Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Eagle, a name for any of the Aquilinae, a cosmopolitan sub-family of Falconidae (q.v.), containing 31 genera, with 94 species, of raptorial birds longer than, but much inferior in courage to, the true falcons. The head and neck are feathered, and the bill is not toothed. The nine species of the type-genus Aquila from the Nearctic, Palaearctic, and Ethiopian regions and India, have the shank more or less completely feathered, and the edges of the upper mandible are indented. They frequent high cliffs and rocks, and prey on smaller birds, mammals, and sometimes, when better food is scarce, on carrion. The best-known species and the only one ranging to America, is the Golden Eagle (A. chrysaetus), now almost extinct in Britain, though some are preserved in the extreme north of the island. The male is about 30 inches, and the female about 3 feet in length. The general plumage is brown, with a tawny or golden tinge on the neck, whence the popular and specific names are derived. A good deal has been written about the "nobility" of this bird; but its true character is thus sketched by Macgillivray: - "Like other robbers of the desert he has a noble aspect, an imperative mien, a look of proud defiance; but his nobility has a dash of clownishness, his falconship a vulturine tinge. Still, he is a noble bird, powerful, independent, proud, and ferocious, regardless of the weal or woe of others, and intent solely on the gratification of his own appetites; without generosity, without honour, bold against the defenceless, but ever ready to sneak from danger. Such is his nobility, about which men have so raved." The Imperial Eagle (A. imperialis), the Russian Eagle (A. mogilnik), and the Spotted, or Screaming, Eagle (A. maculata) are found on the European Continent. The name Crested Eagles, or Eagle-Hawks, is sometimes given to birds of the genera Spizaetus, from the tropics of both hemispheres, and Morphnus, from tropical America, though the latter belongs to the Buzzards, as does the Harpy Eagle (q.v.). In some species of Spizaetus and in the single species of Morphnus there is an erectile crest. The eagle was the sacred bird of the Greek Zeus and of the Roman Jupiter, and figures in many other mythologies, generally as an emblem of the sun. The myth of its renewing its youth is very widely distributed. Its powers of sight and of wing have caused it to be taken as a symbol of high and heroic qualities. In Christian art it typifies St. John the Divine, and a figure of an eagle is often used as a lectern in churches.