No. 68. Otus Brachyotus.* GMEL.
THE SHORT EARED OWL.
This is another species, whose eggs do not as yet appear to have been taken within our limits. Mr. Hoy (I quote Mr. Yarrell) says, of the nidification of this species in Norfolk, " I have known several instances of their eggs and young being found. One situation is, on a dry heathy soil, the nest placed on the ground amongst high heath ; the other in low fenny ground, among sedge and rushes ; a Mend of mine procured some eggs from the latter situation during the last summer."
Mr. Yarrell continues - :" The eggs of this bird, seldom exceeding three in number, are smooth and white, one inch eight lines (1.67) in length by one inch three lines and a half (1.29) in breadth."
Two nests which Sir William Jardine found on an upland moor in Dumfriesshire, and which contained five eggs, were formed upon the ground among the heath, the bottom of the nest scraped, until the fresh earth appeared, on which the eggs were placed, without any lining or other accessory covering.
Audubon says - :" The only nest of this kind that I have found contained four eggs of a dull bluish white, and of a somewhat elongated or elliptical form, an inch and a half in length, and one inch and one-eighth in breadth. The nest which was placed under a low bush and covered over by tall grass, through which a path had been made by the bird, was formed of dry grass, raked together in a slovenly manner and quite flat, but covering a large space."
Hewitson figures a broad, oval, bluish white egg, 1.68 in length, by 1.3 in width.
This species, so common throughout India, would not appear to extend to Ceylon ; and though by no means uncommon in Lower Bengal, Assam and British Burmah, would not seem to extend southwards to the Malay Peninsula or the Archipelago. One of the most widely distributed of its whole family, this species occurs almost throughout North America, throughout Europe, the islands of the Mediterranean, portions of North Africa, Egypt, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, in Russian Asia, almost to the mouths of the Amoor, Northern China and Japan. In many of these localities, as in the plains of India, it is merely a winter visitant, and I have been unable to ascertain the most southern limit at which it has been found breeding. Radde mentions, that it is a common bird throughout the south of East Siberia, where he often found it breeding, and that in the Daurian Steppes, he found fresh eggs as early as the 20th April, and others scarcely incubated by the 25th of May.
It seems scarcely likely that this species breeds in India, south of the Snowy Range, but the high grassy table-lands of Thibet are probably the brooding haunts of the myriads of short-eared Owls, which are so widely distributed over the plains of India, during the cold season.
* OTUS BRACHYOTUS,
Length 14.50 15.00 15.00 16.00
Expanse. 36.50 39.75 40.00 42.00
Wing. 11.75 12.50 12.00 13.30
Tail from vent 6.00 6.80 6.25 7.10
Tarsus 1.36 1.80 Not recorded Not recorded
Mid Toe to root of Claw. 1.20 1.26 Not recorded Not recorded
Its Claw straight. 0.62 0.72 Not recorded Not recorded
Hind toe to root of claw. 0.62 0.72 Not recorded Not recorded
Its claw, straight 0.50 0.60 Not recorded Not recorded
Inner toe to root of claw. 0.62 0.80 Not recorded Not recorded
Its claw, straight 0.61 0.71 Not recorded Not recorded
Bill from gape. 0.58 0.63 Not recorded Not recorded
Distance by which closed wings fall short of end of Tail. 0.25 1.00 Not recorded Not recorded
Distance by which lower Tail Coverts fall short of end of Tail. 1.00 1.90 Not recorded Not recorded
Weight Oz 10 Oz 13 Oz. 14 Lboz. 11
(Five males measured and weighed.) Primary the longest. The 1st is 0.30 - :0.75 shorter, the 3rd 0.20 - :0.45, shorter. Exterior tail feathers, 0.30 - :0.60, shorter than central ones.