 1800.—Shaw, Zoöl. VII, 150, 1809.—Bonap. Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 32.—Aud. Orn. Biog. II, 381, 1831.—Giraud, B. Long Island, p. 6, 1844.—Kerr, Trans. Gmel. II, 507, 1792. Buteo sancti-johannis, Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. II, 287, 288, 1832.—Nutt. Man. Orn. U. S. & Canad. p. 98, 1833.—De Kay, Zoöl. N. Y. II, 7, pl. ii, fig. 3, 1844. Butaëtes sancti-johannis, Cuv. Règ. An. (ed. 1), i, 323, 1829.—Bonap. List, p. 3, 1838. Archibuteo sancti-johannis, Gray, Gen. B. fol. sp. 2, 1844; List B. Brit. Mus. p. 39, 1844.—Bonap. Consp. Av. p. 18, 1850.—Cass. Birds Calif. & Tex. p. 103, 1854.—Blakist. Ibis, III, 1861, 318 (eggs).—Kaup, Monog. Falc. Cont. Orn. 1850, p. 75.—Strickl. Orn. Syn. I, 40, 1855.—Brewer, Oölogy, 1857, 34, pl. iii, f. 28.—Cass. Birds N. Am. 1858, 33.—Gray, Hand List, I, 10, 1869. Falco spadiceus, Gmel. Syst. Nat. p. 273, 1789.—Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 27, 1790; Gen. Hist. I, 279.—Daud. Tr. Orn. II, 109, 1800. Buteo spadiceus, Vieill. Ois. Am. Sept. I, 34, 1807. Falco lagopus, Wils. Am. Orn. pl. xxxiii, f. 1, 1808.—Brew. (Wils.) Am. Orn. Syn. 648, 1852.—Bonap. Ann. Lyc. N. Y. II, 32; Isis, 1852, 1138.—Aud. Birds Am. pl. clxvi, 422, 1831; Orn. Biog. II, 377; V, 217. Buteo lagopus, Rich. Faun. Bor. Am. II, pl. xxviii, 1831.—Aud. Synop. p. 8, 1839.—James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, 77, 1831.—Jard. (Wils.) Am. Orn. II, p. 54, 1832.—Nutt. Man. Orn. p. 97, 1833.—Peab. B. Mass. p. 79, 1841. Archibuteo lagopus, Cass. Birds N. Am. 1858, p. 32.—Brewer, Oölogy, 1857, 36, pl. iii, f. 29.—Coop. & Suck. P. R. R. Rept. VII, ii, 148, 1860.—Coues, Prod. Orn. Ariz. p. 16, 1866. Falco niger, Wils. Am. Orn. pl. liii, figs. 1 and 2, 1808.—Lath. Gen. Hist. pp. 256, 257, 1821. Buteo niger, Steph. Zoöl. XIII, pt. ii, p. 47, 1815.—Vig. Zoöl. Journ. I, 340.—James. (Wils.) Am. Orn. I, pp. 79, 80, 1831.—Cuv. Règ. An. (ed. 2), i, 326, 1829. Buteo ater, Vieill. Nouv. Dict. Nat. Hist. IV, 482, 1866; Enc. Meth. III, 1227.

a. Normal plumage.

Sp. Char. Adult male (43,073, Fort Resolution, June; J. Lockhart). Ground-color of the upper parts dull umber-cinereous, this more rufous on the shoulders, and dull white on nape, scapulars, inner secondaries, and upper tail-coverts; rump entirely black, feathers bordered with whitish. All the feathers above with central oblong or irregular spots of black, this color predominating on top of head, and forming transverse bands across the wing-coverts and secondaries; upper tail-coverts pure white, each marked with an exceedingly irregular transverse spot of black. Tail white on basal two thirds, and narrowly, but sharply, tipped with the same; subterminal portion pale mottled cinereous, with a very broad zone of black next the terminal white, and anterior to this three narrower and more irregular bands of the same. Primaries blackish-cinereous, with obsolete darker bands. Ground-color of head and lower parts dull white; cheeks thickly streaked with black; ear-coverts and throat more sparsely streaked; forehead and sub-orbital region plain whitish. Breast with large, longitudinal but very irregular, oblong spots of dark brown, these largest and somewhat confluent laterally; lower part of breast with much less numerous and less longitudinal spots; tibiæ strongly tinged with rusty, and with tarsus, abdomen, crissum, and flanks having irregular transverse spots of blackish-brown; lower tail-coverts unvariegated. Lining of wing white, with numerous spots of black, these becoming more rusty towards the axillars; a large space of continuous clear black, covering the under primary coverts and the coverts immediately anterior; under surface of primaries and secondaries pure white, the former becoming black at ends, the latter ashy; no bars, except toward shafts, of the latter. Fourth quill longest; third equal to fifth; second intermediate between fifth and sixth; first equal to eighth. Wing, 16.50; tail, 9.00; tarsus, 2.50; middle toe, 1.30; bill, 1.30 and .90.

