Amos W. (Amos William) Butler.

The birds of Indiana. A descriptive catalogue of the birds that have been observed within the state, with an account of their habits online

. (page 25 of 64)
Online LibraryAmos W. (Amos William) ButlerThe birds of Indiana. A descriptive catalogue of the birds that have been observed within the state, with an account of their habits → online text (page 25 of 64)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

hollow tree or snag, in a prostrate hollow log, on the ground, beside a
fallen tree, with no attempt to make a nest. In the Whitewater
Valley they nest indiscriminately along the streams, on wooded hillsides


or summits, or in Uie moiv level woodland. The followin
ments are from three sets collected near Brookville by my friend, Mr.
E. E. Quick: 2.90 by 1.95; 2.70 by 1.90, deposited on ground beside
a log, collected May 14, 1879. 2.95 by 1.95; 3.10 by 1.85, laid in hol-
low sycamore snag, six feet above ground and forty feet from the top,
and only entrance; collected May 15, 1879. Incubation was far ad-
vanced in both sets. 2.75 by 1.94; 2.75 by 2.00, taken May 20, 1880;
eggs fresh.

Mr. W. 0. Wallace wrote me of a nest containing young found by a
friend of his in Wabash County in the summer of 1894. When he
first saw the young birds they were about the size of half-grown
chickens, and entirely covered with white down. When they were
disturbed they hissed loud enough to have drowned the noise of a hive
of angry bees. They were at the bottom of a large elm tree stub, on
the ground. After some effort, one of the birds was taken out of the
hollow trunk. When it was teased it ejected the contents of its
stomach, which proved to be a mass of half-digested garter snake.

They feed upon all kinds of carrion and fresh meat. The latter is
their preference. There are, at different localities, places, where these
birds congregate, known as "Buzzard Boosts." At such spots great
numbers of these Vultures gather from a considerable area of country.
One such is on the east Fork of the Whitewater River, a'nout five
miles north of Brookville. There, at almost any time in summer,
these birds may be seen on the long limbs of the sycamores and elms
along the river, resting or drying or preening their feathers after a
bath. There is another well known roost at Shades of Death, near
Waveland, Parke County. This overlooks the deep and rocky valley
of Sugar Creek.

They begin to withdraw from the northern part of their range in
October, sometimes early, others remaining until the close, and gradu-
ally disappear to the southward. Some years most of the migrants are
gone by the last of that month; others remain until late November
and even into December. Mr. E. J. Chansler writes me of a pure white
Turkey Vulture that was seen in Knox County.


*127. (326). Catharista atrata (BARTR.).

Black Vulture.

Adult. Head and upper part of neck, naked, black; the feathers
reaching farther up on back of neck; bill, black at base, with white
tip; plumage, uniform dull black; under part, of snrfm-e of wings,


grayish, or whitish. The heavier form, with square tail and short
wings, with whitish lining, easily distinguish this bird.

Length, 23.00-27.00; wing, 16.50-17.50; tail, 7.50-8.50; culmen,
.90-.95; tarsus, 3.00.

KANGE. America, from Argentine Republic and Chili north to
North Carolina, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and west to Great
Plains. Irregularly or casually to Maine, New York and South Da-
kota. Winters from southern Indiana southward.

Nest, on ground, under a log or bush, or in a hollow tree. Eggs, 2,
occasionally 1 or 3 ; gray-green, irregularly marked with different tints
of chocolate and reddish-brown; 3.09 by 2.01.

