Obrazy na stronie


In garden aviaries, where they can have plenty of air and exercise, Larks have been known to breed occasionally. The hen will frequently lay eggs in confinement, but will very seldom sit on them. She is, in her natural condition, a very affectionate mother, and many instances are recorded of her carrying her young out of a field invaded by mowers, sometimes in her beak and sometimes on her back. An anecdote is told by Mr. Blyth of a hen Skylark, who would not leave her nest even when the mowers levelled the grass all around her, and they actually shaved off the upper part of the nest without injuring her. A young man who witnessed this, went an hour after to see if she was safe, and found that she had constructed a dome of dry grass over the nest, with an aperture on one side for ingress and egress, during the interval. Both male and female, though naturally shy and timid, are very bold and fearless during the nesting season, and will attack any bird that approaches their nest: their peculiar mode of rising from their nest helps to conceal it. Their legs are very long, and the strong toes are detached throughout, so that they can walk among rank grass, and can spring clear of it, leaping upwards of two feet into the air before they put their wings in motion. Their spiral flight, and their joyous song as they ascend into the sky, are too well known to need record here.

The WOODLARK (Alauda arborea).—The Woodlark's song is very much prized, and ranked by many amateurs next to the Nightingale's; he sings far into the night. This bird is more easily tamed than the Skylark, and appears more happy in captivity. He is of an affectionate disposition, and if pains are taken to gain his affection he will become much attached to his owner; but he is a delicate bird, and dainty in his appetite, and requires variety in his food. Most of the Woodlarks perch, therefore he must have a square perch put into his cage; but if he does not use it, it should be taken away. A cage similar to that of



the Skylark should be provided for him, long enough to allow of his running backwards and forwards. He must have a fresh-cut turf, if possible of clover, three or four times a week, and plenty of gravel and chalk. His legs are as brittle as glass, and if he gets his feet clogged with dirt or hair, etc., they must be soaked in warm water and very carefully cleansed. He sings best when allowed to range a room or aviary, but requires warmth, and suffers much in moulting. He is subject to tympany, and must be relieved by pricking the swollen part with a needle to allow the air to escape ; and to obstruction of the oil-gland, which should be pierced and anointed with fresh butter. His claws will sometimes grow diseased and drop off, and for this there is no remedy but the preservative of cleanliness. In addition to the Skylark's food, the Woodlark may have sweet almonds blanched and macerated, with hemp-seed and roasted bullock's heart. He is very fond of a paste made of the crust of a French roll soaked in cold water for half an hour, squeezed dry, and added to three teaspoons-full of wheat flour, half a teaspoon-full of brown sugar, and an ounce of grated carrot; this should be well mixed and rubbed through a sieve.. All these are delicacies; the daily food must be hard egg and bread crumbs. In its natural state the Woodlark eats insects, grubs, and seeds of various kinds, and green food, the young shoots of wheat, etc. It sings perched on the branch of a tree or circling in the air, and rises nearly as high as the Skylark. It is a smaller bird and yellower than its relative, and has more red about its breast. The hen is a larger and handsomer bird than the cock, and, as it sings a little, is often mistaken for its mate. Some Woodlarks are obstinate and whimsical about their song, and will not sing when anybody

In this case the cage should be hung outside the window. The young birds can be reared in the same way as those of the Skylark.

is in the room.


Hitherto I have written of soft-billed birds, feeding on insects: I come now to those which have hard bills, the seed-eaters, which are much more adapted to a cage life. The Larks appear to hold a middle rank between the two kinds, as they eat seeds as well as insects; but they are often classed amongst the great tribe of Fringillidæ, perhaps because their beaks are not toothed like those of the soft-billed birds; yet they require soft food, like the Nightingale and other warblers.

The extensive family of Finches comprehends Grosbeaks, Buntings, Weaver-birds, Tanagers, and Finches proper, and most of the little foreign seed-eating birds.

The first of which I shall treat is the Canary, the cage bird par excellence, a thoroughly domesticated bird, perfectly happy in confinement, and breeding and rearing its young both in the cage and aviary without difficulty.

