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known as the “Nutmeg” and “ Cinnamon Bird," and is described by Bechstein under the name of the “ Gowry or Cowry Grosbeak.” It is about the size of a Linnet: the beak is black, the legs and feet are lead-coloured; the head, neck, throat, and the upper part of the body generally are of a rich cinnamon brown, the feathers round the beak and on the cheeks being of a darker hue. The breast and sides of the body are white, but all the feathers are bordered with heart-shaped black markings, so that they appear speckled ; the lower part of the body is white, the upper tail-coverts are speckled like the sides, the rest of the tail is brown, as are the wings. The hen is very like the cock in plumage. The latter has a very droll little twittering song, scarcely audible excepting at the conclusion, which is like a feeble kitten's cry. Evidently the hen thinks it very beautiful, for she generally puts her head close to her mate's while he is singing, and looks admiringly into his face, as if unwilling to lose a note. They eat canaryseed and millet. I have heard that they sometimes breed in England. They come from Java and the Spice Islands.
The AFRICAN SILVER-BILL (Munia cantata) or Quaker Bird, resembles the Spice Bird in shape and size. The beak is of a pale bluish-grey, with a silvery shade over it, and the iris and the ring round it are grey also. The prevailing colour of the plumage is fawn-coloured, shaded and barred on the upper part of the body with brown: the feathers of the head and throat look mottled, and the bird often ruffles these, but the rest of the plumage is delicately. soft and smooth; the quill-feathers of the wings and tail are brownish-black; the fawn shades almost to white on the under part of the body. The male and female are almost exactly alike. The former has a very pretty little warbling song, very low and gentle, like running water, and he often dances up and down on his perch, while singing, in time to his song. They are very affectionate birds, and continually caressing each other, and always
sitting in pairs. They are also said to breed occasionally in England, but I should think it very doubtful whether the young of the Silver-bill or the Spice Bird could be reared in this country. There is an Indian Silver-bill (Munia Malabarica), differing slightly from the African species, but I have never seen it.
The BLACK-HEADED FINCH or MALACCA GROSBEAK (Munia Malacca) is a chestnut brown bird, with a black head and neck, and is mentioned by Bechstein as thriving well in confinement on hemp and canary-seed.
WAXBILLS and AVADAVATS, etc.—These pretty little birds are delightful pets for the drawing-room. They are thoroughly happy in each other's society, and sit all together in a row on a long perch, packed as closely as possible, caressing and pluming each other. One of the Avadavats will often lift himself up and sing, a pretty little soft warble very soon coming to an end, and then he sinks down into his place, and another gets up and sings. The Waxbills do not often sing anything like a song, but they chirp a good deal; and, if one of them gets hold of a feather, or a little bit of thread or grass-stalk, the chirp becomes very continuous and triumphant, and the bird dances up and down on the perch with great delight. The largest I have seen of the Waxbills comes from St. Helena. It is about four inches and a half in length, including the tail, which is long and wedge-shaped. The beak is bright red, like sealing-wax, and a darker red stripe passes through each eye, and there is a dash of red also in the under part of the body; but the prevailing colour of the plumage is greyish-brown, the head and back being much darker than the neck, throat, and chest; the wings and tail are dark brown, and the under part of the tail is still darker. The remarkable thing about the plumage is that all the feathers have transverse blackish wavy lines all over them, and look very soft and silky; the legs and feet are brown. The male and female are alike. The common African
Waxbill (Estrelda cinerea) is a much smaller bird, with a shorter tail; about three and a half inches in length, of rather a greyer shade of plumage, but with the same roseate hue on the under part of the body, the same red stripe through the eyes, and vermilion beak; but it has not the transverse marking of the feathers. The hen is the same in colour. The Orange-cheeked Waxbill (Estrelda melpoda) has a body of the same size as the last bird described, with rather a larger and broader tail, which he flirts incessantly from side to side. He is a most beautiful, smooth little bird, always as neat as possible, with every feather in its place, with the same bright vermilion beak, grey head, neck, and throat, brown back, wings, and tail, two bright orange patches on the cheeks instead of the red stripe through the eyes, a light grey breast and sides, and a dash of salmon colour on the lower part of the body; the upper tail-coverts are dark crimson. The hen is exactly the same. The Zebra or Orange-breasted Waxbill (Estrelda sanguinolenta) is the smallest of the species, only a little more than three inches long: the head and upper part of the body are brown; the throat, breast, and sides of the same colour; the beak is of a deeper red than the other Waxbills, and the under mandible is black at the top; a deep orange stripe passes through and above the eye; the under part of the body from the chin to the tailcoverts is straw-coloured, and there are transverse bars of the same colour across the brown feathers of the sides, breast, and body. This colour deepens into orange in the middle of the breast, and is continued nearly to the tail ; the upper tail-coverts are also of a deep orange shade. The hen differs from the cock in being paler throughout the lower part of the body, which is straw-coloured, only orange under the tail, and with upper tail-coverts slightly tipped with the same colour; she has no zebra markings on the sides.
