National Geographic : 1933 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE bones of eagles and hawks were found in the excavations of the National Geographic Society at Pueblo Bonito. In some cases certain rooms seem to have been given up to these birds. Occasionally hawks have been eaten for human food, but this is not a widespread practice. In Puerto Rico and Haiti I found that in some sections the natives considered the red-tailed hawk an excellent meat. The sharp-shinned hawk is eaten occasionally in the United States. From personal experience I can say that they have a fair flavor. HAWKS USED BY MAN IN HUNTING From the earliest times of which we have record, hawks of various kinds have been trained by man for use in hunting.* For this purpose young hawks are taken from the nest, or adult birds are trapped alive. In either case, the birds are accus tomed to man and his ways and are trained to come to be fed until they are tame and can be handled. They have the eyes cov ered with a soft leather hood and thongs attached to their legs, by which they may be tethered if desired. In hunting, trained hawks are taken afield until game is sighted, when the hood is removed, so that the hawk may sight the quarry. As it flies, the hawk ordinarily maneu vers so as to rise and strike down at the game from above. In the case of wily, fast-flying birds, there is often a prolonged pursuit, in which only the most skillful hawk may hope to be victorious. The peregrine falcon, distributed over most of the world, has been a favorite with hawkers, because it is fierce and at the same time is tractable in training. Sev eral other falcons have been used, but to less extent. These birds kill their prey in swift flight in air, striking a quick blow with the foot that knocks the victim end over end and frequently kills it outright. The goshawk is also used in hunting. This species kills in short, swift flight, bears its prey to the ground, and holds fast with its long claws until its quarry is dead. Among native peoples of Central Asia, the golden eagle is trained to hunt small antelopes, foxes, and even wolves. These * See "Falconry, the Sport of Kings," by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for December, 1920. heavy birds are carried afield perched on horses or on stands swung between two horses. In some cases they rest on a heavy leathern gauntlet on the forearm of the hunter, whose arm is supported in a forked stick resting in the stirrup (p. 48). Scenes depicting hunting with hawks are found among the ancient paintings in the tombs of Egypt, and this sport was well known in India, Asia, and Europe at a very early date. Practiced originally to obtain wild game for food, it finally developed into the sport of the nobility and the wealthy. Though it fell into decadence with the development of gunpowder and guns, it is even practiced to-day in a limited way, both abroad and in our own country. Though most birds of the hawk group range from large to medium in size, there is considerable variation in this respect. The smallest are the little falconets of the Indian region and Africa. They are not much larger than bluebirds, but are as fierce as the largest falcons. They eat many insects and also kill small birds and mammals. They have been known to kill birds four times their own weight, and are so aggressive that in captivity they often dominate other hawks much larger and stronger. The largest members of the group are the larger vultures of the Old World and the condors of America, which reach a length of 40 to 50 inches, with a spread of wings that is broad in proportion. The nests and eggs of hawks vary widely in location and appearance. The majority build nests of sticks and branches in trees, where they are often located at a con siderable height from the ground. Some of the larger eagles and vultures nest on cliffs and rock ledges, where the sites may be reached only by the boldest of climbers. Marsh hawks nest on the ground in prairie or marsh regions; sparrow hawks occupy holes in trees. Falcons lay their eggs in cavities in the face of cliffs, or, in some species like the hobby (Falco subbuteo) of Europe, occupy the aban doned nests of other hawks or of rooks and similar birds. In some species the same nesting site is used for many years in succession. Since new material is added annually to the nest, in many cases it may grow to huge propor tions. This is especially true with birds like the ospreys and eagles.