Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

may be given to keep him in good humour, and these he should receive from his mistress's hand.

“ Goldie" or “Goldspink” as he is sometimes called, is a great eater, and is rather a greedy bird in an aviary, often driving other birds away from the seed-boxes. A thistle head should be frequently given to Goldfinches, also lettuce or cabbageleaves, watercress, chickweed, and groundsel occasionally. They build a very pretty substantial nest of moss and lichen, lined with wool and thistle-down, in apple and pear trees; and the female lays five or six eggs. The young males may easily be distinguished by a narrow white ring round the beak. They may be reared from the nest on bread soaked in water, and scalded rape-seed, and will learn the Canary's song if put within hearing of a good songster : their natural song has not much compass, but they are always twittering and chirping. The Goldfinch will pair with the Canary, and the mule birds produced are often very beautiful, and sing particularly well, but they are seldom prolific. The best mules have a Goldfinch father, and a clear yellow or white Canary mother. It is necessary always to remove the Goldfinch as soon as the first egg is laid, as he will often beat his wife off the nest and destroy the eggs. He may be put into the next compartment, and if he is a very amiable bird, he may perhaps assist her in feeding the young birds when they are a few days old; but his proceedings must be very carefully watched when he is restored to his family, as he is not at all unlikely to peck his children. Most rearers of mules, I believe, take the Goldfinch away altogether, and give him another wife, leaving the first hen to bring up the nestlings alone. I have heard of a very beautiful mule bird which had the Goldfinch head and wings, and the rest of the body white.

Goldfinches are subject to epilepsy and to sore eyes. Lettuce-seed and thistle-down should be given, for the first disorder, which is probably occasioned by immoderate

[ocr errors]

eating (of hemp-seed in particular), and when the fit comes on, the bird should be plunged head downwards into cold water two or three times in succession, and have a drop of olive oil afterwards. He is fond of bathing, and should have a bath daily. The eyes may be cured by anointing them with fresh butter.

Goldfinches are sometimes found variously coloured, with white and black heads, yellow breasts, white and black bodies, etc. As they grow old, they will often lose their bright colours in confinement, but will sometimes live sixteen or even twenty years in an aviary. They are, however, subject to blindness in old age.

The CHAFFINCH (Fringilla cælebs) “ Pie Finch.”—The Chaffinch, called also the“ Chink,” “Pink,” “Fink,” “Shellapple," and "Beech Finch,”and in Scotland the “Shilfa,” is not so much prized in England as in France and Germany. In Thuringia there is quite a mania for these birds ; and Bechstein enumerates a great many varieties of the Chaffinch's song under such names as these—the “double trill of the Hartz," the "Bridegroom's song," the “Sportsman's song,” the “Woodman's song,” etc., which he says are derived from the last syllable of the German sentence which the bird is supposed to utter. Some birds are said to have three or four distinct songs, but those which have only one or two generally sing with greater perfection, though perhaps they are less prized than those which have a greater variety of song. It is asserted that the Chaffinches frequenting one district sing quite differently from those in another : that those in Thuringia, in the Hartz Mountains, and in Austria, for instance, have different songs. Bird-catchers in England say the same of Chaffinches, caught in Essex and Kent, and declare that those found in Epping Forest sing a different song from those caught on the other side of the river. They have singing matches amongst their birds, and the Chaffinch that sings the greatest number of perfect notes within a given time

[ocr errors]

gains the prize for his owner. A perfect note is represented by the syllables toll-loll-loll-chick-wee-do, and if a bird slurs them over, or stops at chick or wee, the note is not counted. Chaffinches appear to be obliged to re-learn their song every spring, and begin it afresh, chirping, and mingling passages of it with their chirps, repeating these, and exercising their voices by degrees, till the full song is regained. This process the bird-fanciers call“ recording,” and if the song is perfect by the end of a week or fortnight they consider it a great proof of excellence in the bird. Great pains are taken in the instruction of young Chaffinches in Germany, and very large sums are obtained for 'those reputed good songsters, trained by some famous bird. Much cruelty also prevails, I fear, and the poor birds are frequently blinded, from the notion that they sing better in the dark.

