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Secretariat

Secretariat

1970-1989

American racehorse

The headlines dubbed him "Super Horse"and the name fit. Big, barrel-chested, and sporting a gleaming chestnut coat, the Thoroughbred Secretariat bounded into sports history with amazing performances during the 1972-73 racing seasons, culminating in a Triple Crown victory. At his peak in June 1973, Secretariat appeared on the covers of three national magazines in the same week. The colt nicknamed "Big Red" shattered racing records but was equally admired as a symbol of dignity and honesty, no small claim during a period that saw America disheartened by the Watergate scandal and discouraged by the ongoing war in Vietnam.

Secretariat was a product of equine aristocrats. His dam (mother) was Somethingroyal, a respected broodmare of Meadow Farm (also known as the Meadow Stud) of Doswell, Virginia; his sire (father) was Bold Ruler, a champion in his own right who, "sleek and haughty, dominated racing for a decade," according to Pete Axthelm's Newsweek cover article. Helen (Penny) Tweedy, the daughter of Meadow Farm's founder, Christopher Cherney, was new to the racing business but passionately interested in her family's horses.

In a Word: "Wow!"

The foal by Bold Ruler out of Somethingroyal was born just after midnight on March 30, 1970. In his book, Secretariat, Raymond Woolfe wrote, "he was a big, handsome chestnut colt with three white feet and a star and a stripe on his forehead. He staggered to his feet within twenty minutes and began nursing in about forty-five." On a walk through the farm later on, Penny Tweedy took her first look at Somethingroyal's newborn, and made a one-word assessment in her notebook: "Wow!"

Early on, Secretariat caught the eye of farm manager Howard Gentry. "It was when he was a yearling, playing in the fields with the others, that I first suspected" the horse's potential, Gentry told Axthelm. Physically, the young Secretariat was close to textbook perfection for a thoroughbred. He had, as Gentry was quoted by Woolfe, "plenty of bone," meaning the horse sported a "solid, well-chiseled frame, not the 'mushy' or round, soft-looking joints and skimpy bone areas that spell potential trouble on lesser horses."

Beyond being physically impressive, Secretariat was also regarded as mentally and emotionally sound. Doted upon by his dam, the foal grew into a gregarious and even-tempered sort, though prone to displays of aggressive enthusiasm. "He was so precocious," Gentry told Woolfe, "that we were worried that he'd pick up the habit of getting away from men. That could mean a lot of trouble later on. For a time, we put a restraining chain on him to stop him from trying to bolt. But he was so intelligent that he caught on quickly and never developed any bad habits."

Training Trials and Tribulations

Secretariat was weaned from Somethingroyal on October 5, 1970. He spent the next winter and the following spring and summer at liberty in the Meadow Farm fields. In August 1971, the yearling received his first pair of front shoes, signaling his move to the farm's training center. Secretariat was taken under the wing of veteran trainer Bob Bailes, who made it a point to introduce his yearlings to saddle, bit, and rider gently and gradually.

But at the same time, Secretariat had developed a ravenous appetite. The big colt's weight gain and attendant clumsiness became a concern at Meadow Farm, especially after Secretariat's first track tryouts proved less than promising. But the horse was still considered a "comer." In 1971 Meadow trainer Roger Laurin, offered a job at the competing Phipps barn, turned over the Meadow youngsters to his father, respected Florida-based trainer Lucien Laurin. The elder Laurin quickly made his name at Penny Tweedy's establishment by mentoring Meadow's bay colt Riva Ridge to a Kentucky Derby win in 1972.

Secretariat was shipped to Florida to continue his education under the eye of Laurin. As a two-year-old, the chestnut was showing signs of talent, but his playful nature would get the better of him. Secretariat was given to deliberately bumping and nipping the other horses. The colt also amused himself by periodically dumping his exercise riders. But there was no malice in the horse's actions; "Everybody that had anything to do with him couldn't help loving him," jockey Ron Turcotte is quoted in Secretariat. "He was such a big clown."