Resident in the southern part of the State; generally not numerous,
but, in the lower Wabash Valley, at least 'from Knox County south-
ward, it is common. In the lower Whitewater Valley it is seen most
commonly in winter, but also breeds. The southern part of our State
is mostly within the uncertain zone, which lies north of the territory
where it is a common resident. It is not a migratory bird, but rather
a wanderer which is liable to be found at any season, except that of
breeding, within a narrow belt to the northward, and niay even rarely
breed there. Audubon, in 1834, said of this Vulture: "This bird is
a constant resident of all our southern States, extends far up the
Mississippi Valley, and continues the whole year in Kentucky, Indi-
ana, Illinois and even in the State of Ohio, as far as Cincinnati/ 7
Apparently they withdrew from the vicinity of the Ohio Valley, and
for over forty years there was no account of its having been observed
there. The next record of its occurrence in Ohio was given by Dr.
Langdon as December 20, 1876 (Bull. Nuttall Orn. Club, October,
1877, p. 109). The next record from Indiana was of two specimens
observed at Brookville, May 17, 1879, by Mr. E. R. Quick (Journ.
Cin. Soc. N. H., December, 1881, p. 341). From that time until the
present it has regularly been seen in Indiana, in increasing numbers,
and has extended its range northward until it has been found about
half-way across the State. It would seem that here is a case of reces-
sion from a former area and of again extending its range to an equal,
or greater extent than formerly occupied. It has been noted as far
north as the counties -of Knox, Monroe, Decatur and Franklin, in
1890. Mr. 0. P. Hanger noted it in Orange County in 1887 (The
Curlew, I, No. 3, p. 35). Mr. Alden M. Hadley observed them at
Monrovia, Morgan County, November 24, 1894. Mr. J. B. Bum's saw
several at Cloverdale, Putnam County, November 18, 1896. Mr. E.
J. Chansler informs rue they have become common at Bicknell, Ktiox

49 GEOI,


County, since 1889. Previous to that date they were seldom seen.
The fall of 1894 they were quite common, and in the fall of 1895, at
times in September, October and November, large flocks were ob-
served. Both autumns there were many dead hogs in that vicinity,
and the Black Vultures fed upon them. Mr. Robert Ridgway informs
me of its breeding in Knox and Gibson counties, and I have reported
an instance of its breeding four miles west of Brookville, in the valley
of the West Fork of the Whitewater River, in May, 1889, in a hollow
sycamore stub, about twenty feet high. The two eggs were placed upon
the ground inside (Bendire, L. H. N. A. Birds, I, p. 167). They usu-
ally breed upon the ground, under bushes, logs, or sometimes entirely
exposed. The eggs are usually two. Both sexes assist in incubation,
which takes about thirty days. Probably but one brood is raised a
season. They are generally known to our people by the name "Carrion
Crow." It will be interesting to note whether they further extend
their range as the years go by. The Black Vulture may be distin-
guished, by a careful observer, on account of its heavier body, square,
short tail, which gives it a chopped off appearance, black head, and sil-
very grayish primaries. In some of the southern cities these Vultures
are very tame, in fact, are semi-domesticated, but in Vera Cruz, Mex-
ico, they may be said to be the sanitary police. They clean the streets
and all public places of offal, and their value to the health of the people
is very great. They are so tame that when engaged in feeding in the
streets they grudgingly make way for the passer-by.





a 1 . Outer toe reversible; claws all same length, narrowed and rounded on the un-
der side. PANDION. 79
a 2 . Outer toe not reversible; claws graduated from largest (hind toe) to smallest

(outer toe).

b l . Nostril small, circular, with a conspicuous bony tubercle; cutting edge of

upper mandible with a strong tooth, separated from hooked tip of bill by a

distinct notch. Subfamily FALCONING. FALCO. 78

6 2 . Nostril not circular, nor with an inner bony tubercle. Subfamily ACCTPI-



f 1 . Tail deeply forked. ELANOIDES. 70

c 2 . Tail not deeply forked.
d 1 . Wing not more than 18.00 inches.
e 1 . Tarsus more or less naked in front.
jf 1 . Front of tarsus covered with small roundish scales; claws not

grooved beneath. ELANUS.

. f 2 . Front of tarsus covered with large transverse scales ; claws grooved


g l . Cutting edge of upper mandible notched. ICTINIA. 71

g 2 . Cutting edge of upper mandible not notched.

h l . Face with a slight ruff as in owls. Cracus. 72

A 2 . Face without a ruff.

