Big Hoot Owl; Cat Owl; Virginia Owl; Virginia Horned Owl.
Length, 24 inches; spread of wings, 60 inches. Color above, sooty-brown or dusky, mottled with grayish-white; below, whitish, barred with dark. Ear-tufts very conspicuous, about 2 inches in length; toes fully feathered; 3 or 4 outer primaries notched or cut away on inner webs.
Plumage in general, tawny basally, this partially exposed on crown and hindneck, on shoulders,.rump, and sides of breast, sometimes on other portions of the under parts; general color of upper parts, dark sooty-brown or dusky, much broken by coarse transverse mottling of grayish-white, the dusky greatly predominating on crown and hindneck, where forming broad ragged or coarsely and irregular saw-toothed longitudinal stripes which become blended on forehead; shoulders and some of the middle and greater wing-coverts with inconspicuous irregular spots or blotches of whitish; secondaries more minutely mottled (producing a more grayish effect), and crossed by about five to eight bands of mottled dusky; primary coverts, darker, crossed by three of four bands of blackish; primaries with ground color more ochraceous or buffy, finely mottled or penciled, and crossed by six to nine transverse series of square spots of dusky; ground color of tail, light tawny, transversely mottled with dusky, more whitish terminally, and crossed by six or seven bands of mottled dusky, these about equal in width to the paler interspaces and bands broken or sometimes even quite obliterated on middle tail-feathers where the darker markings have an oblique or, sometimes, even longitudinal tendency; ear-tufts with outer webs black, their inner webs mostly ochraceous; "eyebrows," dull whitish, the feathers with blackish shafts; face, dingy ochraceous or dull tawny, passing into dull whitish around eyes; a crescentic mark of black bordering upper eyelid and confluent with black of ear-tufts; facial circle, black, except across throat; a conspicuous, crescentic area of immaculate white across foreneck, the feathers white to extreme base; rest of under parts with white predominating, but tawny or ochraceous prevalent on sides of breast and showing as the base color wherever the feathers are disarranged; sides of chest, breast, and abdomen, sides,&bull and flanks, with numerous sharply defined transverse bars of brownish black, these narrower and less sharp&bully defined on front, the center of upper breast immaculate white, a series of large spots or blotches of black on chest, below the white collar; under tail-coverts with bars farther apart than on other under parts; legs and toes, dull tawny to pale buff, usually immaculate or nearly so, more rarely flecked or spotted with dusky; bill, dull slate-black or blackish-slate; iris, bright lemonchrome yellow; bare portion of toes, light brownish-gray or ashy; claws, horn color, passing into black terminally.
Generally, in a deserted Hawk's, Crow's, Eagle's, Osprey's, or Caracara's nest or (in some parts of its range) in a cave, on a ledge, or in a hollow tree; constructed of twigs, weed stalks, roots, and feathers when in an old nest, or eggs deposited on the bare ground amidst a collection of old bones, skulls, fur, and feathers of quadrupeds and birds.
2 or 3, white.
Wings and tail as in adults; downy plumage of head, neck, and body, ochraceous or buff, relieved by detached, rather distant, bars of black.
Eastern North America from Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland south to the Gulf coast and Florida, west to Wisconsin, eastern Minnesota, Iowa, and eastern Texas.

" Tiger of the Air " is the term which has been applied to this great Owl, and fitly, too, it must be admitted, for the big bird undeniably is courageous, powerful, and bloodthirsty. That he is highly destructive must also be conceded, for it has been demonstrated beyond question of a doubt not only that he is bold, persistent, and generally successful in his raids upon domestic poultry of all kinds, but that he is highly skillful and deadly in his pursuit of game birds, song birds, rabbits, and squirrels.
The tiger comparison applies well to the Owl's manner of hunting,.for the sweep of his great wings in the silent air is as noiseless as the tread of the big cat's padded feet upon the soft earth. Through the woods and over the meadows he glides as silently as a shadow, and to the unwatchful rabbit or the slumbering Partridge that shadow is the shadow of certain and sudden death. For such creatures the Owl's lightning-like swoop, and the murderous clutch of his great talons, are as pitiless and as inescapable as the spring of the tiger upon the helpless lamb.
To the poultry-farmer this Owl is a veritable terror; for, once the bird has acquired a preference for a diet of domesticated fowls, and has learned that they are easier to capture than are the wild creatures, nothing short of death is at all likely to deter him. For young Turkeys he is likely to develop an especially strong craving, and one instance is recorded of the loss by a farmer of fifty-nine young Guinea-fowl, taken in a single autumn by the same Owl. In such instances the bird is likely to become fastidious to the extent that he will devour only the brains of his prey, and leave the flesh untouched. Of the mammals he has been known to kill even the woodchuck, and he and other members of his family are apparently the only rapacious birds who frequently dine on the skunk, with the well-known results which, however, evidently do not in the least trouble the Owl.
The bird's breeding habits are peculiar. In the general latitude of Michigan the eggs are laid be.fore the first of March, and many instances are recorded of their being laid as early as the first week in February, or even in the latter part of January, when the winter has been unusually mild. It is by no means uncommon to find an Owl stolidly incubating under a thick blanket of snow. Two eggs are the normal complement, and there is evidence that frequently they are laid with an interval of several days between them, for often a nest is found to contain a partly fledged bird and an unhatched egg. This peculiarity has prompted the dubious inference that the interval between the eggs is deliberately planned, so that the later one may be protected by the fledgling when the mother is away from the nest. It is much more probable that the interval represents natural operations which are imperfect, rather than designed.

