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The Strigidæ or Owl Family

We now come to those much-abused birds--the owls. The Himalayas, in common with most other parts of the world, are well stocked with these pirates of the night. The vast majority of owls, being strictly nocturnal, escape observation. Usually the presence of any species of owl in a locality is made known only by its voice. I may here remark that diurnal birds know as little about nocturnal birds as the man in the street does, hence the savage manner in which they mob any luckless owl that happens to be abroad in the daytime. Birds are intensely conservative; they resent strongly what they regard as an addition to the local avifauna. This assertion may be proved by setting free a cockatoo in the plains of India. Before the bird has been at large for ten minutes it will be surrounded by a mob of reviling crows.

The collared pigmy owlet (Glaucidium brodiei) is perhaps the commonest owl in the Himalayas: at any rate, it is the species that makes itself heard most often. Those who sit out of doors after dinner cannot fail to have remarked a soft low whistle heard at regular intervals of about thirty seconds. That is the call of the pigmy collared owlet. The owlet itself is a tiny creature, about the size of a sparrow. Like several other little owls, it sometimes shows itself during the daytime. Once at Mussoorie I noticed a pigmy collared owlet sitting as bold as brass on a conspicuous branch about midday and making grimaces at me. The other species likely to be heard at hill stations are the brown wood-owl (Syrnium indrani), the call of which has been syllabised to-whoo, and the little spotted Himalayan scops owl (Scops spilocephalus), of which the note is double whistle who-who.