11 MAY 1929, Page 15

Country Life


The strangest story with regard to bird intelligence, especially the case of owls, comes from the Surrey estate of Sir George Courthope (the estate from whose oaks Westminster Hall was built and is being repaired). The tale has been told elsewhere, and refers to last season. I tell it again for the sake of its significance, and because I have been making some personal inquiry into the ways of this intelli- gent fowl. The estate was infested by the little Spanish owl, Naturalized in England by Lord Lilford and others. A great many were shot, but on a thorough investigation no Signs whatever were discoverable indicating a diet of young animals. Indeed, the chief investigator was disposed to believe that here once again was proof that a beneficent bird (and most birds are beneficent) had been maligned. The evidence, indeed, was overwhelming that the shot birds had lived very largely on beetles and had eaten no young birds. Sir George Courthope himself was inclined to forbid further shooting.

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