"Dr. Louis Bennett Bishop and Mr. Herbert K. Job have both noted an unusual habit of the parent birds in apparently destroying the nest when the young become old enough to balance themselves in the fork of the tree, thus removing the conspicuous nest and leaving the bird well protected by the harmony of its colors with the bark of the tree." (Reported in Birds of Connecticut. )
The hooting cry of Owls is perhaps as famous as is the note of any bird. In fact, it is so famous that uninformed or careless listeners apply the term " hoot owl" to any bird who has a hooting call. As a result such persons often confuse two or more distinct species, especially the Great Horned Owl and the Barred Owl, though there is a marked difference between the hoots of these two birds, that of the Great Horned being much the stronger and more characteristic. This bird also has a series of yelps, not unlike those of a dog, and a catlike squall, to which may be due one of its popular names, " Cat Owl," though the appearance of the bird's head with its conspicuous ear-tufts is not unlike that of a cat The "oot-too-hoo, hoo-hoo" call, with the syllables variously divided and differently accented is, however, the characteristic utterance of this remarkable and interesting bird, Sometimes, when heard at a distance, the audible notes, two long ones followed by two short ones, strongly suggest the warning which a locomotive engineer sounds with his whistle when he approaches a crossing. Usually the cry, like that of most Owls and of the night-birds generally, has an uncanny and weird significance, in which are blended distinct suggestions of threat, defiance, and scorn, as befits the fearless and savage nature of this veritable " tiger of the air."

The name of the genus to which the Great Horned Owl belongs is Bubo, which is Latin for Eagle-Owl. This genus has seven other representatives in North America. The Western, or Pallid, Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus pallescens) is similar to the Great Horned but smaller and lighter. It is found in western North America (exclusive of the high mountains) from eastern Oregon, Montana, and Minnesota south to southeastern California, Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas, and northeastern Mexico.
The Pacific, or California, Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus pacificus) is found in the interior of California, north to south-central Oregon, and east to San Francisco Mountain, western Arizona. It is slightly smaller than the Western Horned Owl, generally darker, the feet more heavily mottled with duslke swoop, and the murderous clutch of his great talons, are as pitiless and as inescapable as the spring of the tiger upon the helpless lamb.
The Dwarf Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus elachistus) occurs in southern Lower California; it is similar in coloration to the Pacific Horned Owl but much smaller. The Dusky Horned Owl (Bubo virgininianus saturatus) is similar to the Pacific Horned Owl but much darker, especially the upper parts; it is found from the interior of Alaska south along the coast to south-central California, and in the Rocky Mountains to Arizona and New Mexico.
The Arctic Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus subarcticus or Bubo virginianus wapacuthu) is paler than the Western Horned Owl, the upper parts with much more of white and less of black, &bull the under parts less heavily barred, and the feet paler, usually immaculate buff or buffy white.
It breeds from northwestern Mackenzie and central Keewatin to the southwestern Saskatchewan; in winter it travels southward to Ontario, Wisconsin, northeastern Illinois, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Colorado.
The Labrador Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus heteroclnemis) is similar to the Dusky Horned Owl; but: its bill is larger, its rear under parts lighter, its feet paler and less heavily mottled, and its upper parts usually with less of a tawny admixture. It occurs on the coast of Labrador and Ungava; in winter it is found in Newfoundland, Ontario, and Toronto. The Saint Michael Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus algistus) is larger than the Pacific Horned Owl and with the tawny parts intensified in color. It is found in the coast region of northern Alaska from Bristol Bay and the Yukon delta northward.
As a result of his investigations of the habits of this group of Owls, Dr. A. K. Fisher reports: "The large and handsome Great Horned Owl is found throughout the United States where suitable timber exists for its habitation. It is a voracious bird, and its capacity for good or evil is very great. If the more thickly settled districts where poultry is extensively raised could be passed by, and the bird considered only as it appears in the great West, it would earn a secure place among the beneficial species, for it is an important ally of the ranchman in fighting the hordes of ground squirrels, gophers, prairie dogs, rabbits, and other rodents which infest his fields and ranges. Where mammals are plenty it does not seem to attack poultry or game birds to any considerable extent, but in regions where rabbits and squirrels are scarce, it frequently makes inroads on fowls, especially where they roost in trees. Undoubtedly rabbits are its favorite food, though in some places the c!7mmon rat is killed in great numbers; we have a record of the remains of over one hundred rats that were found under one nest.
The following is a list of the mammals taken from the stomachs examined:
Three species of rabbits, cotton rat, two species of pouched gophers, two species of wood rats, chipmunk, two species of grasshopper mice, white-footed mouse, plateau ground squirrel, Harris ground squirrel, musk rat, fox squirrel, five species of meadow mice, one short-tailed shrew, the house mouse, common rat, black bat, red-backed mouse, flying squirrel, shrew, and kangaroo rat. Besides mammals and birds, insects (such as grasshoppers and beetles), scorpions, crawfish, and fish are also taken.
The Great Horned Owl does a vast amount of good, and, if farmers would shut up their chickens at night instead of allowing them to roost in trees and other exposed places, the principal damage done by the bird would be prevented."

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