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The REDWING (Turdus iliacus) has a much more melodious song, but this is not often heard in England, as it only visits us in the autumn, when the cold of its northern home sends it away.
It is known in the north as the “Swedish Nightingale," and travellers in Norway speak much of the loud, clear, and exquisitely sweet notes with which it enlivens the thickets and copses during the short summer night. It arrives in England shortly before the Fieldfare, with which it associates in flocks, but it may be readily discerned amongst these birds by the red underwing-coverts. When the wings are closed it resembles the Thrush, but is a smaller bird, not quite nine inches long, and shows a large patch of orange-red feathers when it spreads its wings. It feeds on worins, snails, and larvæ, and when these fail, on the berries of the ivy, hawthorn, and holly. In confinement it is tame and docile: it must be treated like the Thrush, but cannot bear much heat.
The FIELDFARE (Turdus pilaris) is larger than the Redwing, and its throat and breast are of a very bright yellow, spotted or streaked with black. It visits England in flocks in November, but its native country is Norway, where it lives in colonies. It is not a very desirable cage bird, but is used by bird-catchers as a decoy. It may be fed like the Thrush, or on bread crumbs, crushed barley, and grated carrot. It should have some animal food also and fruit, for in its wild state the Fieldfare lives chiefly upon worms and insects, and on juniper and other berries in the winter.
Many of the American Thrushes have a very sweet song, especially the MIGRATORY THRUSH, sometimes called the American Robin, a grey bird with an orange-red breast; and the Wood Thrush. The best-known of these birds is the MOCKING BIRD (Mimus polyglottus), which has a very fine and melodious voice, and moreover a wonderful capacity for imitating the notes of any other bird, and reproducing them exactly. It is said to sit upon the branch of a tall tree, and throw itself into the air as it sings, as if intoxicated with the sweet sounds it pours forth; but when it comes near to the dwellings of man, it imitates all the harsh sounds it hears produced by the saw, the hammer, the millstone, the grindstone, ungreased wheels, etc., the barking of dogs, the lowing of cattle, and so on. Its own natural song is very sweet, and it sings during the night as well as in the daytime. Its powers of mimicry are so great that it continually deceives the other birds, sometimes calling them round it at the supposed cry of their mates, sometimes driving them in alarm to the shelter of the thick bushes by imitating the cry of a fierce bird of prey. I have heard of a Mocking Bird brought to England as a cage bird, who collected a mob round his cage in a fashionable street in London, and caused his owners so much annoyance thus that they were obliged to part with him. Every cry or noise that reached his ear was copied to perfection; and as it was impossible to prevent him from catching up and repeating the most disagreeable and discordant sounds, he became a very unpleasant inmate of the house.
The Mocking Bird can easily be tamed, if taken young from the nest, and might be brought up on the same food as that given to the Thrush: it feeds on insects, berries, and grain. The male bird is of a dull ashen brown, with a band of white on the wings; the two external feathers of the tail are also white, the centre feathers brown-black. The chin, throat, and under part of the body are of a pale brown, inclining to grey. The hen has less white upon her wings, and the dark parts of the plumage are less dark than in the cock bird. The length of the Mocking Bird is about nine inches. It is very common in Jamaica and St. Domingo, and there it is called the “Rossignol,” from its serenades and midnight solos, which are said to be very sweet and beautiful, and quite free from the mimicry which so often spoils its natural song by day. It is a very fearless bird in defence of its nest, and will attack and drive away any intruder who may approach too near to it. Attempts have been made to induce the Mocking Bird to build in confinement, and with good hope of success, if properly managed.
