BIRDS OF NEW ENGLAND AND EASTERN NEW YORK - HOFFMANN

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BALD EAGLE. Haliæetus leucocephalus
♂ 32.85 in. ♀ 35.50 in.

Ad.— Head, neck, and tail white; rest of plumage dark brown. Im., second or third year.— Head and neck blackish; rest of upper parts mixed grayish-brown and blackish; under parts mixed white and dark. Im., first year.— Whole plumage nearly uniform black; under parts more or less spotted with whitish.

Nest, on tall trees, sometimes on cliffs. Eggs, white.

The Bald Eagle is a permanent resident of the lower Hudson Valley and along Long Island Sound, and a rare winter visitant in southeastern New Hampshire. It is a summer resident of the Maine coast and of some of the large lakes of northern New England. Elsewhere in New England it is a rare migrant, occurring in May and at almost any time during the summer. It frequents bodies of water at all times, feeding on the dead fish and other refuse cast up on the shore.

An old bird, with white head and tail, is unmistakable; in the brown immature plumage the eagle can be told from one of the larger hawks only by its great size and by its proportions. The wing is twice as long as the tail, so that the whole extent of the spread wings from tip to tip is six or seven times the length of the tail.



AMERICAN ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK. Archibuteo lagopus sancti-johannis
♂ 21.50 in. ♀ 22.50 in.

Ad., normal phase.— Head and neck whitish, streaked with brown; rest of upper parts brown, streaked with lighter tints; base of the tail whitish, barred with black; lower parts dark brown, spotted with white. Im., normal phase.— Similar, but lower parts whitish or buffy, streaked on the breast with brown, and crossed over the belly by a broad band of deep brown.

Both old and young have so-called melanistic phases, in which they vary from deep black to forms a little darker than the normal.

The American Rough-legged Hawk is a very rare migrant or winter resident in New York and New England. It was formerly a common migrant through the Connecticut Valley. “The Rough-leg is one of the most nocturnal of our hawks, and may be seen in the fading twilight watching from some low perch, or beating with measured noiseless flight over its hunting-ground. It follows two very different methods in securing its food: one by sitting on some stub or low tree and watching the ground for the appearance of its prey, as the Red-tail does; the other by beating back and forth just above the tops of the grass or bushes, and dropping upon its victim, after the manner of the Marsh Hawk” (Fisher).

The whitish base of the tail and its length help to identify this hawk in the light-colored phase; care, however, must be taken not to mistake the much commoner Marsh Hawk [Northern Harrier], which has pure white upper tail-coverts, for a Rough-leg. The former I have never seen light on a tree; the latter often watches for its prey from a perch; the flight of the former is light, the latter's heavy.


BROAD-WINGED HAWK. Buteo platypterus
♂ 14.00 in. ♀ 17.00 in.

Ad.— Upper parts dark brown; tail dark, crossed by two to four broad bands of light gray or whitish, which show from below; under sides of quill-feathers white, tipped with black; under parts brownish, spotted with white. Im. — Upper parts dark brown; tail duller, with fainter bars; cheeks with rather distinct dusky streaks or “mustaches”; under parts white or buffy, heavily streaked with black.

Nest, in trees, from twenty-five to fifty feet up. Eggs, buffy whitish, spotted with brown.

The Broad-winged Hawk is a summer resident of New York and New England. In some parts of northern New England it is the commonest hawk, but it is rare or absent in many localities. It arrives in April, and leaves in September. It is a bird of wooded hills, and disappears if the country is cleared.

If a student has become familiar with the commoner hawks, and can recognize a Buteo by the cut of the wings and tail, he may hope under favorable conditions to identify a Broad-winged Hawk. It is decidedly smaller than a Red-shouldered Hawk, and has in the breeding season a cry that resembles the note of the Wood Pewee. It is the most unsuspicious of our hawks, especially about the nest. In the adult the dark bars across the tail show distinctly from below; a large part of the under side of the wings when spread is white without any barring, and offers a marked contrast to the black tips.



RED-SHOULDERED HAWK. Buteo lineatus
♂ 18.30 in. ♀ 20.35 in.

Ad.— Bend of wing and under parts reddish-brown; tail black, crossed with five or six narrow white bars. Im.— Upper parts dark brown, spotted with white; tail dark, crossed with grayish bands; under parts whitish, streaked or spotted with brown.

Nest, in large trees, from fifty to seventy-five feet up. Eggs, white or whitish, spotted with brown.

