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Full text of "The smaller British birds : with descriptions of their nests, eggs, habits"

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Samuel P. Avery. «| 

I 















FOR THE PEOPLE 

FOR EDVCATION 

FOR SCIENCE 






LIBRARY 

OF 

THE AMERICAN MUSEUM 

OF 

NATURAL HISTORY 





-wit, 









^i 



ll^o'^U 



t 

J THE 



SMALLER 
BRITISH BIRDS 



WITH 

DESCRIPTIONS OF THEIR NESTS, EGGS, HABITS 

ETC,,' ETC., ETC. 



BV 

H. G. AND H. B. ADAMS 



ILLUSTRATED WITH COLOURED PLATES OF BIRDS AND EGGS 



GIBHINGS & COMPANY. MMITKD, 
i8, Bury Street, London, W.C. 

1894 



CONTENTS. 





PACE 




PAOR 


Great Tit . 


5 


Nightingale . 


. 105 


Blue Tit 


6 


Blackcap .' . . . 


108 


Cole, or Coal Tit . 


10 


Orphean Warbler 


. Ill 


Crested Tit . 


11 


Garden Warblei' 


112 


Marsh Tit . . . 


12 


Whitethroat . 


. 114 


LoTig-taik-a Tit . 


U 


Lesser Whitethroat . 


117 


Bearded Tit . . . 


16 


AVood Warbler . 


. 123 


White Wagtail . 


23 


Willow Warbler 


125 


Grey Wagtail . 


24 


Chiff Chaff . 


. 128 


Grey-TIc.uU-d Wagtail . 


•25 


Dartford Warbler 


129 


Pied Wagtail 


27 


Wren .... 


. 131 


Yellow Wagfail , 


. 31 


Goldcrest .... 


134 


Kicliard's Pipit . 


P5 


Firecrest 


. 136 


Meadow Pipit 


. 36 


Pied Flycatcher 


141 


Red-throated Pipit . 


3P 


Spotted Flycatcher 


. 142 


Tree Pipit . 


. 40 


Swift 


144 


Rock Pipit 


43 


Swallow 


. 146 


Shore Lark . 


. 49 


Martin .... 


148 


Short-Toed Lark 


50 


Sand Martin 


. 150 


Wood Lark . 


51 


Bee-eater .... 


151 


Sky Lark .... 


54 


Snow Bunting 


. 155 


Crested Lark 


. 61 


Lapland Bunting 


157 


Alpine Accentor 


67 


Common Bunting 


. 168 


Hedge Accentor . 


. 68 


Black-headed Bunting 


160 


Redbreast . . . . 


71 


Yellow Bunting . 


. 162 


Bluebreast . 


. 78 


Cirl Bunting 


164 


Redstart . . . . 


80 


Ortolan Bunting . 


. 165 


Blackstart • 


. 81 


Chaffinch .... 


171 


Stonechat .... 


87 


Mountain Finch . 


. 173 


Whinchat 


. 89 


Greenfinch 


174 


Wheatear .... 


91 


Hawfinch 


. 176 


Grasshopper Warbler . 


. 93 


Goldfinch .... 


178 


Savi's Warbler . 


95 


Bullfinch 


. 180 


Sedge Warbler 


. 96 


Siskin ... 


187 


Reed Warbler • 


90 


Linnet . . , . 


. 188 



iv 


CONTENTS. 






PAQB 




PAQE 


Eedpole .... 


190 


Redwing 


. 222 


Mealy Eedpole 


. 191 


Thrush 


227 


Twito .... 


192 


Rook Thrush 


. 229 


Sparrow .... 


. 193 


Blackbird . 


230 


Tree Sparrow . . 


197 


Ring Ouzel . 


. 233 


Pine Grossbeak . 


. 203 


Golden Oriole . 


234 


Crossbill .... 


201 


Wpxwing 


. 236 


Parrot Crossbill . 


. 207 


Nuthatch . 


241 


American White-winged Crossbill 208 


Wryneck 


. • .243 


Two-barred Cros.=;bill 


. 209 


Creeper 


241. 


Rose-coloured Pastor 


213 


Great Shrike 


. 245 


Starling .... 


. 214 


Red-backed Shrike 


247 


Dipper .... 


217 


Woodchat 


. 24S 


Missel Thrush 


. 218 


Kingfisher . 


249 


Fieldfare .... 


220 







INTRODUCTION. 



rr^HERE are some subjects of which the public are never tired of 
-^ reading, nor authors of writing, and one of those is Birds. A 
new book on this subject can never be out of season; provided it is 
written in a loving and appreciative spirit, always will it find readers, 
although it may contain nothing particularly original or striking. 
Tear after year the trees bud and blossom, and put forth loaves and 
fruitage; year after year the beautiful flowers carpet the woodlands 
afresh with variegated dyes, "paint the meadows with delight," and 
make the earth one blooming garden; year after year the sweet spring 
calls forth the native songsters to renew their interrupted melody, and 
the air is winnowed by countless wings of the feathered voyagers, who 
pass the winter in warmer climates; and always is the fresh verdure, 
the unfolding of the flowers, the burst of vernal melody, and all the 
lovely sights and sounds, and indications of reviving nature, a source 
of delight to the thoughtful and reflective mind. So it is with a new 
book on Birds, or Flowers; it is always welcome, for truly has the 
poet said 

"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever." 

Our present endeavour is to produce a book which shall give a 
concise, yet sufiicieutly full description of the smaller British Birds; not 
a scientific book, but one essentially popular in its character, rendered 
attractive by life-like portraits of our feathered clients, drawn and 
coloured as closely to nature as the eye and the hand of the artist 
can make them, and arranged in groups which shall at once show 
their relationships with each other, and affinities with the whole orni- 
thological system. A book that shall be sufficiently cheap for young 

B 



2 INTRODUCTION. 

purcliasers; sufScienfcly beautiful for the abodes of the wealthy ; 
sufficiently simple and clear in its descriptions to interest the young, 
and be understood by all; sufficiently accurate to obtain the approval 
of the scientific teacher. We do not claim for it the character of 
an educational manual, but that of an agreeable companion for the 
woods and fields, as well as for the wintry fireside, when 

'Tis pleasant to think of the trill of the Lark, 

And the song of the Nightingale flooding the dark, 

And the sweet mellow strains of the Blackbird and Thrush, 

And many a songster's melodious guah; 

And back, by the aid of bright memories, bring 

The sunshine of summer, the freshness of spring. 

We have appended to our description of each group of Birds a few 
simple directions for their treatment in confinement, not because we 
advocate their being so kept, but that we would make their lives as 
healthful and happy, when they are, as circumstances will permit. 
Some of them, we feel sure, have as much enjoyment, and far less 
privation, in the cage and aviary, as though they were free to go and 
come at will, and to birds bred in confinement, and unaccustomed to 
provide for themselves, release would be positive cruelty. But too often 
Feathered Pets suffer and die for want of proper care and attention 
to their nature and necessities, and we would press upon the consciences 
of those who keep birds, for their pleasure or profit, that they cannot 
neglect them without offending Him unnoted by whom "no Sparrow 
falls to the ground." 

H. G. A.. 



THE 

SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 



TITS, OR TITMICE. 

rr^HESE members of the sub-family Parinoe form a very compact 
group of birds, distinguished from all others by certain unmistak- 
able marks and characteristics. They have mostly short, robust bodies, 
with plumage boldly marked, having strong contrasts of colour; their 
bills are short and sharj), suitable for insect-hunters, which thoy all 
are. Their motions are quick and irregular, and their feet and claws, 
although slight, are very strong, enabling them to grasp the trunks 
and boughs of trees very tightly, so that they can search the under 
parts, and move about with their heads downwards, in which position 
they are as often seen as in any other; their hind toes and claws are 
unusually long, an obvious advantage to their mode of life. They 
belong to the Dcntirontral tribe of birds, viz: those having the tip of 
the upper mandible slightly toothed and hooked. 

The Tits are wonderfully active birds, seeming to be almost inces- 
santly in motion; they can fly very well, but do not exercise that 
power much, generally keeping pretty close to the trees whei'e they 
find their insect food, on which, however, they do not feed exclusively. 



4 TEE SMALLER IIRITLSH BIRDS. 

varying it occasionally by seeds, buds, fruits, and grain, sometimes even 
nuts, the shells of which they are able to break with their strong bills ; 
they pick to pieces the pine-cones, and eat the seeds; of those of 
the sunflower they are said to be particularly fond. They are partial 
to the fat of meat, which is often used as bait in the traps set for 
them. 



TITS, OR TITMICE. 



THE GREAT TIT, 

(Pants major.) 

PLATE I. FIGURE I. 

Ranks first in point of size of the seven British species^ which by 
no means include all the Tits known. The whole length of this bird 
is rather loss than six inches; this includes the tail, which is somewhat 
short. The colours in the plumage are sufficiently diversified to pro- 
duce a very striking effect. The top of the head, like the breast, 
chin, and throat, is black ; there is a broad patch of white on either 
cheek, and a bar of white across the wings, the coverts of which are 
mostly grey. The cheeks, breast, sides, and flanks are a dull yellow j 
the legs, toes, and claws lead-colour. 

The Ox-Eye Tit, as this bird is often called, may be found in most 
of the wooded and cultivated districts of England and Scotland, being 
most plentiful in the southern parts j it is a bold, pugnacious bird, 
and will fight when occasion requires, desperately; it has been known 
to spilt open the skull of another bird with its bill, and feast on the 
brains, therefore it is best kept out of the aviaiy. On the Continent 
it is found as far north as Sweden and Russia; it is sometimes known 
as the Blackcap, from the colour of its head, but this name belongs 
of right to one of the sweetest of British Warblers. Now Master 
Tom is not a sweet songster, although he has considerable power 
and flexibility of voice; he chatters, and screams, rather than sings; 
except in the pairing time, when he does his own wooing in a really 
melodious manner, you might fancy when you heard him, that some- 
body in the woods was filing a saw, or sharpening a scythe. He is 
not a bad mimic, and when this grating noise ceases, the listener will 
probably hear what seems to be the sharp fink-Jink of the Chaflanch, 
the clear note of the Robin, or the doleful cry of the Yellow-hammer; 
then again goes the chur, cJiur-r, chur-r-r, like the turning of a 
grindstone, and you know that the bold Ox-Bye is but mocking you. 
There he is, up among the boughs of yonder old oak, looking for 
some decayed part into which he can thrust his bill, and extract 



6 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

delicious morsels, in the shape of wood-lice and spiders, grubs and 
maggots, and such like dainty fare. He visits the gardens and orchards 
when the buds are on the trees, and picks off a great many, but 
then they are mostly rotten at the core; he knows that there is a 
maggot inside of each, which will prevent its coming to perfection. 
But it is in the woods that the greater part of his life is spent. 
He is not a very sociable bird, is much oftener alone than in com- 
pany of others, even of his own kith and kin. 

When the time comes for nesting, he and Mrs. Tom just look out 
for a suitable place, which will probably be a hole in some old wall, or a 
cavity in a decayed tree, which may furnish at once lodging and food. 
Then they get together a little of any soft stuff they can lay their 
bills on — moss, feathers, leaves, or hair ; of these they make a loose 
kind of nest, or merely line the cavity chosen. Sometimes the deserted 
habitation of a Crow or Magpie is taken possession of; an old flower 
pot, a broken bottle, the hollow of a pump where the handle works 
up and down, a Grecian vase in a garden, a letter-box, almost any- 
thing and everything which will afford the needful shelter; and 
there the hen will sit upon her eggs, in number from sis to eleven 
or more, of a white colour, with reddish brown spots all over them, 
careless of prying eyes, or even of curious fingers, at which she will 
peck fiercely if they are intruded within her nest. Meanwhile the male 
takes up his station not far off, and is ready to do battle with all 
comers who threaten his mate or offspring. 

Some have likened the spring call of this bird to " oxeye, oxeye, 
oxeye," hence its most popular name. This has been heard even as 
early as the 24th. December, when the ice was an inch thick on the 
ponds. This call consists of a high and low note, and may be heard 
half a mile away. Some country people call the bird Sit-ye-down, from 
a faijcied resemblance of one of its calls to this compound word. 



THE BLUE TIT, 

(PciiHS ctrru/i't/s.) 
PLATE I. — FIGURE II. 



Tins bird, which is perhaps the best known of the Tit family, has 
a variety of popular names, such as Blue-cap and Blue-bonnet, from 



TITS, OR TITMICE. 7 

the colour of his head; Nun, bocauso, wo suppose, ho wears a hood 
or cowl as mouks and uuas do; Blue Mope, why? it would perhaps 
be difficult to say: the bird is not at all mopish, but as lively as a 
bird nood bo; but then monastic people are supposed to be so, and 
this is but a repetition of the inoakisk or nunnish title. Then ho is 
the Billy-biter, because he bites tho fingers of Billy, or Bobby, or 
any other foolish boy who goes prying into his nest; and ho is also 
the Hickwall, for does he not pick, and peck, and hick, and hack at 
the crumbling mortar of the old wall, where spiders lurk, and other 
insects, for he ia a student of entomology. Lastly, people call him 
the Tomtit, for although not tho biggest, he is the commonest, tho 
best dressed, the liveliest, and the most popular of the family. Our 
readers may take their choice of these names, and call him by that 
they like best. He ia a very beautiful, clever, and amusing little 
bird, under whatever title he may appear. 

Not quite "all the Blue-bonnets are over the Border," for they are 
found yet in most parts of England, but a good many of them are, 
being absent only in the extreme north. In Ireland, too, they are 
not uncommon, and nearly all over Europe their shrill notes may at 
times be heard; they extend as far north as Norway, Sweden, and 
the south of Russia; among the islands of Greece they flit and flutter 
in the sunshine, on the foggy flats of Holland they are not unknown, 
and the Switzer sees them in his green valleys, that lie beneath and 
between the great mountains capped with snow. In those bright 
islands from whence it is said the Canary Birds first came. Master 
Tommy disports himself, and even in Japan his presence is reported, 
so that our Blue Tit is quite a citizen of the world. In our own 
country he is somewhat migratory, moving southward as the cold 
weather comes on. During the summer he keeps pretty much within 
the shelter of the green wood, but towards autumn, when his 
family cares are over, he may be seen in every hedgerow, and es- 
pecially in and about the gardens. In the spring these birds are 
mostly seen in pairs, in the summer in families, and in the winter 
in small flocks. Their flight from place to place is laboured and 
unsteady, accomplished by repeated flappings of the wings. Their 
note is short and sharp, broken up into little bits as it were, like 
the words zit, zit, tzitzee; tsee, tsee, tsirr, or chica, chica, chirr-r-r. If dis- 
turbed on her nest, the hen bird spits liko a cat, and ruffles up her 
feathers, looking very fierce indeed. Many a boy has been scared 
away by the hissing sound she makes, thinking he has aroused the 
anger of a snake. If she cannot drive away the intruder by such 
devices, she will boldly attack him, and bite severely. Hardly anything 



8 THE SMALLER BRITLSH BLRDS. 

will induce her to forsake her young, but she will defend them 
against the Hawk, the Owl, the Magpie, the Thrush, or auy other 
feathered depredator. One has been known to sit still while a part of 
the tree on which she had built was being sawed off; another who 
had built in a box hung at the side of the house, did not fly off 
when the box was lifted off its support and taken into the house, 
nor forsake her nest, as many birds would have done, when it was 
replaced; another, who had nested in a letter-box which was opened 
twice every day to take out the letters, hatched and reared her young 
in that strange place, without showing any signs of fear at the near 
approach of her enemy man. Again, there was one, who having built 
in the hollow of a pump, where the handle is inserted, sat steadily, 
notwithstanding the noise and motion caused by the working of the 
pump. 

Pages and pages might be filled with a bare mention of the curious 
places in which the Blue Tit has chosen to build, or rather to lay 
eggs, for about building very little trouble is taken; almost any 
hollow place will suffice for the purpose, and a very little of any soft 
materials will do for the lining of the hole in which the eggs may be 
found in March or April; they vary in number from eight to twelve, 
— as many as eighteen have been counted in one nest, and as few as 
six, in the latter case perhaps some may have been destroyed. Their 
colour is white with a delicate pink tinge, and reddish brown spots. 

