No. 65. Bulaca Ocellata.* LESSON.
THE MOTTLED WOOD OWL.
This species, lays in the plains of the North-Western Pro- vinces and the Punjaub, in March, but I have a note of the eggs having been taken in the Dhoon early in April. Its eggs are deposited at heights of from eight to twenty-five feet from the ground, in some large cavity, or in the depression at the fork of two or more huge branches, of some old peepul or mango tree. There is no nest, so to speak, but a little dry touch wood, a few dead leaves, or a little earth, covering the floor, if I may so call it, of the nesting place, forms a scanty bed for the eggs.
Two is the ordinary number of eggs laid; indeed there were two eggs (in three instances more or less incubated) in every one of the seven nests of which I have notes.
The eggs of this species are generally a very round oval. White, with in many instances a very delicate creamy tinge. In size and shape, they seem to be scarcely distinguishable from those of the allied & Aluco of Europe. In texture they are coarser than those of Strix Indica or any of the Ephialtes or Athenes, that I know; but they are finer than those of Ketupa Ceylonensis or Ascalaphia Coromanda. From the eggs of Ascalaphia Bengalensis, it is scarcely possible to separate them; although Bengalensis is a considerably larger bird, its eggs, as regards size, shape, and texture, seem almost identical with those of the present species. All that I can say, with an ample series of both before me, is, that as a body, the eggs of Bengalensis are a mere trifle larger, and have more gloss than those of Ocellata. For the size of the bird, the eggs of the present species are somewhat large.
In Length, they vary from 1.94 to 2.1, and in breadth, from 1.63 to 1.75, but the average of ten eggs measured, was 2.01 by 1.68.
I have more than once shot the male sitting on the eggs. Mr. W. Blewitt writes, " I found a nest near Hansie in a hollow of a peepul tree about nineteen feet from the ground, on the 16th of March. The nest hole which was lined with leaves, contained two partially incubated eggs."
Mr. Brookes says, that on the 3rd of March, 1867, he " took a pair of eggs out of a nest in a mango tree. The nest was in the fork of two huge branches about twenty feet from the ground. There was a little earth and a few dry mango leaves. The eggs were pure white and very round."
Mr. Blyth,. writing of this species says, that it has " conspicuous rose-coloured orbits, though I see that my friend, Dr. Jerdon, has described them as ' orange this, however, may depend on the age, the red distinguishing the young." I have recorded the colours of the soft parts, of more than a dozen specimens, in all I find this note, " edges of lids reddish." The fact is, different people see colours very differently, and what is more, even if they see them alike, describe them in very different terms; the reader may take his choice, between rose coloured, orange and reddish, without going very far wrong.
This species is found throughout India, east of the Sutledge, and of the Indus below its junction with the former, and west of the Ganges. I have seen specimens from near Aboo, and from Kattiwar, and again from near Fazilka. It occurs, though sparingly, in Lower Bengal, Mr. Blyth having, he says, picked up an unmistakable feather of one, in a mango tope, thirty miles from Calcutta. I have a specimen from Monghyr. It has not been recorded from Ceylon, and in Assam it is apparently replaced by the next species. West of the Sutledge, I cannot fold any record of it, although it may very likely occur there. It is most common in moderately dry country, well furnished with large groves. The large mango topes of the N. W. Provinces are favourite haunts of this species. My own experience is, that it affects neither very damp, nor very dense jungly districts. It certainly occurs in the sub-Himalayan valleys, as I obtained a specimen near Jewlee, below Nynetal. I cannot say whether it ascents the Hills to any height. Mr. Blyth thinks that it does not, and I have never myself met with it at any considerable elevation.
The stomachs of four specimens that I examined, contained exclusively the remains of Rats, Mice and Squirrels !
* BULACA OCELLATA.
DIMENSIONS. ( I do not find that the sexes differ constantly in size, and I therefore do not give their dimensions separately.)
Length, 17.9 to 19.2 ; expanse, 45.0 to 50.5; wing, 13.0 to 14.9; tail, 7.3 to 8.4; tarsus (feathered throughout) 2.05 to 2.4; foot, greatest length, 3.4 to 4.1; greatest width, 3.9 to 4.35 ; mid toe to root of claw, 1.35 to 1.66; its claw straight, 0.9 to 1.03 ; hind toe, 0.75 to 0.9; its claw, straight, 0.7 to 0.82 ; inner toe, 1.0 to 1.25 ; its claw, 0.9 to 1.05 ; bill, straight from edge of cere to point, 0.85 to 0.98; from forehead, straight to point, 1.17 to 1.42; from gape, 1.6 to 1.7; width at gape, 1.0 to 1.38; height at front at margin of cere, 0.48 to 0.56 ; length of cere, 0.6 to 0.63; wings, when closed, reach to end of tail or fall short of it by not more than 1 , lower tail coverts fall short of end of tail by from 2.25 to 3.8.
The third, or third and fourth primaries are the longest; the first from 2.5 to 3.0, and the second from 0.6 to 1.1, shorter. The external tail feathers are from 0.45 to 0.9 shorter than the central ones. Weight from 1 & 6 oz. to 2 lbs., but 1 lb. 8 oz. is about the average.
