No. 62. Phodilus Badius. HORSF.
THE BAY SCREECH OWL.
Nothing is known of the nidification, and next to nothing of the habits, of this most beautiful species. Dr. Horsfield says : " The Wowo-wiwi is rarely met with in Java. It never visits the villages, but resides in the deepest forests, which are the usual resort of the Tiger. The natives even assert, that it approaches this animal, with the same familiarity with which the Jallak (Pastor Jalla, Horsf.) approaches the Buffaloe, and that it does not fear to alight on the Tiger's back. The Wowo-wiwi is never seen in confinement; the few individuals which I obtained, were from the densest forests of the district of Pugar, and from the ranges of low hills, south of the capital of Surakarta. Like most other species of this family, it is a nocturnal bird."
The above is all I have been able to find recorded of the habits of this species. Temminick, who figures it (PL Col. 318) quotes this passage, and gravely remarks that this habit of roosting on Tigers' backs, requires further confirmation ! He says that the iris is brown and figures it bright yellow; an ingenious method of getting out of the difficulty, since it can hardly, (the bird being what it is,) help being one or the other.
Dr. Jerdon describes the lower parts as pale fulvous yellow, but in the specimen which he himself gave me, they are from the lower breast and downwards, a beautiful salmon pink. All the quills are beautifully banded with black on their inner webs, the first two or three on the outer also ; and the first feather of the winglet, the first greater primary covert and the first primary have the outer webs white, with broad transverse bars of the deepest brown, mingled at the extreme margins of the feathers with chesnut.
Dr. Jerdon also omits to notice, (what Temminck's very indifferent figure correctly shows) one of the most notable features in the plumage of this species, viz. that the whole forehead and anterior half of the crown is a pale delicate salmon pink, contrasting strongly with the deep but brilliant chesnut of the posterior portion of the crown, the occiput, &c.
Mr. Blyth, remarked in the Ibis for 1866, that the proper position of this species was with the Syrniinae; " Professor Schlegel refers this species to his Ulula, as distinguished from Strix; and upon examination of the external ear and other characters, I find that it has no claim to belong to the Screech Owl, sub-family (Striginae), but is distinctly one of the Hooters (Syrniinae). Messrs. Mottley and Dillwyn remark, that it has only a single note, frequently repeated, and which is much like the first note of the common Wood-Owl's cry."
This may be the case, but so far as bill, disk, shape of head, tail, and wings, and the character of the plumage is concerned, it seems to me to be a Strix. The legs and feet are perhaps more like those of the hooters, but an osculant type as it avowedly is, its external affinities are more with the barn than the wood Owls.
The whole tone of its colouration is that of the so-called rufous phase of Scops Pennatus ; it would be curious if a non-rufous phase of this species also were to turn up.
The Bay Owl has been found in Borneo, Sumatra, Java, the Malay Peninsula, Burma Proper, Aracan, Assam, Sikhim and Nepal, and Mr. R. Thompson says, " I have shot one or two specimens of this bird, many years ago, in the Dehra Dhoon, flushing it out of short grass in broken raviny ground." So that Major Boyes' specimen in the Philadelphia Museum need not, (as Mr. Blyth supposes) necessarily have come from Tenasserim.