(Strix brachyotos, Gm. Linn.)
LENGTH fourteen inches; breadth three feet. The head is small, and Hawk-like; bill dusky; the irides are bright yellow, and when the pupil is contracted, shine like gold: the circle round each eye is dirty white, with dark streaks pointing outwards; immediately round the eye is a circle of black; the two ear tufts consist of not more than three feathers, of a pale brown or tawny, with a dark streak in the middle of each; the whole upper part of the body is variously marked with dark brown and tawny, the feathers mostly edged with the latter; the breast and belly are pale yellow, marked with dark longitudinal streaks, most numerous on the breast: the legs and feet are covered with feathers of a pale yellow; claws much hooked, and black: the wings are long, and extend beyond the tail; quills marked with alternate bars of a dusky and pale brown; the tail is likewise marked with bars of the same colours, and the middle feathers are distinguished by a dark spot in the centre of the yellow space; the tip white. Of several of these birds, both male and female, with which this work has been favoured, both sexes had the upright tufts or ears: in one which was alive, they were very conspicuous, and appeared more erect while the bird remained undisturbed; but when frightened, were scarcely to be seen: in the dead birds they were hardly discernible.
Pennant seems to be the first describer of this rare and beautiful species, which he supposes to be a bird of passage, as it visits us only in the latter part of the year, and disappears in the spring. It has been known to breed in Northumberland, the young having been taken before they were able to fly. It flies by day, and sometimes is seen in companies: twenty-eight were once counted in a turnip-field in November.* It is found chiefly in wooded or mountainous countries: its food is principally field mice.
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