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as I consider our Rough-legged Falcon and the _Falco niger_ of WILSON
to be of the same species, the difference in their colour being merely
indicative of a difference in age.

While at Boston, in the winter of 1832, I offered premiums for birds
of this family, and received as many as eight at one time, of which
not one resembled another in the colour of the plumage, although they
were precisely similar in form and internal structure. The females were
similar to the males, but were distinguished by their superior size.
These eight birds, and some others which I examined, were all shot on the
same salt marshes, within about five miles of the city. Their flight was
precisely similar, as were their usual attitudes, either when perched
on the branches of trees, stakes, or stalks of salt grass-hay, or when
alighted on the banks of the ditches to watch for their prey. The darker
the bird the more shy it was; when pursued it would fly at a much greater
elevation and farther off than the light coloured individuals; and I
feel confident, from my knowledge of birds, that this difference as to
shyness arose from the circumstance, that the dark birds were the oldest.
When listening to their disagreeable squealing notes, I could perceive
no difference whatever. All these Hawks arrived in the marshes within
a day or two of each other, in straggling parties of four or five, and
the individuals composing these parties remained near each other as if
retaining a mutual attachment. These and similar observations, made in
other places from the Bay of Fundy to the marshes and meadows in the
maritime districts of the State of Maryland, have convinced me that
these Hawks form only one species.

The Rough-legged Hawk seldom goes farther south along our Atlantic coast
than the Eastern portions of North Carolina, nor have I ever seen it to
the west of the Alleghanies. It is a sluggish bird, and confines itself
to the meadows and low grounds bordering the rivers and salt-marshes,
along our bays and inlets. In such places you may see it perched on a
stake, where it remains for hours at a time, unless some wounded bird
comes in sight, when it sails after it, and secures it without manifesting
much swiftness of flight. It feeds principally on moles, mice, and other
small quadrupeds, and never attacks a duck on the wing, although now
and then it pursues a wounded one. When not alarmed, it usually flies
low and sedately, and does not exhibit any of the courage and vigour so
conspicuous in most other hawks, suffering thousands of birds to pass
without pursuing them. The greatest feat I have seen them perform was
scrambling at the edge of the water, to secure a lethargic frog.

They alight on trees to roost, but appear so hungry or indolent at all
times, that they seldom retire to rest until after dusk. Their large eyes
indeed, seem to indicate their possession of the faculty of seeing at
that late hour. I have frequently put up one, that seemed watching for
food at the edge of a ditch, long after sunset. Whenever an opportunity
offers, they eat to excess, and, like the Turkey Buzzards and Carrion
Crows, disgorge their food, to enable them to fly off. The species is
more nocturnal in its habits than any other Hawk found in the United

Nothing is known respecting their propagation in the United States, and
as I have no desire to compile, I must pass over this subject. They leave
us in the beginning of March, and betake themselves to more northern
countries; yet not one did either myself, or my youthful and enterprising
party, observe on my late rambles in Labrador.

I have given you the figure of what I suppose to have been a middle-aged
bird, and will at another time place before you one of the dark-coloured
kind, known by the name of _Falco niger_, but which I consider as the
old bird of the present species.

However highly I esteem the labours of WILSON, I am here compelled to
differ from him. How that accurate observer made two different species of
the young and the adult Rough-legged Falcon, I cannot well understand,
more especially as his description of _Falco lagopus_ and _F. niger_
are so similar, that one might infer from their comparison that they
referred to the same species.

Of _Falco lagopus_ he says:—"The Rough-legged Hawk measures twenty-two
inches in length, and four feet two inches in extent; cere, sides of
the mouth, and feet, rich yellow; legs feathered to the toes, with
brownish-yellow plumage, streaked with brown; femorals the same; toes
comparatively short; claws and bill blue-black; iris of the eye bright
amber; upper part of the head pale ochre, streaked with brown; back and
wings chocolate, each feather edged with bright ferruginous; first four
primaries nearly black about the tips, edged externally with silvery
in some lights; rest of the quills dark chocolate; lower, side, and
interior vanes white; tail-coverts white; tail rounded, white, with a
broad band of dark brown near the end, and tipt with white; body below,
and breast, light yellow ochre, blotched and streaked with chocolate.
What constitutes a characteristic mark of this bird, is a belt or girdle
of very dark brown, passing round the belly just below the breast, and
reaching under the wings to the rump; head very broad, and bill uncommonly
small, suited to the humility of its prey.

