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the servant his Kestrel. Even the priest had the Sparrow Hawk appointed for his game bird. Treatises were written upon the “noble art of falconry," and no person of high rank was thought fit for his station if he were ignorant of it. Great sums were paid for hawks who were properly trained; and falconers experienced in the care, feeding, and training of these birds could obtain very high prices for their services.
Since the sport of hawking has died out in England but few of the rapacious birds have been kept as pets; but now and then one hears of caged Eagles and Hawks, and Owls are frequently kept in barns, and occasionally in cottages and stable-yards, for the sake of their services as mousers. A few words must, therefore, be devoted to each of these birds.
The GOLDEN EAGLE (Aquila chrysaëtos) was formerly not unfrequently an inhabitant of the British Isles; but the increase of the population and the cultivation of the land have driven it to the Highlands, to wild parts of Ireland, and to some parts of Wales. The female, which, in the Falcon tribe, is larger than the male, often measures three feet and a half in length, and upwards of eight feet across when the wings are extended. Its prey consists of large quadrupeds and birds, fawns, lambs, grouse, etc. Young pigs and fish are also found in its larder, which is generally upon one ledge of rock, while its nest, rudely constructed of sticks, twigs, and heath, lies on another ledge. The Eagle and his mate assist each other in hunting their game, and, carrying their prey to the nest, tear it to pieces for their young. They are most audacious birds when in pursuit of game, and will even seize a hare just before the hounds are upon it; they are keen fishermen too, and are sometimes drowned by pouncing upon large pike, which have carried them under water. Nothing is more grand than the swoop of this bird, and he ought to be seen in his native wilds: the wretched prisoners whom one occa
sionally sees shut up in a cage, or chained to a tree, give one no idea of the wild bird. No doubt it could be trained, like the Falcon, to fly at game, and might be tamed to a certain extent. Many instances are on record of this; but its weight would be a drawback to its value in falconry, and one cannot imagine it happy in captivity. Tame Eagles are said to have a particular liking for the flesh of cats, and to prefer it on all occasions to that of the rabbits, fowls, etc., generally provided for them. But I have heard of a SEA EAGLE (Haliaëtus albicilla) in captivity, who, although its favourite food was fish, would feed freely on the flesh of any creature but cats. This bird was confined in a very large cage, in which was placed the hollow trunk of a tree; but it would never resort to its shelter, and would not even take the food put into it. It would recognize the person accustomed to feed it, but never became tame. On one occasion of a school treat being held on the lawn near its cage, a child was seen crying bitterly, and on being questioned, complained that the eagle had come to the side of its cage, to which she had been incautiously near, and had taken away her bun, fortunately without doing her any injury. This White-tailed Eagle is more common than the Golden Eagle, for which it is often mistaken when it has not attained to its mature plumage.
The GER or GYR-FALCON (Falco gyrfalco) is the largest of the true Falcons, and is very rarely to be met with in England. The Greenland and Iceland Falcons used to be purchased at a very high price, on account of their great courage and strength, to fly at birds of large size, such as cranes, herons, and wild geese. They are by nature so fierce and wild that it was much more difficult to train and tame them than the PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus), of whom good old Izaak Walton writes: “In the air, my noble, generous Falcon ascends to such a height as the dull eyes of beasts and fish are not able to reach to: their bodies are too gross for such high elevation; but from which height I can make her descend by a word from my mouth, which she both knows and obeys, to accept of meat from my hand, to own me for her master, to go home with me, and be willing the next day to afford me the like recreation.” Its name is derived from its wandering propensities. It has been found in all parts of the world, and it has extraordinary powers of flight, extending its range over the northern parts of both hemispheres, and being met with in America, India, and at the Cape of Good Hope, as well as in Europe. In Scotland and Ireland it makes its nest on the rocks and high cliffs, both inland and on the coasts, on the high cliffs between Freshwater Gate and the lighthouse in the Isle of Wight, and it is known in Devonshire and Cornwall by the name of the Cliff Hawk. Occasionally a Peregrine Falcon has been captured at sea many hundred miles from any land, and it is said to fly a hundred and