History of Animals
They modify betimes their method of hunting, for in summer they do not
grab their prey as they do at other seasons.
Of the vulture, it is said that no one has ever seen either
its young or its nest; on this account and on the ground that all of a
sudden great numbers of them will appear without any one being able to
tell from whence they come, Herodorus, the father of Bryson the
sophist, says that it belongs to some distant and elevated land. The
reason is that the bird has its nest on inaccessible crags, and is
found only in a few localities. The female lays one egg as a rule, and
two at the most.
Some birds live on mountains or in forests, as the hoopoe and
the brenthus; this latter bird finds his food with ease and has a
musical voice. The wren lives in brakes and crevices; it is
difficult of capture, keeps out of sight, is gentle of disposition,
finds its food with ease, and is something of a mechanic. It goes by
the nickname of 'old man' or 'king'; and the story goes that for
this reason the eagle is at war with him.
Some birds live on the sea-shore, as the wagtail; the bird is of a
mischievous nature, hard to capture, but when caught capable of
complete domestication; it is a cripple, as being weak in its hinder
Web-footed birds without exception live near the sea or rivers
or pools, as they naturally resort to places adapted to their
structure. Several birds, however, with cloven toes live near pools or
marshes, as, for instance, the anthus lives by the side of rivers; the
plumage of this bird is pretty, and it finds its food with ease. The
catarrhactes lives near the sea; when it makes a dive, it will keep
under water for as long as it would take a man to walk a furlong; it
is less than the common hawk. Swans are web-footed, and live near
pools and marshes; they find their food with ease, are
good-tempered, are fond of their young, and live to a green old age.
If the eagle attacks them they will repel the attack and get the
better of their assailant, but they are never the first to attack.
They are musical, and sing chiefly at the approach of death; at this
time they fly out to sea, and men, when sailing past the coast of
Libya, have fallen in with many of them out at sea singing in mournful
strains, and have actually seen some of them dying.
The cymindis is seldom seen, as it lives on mountains; it is
black in colour, and about the size of the hawk called the
'dove-killer'; it is long and slender in form. The Ionians call the
bird by this name; Homer in the Iliad mentions it in the line:
Chalcis its name with those of heavenly birth,
But called Cymindis by the sons of earth.
The hybris, said by some to be the same as the eagle-owl, is
never seen by daylight, as it is dim-sighted, but during the night
it hunts like the eagle; it will fight the eagle with such desperation
that the two combatants are often captured alive by shepherds; it lays
two eggs, and, like others we have mentioned, it builds on rocks and
in caverns. Cranes also fight so desperately among themselves as to be
caught when fighting, for they will not leave off; the crane lays
The jay has a great variety of notes: indeed, might almost say
it had a different note for every day in the year. It lays about
nine eggs; builds its nest on trees, out of hair and tags of wool;
when acorns are getting scarce, it lays up a store of them in hiding.
It is a common story of the stork that the old birds are fed
by their grateful progeny. Some tell a similar story of the bee-eater,
and declare that the parents are fed by their young not only when