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and down with it in his mouth, singing all the time. I have never heard of these birds rearing their young in confinement; but two of mine paired, and carried up a quantity of ends of wool into a small knitting-basket, arranged so as to form a domed nest with a hole in it, which I put into a corner of the cage, when I saw them carrying bits of stalk about; and the hen sat in it for a day or two, and then died, as I believe, from inability to lay her eggs.
All these pretty little birds live together in a cage with Spice Birds and Silver-bills, in the utmost harmony. They are so sociable and affectionate that they delight in being together. The Avadavats, indeed, are miserable without companions, and if two birds of different species lose their respective mates, they are almost sure to console each other, and to consort together, sitting close together, caressing and pluming each other. They all eat the same seed, chiefly French and Indian millet, and are equally fond of washing. I had several Waxbills and Avadavats once in a cage made of silver wires, with glass sides and ends enclosing the lower half, but I do not think this kind of cage good for them; they are so continually washing and splashing the water all over it, that the glass is always dirty, and moreover the lower part of the cage is never dry, as it does not admit air as in the ordinary cages. Either tin or brass wire lacquered would be a better material than glass for the cage. My birds live in a waggon-shaped cage of lacquered brass, eighteen inches long and high, and twelve wide, and I find this a very useful cage, holding eight or ten pair of small birds comfortably. They like a long perch at the top, on which they can all roost, packed closely together, heads beside tails, etc., and a swing in the centre. I only allow them a bath once in the day in the sunshine ; on cold dull days I keep them out of the water, but they always sprinkle themselves with water from their drinkingglasses or tins; for I generally hang up in the cage four or five “pegging-pots,"small tins with a round hole in the top,
into which the birds cannot possibly squeeze themselves. I believe it is the only form of drinking vessel that they would not contrive to get into. A stalk or two of millet in the ear, a ring of colifichet, French bread, which is very nourishing and strengthening, and a couple of cuttlefishbones, are suspended in the cage, and in cold weather I put in six or eight tiny baskets lined with flannel, in which they take up their abode at night. In winter and when moulting they have a pinch of Cayenne pepper sprinkled on the sand at the bottom of the cage once or twice a week, and when they mope and seem out of sorts I put a drop of chloric æther in their drinking water now and then. I have sometimes given them a little boiled milk when they appeared heated; but there seems very little to be done for these delicate little creatures if they fall ill, excepting to give them warmth. In the summer they like to bask in the sunshine, and are the better for a little fresh air while the sun shines; but they must never be exposed to draughts or a sudden change of temperature, and during the night they must always have a thick warm covering over their cage. In the winter too, and during moulting, they need a great deal of warmth: a conservatory moderately heated and kept pretty much at the same temperature would be the best abode for them. In an ordinary drawing-room the covering should never be taken off the cage, on a cold morning, till the room is thoroughly warmed.
The AFRICAN MANIKINS, which are of the same size as the smaller Waxbills, are sometimes kept with them, but they are not safely to be placed in the same cage with them, without watching their proceedings. Some of them are very quarrelsome, pugnacious little things, and persecute birds twice their size. They have strong conical beaks, unlike the American Manikins, with whom they are often confounded. I believe these birds really belong to the Amadina family: they eat the same seeds and require the same treatment. The Bronze-headed Manikin is described by Swainson under the name of the “ Bronze-headed Bengaly.” It is the smallest and prettiest species I have seen—the plumage of a deep black-brown, with green and violet reflections on the head, and on two patches on each side, one on the shoulder-coverts, and the other on the side of the breast; the lower part of the back, upper tailcoverts, and sides of the body are crossed by brown lines on a white ground; the under part of the body is pure white; the tail is black, short, and rounded; the bill and feet are also black. The Black Manikin is a trifle larger; the whole of the upper part of the body, wings, and tail are of a deep black, extending also to the throat and chest, with a green metallic lustre. The rest of the under parts of the body are pure white, tipped with black on the feathers under the wings, so as to give the effect of black scallops on the white plumage. The beak is of a delicate grey colour, tinged with green. There are also “ Whiteheaded” and “ Niger Manikins,” but these I have never had.
