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Biology Library


Theodore S Palmer




.0; 6


I Iowa

Geological Survey

Bulletin No. 6



"You slay them all! and wherefore?" Longfellow.



APR 26 1956






JOHN M. JAMIESON, State Binder

Catalogue for Btol. Lib, &^ ^

QL 684



To Governor William L. Harding and Members of the
Geological Board:

Gentlemen : I submit herewith a report on the Hawks and Owls
of Iowa with the recommendation that it be published as Bulletin
6 of the lowa.Geological Survey. The author of the report is Dr.
Bert Heald Bailey, who was for many years Professor of Zoology
in Coe College, Cedar Rapids. Doctor Bailey died on June 22, 1917,
before his manuscript had been completed, but, fortunately, his ma-
terial was in such form that his student and co-worker, Miss Clem-
entina Spencer, was able to edit it and make it available for the
people of the state. Miss Spencer cannot be commended too highly
for the splendid service she has rendered not alone to the friends
of Doctor Bailey, but to all persons who are interested in the subject
with which the report deals.

The view which is prevalent among citizens of the state is that
hawks and owls and related birds of prey are detrimental to the
agricultural and other interests of the state and that, therefore, all
of them, without discrimination, should be destroyed. It is by no
means generally understood that these birds of prey are the chief
destroyers of rodents and insects, many of which are harmful to
crop production. The agriculturist should know that with few ex-
ceptions hawks and owls are not his foes but his friends, and he
should see to it that every effort is made to preserve rather than
vc destroy them.

In the publication of this Bulletin on 'Hawks and Owls the Sur-
vey feels confident that it is rendering to the people of the state, par-
ticularly to the farmers, a service equal to that which has been
rendered by Bulletins formerly published by our Survey, among
\vhich may be mentioned the Grasses of Iowa, the Weeds of Iowa,
and the Rodents of Iowa.

I have the honor to be,

Sincerely yours,

George F. Kay,
L- State Geologist.



Hon. Wm. L. Harding Governor of Iowa

Hon. Frank S. Shaw Auditor of State

W. A. Jessup President State University of Iowa

Raymond A. Pearson President Iowa State College

S. W. Beyer President Iowa Academy of Science


George F. Kay State Geologist

James H. Lees Assistant State Geologist

Nellie E. Newman.... ....Secretary



Editor's Preface 11

Memorial Note of Dr. Bert Heald Bailey - 15

Bibliography of Doctor Bailey - 18

Introduction 19

General Information...?.

