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THE BIRDS OF PREY.

CHAPTER I.

VULTURES AND EAGLES : -EGYPTIAN VULTURE - GOLDEN AND

SEA EAGLES - OSPREY.

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The towering Eagle soars from human sight,
And seeks the sun in his untiring flight;
High in some mountain crag he dwells alone,
And proudly makes the strength of rocks his own;
Thence wide o'er nature takes his dread survey,
And with a piercing glance marks out his prey;
His young he feasts with blood, and hovering o'er
The unslaughtered host, enjoys the promised gore.

Young.
ITH this fine paraphrase of Job's magnificent descrip-

tion of the king of birds we may fitly commence this volume, devoted to those kinds remarkable for strength and daring; for their rapacious predatory habits — the warriors of the feathered tribes, well called by naturalists Raptores, or Plunderers. They are among birds what the Carnivora, or flesh-eaters, such as Lions, Tigers, and Hyenas, are among quadrupeds. They are distinguished by their strong, curved, and toothed beaks, and their large, sharp, retractile claws, those powerful weapons with which they seize, retain, and rend apart their prey. Keen of sight and swift of wing, with strong, sinewy frames, and spirits fierce and daring, they are the terror of all weak and defenceless creatures, and reign lords paramount in those airy regions through which they take so wide and bold a sweep, and so far up

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THE EGYPTIAN VULTURE,

in which the homes of many of them are situated. These are the Birds of Prey, styled Accipitres by Linnæus and Cuvier, who arranged them in two principal divisions, diurnal and nocturnal; the first being those that fly by day, such as Vultures, Eagles, Falcons, Hawks; and the second those that fly by night, such as Owls.

Little need be said here of the Vultures, but one species, THE EGYPTIAN VULTURE, or White Neophron (Neophron percnopterus), having obtained a place in the list of British Birds, on the strength of a single specimen shot in October 1825, at Klive, in Somersetshire.

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· Dismissing then the Vulturidæ, as Macgillivray (whose nomenclature we shall chiefly follow) styles the Vulture family of the order Raptores, we will proceed at once to the second family of that order, the Falconidæ, at the head of which stands the Eagle, that

Bird of the broad and sweeping wing,

Whose home is high in heaven,
Where wide the storms their banners fling,

And tempest clouds are riven.

THE GOLDEN EAGLE.

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The chosen emblem in all times of royal power and allconquering might; the bird that can look unabashed at the sun in its full meridian splendour; that screams defiance to the tempest; and dwells amid the most sublime solitudes of nature.

High from the summit of a craggy cliff
Hung o'er the deep, such as amazing frowns
On utmost Kilda's shore, whose lonely race
Resign the setting sun to Indian worlds,
The Royal Eagle draws his vigorous young,
Strong-pounced, and ardent with paternal fire.
Now fit to raise a kingdom of their own,
He drives them from his fort, the tow'ring seat
For ages of his empire ; which in peace
Unstained he holds, while many a league to sea
He wings his course, and preys in distant isles.

It is thus the poet Thomson describes the home of The GOLDEN EAGLE (Aquila chrysaeta), variously called the Black, Brown, or Ring-tailed Eagle, the largest and most powerful of its kind, the extent of its wings sometimes reaching the enormous length of twelve feet, although generally they are nearer seven feet across. It is a majestic creature, with plumage, when in good health and condition, of a rich, dark, glossy brown, shaded about the head, neck, and shoulders with a golden tinge, from which, and probably its yellow feet also, it derives its commonest name. The outer tail feathers are black, or nearly so; there is a yellowish band about the nostril, and the strong, hooked beak, with the upper mandible projecting considerably over the lower, is of dull blue, like unpolished steel, fit colour for such a weapon; the eye is like a diamond set in gold, emitting glances like shafts of light piercing the realms of illimitable space; the legs are feathered down to the immense sinewy claws, which, armed with far-projecting talons, seem strong enough, as they really are, to grasp and retain any animal, however violent its struggles may be. Truly a glorious bird ; but, happily, not common in this country,

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