William Coxe FRS was an English historian and priest who served as a travelling tutor to nobility from 1771 to 1786. During that time, he visited many countries and wrote several books from his travels. In his book ‘Travels in Switzerland, and in the country of Grisons’, based on a series of letters, he explores the birds of Switzerland. In one of his bird tales, he covers the perception of the Bearded Vulture in Switzerland during 1791.
Coxe studied Mr Sprungli’s vast collection of stuffed birds, both local and migratory, found in Switzerland – by 1786, when the Coxe left Bern, this collection was estimated to consist of about 250 birds. Coxe wrote that one of the most remarkable birds he studied was the Bearded Vulture. With inspiration from the stuffed vulture and knowledge gained through his travels and naturalists’ accounts, he reminisces the Bearded Vulture in Switzerland. The letter covers many interesting topics, including the conflict if the bird was a vulture or an eagle, and the belief that the vulture snatched lamb and children – a misconception that led to its persecution and extinction in the Alps, but it is now reintroduced. Read the letter and see how this magnificent bird was perceived at that time.
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