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

Plate LXXXI. Short-eared owl. (Brachyotus palustris.),   p. 124

Page 124

King Rail; Fresh-water Marsh Hen. (Rallus elegans.)
Fig. +
This beautiful bird is met with in the fresh-water marshes along
the Atlantic coast, in summer, and in winter in the more Southern
States. Its habits are about the same as that of the species
described on page 3.
Great Blue Heron. (Ardea Aerodias.)
Fig. i.
Most all Herons are large and ungainly birds; and they are
met with in most parts of the globe. In North America the Blue
Heron is restricted to the warmer parts, and at the approach
of winter, or when their supply of food falls short, it migrates into
the tropical parts of the continent. Swamps, shallow rivers, and
pools are their favorite haunts, and in these they quietly stand,
with their necks drawn down between their shoulders, watching
the approach of a fish, upon which they suddenly dart, and seizing
it in the beak, swallow it in an instant. They also consume small
quadrupeds, frogs, and a variety of insects.
Coues says: " No species of Heron has a wider distribution in
North America, and only the Bittern equals it in the extent of its
dispersion. It appears to be more common, however, in the
United States than farther north, and is resident south of the mid-
dle districts. Herons, as a group, are rather southern birds;
only these two just named (Glossy or Bay Ibis; Great Blue
Heron) proceed beyond the United States, and most, if not all,
are more abundant in the southern portions of the Union. They
are particularly numerous in the South Atlantic and Gulf States,
where they breed by thousands, and in which districts several
species occur that are not found in corresponding latitudes in the
West. On the Pacific side we have no peculiar species, all that
occur there being of wide distribution."
Of the nest the same writer says: " Wherever placed, on tree,
bush, or rock, the nest of the Heron is a large bed of twigs, more
or less matted together with grasses and weeds, some two feet in
diameter and about one-third as high. Two or three eggs are
laid, probably never more. They measure 2.50 by x.50, and are
rather narrowly elliptical, with both ends of about the same shape;
the color is a pale, dull, greenish blue, varying in shade in differ-
ent specimens, but always uniform on the same egg.'
White Ibis. (Ibis alba.)
Fig. 2.
Scarlet Ibis. (Ibis rubra.)
Fig. 3.
The habits and characteristics of these two species are about the
same. Their native haunts are Central America and the northern
portions of South America as far as the Amazon; from thence they
extend their migrations in summer into the most southern portions
of the United States, rarely ever proceeding farther north than
Carolina. Along the borders of the sea and the shores of adjacent
rivers, these birds are to be met with, from which they seldom extend
far inland.  Mr. Bartram says: "I They fly in large flocks or
squadrons, evening and morning, to and from their feeding-places
or roosts, and are usually called ' Spanish Curlews.' They sub-
sist principally on cray-fish, whose cells they probe, and, with
their strong pinching bills, drag them out." Fry and aquatic insects
also constitute a part of their food.
The flight of these beautiful species is said to be lofty and strong,
and as they pass through the air they utter a loud and peculiar
cry. Their flesh is not held in very high esteem, although it is
sometimes eaten.
According to Sagra, the eggs, three or four in number, are laid
upon the ground, and have a greenish shell. Schomburghk states
that young and adult birds do not associate with each other, but
unite in distinct bands.
The White Ibis is about twenty-three inches long, and thirty-
seven in extent. The Scarlet Ibis has about the same measurement.
Short-eared Owl. (Brachyotus fialusth*.)
This species is pretty generally distributed throughout North
America, and in the temperate parts is said to be abundant. It
exhibits no fear of man, and may frequently be seen perching upon
the trees that grow near crowded thoroughfares. During the day
they conceal themselves under the vines, or among the branches
of trees, the stems of which they so much resemble in color as to
be in but little danger of detection, so long as they remain quiet.
It is not until evening has fully set in that they sally out in quest
of food, and hover, with something of the movement of a Falcon,
close to the surface of the ground, in quest of mice and similar fare.
"The specific name of this species," says Cones, "is highly
appropriate, such is its preference for low, moist, and even swampy
or marshy resorts. It is, however, one of the few species not con-
fined to woods, but occurring in open prairie, sometimes many
miles from timbered land. It nests on the ground, laying its eggs
either in a bare depression, or upon a few sticks or feathers, or a
little grass. The eggs, usually four or five in number, are dull
white, less nearly spherical than usual in this family, and measure
about an inch and a half in length by one and a fourth in breadth.
But its nesting varies with circumstances. Mr. Dall recently found
it breeding in burrows, on the island of Oonalashka; ' the hole is
horizontal, and the inner end usually a little higher than the aper-
ture; lined with dry grass and feathers.' The burrows were not
over two feet deep, usually excavated in the side of a steep bank.'
Mottled Owl, Red Owl, or Screech Owl. (Scops asio.)
Fig. 2.
Although this species appears represented on the plate in differ-
ent coloration of its plumage, it is one and the same bird; the dif-
ference in color is without any known cause. It is one of our best
known and most abundant species. Mr. Maynard contributes an
interesting account of this species to the American Naturalist, Vol.
I., page 73, which reads as follows: "' On June I, i867, I ob-
served some boys around a small Owl, which was perched on a
stick; on closer examination I found that it was a young Mottled
Owl (scops asio bonaparto). It was staring about in a dazed man-
ner, and seemed half stupefied. I easily persuaded the boys to
part with it for a trifle, and took it home. I should judge that it
was about two weeks old. It was covered with a grayish down.
I put it in a large cage, and gave it some meat, which it ate, but not
readily, for it seemed frightened at the sight of my hand; and at
my near approach, would draw back, snapping its beak after the
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