Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/297

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269
RED-TAILED HAWK.

less fury, and either force it to abandon the prize, or fight with the same courage as its antagonist, to prevent the latter from becoming the sole possessor. They are sometimes observed flying either one after the other with great rapidity, emitting their continued cry of kae, or performing beautiful evolutions through the air, until one or other of them becomes fatigued, and giving way, makes for the earth, where the battle continues until one is overpowered and obliged to make off. It was after witnessing such an encounter between two of these powerful marauders, fighting hard for a young hare, that I made the drawing now before you, kind reader, in which you perceive the male to have greatly the advantage over the female, although she still holds the hare firmly in one of her talons, even while she is driven towards the earth, with her breast upwards.

I have observed that this species will even condescend to pounce on wood-rats and meadow-mice; but I never saw one of these birds seize even those without first alighting on a tree before committing the act.

During the winter months, the Red-tailed Hawk remains perched for hours together, when the sun is shining and the weather calm. Its breast is opposed to the sun, and it then is seen at a great distance, the pure white of that portion of its plumage glittering as if possessed of a silky gloss. They return to their roosting-places so late in the evening, that I have frequently heard their cry after sun-set, mingling with the jovial notes of Chuck-will's-widow, and the ludicrous laugh of the Barred Owl. In the State of Louisiana, the Red-tailed Hawk roosts amongst the tallest branches of the Magnolia grandlflora, a tree which there often attains a height of a hundred feet, and a diameter of from three to four feet at the base. It is also fond of roosting on the tall Cypress-trees of our swamps, where it spends the night in security, amidst the mosses attached to the branches.

The Red-tailed Hawk is extremely wary, and difficult to be approached by any one bearing a gun, the use of which it seems to understand perfectly; for no sooner does it perceive a man thus armed than it spreads its wings, utters a loud shriek, and sails off in an opposite direction. On the other hand, a person on horseback, or walking unarmed, may pass immediately under the branch on which it is perched, when it merely watches his motions as he proceeds. It seldom alights on fences, or the low branches of trees, but prefers the highest and most prominent parts of the tallest trees. It alights on the borders of clear streams to drink. I have observed it in such situations, immersing its bill up to the eyes, and swallowing as much as was necessary to quench its thirst at a single draught.