“This beautiful little hawk appears to be nearly allied to the European Hobby (Falco Subbuteo, Linn.) and is not inferior to that species in spirit and activity.  I procured the individual represented, in April 1812, near Flatland Ford in Pennsylvania, whilst in pursuit of a Dove, which it would doubtless have secured, had I not terminated its career.  When I first discovered this species, the individual was standing perched on an old fence-stake, in the position in which it is figured.  Never having met with another of its kind, I conclude that it is extremely rare in the United States.  Of its nest or young I am unable to say anything at present.

The name which I have given to this new and rare species was chosen at the time when Napoleon Le Grand was in the zenith of his glory.  Every body knows that his soldiers frequently designated him by the nickname of Le Petit Caporal, which I thought more suitable to our little Hawk, than the names Napoleon or Bonaparte, which I should have adopted, had I been so fortunate as to procure a new Eagle.

–J. J. Audubon, Ornithological Biography, I (1831), 381 [excerpted].

[Curator’s note: this bird is actually a Merlin]

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