Out of the Gate

Revisions in his diet, exercise, and training schedule cured Secretariat of his weight problems and practical joking. In June 1972, the colt impressed his handlers by "breezing" (galloping) five furlongs in a blazing 57 3/4 seconds. Later that month, Laurin pronounced the horse ready to run. Secretariat made his professional bow on July 4, 1972, at Aqueduct Park in Queens, New York. As the horses broke from the gate, a contender named Quebec ducked sharply and hit Secretariat in the side. The red colt "was slammed inward almost into the rail and out of contention," as Woolfe's book put it. "If he wasn't so strong," jockey Paul Feliciano was quoted, "he would have gone right down."

Secretariat recovered and rallied to move from tenth position to finish fourth, less than two lengths behind the winner. Word of the talented two-year-old spread to bettors; by Secretariat's second start there, he had been made the six-to-five favorite. The horse didn't disappoint. After a clean start, Secretariat methodically breezed past his competitors, winning by six lengths.

In August 1972 Saratoga beckoned; the famed New York track was America's oldest and had hosted such champions as Man o' War . It was at Saratoga that trainer Laurin first teamed Secretariat with the jockey who would become most associated with the horse, thirty-one-year-old Ron Turcotte. Secretariat and Turcotte were entered in Saratoga's opening-day race, a six-fur-long allowance for horses who have won fewer than two races. Secretariat broke conservatively from the gate, allowing the other thoroughbreds to establish pace. Then, at the final turn, the chestnut made his move, picking off horses one by one until he could claim a decisive victory. "He just floats," Turcotte was quoted in Secretariat. "You don't feel like you're goin' that fast, but then you look up and you're passin' horses like they were standin' still."

Chronology

1970 Born at Meadow Farm in Doswell, Virginia
1971 Begins training at Meadow Farm
1972 Moves to Florida to complete training with Lucien Laurin
1972 Competes in first race. After being brushed at the start, finishes fourth
1972 Wins first of many stakes race
1973 Syndicated for $6,080,000, a new record
1973 Becomes first Triple Crown winner in twenty-five years, setting new track records
1973 Turf-track debut in Man o' War Stakes; wins by five lengths
1973 Retires to stud at Claiborne Farm, Paris, Kentucky
1989 Diagnosed with laminitis, euthanized October 4, age nineteen.

Awards and Accomplishments

1973 First two-year-old named Horse of the Year
1973 Winner of the Kentucky Derby in a new record time
1973 Winner of the Preakness Stakes
1973 Winner of the Belmont Stakes by thirty-one lengths, a new track and world record
1973 "Farewell to Secretariat" Day at Aqueduct Park
1974 Bronze statue unveiled at Belmont Park
1999 Named one of ESPN's fifty greatest athletes of the twentieth century

More victories followed: the $27,000 Sanford Stakes; the $86,5000 Hopeful Stakes; the $144,000 Futurity at Belmont Park; and the $146,000 Champagne Stakes, the first time Secretariat ran a mile in competition. In the latter race, the chestnut gave his fans some pause when, characteristically, he broke slowly, but then allowed the gap to widen to a daunting fifteen lengths off the lead. Turcotte urged his mount with hands and leg, but Secretariat preferred to run his own race. The horses made the final turn and, according to Woolfe, "there was an explosion" as "a copper-colored streak zoomed around the outside of the entire field and down to the finish line as if the other horses had stopped for lunch. The crowd went wild. No one had ever seen anything like this." The cheers turned to stunned silence, however, when the "inquiry" light went up on the tote board. Secretariat, the officials ruled, had illegally brushed up against another horse at the 3/16 pole. The chestnut was disqualified to second, his first defeat since his maiden race.

Run for the Roses

Secretariat earned Horse of the Year honors for 1972, the first two-year-old ever so named. As spring 1973 approached, talk turned to the Triple Crown. Though the colt's talent was well established, the grueling pace of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes had upset many a potential champion. In fact, it had been a long, dry spell of twenty-five years since Citation had swept all three races in 1948.

