Obrazy na stronie
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

with Titmice, Creepers, and other small birds, who all hunt the same game together. Mr. Lord speaks of flocks of fifty or sixty Gold-crests, Tits, and Nuthatches in the pine trees in Columbia, “an army of insect-hunters, peering curiously into every crack and crevice," " singing, chattering, quarrelling, but never resting.” Their song is melodious but weak, and they keep up a continual twittering as they dart and swing themselves about.

Mr. Wood relates a very interesting account of a family of six tame birds whom a lady fed during the winter in a large well-thatched aviary, which was open during the day. These birds, a Jackdaw, Magpie, two Skylarks, a Goldfinch, and a Robin, brought home with them, during very severe weather, a number of wild birds to share their food and shelter, and amongst them were two Gold-crests, who remained in the aviary till May, and ruled the whole bird community either by force or craft, getting any morsel they coveted away from the Jackdaw or either of the larger birds by jumping upon its head or back, and pecking it till it lifted the foot which held the morsel, which was im. mediately seized and carried off. If one of the Gold-crests had a tough morsel of meat, the other would pull off a piece, while his friend held it tightly in his bill, and then would perform the same office for him. There were sometimes nearly two hundred birds in this aviary, feeding upon the bread, barley, and fat meat provided for them by their benefactress, and the two little Kinglets reigned supreme over them all, and always roosted upon the backs of some of them, to profit by their warmth.

The Gold-crests make a beautiful soft warm nest, and suspend it to the branch of a tree, always placing it where it can be protected by leaves, cones, or branches. It is generally lined with feathers, and contains eight or ten tiny eggs.

The FIRE-CREST (Regulus Ignicapillus), called by the French triple bandeau, from three dark lines on the side of the head, is very like the Gold-crest in its general colouring, but has a most brilliant orange or fire-coloured crest, and the sides of the neck are yellow. It is much less common than the Gold-crest, but must be treated in the same manner. Another, and still rarer species, the DALMATIAN GOLD-CREST (Regulus modestus), occasionally comes to England, and is so like the Gold-crest in its habits that it has been mistaken for it on the rare occasions of its visits to this country.


upon carrion.

The Parus tribe, or TITMICE, are easily recognized, having a strong family resemblance. They have all strong, stout little beaks, and are all insectivorous; but when insects fail, will eat oily seeds, and feed greedily

They are murderous little creatures, and ought never to be kept in an aviary. The GREAT OX-EYE TITMOUSE (Parus major) will attack and kill other birds if at all weakly, and is particularly fond of eating their brains. In confinement it will eat meat, bread, cheese, nuts, and German paste, and is very fond of fat. It is a clever bird, and can be taught to perform various tricks, to draw up water, etc., but its murderous propensities and harsh voice make it a very undesirable cage bird. A smaller Tit, with a black and white head, called the COLE TITMOUSE (Parus ater) is a more amiable inhabitant of an aviary. It is so active and lively that it ought not to be kept in a cage : it is very amusing from its propensity to lay up a hoard of food for a time of scarcity ; it will hide a quantity of seed in an obscure corner or niche in the aviary, and visit its hoard from time to time. I have read of a Cole Tit, kept in a cage by


itself, which used to empty the seed-box, and put the seed in a heap in the corner, and cover it over. Being left without seed for a day or two, he was obliged to have recourse to his store, but he ate very sparingly of it, and carefully covered over again, eating no more in three days than he generally did in one. This Tit found in most parts of Great Britain, and often consorts with Gold. crests and Crested Tits, in flocks in the pine forests, eating insects and their eggs and larvæ, and the seeds of the pine and fir trees, and concealing a stock of these under the rough bark for a time of need. It must be fed on Nightingale's paste, seeds, insects, and ants' eggs; but it is a delicate bird, and often suffers from unnatural food.

The MARSH Tit and BEARDED Tit would require much the same treatment if kept in confinement, but they are not common birds in England, excepting in the low swamps and marshes where there are old willows and alders. The CRESTED Tit is still more rare, inhabiting the pine forests in the north of Europe, but occasionally breeding in Scotland. It is a very pretty bird, with a pointed crest of black feathers edged with white; but very delicate, and not easily tamed, unless when taken young, when it must be fed on chopped mealworms and ants’ eggs.

