Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/329

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315
WAYS OF THE OWL.

floor, and Scops is himself again in a twinkling. The ears are lowered, the bright eyes open wide with a wicked glare, and the soft wings take the crafty and cruel little bird swiftly down upon the mouse. This habit of shamming unconsciousness appeared to be characteristic of the long-eared owl which was mine for a few brief hours in October, 1891. I handled him freely, but the closed eyes and rigid muscles did not move. I went away and watched him from a distance, and he was alert and making full use of his beautiful eyes.

Early in the summer of 1890 a friend sent me three young screech-owls. They were as odd little gray hobgoblins as could be imagined. Their temper, their voices, their appetites all needed superlatives to describe them. They were sent to the White Mountains for the summer, and lived in a slatted box under the barred owls' big cage. They loved mice, birds, and fish, but did not take quite as kindly to raw liver as the barred owls did. For a week or more two of them were taken away from the third, and when they came back they no longer knew him as a brother. His life was made a burden to him, and one morning in August I found his body lying on the floor of their cage. They had removed nearly all his feathers and would probably have devoured him if I had not deprived them of the fruits of their unnatural crime. A few days passed and the two murderers quarreled over a mouse. In the frequent struggles that followed, one was killed outright and the other survived but twelve hours. My efforts to tame these young screech-owls were only partially successful. The murdered one had taken one or two excursions with me, and while I walked clung to a stick carried in my hand, or nestled between my arm and my body. If placed in a tree he served quite well as a decoy, although perhaps some species of birds did not take him as seriously as they did the barred owls when those intruded upon their breeding-grounds.

In June, 1891, I was presented with Snowdon, a full-grown snowy owl, which had been captured during the preceding winter. He was a dangerous-looking bird, with a temper and a trick of jumping for one's fingers. I clipped one wing and began by handling him roughly if he showed a disposition to fight. At the end of a week he learned to step upon a stick and cling to it while I carried him back and forth in the cellar. Taking him to the White Mountains, I gave up to his use a box stall in the northeast corner of my barn, and kept damp Iceland moss for him to stand upon, plenty of water for him to bathe in or drink, and a moderate supply of food for his sustenance. Although we had some warm weather, he was in perfect health throughout the season, and is now in excellent condition. At first I kept the barred owls away from him, fearing that they might murder each other,