1 1 . Tarsus about equal to tibia; wings little longer than tail.


1 2 . Tarsus usually less than three-fourths the length of tibia ; tail
much shorter than wing.

j 1 . Nostril nearly ovate, its forward end pointed upward;
wings rather pointed. BUTEO. 74

j 2 . Nostril nearly circular; wings rounded. ASTURNIA.
e 2 . Tarsus densely feathered to base of toes, except a bare strip behind.

d 2 . Wing over 18.00 inches.

A; 1 . Tarsus feathered all round to base of toes.

k 2 . Tarsus with at least lower third naked all round.



128. (327). Elanoides forficatus (LINN.).

Swallow-tailed Kite.

Adult. Tail, forked like that of some swallows; head, neck, band
across rump, and lower parts, pure white; rest of plumage, glossy
black, with reflections of varying shades. Immature. Head and neck,
streaked with dusky; black less glossy; feathers of wings and tail, more
or less margined with white.

Length, 19.50-25.50; wing, 15.40-17.70; outer tail feathers, 12.50-
14.50; culmen, 0.70-0.80; tarsus, 1.00-1.30.

KANGE. America, from Brazil to Virginia, Indiana and Minnesota;
rarely to Massachusetts, Ontario, Michigan, Manitoba, and Assiniboia.
Breeds from Indiana, Illinois and Iowa southward. Winters south
of United States.


N.est, of sticks and moss, in tops of tall trees. Eggs, 2-3; white,
sometimes with greenish or yellowish tinge, spotted and blotched with
brown, chestnut and umber; 1.87 by 1.49.

Rare summer resident in the southwestern part of the State; of
rare and irregular occurrence northward. Wilson says of this graceful,
swallow-like Kite, that it "is very abundant in South Carolina and
Georgia, and still more so in west Florida, and the extensive prairies
of Ohio and Indiana territory." (Am. Orn., VI, 1812, p. 70). They
continued to grow less in numbers year after year. In Ohio, for
twenty years after 1858, there was no record. From the time of Wil-
son down to the year 1882, a period of seventy years, with the single
exception reported from Franklin County by Dr. Raymond (Indiana
Geol. Rept., 1869, p. 210), it was not reported from Indiana north of
the lower Wabash River. There Dr. F. Stein killed three, two males
and female, in one season. Mr. Robert Ridgway noted it as a summer
resident, but much less common than formerly. The specimen seen by
Dr. Raymond was shot eleven miles below Brookville. It had been
feeding upon beetles and cat-birds' eggs, which it had swallowed with-
out breaking (Proc. Phila. Acad. Nat. Sci., November, 1856, p. 287).

Since 1882, whether because of increase of the number of observers
or of its occurring more often, it has been noted several times north of
the region named. A pair was shot, June 19, 1882, in Monroe County,
Mich. (Bull. Nuttall Orn. Club, October, 1882, p. 250). It was noted
in the following . Indiana counties: Decatur, July, 1883 (Guthrie);
Monroe, two, August 18, 1885 (Evermann); Allen, one, about 1885
(Stockbridge); Clinton, one, killed near Frankfort, July, 1885, and
now in the possession of a man near there (Newlin); Mr. E. J. Chans-
ler notes a pair in Knox County, in August, 1890, one of which is pre-
served by Mr. J. Freeman,. Bicknell, Ind. He also reports another
one seen April 11, 1894. Mr. J. A. Balmer mentions it, from Knox
County. Mr. J. G. Parker, Jr., writes me of a male shot at Lake View,
111., fifty miles north of Chicago, June 5, 1895. Their nesting time is
from April to June. It will be observed that its distribution in this
State corresponds closely with that of the original prairies. It has
never been known to breed in Indiana, though I should not be sur-
prised to learn that it does. Audubon found a nest near the Falls of
the Ohio in 1820, which contained four young. They feed upon
lizards, tree-toads, toads, grasshoppers, beetles and other insects, and
they are decidedly beneficial. It is said to feed extensively on the
cotton worm during the summer and early fall.



