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The Bullfinch
Look at the bright colours of this beautiful little bird: y...

The Flamingo
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The Kestrel
This picture represents the kestrel, one of the smallest an...

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The Albatross
This is the largest of all sea-birds, and you are not very ...

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The Vulture
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The Quail
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[illustration: The Goose]
Amongst the Romans this bird was held sacred to Juno, their s...

The Pheasant
This beautiful bird comes originally from the East, and tak...

The Magpie
The Magpie is a very pretty and cunning bird. It is easy to...

The Lapwing
This little bird which is often called the Pewit, from its ...

The Goose
Have you not often heard people say "as silly as a goose"? ...

The Owl
This solemn looking bird is seldom to be seen by day. It is...

The Quail
The quail is the smallest of the poultry tribe, and is a pr...

The Robin Redbreast
Every little boy and girl well knows this pretty little bir...

The Vulture
This strange looking bird is also a bird of prey; but it fe...

The Duck
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The Owl








This solemn looking bird is seldom to be seen by day. It is strictly a
night bird. Its eyes are unable to endure the glare of sunshine, but are
formed for seeing in the dim twilight, or in the soft radiance of the
moon. There are at least eighty different species of owls. This picture
resembles most nearly the Virginian Eagle Owl, an American bird. Our
common barn-door owl has no tufts on its head. Some people are foolish
and cruel enough to persecute owls, under the plea that they do
mischief, destroy pigeon's eggs, etc. But this is a false charge. On the
contrary they are very actively useful creatures, and the humane
naturalist, Mr. Waterton, says that "if this useful bird caught his
food by day instead of hunting it by night, mankind would have ocular
demonstration of its utility in thinning the country of mice, and it
would be protected and encouraged everywhere. It would be with us what
the ibis was with the Egyptians." The ibis is a bird that was found so
useful in destroying locusts and serpents in Egypt, that in olden times
it was made a capital crime for any one to destroy it. Nay, the
idolatrous Egyptians went further, and not only paid divine honours to
this bird, worshipping it as a deity whilst alive, but embalmed its body
after death, and preserved it in the form of a mummy. You may see many
ibis mummies in the Egyptian rooms of the British Museum. Through God's
goodness there is no danger of our going quite so far as the Egyptians
even if we did do justice to the poor abused owl, and it is very much
to be wished that people would learn to see its valuable qualities.
There is no doubt owls are amongst the creatures given to us by God to
do us real service in keeping down the increase of smaller animals, that
would otherwise soon over-run and destroy our food. But as Mr. Waterton
elsewhere says, prejudices are hard to overcome, and I suppose the poor
owl will be hunted and killed, whenever he is to be found by the
ignorant, to the end of the chapter. Some idea may be formed of the
rapid clearance an owl would make of vermin from a barn, from the fact
that, when he has young, he will bring a mouse to the nest every twelve
or fifteen minutes. Mr. Waterton saw his barn owl fly off with a rat he
had just shot. And at another time she plunged into the water and
brought up in her claws a fish, which she carried away to her nest. The
Barn Owl is white, and does not hoot, at least by many this is thought
to be the case. The Brown Owl is the hooting or screech owl, and makes a
very dismal noise.


The owl can do without drinking for a very long time. Mr. White, of
Selborne, says he knew a Brown Owl to live a whole year without water.
The owl swallows its prey whole when small, and afterwards brings up
from its crop the fur, bones, and other parts that cannot easily be
digested, in the form of a round cake. Hawks are said to do the same
thing.

The great Virginian Owl is of an immense size, and its cry is said to be
very terrible when heard in the lonely American forests, resembling at
times the last struggling scream of a person being throttled. Owls will
eat raw meat, but their favourite food consists in young mice, and they
may often be seen at twilight, hunting like sporting dogs round the
meadow paths for field-mice which come out at that hour, and going back
every five minutes or so to their nests, to see that all is well at
home.

If by chance an owl appears in daylight, he is immediately attacked by
all the smaller birds, who know their enemy, and feel pleasure in
insulting him when he cannot revenge himself. For the owl grows so
confused if he lingers abroad till the sun has risen, that he cannot
find his way back to his nest, nor make head against his pursuers, as he
would soon do in the dim twilight. Bird fanciers have been known to take
advantage of this circumstance in Italy, and tying an owl to a tree in
daylight, they lime all the surrounding branches. Troops of little birds
soon find out their helpless foe, and hurrying to attack him with their
little beaks and claws, they perch on the limed twigs, and are taken by
scores.

The Snowy Owl inhabits the north of Europe, but is sometimes seen in
more southern regions. It pursues hares, of which it is particularly
fond, and often snatches fish from the water, over which it slowly
sails, with a sudden grasp of its foot. It often also accompanies
sportsmen, that it may share in the sport. In winter, when this owl is
fat, the Indians esteem the Snowy owl to be good eating. Its flesh is
delicately white.





Next: The Goose

Previous: The Albatross



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