Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/215

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
187
STANLEY HAWK.

where I then resided. That drawing is now before me, and the bird which it represents is to this day undescribed. The figure would have been engraved and presented to your consideration, kind reader, had it not been as stiff, and as little indicative of life, as those usually seen in books on Natural History. The expectation of being able to procure another individual in precisely the same state of plumage, has, together with the above circumstance, induced me to content myself, for the present, with offering to your inspection a male, probably two years old, and an adult female. I have killed many of the latter in the course of my rambles, but I had not the good fortune to obtain an old male, although I have seen several on wing, and once wounded one whilst perched near its nest. In this article, I shall give you a full description of the three different figures, as they shew considerable diversity, especially in the colour of the eyes, the adult bird having the iris of a reddish-orange tint, while the young bird has it of a bright yellow. But as I am desirous of adhering to my plan, I shall speak of its habits before I trouble you with its description, remarking in the mean time, that I have honoured the species with the name of the President of the Linnean Society of London, the Right Honourable Lord Stanley, a nobleman whose continued kindness to me I am happy in acknowledging.

The flight of the Stanley Hawk is rapid, protracted, and even. It is performed at a short height above the ground or through the forest. It passes along in a silent gliding manner, with a swiftness even superior to that of the Wild Pigeon (Columba migratoria), seldom deviating from a straight-forward course, unless to seize and secure its prey. Now and then, but seldom unless after being shot at, it mounts in the air in circles, of which it describes five or six in a hurried manner, and again plunging downwards, continues its journey as before.

The daring exploits performed by the Stanley Hawk, which have taken place in my presence, are very numerous, and I shall relate one or two of them. This marauder frequently attacks birds far superior to itself in weight, and sometimes possessed of courage equal to its own. As I was one morning observing the motions of some Parakeets near Bayou Sara, in the State of Louisiana, in the month of November, I heard a Cock crowing not far from me, and in sight of a farm-house. The Stanley Hawk the next moment flew past me, and so close that I might have touched it with the barrel of my gun, had I been prepared. Its wings struck with extraordinary rapidity, and its tail appeared as if closed. Not more than a few seconds elapsed before I heard the cackling of the Hens, and the