THE numerous species of which this kind is composed, are found in almost every part of the world, from the frigid to the torrid zone: they are divided into various families, consisting of Eagles, Kites, Hawks, Buzzards, &c. and are readily known by the following characteristics:—
The bill is strong, sharp, and much hooked, and is furnished with a naked skin or cere situated at the base, in which are placed the nostrils; the head and neck are well clothed with feathers, which sufficiently distinguish it from the Vulture kind; the legs and feet are scaly, having three toes before and one behind; the claws are large and strong, much hooked, and very sharp. The larger species feed on quadrupeds and birds, some on fish, others on reptiles; in any of the inferior kinds on insects. The plumage differs greatly according to sex and age, the young not acquiring the adult livery in less than three, four, and even six years. The latter are morever [sic] distinguished generally, by more numerous and varied spots and lines, longitudinally disposed, while the colours of the mature birds appear in large masses or bands, running transversely. They moult only once a year. Birds of this genus are also distinguished by their undaunted courage, and great activity. Buffon, speaking of the Eagle, compares it with the Lion, and ascribes to it the magnanimity, the strength, and the forbearance of that noble quadruped. The Eagle despises small animals, and disregards their insults; he seldom devours the whole of his prey, but like the Lion, leaves the fragments to other animals: except when famishing with hunger, he disdains to feed on carrion. The eyes of the Eagle have the glare of those of the Lion, and are nearly of the same colour; the claws are of the same shape, and the cry of both is powerful and terrible; destined for war and plunder, they are equally fierce, bold, and untractable. Such is the resemblance which that ingenious and fanciful writer has pictured of these two noble animals; the characters of both arc striking and prominent, and hence the Eagle is said to extend his dominion over the birds, as the Lion over the quadrupeds.
The same writer also observes, that, in a state of nature, the Eagle never engages in a solitary chace but when the female is confined to her eggs or her young: at this season the return of the smaller birds affords plenty of prey, and he can with ease provide for the sustenance of himself and his mate; at other times they unite their exertions, and are always seen close together, or at a short distance from each other. Those who have an opportunity of observing their motions, say, that the one beats the bushes, whilst the other, perched on an eminence, watches the flight of the prey. They often soar out of the reach of human sight; and, notwithstanding the immense distance, their cry is still heard, and then resembles the yelping of a dog. Though a voracious bird, the Eagle can endure hunger for a long time. A common Eagle, caught in a fox trap, is said to have passed five weeks without the least food, and did not appear sensibly weakened till towards the last week, when a period was put to its existence.
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