The Red-shouldered Hawk, called Hen Hawk by the farmers, is the commonest hawk in southern New England and the lower Hudson Valley. It is a permanent resident, but less common in winter than in summer in the northern portion of its range. It becomes rare at the edge of the Canadian Zone. It may be seen circling high overhead, often screaming tee'-ur tèe'-ur, or a pair may be seen over low, swampy woods, screaming, and soaring higher and higher, till they become mere specks in the blue. In fall and winter it often perches on some favorite tree, watching for mice or frogs in the low meadows or swampy grounds. The Red-shouldered Hawk is not swift enough to pursue many birds on the wing, as the Falcons and Accipiters do; it either watches the ground from a perch, as above described, or when soaring high overhead, scans the ground or trees beneath it for mice, squirrels, rabbits, and occasionally birds. When it sees its prey, it closes wings and tail, and drops swiftly down upon it.

Adults have reddish-brown under parts, and may be thus distinguished from Red-tailed Hawks; but immature birds of both species differ very little, and can hardly be distinguished unless killed. The notes of the two, however, differ, and in spring and summer are excellent means of identification. The scream of the Red-shouldered Hawk is identical with one of the notes of the Blue Jay; it can easily be iinitated by whistling. The scream of the Red-tailed Hawk is higher, more sputtering, more of a squeal than a scream.

RED-TAILED HAWK. Buteo borealis
♂ 20.00 in. ♀ 23.00 in.

Ad.— Upper parts brown; tail deep reddish; under parts white, more or less heavily streaked with brown. Im.— Similar to adult, but tail brown, crossed by numerous blackish bands.

Nest, in tall trees. Eggs, dull white, more or less spotted with brown.

The Red-tailed Hawk breeds throughout New England and the Hudson Valley, but except in the wilder and more hilly portions of New England it is less common than the Red-shouldered Hawk. Though the species is a permanent resident, there is a regular migration in spring and fall; sometimes a large number pass over in a day. The bird's hunting and nesting habits are similar to those of the Red-shouldered Hawk; its notes have already been described (see preceding species). In the glens among the mountains the high, sputtering cry of the Red-tailed Hawk is a not uncommon sound, and a day hardly passes without a sight of the majestic bird soaring overhead. Even when the hawk is high in air, if it is an adult, the reddish tail shows as the bird wheels.


AMERICAN GOSHAWK. Accipiter atricapillus
♂ 22.00 in. ♀ 24.00 in.

Ad.— Top of head and region back of the eyes black, a white line over the eye; rest of upper parts, wings, and tail bluish-gray; under parts white, everywhere streaked and barred with dark gray. Im.— Upper parts brown, spotted especially about the head with whitish; tail and under parts white, streaked and spotted with brown.

Nest, of sticks in trees. Eggs, white, sometimes faintly marked with brownish.

The Goshawk is a rare summer resident of the Canadian Zone, where it is confined chiefly to the deep forests of the higher mountains. In the autumn and winter, at irregular intervals, Goshawks appear in southern New England and the Hudson Valley in considerable numbers. They are extraordinarily bold and rapacious, and fly, when hunting, with great speed.

An adult is a very beautiful bird, the slaty gray of the back and fine gray barring on the white under parts giving it a lighter tone than any other hawk, except the adult male Marsh Hawk. The black cap and the white line over the eye are also distinctive marks. An immature bird could hardly be told from a large Cooper's Hawk, unless killed and measured.

COOPER'S HAWK. Accipiter cooperii
♂ 15.50 in. ♀ 19.00 in.

Ad. ♂.— Upper parts dark gray, bluish-gray in strong light; top of head blackish; tail crossed by several blackish bands; under parts white, closely barred with reddish-brown; tail rounded. Ad. ♀.— Duller than the ♂. Im.— Upper parts dusky brown; lower parts white, striped with brown, the sides barred with the same.

Nest, in high trees, often a deserted crow's nest. Eggs, bluishwhite, rarely spotted with pale brownish.

The Cooper's Hawk, called Chicken Hawk by the farmers, is a not uncommon summer resident throughout southern and central New England and the lower Hudson Valley; it occurs sparingly on the uplands of central New England, but is absent from the deep forests of the Canadian Zone. It is a rare winter resident in the vicinity of New York city. The Cooper's Hawk is bold, strong, and swift, and destroys more poultry and wild birds than any other hawk. When the nesting-site is approached, the birds utter cries like "a Flicker's laugh or a tree-toad's trill magnified” (F. H. Allen).

