the sky is clear the eagle flies very high, but on cloudy
days he keeps nearer the ground. He likes to fly over
waterfalls because fish are to be caught as they pass
over the falls. At Niagara Falls eagles are often seen
because animals are sometimes carried over the falls by
the rushing water, and the birds can get them easily.
The eagle likes to face the sun and fly towards it as if he thought he could reach it. For a long time people wondered how he could face the sun so without being made blind. But we know now that he has a covering for his eyes that keeps them from all harm from the strong light. If you watch a chicken you may see it has two eyelids for each eye. So has the eagle. The eagle has a sort of eyebrow of feathers that may help protect his eyes from the strong light.
While the eagle is graceful in flying he is not at all so in walking. Few birds are so awkward on their feet. His great claws are made for catching his prey rather than for walking. He can tear things with them and use them in fighting, but he has not much use for them upon the ground.
When they cannot get the food that suits them best eagles will sometimes steal farm animals. Lambs, or even full-grown sheep are easily carried away. They have been known to attack children and carry them off. But they do not often do this, and they have been known to carry them a little way and then set them down again as if the load were too great or they did not wish to eat them.
A story is told of a man who lived a long time ago, and who had but one child, a little girl. He wished to adopt a poor little baby boy, but his wife did not wish to take care of the boy. He had the baby carried to the top of a tree in which was the nest of an eagle. The baby was placed in the nest so he could not fall, and the man and his wife walked under the tree. The child cried so that the lady heard him. She supposed it had been carried there by the bird. Great haste was made to get the baby down, and the lady was so pleased to think she had saved the child from being eaten by the birds that she kept the little one as her own son.
Eagles hunt in pairs. One flies about near the ground to scare the game from the bushes and trees, while the other keeps watch from above to swoop down on the first thing that comes in sight. While their young ones are in the nest the old birds are very active. They are fierce if anyone comes near the young.
Sometimes they show as much cunning in taking their prey as any of the cat family. In flying down to catch animals upon the ground they take care to fly so that their shadow will not frighten their prey. An eagle has been known to destroy an animal too large to be picked up by flying at the animal fiercely as it stood upon the edge of a steep place. The wings of the bird frightened the animal so as to drive it over the cliff to meet death upon the rocks below.
Eagles are sometimes caught by placing a large cage on edge so it will fall when a string is pulled. A live hen and her chickens are tied to the cage so they may run under when the eagle comes at them.
they run into the cage to escape the eagle, he follows
them, the string is pulled, and the eagle finds himself
alone in the trap, for the hen and her chickens easily
get out between the bars which are too close together to
allow him to do the same.
An eagle once attacked a weasel. This little animal is very fierce, and will not give up its life easily. Finding itself in the grasp of the bird, the weasel turned and fastened its teeth in the throat of the eagle. It was lucky for the eagle that the weasel did not cut his throat, but the little animal never let go. Its teeth were locked into the flesh of the eagle so they could not be torn open. Years afterwards the eagle was shot, and it had on its neck a queer locket, the skull of the weasel hanging there by the teeth. Sometimes the weasel cuts a vital part in the bird that picks it up, and then the weasel enjoys the life-blood of his enemy.
We have a gold coin that is named after the eagle. It is worth ten dollars. In fact it is ten dollars in gold. The first one was made in 1792. Half-eagles, quarter-eagles, and double-eagles have also been made of gold at our nations mints.
In some countries besides America it has been the national bird. When the army of Rome first tried to land in England the men feared the fierce English soldiers. One soldier had an Eagle with him in the boat. He jumped into the sea with his eagle and called to his friends to follow him. They soon put the enemy to flight, and the eagle was praised for helping them win.
The eagle is fond of capturing such birds as the swan. When he finds a swan flying so high that it cannot get to the water and dive out of his reach the eagle flies against the swan from below with such force that the breath is knocked out of the swan in an instant. As the swan falls lifeless to the ground the eagle invites his mate to meet him at the spot and they have a great feast.
The eagle flies swifter than a railway train, but one was once caught by a train before it could rise and get out of the way. The cannon-ball train on the Georgia Railway was late. In making up time it swung round a curve in a cut at full speed. A bald eagle was seen on the track by the fireman, who was looking out of the window. The pilot of the engine was upon the bird before he could rise. It struck him, tumbled him upon the frame, and fastened one of his claws into a wooden beam.
Before the eagle had time to get back his senses the fireman climbed along the foot-rail to the pilot. He caught the great bird, and a fierce struggle followed. The bird fought for freedom and the fireman fought for a prize.
The train was going at the rate of forty-five miles an hour. It was hard for the man to keep himself on the engine with one hand on the rail and the other holding the eagle, which tore at him wildly as the engine swung to and fro upon the rails.
The mans clothing was torn to shreds and his hands were bleeding. But he worked his way back to the cab where the engineer assisted him in tying the eagle so he could not get away. But the tying was not easy for two men, for the bird made good use of his great beak and claws.
When spread out on the car floor he measured seven feet from tip to tip of his wings. He was not injured, and is now kept as a splendid prisoner, the king of American birds.