The eagle is called the king of the birds. He is a large, fierce bird of prey, of immense strength and great courage; and he sweeps through the air with a majesty and dignity well becoming to his noble title.
The eagle leads a solitary life in the wild places of the earth. He dwells on the crags of mountains or on the lonely peaks of huge rocks, at whose base the ocean dashes its waves. He swoops down through dark forests, and uninhabited prairies, and gloomy glens, seeking his prey.
The Golden Eagle is a splendid bird. The female at full growth is three feet and a half in length, while the wings stretch from tip to tip no less than nine feet. The male is not quite so large, but very nearly so. The name “golden” is taken from the color of the plumes of the head and neck, which are of a rich golden red hue. The rest of the body is for the most part covered with rich blackish brown feathers.
The eagle is well armed for battle and plunder. The beak is powerful, and bent like a hook, with edges as sharp as a knife. The feet are furnished with four terrible toes, which have long and sharp nails, called talons. The eyes are piercing, and flash forth the proudest glances.
The eagle flies with most graceful ease. On his broad wings, moved by strong muscles, he sweeps boldly through the air, rising in circles till he is all but lost to the sight of the beholder. From this high position he can see far and wide beneath him; his keen eye singles out his prey at a long distance; and down he dives with the suddenness of a flash of lightning.
This terrible suddenness of attack commonly kills the victim on the instant. The weapon of death is not the beak, but either the wing or the claws; a flap of the wing or a clutch of the talons is usually enough for the purpose. The eagle kills and eats birds that are smaller and weaker than himself, he lives upon the best of the game, and he drags the best of the fish out of the river or the sea. He carries off the farmer’s poultry, and often also young pigs or lambs; sometimes, it is said, he has carried off to his nest even a little boy or girl.
The eagle’s nest, or eyrie, is high up on the ledge of some precipice, where hardly any enemy can come. Of course it is a very large nest; but it is not carefully or nicely built. It is a rough affair, like the rook’s nest; a lot of sticks and twigs, and heath or grass, with a more comfortable hollow in the middle, which is padded with softer materials. Here the young are reared; and here the male bird brings home prey for the female and the eaglets; bones and flesh are scattered about everywhere. The eagle is much attached to the spot where he makes his home; he dwells in the same eyrie year after year, and shows little desire to seek his fortunes elsewhere.
DEFINITIONS:—Immense, very great. Majesty, stateliness, elevation of manner. Dignity, grace, loftiness of manner. Title, name. Solitary, living by oneself. Crags, steep, rugged rocks. Base, foot, bottom. Plumes, feathers. Talons, claws. Eyrie, the nest of a bird that builds in a lofty place. Ledge, a ridge or projection. Rook, a bird resembling a crow, but smaller. Reared, brought up. Eaglets, young eagles.
EXERCISE.—What qualities of the eagle may be admired? What traits has he that are not to be admired?
THE OLD EAGLE TREE
By John Todd
In a distant field stood a large tulip tree, apparently of a century’s growth, and one of the most gigantic. It looked like the father of the surrounding forest. A single tree of huge dimensions, standing all alone, is a sublime object.
On the top of this tree, an old eagle, commonly called the “Fishing Eagle,” had built her nest every year, for many years, and, undisturbed, had raised her young. A remarkable place to choose, as she procured her food from the ocean, and this tree stood full ten miles from the seashore. It had long been known as the “Old Eagle Tree.”
On a warm, sunny day, the workmen were hoeing corn in an adjoining field. At a certain hour of the day, the old eagle was known to set off for the seaside, to gather food for her young. As she this day returned with a large fish in her claws, the workmen surrounded the tree, and by yelling and hooting, and throwing stones, so scared the poor bird that she dropped her fish, and they carried it off in triumph.
The men soon dispersed, but Joseph sat down under a bush near by, to watch, and to bestow unavailing pity. The bird soon returned to her nest, without food. The eaglets at once set up a cry for food, so shrill, so clear, and so clamorous that the boy was greatly moved.
The parent bird seemed to try to soothe them; but their appetites were too keen, and it was all in vain. She then perched herself on a limb near them, and looked down into the nest in a manner that seemed to say, “I know not what to do next.”
Her indecision was but momentary; again she poised herself, uttered one or two sharp notes, as if telling them to “lie still,” balanced her body, spread her wings, and was away again for the sea.
Joseph was determined to see the result. His eye followed her till she grew small, smaller, a mere speck in the sky, and then disappeared. What boy has not thus watched the flight of the bird of his country!
She was gone nearly two hours, about double her usual time for a voyage, when she again returned, on a slow weary wing, flying uncommonly low, in order to have a heavier atmosphere to sustain her, with another fish in her talons.
On nearing the field, she made a circuit round it, to see if her enemies were again there. Finding the coast clear, she once more reached the tree, drooping, faint, and weary, and evidently nearly exhausted. Again the eaglets set up their cry, which was soon hushed by the distribution of a dinner, such as, save the cooking, a king might admire.
“Glorious bird!” cried the boy, “what a spirit! Other birds can fly more swiftly, others can sing more sweetly, others scream more loudly; but what other bird, when persecuted and robbed, when weary, when discouraged, when so far from the sea, would have done this?
“Glorious bird! I will learn a lesson from thee to-day. I will never forget hereafter, that when the spirit is determined it can do almost anything. Others would have drooped, and hung the head, and mourned over the cruelty of man, and sighed over the wants of the nestlings; but thou, by at once recovering the loss, hast forgotten all.
“I will learn of thee, noble bird! I will remember this. I will set my mark high. I will try to do something, and to be something in the world; I will never yield to discouragements.”
DEFINITIONS:—Century, the space of a hundred years. Gigantic, very large. Dimensions, size. Sublime, grand, noble. Disperse, scattered. Unavailing, useless. Eaglets, young eagles. Clamorous, loud, noisy. Indecision, want of fixed purpose. Momentary, for a single moment. Circuit, movement round in a circle. Exhausted, wholly tired out. Nestlings, young birds in the nest.
EXERCISE.—What lesson may be learned from this story? Why is the eagle called the bird of our country? What is meant by the expression “finding the coast clear”? What is the advantage of setting one’s mark high? Can you think of any other story which teaches the lesson that one should never yield to discouragements?