Birds of the World – Duck Hawk

In North America its place is taken by two subspecies, the Duck-Hawk (F. peregrinus anatum) and Peale’s Falcon (F. p. pealei). The former, which differs from the Old World bird by the usually unspotted chest, ranges throughout the whole of America, south as far, at least, as Chile, and possibly finding its way into eastern Asia. It is found mainly in the vicinity of water, feeding largely upon water fowl and shore birds, but also taking hares, Ptarmigan, Grouse, Quail, Pigeons, and poultry. Of twenty stomachs examined by Dr. Fisher, “7 contained poultry or game birds; 9, other birds; I, mice; 2, insects, and 4 were empty.” Of their appearance on the wing, Major Bendire writes: “Its flight, when once fairly started in pursuit of its quarry, is amazingly swift; it is seemingly an easy matter for it to overtake even the fleetest of birds, and when once in its grasp, resistance is useless. I have seen this Falcon strike a Cinnamon Teal almost within gunshot of me, kill it apparently instantly from the force of the shock, and fly away with it as easily, or without visible struggle, as if it had been a sparrow instead of a bird of its own weight.” That it also captures small birds is shown by the fact that remains of Robins, Thrushes, Catbirds, and Warblers have been found in its stomach, and Dr. J. G. Cooper says, “I have seen one pursue a Swallow, and turning feet upward seize it flying with perfect ease.” It is, in fact, the terror of all birds from the size of a Mallard Duck down. The nest of this subspecies is usually placed on some projecting ledge or crag, often in an inaccessible position on the face of a cliff, or occasionally in a hollow tree. When in the former position it is composed of a few coarse sticks and twigs, just enough to prevent the eggs from rolling out. The two to four eggs are creamy buff, usually quite evenly overlaid with chocolate-brown, on which are blotches and spots of brown, rufous, or brick-red. The birds are much attached to the nesting site and return year after year, even when much persecuted, and they are also bold in defending their eggs or young, flying viciously at the intruder.