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

[Plate LXXXI. Short-eared owl. (Brachyotus palustris.) cont.],   pp. 125-126


Page 125


MOTTLED OWL-RED-SHOULDERED HAWK.
nner of all Owls. It soon grew tamer, however, and would
gard me with a wise stare, as if perfectly understanding that I
s a friend.
' In a short time it would take food from me without fear; I
rer saw it drink, although water was kept constantly near it.
food consisted of mice, birds, and butchers' meat, on which it
readily. I kept the bird caged for about two weeks, during
ich time it became quite tame, but would not tolerate handling,
rays threatening me with its beak, when my hands approached
As the wires of its cage broke its feathers, when moving about,
i as it hardly seemed resigned to confinement, I opened its cage
I gave it the freedom of the room, leaving the windows open
nights and day. About this time I gave it the name of ' Scops,'
to which in a little while it would answer, when called, with a low
rattle, which sounded like the distant note of the Kingfisher.
" One morning, Scops was missing; diligent search was made
for it, but no Owl could be found, and, reluctantly, we gave it up
for lost. Once or twice it was seen in the neighboring woods by
different people, and once on the roof of a barn, but was wild, and
refused to be caught. It had been absent about a week, when, one
morning, I was told that my Owl was out in the yard. I hastened
out, and found a half-grown Newfoundland dog playing with my
pet. The Owl was clinging to his shaggy fur with its claws, snap-
ping its beak, and biting fiercely. I immediately rescued poor
Scops, and carried it into the house. On arriving in its old quar-
ters it seemed pleased, chuckling to itself after its manner. It was
almost starved, and ate two full-grown Bluebirds at the first meal.
After this time I gave it the privilege of going and coming when
it pleased; but, mindful of its former experience, it never has but
once remained away more than two days at a time. It now became
more attached to me than ever, and will, at this time, permit me
to pat it gently.
" When a bird is given it for food, it takes it in its claws, and,
with its beak, it invariably pulls out the wing and tail feathers first,
then eats the head, then devours the intestines; then, if not satisfied,
it eats the remainder of the bird, feathers and all. That this Owl
sees tolerably well in the daytime I have proved to my satis-
faction. I caught a mouse and put it alive into an open box about
two feet square; this I placed upon a bench near Scops, who was
attentively watching my movements. The moment it saw the mouse,
the owl opened its eyes wide, bent forward, moved its head from
side to side, then came down with an unerring aim, burying its
talons deep in the head and back of the mouse. Looking up into
my face, and uttering its rattling noise, as if inquiring, I Is n't that
well done?' it flew up to its perch, with its struggling prey grasped
firmly in its talons, when it killed the mouse, by biting it in the
head and back. During the whole act it displayed considerable
energy and excitement. In sleeping, it usually stands on one foot,
both eyes shut; but sometimes stretches out at full length, resting
on its breast. When sound asleep, it awakes instantly on its name
being pronounced, and will answer as quickly as when awake. I
have heard it utter its peculiar quavering note on one or two oc-
casions, which, notwithstanding its reputed mournfulness, has
much that sounds pleasant to my ear. When out at night among
the trees, Scops acts in much the same manner as when in the
house-hopping from limb to limb, looking about with a quick,
graceful motion of the head, sometimes turning the head around
so that the face comes directly behind. The alarm note is a kind
of a low moan; this was often uttered at the sight of a gray squir-
rel, and always at the sight of its old enemy, the dog.
" While flying, Scops moves through the air with a quick, steady
motion, alighting on any object without missing a foothold. I
never heard it utter a note when thus moving. When perching,
it does not grasp with its claws, but holds them at some distance
from the wood, clasping with the soles of the toes. When it has
eaten enough of a bird, it hides the remaining portions in any con-
venient place near by. If its hiding-place is then approached, the
owl from its perch watches the intruder jealously, and when its
hidden spoils are touched, it lays back its ear-like tufts, snaps its
beak once or twice, and drops down on the unlucky hand like an
arrow, striking it with its sharp claws until the hand is withdrawn;
then, ascertaining that its treasure is safe, Scops resumes its perch,
looking at its late disturber with most unfriendly eyes.'* I once
placed a stuffed Owl of its own species near it, when it ruffled its
feathers, gave a series of hisses, moans, and snappings of the
beak, and stretched out one wing at full length in front of its head,
as a shield to repulse what it took to be a stranger invading its own
domains. As the stuffed bird was pushed nearer, Scops budged
not an inch, but looked fiercer than ever; its ruffled back feathers
were erected high, its eyes sparkled, and its whole attitude was one
of war.
In the work, ' The Birds of New England,' are given two
instances of this bird's first plumage being in the red; but my
bird is decidedly in the gray. If it is red at all, it must be at some
time hereafter."
Mottled Owl, Screech Owl, or Red Owl. (Scops asio.)
Fig. 2.
This is one of our small and beautiful species. It is abundant
in most all parts of North America. The food consists of mice,
small birds, beetles, crickets, and insects generally. The nest is
found built in the hollow of old trees, about the last of May or
early in June, and is lined with hay, grass, and feathers. The
eggs are usually about five, and are nearly round, and white in
color.
Nuttall says: "During the day they either retire into hollow
trees and unfrequented barns, or hide in the thickest evergreens.
At times they are abroad by day, and in cloudy weather they
wake up from their diurnal slumbers a considerable time before
dark. In the day they are always drowsy, or, as if dozing,
closing, or scarcely half opening their heavy eyes, presenting the
very picture of sloth and nightly dissipation. When perceived by
the smaller birds, they are at once recognized as their insidious
enemies; and the rareness of their appearance before the usual
roosting-time of other birds, augments the suspicion they entertain
of their feline hunters.  . . . Their notes are most frequent in
the latter end of summer and autumn, crying in a sort of wailing
quiver, not very unlike the whining of a puppy dog, ho, ho, ho,
ho, ho, ho, proceeding from high and clear to a low guttural
shake or trill. These notes, at little intervals, are answered by
some companion, and appear to be chiefly a call of recognition
from young of the same brood, or pairs who wish to discover each
other after having been separated while dozing in the day. On
moonlight evenings this slender wailing is kept up nearly until
midnight." This species is from eight to ten inches long.
Red-shouldered Hawk or Buzzard. (Buteo lineatus.)
Fig. 3.
This handsome species is represented in its adult plumage.
Prof. Verrill, in comparing Maine and Florida species, finds that
those of southern birth are considerably smaller than the average.
It is very abundant in the Atlantic States.
According to Nuttall, " In the Southern States, during winter,
they are very common in swampy situations, where their quailing
cry of mutual recognition may be heard from the depths of the
dark forest almost every morning of the season. This plaintive
echoing note resembles somewhat the garrulous complaint of the
Jay, kee-oo, kee-oo, kee-oo, continued with but little intermission
sometimes for near twenty minutes; at length it becomes loud and
impatient, but on being distantly answered by the mate, the sound
softens and becomes plaintive, like kee-oo. This morning call is
uttered most loudly and incessantly by the male, inquiring for his
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