"The female is much darker both above and below, particularly in the
belt or girdle, which is nearly black; the tail-coverts are also spotted
with chocolate; she is also something larger.

"The Black Hawk is twenty-one inches long, and four feet two inches in
extent; bill bluish-black; cere and sides of the mouth orange-yellow;
feet the same; eye very large; iris bright hazel; cartilage overhanging
the eye prominently, of a dull greenish colour; general colour above
brown-black, slightly dashed with dirty white; nape of the neck pure
white under the surface; front white; whole lower parts black, with slight
tinges of brown; and a few circular touches of the same on the femorals;
legs feathered to the toes, and black, touched with brownish; the wings
reach rather beyond the tip of the tail; the five first primaries are
white on their inner vanes; tail rounded at the end, deep black, crossed
with five narrow bands of pure white, and broadly tipped with dull white;
vent black, spotted with white; inside vanes of the primaries snowy;
claws black, strong, and sharp; toes remarkably short."

I have frequently examined the very specimen from which WILSON took
his figure of the _Falco niger_, and which is now in the collection of
the Academy of Natural Sciences at Philadelphia. On comparing it with
specimens of the Rough-legged Falcon in its ordinary states, I could
discover no essential differences, nor, in fact, any excepting such as
have reference to colour, a circumstance or quality which in hawks is
known to vary so much in almost every species at different periods of
their lives, that it would be useless for me to offer any remarks on
the subject. Besides this, WILSON'S figure is by no means correct as to
colouring, it being in fact black, in contradiction to his description.
I have beside me specimens in which the colour of the plumage is very
different, some being quite light, others almost black; and I feel pretty
confident that further researches respecting this species will shew that
my opinion is not incorrect, when I say that the Rough-legged Falcon of
America and the _Falco niger_ of WILSON, are the same bird.

I am of opinion that the reason for which the dark coloured individuals
are of much rarer occurrence with us, than the lighter ones, is, that
the former being older and stronger birds, are much better able to bear
the inclemency of the weather in more northern regions.

FALCO LAGOPUS, _Gmel._ Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 260.—_Lath._ Ind.
Ornith. vol. i. p. 19.—_Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of
the United States, p. 32.

BUTEO LAGOPUS, _Swains. and Richards._ Fauna Bor.-Amer. part
ii. p. 52.

ROUGH-LEGGED FALCON, FALCO LAGOPUS, _Wils._ Amer. Ornith. vol. iv.
p. 59. pl. 33. Fig.1.—_Nuttall_, Manual, part i. p. 97.

Middle aged Male. Plate CLXVI.

Bill short, as broad as deep at the base, which is cerate, the sides
convex; upper mandible with the dorsal outline straight and declinate at
the base, soon becoming convex, the tip trigonal, descending obliquely,
acute, the sharp margin undulated and perpendicular; lower mandible
with the back convex, the edges sharp, arched, and inflected, the tip
obliquely truncate. Nostrils large, subovate in the fore and under part
of the cere. Head rather large, broad, neck of moderate length, body
robust. Feet short, robust; tarsi roundish, feathered; toes short, and
rather small, hind toe and inner strongest and nearly equal, the latter
connected with the middle at the base by a short membrane, the outer
smallest; all with four transverse scutella at the end, the rest of their
upper parts covered with very small hexagonal scales; claws compressed,
strong, curved, acute, flat beneath.

Plumage ordinary, soft beneath. Space between the bill and eye covered
with bristly feathers, the bases of which are furnished with short
barbs. Feathers of the head and neck lanceolate, of the back and breast
broad and rounded, of the legs short and narrow, excepting the external
tibial, which are long and rounded. Wings long, third quill longest,
fourth almost equal, second shorter than fifth, first very short; first
four abruptly cut out towards the end on the inner web; secondaries
broad and rounded. Tail rather long, broad, rounded.

