No. 67. Otus Vulgaris.* FLEM.
THE LONG EARED OWL.
As yet nothing has been recorded of the breeding of this species in India, but I have reason to believe that it is a per manent resident of the forests of the interior of the Himalayahs. Mr. Yarrell gives the following account of its nidification in England: " The long-eared Owl is said not to make a nest for itself, but to take to the deserted habitation of some other bird, when of sufficient size for its own wants; and has been known to rear its young in the old drey of a Squirrel. The eggs are four or five in number, oval, smooth, and white ; one inch, eight lines and a half long, (1.7) by one inch three lines and a half in breadth, (1.29). The young are hatched by the end of April, are then covered with white down, and do not quit the nest during the first month."
Mr. Tuke says that, in Yorkshire, " it takes possession, about the middle or end of March, of the deserted nest of the Crow, Ringdove, and perhaps that of the Squirrel, in a Scotch or Spruce fir tree, on which, after flattening and sometimes lining with a few feathers, are deposited its two or three beautifully white eggs. It is curious to observe how flat they invariably make their nests, so much so, that in even a slight wind, it is difficult to conceive how the eggs retain their position when the parent bird leaves them." This species, however, is one of those, of which the female begins to sit, from the moment she lays the first egg, and a great difference in the ages of the young, is generally observable.
Macgillivray tells us that " it generally appropriates the deserted nest of a Rook or other large bird, but sometimes forms one for itself, and lays from three to five eggs, which are elliptical, 1.75 in length by 1.33 in breadth, smooth and of a pure white colour."
This species is not entirely nocturnal, nor does it confine its depredations entirely to moles, mice and insects. Mr. Tuke already quoted, remarks : - :
"We have met this species in the woods, sailing quietly along, as if hawking, on a bright sunny day, and invariably found in or around the nest, feathers and other remains of the winged race. In one case, a freshly killed Chaffinch, in another the wing of a Snipe, and several smaller birds and in a pellet the indigestible pad of a young Hare or Babbit."
Of the distribution of this species in India, Dr. Jerdon says in epist, " The long-eared Owl is by no means rare in low jungles near Delhi, and thence through the Punjab, during the cold weather. I always found several together."
I can confirm this, having received a specimen killed at Bhoondsee, Zillah Gourgaon, and another from near Hansee, both killed in the cold weather. They are far from uncommon about Darjeeling, at any rate during the early part of the cold weather; whether they remain in the Himalayahs throughout the year I cannot say, but I received a specimen killed near Narkunda in June, and Dr. Stoliczka notices their being found in the forests near Nachar.
Out of India, this species appears to be found throughout Europe, Northern Asia, and the northern and central portions of North America.* It occurs in Northern Africa including Egypt, Asia Minor, and Afghanistan, and specimens from Hakodadi (Japan) are said to be absolutely identical with European ones.
* OTUS VULGARIS.
DIMENSIONS. Male, (killed Bhoondsee 20-3-68.)
Length, 14.5. Expanse 36. Wing, 11.1. Tail, 5.6. Tarsus, 1.45. Mid toe to root of claw, 1.1; its claw straight, 0.65 ; hind toe, 0.65, its claw, 0.53; inner toe, 0.92 ; its claw 0.63. Bill, straight, from forehead to point, 1.1; along curve 1.33 ; from gape 1.1; height at front, 0.58. The second primary is the longest; the first, 0.8 and the third, 0.1 shorter. Lateral tail feathers 0.55 shorter than central ones. Wings reach to 0.5 beyond end of tail. Lower tail coverts to within 1.8 of ditto.
Female (killed Darjeeling 6-11-69).
Length, 16.2. Expanse, 40.5. Wing, 12.2. Tail, 6.0. Tarsus 1.6.
DESCRIPTION. Bill, blackish brown. Cere, fleshy. Claws, horny black, paler at bases. Irides, bright yellow, to orange.
Plumage. Chin pure white. Lores and feathers over the anterior half of the eye, white, (in some slightly yellowish white) the feathers more or less dark shafted towards the tips or tipped with dark brown ; eye-lashes and spot at the anterior angle of the eye, and feathers just above the posterior half of the eye, deep or blackish brown ; cheeks and ear coverts, pale yellowish to reddish buff, the feathers white shafted towards the base and often black shafted or blackish brown towards the tips. Forehead, crown and occiput, deep brown, the feathers margined, with pale yellowish or reddish buff, and freckled and mottled with white, often leaving scarcely any portion of the deep brown visible. In some the brown is paler and the amount of white freckling varies much in individuals. The ear tufts are from one-half to two inches in length, deep brown, margined, with buff at their bases, and generally on the inner webs towards the tips, with white. The back of the neck and upper back, varies from pale yellowish white to reddish buff, broadly streaked with a lighter or darker brown. The scapulars, wing coverts, and upper tail coverts deep brown, more or less margined or tinted towards the margins with pale fulvous or reddish buff, and irregularly mottled and freckled with white or greyish white, which in some specimens occupies the greater portion of the surfaces of the feathers. There is generally a very conspicuous edging of buff or buffy white to the outer scapulars, some of the coverts and the outer feathers of the winglet. The tail feathers are buff towards the base, grey or grey brown towards the tips, with irregular, mottled, transverse, brown bars, the interspaces too being similarly freckled and mottled. The quills, similar. The feathers of the ruff are white or buffy white but tipped with blackish brown. The breast and abdomen, pale yellowish, or rufous buff with broad, central, dark brown stripes, and more or less conspicuous but ill-defined, white spots on either web towards the tips, and on the abdomen, with one or more narrow, transverse, wavy, brown bars, and a little freckling of the same colour. The tibial and tarsal plumes are the same colour as the rest of the lower parts but entirely unspotted. The wing lining varies from rufous buff, to pure white, one or two of the feathers at the edge of the wing have dark brown, lanceolate, central stripes.
The tone of colouring varies a good deal in different individuals, as does the amount of the white or greyish white freckling of the upper surface, and the white on the lower surface. In all, the rufous buff, at the base of the first few primaries, is rather conspicuous on the outer webs.
* Some writers have separated the American race, but the birds appear to be identical..