The Vulture, pp.98-99.

[Three Hundred Animals Contents]

IS somewhat bigger than the Eagle, but has not that noble spirit, which distinguishes the king of the air. His beak is large, and crooked at the end. His sense of smelling is very sagacious, so that he can perceive the savour of dead carcases from afar. His neck is for the most part bare of feathers, and his craw hangs like a bag before his breast; the whole from the neck is covered with soft down; and below hangs a tuff of hair, resembling those of a quadruped; the tongue is bifid. This bird, compared to the Eagle, has an ignominious, mean look; his claws are strong, and enable him to seize most powerfully on his prey, and even to dig out half-buried carrions, which he will always prefer to fresh meat. This bird is a native of nearly all parts of Europe, but unknown in England. The general colour is a dingy white. 

The King of the Vultures is a species, whose head, eyes, and beak, are adorned with red cartilaginous appendages; his back is of a brown colour, and his neck ornamented with reddish feathers. These birds build in general among the rocks, in lofty places, which they make resound with horrid screamings, in search of their prey, or when disputing and wrangling for the possession of a nest-hole in the cliffs, or the choice of a female in the flock. 

In Mythology, the Vulture is represented gnawing the liver and heart of Tityus and Prometheus, as a punishment for their impious audacity. And Satan is compared to this bird by Milton: 

“As when a Vulture on Imaus bred, 

Whose snowy ridge the roving Tartar bounds, 

Dislodging from a region scarce of prey, 

To gorge the flesh of lambs or yeanling kids, 

On hills where flocks are fed, flies toward the springs 

Of Ganges or Hydaspes —” 

——————————————————–PARADISE LOST, B. iii. 

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