The GOLDEN ORIOLE (Oriolus galbula).—This bird belongs to a sub-family of the Thrush tribe. It is a common bird in Italy, and frequents Spain, Provence, and France during the summer months, going to Asia and Africa in the winter. It comes occasionally to England between April and September, and instances have been known of its breeding in this country. Its curious purse or saucer-shaped nest is generally placed in a forked branch, or suspended from it by two handles like a basket. It is made of grass-stems interwoven with sheep's wool or moss, so as to be strong and warm. The male Oriole is a very beautiful bird, about the size of a Blackbird, of a deep golden yellow, with black wings, and black and yellow tail, the centre feathers of the tail being black with yellow tips, and the others yellow with the lower part black. There is a dark stripe across the eye, and the iris is red, the legs are lead-coloured, and the claws black. The female and young male are of a dusky brown, while the adult male is black and greenish-yellow instead of golden. They are very shy and timorous birds; found in lonely spots and in thick forests. They feed chiefly on insects and grubs, but are fond of cherries, figs, and grapes in the autumn.
They have a loud flute-like note, and are supposed to speak very articulately various words, from which they have derived their names of Oriole, Turiole, Loriot, Pirol, Bülow, etc. They are said to be capable of being taught to whistle if brought up from the nest. They must be fed on ants' eggs and bullock's heart, and gradually inured to bread and milk, or the ordinary Nightingale's food. They do not live very long in captivity, and the young birds brought up from the nest never acquire the full plumage. They are very restless birds too, and, if kept in a cage, will rub off their quill and tail-feathers, and in a room or aviary are apt to quarrel with other birds.
There are many other Orioles—the MANGO BIRD of India and the BLACK-HEADED ORIOLE of Bengal, etc.—all natives of the Old World. The birds called Orioles in America, the Baltimore Oriole and Orchard Oriole, are really Troopials, before mentioned as allied to the Starlings, and are not true Orioles.
The Bulbuls belong to another sub-family of Thrushes. The YELLOW BULBUL (Pyconotus flavula) and the JOCOSE BULBUL (Pyconotus jocosus), an Indian species, are well known by the repeated references to them in Oriental writings. They are popularly called Nightingales, from their remarkably sweet voices, and are easily tamed, become very much attached to their owners, and will learn to perform many amusing tricks. In their wild state they hop about in pairs or small parties, and feed on insects, berries, and fruits in the woods and gardens. The Hindoos train the Jocose Bulbuls to sit on their hands, and carry them about with them to their bazaars. One species, the Pyconotus hæmorrhous, is kept for the purpose of fighting, and trained like game cocks.
Another sub-family, the Timalinæ or Babblers, belong to India, the Eastern Archipelago, and Australia. They frequent the woods and forests, feeding on insects, which they pick up from the ground or scratch out of the earth with their bills and feet. Several of the species live a good deal upon fruit. Most of them have a sweet song, and easily learn to imitate the notes of other birds. The LAUGHING THRUSH belongs to this family, and the BLACK-FACED THRUSH of India (Garrulax Chinensis), of which Mr. R. W. G. Frith had one for some time in a cage. It was very tame and familiar, and delighted in being caressed and tickled: it was a very fine songster, and imitated every
thing it heard. When chopped meat was put into the cage, it would place the bits, one by one, between the wires; and when a bee or wasp was given to it, the bird seized it and turned its tail round to make it sting itself several times before eating it. A large beetle it would kill with a stroke of its bill, placing it before it, and a small snake given to it was treated in the same manner, pierced through the head.
In its wild state, the Black-faced Thrush feeds on fruit as well as insects. It assembles in large flocks, and frequents jungles and thick forests, where it is often detected by the odd cries, said to resemble a “chorus of wild laughter," proceeding from the flock.
The WAX-WING or BOHEMIAN or WAXEN CHATTERER (Ampelis garrula) is the only species of the great family of Chatterers known in Europe. It is a winter visitor to England, and does not like heat, soon gasping for air in a close room. It is sometimes kept as a cage bird on account. of its beauty, the plumage being soft and silky, of a reddish ash-colour; the head has a crest of the same colour, and the feathers of the wings are prettily variegated with black, white, and yellow stripes. The under part of the body is chestnut-brown. It derives its name from the curious red appendages to its wings and tail, which look like drops of red sealing-wax. It feeds naturally on insects and berries; in confinement it will eat any of the bird-pastes, bread, fruit, vegetables, and almost everything offered to it. It is very fond of juniper berries. It is a voracious, dirty bird, dull and awkward, and its beauty is its only recommendation.