Birds – Crested Eagles

Passing over a number of small, relatively unimportant genera, we come to the large group of so-called Crested Eagles (Spizaetus), although the crest is not quite always present. They are found in Central and South America and the central and southern parts of the Old World, being birds of moderate size with a short, much-curved bill, short, rounded wings, and long, nearly square tail. The tarsus is long, slender, and feathered throughout, while the toes are large, but not long, and unequal in size, the hind claw being largest. They are in general birds of the forest and are more frequently observed flying among the trees than above them, and they rarely soar. Of the sixteen or more species described we may mention especially the Indian Crested Eagle (S. Cirrhatus), in which the male and female are respectively twenty-six and twenty-nine inches in length. They are umber-brown above and have the breast white with large spots and the abdomen and under tail-coverts brownish white. The crest is from four to six inches long, black, and except in very old birds tipped with white. They are often seen perched on trees watching for their prey of hares, Partridges, young Peafowl, and Jungle-fowl, on which they pounce. The nest, a large structure placed on a high tree, is lined with green leaves, on which the single egg is laid. Very similar to this species in coloration is the Changeable Crested Eagle (S. Limnaëtus), but differing from it in having no crest or only a rudimentary one. Its habits are similar to those of the last.

The striking African Crested Eagle, while closely allied to the last group, has been placed in a genus by itself (Lophoaetus), arid is a bird about twenty-five inches long, glossy brown, almost black above, being lightest on the cheeks and shoulders and darkest on the ends of the wings and tail, while the under parts are almost black, and the legs nearly pure white; it has a large, conspicuous black crest of numerous long feathers. The only species (L. Occipitalis) ranges throughout the whole of Africa, but is perhaps most abundant in the eastern districts, frequenting mountainous wooded areas and the open plains as well, where it may be seen perched on some tree or bush watching for its prey, which consists largely of small mammals, birds, lizards, frogs, and snakes, and when hard pushed it will resort to carrion. The stomach of one killed in South Africa was found to contain a full-grown rat, eleven small ones, and a mouse. Its nesting habits are not well known, although it is said to build in trees and to lay two eggs.