The Kentucky Derby's distancea mile and a quarteris longer than any race previously handled by a three-year-old. The Preakness track makes sharp turns that challenge the poise of a galloping horse. And the Belmont Stakes "is sheer, vast distance," in Woolfe's words, a mile-and-a-half oval that includes the longest homestretch in the world.

April's mile-and-an-eighth Wood Memorial is considered a key indicator of Kentucky Derby success. But here the horse now nicknamed "Big Red" (a tribute to the original "Big Red," Man o' War) proved he was not invincible. Taking command of the Wood was Meadow stablemate Angle Light, followed by Sham, a lean, dark-brown colt from Kentucky's Claiborne Farm. Perhaps hampered by an interrupted pre-race workout, Secretariat never applied the late burst of killing speed that marked his victories. He finished third. The question arose: Did this horse have the stamina for the Triple Crown?

Derby Day dawned May 5, 1973. Secretariat had drawn the number ten post position, to the outside of the field of fourteen. As the starting gates crashed open, the colt dropped far back. At the first turn "he was dead last," as William Nack wrote in a Sports Illustrated piece. Then Turcotte guided Secretariat to the outside. The horse made his move, passing the field until only his Wood Memorial rival, Sham, stood between Secretariat and the Derby's fabled garland of roses. The two horses raced head-to-head for one hundred yards. Secretariat put on the final burst to finish by two-and-a-half lengths. But what caused even more cheers was his time: 1:59 and 2/5, a new track and Derby record. Adding to the brilliance of Secretariat's race was the fact that the horse had run each quarter faster than the preceding one.

After the Kentucky Derby win, Secretariat had few detractors at the Preakness, run at Pimlico in Baltimore on May 19, 1973. That day, "Big Red" broke slowly, as usual, and did not let the track's tight turns intimidate him. As Nack described it, Turcotte signaled "as subtly as a man adjusting his cuff, and the colt took off like a flushed deer." Again he mastered the field in a bold stretch run, and again he passed front-running Sham to take the second jewel of the Triple Crown by 2-1/2 lengths. Due to a malfunction of the track's timer, Secretariat could not be credited with better than 1:54 and 2/5. "But two Daily Racing Form clockers caught Secretariat at 1:53 2/5," noted Nack, "a track record by three fifths of a second."

"Like a Tremendous Machine!"

Now Secretariat was a beloved public figure. The week before the Belmont, Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated had cover stories on the Thoroughbred dubbed "Super Horse." The charismatic colt "transcended horse racing and became a cultural phenomenon, a sort of undeclared national holiday from the tortures of Watergate and the Vietnam War," as Nack remarked.

Nack made camp at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, to record the actions of Secretariat on Belmont Stakes day. That June 9, he reported, Secretariat greeted the day in an expressive mood. Normally docile, the colt found reason to rear and dance as he was groomed for his biggest race to date. "I had never seen a horse so fit," wrote Nack. "The Derby and Preakness had wound him as tight as a watch, and he seemed about to burst out of his coat."

A great roar came from the grandstand as Secretariat, with Turcotte up, paraded to the post. As the gates swung open, Secretariat for the first time abandoned his usual tactic of hanging back. Instead, he bounded to the lead of the pack of five, including his archrival, Sham. As jockey Laffit Pincay brought Sham up to challenge, the two colts dueled for the lead, posting split times of under twenty-four seconds.

Track announcer Chick Anderson made the now-famous call for CBS television: "It is Secretariat, Sham on the outside is also moving along strongly and now it's Sham, Sham and Secretariat are right together. They're on the backstretch. It's almost a match race now. Secretariat's on the inside by a head. They've opened ten lengths. They're moving on the turn now. For the turn it's Secretariat. He looks like he's opening. The lead is increasing. Make it three, three and a half. He's moving into the turn. Secretariat holding on to a large lead. Sham is second. They're on the turn and Secretariat is blazing along!" In a 2002 Harper's article, John Jeremiah Sullivan recalled the emotion in Anderson's voice as the red horse made his final move. Anderson, wrote Sullivan, appeared to be "holding back tears of disbelief as he shouts: "It looks like he's opening the lead is increasing! Secretariat is widening now! He is moving like a TREE-MENDOUS MA-SHEEN!"