The Chaffinch is a very pretty bird, and easily tamed, and can be reared from the nest on soaked bread moistened with water and scalded rape-seed. The young males are to be distinguished by having more white in the wings than the female, and the lower part of the body red instead of dingy green; the yellow circles round the eyes are brighter too. They should be fed chiefly on bird-turnip, with a little canary-seed, and should have crushed hemp-seed occasionally, but too much of this seed is injurious to them; groundsel, chickweed, and other green food, and ants' eggs and mealworms from time to time. In their natural state Chaffinches are partially insectivorous, and although they are fond of the young shoots of vegetables, and do mischief by eating them as soon as they appear above ground, they do great service by destroying numbers of aphides and other insects which would be far more destructive: they are very fond of the seeds of the dead nettle and groundsel. The Chaffinch builds the prettiest nest possible, deeply cupped, of moss, wool, hair, and lichens, in the fork of a branch where it joins the main stem. She lays four or five eggs. Early in the autumn the birds separate, the males congregating together, and the females and young birds assembling in other flocks; from this circumstance the Chaffinch is called Fringilla cælebs. In the north of Europe he is a migratory bird, but with us a resident throughout the year, and the flocks of Chaffinches which haunt our hedgerows and gardens in winter, are increased by migrations from the Continent both during the severe cold and in the spring.

In confinement the Chaffinch is generally kept in a low, oblong cage; a bell-shaped cage makes him giddy, and he sings less in a large cage or aviary. If more than one Chaffinch is kept in a room, the cages must not be so placed as that they should see each other, or they are apt to turn sulky and refuse to sing. Their food should be kept outside the cage, as they waste it very much. They must have water for bathing as well as drinking. They are subject to diarrhea and to obstruction of the oil-gland; and the old birds often become lame, and require the removal of the scales that will accumulate on their legs: this must be done very carefully with the point of a penknife. For a feverish cold, causing the root of the beak to become yellow and making the bird gape continually, bird-dealers give a mixture of equal parts of pepper, garlic, and butter. If well cared for, the Chaffinch will live for many years in confinement.

The MOUNTAIN FINCH or BRAMBLING (Fringilla montifringilla) is common throughout Europe, living chiefly in the northernmost countries during the summer, and visiting us in the winter. It lives on the same food as the Chaffinch, and will sometimes learn passages of its song; but it is an indifferent songster, and is chiefly prized for its beauty. The head and back of the male are black, the feathers edged with yellowish-grey, so that the upper part of the body has a freckled appearance; the lower part of the back is white, which colour extends to the tail

a

a

coverts; the tail itself is black and forked; the wings are brownish-black, striped with orange bands; the throat and breast pale orange, shading to white in the lower part of the body.

The Brambling appears to be capable of being tamed, but some individuals of the species are quarrelsome and spiteful, and are not pleasant inmates of an aviary on that account. They require the same food and treatment as the Chaffinch.

The SISKIN or ABERDEVINE (Fringilla spinus), sometimes called the Black-headed Finch, Gold-wing, and Barley-bird, is a winter visitor to England, and builds in the forests of pine and fir trees in the north of Europe, and occasionally in the Highlands of Scotland. It has a pretty mixture of black, green, and yellow in its plumage, and is shorter and more thick-set than the Goldfinch, and a very active, lively little bird, very amusing in a cage, because it is such a mountebank, always climbing about, moving along the top of the cage, swinging by one leg with its head downwards, and placing itself in all kinds of extraordinary postures. It is very tame and sociable, and can be taught all the accomplishments learnt by Goldfinches; it is quite happy in captivity, and a useful bird in an aviary, because its continual twittering excites the other birds to sing. Its natural song is not powerful, but sweet; the sweetness, however, is often interrupted by harsh, jarring notes; and although it will learn the songs of other birds, it can never be taught to whistle a tune perfectly. It is very good-tempered, and agrees with other birds very well, though it is rather a greedy bird, and will sometimes take possession of the seed-box in an aviary, and drive them away from it. It drinks a good deal, and throws the water over its feathers continually, so that it requires to be constantly supplied with water, though it does not often go into the bath. It should be fed on canary and bird-turnip, with hemp-seed occasionally, feeding naturally on fir and pine, alder, hop,

« PoprzedniaDalej »