Sources of Information and Acknowledgment 23

Topography and Distribution 34

How to Measure a Bird 40

Key to Iowa Birds of Prey 40

Key to Iowa Eagles, Hawks, Kites and Falcons 41

Key to Iowa Owls 43

Notes 44

Descriptions of Iowa Birds of Prey 46

Order Raptores. Birds of Prey 46

Siiborder, Sarcorhamphi. American Vulturer 46

Family Cathartidae. American Vultures 46

Genus Cathartes 46

Cathartes aura septentrionalis. Turkey Vulture 46

Suborder Falcones. Vultures, Falcons, Hawks, Buzzards,

Eagles, Kites, Harriers, 'etc 51

Family Buteonidae. Hawks, Eagles, Kites, etc 51

Genus Elanoides 51

Elanoides forficatus. Swallow-tailed Kite 51

Genus Ictinia 56

Ictinia mississippiensis. Mississippi Kite :-. 56

Genus Circus 59

Circus hudsonius. Marsh Hawk 59

Genus Accipiter 69

Accipiter velox. Sharp-shinned Hawk 69

Accipiter cooperi. Cooper's hawk 74

Genus Astur 83

Astur atricapillus atricapillus. Goshawk 83

Astur atricapillus striatulus. Western Goshawk 88

Genus Parabuteo 91

Parabuteo unicinctus harrisi. Harris's Hawk.... .. 91



Genus Buteo 93

Buteo borealis borealis. Red-tailed Hawk 93

Buteo borealis krideri. Krider's Hawk 108

Buteo borealis calurus. Western Red-tail 110

Buteo borealis harlani. Harlan's Hawk 112

Buteo lineatus lineatus. Red-shouldered Hawk 115

Buteo swainsoni. Swainson's Hawk 119

Buteo platypterus. Broad-winged Hawk 125

Buteo platypterus iowensis. Iowa broad-winged

Hawk . 130

Genus Asturina 132

Asturina plagiata. Mexican Goshawk 132

Genus Archibuteo 133

Subgenus Archibuteo 133

Archibuteo lagopus sancti-johannis. Rough-
legged Hawk 133

Subgenus Brewsteria 139

Archibuteo ferrugineus. Ferruginous Rough-leg 139

Genus Aquila 142

Aquila chrysaetos. Golden Eagle 142

Genus Haliaeetus 147

Haliaeetus leucocephalus leucocephalus. Bald Eagle. 147

Family Falconidae. Falcons, Caracaras, etc 152

Subfamily Falconinae. Falcons 152

Genus Falco ...152

Falco mexicanus. Prairie Falcon 152

Subgenus Rhynchodon 157

Falco perigrinus anatum. Duck Hawk 157

Subgenus Tinnunculus 162

Falco columbarius columbarius. Pigeon Hawk 162

' Falco columbarius richardsoni. Richardson's

Pigeon Hawk 167

Subgenus Cerchneis 169

Falco sparverius sparverius. Sparrow Hawk 169

Family Pandionidae. Ospreys 175

Genus Pandion 175

Pandion halisetus carolinensis. Osprey 175

Suborder Striges. Owls 178

Family Aluconidse. Barn Owls 178

Genus Aluco 178

Aluco pratincola. Barn Owl 178



Family Strigidae. Horned Owls -.183

Genus Asio 183

Asio wilsonianus. Long-eared Owl 183

Asio flameus. Short-eared Owl 189

Genus Strix 194

Strix varia varia. Barred Owl 194

Genus Scotiaptex 201

Scotiaptex nebulosa nebulosa. Great Gray Owl 201

Genus Cryptoglaux 203

Cryptoglaux acadica acadica. Saw-whet Owl 203

Genus Otus 208

Otus asio asio. Screech Owl 208

Genus Bubo 214

Bubo virginianus virginianus. Great Horned Owl 214

Genus Nyctea 223

Nyctea nyctea. Snowy Owl 223

Genus Surnia 223

Surnia ulula caparoch. Hawk Owl 228

Genus Speotyto 231

Speotyto cunicularia hypogaea. Burrowing Owl 231


Figure. Page.

1. Portrait of Dr. Bert Heald Bailey 1-1

2. The level Kansan drift plain of northeastern O'Brien county

(Lees) .". 20

3. The rolling prairie of the Kansan drift plain of northeastern

Washington county (Alden and Leighton) 21

4. The palisades of the Cedar near Mount Vernon (Norton) 24

5. The deep valley of Mississippi river south of Lansing (Calvin) 25

6. The flood plain of the Mississippi below McGregor (Calvin) 25

7. A forested glacial ridge (paha) in Bremer county (Norton) 29

8. A planted grove along the prairie highway in Sac county (Mac-

bride) 29

9. The shores and island at Oakwood Park, Clear Lake, Cerro Gor-

do county 31

10. Dead Man's Lake, a swamp at the south foot of Pilot Knob,

Hancock county (Macbride)

11. The forest filled valley of Little Sioux river at Sioux Rapids,

Buena Vista county (Macbride) 35

12. The loess hills bounding the Missouri valley north of Turin,

Monona county. The flood plain is visible in the distance

13. Map of Iowa showing life zones 39

14. The Turkey Vulture 46

15. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Turkey Vulture 48

16. The Swallow-tailed Kite 51

17. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Swallow-tailed Kite 53

18. The Mississippi Kite, young bird 56

19. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Mississippi Kite 58

20. The Marsh Hawk 60

21. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Marsh Hawk 63

22. The Sharp-shinned Hawk, adult 68

23. The sharp-shinned Hawk, juvenile male, with Nuthatch 68

24. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Sharp-shinned Hawk 71

25. Cooper's Hawk, adult 74

26. Cooper's Hawk, young female 75

27. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of Cooper's Hawk 77

28. The Goshawk or Big Blue Hen Hawk 82

29. The Goshawk, another view 82

30. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Goshawk 85

31. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Western Goshawk ... 88

32. Harris's Hawk (photo by Professor H. R. Dill) 90

33. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of Harris's Hawk 91

34. The Red-tailed Hawk.... 93


Figure. Page.

