Verse 30. "Her young ones also suck up blood " - The eagle does not feed her young with carrion, but with prey newly slain, so that they may suck up blood.
"Where the slain are, there is she. " - These words are quoted by our Lord.
"Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together," Matt. xxiv. 28. It is likely, however, that this was a proverbial mode of expression; and our Lord adapts it to the circumstances of the Jewish people, who were about to fall a prey to the Romans. See the notes there.
IN the preceding notes I have referred to Dr. Shaw's account of the ostrich as the most accurate and authentic yet published. With the following description I am sure every intelligent reader will be pleased. "In commenting therefore upon these texts it may be observed, that when the ostrich is full grown, the neck, particularly of the male, which before was almost naked, is now very beautifully covered with red feathers. The plumage likewise upon the shoulders, the back, and some parts of the wings, from being hitherto of a dark grayish colour, becomes now as black as jet, whilst the rest of the feathers retain an exquisite whiteness. They are, as described ver. 13, the very feathers and plumage of the stork, i.e., they consist of such black and white feathers as the stork, called from thence hdysj chasidah, is known to have. But the belly, the thighs, and the breast, do not partake of this covering, being usually naked, and when touched are of the same warmth as the flesh of quadrupeds. "Under the joint of the great pinion, and sometimes under the less, there is a strong pointed excrescence like a cock's spur, with which it is said to prick and stimulate itself, and thereby acquire fresh strength and vigour whenever it is pursued. But nature seems rather to have intended that, in order to prevent the suffocating effects of too great a plethora, a loss of blood should be consequent thereupon, especially as the ostrich appears to be of a hot constitution, with lungs always confined, and consequently liable to be preter-naturally inflamed upon these occasions. "When these birds are surprised by coming suddenly upon them whilst they are feeding in some valley, or behind some rocky or sandy eminence in the deserts, they will not stay to be curiously viewed and examined. Neither are the Arabs ever dexterous enough to overtake them, even when they are mounted upon their jinse, or horses, as they are called, of family. They, when they raise themselves up for flight, (ver. 18,) laugh at the horse and his rider. They afford him an opportunity only of admiring at a distance the extraordinary agility and the stateliness of their motions, the richness of their plumage, and the great propriety there was of ascribing to them (chap. xxx. 13) an expanded quivering wing. Nothing, certainly, can be more beautiful and entertaining than such a sight! The wings, by their repeated though unwearied vibrations, equally serving them for sails and oars; whilst their feet, no less assisting in conveying them out of sight, are in no degree sensible of fatigue. "By the repeated accounts which I often had from my conductors, as well as from Arabs of different places, I have been informed that the ostrich lays from thirty to fifty eggs. AElian mentions more than eighty, but I never heard of so large a number. The first egg is deposited in the center; the rest are placed as conveniently as possible round about it.
In this manner it is said to lay-deposit or thrust (ver. 14) -her eggs in THE EARTH, and to warm them in the sand, and forgetteth, as they are not placed, like those of some other birds, upon trees or in the clefts of rocks, &c., that the foot of the traveler may crush them, or that the wild beasts may break them. "Yet notwithstanding the ample provision which is hereby made for a numerous offspring, scarce one quarter of these eggs are ever supposed to be hatched; and of those that are, no small share of the young ones may perish with hunger, from being left too early by their dams to shift for themselves. For in these the most barren and desolate recesses of the Sahara, where the ostrich chooses to make her nest, it would not be enough to lay eggs and hatch them, unless some proper food was near at hand, and already prepared for their nourishment. And accordingly we are not to consider this large collection of eggs as if they were all intended for a brood; they are, the greatest part of them, reserved for food, which the dam breaks and disposes of according to the number and the cravings of her young ones. "But yet, for all this, a very little share of that storgh, or natural affection, which so strongly exerts itself in most other creatures, is observable in the ostrich. For, upon the least distant noise or trivial occasion, she forsakes her eggs, or her young ones, to which perhaps she never returns, or if she do, it may be too late either to restore life to the one, or to preserve the lives of the other. Agreeably to this account, the Arabs meet sometimes with whole nests of these eggs undisturbed; some of which are sweet and good, others are addle and corrupted, others again have their young ones of different growths, according to the time it may be presumed they have been forsaken by the dam. They oftener meet a few of the little ones, no bigger than well-grown pullets, half starved, straggling, and moaning about, like so many distressed orphans, for their mother. And in this manner the ostrich may be said (ver. 16) to be hardened against her young ones, as though they were not hers; her labour in hatching and attending them so far being vain without fear, or the least concern of what becomes of them afterwards.
This want of affection is also recorded, Lam. iv. 3: The daughter of my people, says the prophet, is cruel, like the ostriches in the wilderness.
