Book VI, Chapter XXXVI
About a bird of prey or monster among birds that hunts on land and fishes in the sea and the rivers.
Translated by Emilie Rose Parker ’22
Of all the birds of prey which I have seen or read about, I have admired none as much as the one I will write about in this account, and of which much more will be written in Book XIV, Chapter VIII. On the islands of this our gulf there are certain birds which the Spaniards call azores de agua or water goshawks, and I call such bird the monster among birds. I have not seen, heard of or read about others that are similar or as notable among all birds of prey, and many times it has been seen and is notorious in our island of Hispaniola and on San Juan and other islands. I have not seen it, but I heard what I will now tell from Pedro Lopez de Angulo, Captain Juan de León and the Adelantado Juan Ponce de León, and others who have seen it hunt on land and fish in the sea, and they have had it in their hands. These men certify that it is the size of a gull, with plumage of a similar manner, white mixed with brown, and with a beak like a gull’s but sharper. It sustains itself by hunting on land and fishing in the water. Its left foot is like that of a mallard or duck, which it uses to sit on the water when it wants, and the right foot is like that of a great goshawk or saker; when fish rise close to the surface of the water, it dives from where it is flying and with that hand or claw of prey it catches a fish, and sometimes it eats it in a tree, and other times it settles in the water with its duck-like foot and eats it there, or it eats it in the air while flying. On land it feeds on small birds, and when there are neither fish or birds, it eats lizards, which satisfy its hunger.
Image: Illustration of various hawks, including the goshawk, by John James Audubon.