35. The Red-tailed Hawk, another view 93

36. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Red-tailed Hawk 99

37. Krider's Hawk 108

38. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of Krider's Hawk 109

39. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Western Red-tail Ill

40. Harlan's Hawk, or Black Red-tail * 112

41. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of Harlan's Hawk > 113

42. The Red-shouldered Hawk 115

43. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Red-shouldered

Hawk 116

44. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of Swainson's Hawk 120

45. The Broad-winged Hawk, showing the wing expanse 124

46. Another view of the Broad-winged Hawk 124

47. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Broad-winged

Hawk 127

48. Iowa Broad-winged Hawk (photo by Mr. Wesley F. Kubichek) 130

49. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Iowa Broad-

winged Hawk 131

50. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Mexican Goshawk 132

51. Rough-legged Hawks, dark phase, male, above, light phase, fe-

male, below 134

52. Rough-legged Hawk, dark phase 135

53. Rough-legged Hawk, light phase 136

54. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Rough-legged Hawk....l37

55. Ferruginous Rough-legged Hawk 139

56. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Ferruginous Rough-

legged Hawk 141

57. The Golden Eagle 142

58. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Golden Eagle 144

59. The Bald Eagle , ...147

60. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Bald Eagle 149

61. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Prairie Falcon 154

62. The Duck Hawk (a live bird photographed by Mr. Alfred Bailey

in Louisiana, 1916) 153

63. The Duck Hawk (from Cory, Birds of Illinois and Wisconsin) 153

64. Map showing distribution in Iowa of the Duck Hawk 159

65. The Pigeon Hawk 102

66. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Pigeon Hawk 164

67. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of Richardson's Pigeon

Hawk 168

68. The Sparrow Hawk 169

69. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Sparrow Hawk 171

70. The Osprey (photo by Frank W. Woodruff, Chicago Academy of

Sciences) 171

71. The Osprey, another view 174

72. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Osprey ....176

73. The Barn Owl 178

74. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Barn Owl 180

75. The Long-eared Owl ....183


Figure. Page.

76. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Long-eared Owl 185

77. The Short-eared Owl 189

78. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Short-eared Owl 191

79. The Barred Owl 194

80. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Barred Owl 196

81. The Great Gray Owl 200

82. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Great Gray Owl 202

83. The Saw-whet Owl 203

84. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Saw-whet Owl 205

85. Screech Owls 208

86. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Screech Owl 210

87. The Great Horned Owl 214

88. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Great Horned Owl 218

89. The Snowy Owl 223

90. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Snowy Owl 225

91. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Hawk Owl 229

92. The Burrowing Owl 231

93. Map showing the distribution in Iowa of the Burrowing Owl 234


The death of Professor Bert Heald Bailey, M. S., M. D., head of
the Department of Zoology and Curator of the Museum in Coe Col-
lege, occurred on June 22, 1917, just a few days after the com-
mencement at which he was to have received the degree of Doctor of
Philosophy from the State University of Iowa. During the year
1916-17 Dr. Bailey held the senior fellowship at the University and
was availing himself of a year's leave of absence from Coe College
in order that he might finish as a thesis this work on the Raptorial
Birds of Iowa, a subject which had specially interested him since
boyhood. At the same time he had in preparation a similar work
on the Mammals of Iowa. About the first of April his work was
interrupted by a sudden and mysterious illness which necessitated
his return to his home in Cedar Rapids and which terminated fatally
eleven weeks later.

A short time before his death Dr. Bailey asked the writer, who
was that year acting as his substitute in Coe College, to go to Iowa
City and bring back his papers for safe keeping and at that time
the promise was made to help him get out this book as soon as he
might be able to work upon it.

Doctor Bailey felt that he needed but a few weeks more of un-
interrupted time to finish the book. In his hands the different parts
of the manuscript would have slipped into their related places as by
magic. However, for another person taking up the work there was
a greater task involved. Carefully examining every rcrap of paper,
fearful lest something should be lost, the editor h?.3 cf':en been
obliged to decide what was to have been included and what was
to have been discarded. The introduction, though obviously still in
rather rough form, has not been changed, but a few minor parts
such as the glossary and the keys to Hawks remained to be writ-
ten. Some photographs were yet to be made from specimens in
the Coe College Museum, and a considerable part of the manu-
script was waiting for final copying and arranging. These things
are mentioned, not with the desire to take any of the credit for
Dr. Bailey's work, but rather that omissions or errors may not be
laid to his account. Careful and accurate as he was he would have


instantly detected anything wrong where another might have passed
it by.

It will be seen that the bibliographies of the different sp-ecies do
not follow the same plan of arrangement. Those of species 1 to 8
inclusive, and of species 9B and 9C give the synonymy of the auth-
ors consulted while the remaining bibliographies, although follow-
ing the same chronological order, do not give the synonyms under
which the birds were described. This change marks the point at
which the author's work was interrupted. The writer would gladly
have adhered to the author's plan had circumstances permitted her
doing so without greatly delaying the appearance of the book, but,
lacking the necessary library, the amount of time needed made the
advantages of rearrangement appear so slight as to be negligible.

