AMERICAN MOTTLED OWL. RED OWL, (YOUNG.) LITTLE COMMON SCREECH-OWL.
Strix Asio, LINNAEUS. Strix—An Owl. Asio—A Horned Owl.
This Owl is a native of North America, and is met with
in Oregon and Columbia, as well as, abundantly, in New Brunswick,
Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Labrador.
A single specimen has occurred in this country. It was shot in Hawksworth
Wood, the property of Lord Cardigan, on the banks of the river Aire,
near Kirkstall, Yorkshire, in the spring of the year 1852. There was
another with it at the time, and no doubt, from the season of the
year, they had been building, or would have built: but every rare
bird is so hunted, as the saying is, 'from pillar to post,' that there
is small chance of any increase of family.
Eichard Hobson, Esq., M.D., of Leeds, an excellent and most acute
naturalist, recorded the fact, with full particulars, in my magazine,
'The Naturalist,' August, 1855.
These Owls rest or spend the day either in the hole of some decayed
tree, or in the thickest part of evergreens. They are generally found
perched on the roofs of houses, fences, or garden gates,
They have been kept without difficulty in confinement, and seem comfortable
and happy, uttering their notes with as much apparent satisfaction
as if at liberty.
Audubon writes as follows of the bird:—'The flight of the Mottled
Owl is smooth, rapid, protracted, and noiseless. On alighting, which
it does plumply, it immediately bends its body, turns its head to
look behind it, performs a curious nod, utters its note, then shakes
and plumes itself, and resumes its flight in search of prey. It now
and then, while on the wing, produces a clicking sound with its mandibles,
but more frequently when perched near its mate or "young. This,
I have thought, is done by the bird to manifest its courage, and let
the hearer know that it is not to be meddled with, although few birds
of prey are more gentle when seized.'
They hunt through the woods, or over fields, in search of small birds,
field-mice, and moles, from which they chiefly derive their sustenance.
The note, which is heard at a distance of several hundred yards, is
a tremulous, doleful, mournful chatter, and, like that of other Owls,
is thought of an ominous import, and with as little reason as in their
The nest is placed in the hollow trunk of a tree, sometimes only some
six or seven feet from the ground, but at other times as high as from
thirty to forty. It is composed of a few grasses and feathers.
The eggs are four or five in number, of a round shape, and pure white;
only one set of eggs is laid, unless the nest be disturbed. The young
remain in the nest until they are able to fly.
Length, from about ten to ten inches and a half; the upper mandible,
which is much curved, is black on its basal half, the lower one black,
the tip horn-colour. Cere, bright yellow; from twenty-five to thirty
black bristles, filamented on their basal half, but single on the
remainder, surround the bill. On the crown the feathers are divided
along the centre of each with a chocolate-coloured stripe, and edged
with light brown. The disc is formed by an extension right and left
of stiff feathers, standing out from the tufts covering the ears,
which tufts constitute the horns, the feathers of which are an inch
and a quarter in length. The ear-tufts on the head are composed of
a series of ten feathers, commencing over the middle of the eye, and
extending backwards a quarter of an inch beyond it. Neck on the back,
and nape, marked in the same manner but the stripes narrower, the
sides of the neck lighter coloured, but with similar markings.
The chin has the feathers half white on the lower portion, the upper
covered with light brown pointed spots: the throat similarly marked
but gradually darker; the feathers of the breast have broad chocolate-coloured
longitudinal patches, crossed with narrow stripes of the same colour.
The back on its upper part has chocolate-coloured central stripes
on the feathers, with alternate transverse light brown and dark brown
bars; on the lower part it is similarly marked, but without the longitudinal
and central chocolate-coloured stripes.
The wings have the second quill longer than the first, the third than
the second, and the fourth than the third. The greater wing coverts
have longitudinal and central chocolate-coloured stripes, the lower
portions of the outer webs being white, the inner webs light brown;
lesser wing coverts marked in the same way, shewing a longitudinal
white stripe when the feathers are naturally arranged. Of the primaries,
the first has five white bars on the outer web, and three on the inner.
It is beautifully pectinated on its outer web for the space of half
an inch from the tip; the inner web abruptly notched for an inch and
a half. There are on the outer web seven yellowish-white patches turned
from the margin towards the shaft, and four rather light-coloured
yellow bars on the inner web, running obliquely, the last bar being
somewhat indistinct; the second feather is pectinated on the outer
web for the length of a little over an inch, commencing at about the
same distance from the tip, and on this web there are eight rather
light yellow patches; on the inner web is an abrupt notch nearly an
inch and a half from the tip, and three distinct and three indistinct
bars. The third feather begins to be slightly pectinated at not quite
an inch and a half from the tip, and extends for only half an inch
upwards on its outer web, on which are seven rather light yellow bars;
on the inner web, and on its upper portion, are three similarly-coloured
bars, and on the lower part four indistinct ones. The fourth feather
in place of being pectinated is slightly hollowed; on it are eight
rather light yellow bars, and on the inner web are four distinct and
four indistinct bars. The five first quill feathers have a delicately-formed
fringe on the margin of their inner web, opposite the pectinated portion
of the outer web. Greater under wing coverts, white on the upper portion,
ash-coloured on the lower; lesser under wing coverts, yellowish, with
ash-coloured bars. The tail, which consists of twelve feathers, has
the two central ones slightly the longest, and the outer one on each
side the shortest; on each are eight pale yellow transverse bars,
the ends of all these feathers round. The upper tail coverts on their
lower portions have a chocolate-coloured central stripe, while the
upper portions are a mottled brown. The legs are covered with hairy
feathers, having a pale yellow ground with a mottled brown surface,
toes partly scutellated, the remainder covered with hairy feathers;
claws, very much curved, and of a dark horn-colour.
The three lobes under each toe are prominently deep, and of a sharp
The young are fully fledged by the middle of August. The grey plumage
is not assumed till the bird is two years old. In the interval the
feathers are sometimes a mixture of both colours—sometimes of
a deep chocolate colour, and again nearly black.
The above description is compiled from particulars which Dr. Hobson
has been so obliging as to favour me with.
"In the hollow tree; in the grey old tower;
The Spectral Owl doth dwell."