Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/339

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WAYS OF THE OWL.

When wet, the feathers seem to shake themselves as well as to be shaken by motions of the body, head, and wings. My wife, in making a water-color sketch of Snowdon, complained that, although she could not see him move, he changed his outline a dozen times in an hour.

The owl's eye is his most useful member. The popular belief that the owl is seriously blinded by light is almost wholly unfounded, at least so far as the species of which I am writing are concerned. When a man approaches an owl in broad daylight the owl, in nine cases out of ten, will close his eyes, and so appear sleepy. As I have already explained, this is an effort to escape notice by the assumption of a protective shape. That it is not due to any dread of light or inability to see is shown by the following instances of perfect seeing by owls in bright daylight: Walking through a Cambridge road in March, 1891, I saw an Acadian owl perched on a willow limb about fifty feet from me. His plumage was stiffened and his eyes nearly shut. I approached him and slowly raised my hand toward him. Suddenly his eyes opened wide and glared at me. Then the soft wings spread and he fell forward upon them, and flew toward the sun to a distant perch. The Acadian owl already mentioned as having been seen in December, 1891, in the spruce forest of the Swift River Valley, watched me keenly, and swung his small head around after the manner of owls, trying to see me clearly from more than one point of view. The screech-owl which I first owned, although shamming sleep one morning when I entered the room where I kept it, pounced upon a dead mouse which I let fall upon the floor, and flew off with it before I realized what had happened. One of my three young screech-owls when only two months old tried to catch a sap-sucking woodpecker which had perched near it in the sunlight on a dead tree. My snowy owl, as I have already stated, watches birds flying across the sky at a distance, and once saw me as I slowly emerged from the woods an eighth of a mile from him. Great-horned owls are well known to be active by day, and not inconvenienced by sunlight. The barred owls, however, exhibit the most marvelous powers of sight, and their eyes may well be called telescopic. In dozens of instances Puffy has seen, and by his fixed watching of the sky has called my attention to, hawks flying at so great a height that they were well-nigh beyond man's vision. More than this, he has on two or three occasions seen a hawk approaching in the upper air when my eyes, aided by a fairly strong glass, failed to see the bird until it drew nearer and grew large enough for me to detect it as a mere dot in the field of the lens. My eyes, by the way, are rather stronger and more far-sighted than the average. If the bird thus sighted by Puffy is a hawk or an eagle, he watches it until it is out of sight. If it