RAPACIOUS birds, or those which subsist chiefly on flesh, are much less numerous than rapacious quadrupeds; and it seems wisely provided by nature, that their powers should be equally confined and limited with their numbers; for if to the rapid flight and penetrating eye of the Eagle, were joined the strength and voracious appetite of the Lion, the Tiger, or the Glutton, no artifice could evade the one, and no speed could escape the other.
The characters of birds of the ravenous kind are particularly striking, and easily to be distinguished: the formidable talons, the large head, the strong and crooked beak, indicate their ability for rapine and carnage; their dispositions are fierce, and their nature is untractable; cruel and unsociable, they avoid the haunts of civilization, and retire to the most melancholy and wild recesses, where they can enjoy, in gloomy solitude, the fruits of their depredations. The ferocity of their nature shews itself even towards their young, which they drive from the nest at a very early period. The difficulty of procuring a constant supply of food for them probably overcomes the feelings of parental affection, and they have been known to destroy them in the fury of disappointed hunger. Different from almost all other kinds, the female of birds of prey is larger and stronger than the male: naturalists have puzzled themselves to assign the reason of this extraordinary property, but the final cause at least is obvious,—as the care of rearing the young is chiefly intrusted to the female, nature would seem to have furnished her with more ample powers to provide for her own wants, and those of her offspring.
This formidable tribe constitutes the first Order of birds. The genera belonging to it of our own country consist only of two, viz. the Falcon and the Owl. We shall begin with the former.
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