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Studer, Jacob Henry, 1840-1904. / Birds of North America
(1903)

Plate XXII. The Barred owl. (Syrnium nebulosum.),   pp. 21-22


Page 21


-~ ~ ~~~OGTIE  UKBRE  W.2
tree, the nests differing in nothing from those of other Hawks.
The female lays two and sometimes three dirty white eggs, which
are disproportionately thick on the round end and suddenly taper-
ing to a point. The flight of this Hawk is a sailing in circles, or
a skimming near the ground in search of prey, at which he darts
with great celerity either on the ground or on the wing. It is a real
curiosity to see him pick up a bird, when flying near the ground,
so quickly that it is seldom noticed when he stoops and clutches it,
as he seems to fly along as if nothing of the kind had happened.
His long and expanded tail serves him as an excellent rudder, when
threading dense woods, which he performs with great dexterity.
When resting he assumes a very erect position. The young of
the first season are destitute of the fine zigzag markings on the
breast and belly; but each feather is marked with a broad longi-
tudinal streak of dark brown, while the head is of the same color
without distinctness in the markings.
PLATE XXI.
The Long-tailed Duck. (Harelda glacialis.)
The Long-tailed Duck passes on the eastern coast of the United
States under the name of South-Southerly, from the singular re-
semblance of its cry to those words. The people inhabiting or
living near the coasts say that when these ducks are very clamor-
ous, it betokens a southerly wind or storm. In New Jersey and
in the State of New York they are usually called Oldwives. They
are a regular salt-water Duck, inhabiting bays and coasts only late
in the fall or in winter. They are rarely found in the marshes, and
very seldom ramble farfrom the sea, keeping always to the channel,
where they may be seen constantly diving for small shelled fish,
which seem to be their principal food. When passing from one
bay to another, often in large flocks, their loud and clamorous cry
can be heard at a great distance, especially toward evening. They
are lively and restless, and in their swift flight usually make but
short excursions. They inhabit corresponding latitudes in both
America and Europe, where great numbers of them remain the
whole winter, or rather, the whole year round, only a few of them,
comparatively speaking, wandering off toward the south in the
cold season. Flocks of these Ducks have been found, in the
months of October, November, December, January, February, and
March, in the Orkney islands. They have also been frequently
found in Sweden, Lapland, and Russia.
One of their chief breeding-places is Hudson's Bay. They make
their nests among the long grass near the sea; these are composed
of dry rushes and grass, lined inside with a fine soft down from the
breast of the female. Toward the middle of June, the latter lays
from ten to fourteen bluish white eggs, of about the size of those
of a pullet. The young, as soon as they are hatched, follow their
mother to the water, never returning to the nest again.
On the whole, the Long-tailed Ducks are pretty hardy birds
and most excellent divers. Their flesh is not held in great esteem, as
it is rather dry, and has, besides, a sedgy taste. Their feathers, and
especially those of the breast, and their down, are of the best qual-
ity for bedding.
The wind-pipe of this Duck is similar to that of other Ducks,
and rather curiously formed; the labyrinth is large and is partly
of a circular form, and the wind-pipe immediately above it has an
expansion of double its usual diameter, which continues for about
an inch and a half. This is flattened on the side next the breast,
making an oblong space like a window, which is crossed with fine
narrow bars, and covered with a thin semi-transparent skin. A
similar skin is spread over the external side of the labyrinth. This
singular conformation is, as in all other Ducks, peculiar to the
males of this species, which have the wind-pipe of nearly the
same thickness throughout. On dissection the length of the intes-
tine was found to be five feet and seven inches, and the liver rather
large.
On our plate the full-plumaged male is represented on the right
hand, giving a side view, while the female pilots her young about
on the water. Both male and female are in their summer dress.
On the left hand of our plate the male and female Long-tailed
Duck are represented in their winter dress.
In conclusion, it may be remarked that the singular voice of this
Duck was supposed by some Ornithologists to be occasioned by
the peculiar construction of its wind-pipe; but this can not be the
case, for the simple reason that the female of this species is the
most noisy, and yet is partially destitute of that peculiarly formed
wind-pipe.
PLATE XXII.
The Barred Owl. (Syrnium nebulosum.)
This is one of our most common Owls, and more frequently than
any other is seen late in the fall or in winter, especially near the
borders of creeks or rivers, or near swamps bordered by woods.
In summer it is generally found in dense forests, flying about from
place to place during the entire day, seeming not to be a nocturnal
bird, but to see better in the day-time than any other Owl. It is by
no means a shy bird, but will often, at night, come close to a lonely
camp-fire, exposing itself to the glare of the fire, without showing
the slightest token of alarm. It will turn its unusually thick head
toward you, and scrutinize you with its large black eyes. In Louis-
iana these Owls seem to be the most abundant, and in passing
through the dense woods the traveler may often count six or eight
in the distance of a few miles, and at the approach of night, their
cries can be heard from every patch of woods near the plantations.
In dark and cloudy days, indicating an approaching rain-storm,
their cries are multiplied during the day, and are louder than usual.
On the coming on of a storm, they respond to each other in such
unearthly and strange tones, that one can not help thinking that
something extraordinary is taking place among them. Their mo-
tions and gesticulations are, on such occasions, stranger and more
lively than usual. On approaching the bird, it at once changes
its perpendicular position to a horizontal one, throwing the lateral
feathers of the head forward, so as to make it appear as if sur-
rounded by a broad ruff, moving it round, and backward and for-
ward so quickly as to cause it to look as if it were dislocated from
the body. All motions of the intruder are looked at with eyes that
seem as if they were half-blind, and with a suspicion of treacher-
ous intentions. The bird flies off to a short distance, alighting
with its back toward the intruder, but immediately turns to begin its
scrutiny anew. If you do not shoot at it, you may follow it in this
way for a long distance; but if shot at and not wounded, it will
fly off to such a distance that you will lose sight of it, though you
may hear its pompously uttered " wha, wha, wha," from time to
time.
The flight of this Owl is light, smooth, and perfectly noiseless,
so much so that not the slightest rustling of the wings can be
heard, even if it flies only a couple of yards above your head. If
the occasion requires it, their flight can be greatly protracted, as
they have been noticed to fly on one stretch a distance of over two
miles. The writer has noticed the Barred Owl several times in the
day-time sailing about in the air in small circles, in a manner sim-
ilar to the hawk, rising to a great height and then flying off to a
distance, in an irregular zigzag line, while briskly flapping its
wings. He also several times found the nest of that Owl contain-
ing eggs, the number of which, when the bird was sitting, was
invariably three.  These were of the size of a hen's egg, but
more globular, and had a coarse rough shell of a pure white color.
All the nests found were snugly built in the fork of some large
tree, and among its thick foliage. The nest was, however, rudely
LONG-TAILED DUCK-BARRED OWL.
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