Entering the homestretch, Secretariat held such a commanding lead that the television cameras could not fit the entire field in the same shot. As the Belmont grandstand rocked with excitement, Anderson continued the call: "Secretariat has opened up a twenty-two length lead. Here comes Secretariat to the wire. An unbelievable, an amazing performance! He hits the finish. twenty-five lengths in front!" When the race was tallied, it turned out that Secretariat had in fact finished by an astounding thirty-one lengths, setting a new track record of 2:24. "To say that there was pandemonium in the Belmont stands would be a limp description," Woolfe noted.

A Hero's Farewell

After his Triple Crown victory, Secretariat continued to rack up wins including the Marlboro Cup and the turf-run Man o' War Stakes. After his final race before a packed crowd at Woodbine in Ontario (with jockey Eddie Maple substituting for an injured Turcotte), and a "Farewell to Secretariat" day at Aqueduct, "Big Red" retired to stud at Claiborne Farm under a syndication agreement between Tweedy and Claiborne's Seth Hancock. He was assigned the stall of his sire, Bold Ruler. In retirement Secretariat was a popular attraction, posing for tourist photos and lording over his private paddock.

As a stud, Secretariat produced several stakes winners, though none that equaled his brilliance. The progeny of "Big Red" includes 1976 Kentucky Derby runner-up General Assembly and 1986 Horse of the Year Lady's Secret. A generation later, Summer Squall raced to victory in the 1990 Preakness.

Related Biography: Jockey Ron Turcotte

Ron Turcotte wasn't the first man to ride Secretariat in a race. Nor was he the last. But the native of Grand Falls, New Brunswick, was the rider most closely associated with the chestnut colt's greatest turns, including the duo's history-making Triple Crown victory in 1973.

Born July 22, 1941, Turcotte came from French-Canadian heritage, the son of a lumberjack. Growing up as one of twelve children, Turcotte learned early on to fend for himself; the family home had no indoor plumbing or central heating. Short in stature (he stood five-foot-one), Turcotte proved large in determination. When logging proved too much of a physical challenge, Turcotte was put in charge of the logging camp's horses, where he learned the equestrian trade. "My father taught me to be patient with horses," he said in a Le Forum interview. "He taught me how to give horses confidence,"

Leaving the forests, Turcotte tried his hand at being a jockey. He ended up in Laurel, Maryland; by 1972 he was partnered with quality Thoroughbreds like 1972 Kentucky Derby winner Riva Ridge. In 1971, he was introduced to the promising yearling Secretariat. "He was the kindest of animals, but big and clumsy," Turcotte recalled. "He wasn't spooky, he was calm, like riding a big pony."

Together, Secretariat and Turcotte dominated the stakes-racing season in 1972 and 1973, culminating in a record-setting Triple Crown championship. The horse's career statistics included sixteen wins in twenty-one starts, most of them under the guidance of Turcotte. After Secretariat retired to stud in 1973, Turcotte remained on the track; in 1978 he suffered a traumatic injury in a race that ended his riding career. In August 1980, the jockey was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. He and his family moved back to Grand Falls, and Turcotte became a spokesman for the disabled.

In fall 1989, the stallion began to show signs of illness. The diagnosis: laminitis, a painful and incurable degeneration of the hoof. The humane, if heartbreaking, decision was made to euthanize Secretariat. He was put down by injection on October 4, 1989, at the age of nineteen. Great racehorses are often said to have "heart," but on autopsy, Secretariat proved that point in a startling way. He heart was measured at nearly eighteen pounds, twice the size of the average thoroughbred's. "It wasn't pathologically enlarged," elaborated Dr. Thomas Swercek in Nack's article. "All the chambers and the valves were normal. It was just larger. I think it told us why he was able to do what he did." Secretariat's gravesite at Claiborne Farm was festooned with flowers from his fans; "You see all this," farm owner Dell Hancock told Nack in a 1989 Sports Illustrated article, "and you suddenly realize the impact he had on people."