Bill dull bluish-grey, black at the end. Iris hazel, projecting part
of the eye-brow greenish-blue, cere yellow. Toes yellow, claws black.
Bases of the black bristles of the lore whitish. The head and neck are
streaked with umber-brown and yellowish-white, the centre and tip of
each feather being of the former colour. Back umber-brown, variegated
with light reddish-brown and yellowish-white. Quills dark brown towards
the end, the outer webs of the first six tinged with grey, the base of
all white, that colour extending farther on the secondaries, of most
of which, and of some of the primaries, the inner web is irregularly
barred with brown. Upper tail-coverts white, irregularly barred with
dark brown. Tail white at the base, brown and mottled towards the end,
with a broad subterminal bar of brownish-black, the tips brownish-white.
Middle and hind part of the thorax, with the sides blackish-brown. Breast
yellowish-white, largely spotted and blotched with umber. Feathers of
the legs paler yellowish-red, barred with dusky; abdomen yellowish-white,
as are the under tail-coverts, which are marked with a small brown spot.

Length 22 inches, extent of wings 4 feet 1 inch; bill along the back
1⅜, along the edge 1-7/12; tarsus 2-11/12.

The Female agrees in colouring, but is considerably larger.

The old bird, which has a very different look as to colour, has been
noticed or described under different names.

BLACK HAWK, FALCO NIGER, _Wils._ Amer. Ornith. vol. vi. p. 82.
pl. 53. fig. 1.

FALCO SANCTI JOHANNIS, _Ch. Bonaparte_, Synops. of Birds of
the United States, p. 32.

The bill, feet, and iris, are coloured as in middle age; but the plumage
is of a nearly uniform chocolate-brown, the bases of the quills, however,
remaining white, the broad band on the under surface of the wing being
the same as in the younger bird; and the tail being brown, without a
subterminal bar of black, but slightly tipped with brownish-white, and
barred with yellowish-white on the inner webs, the bars becoming more
distinct on the outer feathers. The wings in both reach to near the tip
of the tail. The feathers on the nape of the neck are white excepting
at the extremities, which is also the case in the young and middle aged
birds, and is not a circumstance peculiar to this species, being observed
in _F. Albicilla_, _F. palumbarius_, _F. Nisus_, and many others.




It was at Key West that I first saw this beautiful Pigeon. The Marion was
brought to anchor close to, and nearly opposite, the little town of the
same name, some time after the setting of the sun. The few flickering
lights I saw nearly fixed the size of the place in my imagination. In
a trice, the kind captain and I were seated in his gig, and I felt the
onward movement of the light bark as if actually on wing, so well timed
was the pulling of the brave tars who were taking us to the shore. In
this place I formed acquaintance with Major GLASSEL of the United States
Artillery, and his family, of Dr BENJAMIN STROBEL, and several other
persons, to whom I must ever feel grateful for the kind attention which
they paid to me and my assistants, as well as for the alacrity with which
they aided me in procuring rare specimens not only of birds, but also
of shells and plants, most of which were unknown to me. Indeed—I cannot
too often repeat it—the facilities afforded me by our Government, during
my latter journeys and voyages, have been so grateful to my feelings,
that I have frequently thought that circumstance alone quite sufficient
to induce even a less ardent lover of nature to exert himself to the
utmost in repaying the favour.

Major GLASSEL sent one of his serjeants with me to search the whole
island, with which he was perfectly acquainted. The name of this soldier
was SYKES, and his life, like mine, had been a chequered one; for there
are few pleasures unaccompanied with pains, real or imaginary, and the
worthy sergeant had had his share of both. I soon discovered that he
was a perfect woodsman, for although we traversed the densest thickets,
in close and gloomy weather, he conducted me quite across the island,
in as masterly a manner as ever did an Indian on a like occasion.—But
perhaps, kind reader, a copy of my journal for that day, may afford you
a clearer idea of our search for rare birds, than any other means that I
could devise. Before I proceed, however, allow me to state, that, while
at Charleston, in South Carolina, I saw at my friend BACHMAN'S house
the head of a Pigeon which Dr STROBEL had sent from Key West, and which
I perceived did not belong to the Zenaida Dove. Serjeant SYKES had seen
the Pigeon, and acquainted as he was with the birds of the country, he
gave some hope that we might procure a few of them that very day;—and
now, for my Journal.

