Birds – Chimango Hawk

Passing over the genus, Phalcobcenus, with its four or five species, we may mention briefly the Chimango Hawk (Milvago Chimango) as typical of another genus. This species, which inhabits the southern half of South America, is about fifteen inches long, buffy brown above and gray below, lighter on the rump and tail, and more or less barred or freckled with brownish gray. The legs are slender, the claws weak, and the bill only very slightly hooked. “It has,” says Hudson, “an easy loitering flight, and when on the wing does not appear to have any object in view, like the Hawk, but wanders and prowls about here and there, and when it spies another bird it flies after him to see if he has food in his eye.” They appear to be a strange conglomeration, presenting successively the life habits of a dozen species. ” On the same day you will see one bird in violent Hawk-like pursuit of its living prey, with all the instincts of rapine hot within it, and another less ambitious individual engaged in laboriously tearing at an old cast-off shoe, uttering mournful notes the while. They are loquacious and sociable, frequently congregating in loose companies of thirty or forty individuals, when they spend several hours every day in spirited exercises, soaring about like Martins, performing endless evolutions, and joining in aërial mock battles. When tired of these pastimes they all settle down again, to remain for an hour or so perched on the topmost boughs of trees or other elevations; and at intervals one bird utters a very long leisurely chant, with a falling inflection, followed by a series of short notes, all the other birds joining in the chorus and uttering short notes in time with those of their soloist or precentor.”

The Chimangos are strictly omnivorous, feeding as occasion presents upon carrion, offal, birds, small mammals, insects, frogs, and in times of scarcity upon a peculiar fungus which appears in the rain pools. They are constantly on the watch for the weak, the sickly, or injured among birds or other animals, which they quickly pounce upon and destroy, often acting in company. But while an inordinate lover of carrion, it has apparently discovered that this diet is unsuited to the tender stomachs of its young, hence these are fed almost exclusively on the young of small birds. An especial source of supply is the young of a small bird known as the Teru-reru (Synallaxis hudsoni), which builds a small domed nest in the dense tangle of low bushes. Although it is almost impossible for man to locate these nests, the Chimango apparently has little difficulty and must destroy incredible numbers. The nest of the Chimango is built on trees or bushes in swamps or on the ground among grass and thistles. The eggs, usually three or four in number, are nearly spherical in shape, and creamy white blotched with deep red in color. The location of the nest is easy to determine, as the parents when returning invariably utter a series of long mournful notes. When a nest containing young is discovered and visited by man, the old birds apparently always remove the young within a few hours to a place of safety, a very rare practice among birds.