No. 79. Athene Cuculoides.*
THE LARGE BARRED OWLET.
The large Barred Owlet lays from March to May; its eggs, four in number, are always deposited in some hollow or hole in a tree, without any nest or at most, a mere apology for one in the shape of a few dead leaves, or a little dry touchwood.
The females, accord with Dr. Jerdon's measurements. The males are smaller; the following are the dimensions of a fine male killed near Nyneetal.
Length, 8.88. Expanse, 20. Wing, 5.7. Tail from vent, 3.38. Tarsus, 1.02. Mid toe, to root of claw, 0.84; its claw straight, 0.51; hind toe, 0.45 ; its claw, 6.4 ; inner toe, 0.63 ; its claw, 0.48. Bill straight, from edge of cere to point, 0.52 ; from gape, 0.85 ; height at front, at margin of cere, 0.38. The closed wings reach to within, 1.38 of end of tail; the 4th primary is longest, the 5th, 0.08, the 1st, 1.5; the 2nd, 0.55 ; and the 3rd, 0.1, shorter. The exterior tail feathers are 0.4 shorter than the central ones, and the lower tail coverts reach to within 1.05 of the end of the tail.
DESCRIPTION. The feet, sparsely bristled, are light yellow ; claws brown, yellowish horny at base; the irides, bright amber yellow ; the bill light yellowish horny.
The lores, (some of the feathers of which are tipped dusky) a band over the eye, the chin, and two broad stripes, running from the chin and base of lower mandible, under the ear coverts and round the lower half of the posterior margin of the aural orifice, (where it is hidden in dry specimens by the ear coverts,) a broad band at the base of the neck in front, an ill-defined streak down the centre of the breast and abdomen, the vent feathers and lower tail coverts, white; the tail and quills, brown, of varying shade, corresponding with but rather darker and purer, than that of the back ; the former with six or seven narrow, transverse, white, fulvous or rufous white bars, (according to the general tone of colouring of the specimen) averaging about 0.1 in width and 0.4 apart, one of which is terminal and another more or less hidden by the upper tail coverts; the quills with conspicuous spots or imperfect bars, of white or fulvous white on the outer webs and traces of corresponding pale bars on the inner webs, and the secondaries tipped with the same colour. The rest of the plumage, brown (varying in different specimens from greyish or. earthy, to hair or even rufous brown) every where regularly banded with narrow, white (or greyish, or fulvous, or rufous white as the case may be in different individuals) bars, closest on the ear coverts and front of neck, (where they may average 0.1 apart) and widest apart on the scapulars (where the interspaces may average 0.25).
The exterior webs of some of the outer smaller scapulars and of some of the coverts near the fold of the wing, with large blotches of white or rufous white which are much more developed in some specimens than in others. Inner webs of all but of the first four quills, yellowish or rufous white towards the bases. Wing lining and axillaries, chiefly yellowish white. Tarsal feathers mottled or irregularly barred whitish and brown. Bars often irregular, and much white intermingled on the abdominal region and flanks.
The eggs which, as might be expected, are pure white and glossy, are rather large for the size of the bird. In shape they vary from almost perfect spheres to broad ovals and are as nearly as possible like those of the little Owl of Europe (A. Nudipes ).
The few eggs that I have measured, varied from 1.38 to 1.48 in Length, and from 1.17 to 1.24, the average of six eggs being 1.42 by 1.19.
Capt. Hutton says, " I have found the nest of this species, which I at the time erroneously identified with " Nudipes" in the neighbourhood of Mussouree, at elevations of between five and six thousand feet. The eggs, three (or four) in number, round and pure white, are deposited in holes in trees, without nest."
Capt. Cock, writing from Dhurumsalla, says, " I found their nests on three occasions, always in a hollow tree. On two occasions there were four eggs in each nest, and the other time four young ones. Nests in hollow hill oaks some twenty to thirty feet from the ground. There was no lining to the nest, just a few dead leaves that might have been in the hollow accidentally. Eggs on each occasion varied in shape, but each nest of eggs retained its own characteristics, thus in one the eggs were all more spherical, in the other more oval."
Mr. R. Thompson writing from Gurhwal, says that this species " breeds in May and June, in holes, in large trees. It is quite as common as A, Radiata in these forests, but has not the active sanguinary habits of the other. Many breed in the oak and fir woods above Khoorpatal. I had the young brought once in June some three years ago."
This species is confined, so far as we yet certainly know, to the Himalayahs; it is very doubtful whether the Indo-Chinese bird, is really identical with the Himalayan. It seems most probable that the Burmese bird either corresponds with the Japanese race or is a distinct species, (vide 79 bis).