_May 6. 1832._—When I reached the garrison, I found the sergeant waiting
for me. I gave him some small shot, and we set off, not in full run,
nor even at a dog-trot, but with the slowness and carefulness usually
employed by a lynx or a cougar when searching for prey. We soon reached
the thickets, and found it necessary to move in truth very slowly, one
foot warily advanced before the other, one hand engaged in opening a
passage, and presently after occupied in securing the cap on the head,
in smashing some dozens of hungry musquitoes, or in drawing the sharp
thorn of a cactus from a leg or foot, in securing our gun-locks, or
in assisting ourselves to rise after a fall occasioned by stumbling
against the projecting angle of a rock. But we pushed on, squeezed
ourselves between the stubborn branches, and forced our way as well as
we could, my guide of course having the lead. Suddenly I saw him stoop,
and observing the motion of his hand, immediately followed his example.
Reduced by his position to one half of his natural height, he moved more
briskly, inclined to the right, then to the left, then pushed forward,
and raising his piece as he stopped, immediately fired. "I have it,"
cried he. "What?" cried I. "The pigeon"—and he disappeared. The heat
was excessive, and the brushwood here was so thick and tangled, that
had not Mr SYKES been a United States soldier, I should have looked upon
him as bent on retaliating on behalf of "the eccentric naturalist;" for,
although not more than ten paces distant from me, not a glimpse of him
could I obtain. After crawling to the spot I found him smoothing the
feathers of a Pigeon which I had never seen, nay the most beautiful yet
found in the United States. How I gazed on its resplendent plumage!—how
I marked the expression of its rich-coloured, large and timid eye, as
the poor creature was gasping its last breath!—Ah, how I looked on this
lovely bird! I handled it, turned it, examined its feathers and form,
its bill, its legs and claws, weighed it by estimate, and after a while
formed a winding sheet for it of a piece of paper. Did ever an Egyptian
pharmacopolist employ more care in embalming the most illustrious of
the Pharaohs, than I did in trying to preserve from injury this most
beautiful of the woodland cooers!

I never felt, nor did my companion, that our faces and hands were covered
with musquitoes; and although the perspiration made my eyes smart, I was
as much delighted as ever I had been on such an occasion. We travelled
onward, much in the same manner, until we reached the opposite end of
the island; but not another bird did we meet this day.

As we sat near the shore gazing on the curious light pea-green colour
of the sea, I unfolded my prize, and as I now more quietly observed the
brilliant changing metallic hues of its plumage, I could not refrain
from exclaiming—"But who will draw it?" for the obvious difficulties of
copying nature struck me as powerfully as they ever had done, and brought
to my memory the following passage:—"La nature se joue du pinceau des
hommes;—lorsqu'on croit qu'il a atteint sa plus grande beauté, elle
sourit et s'embellit encore!"

We returned along the shore of this curious island to the garrison,
after which Major GLASSEL'S barge conveyed me on board of the Marion.

I have taken upon myself to name this species the Key West Pigeon, and
offer it as a tribute to the generous inhabitants of that island, who
favoured me with their friendship.

The flight of this bird is low, swift, and protracted. I saw several
afterwards when they were crossing from Cuba to Key West, the only place
in which I found them. It flies in loose flocks of from five or six to
a dozen, with flappings having an interval apparently of six feet, so
very low over the sea, that one might imagine it on the eve of falling
into the water every moment. It is fond of going out from the thickets
early in the morning, for the purpose of cleansing itself in the shelly
sand that surrounds the island; but the instant it perceives danger it
flies off to the woods, throws itself into the thickest part of them,
alights on the ground, and runs off with rapidity until it thinks itself
secure. The jetting motions of its tail are much like those of the
Carolina Dove, and it moves its neck to and fro, forward and backward,
as Pigeons are wont to do.

The cooing of this species is not so soft or prolonged as that of the
Common Dove, or of the Zenaida Dove, and yet not so emphatical as that
of any true Pigeon with which I am acquainted. It may be imitated by
pronouncing the following syllables:—_Whoe-whoe-oh-oh-oh_. When suddenly
approached by man, it emits a guttural gasping-like sound, somewhat in
the manner of the Common Tame Pigeon on such an occasion. They alight
on the lower branches of shrubby trees, and delight in the neighbourhood
of shady ponds, but always inhabit, by preference, the darkest solitudes.