A few more curiosities of Blue Tit nidification may be here men- 
tioned. We have spoken of the pump and the letter-box in which 
the funny bird posted her eggs without any direction, consequently 
they were never taken out and delivered, but very soon their contents 
became known, for they flew all over the country. One of these birds, 
which had no doubt taken the pledge, had her tail worn to a stump 
by the friction of the pump handle, but she bravely sat out her 
term, and no doubt taught all her young to be total abstainers. We 
are told of one who made her nest in a bottle, up and down the 
neck of which she passed every time she fed her fledglings, ten in 
number; the bottle was fifteen inches deep, and the neck one inch in 
diameter, and through this narrow passage every two or three minutes 
daring the day went one or other of the parent birds with a grub or 
caterpillar, or some insect for the craving little ones. A very strange 
and ghastly place indeed did one pair of these birds choose for their 
habitation, viz.: the mouth of the skeleton of a murderer that hung 
Oil a gibbet. This was in the old days when the bones of those who 
had committed groat crimes were allowed to bleach in the sun, and 
rattle in the wintry wind, as a warning to evil doers. All this is 



TITS, on TITMIVE. 9 

altered uow; our criiuiu:xl.s aro raroly osecutoJ, and wo put tliom (<ut 
of sight as soou as possible, as thing's too loathesorae aad horrible to 
bo looked ou. But tho joyous and ianocent birds know notliiug of 
crime and its consoquoncos, and to tliotn tho skolo ton's head was as 
good a place to nest in as any other hollow space. Nothing did they 
know of tho thoughts that onco passed through thoso chambers of the 
brain, of the guilty terrors that must have had a place there, and 
dared not go forth into tho sunshine, as the happy birds did, and 
return gladly to their home and waiting offspring. 

A very gay bird is Master Blue-cap, — a^ to dress, we mean; blue of 
various shades is tho prevailing colour. It is streaked and banded 
with white, varied with yellow, which deepens at places into green and 
brown; he is quito a beau in his small vvay. A.bout half an ounco 
being his weight, and four inches and a half his length; a bold, 
lively, and most interesting bird, a great friend to the farmers and 
gardeners, although they cannot be brought to believo this, but shoot 
him without mercy, and have sometimes offered a reward of so much 
per dozen for Tomtit's heads, forgetting that so persevering a des- 
troyer of insects cannot be other than a friend to them, although he 
may sometimes help himself to some of their seeds, and fruit, and 
green stuffs. Mr. Knapp, in his "Journal of a Naturalist," mentions 
that "An item passed in one of a late churchwarden's accounts was 
for seventeen dozen of Tomtit's heads;" and a close observer has 
estimated that a pair of these birds, while feeding their young, destroyed 
six or seven hundred insects in the course of a single day. Suppose 
they do this for a month only, taking the lowest of the above num- 
bers, we have 18,000, that is 9,000 to each bird; multiply that by the 
number of birds whose heads were barbarously wrung off, and igno- 
rantly paid for, we have an army of devastation araouuting to 206,000 
wLicli these poor slaughtered Tits would probably have killed, if they 
had been suffered to live. Let our agricultural and horticultural 
friends think upon this, and 

Spare the Tits, the sprightly birds, 

The insect hunters, never weary; 
They can but chirp, they have no words 

To plead themselves, but, ever cheery. 
They flit and flutter where they can. 
Still doing good, and helping man. 



10 TRE UMALLEU lilUUSlI Blli/JS. 



THE COLE, OR COAL TIT, 



[Parus akr.) 



PLATE I. — FIGURE III. 



Almost Gverywhere in England tHis member of the Tit family may 
be seen, and yet it is not very plentiful anywhere; like the Great Tit, 
it remains with us throughout the year, and is most conspicuous iu 
the winter, because thea it is more in the open fields, and in company 
with others of its own species. It is not a shy bird, like some that 
shun human habitations, being a not unfrequent visitor in and near 
to busy towns; even in the great metropolis itself it has been observed. 

The Cole Tit is generally distributed over Ireland; it is found in 
the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, and among the pine forests of the 
more northerly parts of Scotland; indeed it seems to prefer the pines 
and firs to any other trees, and in summer time keeps very much 
in the shelter of the woods. The following is a pretty picture of its 
habits by the Scotch naturalist, Macgillivray: — "It is pleasant to follow 
a troop of these tiny creatures as they search the tree tops, spreading 
all around, fluttering and creeping among the branches, ever in motion, 
now clinging to a twig in an inverted position, now hovering over a 
tuft of leaves, picking in a crevice of the bark, searching all the 
branches, sometimes visiting the lowermost, and again winding among 
those at the very tops of the trees. In wandering among these woods, 
you are attracted by their shrill cheeping notes, which they continually 
emit, as they flutter among the branches; and few persons thus falling 
in with a flock, can help standing still to watch their motions for 
awhile." To this Mr. Morris, in his "History of British Birds," adds, 
"It is also observable how suddenly, without any apparent cause, the 
whole troop, as if under marching orders, flit in a body from the tree 
and alight elsewhere, again to go through their exercises, evolutions 
and manoeuvres." 

The note of the Colemouse, as this bird is sometimes called, is sharp 
and shrill, something like z'lt, zit, zit-iee, che-chee, che-chee, and is so 
loud, that, like that of the Oseye, it may be heard a long way off; it 
is first heard in February at rare intervals, but does not become very 
constant until about August, by which time a second brood is often 
fledged, the firsL being ready to leave the nest in May or June. 

A hole in a tree, generally at a less height from the ground than 



TITS, OR TITMICE. 11 

that chosen by tho other Titmipe, is tho chosen nGstin<T.place of tliis, 
the smallest of British Tits; soinotiines its eggs are laid in a cavity of 
a wall near the base, in a hollow in a bank, or even amid tho twisted 
roots of a tree, or a hole dug by a rat, raouso, or mole ; the eggs are 
from six to eight or more in number, white, spotted with red; moss, 
with a lining of hair or fur, are the materials generally used in the 
construction of the nest, in which tho male and female sit by turns ; 
if intruded on while sitting, tho bird makes a hissing noise, and will 
defend the young with great spirit and determination. 

The plumage of this diminutive bird, whose length is about four 
inches and a quarter, and weight seldom comes up to half an ounce, 
is not so diversified as that of most other Tits ; the ci'own of tho head 
is black, glossed with blue; tho chin and throat are also black, and 
the sides near the wings; tho back is a dark ashy grey, with a greenish 
tinge towards the lower parts, and the wings are ash coloured and 
black, with a bar of white across the lower part. There is a white 
stripe from the back of the head down tho neck on each side, and a 
white patch upon either cheek; the tail is brownish grey, with white 
markings; the feet and the legs are lead-coloured: so there is much 
harmony of colour, but producing no very striking effect. Like the 
other Tits, Master Coley feeds chiefly on insects, taking a turn at 
vegetable food when these cannot be readily obtained; he is fond of 
the seeds of all kinds of pine and fir trees, and is said by the German 
naturalist Bechstein to lay up in summer a store of these for winter 
use, imitating in this respect the foi'csight of the industrious ant. 



THE CRESTED TIT, 

{^Parus crista! us.) 
PLATE I. FIGDUE IV. 

Tins bcantifiil little bird is found in almost every part of the con- 
tinent of Europe, even the coldest; with us it is very rare, residing 
chiefly in tho northern parts of the island, where there are pine forests, 
in which it loves to hide, being a bird of secluded habits ; no specimen 
has yet been observed in Ireland. It is what may be called a partial 
migrant, that is, it does not come to ns from over the sea at one time 
of the year, and leave us at another, but it migrates at pretty regular 
times from one part of the country to another. They are more sociable 



12 THE SMALLER L/iLTlSLL BIRDS. 

than the Tits generally, keeping together in small flocks. In their 
movements they resemble the Blue Tit, and in their note the Cole 
Tit, only that it has a peculiar quaver at the end, which has been 
likened to a word spelled thus — rjhir-r-r-kee. 

One of the loveliest and tiuiest of British birds is this, the male 
weighing only about a quarter of an ounce, and being in length but 
little more than four inches, it is also one of the least known on 
account of its shyness; a close observer, if he is only quiet and cautious 
iu his approach, may see it busily engaged in its favourite pursuit 
among the pines, as other Tits are among the less thick and gloomy 
trees. Up and down, round and round, tail up, and head down, or 
in a more natural position, uttering his chirp or shorter cry, and 
erecting or depressing his conical crest of shining black feathers, edged 
with white, which looks, when it stands up, like a little Scotch cap, 
and gives the wearer a peculiarly pert appearance. 

The eggs of this bird are from seven to ten in number, spotted and 
speckled with light purplish spots, on a white ground. In its nesting 
habits it does not differ from the other Tits, choosing almost any hollow 
place that may be convenient; sometimes, it is said, hewing out for 
itself a hole in a decayed tree; that any of the Tits do this has been 
denied, but the authority of Selby and others, who have witnessed 
the operation, is sufficient to settle the question. 



THE MARSH TIT, 

(^Panis pa/us/n's.) 
PLATE I. — FIGURR V. 

Tnis bird, although a frequenter of marshy ground, is by no means 
confined to such; it may be found iu wooded and cultivated districts, 
and amid hills, as well as on salt meadows and marshes near the sea. 
The margins of streams and ponds, and other places where there is a 
good growth of reeds or underwood, it seems to prefer, and is not 
often seen in hedgerows near to public roads. It is not a very 
common species, although it may be occasionally met with in every 
English county, as well as all over Scotland, except in the extreme 
north, and also in Ireland, where, however, it is very unfrequent. Ifc 
is a constant resident in almost every country in Europe, and has been 
found iu North America, and the northern parts of Asia. 



TITS^, OR TITMICE. 13 

It flif^g qnickly, with an undnlatory or wavo-liko motion, and seems 
to bo sciirccly ever at rest, tliruwing itself into all sorts oE grotesque 
attitudes, as though it hardly know how to express its joy, and making 
tho woods ring again with its che-cJiee, chc-chce; chica-chica-r.heo ; tzit, 
tzit, tzit, dea-deo; witzeo; the last many times and rapidly repeated. 
Then it chatters and chirps, and utters a shrill cheep, and sometimes 
a sharp metallic twinh, which is heard even in winter. At this latter 
season tho Marsh Tits become somewhat gregarious, going about in 
small flocks, which, as spring approaches, pair off, and begin to look 
out for a nesting place. The pairs arc said sometimes to remain attached 
for lifo, and to exhibit great affection for each other, tho male bird 
frequently feeding tho sitting female. If one is caught in a trap, 
the other will, if possible, visit the prisoner, and so gets captured also. 
They are very tender and watchful over their young, as all the Tits 
arc, using almost incredible exertion and care in obtaining them a 
sufficiency of food; this of course is entirely insects, and the old 
birds feed on these as much as they can; when this fails, seeds, 
grain, young plants, and even carrion. 

The nest of this species appears to be somewhat more carefully 
made than that of the Tits generally; it is formed of moss, wood, 
grass, willow catkins, wool, horso hair, or any other soft substance 
obtainable; it is placed in the hollow of a tree, sometimes specially 
made by the bird for the purpose, — so it is stated by Montagu, 
who has seen the little carpenter at work, and noticed that he carried 
bis chips some distance from the tree, that they might not betray 
the whereabout of its nest; if this be true, it seems to indicate the 
possession of a reasoning power, altogether beyond mere instinct. 
The eggs of this species vary in number from five to nine, sometimes, 
though rarely, exceeding that number. They are almost round in 
shape, of a dull white colour, with red spots, plentiful at the thickest 
end, and almost or quite absent at the thinnest. Towards the end of 
July the young brood is ready for flight. 

About throe drachms is generally the weight of the male bird, 
the length about four inches and a half. The plumage is prettily 
diversified, although not so gay as that of the Blue Tit; it is 
composed of brown, black, and white, with the intermediate shades 
of grey, and tinges of green and yellow. As with the other Tits, 
and indeed with most of our smaller birds, the female difiers from 
the male in having the colours of tho ]ilumage more sobered and 
subdued, the blacks being less glossy and decided, and greys and 
browns pi-edominating. 



14 THE SMALLER BRITISS BLRDS. 



THE LONG-TAILED TIT, 

{Pa/us caudafus.) 

PLATE I. PIGDRB VI. 

Never surely did a pretty little bird have such a variety of odd and 
ugly names bestowed upon it. We can understand what is meant by 
the Long-tailed Titmouse, Pie, and Mag, because the bird has a long 
tail, and is a chatterer, and therefore may be likened to the Pie, or 
Magpie ; we know what is meant by Bottle-Tit and Bottle-Tom — it 
makes a bottle-shaped nest ; Long Tom and Long Pod may have 
reference either to the nest or the tail; but why Mum-Ruffin, why 
Poke-Pudding, why Huck-Muck, and why Mufflin ? One catches a 
glimpse of meaning in the last name — the bird covers and muffles up 
its young in a large bottle-shaped nest, that has its opening at the 
side ; this nest too may by country people be likened to a pudding, 
into which the bird is poked; there is a reason for another name; 
but the rest are as inexplicable as they are comical. But the most 
wonderful name of all is that by v?hich, we are told, the bird was 
known to the Ancient Britons — Y Benloyn Gnuffonliir. Will some of 
our Welsh friends favour us with a translation of this ? 

Nearly all the Tits are distributed pretty well throughout Europe, 
and this is no exception to the rule ; it is found through a wide range 
of temperature, from Siberia to Italy. In Asia, also, and the West 
Indies, it is an inhabitant, so that it is at home in three quarters of 
the globe, and may be in four. 

It is common in this country almost everywhere, frequenting 
the wooded districts chiefly, where there are plantations, thickets, 
s'lrubberies, and tall hedges, there you will be pretty sure to find 
Tom with the long tail, and this is the case in Scotland, Ireland, and 
Wales, as well as England. 

And what is he like, this ubiquitous Tom Tit? Well, he is not a 
gay bird as to colour, but a very pretty bird for all that; his plumage 
is soft and downy, and is much puffed out, so that he looks larger 
than he really is, his whole weight being not above two drachms, 
so that he might be sent in a letter for a penny stamp, if it 
were not for the danger of his getting smothered and crushed. 
Black, and white, and brown, flushed at places with a rich red, are 
the chief colours of his plumage; these colours fade one into the 



TITS, OR TITMICE. 15 

other, and mingle so as to produco all sorts of iiitcniiodiato tints, 
and produce a very harmonious effect on the wliolc. The body of the 
bird is not larger than that of most other Tits, not so long as some, 
but its whole length including the tail is about five inches and a half, 
the tail being at least three inches long; being chiefly black and white, 
it somewhat resembles that of the Magpie, hence the names Mag and 
Pyo, sometimes applied to the bird. 

Nothing can be more beautiful and interesting than the motions of 
this indefatigable insect-hunter; its habits resemble those of the rest 
of the family, than any of which it is if possible more lively and 
active; from the very first peep of day until sunset, it is incessantly 
in motion, searching here, there, and everywhere about the trees, for 
food, and flying with extended tail from one spot to another. 

"How pleasant it is," says the Scottish naturalist, Macgillivray, "to 
gaze upon those little creatures skimming along the tops of the tall trees 
by the margin of the brook, ever in motion, searching the twigs with 
care, and chirping their shrill notes as they scamper away one after 
another." "In flying as they do from tree to tree," says Morris, "in 
an irregular string, they have a singular appearance; they seem so 
light, and as it were overburdened by the length of their tails, that 
but a moderate gust might be thought to be too much for them." 
Meyer says — " Constantly in motion from tree to tree, and flying in 
a straight line with much rapidity, they remind the spectator of a 
pictorial representation of a flight of arrows." " Away," says Knapp, 
" they all scuttle to be first, stop for a second, and then are away 
again, observing the same order, and precipitation the whole day long." 
This bird has not so sharp and shrill a note as most of its relatives, 
all its utterances are soft and pleasing, its twit, twit, and churr, cliurr, 
have an inward kind of sound, as if the bird were talking to itself, some- 
times its te-te, tse re-re and zit, zit, have almost the melody of a song. 

