Birds – The Harrier, Serpent, And Bateleur Eagles

The present group of exclusively Old World birds exhibits distinct features which ally it to the true Buzzards, which will be considered shortly. They are em-braced in several genera and perhaps twenty-five species, but the following are all that we shall have space to mention.

The Harrier-Eagles (Circaëtus), so called from their habit of beating and hovering much after the manner of the Harriers, are birds of moderate size, with large heads, medium-sized but much hooked bills, and oval nostrils which are overhung by bristles from the lores. The tail and wings are long and the tarsi naked, except above, and covered all around with small, rounded, over-lapping scales, while the toes and claws are short, the latter not much curved. Of the six species, four are confined to various parts of Africa, while the others are of wide distribution, the Common Harrier, or Short-toed Eagle (C. Gallicus), ranging from southern Europe and the Mediterranean countries to central Asia. In this species the female is about twenty-eight and the male twenty-six inches long, the general coloration being brown above, with the head becoming ashy, the wings blackish, and the under parts white, the throat streaked with brown and the flanks with broad dark bars. The tail is brown, white-tipped, and crossed with three or four dark bands. This species frequents the open country and cultivated ground, where it is often seen perched on trees or beating over the ground and bushes for its prey, which consists of snakes, lizards, frogs, crabs, rats, and large insects. The nest is usually placed in trees, though occasionally on a shelf in the face of high clay cliffs of rivers. When suitable trees are available the nest is placed in the top of a very high one; but where only low trees are to be had it places the nest perforce only from fifteen to twenty feet from the ground. The nest is rather loosely constructed of sticks and lined with grass or green leaves, and so far as known but a single egg is laid, this being bluish white and unspotted. The Black-breasted Harrier-Eagle (C. Cinereus) is a quite generally distributed but always rather rare bird of tropical Africa, being blackish brown tinged with gray above, the breast brownish black, and the lower parts white, while the tail is gray, crossed by broad black bands. It is found along timber-covered ravines, and feeds largely upon snakes and lizards, the stomach of one killed in South Africa by Mr. Thomas Ayres containing the remains of a very poisonous snake that could not have been less than seven or eight feet in length.