"Neither is this the only reproach that may be due to the ostrich; she is likewise inconsiderate and foolish in her private capacity; particularly in the choice of food, which is frequently highly detrimental and pernicious to her; for she swallows every thing greedily and indiscriminately, whether it be pieces of rags, leather, wood, stone, or iron. When I was at Oram, I saw one off these birds swallow, without any seeming uneasiness or inconvenience, several leaden bullets, as they were thrown upon the floor, scorching hot from the mould, the inner coats of the aesophapus and stomach being probably better stocked with glands and juices than in other animals with shorter necks. They are particularly fond of their own excrement, which they greedily eat up as soon as it is voided. No less fond are they of the dung of hens and other poultry. It seems as if their optic as well as olfactory nerves were less adequate and conducive to their safety and preservation than in other creatures. The Divine providence in this, no less than in other respects, (ver. 17,) having deprived them of wisdom, neither hath it imparted to them understanding. "Those parts of the Sahara which these birds chiefly frequent are destitute of all manner of food and herbage, except it be some few tufts of coarse grass, or else a few other solitary plants of the laureola, apocynum, and some other kinds; each of which is equally destitute of nourishment; and, in the psalmist's phrase, (Psa. cxxix. 6,) even withereth afore it groweth up. Yet these herbs, notwithstanding their dryness, and want of moisture in their temperature, will sometimes have both their leaves and their stalks studded all over with a great variety of land snails, which may afford them some little refreshment. It is very probable, likewise, that they may sometimes seize upon lizards, serpents, together with insects and reptiles of various kinds.
Yet still, considering the great voracity and size of this camel-bird, it is wonderful, not only how the little ones, after they are weaned from the provisions I have mentioned, should be brought up and nourished, but even how those of fuller growth and much better qualified to look out for themselves, are able to subsist. "Their organs of digestion, and particularly the gizzards, which, by their strong friction, will wear away iron itself, show them indeed to be granivorous; but yet they have scarce ever an opportunity to exercise them in this way, unless when they chance to stray, which is very seldom, towards those parts of the country which are sown and cultivated, For these, as they are much frequented by the Arabs at the several seasons of grazing, ploughing, and gathering in the harvest; so they are little visited by as indeed they would be an improper abode for this shy, timorous bird; filerhmov, a lover of the deserts. This last circumstance in the behaviour of the ostrich is frequently alluded to in the Holy Scriptures; particularly Isa. xiii. 21; xxxiv. 13; xliii. 20; Jer. l. 39; where the word, hn[y yaanah, instead of being rendered the ostrich, as it is rightly put in the margin, is called the owl; a word used likewise instead of yaanah or the ostrich, Lev. xi. 16, and Deut. xiv. 15.
"Whilst I was abroad, I had several opportunities of amusing myself with the actions and behaviour of the ostrich. It was very diverting to observe with what dexterity and equipoise of body it would play and frisk about on all occasions. In the heat of the day, particularly it would strut along the sunny side of the house with great majesty. It would be perpetually fanning and priding itself with its quivering expanded wings; and seem at every turn to admire and be in love with its shadow. Even at other times whether walking about or resting itself upon the ground, the wings would continue these fanning vibrating motions, as if they were designed to mitigate and assuage that extraordinary heat wherewith their bodies seem to be naturally affected. "Notwithstanding these birds appear tame and tractable to such persons of the family as were more known and familiar to them, yet they were often very rude and fierce to strangers, especially the poorer sort, whom they would not only endeavour to push down by running furiously upon them; but would not cease to peck at them violently with their bills, and to strike them with their feet; whereby they were frequently very mischievous. For the inward claw, or hoof rather as we may call it, of this avis bisulca, being exceedingly strong pointed and angular, I once saw an unfortunate person who had his belly ripped open by one of these strokes. Whilst they are engaged in these combats and assaults, they sometimes make a fierce, angry, and hissing noise with their throats inflated, and their mouths open; at other times, when less resistance is made they have a chuckling or cackling voice, as in the poultry kind; and thereby seem to rejoice and laugh as it were at the timorousness of their adversary. But during the lonesome part of the night, as if their organs of voice had then attained a quite different tone, they often made a very doleful and hideous noise; which would be sometimes like the roaring of a lion; at other times it would bear a near resemblance to the hoarser voices of other quadrupeds, particularly of the bull and the ox.
I have often heard them groan, as if they were in the greatest agonies; an action beautifully alluded to by the Prophet Micah, Micah i. 8, where it is said, I will make a mourning like the yaanah or ostrich. Yaanah, therefore, and µynnr renanim, the names by which the ostrich is known in the Holy Scriptures, may very properly be deduced from hn[ anah, and nr ranan, words which the lexicographi explain by exclamare or clamare fortiter; for the noise made by the ostrich being loud and sonorous, exclamare or clamare fortiter may, with propriety enough, be attributed to it, especially as those words do not seem to denote any certain or determined mode of voice or sound peculiar to any one particular species of animals, but such as may be applicable to them all, to birds as well as to quadrupeds and other creatures." Shaw's Travels, p. 541, edit. 4to. 1757. The subjects in this chapter have been so various and important, that I have been obliged to extend the notes and observations to an unusual length; and yet much is left unnoticed which I wished to have inserted. I have made the best selection I could, and must request those readers who wish for more information to consult zoological writers.