But it is in nest building that our long-tailed friend excels most ; no 
Tit comes near him in that, nor indeed many other birds; it is a 
most elaborate structure, from five to seven inches long, by three or 
four wide, presenting in shape the rude outline of a bottle with a 
short neck ; the entrance is at the side, and is so small, that one 
wonders how the parent birds get in and out, and especially how 
they manage to stow away their tails. Some of the nests have two 
apertures, on opposite sides, and out of one a tail has been observed 
sticking, and out of the other a head, presenting a most absurd 
appearance. But all the nests have not two openings, although all the 
birds have long tails, and this is a mystery which we cannot pretend 
to explain : probably, as the Tits go in head first, they leave their 



16 TRE SMALLER BRITISE BIRDS. 

tails projecting from the door, or they may have some cunning 
method of doubling them up, and sitting upon them, like an elastic 
cushion. The nest itself is really a wonderful structure, no wonder 
it takes a fortnight to build; it is composed of moss, mingled with 
which are small fragments of bark and wool, bound together by 
spiders' webs, and the silk-like filaments which surround the chrysa- 
lides of some kinds of moths; the lining is generally of feathers, 
which also form part of the whole nest, which sometimes looks as if 
it were altogether made of this material, hence the name of Feather- 
poke, sometimes applied both to the bird and nest by country people : 
often the latter is very elegant, on account of the coloured lichens 
with which it is adorned, and generally it very closely resembles in 
its tints the tree on which it is built, so as to escape observation. 
It looks likes a mossy excrescence between the branches, where it is 
usually fixed so firmly by the glutinous cobweb as not to be easily 
removed. Both birds assist in the making of the nest, carefully 
working in the materials, and kneading them together with their 
breasts and shoulders, assuming every variety of attitude to effect 
their object. Two thousand three hundred and seventy-nine feathers 
have been counted in one of these nests, which although loose, and 
often somewhat ragged in appearance, are in reality very firm and 
compact; they are perfectly water-tight. 

The eggs are generally about twelve in number, not much bigger 
than a pea, sometimes entirely white, but generally having faint red 
spots scattered sparely over the larger end. The same nest is used 
by one pair of the birds year after year, and is often patched and 
repaired, to fit it for continued occupation; sometimes the fresh 
materials are quite different from those formerly used, then we are 
reminded of the piece of new cloth sewn into the old garment. The 
young birds are generally fledged about the end of June, and do not 
get their full-dress suit until November. 



THE BEARDED TIT, 

{Piirus barbalus.) 
PLATE I. FIGURE VII. 

The Bearded Titmouse, or Pinnock, the Least Butcher Bird, and 

the Keed Pheasant, are the various names applied to this species, 



TITS, OR TITMICE. 17 

which is a native of Europe, being abundant in Holland, Prance, and 
Italy; it is also found in Asia, on the borders of the Black and 
Caspian Seas, and many other places. It is known in many of the 
English counties, but only as a rare bird; no specimen has been 
taken in Scotland, and only one in Ireland. It delights in marshy 
situations, where there are plenty of reeds, among which it feeds upon 
seeds and insects. It is very quick and active, like the other mem- 
bers of its family, climbing up to the tops of the reeds, and dropping 
to the roots if disturbed, and then creeping up again in that stealthy 
moase-liko manner which all the Tits have, and on which account 
they have probably been called Titmice. Their flight is in general 
only suflBciently high to clear the summits of the reeds, out of the 
shelter of which they do not often venture, except in winter, when 
they take a wider range, generally in small flocks of two or three 
families. 

A very pretty and graphic picture of their habits is given by a 
contributor to Loudon's "Magazine of Natural History;" he had been 
observing the motions of a flock of them, and says: — "They were 
just topping the reeds in their flight, and uttering in full chorus 
their sweetly musical note; it may be compared to the music of very 
small cymbals, is clear and ringing, though soft, and corresponds well 
with the delicacy and beauty of the form and colour of the birds. 
Several flocks were seen during the morning. Their flight was short 
and low, only sufiicient to clear the reeds, on the seedy tops of which 
they alight to feed, hanging like most of their tribe with the head 
or back downwards. If disturbed, they immediately descend by 
running, or rather by dropping. Their movement is rapid along the 
stalks at the bottom, where they creep and flit, perfectly concealed 
from view by the closeness of the covert and the resembling tints 
of their plumage." These tints we may here add, are chiefly fawn 
and delicate grey, lighted up with yellow gleams, and flushes of pink 
and salmon-colour, shaded with orange brown and black, and relieved 
with white edgings and markings — a very beautiful combination of 
tints. This is the Bearded Tit remember; he has no silky crest, like 
his brother cristatus, but he lias a jet black moustache extending from 
his orange-coloured bill along between it and the eye; these black 
feathers he can swell out when excited so as to look very fierce, but 
he is really nothing of the sort, only a timid little creature, that hides 
away as much as it can, and would much rather fly than fight at 
any time. It makes its nest, generally towards the end of April, in 
mild seasons sometimes earlier, of dry stalks and blossoms of grass, 
reeds, and sedges, on the ground amid grass tufts, and the coarse 

D 



18 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

vegctntion of tbe marshes, being the only one oE our British Tits 
that is known as a rule to build on the ground. The eggs are from 
four to six, rarely more, in number, pinkish white in colour, speckled, 
spotted, and streaked with purplish brown. This bird like the 
MiifHin, has a long tail, making the whole length of the male six 
inches. The female is somewhat shorter, and has a white moustache. 



TITS IN CONFINEMENT. 

The members of this family are recommended to those who keep 
cage and aviary birds, by their beauty, activity, and cheerfulness, but 
they are unsafe birds to turn loose with others, as they are apt to 
be quarrelsome, and have an unpleasant way of pecking holes, not in 
the characters of their fellow-prisoners, but in their heads, and sucking 
out their brains. The Oxeye and the Blue Tit only seem to have 
this cannibal jjropensity, and they do not often exhibit it, never 
perhaps unless pressed by hunger; but after having once done it, the 
murderer becomes dangerous, being very likely to repeat the act, for 
sheer love of the newly-tasted food. Bird-sellers say that only the 
Oxeyes which have forked tails are likely to do so, but this assertion 
may be questioned, what connection there can be between the shape 
of the tail and a penchant for brains we cannot understand. The 
larger Tits then, if kept at all, should be put into cages by them- 
selves; a pair in a cage is best, and it should be of a bell shape, 
tolerably large, with a round cavity made for a nesting place, as they 
do not fancy sleeping on an open perch, and are apt to be restless 
unless covered in. 

The liveliness of all Tits renders them very agreeable companions, 
and in confinement their notes are not so shrill and harsh as they 
generally are when at liberty. If taken quite young, and placed near 
good songsters, they will frequently exhibit a power of sustained and 
melodious song, which one would hardly expect. Bechstein, the great 
German authority on cage birds, says of tjie Oxeye that ''it has a 
varied and exceedingly melodious song," and that "even when taken 
and confined when old, it evinces a readiness to adopt the songs and 
the call-notes of other birds;" and, as a proof of its dexterity, states 
that it may be taught to perform a variety of tricks, such as drawing 
np food and water by a chain, etc. Of the Cole Tit in confinement 




*frV 






..••;' 






.- \ 



V'. 

'4 



TITS, on TITMICE. 10 

ho says tlint "it is an engaging and amnsing bird, always in motion, 
bold, lively, never ceasing to Lop and flutter;" of tlic Blue Tit that 
"it is recommended by its beauty and lively disposition," and that "it 
soon becomes tame." According to tho same authority the "song of the 
Marsh Tit, though weak, is agreeable;" he styles this a handsomo 
bird, which he has never been able to keep longer than two or three 
years. 

It will be seen by tho above that Bechstoin only mentions four out 
of the seven species which are hero described; probably these were all 
that were known to him as cage birds, and so came within the scope 
of his subject. Other members of the group have, however, been kept 
in confinement, and proved as interesting and agreeable as their 
better-known relatives. 

In Bohn's edition of Bechstein, which has much additional matter 
compiled by the author of tho present work, is quoted an anecdote 
from Knapp's "Journal of a Naturalist," which may be fitly introduced 
here: — "I was lately exceedingly pleased on witnessing the maternal 
care and intelligence of this bird (the Blue Tit;) the poor thing had 
its young ones in the hole of a wall, and the nest had been nearly 
all drawn out of the crevice by the paw of a cat, and part of the 
brood devoured. In revisiting its family the bird discovered a portion 
of it remaining, though wrapped up and hidden in the tangled moss 
and feathers of their bed, and it then drew the whole of the nest 
into the place from whence it had been taken, unravelled and resettled 
the remaining little ones, fed them with the usual attention, and 
finally succeeded in rearing them. The parents of even this reduced 
family laboured with great peraoverance to supply their wants, bringiu" 
them a grub, caterpillar, or other insect, at intervals of less than a 
minute during the day." 

All the Tits, bjing chiefly insectivorous birds, should have a large 
proportion of that kind of food, especially when first taken, to 
reconcile them to confinement. Ants' eggs, meal-worms, small cater- 
pillars, maggots, and anything of that kind that can be procured 
should be given to them freely. All seeds, and especially those of 
tho suu-tlower, they are fond of, oats and other grain, fir and pine 
cones, nuts, vvith occasionally a little green food, and small shreds d 
meat when insects cannot be procured, is the best diet for them 
They will generally eat the Universal Paste. A frequent change ot 
food is good for them, and plenty of water to drink and bathe in. 
Their principal diseases are gout, and decline, and giddiness; the two 
former are said to arise from an immoderate use of the same kind 



20 THE SMALLER BRITISE BIRDS. 

of food, — fresh ants' eggs and a change of diet, restricted in quantity, 
are the remedies: for the latter, confinement in a small cage for a 
time, where the bird cannot turn round and over, and be so exces- 
sively active as usual. 



Plate 2. 




WAGTAILS. 



}. Vrhite. 3. Grey. 3. Grey-headed 

4. Pied. 6. Yellow. 



TUK WAGTAILS. 21 



TflE WAGTAILS. 

r I "iniS is another very distinct group of birds; although closely 
allied to the Larks on one hand, and the Chats on the other, 
they have but little resemblance to either in their appearance or habits. 
Slender in form, with long tails, and legs of more than ordinary 
length, and very graceful in their movements, with a good deal of 
white and delicate grey in their plumage, the yellows and greens of 
which are not very glaring or decided, they may truly be called 
elegant birds, although the name. Dishwashers, by which they are 
commonly known to country people, is by no means an elegant 
term. Their habit of frequenting watery places, such as marshes 
and moist meadows, where there is a good growth of aquatic plants, 
amid which beetles and other insects, on which they feed, abound, 
has given rise to this name. The up and down motion of the birds, 
like that of people in the act of washing, as they stand by the 
margin of the ditch, pool, or stream searching for iusects, may 
probably have had something to do with the application of this 
name, just as the habit of jerking their tails up and dowD, and 
sometimes from side to side, had with their being commonly called 
Wagtails, and sometimes Quaketails. 

Of these birds there are five species known as British, all of which 
our artist has depicted; they all remain with us throughout the year 



22 THE SMALLEn 11BI7ISH BIHBS. 

only shifting their quarters to the more southerly parts of the 
country as winter comes on, and spreading themselves northward 
a^rain at the approach of summer. Motacilla is the name applied to 
the group in natural histories; this is simply the Ijatin for a Wag- 
tail. As a rule they have shrill voices, without much compass or 
melody; their flight is rapid and undulatory. All of them are insect 
eaters, with long slender bills, claws of moderate length, well curved 
and rather stout, and broad powerful wings, well adapted for birds 
that often hunt as tbey fly. 



THE WAGTAILS. 28 



THE WHITE WAGTArii, 

{Motacilla alba.) 

PLATE II. — FIGOKE I. 

This bird is sometimes called the Grey and White Wagtail; it is 
found all over the Continent of Europe, but is with us a rare bird, 
if it be indeed distinct from the common Pied species. Yarrell gives 
cuts of both varieties, showing the difference between their summer 
and winter plumage, the latter being mach the lightest in colour, and 
less decided in its contrasts of black and white; in the M. alba these 
mingle very much, and shade off into a delicate grey, but in all there 
is the black cap, neck, and breast, and one fails to perceive any such 
marked distinction as would constitute a specific difference. In their 
habits, too, these birds are so much alike, that the British and 
Continental species might well be considered as identical. 

These birds, ever active and restless by day, haunt the shores and 
marshes, and more inland places where streams abound. They roost 
at night among the reeds and brushwood, and lower boughs of the 
trees which grow in such situations, often as the gloom approaches 
making quite a clamour, like the Rooks, as though disputing about 
the most comfortable beds, only their voices are not harsh and dis- 
cordant, like that of the Corvus or Rook tribe; on the contrary, it is 
rather sweet, though shrill, and with a kind of complaining iKjte in 
it. They, too, occasionally visit the gardens, and foragi' upon the 
thatched house-tops, under the eaves of which their nests may some- 
times bo found ; but more usually they are placed in holes of walls 
and banks, under bridges, and amid heaps of stones. Both male and 
female work at this family dwelling, for the construction of which 
they collect hay and straw, leaves and fine roots, wool or hair, or 
anything sufficiently soft for their purpose ; these they put loosely 
together, and make the nest warm and comfortable inside with a 
lining of wool, hair, or feathers. The eggs are from four to six, or 
even seven in number, of a bluish white colour, with small grey 
specks and larger spots of brown all over them, sometimes thicker at 
certain parts, so as to form an irregular belt. In autumn, when the 



24 TEE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

young are well grown and strong on the wing, the family go upon 
their travels southward, to avoid the extreme rigour of the winter; but 
they do not fly so far as the Warblers, and the Swallows, and other 
true migratory birds. 

The male of the White Wagtail is generally about seven inches 
long. We need not describe the plumage, it being so like that of 
the Pied species, only, as we have already said, with more of white 
and grey, and less of black in it. Sometimes, though rarely, a totally 
or nearly white variety has been met with. 

Bishop Mant, who in his " British Months" gives a graphic and 
lively description of most of our feathered friends, makes but one short 
allusion to a bird of this family group, which has reference to their 
active habits and short sharp note : — 

"At hand I greet 
The nimble Wagtail's brisk te-weet." 



THE GREY WAGTAIL, 

(Molacilla sulphurea.) 
PLATE ir. — PIQURE II. 

Sometimes called the Winter, or Yellow Wagtail, which latter uame 
properly belongs to a species presently to be described. This very 
beautiful and somewhat delicate bird is found chiefly in the southern 
parts of Europe; although it sometimes makes its appearance in the 
sheltered valleys of Switzerland. It also inhabits Java, Sumatra, Japan, 
and other parts of India. Although generally diS'used over Britain, 
it is not common anywhere, and in the extreme north is rarely if 
ever seen. It is a partial migrant, going northward in the summer 
and southward in the winter, as a rule, but some individuals 
probably remain all through the year in one locality. In the coldest 
weather it has been seen in Yorkshire, and about Edinburgh. 
In the neighbourhood of streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds it will be 
most generally found. Seldom more than a pair are seen together ; 
they have a zigzag waving flight, and a weak shrill cry, running 
with great rapidity along the margin of the piece of water from which 
they derive much oi their subsistence, or over the water weeds, they 



TUF. WAGTAILS. 25 

hnnt eagerly for the insects which harbour in mcist places; and very 
beautiful it is to see their graceful motion, and to mark the flash 
and flicker of their golden-edged pluiuago, as the sunshine falls 
upon it at different angles. Grey tinged with green is the prevailing 
ground colour of the bird, which has a black chin and throat, edged 
with white, and a yellow breast in summer, which becomes grey in the 
cold season; the wings are a mixture of dusky black, grey, and yellow, 
as is the tail also; the legs and toes, which are small and delicate, 
are yellowish brown. 

The male weighs abont five drachms, and is generally from seven 
and a half to eight inches long, the tail occupying nearly half 
this length; the wings can be extended to more than ten inches, 
and when closed, reach to within three inches of the end of the tail. 

