The Bird Book/Hawks, Eagles, etc

The Bird Book by Chester A. Reed
Hawks, Eagles, etc: Family Buteonidae



The members of this family are chiefly diurnal; they get their living by preying upon smaller animals or birds. They have strong sharply hooked bills, powerful legs and feet armed with strong, curved and sharply pointed talons.

327. SWALLOW-TAILED KITE. Elanoides forficatus.

Range. Southern United States; casually north to New York and Manitoba.


This most beautiful Kite can never be mistaken for any other; its whole head, neck and

underparts are snowy white, while the back, wings and tail are glossy blue black, the wings being very long and the tail long and deeply forked. The extreme length of the bird is 24 inches. As a rule nests of this bird are placed high up in the tallest trees; they are made of sticks, weeds and moss. Two eggs, or rarely three, constitute a full set. They are white or bluish white, spotted with brown. The one figured is an unusually handsome marked specimen in the collection of Mr. C. W. Crandall. Average size of eggs, 1.80 x 1.50. Data. Yegna Creek bottoms, Texas, April 27, 1891. Two eggs. Nest of sticks and green moss, the same moss also being used for lining; in an elm tree 80 feet up.

328. WHITE-TAILED KITE. Elanus leucurus.

Range. Southern United States, north to the Carolinas, Illinois and middle California.

This species can be recognized by its light bluish gray mantle, black shoulders and white tail. It is a very active species, feeding upon insects and reptiles, and small birds and mammals. The nests of these species are placed in trees at quite an elevation from the ground, being made of sticks, weeds and leaves. The eggs are creamy white, profusely blotched and spotted with reddish brown and umber. Size 1.65 x 1.25. Data. Los Angeles, Cal., April 9, 1896. Nest in fork of willows about 25 feet up. Made of willow twigs and weed stalks, lined with pieces of bark.


Creamy white


328, BRHI


Ictinia mississippiensis.

Range. Southeastern United States, north to South Carolina and Illinois.

White-tailed Kite

Mississippi Kite

Bluish white

A small species ( length 14 inches) with the head, neck, and undeparts gray, and the back, wings and tail blackish, the tips of the secondaries being grayish. They live almost exclusively upon insects, such as grasshoppers, and small reptiles. They build their nests of sticks and weeds well up in tall trees. The eggs are two or three in number and normally bluish white, unmarked, but occasionally with very faint spots of pale brown. Size 1.65 x 1.25. Data. Giddings, Texas, May 31, 1887. Nest of sticks and weeds, with green pecan leaves in the lining; placed in the top of a live oak sapling, 20 feet from the ground. Collector, J. A. Singley.

330. EVERGLADE KITE. Rostrhamus sociabilis.

Range. South America, north to southern Florida and Mexico.

This peculiar species has a long, slender, curved bill, blackish plumage, with white rump and bases of outer tail feather. They feed largely upon snails, both land and water varieties. They nest at a low elevation in bushes or under brush, often over the water. The nests are of sticks, weeds and leaves. The three eggs are light greenish white, spotted and splashed

Pale greenish white

with chestnut brown. Size, 1.70 x 1.30. Nest in a custard apple tree, 6 feet from the ground, built of twigs, lined with small vine stems and f willow leaves.


Everglade Kite



331. MARSH HAWK. Circus hudsonius.

Range. Whole of North America, very abundant in all sections.

Pale bluish white

The adult of this species is very light colored, and young birds of the first two years have a (Adult and young) reddish brown coloration; in both plumages

the species is easily identified by the white

patch on the rump. They are, almost exclusively frequenters of fields and marshes, where they can most often be seen, towards dusk, swooping in broad curves near the ground, watching for field mice, which form the larger portion of their diet. Their nests are made in swampy ground, often in the middle of a large marsh, being placed on the ground in the centre of a hummock or clump of grass; it is generally well lined with grasses and often rushes. They lay from four to seven pale bluish white eggs, generally unmarked; size 1.80x1.40.

332. SHARP-SHINNED HAWK. Accipiter velox.

Range. Whole of North America, wintering in the United States and southward; breeds throughout its range, but most abundantly in northern United States and northward. This is one of the smallest of the hawks and in the adult plumage is a beautiful species, being barred below with light brown, and having a bluish slate back. It is a very spirited and daring bird and is one of the most destructive to small birds and young chickens. Its nest is a rude and sometimes very frail platform of twigs and

Bluish white

leaves placed against the trunk of the tree at any height, but averaging, perhaps, fifteen feet. The eggs are bluish white, beautifully blotched and spotted with shades of brown.


Sharp-shinned Hawk


333. COOPER'S HAWK. Accipiter cooperi.

Range. Whole of temperate North America, breeding throughout its range.

