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Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/89

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BIRD OF WASHINGTON.

unfit; but as it is indisputably the noblest bird of its genus that has yet been discovered in the United States, I trust I shall be allowed to honour it with the name of one yet nobler, who was the saviour of his country, and whose name will ever be dear to it. To those who may be curious to know my reasons, I can only say, that, as the new world gave me birth and liberty, the great man who ensured its independence is next to my heart. He had a nobility of mind, and a generosity of soul, such as are seldom possessed. He was brave, so is the eagle; like it, too, he was the terror of his foes; and his fame, extending from pole to pole, resembles the majestic soarings of the mightiest of the feathered tribe. If America has reason to be proud of her Washington, so has she to be proud of her Great Eagle.

In the month of January following, I saw a pair of these eagles flying over the Falls of the Ohio, one in pursuit of the other. The next day I saw them again. The female had relaxed her severity, had laid aside her coyness, and to a favourite tree they continually resorted. I pursued them unsuccessfully for several days, when they forsook the place.

The flight of this bird is very different from that of the White-headed Eagle. The former encircles a greater space, whilst sailing keeps nearer to the land and the surface of the water, and when about to dive for fish falls in a spiral manner, as if with the intention of checking any retreating movement which its prey might attempt, darting upon it only when a few yards distant. The Fish-hawk often does the same. When rising with a fish, the Bird of Washington flies to a considerable distance, forming, in its line of course, a very acute angle with the surface line of the water. My last opportunity of seeing this bird, was on the 15th of November 1821, a few miles above the mouth of the Ohio, when two passed over our boat, moving down the river with a gentle motion. In a letter from a kind relative, Mr W. Bakewell, dated, "Falls of the Ohio, July 1819," and containing particulars relative to the Swallow-tailed Hawk (Falco ƒurcatus), that gentleman says:—"Yesterday, for the first time, I had an opportunity of viewing one of those magnificent birds, which you call the Sea Eagle, as it passed low over me, whilst fishing. I shall be really glad when I can again have the pleasure of seeing your drawing of it."

Whilst in Philadelphia, about twelve months ago, I had the gratification of seeing a fine specimen of this Eagle at Mr Beano's museum. It was a male in fine plumage, and beautifully preserved. I wished to pur-