The nest of the Grey Wagtail is generally placed on the ground, 
among grass or stones, or in some hole in a bank, rock, or tree, 
roost commonly near water, but sometimes a good way from it. It 
is a loosely-built structure, like that of most other Wagtails, and 
formed of the same materials. There is often the same curious choice 
of a situation as with others of the dishwashing brotherhood; for 
instance, one pair built in a spout, and another year on a shelf in an 
out-house, to which access was obtained through a broken pane of 
glass; one in the window-seat of a dairy; between the switches of 
a railway, within two or three inches of every passing train, have 
been chosen by these eccentric birds for hatching and rearing their 
young, of which they often have two broods in the year. 



THE GREY-HEADED WAGTAIL, 

i^Motacilla neglecla.) 

PLATE II. — FiGURK III. 

Mr. Goold was the first to make out that this bird was not identical 
with the common Yellow Wagtail, and he gave it the Latin name 
negJecta, which signifies neglected. The species is plentiful throughout 
the central jiarts of Europe, and is also found in Sweden, Denmark, 
Lapland, and other countries, as well as in Japan, in India, among the 
Himalaya Mountains, and in Africa. An insect-feeder, like the rest 
of the Wagtails, graceful and beautiful, it is a strictly migratory bird, 



26 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

comino- here iu April, and departing in September. It lias a weak 
voice, but it is sharper than that of the other Wagtails, with which 
it does not associate much, being probably too humble and retiring. 
It is a haunter of moist meadows and marshy lands, where its nest is 
generally built in holes or hollows, or among the tangled roots of 
old trees; it is formed of grass, moss, or heath, lined with tine grass 
or hair. The eggs are about six in number, with mottlings of brown 
and grey on a whitish ground. 

The length of the male is about six inches and a half; it has a 
black bill with a white band on each side, extending from it over the 
eyes; the crown of the head and nape of the neck are bluish grey; 
the chin is white, the throat and breast pale yellow, sometimes 
approaching to a primrose colour; the back is yellowish green with 
a tinge of brown, in consequence of the centre of each feather being 
of that colour ; the wings are mostly dusky brown, with yellowish white 
margins, they extend to within about three inches of the end of the 
tail, which is long, and slightly rounded at the end. The feathers of 
this bird are mostly brownish black, with white and yellowish green 
edgings. The legs and toes, which are black, are not quite so slender 
as those of other Wagtails. 

Between the winter and summer plumage there is a considerable 
change in the colours of these birds, which Yarrell attributes, not to 
the growth of new feathers, as is the general impression, but to the 
old ones taking more fresh and brilliant tints on the approach of the 
breeding season, and losing them again when this is over. 

Ray's Wagtail is the name applied to this bird in some ornithological 
works, the term neglecta, given to it by Gould, having been found 
inappropriate, it being a species by no means neglected by continental 
observers, to whom it is well known, although as rare in this country 
as our common Yellow Wagtail is on the Continent of Europe. The 
first specimen shot in Britain was iu October, 1834, on Walton Cliffs, 
near Colchester, in Essex. Yarrell records nine or ten in all which 
have been taken or seen in this country : since his " History of British 
Birds" was published others may probably have been secured, but not 
enough to make it other than a very rare bird with us. 



THE HAG TAILS. 27 



THE PIED WAGTAIL, 

{Molacilla Varrelli.) 

PLATE U. — FIGURE IV. 

This bird wa8 so named after the naturalist William Yarrell. 
Gould, in his magnificent "Uirds of Europe," was the first to give 
it this name; hitherto it had been known to science as M. alha, 
the White Wagtail, two distinct species having been considered and 
described as one. Gould snys of this species, that besides the 
British Islands, Norway and Sweden were the only countries from 
which he was able to obtain specimens; while of the White Wagtail 
he tells us that the place of the Pied variety is supplied, in the tem- 
perate parts of Europe, by its lighter-coloured relative; which, altJiough 
abundant in France, particularly in the neighbourhood of Calais, has 
never yet been discovered on the opposite shores of Kent, nor in 
any part of England. The identity of the two species, if two there 
be, does not seem however to bo very clearly made out. Perhaps 
after all it will be found that M. Y. and 3L A. are the same bird in 
diflfcrent dresses; several eminent naturalists incline to this opinion. 
Ponding the settlement of this disputed question, we must take the 
arrangement as we find it in all modern natural histories, and de- 
scribe our Pied, or White-aud-Black Wagtail, as if no such doubt 
of his two-fold personality existed. He is a very elegant bird, about 
seven inches and a hnlf in length, of a slender form, like all his near 
relations; his forehead and sides of the head are white, as are the 
chin, throat, and breast; deep black with a glossy blue tinge in 
summer, is the crown and back of the head; there is a semicircular 
band of the same extending upwards to the base of the bill, where 
the short bristles project pretty tliickly; there is a grey shade on 
the sides of the neck and along the back, which has in summer a 
purple gloss, changing to green in some individuals. A glance at 
our picture will show that there is not much variety of colour, there 
being little else than black and white; yet these are so prettily mingled, 
shaded, ni;d contrasted, as to produce a very pleasing effect, which is 



28 TirE SMALLER BRiriSH BIRDS. 

lieigbtened by the sprightly and ])layful manners of the bird. Picking 
his way daintily, as if he were afraid of soiling his toes, he moves 
along the margin of the stream or pool, sometimes walking (as it 
seems) upon the leaves of the water lilies, or other aquatic plants, 
aud ever and auon stooping to pick up an insect whose movement 
has caught his quick eye. Tired of one hunting place, with a light 
and easy, though unsteady flight, he seeks another, remaining probably 
for awhile on the wing, pursuing insects that generally fly above the 
surface of the earth, glidiug over which and swerving to the right or 
left, as the swallows do in pursuit of prey, he sees another likely spot, 
and perches upon a rock or stone standing out of the water, aud there 
rests awhile, jerking his tail about as if he were convulsed with 
inward laughter, or, having lost his balance, were endeavouring to 
restore it by the help of this balancing-pole; then he looks keenly 
about him, aud presently makes a dart at some unfortunate dragon-fly, 
that has just unfurled his gauzy wings for a frolic in the air; there 
is a greenish blue flash, like that of an emerald, a rush of wings, a 
shrill cry of delight from the bird, and the gay insect is gone for 
ever; may be it is a water-beetle that has ventured to crawl up the 
stem of a reed, or to sun himself on the upper side of a leaf; he is 
seen and pounced upon in an instant. Water-fleas, and spiders, and 
gnats, and all the small creatures that enjoy their brief period of 
existence in and about the world of waters, frequently have this greatly 
shortened by the nimble Quaketail, who is down upon them before 
they can creep, or fly, or sprawl, or run, or scramble, or swim, or 
dive out of his way. He is an enemy to the tadpoles, those all-head- 
and-no-body amphibeaus who riggle their tails in such a funny 
manner; and it is said that he sometimes treats himself to a fish 
dinner, seizing such small fiy as minnows and sticklebacks, which he 
eats un fried or cooked in any way. Sometimes the Pied Wagtail pays 
a friendly visit to the garden, where he makes havoc among the flies 
and spiders, and other insects found there; he may occasionally bo 
seen running along the roof of a thatched house, although we do not 
learn that ho pulls out the straws to get at the flies, which the 
Tomtit is said to do. 

The cry of this bird is a sharp cheep, cheep, which it utters quickly 
and repeatedly, especially when alarmed, when it flies about in a wild 
waveiing manner, as though it had lost the power of guidance; 
sometimes the strain is pleasantly modulated, so that it may almost 
be called a song. Bechstcin says, " I always keep a Wagtail in my 
aviary, and in the chorus of the Blackcap, Bluethroat, Lark, and 
Linnet, it seems to take the alto part. It is also useful in destroying 



TEE WAGTAILS. 29 

flies, for which its quick gait and motions seem expressly fitted." 

Here is a pretty and gniphic picture of the habits of tlio bird 
given by Knox, in his "Ornithological Rambles:" — " On the dry days 
in March, I have frequently seen Piod Wagtails approaching the coast 
aided by a gentle breeze from the south, the well-known call-note 
being distinctly audible under such favourable circumstances from a 
considerable distance at sea, even loug before the birds themselves 
could be perceived. The fields in the immediate neighbourhood, 
where, but a short time before, scarcely a single individual was to be 
found, are soon tenanted by numbers of this species, and for several 
days they continue dropping on the beach in small parties. 

"About the beginning of September, an early riser visiting the 
fields in the neighbourhood of the coast may observe them flyin<'' 
invariably from east to west, parallel to the shore, and following 
each other in constant succession. These flights continue from day- 
light till about ten in tho forenoon; and it is a remarkable fact, 
that so steadily do they pursue this course, and so pertinaceons are 
they in adhering to it, that oven a shot fired at an advancing party 
and the death of more than one individual, have failed to induce 
the remainder to fly in a different direction ; for after opening to the 
right and left, their ranks have again closed, and the progress towards 
the west has been resumed as before." 

The Pied Wagtails commence building in April, early or late 
according as the season may be mild or otherwise. The nest is placed 
generally near to water, it may be in a hole of a wall or bank; the 
side of a bridge; in a hollow in a heap of stones; the side of a hay- 
stack or wood heap; or even amid the rank grass at the margin of 
a ditch: but they do not seem very particular as to situation, for 
one has been found in a turnip field. Grass stems, leaves, small 
roots, and moss, generally compose the outer part of the structure, 
and wool, hair, thistle-down, or feathers the inner; those materials 
are but loosely put together. The eggs are five or six in number, of 
a longish oval shape, and a bluish white or grey colour; sometimes 
this ground tint, which has darker grey and brown spots all over 
it, has a yellowish or greenish cast. Tbey vary considerably, how- 
ever, both in size and colour. A fortnight suffices for the hatching 
of the young, and as soon as these can fly and shift for themselves, 
the parent birds, if they have brought forth their first at all early, 
prepare for a second brood. 

Although a shy timorous bird generally, yet this species sometimes 
displays great courage and boldness when her young have to be 
taken care of, or her eggs protected; she is with difficulty driven 



30 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

from her nest, from which she flies but a short distance, and to which 
she quickly returns, as soon as the immediate danger is withdrawn. 
Macgillivray, on the authority of Mr. Weir, gives an account of a 
pair who built their nest in an old wall close by a quarry, within 
reach and sight of four men who were constantly working there, and 
occasionally blowing up the limestone with gunpowder; they flew in 
and out of the nest without exhibiting the least signs of fear, evidently 
recognizing the workmen, for if a stranger came near to them they 
left the nest, and would not return until he had removed a consider- 
able distance from it. Another pair built under the platform at the 
top of a coal-pit, which was shaken every time the coals came up; 
they too knew the colliers and the people dwelling close about, and 
suffered them to come within a few inches of their nest without seem- 
ing to be at all alarmed. But the pair mentioned by Mr. Jesse, as 
fulfiUing their parental duties amid the din of a brazier's workshop, 
where they had built, was perhaps the most extraordinary of all: — 
"The nest," he says, "was built near the wheel of a lathe, which 
revolved within a foot of it. In this strange situation the bird hatched 
four young ones; but the male, not having accustomed himself to 
such company, instead of feeding the nestlings himself, as is usual, 
carried such food as he collected to a certaia spot in the roail, 
where he left it, from whence it was borne by the female bird to 
her young. It is still more remarkable that she was perfectly familiar 
with the men into whose shop she had intruded, and flew in and out 
without fear. If by chance a stranger, or any other persons employed 
in the same factory, entered the room, she would, if in her nest, 
instantly quit it, or if absent, would not return; the moment, however, 
they were gone, she resumed her familiarity." 

Neville Wood relates that a rat-catcher, having left an old wooden 
trap, with one side gone, in an out-house, he was surprised to see a 
Pied Wagtail issue from it, and to find its half-finished nest in one 
corner. He let the trap remain, and soon the structure was completed; 
in due course five eggs were deposited therein, and on them the hen 
bird sat fast even when closely approached and looked at. This bird 
has its peculiar beats or haunts, and the absence of all walls in the 
neighbourhood induced it to make choice of so singular a nesting 
place. Mr. Wood has found the nest of this species on the bi-anch 
of a laurel or other thick bush, aud here the structure has displayed 
more art aud ingenuity than usual. 



Tin: WAGTAlLti. 31 



Till-: YELLOW WAGTAIL, 

(Motacilli fliiva) 

PLATE II. — FIOUItE V. 

This bird is sometimes called Ray's Wagtail, {M. Ra>/i). It is not 
quite so large as the Grey-headed species, and may be found in tin's 
country for a short time only, geuernlly arriving at the end of March 
or beginning of April, and departing late in August or early in Sep- 
tember. Generally near to streams and watery places, but sometimes 
in fields and gardens, after a rainy spring when the plough has 
turned up the moist earth, come the Wagtails, with other birds, to 
feast upon the wriggling worms and other forms of insect life that 
are brought to the surface; and it is a pretty sight to see them on 
the garden lawn, which they sometimes visit, pursuing insects on the 
wing, after the manner of Flycatchers. They have a graceful and 
easy flight, and their appearance is very rich and striking, on ac- 
count of the preponderance of yellow in their plumage; the forehead, 
sides of the head, crown, neck and nape behind, chin, throat, and 
breast are all of this colour, which is relieved by the browu and 
greenish grey of the back. 

The length of the male is six inches and three quarters, it has a 
long slightly rounded tail, and wings that extend to the width of 
ten inches and a half. Its call is a shrill double note. 

The Oatseed Bird, or Oatear, is a name sometimes applied to this 
species, not, as some naturalists tell us, because it feeds upon oats, or 
any other corn, for it is wholly insectivorous, but because those ex- 
tensive upland districts which it frequents are more favourable to the 
growth of oats than to any other kind of grain, and because, more- 
over, it resorts to those corn-fields on its first arrival in Britain. 

The nest of this bird is placed on the ground, or near it, pro- 
bably on the stump of a tree, in which there is a sufficient hollow 
to receive it; dry stalks and grass fibre compose it outwardly, within 
it is lined with hair or other soft substance. One has been found 
made of mos?, with a few tufts of grass outside, and a little hair 
within. The eggs, from four to six in number, are greenish or 



32 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

brownisTi white, sprinkled over with grey, pale rust-colour, or yellow- 
ish brown; some are nearly plain, of a dull yellow colour, slightly 
marked; their form is a lougish oval. About May the young birds 
are ready to fly. 



WAGTAILS IN CONFINEMENT. 



Bechstein describes only three species of Wagtails, viz. : the common 
Pied, the Grey, and the Yellow; and yet the White Wagtail, which 
our naturalists mostly speak of as a continental species, must have been 
known to him. Probably he, with some others, did not look upon 
this as a distinct species, but merely a variety of the common kind, 
to which Linnaeus applies the scientific name M. alba. 

Then again, the Grey-headed Wagtail, of which he does not speak, 
is said to be common in Germany, and there seems to be nothing in 
the nature and habits of the bird to prevent its being as suitable an 
inhabitant of the cage or aviary as any of its congeners. In our 
account of the Pied species, we have already quoted his high opinion 
of that bird as a feathered pet; and all the members of the family 
are evidently great favourites with him, as they deserve to be, for 
they are very beautiful and attractive birds, lively and yet gentle, and 
not difficult to tame. If taken when grown up they should be fed 
upon ants' eggs, mealworms, or insects of some kind, or they will be 
likely to pine and die. After awhile they will take freely bread and 
meat cut small, or shredded, and the universal paste, with which a 
little hard-boiled egg, chopped small, should be mixed. If confined 
in a cage it should be a large one, with a water-vessel of sufficient 
size for them to bathe in during the warm weather; but it is best 
to let them have the run of a spare room or of the aviary, in which 
they live in great friendliness with the other birds, and help to give 
a very pleasing variety. 

Diarrhffia and atrophy, or wasting away, are the diseases from which 
they mostly suffer. Water impregnated with the rust of iron, and 
plenty of fresh insect food, are the best remedies; but birds attacked 
with either of these diseases seldom recover. 



p,«l.. 



Plate 3. 