These little Estreldæ are nearly allied to the Weaver Birds, so famous for their skill in bird architecture. There are many genera of these birds, one of the most interesting of which is that of the Whydah Birds, natives of Africa, etc.
The BROAD-SHAFTED or PARADISE WHYDAH BIRD (Vidua paradisea) is the species most commonly kept in cages. In its wild condition it is a very lively active bird, flitting from bough to bough, and always in motion, except when its beautiful tail has fallen off, as it always does after the breeding season is over, and then it seems quite ashamed of itself, and mopes and hides itself. This habit and the general colour of its plumage has made some people suppose its correct name to be the Widow Bird, and that it is mourning over the loss of its long train; but the name really comes from that of a kingdom on the eastern coast of Africa. Without its tail, this bird is about the size of a Sparrow. The beak is lead-coloured, almost black. The prevailing colour of the adult male is a very deep brownblack, brownest on the wings and tail, and blackest on the back. The head, chin, and throat are black, and a black stripe runs down the breast, and a collar of rich ruddy brown round the neck, and this colour edges the black stripe and fades into the pale buff of the lower part of the body.
The tail of this bird is very curiously formed: the two centre feathers are four inches long and very broad, ending in a long thread; the two next feathers are twelve or thirteen inches long, broad in the middle, narrower and somewhat pointed towards the ends. The other feathers are only two inches and a quarter long, the two nearest the centre being curved, wavy, and glossy. The female is dark brown, nearly black when she attains to her full plumage, in her third year. Both birds generally moult twice in the year, and the male is without his beautiful tail from November to June. The winter plumage is mingled with red, and the head is striped with black and white. The song is low and melancholy. The male must be kept in a large cage on account of his tail, and the perches must be arranged so as to permit him to move about freely. They feed upon canary and millet-seed, and require a little barley-meal and green food occasionally. The hen builds a beautiful nest, which she weaves from vegetable fibres and cotton down; one compartment of the two into which it is divided only holding the eggs, the other forming a seat for the male. The Whydah Birds are sometimes kept in aviaries. In France, where they are more common, the bird-dealers have, I believe, succeeded in breeding them.
The SHAFT-TAILED or PIN-TAILED WHYDAH (Vidua regia) is rather a smaller and more slender bird than the preceding Whydah, and it has a red beak and feet; the upper part of the body is black, except the throat, sides of the head, neck, and breast, which are of a rusty red, the back of the neck being mottled with black. The tail is very different from that of the Paradise Whydah, but equally curious. It is in itself short and fan-shaped, but the shafts of the four middle feathers are prolonged into bare quills, slightly widened towards the tips, seven or eight inches long. He loses these appendages in the winter, and becomes, like the female, greyish-brown. The song of this species is said to be superior to that of the former.
These two species are most commonly kept in captivity in England; but there are many varieties of Whydah Birds: one called the Dominican Whydah (Vidua serena) has the four long tail-feathers in another form; two are convex, and the other two are concave and placed one within the other, so as to resemble a cylinder, looking like one feather, except at the points.
Most of the Weavers proper have strong conical curved beaks, round wings, strong and large feet and legs. They are found in Africa and India, and in the Asiatic islands. The PHILIPPINE WEAVER BIRD (Ploceus Philippinus) is a well-known bird of this family, renowned for its curious woven nests. Another species, the RUFOUS-NECKED or CAPMORE WEAVER (Hyphantornis textor) is often brought to Europe, but, I believe, is not often kept, except in large collections of birds. Their weaving instincts are amusingly exhibited by their gathering every stem of grass or blade of hay, and twisting them between the wires of their cage. The RED-BILLED WEAVER BIRD (Euplectes sanguinirostris), another native of Africa, is a more common cage bird, especially in France. It is a light brown bird, striped with black, with a reddish tinge on the breast and lower part of the body. The chin and ears are black. The young males and hens are mottled throughout with brown and yellowish fawn colour. Some of these birds kept in the Crystal Palace, afforded great amusement to the visitors by their thefts. They were provided with abundant materials for weaving their nests, but they were continually pilfering