Bluish white

oopers Hawk

Although larger (length 17 inches), the plumage of this species is almost exactly the same as that of the preceding. Like the last, this is also a destructive species. They construct their nests in the crotches of trees, generally at quite a height from the ground; the nest is made of sticks and twigs, and often lined with pieces of bark; occasionally an old Hawk's or Crow's nest is used by the birds. Their eggs are bluish white, unmarked or faintly spotted with pale brown.

334<. GOSHAWK. Astur atricapillus atricapillus.

Range. Northern North America, south in winter to the northern parts of the United States.

This species is one of the largest, strongest and most audacious of American Hawks, frequently carrying off Grouse and poultry, the latter often in the presence of the owner. It is a handsome species in the adult plumage, with bluish gray upper parts, and light under parts, finely vermicuiated with grayish and black shafts to the feathers. Length 23 inches. Their nests are placed well up in the tallest trees, usually in dense woods, the nests being of sticks

lined with weeds and bark. The three or

four eggs are bluish white, generally un jum*). marked, but occasionally with faint spots of

      • M^ brown. Size 2.30x1.70.

Bluish white






Astur atricapillus striatulus.

Range. Western North America from Alaska to California, breeding chiefly north of the United States except in some of the higher

Bluish white

Harris's Hawk

ranges of the Pacific coast. This sub-species is darker, both above and below, than the American Goshawk. Its nesting habits and eggs are precisely the same. The eggs are quite variable in size.

335. HARRIS'S HAWK. Parabuteo unicinctus harrisi.

Range. Mexico and Central America, north to the Mexican border of the United States; very abundant in southern Texas.

This is a peculiar blackish species, with white rump, and chestnut shoulders and thighs. It is commonly met with in company with Caracaras, Turkey Buzzards and Black Vultures, feeding upon carrion. They also feed to an extent on small mammals and birds. Their nests are made of sticks, twigs and weeds, and placed in bushes or low trees. The three or four eggs ahe laid in April or May. They are dull white in color and generally unmarked, although often showing traces of pale brown spots. They are quite variable in size, averaging 2.10x1.65.

White 207



Buteo borealis borealis.

This is one of the handsomest of the larger hawks, and is the best known in the east,

Red-tailed Hawk

Pale bluish white

where it is commonly, but wrongly, designated as "hen hawk", a name, however, which is indiscriminately applied to any bird that has talons and a hooked beak. The adult of this species is unmistakable because of its reddish brown tail; young birds are very frequently confounded with other species. Their food consists chiefly of small rodents, snakes and lizards, and only occasionally are poultry or birds taken. They nest in the tallest trees in large patches of woods, the nests being made of sticks, weeds, leaves and trash. The eggs number from two to four, and are white, sometimes heavily, and sometimes sparingly, blotched and spotted with various shades of brown. Size 2.35 x 1.80.

337a. KRIDER'S HAWK. Buteo borealis krideri.

Range. Plains of the United States, north to Manitoba.

This sub-species is described as lighter on the underparts, which are almost immaculate. Its nesting habits and eggs are the same as those of the preceding.

337b. WESTERN RED-TAIL. Buteo borealis calurus.

  • Range. Western North America,

chiefly west of the Rocky Mountains.

This sub-species varies from the plumage of the eastern Red-tail, to a nearly uniform sooty above and below, with the dark red tail crossed by several bands; it is a generally darker variety than the Redtail. Its nesting habits are the same and the eggs show the great variations in markings that are common to the eastern bird.





Butea borealis harlani.

Range. Gulf States and southward, north to Kansas.

This dark sub-species is generally nearly uniform blackish, but sometimes is lighter or even white below. Its tail is rusty, mottled with blackish and white. Its nesting habits are the same and the eggs are not distinguishable from those of the other Red-tails.



I'M/ film

33Q. RED-SHOULDERED HAWK. lineatus lineatus.


Red-shouldered Hawk

Range. North America, east of the Plains

and from the southern parts of the British

Provinces southward; abundant and breeding

throughout its range. This species is smaller than the Red-tailed

and is not as powerfully built; length 19 inches.

The adults are handsomely barred beneath

with reddish brown, giving the entire underparts a ruddy color. Like the last species, they rarely feed upon poultry, confining their diet chiefly to mice, rats, frogs, reptiles, etc. These Hawks nest in the larger growths of timber, usually building their nests high above the ground. The nest is of sticks, and lined with leaves, weeds and pieces of bark. They lay three or four eggs with a white ground color, variously blotched and spotted, either sparingly or heavily, with different shades of brown. Size 2.15 x 1.75. Data. Kalamazoo, Michigan, April 25, 1898. Nest about 40 feet up in an oak tree; made of sticks and twigs and lined with bark. Four eggs. White Collector, J. C. Holmes.