1. Richard's. 



PIPITS. 
2. Meadow. 



8. Red-throated. 



4. Tree. 



6. Rock. 



I'lrna, on titlaukh. 33 



PIPITS, OR TITLARKS. 

rr^HE Pipits form a connecting link between the Wagtails find the 
Larks ; they are the ilt, or tinif Larks, being generally smaller 
than the latter birds, which they closely resemble in their general forms 
and characteristics, so closely that by the older ornithologists they 
were included in the same genus. But more careful observation has 
determined those of later years to form them into a separate group, 
to which the title Anihus has been given ; this is not a very distinctive 
name, for it means simply a small bird. No doubt naturalists are 
sadly puzzled to find, or invent, the new names which they are 
constantly called on to supply, and we cannot expect them to be all 
very appropriate ones, conveying some idea of the manners, habits, or 
appearance of the creature named; but for the most part these Latin 
or Greek derivations do convey an obvious meaning to those who 
understand them. 

But about these Pipits, these small, slender, active birds, with soft 
plumage, mostly of brown and grey tints, bills of moderate length, 
straight and slim, wings and tail rather long, although not so much 
so as those of the Wagtails or Larks; the feet and toes are somewhat 
long and slender. 

These birds are remarkable for vibrating the body when standing; 
their notes are sharp, weak, and uttered iu rapid succession, as if they 



34 THE SMALLER BRITISII BIRDS. 

were scolding or complaining. They may be found in moist low-lying 
pastures^ as well as dry elevated downs, on the sea shore, and far 
inland, not so much in woods as open spaces, nor in cultivated grounds 
as on downs and heaths, and amid the wilder scenery of nature. Each 
species, however, has its peculiar haunts, where a good number of them 
may generally be found, for they are social birds among themselves, 
although they do mix much with other kinds. They have a rapid, yet 
wavering, up-and-down sort of flight, which is not generally sustained 
to any great distance. Like the Sky Lark, they nestle among the 
grass, and make a large, neat, and well-constructed nest. Their food 
is chiefly insectivorous, but they take also seeds of almost any kind 
they can get. 

There are five species known in Britain, of which we shall now give 
an account. 



PIPITS. OR TITLARKS. 35 



RICHARD'S PIPIT, 

{Anthus Rkardi.) 

PLATE III. — FIQCUE I. 

Only a few specimens of this very rare bird have yet been met 
with in the Bi-itish Isles, and in no Ruropean country is it at all 
common, little therefore is known of its habits: in appearance it is 
said very closely to resemble the Rock Pipit, so closely, that only 
a practical ornithologist could detect any difference between the two 
species. It is not so much a shore bird as A. aquaticus, althouo-h 
it sometimes frequents the sea margins and salt marshes near to them. 

The whole length of this bird is about six inches and three quar- 
ters, it is therefore one of the largest of our group of Pipits; the 
npper part of its beak is dark brown, tlie lower much paler, with 
a yellow tinge; the feathers on the top of the head, nape, back, 
wings, and upper tail coverts, are dark browa with yellowish edfi-ino-s; 
over the eyes and oar coverts passes a whitish streak, more or less 
distinct in different individuals; like the chin, throat, and whole 
under part of the body, the outer tail feather on each side is dull 
white; at the sides of the neck and upper part of the breast there 
is a tinge of yellow, and the latter is spotted with dark brown; the 
flanks also are tinged with pale yellow, and the legs, toes, and 
claws are flesh-coloured, the hind claw being, like that of the Rock 
Pipit, very long, but not neai-ly so much curved. On the whole it 
is a handsome bird, having the long tail of the Pipit genus, and a 
slender, though well-proportioned body. No full description of its 
habits has yet been given, few opportunities for observing them havino- 
occurred, on account of its rarity: whenever seen it has been always 
on the ground, where it runs swiftly and easily, sometimes waviuo- 
its tail up and down with the peculiar motion which is chai-acteristic 
of the Wagtails. It has a loud shrill note, which may be heard a 
long way off, and is uttered frequently while the bird is flying. 

The name of this species, Eicardi, was given to it in compliment 
to Mr. Richards, a zealous ornithological collector, who first made 
it known to science by an example taken in Lorraine: it was first 



36 TKE SMALLER BRLTISH BIRDS. 

identified as a British bird in 1812j by Mr. Vigors, by means of a 
specimen taken ali^'e near London. Several others have since been 
captured in this country, three of them also in the neighbourhood 
of the great metropolis. In Scotland and Ireland it has not yet 
been seen. 01: its nesting habits nothing is known — the eggs are 
described as being of a reddish white colour, with dark red and light 
brown spots. 

Stevenson, in his "Birds of Norfolk,'" mentions three specimens 
of this bird taken in that county, all of them in the flat marshy 
grounds called "The Deanes, ■" between Yarmouth and Caister; he 
dissected one, and found only insect food in the gizzard. The length 
of the bird considerably exceeded that given by most naturalists, 
being seven inches and five-eighths, with extent of wings twelve inches. 
This authority also notices that the plumage varied considerably in its 
colours from those already described. 



THE MEADOW PIPIT, 

{Attlhus pralcnsis.) 

PLATE III. FIGURE II. 

Sometimes called the Tit Lark, Titling, or Meadow Titling, also the 
Pipit Lark, Meadow Lark, Grey or Moss Cheeper, Ling Bird. In no 
restricted group of birds perhaps is there such a confusion of jjopular 
names as in the Pipits. Lark, and Pipit, and Titling; Titling, Pipit, 
and Lark, are applied here and there, and shifted from one to the 
other, until it becomes an inextricable jumble, and one hardly knows 
to which bird this or the other name belongs. This arises in a great 
measure from the similarity of the different species. "Pompey and 
Ctesar are so very much alike, specially Pompey," that it is hard to 
distinguish which is which, and no two species so much resemble each 
other as the Tree and Meadow Pipits, the latter being however the 
smaller bird of the two, and much the most common in this country, 
where it remains throughout the year, frequenting chiefly the heathy 
and hilly districts in summer, and seeking the shelter of the lower 
grounds in winter. It appears to prefer wild uncultivated districts, 
and lias obtained the name of Ling Bird, from being so often found 



PIPITS, OR TTTIAmrS. 37 

where the <3forse and ling' grow and blossom most freely. In moist 
boggy places it is not often socu, nor iu gardens near to houses, and 
even cultivated fields and meadows are not much frequented by it, 
hence its scientific and common names, Anihim — a small bird, pratensis 
— of meadows, is not quite appropriate. 

Like all the Pipits, as well as the Larks and Wagtails, this bird has 
a jerky wavering flight ; it goes up in a kind of zigzag, and curiously 
enough, does not begin to sing until it has attained a sufficient altitude, 
not nearly so great as that reached by the Sky Lark, and has com- 
menced its descent, in the first part of which the wings have a singulai 
tremulous motion, bat as the bird nears the ground they are spread 
out motionless to offer resistance to the air, and so break the fall, 
which would otherwise be too sudden. With a graceful sweep it 
passes over the spot where the nest is hidden, and the singer, whose 
strain is a faint reflex of that of the Sky Lark, being neither so loud, 
sweet, nor varied, alights near to but not directly on, the form of its 
sitting mate. Quite early in the morning the song may be heard, and 
when the weather is clear and calm, lato into the evening. Although 
generally an aerial singer, it is not entirely so, for it will sometimes 
give utterance to its joy while on the ground, on a stone, or low bush. 
Neville Wood, who notes this circumstance, says it has been overlooked 
by authors, and opines that these ground singers may be young birds, 
as yet incapable of mounting to any altitude, although they have begun 
to exercise their vocal powers. 

This Pipit is altogether a ground builder, and by uo means a very neat 
and tidy one. The nest consists of dry grass and other herbage loosely 
put together, with finer vegetable fibres, and perhaps a little horse- 
hair for a lining. It may be found mostly in open fields or commons, 
or on some wild breezy spot, over the hills and far away from human 
habitation, in a thick tuft of grass, amid purple heath, or golden- 
blossomed gorse, or beneath the shelter of a stunted thorn or other 
low bush. The eggs, from four to six in number, are of a light reddish 
brown colour, sometimes with a grey or blue tint, mottled and spotted 
with darker brown; they are generally laid about the middle of April, 
and the young are ready to fly by the end of May. By the middle 
of July there is sometimes a second brood. 

It is into the nest of the Meadow Pipit that the Cuckoo most fre- 
quently drops its egg, "a very apple of discord," as Mr. Stevenson 
observes, in his "Birds of Norfolk," in which county this species is 
very plentiful, where it breeds close by the grazing lands near the 
marsh dykes that drain the soil. " I know of few things," continues 
our author, "more ridiculous than the great baby Cuckoo helplessly 



38 TEE SMALLER BRLTISH BIRDS. 

flapping his wiugs and opening his mouth, as he sits on a bush or 
railingr to receive unnumbered delicacies from the beak of his foster- 
parent." How bright and fresh is the plumage of these Pipits in the 
early spring, when on a warm sunny day we find them in company 
with the Whinchat and Stonechat amongst the yellow gorse. Flitting 
from bush to bush, they rise and fall in the full tide of song, or 
chase each other in amorous flight ; and sad indeed must be the heart 
that at such a time catches no inspiration from these sights and sounds. 
Many of these birds in their autumn migrations are killed by flying 
against the upper windows of lighthouses on the coast. 

The Alauda campestris, or Field Lark, as some naturalists call this 
bird, is about six inches and a half long, and weighs about five drachms j 
it has a dusky bill with a yellowish brown edging, and from it down 
the sides of the neck, extends a row of dusky spots ; the head, crown, 
back of the neck, and nape, are brown ; the chin, throat, and sides of 
the neck lighter yellowish brown or reddish white, growing paler at 
the breast, where the characteristic spots of darker brown j the under- 
neath parts are dull white, with a brownish tinge. After the autumnal 
moult, all the lighter parts get a faint golden tinge, and the browns 
become olive. A very beautiful variety of this bird is described by 
Mr. W. Thompson, of Belfast; the plumage was mostly white and rich 
primrose yellow, with here and there brown markings, which added to 
the beauty of the effect. 

Perhaps the commonest name for this species is the Tit Lark. It 
is found certainly in three quarters of the globe — Europe, Asia, and 
Africa, extending in the first quarter as far north as beyond the arctic 
circle. With us it is much the most common species of its family. 
Ill all places, and at all seasons, it may be occasionally seen and heard, 
sometimes in a melodious though somewhat weak warble, at others in 
its ordinary note, a gentle j'eep, peep, hence probably the name Pipit, 
or if alarmed a sharp tret, tret. It feeds upon insects of all kinds 
and in all stages of growth; "in seeking which," says Neville Wood, 
'it often turns up small stones on the commons it frequents; beetles, 
caterpillars, and different crustaceous insects are also devoured with 
avidity. In winter these birds are less at a loss for food in the event 
of severe and long-protracted frost, than many birds of the cultivated 
and sheltered lowlands, and probably a far smaller proportion of them 
fall a prey to either hunger or cold than our friendly and familiar 
neighbours, whose numbers are annually thinned by the rigours of our 
northern winters." 



PIPITS, OR TITLARKS. 39 



THE KED-T1IJ;0ATED i'iJ'iT, 

{Anlhtts monlantts.) 

PLATE III. PIQOBB Til. 

This bird has also been called the Red-breasted Pipit, with us it 
is a yet more rare species than the one first described. Macgillivray 
was the first to give a full account of it in his " Manual of British 
Birds/' and Morris claims the merit of having first given a figure of 
it as a native species in his admirable " History of British Birds." 
He describes it as being from six to six inches and a half in length, 
and having a brownish black bill, from whose base a yellowish white 
line extends over the eye; the head on the crown is ashy brown, 
with each feather darker in the middle than at the edges; the neck 
is whitish in the front, having the sides and lower parts streaked 
with brown. In the spring this part has a rosy tinge, which also 
spreads over the yellowish grey chin, throat, and breast, which is 
streaked more or less with greyish brown, which last is the colour 
of the back, only it is deepened with a slight tinge of olive. The 
rather long tail has the two middle feathers ashy brown, the outer 
blackish brown, which, with a purple tinge, is the colour of the legs, 
toes, and claws. 

The scientific name, Anthus montanus, of or pertaining to mountains, 
given to this bird, would seem to indicate that it was a frequenter 
of hilly districts. Wilson, the American ornithologist, speaks of it 
as the Red Lark; Brisson calls it the Pennsylvanian Lark, showing 
that it is known in America. A variety of names are applied to it by 
other naturalists, scarcely any two of whom call it by the same name, 
which seems to prove that but little as yet is known about it. 
It is not included in Macgillivray's "History," although, as we said 
before, his "Manual" has an account of it, the latter being the 
more recent production. His opinion there expressed that it will 
probably be found not uncommon in the mountainous parts of 
Scotland, does not appear to have been yet verified, although from 
its resemblance to the other Pipits, especially A. aquaticiis, it may 



40 TEE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

probably have on several occasions been mistaken for one of the 
commoner species. Several specimens in the Edinburgh University 
Museum, which Macgillivray found differently labelled, he believes to 
be this bird, which Bechstein, Temminck, and Meyer, call aquaticus, 
as do also Richardson, who found it in the Arctic Regions, and 
Swainson. 

So our red-breasted visitor comes and goes not quite certain as 
yet of his position in the various systems of classification, or of the 
name which properly belongs to him. They tell us that his nest 
is built in mountainous regions, in the neighbourhood of water, but not 
on the sea-shoi'e: perhaps on the slope of a heathery hill, where the 
lady birch droops her graceful tresses, and the red-berried rowan puts 
out its scarlet clusters by the dark still waters of the mountain 
tarn; where the husky crow of the black cock is heard amid the 
quietude, and the wild deer comes to drink, and is startled by the 
hoarse caw of the corbie, or the croak of a raven from the neigh- 
bouring glenj woe be to the four or five eggs, of a dull grey colour, 
covered all over with faint brown spots, if they should discover 
where the nest is hidden. 

On the 22nd. o£ March, 1867, S. L. Mosely reports the shooting of 
a specimen of this rare bird near Huddersfield, where it was found 
in the company of some Meadow Pipits; this is the second specimen 
which is known to have occurred in Britain. 



THE TREE PIPIT, 

{^Anthus arboreus.) 

PLATE III. — FTGDEE IT. 

This pretty little bird has a variety of popular names, such as the 
Field Titling, the Field, Lesser Field, Thick-heeled Field Lark; the 
Lesser-Crested, Grasshopper, or Meadow Lark; most of them, like its 
scientific names, conveying the impression that it is a small kind of 
Lark. It is a migratory species with us, generally making its appear- 
ance in the southern parts of the country on or about the 20th. of 
April, and in the northern counties and Scotland a fortnight later, and 



PIPITS. OR TITLARKS. 11 

leaving again iu September. Although arriving in considerable numbers, 
the birds do not keep togotlior, but separate to search out eligible 
nesting-places, the first coiners consisting altogether of males, who 
having found comfortable lodgings invite their lady friends to share, 
and assist in furnishing them, and then may bo heard the song, low 
and sweet, with but little variety, consisting chiefly of the monosyllables 
tsee, tsee, tsee, not rapidly uttered, but rather dwelt on, as if the singer 
thought them very musical, and liked to linger over these simple notes, 
which he repeats again and again. The practical ear may detect this 
pleasing melody amid the louder minstrelsy of the woods and fields 
from May to July, after which, it is seldom heard. If the bii'ds are 
closely watched, a pair of them may be seen collecting materials for 
their nest, which is formed of fine root fibres, fine grass, and perhaps 
a little moss, and lined with wool or feathers; it is placed on the 
• ground generally, but sometimes amid the thick lower branches of 
a bush or dwarf tree; the chosen spot is the skirt of a wood or 
plantation, where the necessary covert may be found ; and here, while 
the female sits upon the five or six greyish white eggs, which are 
clouded and spotted with reddish or purplish brown, the male bird 
expresses his joy by the more than usually rapid utterance of the 
low sweet tsee, tsee, tsee, and by mounting with quivering wings a short 
distance into the air, and mnking a sort of half-way house of some 
projecting branch ; then coming down again with a graceful curve, 
with the wings still or but slightly moved, and outspread tail, nearly 
always stopping on the same branch on which it had rested when 
ascending, for a short time before returning to its low-lying nest and 
waiting mate. When the young have to be fed, both birds are very 
busy indeed, there is little time for singing or frolicking in the air 
then. Flies, caterpillars, grasshoppers, worms, or any kind of insect 
food obtainable, must be sought for, and brought to the little gaping 
bills that keep asking for more. Some part of the supply the parents 
must swallow for their own subsistence, but they also eat various kinds 
of seeds, which they do not give to their young, who require soft animal 
food as most young birds do. 