*129.. (329). Ictinia mississippiensis (WiLs.).

Mississippi Kite.

Adult. Tail, very slightly forked; head, neck and secondaries, ashy;
rest of plumage, dark plumbeous, blackish on lesser wing coverts;
primaries and upper tail coverts, marked with rufous chestnut; tail,
black. Immature. Head, neck and lower parts, white, spotted or
streaked with brown; tail, tipped with whitish, and below with nar-
row cross bands of white or grayish; upper parts, brownish-black,
marked with rufous or white.

Length, 13.00-15.50; wing, 10.60-12.30; tail, 6.00-7.00.

EANGE. Eastern North America, from Guatemala north to South
Carolina, southern Illinois, southern Indiana and Kansas. Casually
to Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Iowa. Breeds from Kansas and
southern Illinois southward. Winters south of United States.

Nest, of sticks, twigs and leaves, lined with moss, in tops of tall
trees. Eggs, 2-3; white, bluish-white or greenish-white.

Rare summer resident in the Lower Wabash Valley; accidental
visitor elsewhere. Mr. Robert Ridgway informs me that it is found
about the Cypress ponds of Knox County from May 15 to September.
He notes that it breeds. Mr. Chas. Dury writes me, a specimen of a
Mississippi Kite which was sent to him from Lafayette several years
ago, which he supposes was killed near that place. Prof. A. J. Cook
notes one specimen from Cass County, Mich. (Birds of Mich., p. 72).
In the southern part of Illinois it is not uncommon, locally (Ridgway,
Birds of 111., I, p. 449). This species is another of the Kites that be-
longs to the harmless class of raptorial birds. Its food is much the
same as last mentioned species.


*130, (331). Circus hudsonius (LINN.).

Marsh Hawk.

Face encircled by a ruff of short, compact feathers, as in the Owls.

Adult Male. Mostly of a uniform light bluish-gray, streaked with
white; tail, barred with six to eight bands, the one nearest the end
being broader and darker; tips of the wings, blackish. Female and
Immature. Dusky or rusty-brown, more or less streaked on head and
neck. The Marsh Hawk may be easily distinguished in any plumage
by the large white patch on the rump.


Length, 19.50-24.00; wing, 12.90-16.00; tail, 8.80-10.50. (Fisher.)
RANGE. North America, from Panama and Cuba to Alaska.
Breeds from Gulf States northward. Winters from Indiana and Mary-
land southward.

Nest, a collection of sticks, weeds, grass, twigs or moss, on ground,
on prairies, marshes, bogs and meadows. Eggs, 3-8; white to pale
bluish-white, sometimes faintly spotted with drab-gray, burnt umber
or cinnamon; 1.77 by 1.39.

Head of Marsh Hawk.

Resident in northern Indiana; winter resident farther south.
Breeds. Of rare or irregular occurrence in fall, winter and spring in
the southeastern part of State. Its residence is confined more or less
closely to the original prairie region. There, in the northern part of
the State, it is a common, well known bird, and breeds. It is probable
that it also breeds southward along the western side of the State. Mr.
Deane reported a nest and six eggs taken, May 19, 1889, at English
Lake. Audubon found it nesting in the Kentucky Barrens. It is
also reported to breed in the following counties in this State: Knox
(Balmer), Fulton (Bunnell), Dekalb (H. W. McBride, Feagler), Allen
(Snyder). In Franklin County it has been seen but a few times. I
have records of only four specimens.

