Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/446
each other on finding their home again. Their caresses are mutual. They begin to augment their habitation, or to repair the injuries which it may have sustained during the winter, and are seen sailing together towards the shores, to collect the drifted sea-weeds with which they line the nest anew. They alight on the beach, search for the driest and largest weeds, collect a mass of them, clench them in their talons, and fly towards their nest with the materials dangling beneath. They both alight and labour together. In a fortnight the nest is complete, and the female deposits her eggs, which are three or four in number, of a broadly oval form, yellowish-white, densely covered with large irregular spots of reddish-brown.
The nest is generally placed in a large tree in the immediate vicinity of the water, whether along the seashore, on the margins of the inland lakes, or by some large river. It is, however, sometimes to be seen in the interior of a wood, a mile or more from the water. I have concluded that, in the latter case, it was on account of frequent disturbance, or attempts at destruction, that the birds had removed from their usual haunt. The nest is very large, sometimes measuring fully four feet across, and is composed of a quantity of materials sufficient to render its depth equal to its diameter. Large sticks, mixed with sea-weeds, tufts of strong grass, and other materials, form its exterior, while the interior is composed of seaweeds and finer grasses. I have not observed that any particular species of tree is preferred by the Fish Hawk. It places its nest in the forks of an oak or a pine with equal pleasure. But I have observed that the tree chosen is usually of considerable size, and not unfrequently a decayed one. I dare not, however, affirm that the juices of the plants which compose the nest, ever become so detrimental to the growth of a tree as ultimately to kill it. In a few instances, I have seen the Fish Crow and the Purple Grakle raising their families in nests built by them among the outer sticks of the Fish Hawk's nest.
The male assists in incubation, during the continuance of which the one bird supplies the other with food, although each in turn goes in quest of some for itself. At such times the male bird is now and then observed rising to an immense height in the air, over the spot where his mate is seated. This he does by ascending almost in a direct line, by means of continued flappings, meeting the breeze with his white breast, and occasionally uttering a cackling kind of note, by which the bystander is enabled to follow him in his progress. When the Fish Hawk has at-