24 COOPER'S HAWK
|The flight of the Cooper's Hawk is rapid, protracted, and even. It
is performed at a short height above the ground or through the forest.
It passes along in a silent gliding manner, with a swiftness even
superior to that of the Wild Pigeon (Columba migratoria), seldom
deviating from a straightforward course, unless to seize and secure its
prey. Now and, then, but seldom unless after being shot at, it mounts in
the air in circles, of which it describes five or six in a hurried
manner, and again plunging downwards, continues its journey as before.
The daring exploits performed by this Hawk, which have taken place in my presence, are very numerous, and I shall relate one or two of them. This marauder frequently attacks birds far superior to itself in weight, and sometimes possessed of courage equal to its own. As I was one morning observing the motions of some Parakeets near Bayou Sara, in the State of Louisiana, in the month of November, I heard a Cock crowing not far from me, and in sight of a farm-house. The Cooper's Hawk the next moment flew past me, and so close that I might have touched it with the barrel of my gun, had I been prepared. Its wings struck with extraordinary rapidity, and its tail appeared as if closed. Not more than a few seconds elapsed before I heard the cackling of the Hens, and the war-cry of the Cock, and at the same time observed the Hawk rising, as if without effort, a few yards in the air, and again falling towards the ground with the rapidity of lightning. I proceeded to the spot, and found the Hawk grappled to the body of the Cock, both tumbling over and over, and paying no attention to me as I approached. Desirous of seeing the result, I remained still, until perceiving that the Hawk had given a fatal squeeze to the brave Cock, I ran to secure the former; but the marauder had kept a hawk's eye upon me, and, disengaging himself, rose in the air in full confidence. The next moment I pulled a trigger, and he fell dead to the ground. It proved a young male, such as you see, kind reader, represented in the Plate, pursuing a lovely Blue-bird nearly exhausted. The Cock was also dead; its breast was torn, and its neck pierced in several places by the sharp claws of the Hawk.
Some years afterwards, not far from the famed Falls of Niagara, in the month of June, one of these Hawks, which on being examined proved to be a female, attacked a brood of young chickens, yet under the care of their mother. It had just struck one of the chickens, and was on the eve of carrying it off in its claws, when the hen, having perceived the murderous deed, flew against the Hawk with such force as to throw it fairly on its back, when the intrepid mother so effectively assailed the miscreant with feet and bill, as to enable me, on running up, to secure the latter.
This species frequently kills and eats the Grouse commonly called the Pheasant (Tetrao umbellus). Partridges and young hares are also favourite dainties. It also follows the Wild Pigeons in their migrations, and always causes fear and confusion in their ranks.
It breeds in the mountainous districts of the Middle and Northern States, to which it returns early in spring from the Southern States, where it spends the winter in considerable numbers, and is known by the name of the Great Pigeon Hawk.
The nest is usually placed in the forks of the branch of an oak tree, towards its extremity. In its general appearance it resembles that of the Common Crow, for which I have several times mistaken it. It is composed externally of numerous crooked sticks, and has a slight lining of grasses and a few feathers. The eggs are three or four, almost globular, large for the size of the bird, of a dullish white colour, strongly granulated, and consequently rough to the touch. It was on discovering one of these nests that I wounded the second adult male which I have seen, but which never returned to its nest, on which I afterwards shot the female represented in the Plate, in the act of pouncing. I have several times found other nests of birds of this species, but the owners were not in full plumage, and their eyes had not obtained the rich orange colouring of the adult birds.
Those which I have observed near the Falls of Niagara were generally engaged in pursuing Red-winged Starlings over the marshes of the neighbourhood. When this Hawk is angry, it raises the feathers of the upper part of the head, so as to make them appear partially tufted. The cry at this time may be represented by the syllable kee, kee, kee, repeated eight or ten times in rapid succession, and much resembling that of the Pigeon-Hawk (Falco columbarius) or the European Kestril. The young of this species bear no resemblance to those of the Goshawk.
COOPER'S HAWK, Falco Cooperii, Bonap. Amer. Orn. Young.
Tail rounded, tarsi moderately stout. Adult male dull bluish-grey above; the tail with four broad bands of blackish-brown, and tipped with white; the upper part of the head greyish-black; lower parts transversely barred with light red and white, the throat white, longitudinally streaked. Female similar, with the bands on the breast broader. Young umber-brown above, more or less spotted with white, the tail with four blackish-brown bars; lower parts white, each feather with a longitudinal narrow, oblong, brown spot.
Male, 20, 36. Female, 22, 38.