No. 80. Glaucidium Brodiei.* BURTON.
THE PIGMY COLLARED OWLET.
This species lays in May and June, in hollows of trees. It makes little or no nest, though a hole that I examined in July, containing four young ones, seemed to have been sparsely lined with feathers.
The eggs are doubtless four in number, nearly round and pure white, but I have never yet myself obtained any.
The following is Capt. Hutton's account of its nidification: " It lays its eggs in hollow trees without any preparation of a nest. On the 11th May, 1848, 1 found three young ones and an egg just ready to hatch, in a hole of a wild cherry tree. The egg was nearly round and pure white ; but, being broken, I could take no measurement of it. The young ones were clothed in a soft and pure white down. The old female remained in the hole while we cut into the tree, and allowed herself to be captured."
Mr. R. Thompson writes, " This species breeds from May to July, usually in holes, in oak trees. I have usually met this bird with three young ones. In September the young are quite fledged. The note is a took took, took, took, took, took, repeated often. Another cry said to be uttered by this bird is the plaintive and melancholy whistle one hears after the breaking up of the rainy season, in well-wooded hilly districts, somewhat like the following, twee-twee, repeated at intervals, and most usually heard at night. This Owlet feeds on young birds, mice and cicadae. I shot one which had just caught and was eating an adult specimen of Zosterops Palpebrosus. Awful is the chattering among the many hill tits we have up here, when they discover the whereabouts of their small though vigorous enemy. His greatest torment is the little Siva Cyanouroptera who, with his incessant chattering, causes him considerable annoyance. The flight is rapid and vigorous, and the bird is quite as active in the day as it is at night."
Capt. Hutton writes, - :" The twin whistled note, commonly attributed to this bird, is really that of the Scops Owl; like yourself I could have declared that I had shot Brodiei, in the act of uttering the " wheu-whoo" note, but in these oases, there must have been a Scops Owl at hand, and unobserved, for closer attention teaches me that G. Brodiei has four notes in its whistle, slowly uttered like the other, but the middle note double, thus, "whew - :whew-whew - :whew; my boys too who are keen observers of these things and prowl about, gun in hand, sometimes till 10 o'clock at night, positively insist upon it that the double note belongs to Ephialtes alone, and that G. Brodiei has only the four notes " whew - :whew-whew - :whew"
I am by no means sure that this species does as Dr. Jerdon remarks, five chiefly on insects. One shot in the valley of the Surjoo, about sundown, had a Phylloscopus in his claws, the head so mauled, that the species could not be made out, and none of the stomachs of three other specimens of which I have notes contained insects.
This little Owl is very watchful; by day at any rate he sits motionless, doubled up on a considerable sized branch, looking like a knot or excrescence; but, point in his direction, and he is off like a shot, nay as a rule, the moment your eyes fix on him, he is aware that he has been recognized and darts away.
These wee birds are as daring as the Falconets. I once witnessed a curious encounter between one and a Jay. I was sitting on Lurya Kanta, beyond Nyneetal, watching one, from behind another tree. A Jay (G. Bispecularis) was threading in and out of the branches, as is their wont, when arriving on the bough where the Owlet sat, he, for some reason best known to himself, gave three or four lolloping, sideway hops, and for all the world like a school boy at play with a comrade, went bump up against the little ball of feathers. He did not peck at her, or attack her, as being a corvine bird he was bound to do, but flopped against her sideways. This upset the diminutive Minerva's sense of propriety and gravity, she opened her wings, to avoid falling, swore at large, (a squeaky, scratchy, combination of hiss and chatter) flew about a yard, wheeled round and fell on the Jay's head in a style, that sent him to the right about screaming, after which with sundry ejaculations and many shakes of her feathers, the pigmy settled down again exactly on her former perch. Nothing more was seen of the Jay; but I expect he went and told tales, for soon after a mob of Pari and Machlolophi worked their way up into the tree, and soon began reviling her ladyship, in such very improper language, that with a sudden dart, she disappeared down the khud, almost without a second flap of her wings.
As far as is yet known, this species is a purely Indian one, and is found only on the Himalayahs, the Khasya Hills, (whence I have received a specimen) and the " mountainous interior of the Tenasserim Provinces where Col. Tickell obtained it."
I am somewhat inclined to believe that a second species of this exists, which I named G. immaculatus, owing to the almost total absence of spots on the upper surface, but my only specimen has not yet been returned by Mons. Verreaux to whom I sent it, and it may be only the young of the present species.
Capt. Hutton I may mention, thinks also that there is decidedly a second species, the one being very much more spotted than the other.
* G. BRODIEI.
(I have unfortunately mislaid my paper of the measurements of this species.)
DESCRIPTION. Lores, (the elongated bristle-like shafts of the feathers brownish black towards the tips,) a supercilium continued backwards over the ear coverts, (obscure in skins but well marked in the live bird,) a band under the eye, the chin, and a broad stripe running thence, and from the base of the lower mandible below the ear coverts, and round the lower half of the posterior margin of the aural orifice, (where in dry skins it is more or less hidden by the ear coverts,) the lower part of the throat, and a broad band at the base of the neck in front, a broad streak running down the centre of the breast and abdomen, and the lower tail coverts, (the latter with a subterminal brown band,) pure white. The ear coverts, top of the head, nape, sides of the neck and a broad band across the throat, in some greyish, in some rufous, brown, thickly spotted, or in some irregularly banded with tiny imperfect bars, of greyish, rufous, or fulvous white. A broad, rufous buff, half collar at the base of the neck behind, including in it two large black or blackish brown blotches. The back, scapulars, wing coverts, rump and upper tail coverts, a somewhat clearer brown, of the same shade as the head, regularly barred at intervals, at distances of about 0.2 with very narrow bars, nearly unicolorous with the spots on the head. The tail, darker brown, with about seven, narrow, transverse bars, of the same colour as those on the back, and the feathers narrowly tipped with the same. In some specimens, a few of the coverts and of the exterior scapulars, have large, white, or fulvous blotches on the outer webs, but I have others which do not exhibit a trace of these.
The quills are brown, with rufous or fulvous white spots on the outer, and imperfect white bars on the inner webs (except quite at the tips of the primaries) towards the margins. The breast on either side of the white stripe, and the sides are brown, usually a good deal more rufous than on the upper parts, with narrow, transverse, fulvous or rufous white bars. The abdomen, vent and flanks, white, mottled, not barred, with a more or less rufous brown, the feathers being white with a large blotch on one or both webs towards the tips, and not unfrequently, if carefully examined, with a circular white spot in the middle of the brown.