Adult female (28,156, Philadelphia, Pa.; J. Krider). Generally similar to the male. On head and nape, however, the yellowish-white predominates, the central black being much reduced; on the other hand, there is less white on the upper parts, the dull cinereous-drab being much more evenly spread; darker markings less conspicuous. Tail white only at the base, the remaining portion being pale cinereous-drab crossed with four or five distinct, very regular bands of black, the tip being very broadly ashy. Flanks with ground-color light umber-drab, and marked with transverse bands of black. Lower surface generally as in the male; tail-coverts with two or three blackish spots, apparently out of place. Fourth quill longest; fifth much shorter than third; second intermediate between fifth and sixth; first intermediate between seventh and eighth. Wing, 17.00; tail, 9.00; tarsus, 2.40; middle toe, 1.30; bill, 1.30 and .85.

Young (25,934, United States). Upper surface generally light umber, becoming lighter on scapulars and middle wing-coverts, but showing nowhere any trace of spots or bands; wings, scapulars, and back with blackish shaft-streaks; primaries approaching black toward ends, becoming white basally; upper tail-coverts white, with a hastate stripe of brown along shaft; tail, basal half white, terminal half plain drab, becoming darker terminally, the tip narrowly white. Head, neck, and lower plumage in general, white stained with ochraceous, this deepest on tibiæ and tarsi; head and neck streaked with dark brown, ear-coverts almost immaculate; breast with oblong spots of clear brown; flanks, abdomen, and anal region continuous uniform rich purplish vandyke-brown, forming conspicuous transverse belt; tibiæ and tarsi scarcely varied, the few markings longitudinal; lower tail-coverts immaculate. Under side of wing much as in adult; black area, however, more extended; lining much tinged with rufous, and with longitudinal streaks of dark brown.

b. Melanistic condition.

Adult male (28,153, Philadelphia; J. Krider). General plumage blackish-brown, the head streaked by whitish edges of the feathers; wing-coverts, secondaries, primaries, and tibial plumes paler terminally; tarsi mottled with whitish; upper and lower tail-coverts tipped obscurely with white. Tail narrowly tipped with dull white, and with about five very obsolete pale ashy bands. Lining of wing black, spotted with white near edge; whole under surface of the primaries pure white anterior to their emargination, beyond which they are black. Third and fourth quills equal and longest; second intermediate between fifth and sixth; first shorter than seventh. Wing, 16.00; tail, 8.85; tarsus, 2.45; middle toe, 1.25.

Adult female (12,008, Philadelphia; C. Drexler). Continuous pure carbonaceous black; forehead white; occiput same beneath surface. Tail paler at tip, and crossed with four ill-defined though continuous bands of ashy white, the last of which is distant over two and a half inches from the tip; lower tail-coverts with a few white spots. Whole lining of wing glossy coal black; under surface of primaries, anterior to their emargination, white mottled with ashy. Fourth and fifth quills equal and longest; third only a little shorter; second a little longer than sixth; first intermediate between seventh and eighth. Wing, 16.50; tail, 9.00; tarsus, 2.50; middle toe, 1.20.

Young. Similar, but the tail dusky, growing whitish toward the base, and without any bars.

Hab. Whole of North America north of Mexico, but breeding northward of the United States.

Localities: Western Arizona (Coues, Pr. A. N. S., 1866, 48).


National Museum, 44; Philadelphia Academy, 17; Boston Society, 1; Museum Comparative Zoölogy, Cambridge, 10; Cab. G. N. Lawrence, 6; Coll. W. S. Brewer, 3; R. Ridgway, 4. Total, 85.

