You have before you, kind reader, a male and a female of this species, which I hope will give you a more perfect idea of the size and form of the Great Horned Owl than any description could do.
Strix virginiana, Gmel. Syst. Nat. vol. i. p. 287—Lath. Ind. Ornith. vol. i. p. 52—Ch. Bonaparte, Synops. of Birds of the United States, p. 37.
Virginian Eared Owl, Lath. Synops. vol. i. p. 119.
Great Horned Owl, Strix virginiana, Wilson, Americ. Ornith. vol. vi. p. 52. PI. 50. fig. 1.
Adult Male. Plate LXI. Fig. 1.
Bill short, compressed, curved, acute, with a cere at the base; upper mandible with its dorsal outline curved from the base, the edges acute, the point trigonal, very acute, deflected; lower mandible with the edges acute and inflected, obtuse at the tip. Nostrils oval, in the fore part of the cere. Head disproportionately large, as are the eyes and external ears. Body short. Legs of ordinary length; tarsus and toes feathered; toes papillar and tuberculate beneath; claws curved, rounded, long, extremely sharp.
Plumage very soft and downy, somewhat distinct above, tufty and loose beneath. Long bristly feathers at the base of the bill, stretching forwards. Eyes surrounded by circles of compact feathers; auricular coverts forming a ruff. Two erectile tufts of feathers on the head, one on each side. Wings ample, the fourth quill longest, the first short. Tail of ordinary length, rounded, of twelve broad feathers.
Bill black. Iris yellow. Claws black. Upper part of the head brownish-black mottled with light brown, the tufts or horns of the same colour, margined with brown. Face brownish-red, with a circle of blackish-brown. The upper parts are undulatingly banded and minutely mottled with brownish-black and brownish-red, the ground colour on the lower part of the back tinged with grey. Wings and tail light brownish-yellow, barred and mottled with blackish-brown and light brownish-red. Chin white, upper part of the throat light reddish, spotted with black, a band of white across the middle of the fore neck; lower fore neck and breast light yellowish-red, barred with deep brown, as are the under parts generally, some of the feathers being nearly white, but barred; several longitudinal brownish-black patches on the lower fore neck; tarsal feathers light yellowish-red, obscurely barred.