They begin their wanderings away from the more open regions of
the State in August and are most commonly seen through September,
October and November. In spring they are most often observed in
March and April. The quantity of food upon the meadows has more
to do with the numbers of these birds in southeastern Indiana than
the weather changes. They are much more often seen when the
meadow mice are abundant. These birds are known as "Harriers''
or "Mouse Hawks." The light blue or gray color of the adult male
is not nearly as familiar as the brown and black plumage of the fe-
males and immature birds. The white rump, slender form, long tail
and long, slender wings will distinguish it. It is thought they often
remain paired throughout the year. They begin mating late in March


or early in April. The iiest is usually placed in a marsh, on the ground
or low bush, or other slight elevation. Nests may be found late in
April and through May. The male assists in incubating. They fre-
quently begin to incubate when the first egg is laid. The male often
catches food and carries it to the female. The period of incubation
is somewhat over three weeks. Both parents care for the young. But
one brood is raised a season.

The food of the Marsh Hawk, as far as I have examined it in White-
water Valley, is chiefly meadow mice, rabbits, squirrels and ground
squirrels, lizards, snakes, frogs, and birds, grasshoppers, locusts and
other meadow insects. The birds eaten are principally sparrows and
other birds of the prairie and meadow. The food being so largely of
injurious species, it is classed as one of the hawks that are mostly


a 1 . Tarsus feathered less than one-third the way down in front; the feathers well

separated in front. Subgenus ACCIPITER.

b l . Wingmorethan 8.75; tail decidedly rounded. A. cooperi (Bonap.). 132
6 2 . Wing under 8.75; tail not decidedly rounded. A. velox (Wils.). 131
a 2 . Tarsus feathered more than one-third (usually one-half) the way down in
front; the feathers scarcely separated behind. Subgenus ASTUR.

A. atricapillus (Wils.). 133


*131. (332). Accipiter velox (WILS.).

Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Adult. Uniform bluish-gray above; top of head, darker; tail,
crossed by several blackish bands; wing, not more than 8.80 inches;
tail, more than two-thirds as long as wing, its tip even or slightly
notched; below, whitish, with breast and sides barred with dusky or
rufous. Immature. Above, dusky, more or less spotted with lighter,
the feathers bordered with rusty; below, whitish, streaked with brown
or dusky.

Length, 10.00-14.00; wing, 6.00-8.80; tail, 5.80-8.20. (Fisher.)

RANGE. North America, from Panama north to southern Canada,
and in the interior to Great Slave Lake. Breeds from southern United
States northward. Winters from northern Indiana and from northern
New York southward.

Nest, in trees, 15 to 60 feet up, of sticks, lined with bark and leaves.
Eggs, 4-5; pale bluish, or greenish-white, blotched and spotted with
various shades of brown, the darker ones predominating; 1.47 by 1.16.

Resident. Most of them leave the northern part of the State in fall
and return in spring. In southern Indiana it is more often found in


winter than summer. Kvery where it is most nurneruus during the
migrations. In some places it is considered rare at other times.

In fall the migrations occur in September and October; in spring,
in March and April.

AIi\ H. W. McBride found it breeding in Dekalb County. Mr.
A. II. Kendrick says it breeds in Vigo County. Mr. L. T. Meyer
found a nest containing two fresh eggs in Lake County, April
17, 1886. It was placed in a tall oak, and was composed of sticks and
lined with bark. Dr. T. M. Brewer says Audubon speaks of having
met with tin-re nests, one in a hole in a rock, on the banks of the
Ohio Eiver, another in the hollow of a broken branch, near Louisville,
Ky., and the third in the forks of a low oak, near Henderson, Ky.
(N. A. Oology, Pt. I, p. 19).

This represents three types of nesting sites, but the habit of nesting
in cliffs is very rare outside of the Arctic regions. The nest is gen-
erally large and well built. Sometimes they remodel the old nest of a
crow or squirrel and use it. They are late in nesting. Usually fresh
eggs are found late in April and in May, rarely as late as June 1.
The eggs are laid at intervals of one and two days; incubation begins
when the set is complete; meanwhile the female guards the nest. The
male does not cover the eggs, but brings food to the female while she
is thus occupied. The period of incubation is about three weeks. But
one brood is reared in a year.

