« PoprzedniaDalej »
building in the clefts of rocks, in church towers, and in holes in decayed trees; sometimes in pigeon-cotes. The Starling feeds chiefly on insects, worms, grubs, and grasshoppers, and is often to be seen perched upon the backs of sheep, ridding them of their parasites. In confinement it will eat raw and cooked meat, bread, cheese, and anything that is not salt or sour; but it prefers raw beef to any other food. Old birds are often very violent when caught, and will even starve themselves to death; but young birds are easily brought up from the nest, kept in a basket lined with hay, and fed every two hours with the crumb of white bread soaked in milk. They will soon learn to pipe tunes if their lessons are repeated to them early in the morning; but they must not be kept within hearing of other birds. They can be taught to articulate words, and even sentences, by repeating them over and over again, without adopting the cruel method of slitting their tongues; and they are very clever and engaging pets, capable of learning a number of amusing accomplishments, and of becoming greatly attached to their owners.
Many amusing stories are recorded of Starlings. I have read of one, which was brought up in a house and lived chiefly in the kitchen, who always watched the butcher's daily visit with great interest, and went to the street door perched on the shoulder of the cook. If the meat delivered were beef, he would come back screaming with delight; but if it happened to be pork, he would be in a great rage, crying out, “Too fat! too fat!” This was a favourite phrase of his, and was used on all occasions as a word of dislike. Being jealous of a baby in the house, he screamed out, “ Too fat! too fat !” whenever he saw it in the nurse's arms. This Starling had a great enemy in the cat, who used to steal his food whenever an opportunity offered. The bird would sometimes take his revenge by hiding behind the window-curtains when the cat's-meat man came to the door, and calling out“Not to day" so exactly like the cook
as quite to deceive the man, who would walk off in the full persuasion that the meat was not wanted.
The Starling's natural song is a melodious one, continued through the greater part of the year.
The female has a less brilliant plumage than the male, and has large white spots on the under part of the body. She is a very affectionate mother, and Mr. Wood relates an anecdote of one who carried off her five young ones, one after another, from the thatch of a burning barn to a place of safety.
The young Starlings are brown, with patches of purple and green after their first moulting. They do not acquire their full plumage till after the second year. White and buff-coloured varieties of the Starling are not un
In captivity, if not allowed the range of the house, the Starling should have a large wicker cage at least two feet long and twenty inches wide, or a round domed one, in which his plumage will not be injured. He must be well supplied with water for drinking and bathing, and the cage must be kept very clean.
The ROSE-COLOURED PASTOR (Pastor roseus). This bird, also known as the Rose Ouzel, is about eight inches long; has a crested head; neck, wings, and tail of glossy black tinged with blue, violet, and green; the back, lower part of the body, and lesser wing-coverts are of a rose-pink colour, varying in its shades in different birds: the females are quite pale. The legs are of a pale red, with the claws brown and crooked. The males do not acquire their full plumage till their third year
The Rose-coloured Pastor occasionally, but rarely, visits England. It is found in Syria, Egypt, and Africa, and, in summer, in the warmer countries north of the Mediter
It is a common bird in India, and is sometimes seen in flocks of thousands in the wheat-fields; but though destructive here, its arrival is hailed with joy at Aleppo and other places where great havoc is committed by the locusts, because it devours them greedily.
The bird derives its name of Pastor, or Shepherd, from its habit of feeding among sheep and cattle; it is often seen mounted upon their backs, hunting out their parasitical insects or grubs. Like the Starling, it flies in flocks, and in many of its habits it resembles that bird. It has a flexible voice, and, though its ordinary cry is harsh, it appears to have great imitative powers. A wounded bird, which was placed in a spacious cage and fed upon barleymeal moistened with milk, and insects, grew very tame and sociable, and would take insects from its master's hand. Its song was a mixture of the notes of the Starling, Goldfinch, and Siskin. It lived several years in captivity.
In its wild state the Pastor appears to live principally upon insects, though it is fond of fruit and grain. In confinement it must have a large cage, and a mixed diet of animal and vegetable food, like the Starling and Blackbird.
