Page:Mongolia, the Tangut country, and the solitudes of northern Tibet vol 2 (1876).djvu/263

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GATHERING FOR THE FEAST.

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wings impelled them upwards. Yet from these heights the extraordinary vision of the vulture enables him to distinguish every thing that happens on earth. Now, it is a flock of crows and kites gathering round some carrion in the valley that attracts his attention, and makes him fold his mighty wings and descend by the weight of his body in a somewhat slanting direction from the clouds to earth, with a rustling noise caused by his rapid passage through the air; but before reaching the ground he opens his enormous wings and drops quietly on his prey. Warned by the manœuvres of their companion, his fellows are not slow to follow his example, and drop like stones to earth, so that before you knew of their existence a dozen or more of these huge birds are feasting on the carrion.[1] They then begin quarrelling among themselves, advancing with half-unfolded wings and threatening air to attack one another; but their fights are never serious. If the dead animal is still entire they tear out the entrails and liver, and then begin upon the flesh. Having gorged themselves, they retire a short distance to look on while their companions feast. The smaller birds of prey, — kites, crows, and magpies, — waiting impatiently at a little distance, dare not approach the tempting repast until these giants have eaten their fill and departed. The latter now rise heavily in the air, and betake themselves to the nearest cliffs, there to digest their food.

  1. Brehm describes a similar sight with African vultures. (See his Life of Animals, vol. iii. pp. 562-564.)