The CANARY (Fringilla Canaria).—The green bird of Teneriffe and the Canary Isles has become greatly altered in plumage and song by a long course of cross breeding; but the original colour still appears in many of the birds bred in England, and these are generally the strongest birds. Canary societies and exhibitions are consequences of and incitements to the popularity of this bird, and breeders desire to obtain great varieties in the markings of the plumage. Prizes are given for “even marked” and “ unevenly marked” “ ticked” birds; in which the patches of green or black are either uniform, or irregular, in a yellow or mealy bird. There are also“ Jonques,” “ Mealy birds," Buff,"

“ Flaxen,"

Cinnamon," Lizard ” Canaries, “ German,” “Belgian,” “ London Fancy," and “Norwich” birds, for which prizes are given according to rules laid down for the guidance of exhibitors in the several classes. The birds named according to colour need no


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

" and



description, but the Lizards are distinguished as “golden” and “silver-spangled,” and they are of a bronze green throughout, excepting the crown of the head, which is yellow in the golden-spangled bird, and white in the silverspangled Lizard.

The markings or spangles of the feathers are very regular, and the birds should have no yellow or white feathers in the wings or tail; but these always come when the bird is two years old, and prove that the Lizard is not a distinct species of Canary. Neither is the Cinnamon bird: distinguished as “Jonque" and “ Buff Cinnamon.” The German Canaries are by far the best songsters of all the Canaries, but many are sold under this title which do not deserve the name. The true German Canary has a very sweet, soft song, full of beautiful trills and shakes, not so ear-piercing as the ordinary Canary's song. It is not so beautiful in plumage or in shape as most of the other kinds, being generally small, short, and thick-a plump little bird with a large throat: but it will sing all day long, and by candlelight, and under most adverse circumstances; and it is generally very sensible and affectionate, and easily tamed. The Belgians are not usually prized for their song: they are very long, slender birds, standing very high on their long legs, with such extremely high shoulders as to look humpbacked: those which are considered the most perfect seem to me quite deformed—I do not admire them at all. The “ London Fancy” birds have degenerated so much of late years, from repeatedly breeding from the same stock, that they are now very small and weakly. The perfect bird should be of a deep golden colour throughout, excepting in the wings and tail, which should be black. The Norwich birds are sometimes similarly coloured, but they vary very much in plumage: the distinctive name is due to the size and shape of the bird, which should be large and square, with a massive head. Ordinarily the colouring is either deep yellow (not lemon-coloured), or a mixture of yellow and

white, called buff, in the “clear” birds; the others are regularly and irregularly marked with dark spots. I have a beautiful Norwich bird now, so called because his progenitors came from Norwich, reared by myself, with a deep orange-yellow head and body, and black wings and tail, into which, however, after each moulting since he has been two years old, have crept one or two white feathers. The Crested Canaries are now becoming favourites: the yellow birds with black crests are very pretty, but it is not easy to get them with regular, smooth crests.

I have kept Canaries for many years, and I find that they will live very happily together, males and females, all through the autumn and winter, in a cage from three to four feet long, and two feet high and wide. This is placed on a stand surrounded by plants in pots, at a south window on a landing-place, without any apparatus for warming it. They are covered up very warmly at night during the cold weather, and they never appear to suffer at all from the cold. On sunny days the window is opened, but care is taken to prevent them from being exposed to a cold wind or draughts, always most injurious to birds. Canaries are sufficiently hardy to live out of doors in warm parts of England, at Osborne in the Isle of Wight; and in Mr. Wollaston's shrubberies at Welling in Kent they are becoming naturalized; but birds born in the house would, I think, suffer from cold if no provision were made for sheltering them during the frost and snow of winter. This I believe Mr. Wollaston supplies them with, keeping a cage in a greenhouse, with an opening of the same kind as the entrance to a bee-hive, but larger, for the birds to resort to in case of inclement weather. It is well, of course, to make Canaries hardy, and they will live in an outdoor aviary if care be taken to protect them from cold during the winter nights; but I have been told that they rarely sing as constantly as the birds in the house, and on cold sunless days will often look moped and ruffled, and appear

« PoprzedniaDalej »