The BLUE Tit or Tom Tit (Parus cæruleus) is one of our most common birds, and is exceedingly amusing, tripping over the branches, and looking more like a blue mouse than a bird, running so swiftly about among the twigs. It is a very voracious little creature, and devours an immense number of insects; but as it often bites off the buds of fruit trees in which a maggot is concealed, it is unjustly suspected of injuring them, whereas it does good service in ridding the tree of future devourers. The Blue Tit will eat eggs and any kind of meat and carrion, and is very fond of fat; peas, oats, and other grain too will not come amiss to him. He is a most pugnacious little bird, and is continually at war with his own species, and ought never to be kept in a cage with other birds, for if he cannot injure them as severely as the Greater Titmouse does, he is quite as quarrelsome and mischievous, and is continually teasing his companions, hanging round their necks when they are eating any titbit to which he may take a fancy, and forcing them to drop it, or pulling their feathers out. Mr. Thompson tells of a Blue Tit confined in a cage covered with close netting, which it several times cut through, and escaped into the room. It would fly to the children, and seize upon a piece of cake or bread that any of them had in its hand, persecuting the youngest child so much for a piece of apple one day, that she ran crying out of the room. The female Blue Tit is exceedingly brave in defending her nest and young against all assailants, puffing out her feathers, and hissing like an angry kitten. One of this Tit's provincial names is the Billy Biter, from the use it often makes of its strong beak. It is also known as Tom Tit, Bluecap, Blue Bonnet, and Nun. It builds in strange places-sometimes in the hat of a scarecrow, the cylinder of a pump, a bee-hive, under a turned-up flower-pot, flying in and out at the hole, etc. The Tom Tit soon becomes tame in captivity, and may be treated like the Greater Tit. It is very fond of bathing. If kept in a cage, it should be in a spacious one, with very close wires or covered with netting, and have several companions of its own kind; but'a much pleasanter plan for seeing these birds to advantage has been adopted by a lady, who has kept a small basket outside her diningroom window, filled with beef or mutton fat, uncooked, for the last four or five winters. The Greater Tit, the Cole Tit, and the Blue Tit come to this in numbers, and look very pretty clinging to the handle and, sides of the basket. She put a cocoa husk prepared for birds to build in above the basket one spring, and furnished it with tow and cotton wool; and although the birds did not build in it at first, a Blue Titmouse took possession of it for roosting

[ocr errors]

in when the cold weather returned, and the next spring a pair began to build in it, laid seven eggs, and hatched them in due time. The hen was so tame that she would allow herself to be carried about in the husk while sitting on her eggs, hissing and setting up her feathers when touched, but never flying off. Her mate brought her a green caterpillar every four or five minutes, and occasionally took her place on the nest. When the young birds were hatched, the caterpillars were brought to the nest almost every two minutes, from early morning till late at night. When all but one had flown, the lady detained it for a few hours, to take its portrait in water-colours, and after holding it in her hand awhile, put it into a cage, and the old birds fed it through the wires till she released it. This spring the same pair, as she supposed, returned to the husk, and have a family in it again. They quite understand her kind feeling towards them, and are undisturbed even by a large outside blind which is put down over the window and covers the husk. She tells me the Titmice do not resort to the basket of fat during the hot weather, but if a cold day intervenes they eat it eagerly, apparently requiring the caloric supplied by the fat during the cold. Robins, Thrushes, Sparrows, and Finches continually visit the basket also during the winter.

The LONG-TAILED TITMOUSE (Parus caudatus).—This bird is known throughout England by different local

-“ Long Tom,” “Bottle Tit,” “Poke-pudding," “ Long-tailed Mag,” “Muffin,” and “Mum-ruffin.” It often associates with the Cole Tits and Blue Tits, but is more generally seen in flocks of twelve or fourteen of its own species. It is said to feed entirely on the small insects infesting the branches and leaves of trees, and on the larvæ of flies, and on this account it is very difficult to keep in confinement: to reconcile it to any other food has been repeatedly tried in vain. It builds a very curious nest, like a bottle hanging down from the branch, of moss

[ocr errors]



« PoprzedniaDalej »