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Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/392

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Falco hyemalis, Gmel.


Every species of bird is possessed of a certain, not always definable, cast of countenance, peculiar to itself. Although it undergoes changes necessary for marking the passions of the individual, its joy, its anger, its terror or despondency, still it remains the same specific look. Hawks are perhaps more characteristically marked in this manner than birds of any other genus, being by nature intended for deeds of daring enterprise, and requiring a greater perfection of sight to enable them to distinguish their prey at great distances. To most persons the family-look of particular species does not appear so striking as to the student of Nature, who examines her productions in the haunts which she has allotted to them. He perceives at a glance the differences of species, and when he has once bent his attention to an object, can distinguish it at distances which to the ordinary observer present merely a moving object, whether beast or bird. When years of constant observation have elapsed, it becomes a pleasure to him to establish the differences that he has found to exist among the various species of a tribe, and to display to others whose opportunities have been more limited the fruits of his research.

I hope, kind reader, you will not lay presumption to my charge, when I tell you that I think myself somewhat qualified to decide in a matter of this kind, or say that I go too far, when I assert that the Hawk which sails before me, at a distance so great that a careless observer might be apt to fancy it something else, I can distinguish and name with as much ease as I should recognise an old friend by his walk or his tournure. Independently of the cast of countenance so conspicuously distinctive of different species of birds, there are characters of separation in their peculiar notes or cries; and if you add to these the distinctions that exist in their habits, it will be easy for you, when you have looked at the Plate of the Winter Falcon and that of the Red-shouldered Hawk, and have been told that their notes and manners differ greatly, to perceive that these birds, although confounded by some, are truly distinct.

The Winter Hawk is not a constant resident in the United States,