The male is hard to distinguish from a female Sharp-shinned Hawk, but the female is considerably larger. Her long tail and manner of flight ought easily to distinguish her from the other common large hawks, the Red-shouldered and the Marsh Hawk. The Red-shouldered Hawk soars or circles high in air, with a cut of wings and tail like that of the Red-tailed Hawk; the Marsh Hawk glides low over meadows and marshes, and sooner or later shows the large white spot at the base of the tail. The Cooper's Hawk either flies fairly high, the powerful wing-strokes alternating with periods of gliding, during which the length of tail is evident, or, when hunting, flies rapidly over the tops of bushes and between the trees. When a Cooper's Hawk perches, the tail projects well below the wings, and is crossed by blackish bands. The breast is either finely barred with reddish-brown, or streaked with blackish or reddish-brown.

SHARP-SHINNED HAWK. Accipiter velox
♂ 11.25 in. ♀ 13.50 in.

Ad.— Upper parts grayish-brown; tail crossed with blackish bars; under parts white, streaked with reddish-brown. Im.— Resembles immature Cooper's Hawk, but tail square.

Nest, usually in trees. Eggs, white, greenish-white, or bluishwhite, usually heavily blotched with brown.

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a common migrant throughout New England and New York, occurring in April, September, and October. It is rare in the breeding season in New England, and still rarer in winter; but it is a common permanent resident of the lower Hudson Valley. The Sharp-shinned Hawk is the commonest small hawk in spring and fall, and the most destructive to bird-life. Often a hush falls over the thickets which a moment before were full of song and fluttering wings; if we glance upward at such a time, we can generally discover a small hawk drifting over, taking a few strokes, then gliding forward on spread wings, or wheeling motionless.

Its long tail and short, rounded wings, and the alternation of wing-stroke and periods of gliding, mark it as either a Sharp-shinned Hawk, or a near relative, the Cooper's Hawk, and distinguish it from the other small hawk, the Sparrow Hawk. When pursuing its prey, however, it does not stop to glide, but flies with rapid wing-strokes, dashing into a thicket where the frightened birds have taken refuge. It is then to be distinguished from the Sparrow Hawk by the entire absence of reddish-brown on the back. When it perches, it chooses a limb more or less in shadow; its tail extends some distance beyond its folded wings, and is crossed with several blackish bars. There is no way of surely telling a large female Sharp-shinned Hawk from a small male Cooper's Hawk; the male of the smaller species and the female of the larger may, however, always be told by their size. When the nest is approached, the parents utter a cry suggesting “a Hairy Woodpecker's long call ” (F. H. Allen). (See Frontispiece.)



MARSH HAWK [NORTHERN HARRIER]. Circus hudsonius
♂ 19.00 in. ♀ 22.00 in.

Ad. ♂.— Upper parts light bluish-gray; tail crossed by black bars; upper tail-coverts (over the base of the tail) pure white; throat and breast gray; belly white, flecked here and there with brown; under surface of the wings white; wings tipped with black. Ad. ♀.— Upper parts brown; “rumpwhite; lower parts buffy-whitish; breast thickly streaked with brown. Im.— Upper parts similar to ♂; lower parts rich rusty, streaked with brown on the breast, paler and unstreaked on the belly.

Nest, on the ground, in wet meadows. Eggs, white or bluishwhite, often spotted with pale brown.



The Marsh Hawk is a summer resident throughout New England and New York. It winters sparingly in southern New England and the lower Hudson Valley. It arrives in March or April, and stays till October. The usual haunts of the bird are extensive meadows, where it hunts mice and frogs by gliding low over the grass and occasionally dropping to the ground, beating up and down apparently in a regular course. It is found, however, even in the hills, where there are only restricted swampy tracts. In the breeding season the male performs aerial revolutions, dropping from a height, turning, and screaming in his descent. When the nest is approached, the parents swoop at the intruder, uttering cries like the syllables geg, geg, geg. When it flies low, the pure white upper tail-coverts offer an unmistakable field-mark; they are especially conspicuous in the brown birds, the females and immature males. The adult male is a beautiful bird, the delicate gray shade of its plumage and the black-tipped wings suggesting a gull. Sometimes the Marsh Hawk is seen at a considerable height; at such a time its long tail distinguishes it from the Red-shouldered Hawk, and its long wings from the Cooper's Hawk.

[TURKEY VULTURE]. Cathartes aura
63.00 in. - 72.00 in.

The Turkey Vulture was missing in the original book for unknown reasons.


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