Sex. Wing. Tail. Culmen. Tarsus. Middle Toe. Specimens.
15.80–16.80 9.80–10.00 .85–.90 2.75–2.80 1.35–0.00 18
16.15–17.70 9.00–10.50 .90–1.00 2.80–0.00 1.30–1.40 8
15.75–18.00 9.00–11.00 .80–1.00 2.15–3.00 1.20–1.50 40

That all the North American Rough-legged Hawks, whether light or dark (excepting of course the A. ferrugineus), are one species, and also one race, there appears to be but little doubt; a critical comparison and minute examination of about one hundred specimens also proves that the dark plumage, usually separated as “A. sancti-johannis,” has nothing to do with age, sex, season, or locality, but that, as in Buteo borealis var. calurus and B. swainsoni, it is a purely individual condition, black birds being black, and light birds being light, from the first plumage till death. Each phase has its young and adult stages distinctly marked, as the above diagnoses point out. It however appears to be the fact that certain regions are frequented more by birds of one color than another, and of the many hundreds of specimens sent from the Arctic regions to the Smithsonian Institution by officers of the Hudson’s Bay Company, none exhibited the blackish plumage which, on the other hand, appears most abundant about Hudson’s Bay.

The North American birds are distinguishable from European ones (var. lagopus) by the characters given in the synopsis on p. 1619, and description, on p. 1624.

Habits. The Rough-legged Hawk of North America bears so close a resemblance to the European species, in all respects,—plumage, habits, and eggs,—that the two are generally considered to be identical. The distribution of the American variety appears to be nearly throughout the entire Union, from the Atlantic to the coast of the Pacific, and from New Mexico to the Arctic regions. It was taken at Fort Steilacoom, and at Shoal-water Bay in Washington Territory, by Drs. Suckley and Cooper. It was not seen by Mr. Dresser in Texas nor by Dr. Woodhouse in New Mexico, but it was taken near Zuñi by Dr. Kennerly, was found from Mimbres to the Rio Grande by Dr. Henry, and obtained near Fort Fillmore by Captain Pope, and at Fort Massachusetts by Dr. Peters.

The Rough-legged Hawk is quite abundant in spring and fall in the neighborhood of Niagara Falls. In the fall of 1872, Mr. James Booth met with a pair of this species, accompanied by their young. The latter were fully grown. The male bird was in very black plumage, while the female was unusually light, the pair thus presenting well-marked illustrations of the two types, the black sancti-johannis and the common lagopus. The parents were secured, and are now in the museum of the Boston Society of Natural History. One of the young was also shot, but I did not see it. It was said to have been only a little less dark plumaged than the male parent.

It is very abundant throughout the Arctic regions, where it was found breeding in the Anderson River country by Mr. MacFarlane, from whom were received valuable notes and a large number of specimens of birds and eggs. It was observed generally by Dr. Richardson’s party, but owing to its extreme wariness only a single specimen was obtained. Richardson noted its arrival in the fur countries in April or May, and gives the time of its departure as early in October.

Dr. Kennerly mentions finding this Hawk quite abundant in the vicinity of the Pueblo Zuñi, where it confined itself in the neighborhood of the stream, watching eagerly for ducks, which seemed to be its favorite prey.

Archibuteo lagopus (Europe).

Dr. Cooper found a large number of these Buzzards on a low point near the sea-coasts, at Shoalwater Bay, Washington Territory, in October. This point was covered with small pines, on the dead tops of which they were observed sitting in the manner of owls. Occasionally one would dart down after a mouse, and alight a short distance off. At times they would call to each other with a loud scream, but they usually sat motionless and silent for hours together. Some remained there throughout the winter, and he had no doubt that a few build near the mouth of the Columbia, where he saw young birds in July. In California, the same writer states, this species is only a winter visitor, and has never been observed by him south of Santa Clara Valley.

Dr. Coues mentions the taking of a single specimen of this bird in the Territory of Arizona in the winter, but no others were observed.

Audubon never met with this species south of North Carolina nor west of the Alleghanies. He regarded it as a sluggish bird, confining itself to the meadows and low grounds bordering the rivers and salt marshes, where its principal food appeared to be moles, mice, and other small quadrupeds. He has never known it to attack a duck on the wing, although it will occasionally pursue a wounded one. Except when alarmed, it flies low and sedately, and manifests none of the daring courage or vigor so conspicuous in most Hawks. They are also described as somewhat crepuscular in habit, watching for their food long after sunset, and Mr. Richardson speaks of their hunting for their prey “by the subdued daylight which illuminates even the midnight hours in the high parallels of latitude.” For these nocturnal hunts it is well fitted by the softness of its plumage, which renders its flight noiseless, like that of the more nocturnal birds.

