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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/448

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FISH HAWK.

ing over the lakes near the Mississippi, where they feed on the fish which the Wood Ibis kills, the Hawks themselves being unable to discover them whilst alive in the muddy water with which these lakes are filled. There the Ibises wade among the water in immense flocks, and so trample the bottom as to convert the lakes into filthy puddles, in which the fishes are unable to respire with ease. They rise to the surface, and are instantly killed by the Ibises. The whole surface is sometimes covered in this manner with dead fish, so that not only are the Ibises plentifully supplied, but Vultures, Eagles and Fish Hawks, come to participate in the spoil. Except in such places, and on such occasions, I have not observed the Fish Hawk to eat of any other prey than that which it had procured by plunging headlong into the water after it.

I have frequently heard it asserted that the Fish Hawk is sometimes drawn under the water and drowned, when it has attempted to seize a fish which is too strong for it, and that some of these birds have been found sticking by their talons to the back of Sturgeons and other large fishes. But, as nothing of this kind ever came under my observation, I am unable to corroborate these reports. The roosting place of this bird is generally on the top-branches of the tree on which its nest is placed, or of one close to it.

Fish Hawks are very plentiful on the coast of New Jersey, near Great Egg Harbour, where I have seen upwards of fifty of their nests in the course of a day's walk, and where I have shot several in the course of a morning. When wounded, they defend themselves in the manner usually exhibited by Hawks, erecting the feathers of the head, and trying to strike with their powerful talons and bill, whilst they remain prostrate on their back.

The largest fish which I have seen this bird take out of the water, was a Weak-Fish, such as is represented in the plate, but sufficiently large to weigh more than five pounds. The bird carried it into the air with difficulty, and dropped it, on hearing the report of a shot fired at it.


Falco Haliaëtus, Linn. Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 129.—Lath. Ind. Ornith. vol. i. p. 17.
Ch. Bonaparte, Synops. of Birds of the United States, p. 26.
Carolina Osprey, Lath. Synops. vol. i. p. 74.
Fish Hawk, Falco Haliaetus, Wils. Amer. Ornith. vol. v. p. 13. Pl. 5. fig. 1.


Adult Male. Plate LXXXI.