DESCRIPTION. The front of the toes sparsely feathered with dingy white bristly feathers ; terminal joints with three, transverse, soft scales, or folds of skin, pale greenish brown; soles yellowish white, papillae conspicuous but soft; claws, which though sharp are little curved, and comparatively rather feeble, pale brown at their bases, dark brown at the tips; inner edge of middle claw somewhat dilated.
Irides. Brown, in some light, in some deep.
Bill. Horny black, pale and greyish on lower mandible.
Cere. Dingy, a mixture of dirty, pinkish, brownish, and yellowish, horny - : varies a good deal.
Tongue. Thick, fleshy, broad, membraneous and slightly divided at the tip.
Plumage (of an adult male, shot on the nest, March 6th, 1867). Lores with a prominent tuft of white, bristle-like feathers, with widely separated webs, and shafts prolonged some distance beyond webs, such prolongation being black or blackish brown, and a few of the feathers with traces, of one or more, dark brown or blackish bars. A somewhat similar tuft on the end of the chin, but without the black tips. Feathers, of point of forehead, immediately over the eye, behind the eye as far as the ear aperture (which is enormous) and round below the eye to the base of the lower mandible, including the feathers of the eyelids, greyish white with blackish tips and most of them with narrow, transverse, black or blackish brown bars, a stripe of these feathers behind and partly below the eye tinged ferruginous. From the base of the chin, a line of dark brown to blackish feathers runs (bounding the greyish white, barred ones, above described) round the cheeks, behind the ear opening, and behind the eye, to the top of the head, defining the facial disk, which is not very decided; below this line (some of the feathers of which, especially near the chin, are a good deal mottled or at times barred with white, dingy white or rufous) a large, pure white patch on the centre of the throat. Centre of forehead, top and back of the head, back and sides of the neck, the feathers a rich chesnut, more or less broadly tipped with blackish brown, with conspicuous, but somewhat irregular, white spots on the tippings. The whole back, scapulars and wing coverts, except those of the primaries, dingy ferruginous at their bases, the terminal portions (of greater or less extent) white, obscurely barred with irregular and more or less incomplete, dark brown bars and the interspaces closely speckled and mottled with the same colour. In many oases, traces of the barring and mottling extend up the feathers, on to the ferruginous portion - :in the greater secondary coverts, the white, mottled interspaces are chiefly on the outer web, and in the smallest coverts, the brown altogether predominates at the tips. The winglet much resembles the secondary greater coverts. The primary greater coverts, as a whole, are brown, more or less buff at the base and on inner webs, and with a tipping and two or three broad, transverse bars (chiefly on the outer webs) of mottled white or brown, or mottled buffy and brown. The first four primaries are notched on the inner webs conspicuously, and there is a trace of the same in the fifth and sixth. The second,third and fourth, are also emarginate on the outer web. The extreme tips of all the primaries are mottled fulvous white and a faint brown; above this the ground colour of the tips (as far as the notches and emarginations, where these exist,) is a slightly yellowish brown, and above this the ground colour is a rich buff. All the primaries are barred throughout, on both webs, with transverse, irregular, brown bars, very inconspicuous on the brown tips of the first few primaries. The interspaces on the outer webs, are every where mottled with brown, and on the earlier primaries above the emarginations cover much of or in some nearly the whole, web, and below these, have a paler ground (greyish white) than the corresponding portions of the inner web. The secondaries are regularly barred with brown, broadly on the outer, more narrowly on the inner webs, and with the tips, and interspaces of outer webs, greyish white, mottled and speckled brown, and the interspaces of the inner webs buff, to buffy white, the brown bars growing narrower, and the buff interspaces wider and paler, as they approach the interior margin. The upper tail coverts are ferruginous buff, with greyish white tips, barred and mottled with brown. The tail feathers are brownish buff, with broad, dark brown tips. The tips of all the feathers, the whole of the central ones and of the outer webs of the lateral ones, with broad, close, irregular, incomplete, mottled white brown and dark brown bars, and the inner webs of the lateral tail feathers like the inner webs of the secondaries. Base of the neck in front, breast, sides, abdomen, lower tail coverts and lower wing coverts (except greater ditto of primaries which are pale buff with black tips), ferruginous to pale buff at base, the rest being greyish white with several, narrow, clearly defined, transverse, slightly wavy brown bars. The tint of the basal portion diminishes in intensity, as the feathers recede from the base of the neck, and becomes nearly white in the lower tail coverts. The thighs and tarsi are, the former, a dull buff, the latter greyish white, with numerous, close, transverse, narrow, wavy brown bars.
No. 2. A female shot on the nest, March 7th, with all the abdomen bared for incubation.
This corresponded precisely with the above description, yet differed considerably in appearance, owing first, to the dark circumscribing line of the facial disk being less marked; second, to many of the feathers of the white throat patch, having excessively narrow, black tippings; third, to there being a much larger extent of the mottled white, on the whole upper surface; fourth, to the ferruginous or buff of wings, tail, and bases of body feathers, as well as the brown of the tips of primaries and tail feathers being paler.