The New Student's Reference Work/Hawk
Hawk, a common name for birds of prey related to the falcons. These two kinds of birds are often confused. The falcons have a tooth on the upper bill, while the hawks have not. They are found all over the world and about 70 species are recognized. Their wings are shorter than those of the best falcons. Hawks nest alone, not in colonies. They are abundant in the United States; in North America above Mexico there are about 34 species. The sparrow-hawk, pigeon-hawk and duck-hawk stand in a distinct group, belonging to the falcons. The first-mentioned, the smallest American hawk, is an attractive bird and of much usefulness, destroying innumerable grasshoppers and a great many mice. It is a little longer than the robin, its back reddish brown and black, its breast spotted with black. It is found in almost all portions of country. The pigeon-hawk, only a trifle larger than the preceding, dull blue or brown above and lighter below, is very destructive to song-birds and of little use to man. The duck-hawk, above a dingy black and light below, also is a bird that deserves no protection, feeding largely on poultry and game-birds. Other common culprits among hawks are the sharp-shinned and Cooper's, both found throughout the United States. The sharp-shinned hawk is small in size, blue-gray above and white below; has a slender body, long legs and tail; and flies very swiftly. It feeds almost exclusively on song-birds. Cooper's hawk closely resembles the preceding one in form and color, but is considerably larger. It is of great strength and boldness; its flight is strong and rapid; its prey poultry and game-birds, as grouse, quails, pigeons. In Canada the American goshawk is a dreaded enemy of game-bird and poultry, and deserves no mercy. This bird has a black head, is blue-gray above and white below.
To turn now to the hawks that merit protection, mention should first be made of the two that have undeservedly been given a bad name, the red-shouldered and the red-tailed hawk — both mistakenly called hen-hawk and chicken-hawk. The former, one of our commonest hawks, is about 18 inches long, is rusty brown in color, and has a black tail marked by bands of white. Mice are its chief food, but it feeds also upon grasshoppers and other insects, and eats frogs, toads, reptiles etc. It does not kill many birds. The red-tailed hawk is larger than the preceding one. This bird Hornaday classes as “the greatest of all destroyers of noxious four-footed animals.” Although it sometimes preys upon poultry, less than ten per cent, of its food consists of game-birds and poultry. Far the greater part consists of destructive rodents. The marsh-hawk, familiar on the prairies, has long been appreciated for his service in ridding the land of pests. It may easily be recognized by the large patch of white, low on its back. To avoid making way with a bird of much benefit, it is recommended that the indiscriminate shooting of hawks be discouraged. See Fish-Hawk.