have traced the migration of this beautiful Hawk from the Texas
as far east as the mouth of the Santee River in South Carolina.
CHARLES BONAPARTE first introduced it into our Fauna, on the authority
of a specimen procured in East Florida by TITIAN PEALE, Esq.,
of Philadelphia, who it seems had some difficulty in obtaining
it. On the 8th of February, 1834, I received one of these birds
alive from Dr. RAVENEL, of Charleston, who had kept it in his
yard for eight days previously, without being able to induce it
to take any food. The beauty of its large eyes struck me at once,
and I immediately made a drawing of the bird, which was the first
I had ever seen alive. It proved to be a male, and was in beautiful
plumage. Dr. RAVENEL told me that it walked about his yard with
tolerable ease, although one of its wings had been injured. On
the 23d of the same month I received another fine specimen, a
female, from FRANCIS LEE, Esq., who had procured it on his plantation,
forty miles west of Charleston, and with it the following note.
"When first observed, it was perched on a tree in an erect
posture. I saw at once that it was one of the birds which you
had desired me to procure for you, and went to the house for my
gun. On returning I saw the Hawk very high in the air, sailing
beautifully over a large wet meadow, where many Common Snipes
were feeding. It would now and then poise itself for a while,
in the manner of our Little Sparrow Hawk, and suddenly closing
its wings plunge towards its prey with great velocity, making
a rumbling noise as it passed through the air. Now and then, when
about half way, it suddenly checked its descent, recommenced hovering,
and at last marking its prey, rushed upon it and secured it. Its
cries, on being wounded, so much resembled those of the Mississippi
Kite, that I thought, as I was going to pick it up, that I had
only got one of that species. It was so shy that I was obliged
to get on horseback before I could approach it within gun shot."
Mr. H. WARD, who accompanied me on my expedition
to the Floridas, found this species breeding on the plantation
of ALEXANDER MAYZCK, Esq., on the Santee River, early in the
month of March, and shot three, two of which, a male and a female,
are now in my possession. Their nests were placed on low trees
near the margins of the river, and resembled those of the American
Crow, but had none of the substantial lining of that bird's
nest. Mr. WARD states, that at this time they were seen flying
over the cane brakes in pursuit of large insects, somewhat in
the manner of the Mississippi Kite, and that they were very
My friend JOHN BACHMAN has seen this species
fly in groups, at a very great height, in the beginning of March,
and thinks that it is only of late years that they have located
themselves in South Carolina, where, however, five of them have
been procured in one year.
The Black-shouldered Hawk appears to give
a decided preference to low lands, not distant from the shores
of the Atlantic. On oar way toward the Texas, several of these
birds were seen over the large marshes, flying at a small elevation,
and coursing in search of prey, much in the manner of the Hen-harrier
or Marsh Hawk, but all evidently bent on proceeding to the eastward.
Whether this species winters there or not, I am unable to say,
but that some remain all the year in Florida, and even in South
Carolina, I am quite confident.
The difference between the food of this species
and that of the Mississippi Kite is surprising to me. I have
never seen the latter seize any bird, whereas the Black-shouldered
Hawk certainly does so, as in the stomachs of two individuals
which I examined were remains of birds as well as of coleopterous
insects. These two birds agree nearly with the description of
the one procured by Mr. TITIAN PEALE, excepting in the length
of the wings, which in them and in several others that have
come under my notice, have their tips fully an inch shorter
than the end of the tail. A breeding female differed from the
rest in having the eyes dull yellowish-red; the tail-feathers
had all been ash-grey, all the primaries were edged with white,
and many of the secondaries were still of a light brownish-grey;
the black spots under the wings were smaller than usual; the
abdomen was also tinged with brownish-grey. I am therefore of
opinion, that these birds undergo as many changes of plumage
as the Mississippi Kite.
BLACK-WINGED HAWK, Falco melanopterus, Bonap.
Amer. Orn., vol. ii. FALCO MELANOPTERUS, Bonap. Syn., p. 31.
Falco dispar, App. p. 435. BLACK-SHOULDERED HAWK, Falco dispar,
Aud. Amer. Orn., vol. iv. p. 397.
Wings very long and pointed, the second quill
longest, the third nearly as long, the first longer than the
fourth; the first, second, and third with the outer web attenuated
toward the end; the first and second with the inner web sinuated;
secondaries very broad, rounded, the inner web exceeding the
outer. Tail of twelve feathers, of moderate breadth, long, emarginate
and rounded, the middle and lateral feathers being about equal,
and eight-twelfths of an inch shorter than the second feather
from the side.
Bill black; the cere and soft basal margins
yellow. Iris bright red. Tarsi and toes yellow, of a darker
tint than the cere; claws black. All the lower parts are pure
white, with the exception of a patch on five or six of the larger
wing-coverts; the forehead is also white, as are the cheeks;
the superciliary bristles black, the white of the head gradually
blends into the general colour of the upper parts, which is
ash-grey; the smaller wing-coverts bluish-black; the shafts
of the quills brownish-black; all the feathers of the tail,
excepting the two middle, white; the shafts of the two middle
feathers blackish-brown, of the rest white towards the end,
the whole of that of the outer pure white.
Length to end of tail 16 inches, to end of
claws 12 1/4, to end of wings 14 7/8; extent of wings 40; wing
from flexure 13; tail 7 10/12; bill along the ridge (1 1/2)/12,;
along the edge of lower mandible 1 5/12; tarsus 1 4/12 first
toe 7/12, its claw 3/4; second toe (10 1/2)/12, its claw 10/12;
third toe 1/4, its claw (9 1/2)/12; fourth toe (10 1/2)/12,
its claw 8/12. Weight 14 oz.
The female is rather larger than the male,
but in other respects similar.
Length to end of tail 16 3/4 inches, to end
of wings 15 3/4, to end of claws 12 3/4; extent of wings 41
1/2; tail 8; wing from flexure 13 1/2; bill along the ridge
1 1/8, along the edge of lower mandible 1 1/2; tarsus 1 3/8;
hind toe 3/4, its claw 7/8; outer toe 7/8, its claw 1/2; middle
toe 1 3/8, its claw 5/8; inner toe 7/8, its claw 3/4. Weight
17 1/4 oz.
The young when fledged have the bill and claws
black, the cere and feet dull yellow; the upper parts brownish-grey,
the scapulars and quills tipped with white, the former also
margined with yellowish-brown; the primary and secondary coverts
are also tipped with white; the smaller wing-coverts are brownish-black;
the outer webs of all the tail-feathers are more or less brownish-grey
toward the end. The lower parts are white, the feathers on the
breast tinged with brownish-yellow at the end, and with the
shaft yellowish-brown. The lower wing-coverts are all white.