The MINA BIRD (Gracula religiosa).-Besides the true Starlings, there are a number of sub-families belonging to the great family of the Sturnidæ, comprising many foreign birds, which are very easily kept in captivity and are very docile and amusing, generally very clever, lively birds, capable of learning many accomplishments, some rivalling the Starling in speaking. The Mina, Mynah, or Mino Bird (for its name is variously spelt) may be called “ l'oiseau parleur par excellence." It is very common in India and the Indian islands, and is said to surpass the Grey Parrot in its powers of imitating the human voice. It is often kept in a cage in India, and of late years has been brought to England. It is about the size of a Blackbird, with a deep velvet-like plumage, glossy with metallic lustre, tinged with purple and bronze green. A pure white stripe runs across the pen-feathers of the wing. The bill and feet are yellow, and it has two yellow wattles at the back of the head. It
should have a mixed diet of berries, fruit, and insects; it is said to be very fond of grapes and cherries, in confinement. A pair brought from India three years ago came into the possession of Mr. Colley, hospital surgeon at Great Yarmouth, about two years after they had been in England, and he has kindly furnished me with the following particulars. He keeps them in a large waggon-shaped cage, and feeds them on barley-meal made into oblong pellets about the size of marbles, with water, freshly mixed each morning. He says they require a good deal of water and plenty of sand in their cage, and must be kept out of draughts, but do not need a warm room, and when acclimatized he considers them hardy. They have a curious gait, moving with sudden jerking hops, and turning as they hop. They are exceedingly lively and talkative, and delight in being noticed, chattering most when a number of persons are standing round their cage. The two birds speak in different voices, one having been apparently instructed by a youth, and the other by a deep-voiced man; and will converse for a quarter of an hour at a time, the bird with a deep voice calling out, “Bring the boat alongside !” and the other answering, “Ho! ha! does anybody want the shoeblack?” Then the first bird will speak in Hindostanee, and the other will say, “Hey, what? ha, ha!” upon which his companion will call out, “Bugler, sound the roll-call” in a voice as clear, natural, and powerful as that of a drill-sergeant. They were brought over in a manof-war, and learned to sound the roll-call with great precision.
Travellers in India mention the troops of noisy Mina Birds consorting with the Indian Jackdaws and Starlings in the groves near the villages, and say that they are ex'tremely useful as scavengers. A bird of the same genus, the PARADISE GRAKLE (Gracula tristis), a native of the Philippine Islands, is a voracious devourer of locusts and zrasshoppers. Buffon relates that these birds were introduced into the Isle of Bourbon to destroy the locusts, which were ravaging the island; but some of the colonists, imagining that they devoured the grain, caused them to be proscribed by the council and exterminated. However, the locusts increased so rapidly, and did so much damage in the island, that they speedily repented, and the banished birds were brought back and protected by the state, and the locusts were soon destroyed by them.
All the true Grakles are natives of India or the Indian islands. The birds known by this name in America belong to another sub-family, the Quiscalinæ, or boat-tailed birds, their tails being of a most curious shape, the sides being curved upwards. The Quiscalus versicolor (PURPLE GRAKLE or CROW BLACKBIRD) is readily tamed and taught to speak. It lives on worms, grubs, and insects, but also makes great havoc in the Indian corn or maizefields. Another family of American Starlings, the Troopials or Bobolinks, are kept sometimes as cage birds, and a few are brought to England. Probably a mixed diet similar to that of the Starling would suit all these birds in confinement. Some of them, I believe, are fed entirely on potato and egg.
THE THRUSH TRIBE.
There are upwards of a hundred species of Thrushes known, some of which are found in all quarters of the globe. Many of them are migratory birds, and resort to warmer climates in winter. They feed upon berries and fruits, as well as insects. Many of our best songsters belong to this tribe.
The MISSEL THRUSH (Turdus viscivorus) is one of the largest and handsomest of the species, and is sometimes