But what manner of bird is our Pipit ? Slender in form, and sober 
in colour, measuring about six inches and a half in length, weighing 
about five drachms and three quarters, with a clear brown bill streaked 
along the edges with yellow, at the base of it are a few short bristly 
feathers, such as most Larks and Pipits have. Brown, grey, and white, 
with tinges of green and yellow, are the colours of its plumage, the 
white breast having the characteristic spots of its family very distinctly 
marked. The bird stands well up on its long, slender, yellowish 

o 



42 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

brown legs, and with its dusky brown claws takes a firm grasp of the 
bough, often the upper one of an elm tree, on which it loves to sit 
for awhile and join the general chorus of gladness which the sweet 
spring calls forth from a thousand feathered throats. 

Selby finds some points of resemblance between the notes of this 
bird and those of the Meadow Pipit, and certainly there is some 
similarity; but a practised ear can easily detect the difference, the 
former having more melody, and vai-iety, and duration, the latter 
more character and spirit. 

It has been remarked that the Tree Pipit builds much nearer to 
houses than the Meadow Pipit, for which it is often mistaken, although 
a practised eye can easily distinguish one from the other ; the latter 
is a much more common bird than the former, which is very jealous 
of any liberties which may be taken with its nest, sometimes deserting 
it if only one or two eggs are taken, even if their place is supplied 
by those of another species which closely resemble them. Although, 
however, so shy and wary, an instance is related of the bird's building 
its nest in a walk attached to the Pump Room at Leamington, which 
was much frequented by visitors, but so well was it hidden that " but 
for the indefatigable ardour with which the male bird pursued his 
manual labour near the spot, the observant ornithologist would never 
have suspected its presence." Having made the discovery he watched 
the proceedings of the happy pair, and noticed that the singer sometimes 
took his turn on the nest for about an hour, and while there he was 
more coy and jealous of approach than the female, betaking himself 
to hasty flight if only looked at, while the hen was more fearless and 
judicious, creeping silently out if disturbed, and going some distance 
from the nest before she spread her wings, so as not to indicate the 
precise spot where her treasures lay hidden. Here was displayed, as 
it often is in birds and other creatures, the motherly instinct approaching 
very near to reason. 

All throughout the European continent is the Tree Pipit found, 
although sparingly in the colder parts; it is plentiful in France and 
Italy. In Japan and some other parts of Asia it is known to be, and 
in Africa, whei-e, like many of our summer migrants, it probably passes 
the winter. In our western counties, and in Wales, it is a very rare 
bird. No record exists of its having been seen in Ireland that we are 
aware of. It occasionally visits the Orkney and other Scottish islands. 



PIPITS, OR TITLARKS. -IT 



THE ROCK PIPIT, 

{Anlhiis aijuaticus.) 

PLATK III. — FIGURE V. 

Tnta is another common member of tlio Pipit family, ;i Imuntcr, as 
its name implies, of liilly and rocky places by the sea. It is variously 
called the Rock, Sea, or Shore Lark; the Shore Pipit, or Sea Titling, 
as well as tho Field, or Dusky Lark; its Latin name comes from 
aqua, water. It is a very hardy bird, braving the severe cold of 
the regions of ice and snow, and yet being able to live iu com- 
paratively warm climates. It is well known in most parts of tho 
Continent of Europe: a species very like it, if not tho same, inhabits 
North America, and also Japan. In its general habits, mode of flight, 
appearance, and song, it so closely resembles the two species already 
described, that until quite lately it has been confounded with them; 
the name ohscurus, under which it appears in some natural histories, 
indicates its once doubtful position and identity. 

About six inches and three quarters is the usual length of tho male 
bird; its weight about seven drachms. Brown, grey, and white, tho 
latter in no part pure and unmixed, but more or less specked, and 
tinged with yellow and brown, are the colours of its plumage; there 
is the same yellow edging to the dusky bill as we noticed in the two 
former species, and the same olive tint, vivid or faint according to 
tho season, is a marked feature of its by no moans gay, yet ^Dluasing 
and harmonious dress. As with the other Pipits, the plumage of the 
female is much like that of the male. 

A mere flitting from place to place constitutes the ordinary flight 
of this bird; during the season of incubation, the male will sometimes 
soar up a short distance, and sing its small shrill song of gladness, 
as it descends again in a slope like a wind-driven summer shower. 

Its general note is a peevish kind of cheep, sometimes long drawn 
out; heard on the wild rocky and lonely shore it has a sad and 
dreary sound, but it comes from a lively little bird that enjoys its 
life while the sunshine lasts, and puts up with the privations of 
winter as bravely as ib can. Early in spring it may bo seen all 
along the Kentish, and indeed of most other of the English coasts, 



44 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

fai- inland from wliicli it is seldom if ever found; making preparations 
for its nest, flitting hither and thither, gathering up stray fibres 
of dry grass, marsh and shore plants, moss, and even the finer 
kinds of sea weeds, of which its nest is made, generally on a low 
shelf of rock, near the sea, where there is a little vegetation to shield 
and keep it fast, or it may be in a hole a little way up, by which 
the tamarisk and sea pink flourish, and the horned poppy puts forth 
her yellow blossoms to beautify the place. Sometimes the nest is placed 
on the ground sheltered by a bush, on some slight eminence, always 
loosely constructed, never far from the sea, in whose fresh breezes the 
little bird delights. 

The oggs may be four, five, or six in number, of a dingy white, 
pale yellowish, or grey colour, for they vary much in this respect; 
they sometimes have a tinge of green, and they are spotted with 
reddish brown, often so thickly at the larger end as to become 
confluent, or flowing together, and so taking possession of the whole 
surface. These eggs are in general rather larger than those of the 
Meadow Pipit, their average weight being about thirty-six grains. 
The young are hatched quite early in the spring. If the hen is dis- 
turbed while sitting, she rises and hovers over the place, uttering a 
shrill complaining cry, and showing how anxious she is by her 
restlessness. 

The Rock Pipit is remarkable for the extreme length of the hind 
claw, which is much curved at the extremity. Like all the Larks and 
Pipits, it has long slender legs, which lift it well up out of the water, 
amid which and the sea-weeds on the shore it searches for the marine 
insects and smaller crustaceous animals on which it chiefly feeds. 

On all the British coasts, as well as on those of Ireland, Scotland, 
and Wales, it may be found, sometimes in considerable numbers; its 
flight even in winter seldom extends beyond the marshes contiguous 
to the sea, so that in inland counties it is little if at all known. The 
great traveller and naturalist Waterton, of Walton Hall, found it among 
the sea-birds at Plamboi-ough Head, where its weak cry must have 
been drowned amid the clamour of the winds and waves, and of the 
Auks, Penguins, Gulls, and other ocean screamers which inhabit the 
precipitous heights and narrow ledges of the rocks that present so bold 
a front to the rolling waves of the German Ocean. 

Stevenson notices that in Norfolk, although a few of these birds 
ai)pear regularly on their spring and autumn migrations, yet the specimens 
obtained are extremely rare, owing probably to their specific distinctions 
being littlo known; if shot they are likely to be mistaken for the 
more common species, and thrown away. 



f Inte 3. 












1. Richard's. 



PIPITS. 

2. Meadow. 
■1. Tree. 5. 



3. Red-throated. 



Rock. 



PiriTS, OR TITLARKS. 45 



PIPITS IN CONFINEMENT. 

FoOR members of the Pipit family are spoken of by Bechstein as 
cage birds, viz: the Tit Lark, which is the Meadow Pipit of our group; 
tlio Field Lark, about the identity of which we have some doubt, as 
tlio description <j^iven would suit several species; the Meadow Lark, 
which is probably our Tree Pipit; and th(> Water Lark, our Rock 
Pipit. 

Of the first of them ho says that its song, though consisting of 
only three passages, ornamented with trills and shakes, is pleasant. In 
a wild state it sings from the end of March to July, in confinement 
from February to the same period. It is a most amusing bird, 
attracting attention by its slow and thoughtful gait, the constant 
motion of its tail, and its attention to its own neatness and cleanliness. 
In the aviary it requires a varied dietary, and besides the usual paste 
should occasionally have the nightingales' paste, crushed hemp, and 
sweet curds or mealworms; the latter diet, with grasshoppers and ants' 
eggs, are recommended as food when first taken, mixed with the paste 
in gradually decreasing quantities, until the bird becomes accustomed 
to it. The young may be reared on ants' eggs and bread soaked in 
milk, mixed with a little poppy seed. They are very docile, and learn 
to imitate, though in an imperfect manner, the notes of other birds 
kept with them, especially those of the Canary. 

For the management of what he calls the Field Lark, this author 
gives no directions. Probably the foregoing will suit it very well. 

The Meadow Lark, he says, may be allowed to range the room, or 
be kept in a Lark's cage, which, like that of the Tit Lark, should have 
a couple of perches. In the aviary it is difficult to feed, and can only 
be inured to the universal paste by a plentiful admixture of ants' eggs 
and chopped mealworms, which, mixed with soaked bread and meal, 
are its favourite diet. Diarrhsea and atrophy are its chief diseases. It 
is a very pretty and agreeable cage bird, with a full, clear, and me- 
lodious song, more full aud varied than that of the Tit Lark, with some 
warblings in it that remind us of the Canary. 

The Water Lark is easily tamed, aud will do well in a Lark's cage 
with perches, or with the free range of the room; it will take the 
universal paste after a little while, if coaxed into it with the usual 



46 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

bait of mealworms, and also poppy and crushed hemp seeds. With 
Bechsteiu this is a favourite bird. It usually sits still upon its perch, 
but moves its tail backwards and forwards almost as fast as a Strand 
Snipe. Its short intermitted song resembles that of the Siskin or 
Swallow, with occasionally a shrill harsh note introduced like the 
sharpening of a scythe : its call or alarm note is hish, hish. It is a 
very cleanly bird, fond of bathing as are all the Larks and Pipits. 
They also require fine clean sand to dust themselves with. 

1)1 reference to this as a cage bird, Mr. Blythe thus wrote to Charles 
Waterton, Esq., in 1835 : — " My Rock Pipit is still doing well, and has 
already become tame, or rather, fearless; but most birds very soon 
lose their wildness, wben placed in a cage containing several tamo 
companions. It seems likely to live at least aa long as I shall want 
it; when I have become a little more acquainted with its cage man- 
ners, I will send you some account of the habits of my amusing little 
prisoner." Whether this account was ever sent, we cannot tell; we 
have looked in vain through the published writings of Waterton 
for it. 

Pe-iJeet! pe-peet! list to that peevish cry, 

For such it seems, and yet no fretful bird 
The utterer. See, he hath a bold, bright eye, 

And quivering wings that are with rapture stirred. 
Not ' mid the rocks, and by the sounding sea. 

His plaintive cry ho giveth to the wind, 
But, well content, he asks not liberty, 

While he gets shelter, food, and treatment kind 

H. G. A. 



TRE LAllKH. 47 



THE LARKS. 



"TT^ROM the Pipits we pass very naturally to tho Larks, members of 
the same family group, aud only lately placed in a separate genus, 
nnder the Latin title Alanda, that word signifying a Lark. Of this 
genus there are five British representatives, the same number as there 
are of the Pipits and the Wagtails; the Tits give us one more 
species to number among British Birds. 

Macgillivray, in his "History," makes this genus Alunda a very 
restricted one, including only three species, viz : the Shore, Sky, and 
Wood Larks; so also does Morris. Tarrell gives four, adding to the 
above list the Short-toed Lark, a very rare bird in this country, which 
the first-named authority, in tho "Appendix of Recently Observed 
Species," added to his "ALanual," also notices, with the Crested Lark, 
thus completing the list of those we shall have to describe. It may 
be here mentioned that according to Stevenson only the three common 
species of Larks have yet been observed in Norfolk, except a single 
specimen of the Shore Lark. 

Very pretty and sprightly creatures are these Alaudine Birds, all of 
them good songsters, and one the very sweetest and cheeriest singer 
that ever soared aloft in the sunshine, and gladdened the ear of man 
with music. All graceful and slender birds, with longish legs and 



48 THE SMALLER BRITrSII BIRDS. 

beaks; all plain birds as to their plumage, which is mostly browa 
aiul white; all ground builders, like that familiar one that hath 

"It's nest among the gorses, 
And its soug in the star-courses." 

Feeding alike on insects and seeds, and perhaps more on the latter 
than either the Tits, Wagtails, or Pipits, to all of which they present 
some points of resemblance, either in their habits or conformation, 
sometimes in both. They are found all over Europe, and one species 
at least is known as a native bird in America. 

Except the Wood Lark they all seem to prefer the more open 
grounds, where they search the fields, pastures, and marshes for food. 
They do not leap or hop when on the ground, but walk or run; and 
when on the wing they fly rapidly, but not generally in a direct 
manner, their flight being wavering, or undulated, as it is called. 
They are hardy birds, living through our most rigorous winters, and 
braving the cold of very severe climates. The Wood Lark appears to 
be the most delicate of the genus; it is more plentiful in the south 
than the north, and has not been met with in Scotland. 

Larks belong to the division of birds called Gonirostres, those having 
strong conical- shaped bills, adapted for breaking up hard seeds or 
grain, on which many species of this order live almost entirely. 



Plate 4. 




[, A R K S. 

. Sftort-toed. S- Wood. 

5. Crested. 



THE LARKS 49 



THE SHORE LARK, 

{Alauda alpeslris.) 

PLATE IV. FIGURE I. 

This bird, which is found in the northern parts of Europe and 
Asia, and plentifully in America, is with us a very rare species, the 
taking of only four specimens here having been recorded: one in 
Norfolk, one in Lincolnshire, and two in Kent. It is about seven 
inches in length, that is, a little smaller thai the Skylark, which it 
resembles in shape, having a rather full body, short neck, moderately 
sized head, and long wings and tailj the plumage however is more 
marked and decided in its contrast of colours; which in the upper 
parts of the body are pale brownish red, marked with dark brown, 
and the lower parts white, clouded at places with brown. There is a 
band on the top of the head, in the summer, of black, and another 
extending from the beak to beneath the eye, and thence down towards 
the neck, which is divided from the breast by another black crescent- 
shaped band; these marks, upon a white ground, stand out very dis- 
tinctly in the summer plumage; but in the winter they are not so 
plain, the white being more dusky, and the black not so intense. 
British naturalists have had few opportunities of observing the habits 
of this bird, which is sometimes called the Tufted or Horned Lark, 
because, like the Sky Lark, it can erect at pleasure a crest of feathers 
on the top of the head. Its common and scientific names would 
imply that it is a haunter of shores, and such lonely and wild places. 
From the American naturalist, Audubon, we learn that it breeds in 
the high and desolate tracts of Labrador, in the vicinity of the sea. 
The face of the country appears as if formed of one undulated ex- 
panse of granite, covered with mosses and lichens, varying in size 
and colour — some green, others as white as snow; and others again 
of every tint, and disposed in large patches and tufts. It is in the 
latter the Lark places her nest, which is formed with much care, the 
moss so closely resembling the bird, that unless you almost tread on 
her as she sits, she seems to feel secure, and remains unmoved. 
Should you, however, approach too near, she flutters away, feigning 

H 



60 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

lameness so cunningly, that not one accustomed to tlie sight can 
scarcely refrain from pursuing her. The male immediately joins her 
in mimic wretchedness, uttering a note so soft and plaintive, that it 
requires a strong stimulus to force the naturalist to rob the poor 
birds of their treasure. 