It is of interest to note several contributions which Dr. Bailey has
made in his work. A new variety of the Broad-winged Hawk is de-
scribed, and the first records authenticated by specimens, are made
of the Mississippi Kite in Iowa and of the Western Goshawk. Of
the last two named species two specimens each have been taken.

Doubtless there are many persons who could have completed and
edited this work in better form, but surely no one could have under-
taken it more willingly or with a deeper sense of gratitude to one
who was for twelve years her honored teacher, fellow-worker and




MAY 2, 1875 JUNE 22, 1917.

Bert Heald Bailey was born in Farley, Iowa, May 2, 1875, his
parents being the Rev. Turner S. Bailey and Helen Gee Bailey. At
the age of twelve he came with his parents to live in Cedar Rapids,
Iowa, where he attended the public schools, Coe Academy, and later
was graduated from Coe College. In 1900 he was graduated from
Rush Medical College, and in the same year received the degree of
Master of Science from Coe College, his thesis being in the field of
Bacteriology. It was Dr. Bailey's great ambition to enter the med-
ical work of Foreign Missions, but at this time it was found that a
heart lesion made foreign service impossible, whereupon he assumed
the chair of Zoology in Coe College. To his Alma Mater he came
with the same enthusiasm and in the same spirit which would have
taken him across the seas, and though doing the things which lay
close at hand he was still a world citizen, sending others on the jour-
ney he had himself hoped to make.

Through intimate first-hand knowledge of the sciences he taught,
and a rare sympathetic understanding of his students, ' Dr. Bailey
was a truly great teacher. While giving his especial attention to
those looking forward to medicine; he was the friend of all, kind,
genial, never too busy to advise and encourage those who were per-
plexed or disheartened. Hunters, woodsmen, and small boys de-
lighted to gather specimens and data for him and freely came to
him in turn for help and information. Scientists throughout the
country admired the man and respected his work.

The Museum which Dr. Bailey built up in Coe College is a last-
ing expression of his wide interests, skill and tireless energy. -Al-
though burdened by the many duties which fall to an executive col-
lege professor, Dr. Bailey found time to build an educational mu-
seum which ranks among the first of the college museums of the
United States. To the unorganized though valuable nucleus he
found in the college, Dr. Bailey added his own boyhood collection of
bird's eggs and skins, and set himself the task of interesting every-
one he met in his plan to develop a museum which should afford
adequate teaching material for the natural sciences. For years
every specimen was prepared by his own hands or by students under


his supervision, then as funds became available he began to secure
representative pieces of work from museum technicians in various
institutions. In 1905 he made a trip to British Honduras, bringing
back a large collection of birds, insects and shells, and the next year
he arranged to send two collectors to the same region, with the
result that the collection of British Honduras birds ranks as the
third largest in the country. In the large series of Iowa birds the
splendid collection of Hawks and Owls forms part of the subject
material of this thesis. Dr. Bailey was also building up as com-
plete a representation as possible of Iowa mammals, including van-
ishing species, and was engaged in writing a book upon the Mam-
mals of Iowa. Many other rare and valuable additions to the
Museum, both zoological and ethnological were made by the alumni
and foreign missionaries with whom Dr. Bailey kept in constant
touch, thus forming a link between the college and the religious
work of the alumni. It was indeed a world-wide horizon which in-
spired all his work.

At the entrance to the Museum the alumni have placed a bronze
tablet with the following inscription :


Named in memory of Bert Heald Bailey, M. S., M. D.,
Professor of Zoology and Curator of the Museum in Coe

College, 1900-1917.

Beloved Teacher, Friend and Counselor, Able Scientist, Stal-
wart Christian.

His memory is enshrined in our hearts and in this, the work

of his hands.



It is not certain that the following list is complete, but in ad-
dition to these Dr. Bailey furnished many facts for "The Birds
of Iowa," by Dr. R. M. Anderson:

The Duck Hawk (Falco peregrinus anatum) in Iowa: Proc. Iowa Acad.
Science, Vol. X, pp. 93-98, 1902.

Two Hundred Wild Birds of Iowa, Cedar Rapids, 1906.

The Occurrence of Melanism in the Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo latissi-
mus) : Proc. Iowa Acad. Set, XIX, pp. 191-192, 1912.

A Remarkable Flight of Broad-winged Hawks: Proc. Iowa Acad. Sci., XIX.
pp. 195-196, 1912.

