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kept in confinement, but he is too large for a cage bird, and his song is very loud. This in his wild state is generally heard in stormy weather, and in consequence the Thrush is called “Storm Cock” and “Screech Thrush,” as well as “Holm Thrush,” and “Missel Thrush." Mudie accounts for the latter name thus: “It is called the Missel Thrush because it missels (soils) its toes with the acrid slimy juice of the misteltoe berries, of which it is very fond in the winter; and the misteltoe gets its name because it soils the toes of the bird." It feeds also upon holm-berries, and the berries of the juniper and service trees, as well as upon worms and insects, with which it feeds its young. In confinement it thrives upon the birdfanciers' “universal pastes,” and barley-meal or wheaten bran moistened with water. A more generous diet, a little meat, bread, etc. will improve its song. It must have a large cage, at least three and a half or four feet long, and nearly as high, and must be well supplied with water for bathing, and the cage must be kept very clean, or it will soon become offensive. The young birds should be fed upon bread soaked in milk: they will very soon become tame, and will imitate other notes besides their own; still they are not desirable birds to keep in captivity, for in an aviary or bird-room they will probably assail their neighbours, being very combative, quarrelsome birds, ready to attack Magpies, and even Hawks, and showing great courage in defence of their nest and young, on occasion.
The SONG THRUSH (Turdus musicus). — The “Song Thrush,” “Throstle,” or “Mavis,” is a well-known bird throughout Europe, and is one of our best songsters, enlivening our woods from the very beginning of spring till quite late in the autumn. On account of its beautiful voice it is in great request as a cage bird, and although in its wild state somewhat shy, it is capable of becoming very tame in captivity, especially if taken from the nest when young. The Thrush generally builds in a holly tree, hawthorn, or some close bush not very far from the ground. In the volume of “Science Gossip” for 1865 an anecdote is recorded of the cleverness of a pair of these birds, who built their nest in the fork of a mountain ash, close to a house, and were overlooked by an invalid lady from her bed-room window. They were much troubled to shelter their young from the heavy rain, which fell almost without intermission for two days, and at length they placed a stick across the nest, and spreading their wings over this, they completely sheltered it from the rain, and never deserted the perch while it continued; exposing themselves to the downpour to protect their young. On the second day the cock bird brought food to his mate, for herself and the nestlings. As soon as the rain ceased, the perch was taken away; the young were fed with grubs and caterpillars, an enormous quantity of which are destroyed by the Thrush tribe, who do such good service thus, that they ought to be pardoned for their havoc amongst fruit and berries in the autumn. They eat worms and slugs, and are extremely fond of snails, the shells of which they break very cleverly by beating them against a stone. Sometimes a Thrush will choose one particular stone for this purpose, and will carry all the snails he can find to break them upon it. Young Thrushes may be easily reared upon bread and milk, till they are five or six weeks old, and then they should be gradually weaned from it, and fed upon scraped lean beef and bread crumbs. When older, their food should be chiefly barley-meal, made into a paste with milk and water, to which a little lean beef or mutton may be added three times a week; and this must be varied by occasional treats of hard egg, German paste, cheese, boiled potato or carrot, snails, earwigs, and meal
If a snail be put into the cage, a smooth stone must be put in with it for the Thrush to crush it upon. He must have a large cage, well strewn with coarse sand or gravel, and should be well supplied with water for
drinking and bathing; but his bath should be taken away when used, as the bird is liable to cramp. The food and water should be put outside of the cage, if possible. The Thrush will live many years in confinement, if properly fed and cared for: the two ailments to which he is most subject are constipation and atrophy. For the first, a large spider is the best remedy; for the second, abundance of pure fresh air and a change of diet should be given. The male and female are so much alike in colour, that it is very difficult to distinguish them: the hen is a little smaller, and has not quite such a glossy brown plumage as the male; so that the purchaser of a Thrush should make sure of its sex by hearing its song. The cock has great imitative powers, and will readily learn tunes played on wind instruments or whistled to him.
