In summing up the food-habits of the hawks and owls as found in the state, I can do no better than to quote Dr. C. Hart Merriam’s words used in his letter of transmittal to the Secretary of Agriculture when submitting for publication a report on the hawks and owls of the United States. He writes as follows :1
"The statements herein contained respecting the food of the various hawks and owls are based on a critical examination, by scientific experts, of the actual contents of about 2,700 stomachs of these birds, and consequently may be fairly regarded as a truthful showing of the normal food of each species. The result proves that a class of birds commonly looked upon as enemies to the farmer, and indiscriminately destroyed whenever occasion offers, really rank among his best friends, and with few exceptions should be preserved and encouraged to take up their abode in the neighborhood of his home. Only six of the seventy-three species and subspecies of hawks and owls of the United States are injurious. Of these, three are so extremely rare they need hardly be considered, and another (the Fish Hawk) is only indirectly injurious, leaving but two (the Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks) that really need be taken into account as enemies to agriculture. Omitting the six species that feed largely on poultry and game, 2,212 stomachs were examined, of which 56 per cent contained mice and other small mammals, 27 per cent insects, and only 3 1/2 per cent poultry or game birds. In view of these facts the folly of offering bounties for the destruction of hawks and owls, as has been done by several states, becomes apparent, and the importance of an accurate knowledge of the economic status of our common birds and mammals is overwhelmingly demonstrated."
325. Cathartes aura (Linn.).—TURKEY BUZZARD; TURKEY VULTURE.
Omaha, West Point, Dismal river—breeding, Crawford, Lincoln (L. Bruner); "Summer resident, common, arrive in April and leave in September" (Taylor); "Nearly the whole of temperate and tropical America" (Bendire); do. (Goss); Omaha—breeds (L. Skow); Peru, breeds—common (Coleman); Cherry county—breeds (J. M. Bates); Gage county (F. A. Colby); "quite common summer resident" (S. Trostler).
326. Catharista atrata (Bartram).—BLACK VULTURE; CARRION CROW.
"Casually to * * Kansas and South Dakota" (Bendire); "Casually to Maine, New York, Illinois, Dakota, etc." (Goss); Wolf Creek, Nebr. (D. H. Talbot).
The food-habits of both the Turkey Vulture and the Carrion Crow or Black Vulture, are of such a nature that the destruction of these birds should be prohibited. In fact, in many of the states this is done by law. They live almost exclusively upon carrion or decomposing animal matter, and in this manner aid in the prevention of diseases that might result from the presence of such filth. They may, however, be the cause of indirectly spreading hog cholera where animals that have died from this disease are left unburied or unburnt.
327. Elanoides forficatus (Linn).—SWALLOW-TAILED KITE.
Omaha, West Point, Tekamah (L. Bruner); "I have seen this kite as far north as Cedar county and as far west as the meridian of Ft. Kearney" (Aughey); "Summer resident, common, arrive in May and leave in September" (Taylor); north to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Dakota (Goss); "North regularly to Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, etc." (Fisher); Rockport—breeds (L. Skow); "rarely seen—a pair reported to breed eighteen miles north of Omaha" (I. S. Trostler); Fullerton, Nance county (C. E. Barker).
329. Ictinia mississippiensis (Wils.).--MISSISSIPPI KITE.
"A flock of six or seven was seen October 12 at Omaha" (R. E. Dinges); "North to South Carolina, southern Illinois, Kansas, etc." (Goss); "Casually to Iowa and Wisconsin" (Fisher).
1"The Hawks and Owls of the United States in Their Relation to Agriculture," by A. K. Fisher, U. S. Dept. Agric., Div. Ornith. and Mass., Bul. No. 3.
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© 2001, Lynn Waterman