In full secretary bird, formerly secretaries bird:the large raptor Sagittarius serpentarius (the sole species of the Sagittariidae), pale grey and black in colour, with long legs and tail, and crest-feathers which droop at the nape; slangvreeter.
1795C.R. Hopsontr. ofC.P. Thunberg’s Trav.I. 214The Secretary-bird, which is a great destroyer of serpents, after having trod them under his feet, and beat them with his pinions, so that they cannot hurt him, devours them.
1797Encycl. Brit. (3rd ed.)XVII. 236Secretaries bird..classed by Latham under the genus Vultur.
c1808C. von LinnéSystem of Nat. Hist.VIII. 20The name of secretaire, or secretary, was afterwards given it (sc. the serpent-eater) by the Dutch, from comparing it with the office-clerks, who have a habit of sticking a pen behind their ear, to which this bird’s tuft bears some resemblance.
a1823J. EwartJrnl (1970) 64We like-wise saw several of the larger birds called secretarys...Destroying them is prohibited by law, from their great use in destroying snakes.
1827T. PhilippsScenes & Occurrences 21The secretary bird is held in very high estimation, and a penalty of five pounds enforced for destroying them.
1834T. PringleAfr. Sketches 278Whether the secretary meet with a serpent or a tortoise, he invariably crushes it under the sole of his foot.
1838J.E. AlexanderExped. into Int.I. 123A tall and beautiful secretary bird, with its blueish plumage, its ‘black breeches and grey stockings,’ and quills stuck behind its ear, marched along fearlessly and unharmed near the waggon.
1860A.W. DraysonSporting Scenes 271The secretary bird is one of the greatest destroyers of snakes, and either is proof against their bites or is too active to be bitten.
1890A. MartinHome Life 217Secretary birds are sometimes taught to be very useful guardians of the poultry-yard, especially against aerial enemies.
1905W.L. Sclater inFlint & GilchristScience in S. Afr. 142Many sportsmen would like to see the extinction of the Secretary bird encouraged, as it undoubtedly destroys numbers of the young partridges and hares.
1915W. EveleighS.W. Afr. 79The Secretary bird..with its curious crest of feathers, may sometimes be seen stalking..among the low bush in search of a little animal or a young snake.
1951T.V. BulpinLost Trails of Low Veld 267The sedate Secretary Birds looking like preoccupied old men walking with their hands behind their backs.
1978C.J. ReitzPoisonous S. Afr. Snakes 5No animal is naturally completely immune to snakebite, although certain predators of snakes, such as..the secretary bird (Sagittarius spp)..have an increased resistance.
1984G.L. MacleanRoberts’ Birds of Sn Afr. 97Name ‘Secretarybird’ said to derive from crest’s resemblance to old time secretary’s quill pens, but is actually Anglicized corruption of Arabic saqr-et-tair, meaning hunter-bird.
1989J. HobbsThoughts in Makeshift Mortuary 219He..stalked about the campus in a black leather jacket and white polo-neck sweater looking like a secretary bird.
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