No. 70 BIS. Bubo Maximus,* SIBBALD.
THE GREAT EARED, HORNED OR EAGLE OWL.
Strix Bubo, LINN. LATH, &c., &c.
Bubo Atheniensis, DAUDIN - : B. Europaeus, LESSON.
Dr. Jerdon says in his appendix, " Bubo Maximus of Europe, or a pale variety of that bird, occurs in the higher region of the Himalayas, but apparently along the snow line, A specimen was sent to the Museum of the Asiatic Society by Capt. Smyth of Almorah. Blyth, however, informed me that Hodgson's Shikarees, when in Calcutta, recognised Bubo Maximus, as a species which they knew."
I have never seen an Indian-killed specimen of this species, but the Shikarees who yearly shoot birds in Spiti, Kooloo, and Lahoul, assert the existence of a large Horned Owl, feathered to the claws, which can scarcely be other than B. Maximus. For convenience of' reference, I extract from European writers some accounts of the nidification of this species, and append dimensions and decription.
Mr. Yarrell says, - :" The nest of this bird is large, the materials collected being spread over a surface of several square feet, among rocks or the walls of old ruins. The female is larger than the male, and produces two or three eggs of a short oval shape, two inches five lines (2.42) long, by one inch ten lines (1.83) wide, and perfectly white."
Mr. Hewitson tells us that the Eagle Owl breeds in the north of Europe, making its nest upon the bleak and unsheltered summit of some lofty mountain ; in such situations Linnaeus found their nests and young ones, and he quotes from Linnaeus' journal of May 17th, the finding three young birds, and an egg, on a little grassy plot encircled on three sides by rocks, but open to the south, on the steep southern side of the highest mountain in Medalpad. Mr. Wolley, whom he also quotes, gives an account of finding two young ones and an egg, on the 20th of May, on a ledge of a rocky precipice. The young and the egg " lying upon a small quantity of compressed fur, principally of rats, the remains of the castings of the parent birds, their bed nearly flat, for there was not more than two inches of soil. The ledge was not more than two feet wide, and terminated abruptly just beyond the nest. I have visited three other sites of nests of this bird, and they were all of similar character, upon ledges in, or over cliffs. They were all unsheltered over head, sunshine seeming rather to be courted than avoided."
Eagle Owls, in confinement, have bred, laying, in all the cases noticed by Mr. Gurney, three eggs ; " which may be assumed," that gentleman remarks, " to be the normal number of their eggs."
Mr. Hewitson figures a pure white egg, 2.17 in Length, by 1.94 in breadth.
Little seems to be known, of the habits of this species, except that it affects mountainous and wooded countries, and preys upon quadrupeds and birds, such as fawns, hares, and grouse.
As to its distribution I can, at present, add nothing to the following remarks of Mr. Yarrell. - :" The bird inhabits Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Lapland, Russia, and the Continent of Europe generally, but particularly the fir-covered mountains of Switzerland, and the high rocky country of Aragon, extending southward as far as Italy, Turkey, Corfu, and Sicily. Mr. Strickland saw specimens at Smyrna, and it is recorded as inhabiting the Morea. Pennant says, it is found as far to the eastward as Lake Baikal and Astrakan; and Mr. Gould has seen skins of this bird in collections from China."
* BUBO MAXIMUS.
DIMENSIONS. - : (From Macgillivray.)
Male. - : Length, 24. Expanse, 58. Wing, 19. Tail, 11. Tarsus, 2.75. Bill, along ridge, 2.5. Cere, 0.92.
Female. - : Length, 26. Expanse, 61. Wing, 20. Tail, 10. (somewhat worn). Tarsus, 2.75. Bill, along ridge, 2.42. The 3rd primary the longest; the 1st 1.67 ; the 2nd, 0.17 ; and the 4th, 0.08 shorter. Central tail feathers exceed external do. by 1 inch.
DESCRIPTION. - : From Macgillivray.) Bill greyish blue at base, bluish black towards the end ; the cere dusky; soft edges of the mandibles flesh coloured, as is the inside of the mouth. Irides bright orange ; bare edges of the eyelids and margins of the nictitant membrane dusky. Scutella pale greyish blue; claws of the same color as the bill; soles, pale flesh colour.
