Bird Identification – Barn Owl – Monkey-faced Owl

This is the shy, odd-looking, gray and white mottled owl with the triangular face and slim body, about a foot and a half long, that comes out of its hole at evening with a wild scream, startling timid and superstitious people into the belief that it is uncanny. The American counterpart of “wise Minerva’s only fowl,” its large eye-discs and solemn blink certainly make it look like a fit companion for the goddess of wisdom.

A tame barn owl, owned by a gentleman in Philadelphia, would sit on his shoulder for hours at a time. It felt offended if its master would not play with it. The only way the man could gain time for himself during the bird’s waking hours, was to feed it well and leave a stuffed bird for it to play with when he went out of the room, just as Jimmy Brown left a doll with his baby sister when he went out to play; only the man could not tack the owl’s petticoats to the floor.

A pair of barn owls lived for many years in the tower of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington. Dr. Fisher found the skulls of four hundred and fifty-four small mammals in the pellets cast about their home. Another pair lived in a tower and on the best of terms with some tame pigeons. Happily the owls had no taste for squab, but the debris of several thousand mice and rats about their curious dwelling proved that their appetite needed no coaxing with such a delicacy.