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Whether flyers are more cautious than walkers.

Next one asks whether flyers are more cautious than walkers.

It seems not, because among the animals the human is the most cautious animal. Therefore, one that is more like a human will be more cautious. But this is the walker, in comparison to the flyer; therefore, etc.

The Philosopher says the opposite concerning bees, which nevertheless are flyers.

Second, one inquires why the cuckoo places its eggs in another's nest.

And this seems contrary [to nature], because the generation of birds occurs through egg-laying. Egg-laying requires, however, the building of a nest. Therefore, since the cuckoo naturally generates one like itself, it naturally has a capacity for building a nest.

Third, one inquires why the eagle kills or casts its chicks out if they shed tears when exposed to the sun.

And this seems contrary [to nature], because it is natural for an animal to love its newborn and not, therefore, to kill it.

Fourth, one inquires why a raven does not nourish its chicks in their infancy until they have become black. At that point it thinks that they belong to it, but previously it did not nourish them owing to their whiteness, and they live on dew and air.

And this seems contrary [to nature], because to nourish and to generate pertain to the same part of the soul, that is, the vegetative soul. Therefore, that animal [power] that is naturally the principle of generation will also be the principle of nourishment; therefore, etc.

Fifth, why does the crane stand on one foot when sleeping? And this seems contrary [to nature], because during sleep the senses are restrained. Therefore, its body, when it sleeps, needs greater support, and it therefore ought to stand upon both feet.

Sixth, why does a bird of prey, like the falcon, the kite, and others of this sort especially desire the heart of the animal and of its prey?

And this seems contrary [to nature], because the heart is difficult to digest and especially resistant to the digestive power; for this reason, etc.

To the first question one should reply that some flyers are more cautious than walkers, especially the bees. Three things are required for their caution: a fineness of their parts, a subtle complexion, and an aptitude among their members, and because these things are more present in flyers, for that reason, etc.

To the argument one must say that although walkers are more nearly like the human in terms of body size, they are less so with regard to other factors, and therefore, etc.

To the second question one must reply that the cuckoo is a timid bird, because it is melancholic. This is why all the other birds put it to flight and pluck its feathers if they can capture it, just as they put the bubo and the noctua to flight by day.[1] And on account of this the cuckoo would fear for its chicks if it had its own nest, and this is why it places its eggs in another bird's nest, so that the young produced will be guarded and kept safe.

To the third question one should respond that the eagle has good vision and flies high, and for this reason the glacial humor is especially abundant in its vision. This is why, in order to determine whether the chicks are its own and have sound vision, it turns them and places their eyes against the sun, and if one of them sheds tears it determines that it can not be its chick or is merely weak or helpless and this is why it casts it out, as the Philosopher says in the text. Sometimes it kills it because it thinks it does not belong to it.

To the fourth question one must respond that raven chicks in their infancy have white feathers, like other young birds. This is the reason that during this period they feed on the dew of heaven, owing to the abundance of spermatic blood, and this is why the adult birds do not think that they are their own and do not feed them. But when the feathers begin to turn black, owing to the consumption of the sperm, then they feed them and think that they are their own offspring.

To the fifth question one should say that the crane is an awkward flyer, and this is why it has long legs, so that when settled on the ground it may see its nourishment, and harmful things, from a distance. But the legs are slender and very sensitive to cold. During sleep heat withdraws to the inner parts, and this is why it elevates one foot to its belly, in order to warm it there, and then later it releases that one to the ground and lifts the other foot. Others say that this is because when it stands on one foot and whenever it begins to fall, it shakes itself and calls out, and in this way it wakes itself and the others, and as a result it better safeguards itself from harmful things, etc.

To the sixth question one must respond that every animal that is well disposed is best nourished by things like itself. When, however, it is badly disposed, it desires something contrary to itself. But of all the members the heart is the hottest, and birds with curved talons are very hot, and this is why they particularly desire the heart, while it is still hot. And another reason is that birds such as these are particularly voracious and the heart effectively resists their digestive power; because soft flesh is more quickly converted in them into fumes, for this reason they desire the heart, etc.

  • [1] No certainty seems possible among the many names for "owl" in the medieval panoply, and they themselves seemed confused. At DA 23.28(13) (SZ 2: 1561), A. himself says that the bubo is a member of the noctua genus. Cf. George and Yapp (1991, 148-50) for a discussion of the nicticorax/noctua confusion.
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