The bill is short, very robust, considerably compressed ; the cere rather large, and nearly bare, although concealed by the feathers in the neighbourhood. - : The nostrils are large, broadly elliptical, oblique, divided by a soft projecting ridge, their greatest diameter four-twelfths of an inch.
The tibia is rather short, the tarsus short, robust, and with the toes feathered. The first toe very short, the second considerably longer than the fourth, and in about the same degree exceeded by the third ; the two latter connected by a short web; all with three terminal scutellae, and their lower surface padded and papillate.
Plumage. - : The plumage is very full, soft, blended and elastic.
The facial disks extend round two-thirds of the eye, leaving the upper part covered with shorter feathers ; those at the base of the cere are linear, with strong shafts and bristly filaments.
The ruff extends from a little above the ear to the chin, and is formed of oblong, slightly curved feathers. Over and above the eye, on each side is a double series of elongated feathers, of which there are nine in each row, the longest projecting upwards of two inches beyond the rest of the Plumage. - : On the outer side of the tibia is a tuft of very soft elongated feathers. - : The facial disks are pale yellowish brown, faintly barred with dusky; their anterior part greyish white, with the shafts black at the end. The feathers of the lower eyelid are greyish white, of the upper chiefly black. Those over the eye, and the long tufts, are brownish black, internally edged or mottled with reddish. The general colour of the upper parts is reddish yellow, spotted, barred, and minutely dotted with dark brown. On the lower part of the hind neck, most of the feathers have only a median longitudinal blackish brown band. The small wing coverts at the flexure, the alula, and the primary coverts, are almost entirely dusky. The quills are barred with brownish black, and in the intervals yellowish red, nearly pure on the inner webs, but on the outer closely and minutely undulated with brown. The tail is similar, but with less yellow. The feathers on the upper part of the throat are white; a band of barred and mottled feathers then crosses the throat, being continuous with the ruff; and on the middle of the neck is a white patch with some dusky spots. The rest of the neck is reddish yellow, each feather with an oblong, brownish black, longitudinal band, and transverse, lateral, undulated bars. On the thorax and sides, the feathers are similar, the central dusky patch gradually becoming narrower, and on those farthest back ceasing; while the narrow, transverse bars become numerous in the same proportion. The large tibial feathers and lower tail coverts are greyish yellow, mixed with red, and barred with dusky; those of the tibiae more tinged with yellow, and more faintly barred. The downy or concealed part of the plumage is dark greyish blue.
The following description is extracted for comparison from the Naturalist's Library. " The disk and ruff are small and incomplete, greyish black, tinted with ochraceous, and margined round the occipital edges with black. The egrets which are fully two inches long, are deep black, slightly edged with ochraceous yellow on the inner sides. The whole upper parts, including the wings and tail, have a ground shade of ochraceous yellow, with the centre of the feathers black, which broadens at the tips, and at the sides is shaded off in light wavy mottles of a similar tint. On the greater coverts and secondaries, the markings assume the form of indistinct bars from their greater crowding, while along the shaft, the dark colour is continuous. The quills on the inner webs are of a brighter tint of ochraceous, and are there crossed with distinct narrow bars of black ; on the outer webs, the bars, though distinct, are yellowish brown, clouded with a darker shade, and generally edged next the ground colour with an irregular darker margin ; towards the tips the dark colour predominates, and is there mingled with gray. The ground colour of the tail is paler than that of the quills, and it is crossed with mottled bars of brownish black ; the pale spaces towards the tips, and on the centre feathers, being also thinly mottled; on the inner webs the bars are very narrow. When viewed from the lower side, it is much paler in colour, the bars appear all narrow, and the mottling on the intermediate spaces scarcely appears. On the under parts of the body, the same ochraceous tint prevails ; the chin is white ; on the throat, breast, and belly, the feathers are broadly streaked with black, which breaks off to the sides in interrupted bars; on the other parts of the belly, vent, flanks, and under tail coverts, the shaft is black, and the feather is crossed with numerous irregular bars of brownish black, nine or ten sometimes being counted on one feather. The tarsi and toes are clothed as in Otus, and are crossed with indistinct bars of brownish black. The irides are brilliant and bronzed orange.