339a. FLORIDA RED-SHOULDERED HAWK. Buteo lineatus alleni.

Range. Florida and the Gulf coast; north to South Carolina. The nesting habits of this paler sub-species are precisely like those of the last species.





339b. RED-BELLIED HAWK. Buteo Uneatus elegans.

Range. Pacific coast from British Columbia south to Lower California, chiefly west of the Rockies.

This variety is similar to, but darker than Uneatus, and the underparts are a uniform reddish brown, without bar


339b 340


ring. Their nests are like those of the Red-shouldered

variety, and almost always placed high up in the largest

trees. The eggs are very similar, but average lighter in markings. Size 2.15

x 1.70. Data. Diego, Cal., April 13, 1897. Nest in a sycamore 20 feet from

ground, made of sticks, leaves and feathers.

3-10. ZONE-TAILED HAWK. Buteo abbreviatus.

Range. Mexico and Central America, north to the Mexican border of the United States.

This species, which is 19 inches long, is wholly black with the exception of the tail, which is banded Their nests are built in heavy woods, and preferably in trees along the bank of a stream. The nest is of the usual Hawk construction and the two to four eggs are white, faintly marked with pale chestnut. Data. Marathon, Texas. Nest of sticks, lined with weeds and rabbit fur; on a horizontal branch of a cotton-wood tree, 30 feet up.

White 211



SENNETT'S WHITE-TAILED HAWK. Buteo albicaudatus sennetti.

Range. Mexican border of the United States and southward.

A large, handsome Hawk which may be identified by its dark upper parts and white underparts and tail, the flanks and tail being lightly barred with grayish; the shoulders are chestnut. It is especially abundant in the southern parts of Texas, where it builds its nests of sticks and weeds, lined with grasses, leaves and moss. They nest in March and April, laying two, or rarely three, eggs which are a diill white, and generally immaculate, but occasionally faintly or sparingly spotted with brown. Size of eggs 2.25 x 1.80.

342. SWAINSON'S HAWK. Buteo srvainsoni. Range. Central and western North America, from the Mississippi Valley and Hudson Bay, to the Pacific coast, breeding throughout its

Sennett's White-tailed Hawk j grea ter part of its range, this is

the most abundant of the Hawk family.

Its plumage is extremely variable, showing all the intergradations from a uniform sooty blackish to the typical adult plumage of a grayish above, and a white below, with a large breast patch of rich chestnut. Their nesting habits are as variable as their plumage. In some localities, they nest exclusively in trees, in others indifferently upon the ground or rocky ledges. The nest is the usual Hawk structure of sticks; the eggs are white, variously splashed and


spotted with reddish brown and umber. Size 2.20x1.70. Data. Stark Co., N. D., May 21, 1897. Nest of sticks, lined with weeds in an ash tree. Collector, Roy Dodd.


Swainson's Hawk


343. BROAD-WINGED HAWK. Buteo platypterus.

Range. North America, east of the Plains, and from the British Provinces southward.

Grayish white

A medium sized species, about 16 inches in

length, and with a short tail and broad rounded American Rough-legrged Hawk wings ; adults have the underparts handsomely barred with brown. Their nests are usually built in large trees, but generally placed against the trunk in the crotch of some of the lower branches. It is made of sticks and almost invariably lined with bark. The two to four eggs are of a grayish white color, marked with chestnut, brown and stone gray; size 1.90x1.55. Data. Worcester, Mass., May 16, 1895. Nest about 20 feet up in a large chestnut tree. The birds continually circled overhead, their weird cries sounding like the creaking of branches. Collector, A. J. White.

844. SHORT-TAILED HAWK. Buteo brachyurus.

Range. A tropical species, which occurs north to the Mexican border and regularly to southern Florida, where it breeds in the large cypress swamps. Its eggs are pale greenish white, sparingly spotted with brown, chiefly at the large end. Size 2.15x1.60.

345. MEXICAN BLACK HAWK. Urubitinga anthracina.

Range. Mexican border of the United States and southward.

A coal black species about 22 inches in length, distinguished by the white tip, and broad white band across the tail about midway. This is one of the least abundant of the Mexican species that cross the border. They are shy birds and build their nests in the tallest trees in remote woods. Their two or three eggs are grayish white, faintly spotted with pale brown; size 2.25x1.80. Data. Los Angeles County, Cal., April 6, 1889. Nest of sticks, lined with bark and leaves; 45 feet up in a sycamore tree. Collector, R. B. Chapman. Grayish white



346. MEXICAN GOSHAWK. Asturina plagiata

Range. Mexico, north to the border of the United States.