Secretariat's legacy remains in the record books and the hearts of his fans. As of 2002, his time for the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes has not been bettered. A stakes race is named in his honor. In 1991 a bronze statue of "Big Red" was unveiled at Belmont Park, the site of Secretariat's greatest victory. And in an ESPN poll of the hundred greatest athletes of the twentieth century, Secretariat placed thirty-fifth, the only non-human in the top fifty. In Sullivan's view, Secretariat "is best described not as the greatest horse, nor as the greatest runner, nor even as the greatest athlete of the twentieth century, but as the greatest creature."

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Nack, William. Secretariat: The Making of a Champion. Da Capo Press, 1988.

Woolfe, Raymond G. Secretariat. Derrydale Press, 2001

Periodicals

Axthelm, Pete. "Superhorse Secretariat." Newsweek (June 11, 1973).

Nack, William. "Big Red (1970-1989).#x201D; Sports Illustrated (October 16, 1989).

Nack, William. "Pure Heart." Sports Illustrated (October 24, 1994).

Nack, William. "Secretariat." Sports Illustrated (September 19, 1994).

Sports Illustrated (June 11, 1973).

Sullivan, John Jeremiah. "Horseman, Pass By." Harper's (October, 2002).

"Super Horse." Time (June 11, 1973).

Other

"French-Canadian Jockey a Horse Racing Legend." Le Forum. http://www.happyones.com/(October 4, 2002)./bibcit.composed

"Greatest Performance in Racing History." Chef de Race. http://www.chef.-de-race.com/ (October 4, 2002).

"Secretariat Remains No. 1 Name in Racing." ESPN Classic. http://www.espn.go.com/classic/ (October 4, 2002).

"Secretariat 1973." Second Running. http://www.secondrunning.com/ (October 4, 2002).

Secretariat.com. http://www.secretariat.com (October 4, 2002).

"Top N. American Athletes of the Century." ESPN. http://espn.go.com/ (October 4, 2002).

Sketch by Susan Salter

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Secretariat

SECRETARIAT

The Secretariat of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) was the administrative arm of the Communist Party. Initially a handful of party workers, the Secretariat evolved into a powerful bureaucracy with oversight of the entire Soviet political system and economy. Although the size of the Secretariat was modest in comparison to the giant governmental bureaucracy, its power was not. It was the apparat and those who worked in the Secretariat were the apparatchiki. Headed by the General (or First) Secretary and the other Secretaries of the Central Committee of the CPSU, the Secretariat became the body that ensured that Soviet political and economic organs followed party policy. Josef Stalin was responsible for building the Secretariat, and Nikita Khrushchev was responsible for reaffirming and renewing its power. Its influence diminished only under Mikail Gorbachev, who in his final years, turned to the power of the Presidency and a Presidential Cabinet of Ministers, which was created in 1990.

At the height of its power, the Secretariat headed by its powerful General Secretary determined the agenda of the Politburo and the Central Committee. Attention usually focused on the General Secretary, and to a lesser degree, the dozen or so Secretaries who worked with him, rather than the larger bureaucracy that constituted the Secretariat.

See also: communist party of the soviet union

bibliography

Huskey, Eugene. (1992). Executive Power and Soviet Politics: The Rise and Decline of the Soviet State. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.

Nogee, Joseph L., ed. (1985). Soviet Politics: Russia after Brezhnev. New York: Praeger.

Smith, Gordon B. (1992). Soviet Politics: Struggling with Change, 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin's Press.

Norma C. Noonan

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Secretariat

Secretariat, 1970–89, thoroughbred race horse. Nicknamed "Big Red," he was trained by Lucien Laurin and ridden by Ron Turcotte. In 1973 Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes to capture racing's Triple Crown.

See L. Scanlan, The Horse God Built (2007).

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secretariat

sec·re·tar·i·at / ˌsekriˈte(ə)rēət/ • n. a permanent administrative office or department, esp. a governmental one. ∎  [treated as sing. or pl.] the staff working in such an office.