fifty miles in an hour in pursuit of its quarry, and that a single chase will frequently occupy a space of eight or ten miles. The eagerness and fearlessness with which it makes its “stoop” are wonderful; yet it is very easily and speedily trained, and is capable of great attachment to its owner, as an anecdote related by Mr. Knox will prove. Two Peregrine Falcons were taken by a Captain Johnson, of the Rifle Brigade, across the Atlantic, and were allowed a flight every day after they were fed. They always returned to the ship in due time; but one evening, after a longer absence than usual, one of the birds came back alone. Captain Johnson mourned the other as lost; but soon after the arrival of the regiment in America, he saw a paragraph in a Halifax newspaper, stating that the captain of an American schooner had in his possession a Hawk, which had flown on board his ship. Suspecting this to be his lost favourite, Captain Johnson went to Halifax and asked to see the bird, relating the particulars of his loss. The American captain at first affected to disbelieve his story, and refused to allow him to see the falcon, but
was at length persuaded to do so. The moment she was brought into the room she darted towards her old master, rubbed her head against his cheek, took hold of the buttons of his coat and champed them playfully between her mandibles, and showed her delight and affection by every means in her power. There could be no doubt as to the ownership, and the Falcon was restored to her rightful master.
However pleasant pets the Peregrine Falcons may be to their owner, the wild birds must be very undesirable neighbours to the proprietors of moors and other preserves, especially as they are said to have an innate love of sport, and to prefer grouse, woodcocks, etc., to more ignoble game.
The young birds are very voracious, and keep their parents constantly at work to supply them with food. An instance of their sagacity is recorded by Mr. Sinclair. Seeing a man being lowered towards their nest, the female hovered close to her young, while the male bird circled high in the air, and dropped from his beak the food he was bringing to the young birds, which was caught by the female and carried to them by her.
The females are always preferred to the males for hawking: they are larger and more daring and persevering than their mates, which are called in the language of falconry tiercels or tarsels. When the birds are taken from the nest, they are kept in darkness and without food for several days, and are then fed by the falconer, and taught to know his voice and leap on his hand when called; then they are exercised in flying at a pigeon tied by a string, and caressed and fed if they bring it to the falconer, but punished if they tear it to pieces when killed. The greatest regularity is necessary in feeding the Falcons, or it is said that they will never acquire their full development of colour or size. They are fond of raw beef; but it is necessary always to give them some feathers or fur with their food, which they will throw up in the form of castings; or oblong balls consisting of feathers, hair, or bones forcibly compressed together. Falcons, Hawks, and other birds of prey have this faculty, and it is observed also in Shrikes, Swallows, and insectivorous birds feeding on insects with hard and indigestible wing-cases.
A lady in Ireland found a pair of MOOR BUZZARDS or MARSH HARRIERS (Circus ceruginosus), taken by some peasant boys from a nest—helpless white puff-balls, not strong enough to stand on their long legs. They were very sickly and wretched, having nothing to eat but mashed potatoes; so she very compassionately took them home, and put them into a large cage upon some straw and heather, and superintended their feeding, which must have been a most unpleasant operation to witness: they had liver, and mutton, and rabbits, and mice, and feathers and fur always had to be administered with raw meat, for the reason given above. However, the foster-mother was rewarded for her self-denying kindness and care by the welldoing and growth into full strength and beauty of her troublesome pets. When they got the full use of their wings they used to fly away for some hours, but always returned morning and evening at the sound of a long whistle, and came regularly to be fed. When their mistress was out on her pony with her dogs, they would soar after her, wheeling about in the air, and swooping down upon the dogs, whom they seemed to delight in tormenting, hunting them about, striking their claws into their backs, and screaming into their ears. By degrees they absented themselves more and more, and the male bird disappeared altogether. The female remained longer, and returned from time to time for food, but at last she too was tempted away, and probably found a mate, and fell into the ordinary routine of buzzard life with her kind.
Though superior to the COMMON BUZZARD (Buteo vulgaris), the Moor Buzzard does not possess the true Falcon