These birds were once quite abundant in the low lands and marshes in the vicinity of Boston, but are now comparatively rare. They were abundant during October and November, and again in April. They usually kept on or near the ground, appeared to feed chiefly on small quadrupeds or reptiles, were never known to molest the poultry-yard, or even to destroy other birds.

Archibuteo sancti-johannis (black plumage).

They were very wary, and when approached with a gun would slowly and deliberately move off to a safer distance. Wilson found them quite abundant, during the winter months, in the meadows on the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, near Philadelphia, where they are still common. Though rendered very shy by the frequent attempts made to shoot them, they would never fly far at a time, usually from one tree to another, making a loud squealing noise as they arose. They all disappeared early in April.

He also speaks of them as common during winter in the lower parts of Maryland, as well as in the extensive meadows below Newark, N. J. He mentions having often seen this Hawk coursing over the surface of meadows long after sunset, and many times in pairs. They roost near these low grounds, and take their station at daybreak near a ditch, watching with patient vigilance for their prey.

Wilson, Audubon, and Nuttall appear to have known nothing in regard to the breeding of the Rough-legged Hawk. A pair was seen by Richardson at their nest, which was built of sticks, and on a lofty tree standing on a low moist alluvial point of land, in a bend of the Saskatchewan; but they were too wary to be shot, and he makes no mention of their eggs.

My nephews, H. R. and F. H. Storer, found a pair of Rough-legged Hawks nesting on a rocky cliff on the coast of Labrador, near the harbor of Bras d’Or. The nest was very rudely constructed of sticks, and placed on a high rock directly over the water, inaccessible from below, but readily approached from above. It contained three young birds and an egg. The young Hawks were just ready to fly, and all scrambled out as the nest was approached, and rolled the egg to the bottom of the cliff, but without injuring it. The nest contained four or five large rats peculiar to that region, collected by the old birds for their young. The old birds were in the light plumage. At the same time a young bird was taken alive from another nest by one of the sailors of their party, which was quite black even in its immature dress, and strikingly different from the young just mentioned.

Mr. MacFarlane’s very complete and careful notes mention, in detail, no less than fifty-eight nests of this species as procured and identified by his party. Of these, forty-six were built on trees, generally spoken of as being large pines, and usually about twenty feet from the ground. Twelve nests were found built on the edge of steep cliffs of shaly mud on the banks of creeks, rivers, and lakes.

The nests that were taken from trees are described as having been built in a crotch, not far from the top, and to have been formed externally of dry twigs, sticks, and small branches, warmly lined with down, feathers, and fine hay. Those found upon cliffs and high river-banks were made of similar materials, but usually with a smaller base of sticks, and a greater supply of hay, moss, and other soft materials. The number of eggs varied from three to five, never more than the latter, and were at times in differing stages of incubation in the same nest. Whenever the nest was approached, the parent birds always manifested great uneasiness, and uttered vociferous screams of distress. The eggs were generally found from the 27th of May to the 25th of June. Those taken after the 20th of June usually contained well-developed embryos. The species was met with by Mr. MacFarlane in great abundance in various localities,—near Fort Anderson, lower down on the Anderson River, near the Arctic coast, and in the vicinity of Rendezvous Lake.

One of the Indians collecting for Mr. MacFarlane informed him that on the 9th of June he discovered the nest of one of these Hawks on a ledge of shaly mud. As he could not kill the parents, he set a snare about the nest. Going to it later in the day, he was disappointed at finding his snare set aside, the eggs gone, and the birds not to be seen. He presumed the parents had removed the eggs, of which there had been three, to a safer place. Several nests were also taken on the shores and among the islets of the Arctic coast, west of Liverpool Bay.

The egg of the Rough-legged Hawk taken by the Storers in Labrador measures 2.06 inches in length by 1.88 in breadth, and is nearly spherical. The ground-color is a soiled white or a light drab, and is marked with a few faint, ill-defined spots of light umber, distributed at intervals over the entire surface.

Two European specimens in my collection are so nearly like the American that the same description would answer for both. They are a trifle larger, but their