1152. Strix flammea.
The Barn-Owl or Screech-Owl.
Strix flammea, Linn. Syst. Nat. i, p. 133 (1766); Blyth, Cat. p. 41; Sharpe, Cat. B. M. ii, p, 291; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 164; Oates, B. B. ii, p. 167. Strix javanica, Gm. Syst. Nat. i, p. 295 (1788); Blyth, J. A. S. B. xix. p. 513; Horsf. & M. i, Cat. p. 81; Jerdon, B. I. i, p. 117; Blyth & Wald, Birds Burm. p. 68; Butler, S. F. iii, p. 449; ix, p. 375; Hume & Dao. S. F. vi, p. 26 ; Ball, S. F. vii, p. 200; Cripps, ib. p. 253; Hume, Cat. no. 60; Scully, S. F. viii, p. 229; Vidal, S. F. ix, p. 34; Davidson, S. F. x, p. 290; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 60; id. Journ. Bom. N. H. Soc. iii, p. 220; Hume, S. F. xi, p. 18; Oates, in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 93. Strix indica, Blyth, His, 1866, p. 250; 1870, p. 160; Hume, Rough Notes, p. 342; id. S. F. i, p. 163; iii, p. 37; Rainey, S. F. iii. p. 332; nec Gmel. Strix deroepstorffi, Hume, S. F. iii, p. 390; iv, p. 283; id. Cat. no. 60 bis.
The Indian Screech-Owl, Jerdon ; Kuraya, Karail, Buri churi, H. ; Bhutumpecha, B.; Ghubad, Mahr.; Chaao pitta, Tel.; Chaao kuravi, Tam.
Coloration. Facial disk white (occasionally, but rarely, tinged with ferruginous), orbital feathers and a broader spot in front of the eye dark ferruginous; ruff milky white, the ends of the outer feathers generally buff and the tips dark brown ; back and upper parts pale grey, tinted or mixed with ochreous, the feathers yellowish buff except at the ends, which are finely vermiculated with black and white, each feather tipped with a small elongate black and white spot or ocellus; quills mottled buff and dark brown, with irregular dark cross-bands ; inner webs mostly white; tail buff, mottled, especially at the end, with dark brown and crossed by dark bands, the feathers white beneath; lower parts white or buff, with scattered small dark spots on the breast, abdomen, and wing-lining.
Bill fleshy white, cere flesh-colour; iris black; bare portions of tarsi and feet fleshy brown, claws brown (Legge).
Length about 14 inches ; tail 5 ; wing 11.5; tarsus 2.5-2.8; bill from gape 1.5.
I think Sharpe right in uniting the various races of Barn-Owls under one specific heading. At the same time the Indian form, S. javanica, is distinguished from that of Western Europe by having much more robust legs and feet, and by being always spotted beneath. But specimens from intermediate localities tend to unite the two forms.
S. deraepstorffii is founded on a very small tawny specimen from the Andaman Islands with the wing only 9-8, the face suffused with ferruginous, and even the spots on the hack dark tawny instead of white. No other skin of this race has been obtained,
but all the points of difference are repeated in other insular races of S. flammea.
Distribution. Almost all tropical and temperate regions. The Barn-Owl is found throughout the greater part of India and Burma, though it is rare in forest-regions, on the higher hills, and in desert tracts. It has not been observed in Tenasserim, and in Ceylon has been obtained only in the north of the island.
Habits, &c. From, its habit of haunting roofs of buildings, out houses, wells, and ruins, the Barn-Owl, though thoroughly nocturnal, is one of the most familiar species of the order. It lives almost entirely on rats and mice. Its cry, a peculiarly weird shriek or screech, chiefly uttered at the pairing-season, sometimes on the wing, has caused the Barn-Owl to be looked upon as a bird of evil omen in many countries. Several of the Indian names mean " bad bird " or " death-bird." The eggs are more oval and less spherical than those of other Owls, white with a creamy tinge, and measure about 1.69 by 1.28. The number varies from 3 to 6; and they are generally deposited in holes in buildings or trees, or occasionally in the ground, and are frequently laid and hatched at intervals of several days. The breeding-season in the Indian Peninsula and Burma is from November to January, in Northern India from February to June.
* Newton has shown (Yarrell, ed. 4, i. p. 150, and Ibis, 1876, p. 94) that he type of the Linnaean genus Strix is clearly the Tawny Owl (S. stridula v. aluco), and that Fleming's generic name Aluco should be used for S. flammea and its allies; but Sharpe (Ibis, 1875, p. 324) has given reasons, which, though nor, so strong as Prof. Newton's, serve as a sufficient excuse for adhering to the usual nomenclature.