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Ornithological Biography/Volume 1/Le Petit Caporal

75 Le Petit Caporal.jpg


Falco temerarius.


This beautiful little Hawk appears to be nearly allied to the European Hobby (Falco Subbuteo, Linn.), and is not inferior to that species in spirit and activity. I procured the individual represented, in April 1812, near Fatland Ford in Pennsylvania, whilst in pursuit of a Dove, which it would doubtless have secured, had I not terminated its career. When I first discovered this species, the individual was standing perched on an old fence-stake, in the position in which it is figured. Never having met with another of the kind, I conclude that it is extremely rare in the United States. Of its nest or young I am unable to say any thing at present.

The name which I have given to this new and rare species was chosen at the time when Napoleon le grand was in the zenith of his glory. Every body knows that his soldiers frequently designated him by the nickname of Le Petit Caporal, which I thought more suitable to to our little Hawk, than the names Napoleon or Bonaparte, which I should have adopted, had I been so fortunate as to procure a new Eagle.

Falco temerarius.

Plate LXXV.

Bill short, as broad as deep at the base, compressed towards the end, the dorsal outline convex from the base; upper mandible cerate, with the edges acute, slightly inflected, and forming a sharp projecting process on each side, the tip trigonal, acute, descending; lower mandible inflected at the edges, with a notch near the end on each side, abrupt at the tip. Nostrils roundish, with a central tubercle, perforated in the cere. Head rather large, neck short, body robust. Legs of ordinary length; tarsus scutellate before and behind; toes scutellate above, scaly on the sides, scabrous and tuberculate beneath; middle toe much longer than the outer, which is connected with it at the base by a membrane; claws long, curved, roundish, very acute.

Plumage ordinary compact. Feathers of the head and neck narrow, of the back broad and rounded, of the breast oblong. Tibial feathers elongated externally. Space between the bill and eye covered with bristly feathers. Orbital spaces, and projecting edge of eyebrow bare. Wings nearly as long as the tail; the primary quills narrow and tapering, the second longest; the secondary quills short and rounded. Tail longish, nearly even.

Bill bluish-black above, yellow beneath. Cere, orbits and eyebrow greenish-yellow. Iris hazel. Feet pale orange. The general colour of the upper parts is light bluish-grey, darker on the head and wings, each feather with a black line along the shaft. Quills brownish-black. Tail marked with alternate broad bands of light ash-grey and brownish-black, the last black band much broader, the feathers tipped with white. Chin and throat yellowish-white; sides of the neck light yellowish-red, streaked with dark brown; lower part of the fore neck, the whole of the breast, and the sides, yellowish-white, with large spots of brown. Abdomen and under tail-coverts brownish-white; tibial feathers light reddish, each with a central line of blackish-brown.

Length l04/3 inches; bill along the back 2/3; tarsus 11/2, middle toe 17/12.