A beautiful, medium sized Hawk (17 inches long), slaty gray above, white below, numer


Rough-legged Hawk

ously barred with grayish; tail black, crossed by several white bars. These are graceful and active birds, feeding largely upon small rodents, and occasionally small birds. They nest in the top of tall trees, laying two or three greenish white, unmarked eggs; size 1.95x1.60. Data. Santa Cruz River, Arizona, June 3, 1902. Nest in the fork of a mesquite tree about forty feet from the ground; made of large sticks, lined with smaller ones and leaves. Three eggs. Collector, O. W. Howard.

347a. ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK. Archibuteo lagopus sancti-johannis.

Range. Northern North America, breeding chiefly north of our borders and wintering south to the middle portions of the United States.

The Rough-legs are large, heavily built birds of prey, specially characerized by the completely feathered legs. The present species is 22 inchse long, and in the normal plumage has a whitish head, neck, breast and tail, the former being streaked and the latter barred with blackish; the remainder of. the upper and underparts are black-; ish brown. Their nests are usually placed in trees, and less often on the ground than those of the next species. These Rough-legs are very irregularly distributed, and are nowhere as common as the next. 7 * While the greater number nest. ; I north of the United States, it is N very probable that a great many | i nest on the higher ranges within ; , our borders. The species is often jj taken in summer, even in Massa-;!| chusetts. They lay three eggs of a !j bluish white color, boldly splashed ;ji with dark brown; size 2.25x1.75. ;|] Bluish white


34>8. FERRUGINOUS ROUGH-LEG. Archibuteo ferrugineus.


White Rough-legged Hawk

Range. North America, west of the Mississippi, breeding from the latitude of Colorado north to the Saskatchewan region.

This species nests very abundantly along our northern states, particularly in Dakota. It is a larger bird than the preceding and can easily be told by its reddish coloration, particularly on the shoulders and tibia. While in some localities they nest only in trees, the greater number appear to build their nests on the ground or rocky ledges, making a large heap of sticks, weeds and grass. Their three or four eggs are white, beautifully spotted and blotched, in endless variety, with various shades of brown. Size 2.60x2.00. Data. Stark Co., N. D., April 29, 1900. Nest built of coarse sticks on a clay butte.

349. GOLDEN EAGLE. Aquila chryscetos.

Range. North America, west of the Mississippi; most abundant in the Rockies and along the Pacific coast ranges.

This magnificent bird, which is even more powerful than the Bald Eagle, measures about 34 inches long, and spreads about 7 feet. Its plumage is a rich brownish black, very old birds being golden brown on the nape. They can be distinguished in all plumages from the Bald Eagle by the completely feathered tarsus. They build their nests in the tops of the tallest trees in the wild, mountainous country of the west, and more rarely upon ledges of the cliffs. The nests are made of large sticks, lined with smaller ones and leaves and weeds. Their eggs are the most handsome of the Raptores, being white in color, and blotched, splashed, spotted and specked with light brown and clouded with gray or lilac, of course varying endlessly in pattern and intensity. Size 2.90x2.50. Data. Monterey Co., Cal., May 3, 1888. Three eggs. Nest of sticks, lined with pine needles, in a pine tree, 50 feet up, 215

Golden Eagle


BIRDS OF PREY [351.] GRAY SEA EAGLE. Haliceetus albicilla.

A common species on the sea coasts of Europe; straggling to southern Greenland, where it nests upon the rocky cliffs.

352. BALD EAGLE. Haliceetus leucocephalus leucocephalus.


Bald Eagle

Range. Whole of North America; most abundant on the Atlantic coast; breeds throughout its range. This large white-headed and white-tailed species is abundant in sufficiently wild localities along the Atlantic coast. It only attains the white head and tail when three years old, the first two years, being blackish. It is about 34 inches in length and expands about seven feet, never over eight feet, and only birds of the second year (when they are larger than the adults) ever approach this expanse. Their food consists of fish (which they sometimes capture themselves, but more often take from the Osprey), carrion, and Ducks, which they catch in flight. Their nests are massive structures of sticks, in the tops of tall trees. They very rarely lay more than two eggs, which are white. Size 2.75 x 2.10. Data. Mt. Pleasant, S. C., nest in top of a pine, 105 feet from the ground; made of large sticks and lined with Spanish moss.

352a. NORTHERN BALD EAGLE. Haliceetus leucocephalus alascanus.

Range. Alaska. This sub-species averages slightly larger than the Bald Eagle, but never exceeds the largest dimensions of that species. Its nesting habits and eggs are the same, except that it more often builds its nests on rocky cliffs than does the Bald Eagle. The eggs are laid in February and March.