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History of Animals   


the other species, and none of the good ones; for it lets itself be
chased and caught by the raven and the other birds. It is clumsy in
its movements, has difficulty in procuring its food, preys on dead
animals, is always hungry, and at all times whining and screaming.
There is another species, called the 'sea-eagle' or 'osprey'. This
bird has a large thick neck, curved wings, and broad tailfeathers;
it lives near the sea, grasps its prey with its talons, and often,
from inability to carry it, tumbles down into the water. There is
another species called the 'true-bred'; people say that these are
the only true-bred birds to be found, that all other birds-eagles,
hawks, and the smallest birds-are all spoilt by the interbreeding of
different species. The true-bred eagle is the largest of all eagles;
it is larger than the phene; is half as large again as the ordinary
eagle, and has yellow plumage; it is seldom seen, as is the case
with the so-called cymindis. The time for an eagle to be on the wing
in search of prey is from midday to evening; in the morning until
the market-hour it remains on the nest. In old age the upper beak of
the eagle grows gradually longer and more crooked, and the bird dies
eventually of starvation; there is a folklore story that the eagle
is thus punished because it once was a man and refused entertainment
to a stranger. The eagle puts aside its superfluous food for its
young; for owing to the difficulty in procuring food day by day, it at
times may come back to the nest with nothing. If it catch a man
prowling about in the neighbourhood of its nest, it will strike him
with its wings and scratch him with its talons. The nest is built
not on low ground but on an elevated spot, generally on an
inaccessible ledge of a cliff; it does, however, build upon a tree.
The young are fed until they can fly; hereupon the parent-birds topple
them out of the nest, and chase them completely out of the locality.
The fact is that a pair of eagles demands an extensive space for its
maintenance, and consequently cannot allow other birds to quarter
themselves in close neighbourhood. They do not hunt in the vicinity of
their nest, but go to a great distance to find their prey. When the
eagle has captured a beast, it puts it down without attempting to
carry it off at once; if on trial it finds the burden too heavy, it
will leave it. When it has spied a hare, it does not swoop on it at
once, but lets it go on into the open ground; neither does it
descend to the ground at one swoop, but goes gradually down from
higher flights to lower and lower: these devices it adopts by way of
security against the stratagem of the hunter. It alights on high
places by reason of the difficulty it experiences in soaring up from
the level ground; it flies high in the air to have the more
extensive view; from its high flight it is said to be the only bird
that resembles the gods. Birds of prey, as a rule, seldom alight
upon rock, as the crookedness of their talons prevents a stable
footing on hard stone. The eagle hunts hares, fawns, foxes, and in
general all such animals as he can master with ease. It is a
long-lived bird, and this fact might be inferred from the length of
time during which the same nest is maintained in its place.
33

In Scythia there is found a bird as large as the great bustard.
The female lays two eggs, but does not hatch them, but hides them in
the skin of a hare or fox and leaves them there, and, when it is not
in quest of prey, it keeps a watch on them on a high tree; if any
man tries to climb the tree, it fights and strikes him with its
wing, just as eagles do.
34

The owl and the night-raven and all the birds see poorly in the
daytime seek their prey in the night, but not all the night through,
but at evening and dawn. Their food consists of mice, lizards, chafers
and the like little creatures. The so-called phene, or lammergeier, is
fond of its young, provides its food with ease, fetches food to its

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