The three hawks of this genus, the Sharp-shinned, Cooper's, and
the Goshawk, are among the most destructive and injurious of our
hawks. They grade one into the other in size. The Goshawk is rare
and is only seen in Indiana in winter. They are commonly known as
Big and Little Blue-tailed Hawks, Darts or Darters, the present species
being the Little Blue-tail. The greater part of their food is chickens,
fowls and birds. These two species should be known by the name of
"Chicken Hawk" or "Hen Hawk," instead of the larger Buteos. Our
citizens, particularly farmers and poultry men, should take pains to these species, that they may be able to distinguish and punish
the guilty and not the innocent. Investigations of 159 stomachs of
this bird by the United States Department of Agriculture showed that
nearly fifty kinds of birds had been eaten, and that no bird, from the
size of doves, robins and chickens, were safe from its attacks. In fact,
in 96-j- per cent, of the stomachs containing food were the remains of
small birds. While they rarely attack full-grown poultry, young fowls
are a favorite food, and a brood, if exposed, is often entirely destroyed.
One of the stomachs examined by me in December, 1886, was found
in contain several large parasitic worms.


*132, (333). Accipiter cooperii (BONAP.).

Cooper's Hawk.



Cooper's Hawk.
(Fisher-Year Book, U. S. Dept. of Agriculture.)

Adult. Uniform bluish-gray above, top of head, blackish; (nil,
crossed by several blackish bands; below, white, with breast and sides
barred with dusky or rufous. Immature. Dusky above, more or less
spotted with lighter, feathers with rusty edges; below, whitish,
streaked with brown or dusky.

Length, 14.00-20.00; wing, 8.85-11.00; tail, 7.80-10.50. (Fisher).

RANGE. North America, from southern Mexico north to New-
foundland, Manitoba and British Columbia. Breeds from Gulf of


Mexico northward. Winters from northern New York and northern
Indiana southward.

Nest, in trees, 20 to 50 feet up, of sticks, lined with twigs and bark
(often use other nests, preferably crows* or squirrels'). Eggs, 2-6;
bluish or greenish-white, sometimes indistinctly marked with brown
or drab; 1.93 by 1.50.

Bill and Foot of Cooper'^ Hawk. Natural size.

Resident. In northern part of the State, rare in winter. Most nu-
merous during migrations, and in summer. Some severe winters they
are rare. Prof. Cooke says, in the winter of 1883-4, none were re-
ported north of 38 degrees (Bird Mig. Miss. Valley, p. 114). It has
been noted in the following counties, through the winter: Lake
(Meyer), Fulton (Barnell), Carroll (Evermann), Monroe (Blatchley),
Knox (Balmer), and Franklin. Breeds throughout the State. In fall
they migrate in September and October; in spring, in March. They
are mated early in April and looking for nesting sites or repairing an
old nest. The site is the fork or notch of some tree, generally from
20 to 50 feet from the ground. Sometimes they build a new nest, at
other times they occupy that of the preceding year or even an old nest
of some other hawk, or of a squirrel. The nests are sometimes very
bulky, others well constructed and shapely. They begin laying in
April, and full sets of eggs have been taken from April 25 to May
10. One brood is reared a year, though if the first laying is destroyed,
a second, or, in case of loss of second, a third set has been known to be
laid, sometimes in the same, sometimes in another nest. The eggs are
deposited at intervals of one to two days, and incubation does not
begin till the set is nearly completed. The female does most of the
incubating and the male supplies her with food.


This Hawk is an exact copy of the Sharp-shinned Hawk, only it is
larger. For that reason it is more destructive to large poultry, larger
birds and pigeons. It is, in fact, the Chicken-hawk. Big Blue Hawk,

Online LibraryAmos W. (Amos William) ButlerThe birds of Indiana. A descriptive catalogue of the birds that have been observed within the state, with an account of their habits → online text (page 25 of 64)