The nest is embedded in the moss to its edges, it is composed of 
fine grasses circularly disposed, and forming a bed about two inches 
thick, with a lining of feathers. In the beginning of July, the eggs 
are deposited; they are four or five in number, large, greyish, and 
covered with numerous pale blue and brown spots. The young birds 
leave the nest before they are able to fly, and follow their parents 
over the moss, where they are fed about a week. 



THE SHORT-TOED LARK, 

(A/auc/a brachydactyla.') 
PLATE IV. — FIGURE II. 

If we dissect the above scientific name of this, to us, rare species, 
we shall find that it consists of three Latin words — Alauda, a Lark; 
brachug, short; and dadylos, a finger, indicating a peculiarity in the 
foot of the bird, which distinguishes it from the other species of its 
genus, all of them with wliich we are acquainted having remarkably 
long hind claws, while this has them unusually short. 

Its claim to a place in the list of British Birds rests upon a single 
specimen taken in a net near Shrewsbury, in October, 1841. It is 
described as differing but little from the Wood Lark, than which it 
has a stouter bill, a breast more plain and unspotted, and the hind 
toes much less elongated. 

Temminck says that this bird is very abundant in Sicily, and is 
found generally along the shores of the Mediterranean, iu Spain and 
tte southern and central parts of Franco; its northern range appears to 
extend to Germany, among the birds of which country it is included 
by M. Brehm. It is said to feed on insects and seeds, to make its nest 
upon the ground, and lay four or five eggs of a dull yellow, or pale 
coffee colour, without any spots. Gould says, that between the plumage 



■niK LARKS. 51 

of the male and female bird, the only distinction of colour is that in 
the latter tlie tints arc soinowliat duller. During the first autumn 
tlio young may be distinguislied by the buff edgings to their feathers. 
This is not a very full and satisfactory account of our pretty foreign 
visitor, but it is the best that our authorities, the British natiir;ilisi:-i, 
enable us to give, so we must bo content therewith. 



THE WOOD LARK, 

{Alaiula arhorca.) 

PLATB IV. — FIGURE III. 

Natdramsts give to each of the creatures tliey classify two names, 
one (leneric, indicating the (jenus; the other specific showing the xprrics; 
the greater divisions are classes, orders, and families, with which we 
need not trouble ourselves; and each of these names has a meaning, 
the understanding of which greatly assists the student of ornithology, 
or any other oology. So if our sweet chanter of the woods wero to 
send in her card, we should know at once, first that she was a Lark, 
and next that she w.ns of, or belonging to, the ti-ees — a Wood Lark. 
She has also been called A. cristatu.i, because she has a crest, which, 
however, is not a great distinction, for nearly all Larks have this, 
although they do not so often erect it into what in the human head 
is called a "Brutus," (why we cannot tell,) as the Sky Lark does. Yet 
another name has our shy songster — A. lulu, because some of her notes 
have a mournful expression, like lu-lu, lu-lu, long drawn out. It is 
a sweet strain, nevertheless; some have compared it to that of the 
Nightingale, but it wants the fulness and richness of melody which 
so delights the ear and satisfies the mind, as we listen to the dulcet 
notes of Philomel, the Queen of Song, as the poets have well called 
this favourite bird 

If you want to hear the Wood Lark in her greatest perfection, go 
in the nesting time, the season of love, when the bird's life is most 
full of joy and happiness. Go where the grassy meadow or the corn- 
field runs up close to the leafy woodland; there you will see the happy 
creature spriiigir:Lr up from the ground, where its nest is hidden, much 
as the Sky LaiU does, singing all the while, not so shrilly nor loudly 
as that. 



52 THE SMALLER BRITISR lilRBS. 

"Bird of the wilderness, 
Blythesotne and cumberless," 

but more softly and sweetly. Up it goes, sometimes straight up, but 
generally in a slanting direction, till it reaches a considerable height, 
from whence its song sounds like an echo of far-away music, although 
it is never lost to view, as the Sky Lark is, nor does it remain aloft 
so long as that bird does, but soon begins its rapid descent, until, 
still singing, it comes back to the nest, where its mate sits covering 
the four or five pale yellowish brown eggs, about ten-twelfths of an 
inch in length, and seven-twelfths and a half in breadth; they are 
freckled with umber or greyish brown, and sometimes have a few 
irregular dusky lines at the larger end. The nest is usually made of 
dry grass, and lined with finer grass and hair. Throughout the greater 
part of the year the song may at times be heard by those who listen 
for it, but, except at nesting time, it is mostly in the woodlands, and 
is not easily distinguished, being faint and low, although very musical. 
Like the Sky Lark, this bird resides with us throughout the year, 
and it is in the winter when the woods are bare that it is mostly 
seen, for it is very shy, and hides itself from observation very much 
in the leafy season; it is found mostly in the southern and midland 
counties of England, and everywhere is much oftener heard than seen; 
among the ferny combes and wooded dales of Devonshire it is perhaps 
more plentiful than in any other part of these islands, although it may 
be found in most sheltered places where there is quietude and covert, 
and if this be within easy reach of a town or village, there do the 
bird-catchers spread the snare and lime the twig for the capture of 
this sweet songster, which is too often penned up in a small, dirty, 
and perhaps perchless cage, and exposed to the burning sun or sharp 
easterly wind without shelter of any sort. People should remember 
that the wild life of a bird, which is passed in the open air, whore 
it is subjected to all extremes of heat and cold, is incessant; a life 
of constant activity is that of the bird, — of muscular exertion, keeping 
the blood in a rapid state of circulation, and preserving the vital 
heat of the system; the quick vibrations of those speckled wings, and 
frequent changes of position, cannot be effected without calling into 
play different sets of muscles, and light as the b'ody may seem to us, 
and buoyantly as it floats upon its wings, and easily and gracefully 
as ib glides and turns this way or that, yet there is considerable effort 
necessary on the part of the aiirial voyager to maintain his position, 
and steer his course to the desired end. Think of this, ye who like 
to have caged birds about you, and do not keep a poor captive 



THE LARKS. 53 

shiVoring in the blast, or inolting in tho sun, from neither of which 
can it seek shelter, when still, as it would in a wild state. But we 
have kept our sweet warbler waiting, while we have been pleading his 
cause with tho thoughtless, who are often not intentionally cruel, for, 
as Thoniiis Hood says, 

"Evil is wrought for want of thought, 
As much as for want of heart." 

According to Stevenson, the Wood Lark is by no means common 
in Norfolk, although it is known to breed there. Thompson includes 
it in his "Birds of Ireland;" but Macgillivray knows it not as a bird 
of his own northern land. On the continent it is chiefly found in 
Prance, Holland, Italy, Greece, and other parts of the Levant, where 
it is a constant resident. The Danes, Swedes, and Russians know it 
only as a summer visitor. It has been found in Asia Minor: and what 
is it like? Why very much indeed like tho common Sky Lark, so 
much so that one can scarcely detect the difference; the slight points of 
divergence are smallness of size, the length of this species being about 
six inches, while that of "the Ethereal Minstrel" is about six inches 
and a half. Then this one has a more slender bill, a shorter hind 
claw, and a somewhat differently shaped wing; the crest feathers are 
longer; there is a redder tint in the plumage of the upper parts of 
the body, and the whole of the under parts are yellowish, instead of 
brownish, while the dark spots on the lighter neck and throat are 
drawn out more into lines. 

Always is the nest of this bird built on the ground, commonly in 
a thick tuft of herbage, or under a low bush; it is not often found 
near to houses, neither is it usually in woods or copses, although 
generally near to such leafy covert as the bird delights in. Several 
curious deviations from the usual nesting habits of the bird have been 
observed ; the chosen spot in one case was a slight cavity in the trunk 
of an aged oak tree, which had recently been cut down ; it was close 
by a hedge, on the other side of which was the road, and was well 
concealed from observation by tall grass, which had grown up around 
the fallen monarch of the wood. In another case it was the bottom 
of a lawn near to a residence, in the long grass by a low sheep-shed ; 
the old bird when discovered left the nest and feigned death, but made 
oS" througli the grass when an attempt to capture her was made. Yet 
another was under a dead fence in a park, near by where the wood- 
man's axe was constantly going, and labourers and others passing to 
and fro. 



54 IRE SMALLER BRITISE JURDS. 



THE SKY LARK. 

{Alauila anjciisis.) 
PLATE IV. — FIGOEE IV, 

Perhaps the sweetest and cheeriest of all our native songsters, is 
the little brown and grey bird, commonly known as the Sky or Field 
Lark, in Scotland called the Laverock; uo other bird has a song at all 
like it. We do not mean to say that it is as rich and melodious as 
that of the Nightingale, as soft and mellow as that of the Blackbird, 
as varied and flute-like as that of the Thrush. The Blackcap, the 
Goldfinch, and the Linnet, when uttering their wood-notes wild, may, 
by some, be considered more acconiplished musicians ; but for joyousness 
and utter abandonment to the sweet ecstacy of singing for the mere 
pleasure of doing so, there is nothing in the whole range of bird- 
music that at all comes near it. To see that little bird spring up 
from its grassy bed, and go soaring sunward on flutteriug pinions, 
its whole frame quivering and trembling, as it seems with delight, 
and to hear the rain of music that falls from that mere dot in the 
sky, is something to wonder at and rejoice in ; the joyous creature 
is indeed, as Shelly says, in that which is perhaps the most perfect 
lyric in oiir language : — 

" Like a poet hidden 

Tn the light of thought, 
Singing liymn.s nnbiddcn 
Till the world is wrought 
To .'iyrnpathy with hope and fcnrs it h"edcd not." 

To lio upon a grassy slope in the warm sunshine, with that sweet 
melody filling the oars and the heart to overflowing, is like a dream 
of happy childhood, and of all things fair and heavenly. 

To sit, as we have done, by the grave of one beloved, called early 
to his rest, and hear several of these birds singing together far up 
in the blue heavens, was like receiving the visitation of angels, and 
hearing the songs with which they cheered the sorrowful as they 



THE LARKS. 55 

sped back to their celestial homo ; sougs which told of a land of 
pure delight, wlioro the lost sliall be found again, and those who 
sorrowed and sighed upon earth shall bo haj)|)y for evermore. 

Wordsworth addresses this bird as one journeying to some holy 
place, and singing as he goes : — 

"Ethereal minstrel, pilgrim of the •^ky." 

And James Montgomery says to ii — 

" Bird of the happy heavenward song, 

Could but the poet act thy part, 
His soul upborne on wings as strong 

As thought can give, from earth might start; 
And he with far diviner art 

Than genius ever can supply, 
As though the ear might glad the heart. 

And bring down music from the sky." 

Kcminding one of the simile of Jeremy Taylor, a delightful old 
English writer, vvho says of this Lark, that " it soared and sung as 
it had learnt music and motion of an Angel." But with matter like 
this we could fill pages on pages, for no bird except the Nightingale 
has ever been such a favourite with the poets as the " Lyric Lark" 
which Shakespeare heard " singing at heaven's gate," and which Shelly 
said must be a spirit and not a bird at all. — 

"Hail to thee, blythe spirit. 
Bird thou never wert; 
That from heaven or near it, 
Pouro.st thj- full heart 
In profuse streams of unpremeditated art." 

We should like to find room for the beautiful lyric from which 
this and another stanza have been taken, and for many more delight- 
ful Lark poems ; but this cannot be, so we will descend to sober prose, 
and tell how this chief of the British Alaudine birds, is found all over 
Britain, but not in Ireland; uenvly all over the Continent of Europe, 
indeed even in the coldest parts, although it does not remain the 
year through, but migrates to Greece, and Italy, and other southern 
countries, on the approach of winter. 

In some parts of Italy, the coming of the Larks on their annual 
southern migrations is eagerly looked for, pieces of glass and other 
glittering objects are exhibited to attract them, and they are snared 



56 TEE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

and shot in great numbere. In this country, in winter, when they 
congregate in flocks. Lark shooting is a favourite amusement; there 
is no doubt that Lark pie is very nice, and half a dozen of the birds 
roasted might tempt an invalid to eat; but after all they are very 
unsubstantial fare, and had better be left to sing and enjoy them- 
selves as best they can. Even in mid winter they may sometimes be 
heard caroling away like a contented and pious spirit in adversity; 
and very early iu spring, as soon as a gleam of sunshine breaks out, 
up goes the Lark, with its song of thanks. Have our readers ever 
noticed what a spiral kind of ascent the bird makes, especially in 
windy weather, when it has to struggle against the current of air; it 
goes up cork-screw fashion, with frequent "libration and weighing of 
its wing," as Jeremy Taylor describes it. 

The American author, Washington Irving, says, " Of all birds I 
should like to be a Lark. He revels in the brightest time of the day, 
in the happiest season of the year, among fresh meadows and opening 
flowers; and when he has sated himself with the sweetness of earth, 
he wings his flight up to heaven, as if he would drink in the melody 
of the morning stars. Hark to that note ! How it comes thrilling 
down upon the ear ! What a strain of music, note falling over note 
in delicious cadence. Who would trouble his head about operas and 
concerts when he could walk in the fields and hear such music for 
nothing? There are homilies in nature's works worth all the wisdom 
of the schools, if one could but read them rightly; and one of the 
most pleasant lessons I ever received in a time of trouble was from 
hearing the note of a Lark." 

The influence which the song of this bird has on the mind of the 
listener, how it calls up recollections of early days, of the scenes, and 
friends, and simple pleasures of youth, is beautifully illustrated iu that 
true story of the Lark that was taken to Australia, where there are 
no singing birds, be it remembered, and hung in its cage outside the 
store, to which the gold-diggers and other rough men resorted for 
the supply of their wants; and as soon as it began to sing, the rude 
laugh was stopped, and the oath left half uttered, and a listening silence 
fell upon all about, while tears were seen stealing down rugged, sun- 
browned cheeks, and heads were bowed as if in unwonted prayer. As 
soon as it was known that an English Sky Lark was to be heard at 
that spot, people came from far and near to li.sten to it, and the little 
feathered preacher uttered a sermon that touched hearts so hardened 
with crime and indulgence of all bad ])assions that it seemed nothing 
would ever make them feel again. But feel they did ; they called the 
Lark their parson, and they came again and again to listen to his 



THE LARKS 57 

wonderful preaching, and they olfored any amount of money for the 
preacher, whoso owner would not part with him for all the golil that 
was ever dug at Ballarat, or any of the richest diggings in that new 
El Dorado. 

Wealth conld not buy tlio bonny bird, 
For meraorieB of the dear old homf 

In its sweet song were seen and heard; 
However far the feet might roam, 

This birdie's song could bring them back. 

To tread again youth's very track. 

Such honour then has this little songster, one of the very commonest 
of our common birds, known to everybody, beloved by ail; it places 
such trust in man, that it builds its nest under his very feet, always 
on the ground, in a ridge or hollow, with the slender grasses all about 
it, and the blue sky in which it loves to sing, bending over. During 
the spring and summer months, and also late into the autumUj the 
music of not one Lark only, but many Larks, may generally be heard 
in the Chatham Cemetery, situated on a hill commanding a beautiful 
view of tho Modway and surrounding country. One after the other the 
little birds keep ascending and descending, pouring out their joyous 
strains, as if endeavouring to cheer the mourners, and point out that 
their thoughts should take a heavenward Hight; very sweet and com- 
forting is this music to the heart of one bereaved, at least we have 
found it so, and were glad to find that the many Larks which made 
their nests amid the long grass inside the cemetery walls were cared 
for and protected from injury. Within the nest, if one had looked, 
when the hen bird was absent for a short time, he would have seen 
four or five eggs of a dark purplish brown colour, with indistinct 
markings of a darker hue. If it is much later than the end of May, 
the like number of tiny nestlings may be seen, opening their little 
yellow bills for the food which their parents will soon bring them. 
The time necessary for incubation, that is, sitting on the eggs before 
they are hatched, is about a fortnight; there are commonly two broods 
in the year. The young do not quit the nest until fully fledged, and 
then generally come home to sleep for awhile. Like all ground-builders, 
they often fall a prey to prowling weasels, polecats, and such like 
"varmin," as the gamekeepers call them, and oven the sleek water-rat, 
if the nest be anywhere near its haunts, will sometimes make a meal 
of young Larks, and old ones too, if he can catch them sleeping. 

