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Think Complexity by Allen B. Downey

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Colophon

The animal on the cover of Think Complexity is a black eagle (Ictinaetus malayensis), the only species in its genus. They are found in tropical Asia, namely parts of Burma, India, southern China, Taiwan, and the Malay peninsula. These eagles prefer wooded mountainous terrain, roosting and building large nests (3-4 feet wide) high in the trees.

These birds have black plumage (as their common name states; though juvenile eagles are dark brown), yellow feet, and a short curved beak. Black eagles are large birds averaging 2-3 feet long, with a massive wingspan of 5 feet. In flight, the eagles are distinctive not only for their color and size, but the slow gliding pace at which they move above the canopy.

Breeding season occurs sometime between November and May (depending on latitude). The eagles carry out aerial displays of a steep dive followed by an ascent, all at high speed. Mating pairs will also chase each other among the trees. They typically only lay one or two eggs at a time. The diet of the black eagle is made up of small mammals (which they will capture from the ground), as well as smaller birds and eggs.

In fact, black eagles are voracious nest-predators, and have a unique hunting habit—picking up an entire nest of prey and carrying the eggs or nestlings away to its own perch to eat later. Because the black eagle’s talons are less sharply curved than other birds of prey, it is easier for them to accomplish this.

The cover image is from Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, 3rd ...

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