Notes on the Food of the Black-crowned Night Heron in Captivity: Proc.
Iowa Acad. Sci., XIX, p. 193, 1912.

Birds of Iowa: Iowa Arbor and Bird Day Book, 1913.

The Building and Function of a College Museum: Proc. Iowa Acad. Sci.,
XXII, pp. 358-362, 1915.

Notes on the Prairie Spotted Skunk in Iowa: Proc. Iowa Acad. Sci., XXII,
pp. 355-357, 1915.

The Mississippi Kite in Nebraska: Wilson Bui., XXVII, pp. 407-408, 1915.
Bird Conservation in Iowa: Proc. of the Iowa Forestry and Conservation

Assn., pp. 31, 32, 1914-15.
Science in the High School: The College Eyte, Cedar Falls, May 3, 1916.

Additional Notes on the Little Spotted Skunk (Spilogala interrupta) :
Proc. Iowa Acad. Sci., XXIII, p. 290, 1916.

Successful Mink Farming in Iowa: Proc. Iowa Acad. Sci., XXIII, pp. 285-
290, 1916.

Krider's Hawk (Buteo borealis krideri) in Alaska: Auk, XXXIII, p. 321,

Description of a new sub-species of the Broad-winged Hawk: Auk, XXXIV.
pp. 73-75, 1917.

Why the Quail Should Be Protected: Des Moines Register, March 28, 1917.
The Western Goshawk in Iowa: Auk, XXXIV, p. 336, 1917.

The Mammals of our State: Iowa Conservation, January-March, 1917, pp



The aim of this work is to convince the people of Iowa that our
Hawks and Owls are a positive asset rather than a liability to the
agricultural interests of the state. It would be illuminating, if space
permitted, to review the unfortunate experiences of Pennsylvania
and Colorado, where bounties were paid on these birds with a view
to their extermination. It may suffice to say that the expenditure
of tens of thousands of dollars in bounties resulted in the loss of
millions of dollars in crops which the unchecked rodents and the in-
sects, the natural food of these birds, subsequently devoured.

A review of the notable series of records by Dr. A. X. Fisher, in
his Hawks and Owls of the United States, reveals the fact that of
the 2,690 stomach records from seventy-three species there listed,
only twenty-one are from Iowa birds, five counties being represented
by ten different species. Of the 562 stomachs of the Red-tailed
Hawk listed by Dr. Fisher there is the report on but a single Iowa
specimen, although the Red-tailed Hawk is the most conspicuous of
our diurnal birds of prey. In a state whose wealth lies chiefly in
its tillable soil, the protection of growing and ripened crops is of
first importance. No factor should be omitted in the problem of
increasing the output. Accordingly every agency that can be brought
to our assistance in the prevention of the annual destruction of seed,
or blade, or ripened grain, should be utilized.

The vultures, hawks and owls of Iowa, represented by no less than
forty kinds and varieties, are, with the exception of a few species,
among the most efficient of all agencies, natural or otherwise, that
protect the crops of Iowa. These birds respond aggressively to that
primal instinct, the desire for food, and possess a powerful and rapid
digestive apparatus which does not allow the appetite long respite.
Their swift, sure flight, sharp talons, and strong beaks make them
our best allies in our otherwise unsuccessful fight against insect and
rodent enemies. The popular opinion that birds of prey are wholly
harmful has so firm a hold on the minds of the majority of people
that nothing but a demonstration will change that opinion ; and it is



to this definite end that the work here undertaken has been ad-

It was some twenty-five years ago that the writer made the first
examinations of the stomach contents of raptorial birds upon which
this work is based. The appearance in 1903 of Dr. A. K. Fisher's
Hawks and Owls of the United States, to which continual reference
is herein made, was a very definite stimulus in the keeping of field
records, and in the less agreeable though more informing task of
examining the stomachs. During succeeding years, as opportunity
offered, both dissections and field observations have been made.
Birds of prey as a rule are not easily studied in the field, because of

Fig. 2. The level Kansan drift plain of northeastern O'Brien county (Loos).

their naturally shy or distrustful dispositions. Of the individuals
killed relatively few reached the hands of an ornithologist. In con-
sequence the data obtained during a single season or within a year
are insufficient as a basis for generalizations concerning a species,
a series of years being required for the collection of adequate data.
Furthermore, the existing collections of skins of the raptorial birds
to be found in even the leading American museums are sadly de-
ficient in data relative to the stomach contents of the birds at the

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Online LibraryBert Heald BaileyThe raptorial birds of Iowa → online text (page 1 of 14)