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secretary bird

sec·re·tar·y bird • n. a slender, long-legged African bird of prey (Sagittarius serpentarius) that feeds on snakes, having a crest likened to a quill pen stuck behind the ear.

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Secretariat

Secretariat

a body of secretaries, 1811.

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secretariat

secretariat •peart •immediate, intermediate •idiot •collegiate, intercollegiate •orgeat • Eliot • affiliate •foliate, trifoliate •aculeate, Juliet •Uniate • opiate •chariot, Harriet, Judas Iscariot, lariat, Marryat •compatriot, expatriate, patriot •heriot, Herriot •commissariat, lumpenproletariat, proletariat, salariat, secretariat, vicariate •inebriate • Cypriot •baccalaureate, laureate, professoriate •appropriate • licentiate • satiate •initiate, novitiate, patriciate •associate • cruciate • Cheviot • soviet •roseate •Byatt, diet, quiet, riot, ryot, Wyatt •inchoate •Ewart, Stewart •Verwoerd •graduate, undergraduate •attenuate • situate •abbot, Cabot •Albert • lambert • Egbert • Delbert •filbert, Gilbert •halibut • celibate • Robert • Osbert •Norbert •Hubert, Schubert •Humbert • Cuthbert •burbot, Herbert, sherbet, turbot •Frankfort • effort • comfort

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secretary bird

secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) See SAGITTARIIDAE.

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secretary bird

secretary bird, common name for a long-legged African bird, Sagittarius serpentarius, related to the hawk and about 4 ft (122 cm) tall. Its crest of black feathers suggested the quill pens behind the ear of a 19th-century male secretary. The bird hunts on foot, zigzagging toward its prey and flapping its wings, and is valued as a destroyer of snakes and other reptiles. Secretary birds are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Falconiformes, family Sagittariidae.

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secretary bird

secretary bird Bird of prey found in Africa, s of the Sahara. It is pale grey with black markings, and has quill-like feathers behind its ears, large wings, and long legs and tail. It feeds on reptiles, eggs, and insects, and lays its eggs in a tree nest. Height: 1.2m (4ft). Species Sagittarius serpentarius.

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Secretary Bird

Secretary Bird

The secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius ) is the only member of the family Sagittariidae. This family is part of the Falconiformes, which includes other hawklike raptors such as hawks, eagles, vultures, kites, falcons, and the osprey.

The secretary bird is native to sub-Saharan Africa, and occurs in open grasslands and savannas. The species is wide-ranging, and some populations are nomadic, wandering extensively in search of locations with large populations of small mammals or insects, their principal foods.

Secretary birds are large birds, standing as tall as 4 ft (1.2 m), and weighing about 9 lb (4 kg). Their wings are long and pointed, and the neck is long. Secretary birds have a strong, hooked, raptorial beak, and a prominent crest on the back of their heads. The legs are very long, and the strong feet have sharp, curved claws.

The basic coloration of secretary birds is gray, with black feathers on the upper legs, on the trailing

half of the wings, and on the base of the tail. Two long, central, black-tipped feathers extend from the base of the tail. There are bare, orange-colored patches of skin around the eyes. The sexes are similarly colored, but male secretary birds are slightly larger.

Secretary birds are believed to have received their common name after the feathers of their backward-pointing crest, which are thought to vaguely resemble quill-pens stuck into the woolly wig of a human scribe of the nineteenth century. Their erect posture and gray-and-black plumage is also thought to suggest the formal attire and demeanor of a human secretary.

Secretary birds hunt during the day, mostly by walking deliberately about to find prey, which, when discovered, are run down and captured. Secretary birds occasionally stamp the ground with their feet, to cause prey to stir and reveal its presence. The food of secretary birds consists of small mammals, birds, reptiles, and large insects, such as grasshoppers and beetles. They are known to kill and eat snakes, including deadly poisonous ones, which like other larger prey items are dexterously battered to death with the feet. Because of their occasional snake-killing propensities, secretary birds are highly regarded by some people.

