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THE PIGEON HAWK.
Falco columbarius, Linn.
PLATE XCII. Male and Female.
It is when the whole of the shores of our eastern rivers are swarming with myriads of Rice Buntings, Red-wings, Soras, and other migratory birds,—when all the sportsmen of those parts of our country are induced to turn out in the expectation of full bags of game, that the daring feats of the little spirited Falcon now before you are displayed.
Imagine yourself, good-natured reader, with a gun on your shoulder, following the windings of one of those noble streams which embellish our country and facilitate its commerce, having constantly within your view millions of birds on their way to the south, and which in the evenings fall thick as the drops of a hail-shower on the bordering marshes, to spend the night there in security, and by rest to restore the vigour necessary for their gaining the distant regions, whence half of them had emerged the preceding spring. Well, as you are proceeding, full of anxiety, and gazing in astonishment at the multitudes of feathered travellers, all of a sudden a larger bird attracts your eye. It sweeps along in the stillness of the autumnal evening with a rapidity seldom equalled, creating confusion, terror, and dismay along the whole shores. The flocks rise en masse with a fluttering sound which comes strangely on your ear, double and double again, turn and wind over the marsh, agitated and fearful of imminent danger. And now, closely crowded, they would fain escape, but alas! one has been singled out, and in the twinkling of an eye, the Pigeon Hawk, darting into the middle of the flock, seizes and carries him off. Now is your time. Hundreds of sportsmen are dispersed over the marsh, paddling their canoes, or splashing among the reeds. Pull your trigger, and let fly, for it is impossible, should you be ever so inexpert, not to bring down several birds at a shot.
But, leaving you to your sport, I must follow the little marauder, as he makes toward the nearest shore, where he alights and devours his prey, and then, with unsatiated appetite, and bent on foul deeds, returns to the scene of action.
When the Reed-birds, the Redwings, and Soras, shall have become