The BLACKBIRD (Turdus merula). Although the Blackbird is not so good a songster as his relative the · Thrush, he has a very cheery mellow song, and, being a lively joyous creature, is in many respects a desirable cage bird. He will learn to whistle tunes with great précision, and is said never to forget a tune once learned. An anecdote is told of one who had been taught to whistle an air, which, on hearing played with variations on the piano, affronted him so exceedingly that he hissed and fluttered his wings till the performance stopped, and then gave his version of the air, whistling it all through as he had learned it. The same bird fell into the hands of a lady, whose custom it was to have the evening hymn sung at the conclusion of family prayers. He caught the tune, and always accompanied their voices, and from that time regularly whistled it every evening at the same hour, long after he had passed into another family, and continued the practice for the remainder of his life. The Blackbird will also learn to imitate the songs of other birds, the crowing of a cock, and the gobble of a turkey, and in its wild state will often mimic them. It is not unhappy in captivity if it has a large cage, perhaps because it does not live in flocks, as many of the Thrush tribe do, but leads rather a solitary life the greater part of the year.
The Blackbird builds early in the spring, and the nest is generally placed in a bush, and made of grass-stems and roots, lined with mud. Both male and female are very bold in defence of their nest and offspring, and will attack and drive away any prowling cat that comes near them. The birds that are smallest and blackest, and have the brightest yellow rims round their eyes, are probably cocks. If reared from the nest, they must be kept warm and fed on sop made of stale white bread and milk: they are large eaters, and must not be overfed: a quarter of a pound of bread would be enough for four nestlings in the day; they will require a meal every two hours from sunrise to sunset, and the food should be mixed twice a day; if it should turn sour it would kill them. The birds must be taught when two months old if they are to learn to whistle airs; a flute or other wind instrument should be played to them in the dusk of the evening, and at daybreak after they have had a moderate meal, giving them some delicacy as a reward when they have repeated their lesson correctly.
The Blackbird devours worms, insects, and grubs of all kinds, as well as fruit; and so, although he is destructive in an orchard, he does good service to farmers and gardeners. In captivity he should be fed upon a mixture of animal and vegetable food, raw or cooked lean beef, shredded finely and mixed with bread crumbs, German paste, stale bun, and hard-boiled egg, and he should have a mealworm, snail, earwig, or spider occasionally.
It is of consequence that the cage should be large, whether it be made of wicker or mahogany, with wooden bars. One side should be open, the other boarded, and the top should be of wood, shelving down like a penthouse. The perches should be square, and made of painted deal or mahogany. The food should be placed in deep white
delf pans, fitting into wooden boxes outside the cage. The Blackbird is very fond of bathing, and may have a good deep bath daily in the sunshine, but his cage should not be left wet, as he is subject to cramp like the Thrush: he must have plenty of dry sand or gravel on the floor of it. Another common ailment of the Blackbird is an obstruction of the oil-gland above the tail. If this is shown by the bird's drooping his tail and continually pecking at the gland, it should be anointed with fresh butter and sugar. A little variety in his food will keep him in good health for many years. Bechstein says he will live in captivity from twelve to sixteen years, and sing in a loud and joyous tone the whole year, except during the moulting season. A tame bird, brought up from the nest, used to wake his mistress every morning at dawn of day with his song,
and he would fly out of his cage, sit on her pillow and sing ; and if she did not open her eyes at once, he stopped, pecked gently at her eyelids, and when she looked up at him, sang on again with quivering throat and drooping wings, in the greatest delight. This was a little Welsh Blackbird, called by the country people pig-felyn (yellowbeak). It is called, in some parts of England, Black Thrush, Garden and Black Ouzel, and its old name of Merle, as well as the scientific name Merula, is said to be derived from its mera, or solitary flight. The hen is of a dusky brown. White and pied Blackbirds are not un
The RING OUZEL (Turdus torquatus) much resembles the Blackbird in its size and plumage, but has a broad white band round its throat, and no yellow beak. It is sometimes called the “ring,” “ mountain," and "Michaelmas” Blackbird. It comes to England in April, but is not very common except in mountain districts. Its song is loud and sonorous, but consists of a repetition of a few notes only. It will live six or seven years in confinement, and must be treated like the Blackbird.