Secretary birds can fly well, and sometimes soar, but they do not do so very often. They prefer to run while hunting, and to escape from danger. They roost in trees at night, commonly in pairs.

Secretary birds are territorial. They build a bulky, flat nest of twigs in a thorny tree, which may be used for several years. Secretary birds lay 2-3 eggs. These are incubated by both sexes, which also share the duties of caring for the young. The babies are downy and feeble at birth. The young are initially fed directly with nutritious, regurgitated fluids, and later on with solid foods that are regurgitated onto the nest, for the young to feed themselves with. Young secretary birds do not fight with each other, unlike the young of many other species of raptors. Consequently, several offspring may be raised from the same brood. They typically fledge after about two months.

Secretary birds are commonly considered to be a beneficial species, because they eat large numbers of potentially injurious small mammals, insects, and to a lesser degree, snakes. Secretary birds are sometimes kept as pets, partly because they will kill large numbers of small mammals and snakes around the home. Unfortunately, the populations of these birds are declining in many areas, due largely to habitat changes, but also to excessive collecting of the eggs and young.

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Secretary Bird

Secretary bird

The secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) is the only member of the family Sagittariidae. This family is part of the Accipitriformes, which includes other hawk-like raptors such as hawks , eagles , vultures , kites, falcons , and the osprey.

The secretary bird is native to sub-Saharan Africa , and occurs in open grasslands and savannas. The species is wide-ranging, and some populations are nomadic, wandering extensively in search of locations with large populations of small mammals or insects , their principal foods.

Secretary birds are large birds, standing as tall as 4 ft (1.2 m), and weighing about 9 lb (4 kg). Their wings are long and pointed, and the neck is long. Secretary birds have a strong, hooked, raptorial beak, and a prominent crest on the back of their heads. The legs are very long, and the strong feet have sharp, curved claws.

The basic coloration of secretary birds is gray, with black feathers on the upper legs, on the trailing half of the wings, and on the base of the tail. Two long, central, black-tipped feathers extend from the base of the tail. There are bare, orange-colored patches of skin around the eyes. The sexes are similarly colored, but male secretary birds are slightly larger.

Secretary birds are believed to have received their common name after the feathers of their backward-pointing crest, which are thought to vaguely resemble quill-pens stuck into the woolly wig of a human scribe of the nineteenth century. Their erect posture and grey-and-black plumage is also thought to suggest the formal attire and demeanor of a human secretary.

Secretary birds hunt during the day, mostly by walking deliberately about to find prey , which when discovered are run down and captured. Secretary birds occasionally stamp the ground with their feet, to cause prey to stir and reveal its presence. The food of secretary birds consists of small mammals, birds, reptiles , and large insects, such as grasshoppers and beetles . They are known to kill and eat snakes , including deadly poisonous ones, which like other larger prey items are dexterously battered to death with the feet. Because of their occasional snake-killing propensities, secretary birds are highly regarded by some people.

Secretary birds can fly well, and sometimes soar, but they do not do so very often. They prefer to run while hunting, and to escape from their own dangers. They roost in trees at night, commonly in pairs.

Secretary birds are territorial. They build a bulky, flat nest of twigs in a thorny tree , which may be used for several years. Secretary birds lay 2-3 eggs. These are incubated by both sexes, which also share the duties of caring for the young. The babies are downy and feeble at birth . The young are initially fed directly with nutritious, regurgitated fluids, and later on with solid foods that are regurgitated onto the nest, for the young to feed themselves with. Young secretary birds do not fight with each other, unlike the young of many other species of raptors. Consequently, several offspring may be raised from the same brood. They typically fledge after about two months.

Secretary birds are commonly considered to be a beneficial species, because they eat large numbers of potentially injurious small mammals, insects, and to a lesser degree, snakes. Secretary birds are sometimes kept as pets, partly because they will kill large numbers of small mammals and snakes around the home. Unfortunately, the populations of these birds are declining in many areas, due largely to habitat changes, but also to excessive collecting of the eggs and young.

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"Secretary Bird." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Secretary Bird." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved September 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/secretary-bird

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