The nest of the Key West Pigeon is formed of light dry twigs, and much
resembles in shape that of the Carolina Dove. Sometimes you find it
situated on the ground, when less preparation is used. Some nests are
placed on the large branches of trees quite low, while others are fixed on
slender twigs. On the 20th May, one of these nests was found containing
two pure white eggs, about the size of those of the White-headed Pigeon,
nearly round, and so transparent that I could see the yolk by holding
them to the light. How long incubation continues, or if they raise more
than one brood in a season, I am unable to say.

Towards the middle of July they become sufficiently abundant at Key
West, to enable sportsmen to shoot as many as a score in a day; for,
as soon as the young are able to follow their parents, they frequently
resort to the roads to dust themselves, and are then easily approached.
Dr STROBEL told me he had procured more than a dozen of these birds in
the course of a morning, and assured me that they were excellent eating.

Their food consists of berries and seeds of different plants, and when
the sea-grape is ripe, they feed greedily upon it. They all depart for
Cuba, or the other West India Islands, about the middle of October.

Until my arrival at Key West, this species was supposed to be the Zenaida
Dove. The young, when fully feathered, are of a dark-grey colour above,
lighter below, the bill and legs of a deep leaden hue. I am inclined
to believe that they attain their full beauty of plumage the following

So much are these birds confined to the interior of the undergrowth, that
their loves are entirely prosecuted there; nor do they on such occasions
elevate themselves in the air, as is the manner of the Carolina Dove.

COLUMBA MONTANA, _Linn._ Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 281.—_Lath._
Ind. Ornith. vol. i. p. 594.

PARTRIDGE PIGEON, _Lath._ Synops. vol. iv. p. 615.

Adult Male. Plate CLXVII. Fig. 1.

Bill straight, of ordinary length, rather slender, broader than deep at
the base, compressed toward the end; upper mandible with a tumid fleshy
covering at the base, a convex declinate obtuse tip, and a slight sinus
in the sharp margins; lower mandible with the angle near the extremity,
which is compressed and rounded. Nostrils medial, oblique, linear. Head
small and compressed, the general form rather robust. Legs short, and
of moderate strength; tarsus covered anteriorly with broad scutella,
rounded behind; toes scutellate free, margined; claws rather small,
arched, compressed, marginate, obtuse.

Plumage compact on the back, elsewhere blended with strong, but disunited
barbs. Wings of ordinary length; second quill longest, first intermediate
between the fourth and fifth. First four primaries more or less cut out
on the outer web, towards the end. Tail much rounded, of twelve broad
rounded feathers.

Bill horn-colour at the end, the fleshy parts at the base bright carmine.
Iris and margins of the eye-lids carmine. Feet flesh-coloured, the
scutella of the tarsus and toes carmine. Forehead and a band running
behind the eye light reddish-brown; upper part of the head shining with
purplish-brown and light green reflections, as is the back of the neck.
The general colour of the upper parts is brownish-red, the wing-coverts
and margins of the quills and tail shaded with green, the fore part of
the back splendent with purple reflections. There is a broad white band
from the lower mandible beneath the eye, and the throat is of the same
colour; under the subocular white band is another of the same colour as
the forehead. The fore-neck and breast are of a rich but delicate pale
purple, which fades into cream-colour behind. Under surface of the wings
and tail of the same colour as the upper, but fainter.

Length 11¾ inches, extent of wings 17½; bill along the back 10/12, along
the edge 1 inch; tarsus 1-2/12, middle-toe 4/12; weight 6 ounces.

Adult Female. Plate CLXVII. Fig. 2.

The Female resembles the Male, the tints being merely fainter, and the
gloss of the neck and back less splendent.

* * * * *

The plants represented in this plate grew on Key West, in sheltered
situations. That with purple flowers is a Convolvulus, the other
an Ipomæa. The blossoms are partially closed at night, and although
ornamental, are destitute of odour.




In the end of June 1832, I observed one of these birds a few miles below
the city of Camden, flying over a meadow in pursuit of insects, after,
which it alighted on the top of a small detached tree, where I followed
it and succeeded in obtaining it. The bird appeared to have lost itself:
it was unsuspicious, and paid no attention to me as I approached it.
While on the wing, it frequently employed its long tail, when performing
sudden turns in following its prey, and when alighted, it vibrated it
in the manner of the Sparrow-Hawk. The bird fell to the ground wounded,
and uttering a sharp squeak, which it repeated, and accompanied with

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