No. 79 BIS. Athene Whiteleyi. BLYTH.
THE JAPANESE BARRED OWLET.
I know nothing of this species, but merely introduce it because Mr. Blyth thinks it probable that this and not Cuculoides (vera) is the Burmese species, a question that may be easily decided by residents in Burmah.*
* In this case as in all others, I shall always be happy to examine, name, and return any specimens that may be sent me ; small birds travel well by post, in little tin cases, or even in one joint of a bamboo.
This is what Mr. Blyth says, " Mr. Gurney has called my attention to certain distinctions observable in a Japanese race supposed hitherto to he this species. The tail has only six narrow white bars, one terminal, and another of them at the extreme base of the feathers, so that four only remain to constitute the conspicuous barring of the rectrices; the markings of the wing primaries and secondaries are also fewer and further apart than in the common Himalayan bird. In India, the latter is quite peculiar to the Himalaya, whereas in Burmah, the race considered hitherto as identical, extends down to the level of the sea shore ; a pair had their abode in the verandah of Col. Phayre's residence in Rangoon. This Indo-Chinese bird requires now to be compared with the Japanese race, which latter seems to be sufficiently distinct to warrant the application of a new name; and I therefore propose to designate it Athene Whiteleyi. Except in the comparative fewness of the markings upon the flight feathers of the wings, and more especially the rectrices, it entirely resembles the A. Cuculoides. The Chinese species hitherto referred to A. Cuculoides is probably identical with that of Japan."
Besides the Indian species, already enumerated, numerous other Athene's, (even restricting the genus, as I would, and excluding Ninox and Glaucidium,) occur in Malayana, in many cases, each Island having its own distinct form of Owlet, the extreme proneness to vary in the type form of this genus being as remarkable as in Accipiter.
I notice a remark of Mr. Blyth's in the Ibis about another species of Athene. He says " A. sonnerati (Temm.. Pl. Col. 21) is stated to have been sent from Pondicherry by M. Leschenault, but no such bird is known in India or Burma. Dr. Pucheran identifies it with Strix superciliaris, Vieillot (Rev. Zool. 1849, p. 19,) which is therefore different from Ephialtes Sagittatus, Cassin, (Ibis, 1863, p. 21) : and Prof. Kaup designates it Ieroglaux Superciliaris, but without mentioning its particular habitat which was unknown to Mr. Vieillot. The same individual specimen in the Paris Museum was described by Temminck, Vieillot, and Lesson."
Temminck, I note, says that this bird was sent from Pondicherry by Sonnerat.
It seems to me by no means certain that this species may not occur in India. Scarcely a week passes without some hitherto unrecorded species turning up, and I therefore quote Temminck's remarks and description. " This species is nearly allied to Strix Passerind and Tegmalmi of Europe; the tail is much longer than the wings, exceeding them by more than 2.1, (English,) and the tarsi and toes are feathered. The length is 11.7, (English).
" The whole of the upper parts are rufous brown, the feathers of the head being dotted with very small white spots, and those of the coverts and the secondaries (?) with large, round, ones. The primaries and tail feathers are unbarred and unspotted, unicolorous with the back; the orbital region, face and throat, are rufous white, the lower parts are pure white, intersected by transverse, widely separated, brown bars ; feathers of the tarsi and toes, rufous; claws and bill yellow."
According to the plate, the secondaries and the primaries above the emarginations are paler, a white spot is shown on the outer web of the second primary just above the emargination.