National Geographic : 1933 Jul
EAGLES, HAWKS, AND VULTURES SPARROW HAWK (Falco sparverius) The handsome sparrow hawk, most fa miliar of American falcons, has adapted itself readily to the changes brought by our civilization, being so evidently harm less that it has escaped much of the de struction aimed universally at its larger companions. It is equally at home in the diverse environments found between the green pasture lands of the east and the arid cactus forests of Baja California. The sparrow hawk feeds principally on mice, large insects, lizards, and frogs. On occasion it attacks birds, and may kill quail, jays, or other birds as large and heavy as itself. About cities it destroys many English sparrows and starlings. Often it hovers in the air with rapidly beating wings, intently watching the grass below until a mouse or other prey comes far enough out in the open to be caught. CITY IEE SEEMS TO AGREE WITH THE SPARROW HAWK The sparrow hawk nests in cavities, old nesting holes of the flicker or other large woodpeckers being favorite shelters, and has come to occupy bird boxes about houses. It frequently lives in cities, and in Washington is found about the roofs of the Smithsonian buildings. The num ber of eggs in a set ranges from three to seven. They vary in ground color from white to cream and cinnamon buff, spotted and blotched with brown. The call of this hawk is a rapidly re peated killy killy killy, from which it is often known as "killy hawk." The eastern sparrow hawk (Falco spar verius sparverius) nests from the upper Yukon, southern Quebec, and Nova Scotia to northwestern California, eastern Texas, and northern Alabama. The desert sparrow hawk (Falco s. phalaena), which is somewhat larger and paler, breeds from southern New Mexico and southern California south into Mex ico. The San Lucas sparrow hawk (Falco s. peninsularis), smaller in size, is found in southern Baja California, and the little sparrow hawk (Falco s. paulus), also of small size but darker in color, resides in Florida and the Gulf coast region. Allied races range through the West Indies and Central and South America. PIGEON HAWK (Falco columbarius) The pigeon hawk derives its name from its curious resemblance to a pigeon in cer tain attitudes, or in mannerisms of flight that it may assume, though at other times it is obviously and unmistakably a falcon. It is found in wooded areas or in semi open country, depending upon where its search for food may take it. It is a bird of swift and graceful flight and travels at high speed with little apparent effort. Like related falcons, the pigeon hawk feeds extensively on birds. Its speed of flight and its strength are attested by its capture of swallows and even of the chim ney swift, and its killing of meadowlarks, flickers, and small doves. Mice are taken occasionally and large insects more fre quently. When not hungry, this active little hawk delights in chasing birds merely to display its mastery, threatening but not actually harming them. Jays and crows may be the butts of this sport, or again the hawk may pursue flocks of sandpipers. When in search of a meal, its whole action changes and it kills speedily and ruthlessly. The pigeon hawk builds a nest of twigs and bark lined with softer materials, and places it in a tree, often only a few feet above the ground, on a rock ledge, or occa sionally in a hollow tree. Four or five eggs constitute a set, being pale creamy white, with a wash of reddish brown and spots and blotches of deep brown. About the nest the birds utter piercing cries and chattering, scolding notes. The eastern pigeon hawk (Falco colum barius columbarius) nests from eastern Canada to Maine and Manitoba, migrating in winter to the Gulf States and northern South America. The black pigeon hawk (Falco c. suck leyi), blackish brown in color, nests in western British Columbia, wintering in the coastal region south to northern Califor nia. Richardson's pigeon hawk (Falco c. richardsoni), lighter in color than the or dinary form, is found from Alberta and Saskatchewan to Montana and North Da kota, wintering from Colorado to north western Mexico. The western pigeon hawk (Falco c. ben direi), darker than Richardson's, breeds from northwestern Alaska to California, in winter ranging to Mexico.