These four Waxbills are the commonest species imported
into England, but there are many varieties found in Africa and in other tropical regions. I think the prettiest I have ever seen is one now in my possession, called the Grey-blue or Cinereous Waxbill (Estrelda cærulescens). It is of a delicate slate-coloured hue over the whole body, excepting the lower part of the back, upper and under tail-coverts, and tail, which are rich crimson: the quills are light brown, and the under part of the tail is black. The stripe through the eyes is black, and the beak is nearly so. The slate colour becomes almost white on the chin, throat, and breast, but deepens again on the lower part of the body; there are several silvery white spots on the sides. All these Waxbills come from Africa.
There are also some Australian Waxbills: the common one (Estrelda temporalis) much resembles the smaller African Waxbill (Estrelda cinerea), but is larger, and of a darker brown. The RED-TAILED FINCH (Estrelda ruficanda) is a very pretty bird, with a vermilion beak, and cheeks dotted with tiny white spots. The head, back, and wings are greyish-olive, the breast and sides a paler shade, dotted all over with larger white spots; the lower part of the body is straw-coloured, and the legs yellow. The tail is reddish-brown, and the upper tail-coverts have pink and white spots upon them. The male has a low warble, scarcely audible.
The AVADAVATS (Estrelda amadava), Amandava, or Amaduvade Finch, which belong to the same family, come, I believe, from India and the Indian islands. They are rather bigger than the smaller species, but less than the St. Helena Waxbill. They vary somewhat in colour, and are some years before they come to their perfect plumage; but the males I have had, have had the head and under part of the body of a fiery red tinged with black; the feathers of the back are brown, but with such a margin of red as to make that the prevailing colour; the quills are dark brown, and the tail is black. All the feathers, both red and black,
of the wings, and most of those of the body, are tipped with white, giving the bird the appearance of being speckled with white spots. The beak is red, but the upper mandible is almost black on the top. The hen is not quite so large as the cock, and has very little red about her plumage; the under part of the body is of a pale sulphur colour mottled with brown. She has a few small white spots on the wings. The tail is more fan-shaped than those of the Waxbills. The FIRE FINCH (Estrelda minuta) is a native of Africa, but bears a strong resemblance to the Avadavats in some stages of their plumage. It is somewhat smaller, and the male is of a pure red, with no admixture of black on the forehead, throat, and breast; the rest of the plumage is greenish-brown tinged with red; the tail is nearly black, and the upper tail-coverts are red. The beak is like that of the Avadavat, but there is a yellow ring round the eyes. This is also a distinguishing mark of the hen Fire Finch, which is very much like the hen Avadavat, but of a somewhat greyer brown, and her tailcoverts are red. These birds do not sing.
The CORDON BLEU (Estrelda phænicotis), called also the Crimson-eared Waxbill,”
;" “ Blue-bellied Finch," etc., is also an African bird. It is rather larger than the Avadavat: the head and back are of a delicate greyishbrown or drab colour, rather deeper on the quill-feathers of the wings; the under part of the body is of a sky-blue, and this colour is rather deeper on the tail-coverts and tail. There is a patch of dirty white on the centre of the stomach. The cheeks are blue, and the male bird has a bright crimson patch on the ears. The hen is somewhat paler altogether, the blue on the breast being less bright, and she is without the crimson patches on the ears. The bill is of a more purple shade than that of the Avadavat. The cock has a pretty soft song, and has a curious habit of singing with something in his beak. If he can pick up a bit of cotton in the cage, or a stalk of any kind, he dances up