Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/443

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THE FISH HAWK, OR OSPREY.


PLATE LXXXI. Male.


Comparing the great size of this bird, its formidable character, its powerful and protracted flight, and the dexterity with which, although a land bird, it procures its prey from the waters of the ocean, with the very inferior powers of the bird named the Kingsfisher, I should be tempted to search for a more appropriate appellation than that of Fish-Hawk, and, were I not a member of a republic, might fancy that of Imperial Fisher more applicable to it.

The habits of this famed bird differ so materially from those of almost all others of its genus, that an accurate description of them cannot fail to be highly interesting to the student of nature.

The Fish Hawk may be looked upon as having more of a social disposition than most other Hawks. Indeed, with the exception of the Swallow-tailed Hawk {Folco ƒurcatus), I know none so gregarious in its habits. It migrates in numbers, both during spring, when it shews itself along our Atlantic shores, lakes, and rivers, and during autumn, when it retires to warmer climes. At these seasons, it appears in flocks of eight or ten individuals, following the windings of our shores in loose bodies, advancing in easy sailings or flappings, crossing each other in their gyrations. During the period of their stay in the United States, many pairs are seen nestling, rearing their young, and seeking their food, within so short a distance of each other, that while following the margins of our eastern shores, a Fish Hawk or a nest belonging to the species, may be met with at every short interval.

The Fish Hawk may be said to be of a mild disposition. Not only do these birds live in perfect harmony together, but they even allow other birds of very different character to approach so near to them as to build their nests of the very materials of which the outer parts of their own are constructed. I have never observed a Fish Hawk chasing any other bird whatever. So pacific and timorous is it, that, rather than encounter a foe but little more powerful than itself, it abandons its prey to the White-headed Eagle, which, next to man, is its greatest enemy. It never forces its young from the nest, as some other Hawks do, but, on the contrary,