Although placed on the ground, the nest of the Sky Lark is not 
very easily discovered, being hidden in a clump of thick grass, close 
beneath the roots of a bush, or amid the thick corn-stalks, where it 



68 TEE SMALLER BRIiISII BIRDS. 

is perhaps safer than auyvvhere from humau depredators^ for until the 
cora is cut Farmer Giles looks pretty sharp after trespassers on that 
groaud. Very frequently we have seen one of these birds go down 
straight as a stone, and felt sure that we could put our hand upon 
him, and the sitting mate, for whom he had been pouring out that 
ecstatic song aloft; but on going to the spot, no Lark was to be 
seen, nor nest either. Where could it be? perhaps several yards off, 
or close at hand on the other side of a ridge, or at the bottom of a 
gorse bush, amid a tangled mesh of grass, or a fine growth of sting- 
ing nettles or prickly thistles. It is often a wonder how these nests 
escape being trodden on by grazing cows, and sheep, and horses, and 
people who wander from the paths, as we all love to do, among the 
sweet fresh grass, bright with buttercups and daisies, "Nature's gold 
and silver." Doubtless this sometimes does occur, but not often, we 
believe. Now and then a deserted nest will be found with the eggs 
addled; in this case the hen bird has been destroyed, or offended by 
intrusion upon her privacy, the first time she was disturbed she crept 
away so slily and carefully, that not a blade of the tall grass amid 
which she hid herself was seen to move; the second time there was 
a little flutter of indignation, and her course could plainly be traced 
as she went to seek her mate who was not far off; but the third time, 
she spread her wings and went up at once with a complaining cry 
that seemed to say — "I can stand this no longer, take the eggs if 
you want them, nest and all, for I shan't use it any more;" and she 
never came back again, but sought out a spot more free from in- 
trusion, but it was a bad selection for her, that field of grass laid 
down for hay, for being late in the season, the cutting took place 
before her young ones were ready, and, not liking to leave them in 
danger, she sat still to cover them, and had her head taken off by 
the scythe. This has several times happened both in hay and corn 
fields; and an instance is recorded of a hen bird moving her eggs 
one by one to a safer spot, when she saw the mowers working their 
way towards her nesting-place. Jesse, as a result of his own obser- 
vation, reports this to be a fact, and says, "that the peculiarly long 
hind-claw of the Lark enables the bird to grasp and convey its eggs 
from place to place without much difficulty." 

Here we have the feeling of maternal affection in a bird very strongly 
displayed, and also a reasoning faculty. Although there are mauy 
instances of the female Sky Lark deserting her nest when disturbed, 
yet she has never been known to do this when the young were 
hatched and incapable of feeding themselves; she would give her life 
for them, but would not voluntarily desert them. We ought not to 



T]IE L.IRICS. 59 

leave this part of our subject, without quoting the description given 
by Grahiuii, in liis poem ''The 15ii'(ls of Scotland," of the Lark's 
nest : — 

"On tree or bush no Lark is ever seen; 
The daisied lea he loves, where tufts of grass 
Luxuriant crown the ridge; there with his mate 
He furras their lowly homo of withered beul.s. 
And coarsest spcar-grass; next the inner work 
With finer and still finor fibres lays, 
Sounding it curious with his speckled breast. 
How strange this untaught art! It is the gift, 
The gift innate of Him, without whose will 
Not e'en a Sparrow falleth to the ground." 

Bishop Mant, in his "British Months," describes the distress of "i 
parent bird when driven from her nest: — 

"Round from her humble pallet mark. 
Up starts, alarmed, the brooding Lark, 
And round and round her dwelling flies, 
With fluttering wings and plaintive cries." 

With the appearance of the Sky Lark on the wing most people are 
familiar, but on the ground, or on a tree, it seldom gives the oppor- 
tunity for close observation, being, during the breeding-season especially, 
a shy, hiding bird. But in the winter, when it becomes gregarious, 
and often driven by hunger, approaches very near to the farm-bouse, 
or other human habitation, it can be better identified, although its 
plumage is not then so distinctly marked as earlier iu the year. The 
male bird is generally a trifle over seven inches long; the colour on the 
upper parts is a light reddish brown, as is the fore part of the neck, 
which is covered with brownish black spots; the sides are a mixture 
of brown and white, in somewhat obscure streaks, and the under parts 
are dull white; there is a brownish white band over the eyes, and on 
the head a crest of silky brown feathers, which when erected give the 
bird a pert, foppish appearance, which is increased by its standing 
well up on its longish legs, and seeming to look at objects with a 
supercilious kind of air. He seems to say, "Here am I, the finest 
singer in all creation, and of all small birds, look you! the loftiest 
soarer; why everybody watches my flight, until I am lost in the golden 
glory of the sunshine, and everybody listens to my song. All the poets 
piaise me. Hark, you shall hear!" Then up ho springs, and is soon 
caroling aloft, iu quite a wonderful manner. What a shame it is to 
cage such a songster, and as to putting him in a pie, ami eating him. 



60 TEE SMALLER BT^ITlSir BIJiDS. 

the very tliouglat is suggestive of music on the stomach, which must 
be very unpleasant; and yet people do both shut up the Sky Lark 
and eat him. We have not unfrequeutly heard one singing in the 
streets in his circular fronted cage, on the bit of withered turf, and 
what a mockery of merriment it has seemed to us. He sang simply 
because he must sing; but oh, how much more joyous he would have 
been beneath the open canopy of heaven, blown about by every breeze, 
free to go and come at pleasure. 

BufFon relates a singular instance of maternal care manifested by a 
young hen bird of this species. She was brought to him in the month 
of May, and was then not able to feed without assistance. She was 
hardly fledged, when the naturalist received a nest of three or four 
unfledged Larks, to which she took a strong liking, tending them day 
and night, cherished them under her wings, and fed them with her 
bill, although they were scarcely younger than herself. Her tender 
care of them was unceasing. If they were taken from her, she flew 
to them as soon as permitted to do so, and would not attempt to 
effect her escape when opportunities were offered. Her affection grew 
upon her so that she neglected food and drink, and at length expired, 
consumed, as it seemed, by maternal anxiety. So essential were her 
cares, that none of the young birds long survived her. 

The Sky Lark is one of the most easy birds to snare; because 
directly he is startled by the net coming over, he rises perpendicularly, 
his instinct being to soar; other birds will fly off obliquely or hori- 
zontally, before the net is close to the ground, and so escape, but he 
is a "scorner of the earth,^' and like that 

"Vaulting ambition that o'erleaps itself," 

often pays dearly for its attempts to rise. 

The food of this Lark during the summer is almost entirely insec- 
tivorous, caterpillars and worms forming the chief of its daily fare. 
The bird is said to stamp with its feet on the ground, near worm 
casts, and when the slimy wriggler, alarmed by the concussion, puts 
up its head, it is immediately seized by its watchful foe, and drawn 
out to be devoured. It is only in the winter, when insect food cannot 
be obtained, that this bird becomes a plunderer of the stack-yard, and 
takes a very small paj'ment for the benefit he has rendered to the 
cultivator. At this time of year it is that Larks gather into flocks, 
congregating occasionally in incredible numbers; thus in 1856, we read 
in the "Doncaster Gazette," that an extraordinary sight was witnessed 
in the fields attached to the Newton Farms, near Doncaster. The 



THi: LARKS. 61 

largest flock of Larks ttat can be ever remembered visited them. They 
covered six acres of ground, and amounted to thousands. They were 
rather shy, and when disturbed their flight darkened the air. 

A still more amazing flight of Lurks was seen by a newspaper cor- 
respondent, who relates that as ho w;is walking in the Regent's Park, 
the time of day being one p.m., he observed an immense flock of these 
birds coming over the Zoological Gardens; their numbers were countless, 
and they literally darkened the air; they were flying so low that the 
flock had to divide in order to pass the observer. They took two or 
three minutes in going over, and shortly after this flock had passed, 
there came another almost as numerous; and so it continued for tho 
space of an hour, flock succeeding flock, at short intervals, like divisions 
of a great army, all coming from, and going in, the same direction; 
sometimes it was a detachment of a few hundreds, and then aa many 
thousands. One of these flocks settled on the ground not far from tho 
observer, covering half an acre, and standing within a few inches of 
each other. The park-keeper and others witnessed this extraordinary 
sight. How long the flight had been going on before it was observed, 
and how long it continued after he left, cannot be told. Here was 
evidently a migration on a large scale, from one part of the country 
to another, most likely in search of food. 



THE CRESTED LARK, 

i^Alauda ctislala^j 

PLATE IV. FIOUBE V. 

Tnis species is very rare as a British 13ird, only two specimens having 
come under the observation of collectors in this country, of these one 
was shot near Tansy, in Ireland, the other in Sussex; the abovo 
scientific name was given to it by Gould, who has a figure of it in 
his "Birds of Europe." Yarrell describes it in the supplement to 
his "History," and Macgillivray in the appendix to his "Manual." 
Morris says, "It seems to be doubtful whether the older writers knew 
it at all." It may probably have been seen and mistaken for tho Sky 
Lark, which it closely resembles, being only a little smaller, having a 
somewhat stouter bill, and a more decidedly projecting crest. It appears 



62 THE SMALLEn BniTL^ll BIRDS. 

to be a not uncommon bird in almost every part of the continent, 
extending as far northward as Siberia, and to be known in Asia Minor, 
as well as in Egypt, and other of the northern parts of Africa. 

It migrates south and north according to the seasons, and lives upon 
insects, worms, and occasionally grain. It builds its nest upon the 
ground loosely, like the Sky Lark, and generally sits upon four or five 
eggs of a light grey colour, spotted with brown of different shades. 

Its song, which is continued till the month of September, is sweet 
and agreeable, but has little power. This bird is not so entirely a 
ground builder as most Larks, its nest having been found in Germany 
on clay walls and thatched roofs, but it is nearly always in more lowly 
situations. The bird frequents chiefly thickets and bushes on or near 
cultivated ground, wood paths, and the neighbourhood of retired 
villages; insects, small seeds of various kinds, and sometimes grain, 
constitute its principal food in a wild state. 



PlillC I. 








LARKS. 

1. Shore. 2. Short>toed. 3. Wood. 

J- Sky. 0. Cresled. 



TUE LARES. 63 



LAKKS IN CONFINEMENT. 

Among the birds which may be taken and tamed when old, Bechsteia 
^'ivi's tho Sky Lark, of whose song he says that it is exceedingly 
agi-eeabli', with which verdict most who have heard it will agree, 
although Neville Wood says that it is harsh and unmusical; he is, 
however, decidedly in a minority. No doubt it very much depends 
upon the frame of mind in which it is heard, the time, the circum- 
stances, and the scenery. The German naturalist tells us that this 
strain consists of several passages, all of which may be characterized 
as trills and shakes on various notes of the scale, and only occasionally 
interrupted by the repetition of a loud whistle. It is a docile bird, 
and even when old will often imitate the songs of its fellow-prisoners. 
It may have the range of the room or aviary, or be shut up in a cage, 
which should not be less than eighteen inches long by nine broad, and 
fifteen deep, on the floor should be a box filled with silver-sand in 
which the bird delights to dust its feathers. The top of the cage 
should be lined with cloth that the bird may not hurt itself when it 
obeys the strong instinct to soar as high as it can. Food and water 
vessels should be fixed to the side of the cage, or placed in a box 
inside, so that they cannot well be turned over. 

The time for taking young Larks out of the nest is when the tail 
is about three-quarters of an inch long : they tnay be fed upon bread 
soaked in milk with some poppy seeds, ants' eggs should be given if 
they can be procured ; the musical instruction of the birds should 
commence before they are fully fledged, if it is desirable for them to 
whistle and pipe other than their own wild notes : they have good 
imitative powers, and soon acquire the song of the Chaffinch, Nightin- 
gale, or other bird near which they may be placed. 

Larks will live in confinement as long as six or eight years, if well 
cared for and fed regularly, on poppy, crushed hemp seed, and bread 
crumbs, occasionally varied with oats, barley groats, and malt, with 
now and then some green stuff such as water-cress, lettuce, cabbage, 
etc.; lean meat cooked and shredded fine, ants' eggs, and small wortus, 
they ttike with avidity, and a little food of this kind is no doubt 
beneficial to them. 



64 TEE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

The Wood Lark, and Crested Lark, are both attractive cage birds, 
the former especially, on account of its vocal powers, but it is a more 
delicate bird than either of the others, and requires a more frequent 
change of diet; to the list given above may be added for this bii-d, 
Eweet curds, and bullock's heart boiled and grated fine ; the universal 
paste may be given, as to all Larks, to this species, which seldom lives 
more than four years in confinement, and very commonly dies of a 
broken leg; it is peculiarly subject to a disease which causes the 
claws to drop off; the best preventive measures are strict attention 
to cleanliness, in the feet especially, and the careful removal of any 
hairs which may cut into the flesh and cause it to fester. Parasitic 
insects are very troublesome to Larks, some of which literally swarm 
with them ; a lotion made with white precipitate powder, about three 
grains to the ounce of water, applied under the feathers, may be used, 
syringe the infected parts with a weak infusion of tobacco. All Larks 
are great dusters, and should have plenty of nice clean saud provided 
for this purpose. 

A female Lark in confinement has been known to lay as many as 
twenty eggs in the year, when no male bird was present, but she could 
not be got to sit on them, although these birds will often breed and 
rear their young when deprived of liberty; an iustance of this occurred 
at Chatham a few years since, in a pair of the birds, in the possession 
of an artilleryman at the Spur battery; the female of course took the 
principal duty, aud the male attended on her most assiduously, cheering 
and entertaining her with the melody of his song. 



THE A CCESTORIS. S.c 



THE ACCENTORS, 

RED AND BLUE BREASTS, RED AND 

BLACK STARTS. 

TT7"E liaro liere a group of tirds, wliich approach very noar to tlie 
family Sylvince — Sylvine birds or warblers, on one hand, and to 
the Saxicolince — Saxicoline birds, or chats, on the other; indeed to 
the latter family MacgiUivray, and some others consider them to 
belong. In their general habits and characteristics they are pretty 
much aUke, although they differ considerably in appearance; they are 
nil songsters, but not very loud or intrusive ones, and ah' insect 
eaters, chiefly being what are called soft-billed birds, that is, with bills 
anfitted for crushing any hard substances, such as grain, the larger 
kind of seeds, which they do sometimes eat, although of vegetable 
food they prefer berries. 

The two Accentors or Chanters, are the only British representa- 
tives of a genus of the SaxicoILne family, and they, hke all the rest 
of the group, are nearly allied to the Thrushes, which are great 
fiTiit as well as seed and insect feeders. 

Prominent in the group, is a bird that will at once be recognized 
as the cheeriest, sprightliest, pertest, and most pugnacious, yet withal 
the most familiar and best beloved of all our feathered friends — 
Robin Redbreast, of whom we shall have much to say presently; 
he stands alone to represent the genus Erithacus, and his three 

K 



r.R TIIE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

relatives, the Bluebreast, the Redstart, anJ the Blaclcstart, are in 
another genus called Ruticilla; but they all, as we said before, 
belong to the same Sylvine family, and if not exactly brothers and 
sisters, they are uncles and aunts, and cousins. 

Mostly slender as well as soft-billed birds, small of size, with but 
little variation in the colours of their plumage, the most conspicuous 
in this respect being Master Robinet, with his scarlet breast; this 
insufferable little coxcomb, and yet dear, delightful, winter visitant, 
that we would not be without for the world. Miss Bluebreast, too, 
has a prettily variegated attire, and the dash or flush here and there 
of orange in the dress of the Redstart, lights up the grey tints 
wonderfully; and the Blackstart's fiery tail, gives him certainly a 
distinguished appearance. But then, they are all beautiful, the 
plainest birds cannot help being that, and better is the sweet song 
of our native birds, than all the gorgeous plumage with winch God 
has seen fit to deck mimy of the screamers and chatterers of foreign 
clinics. 



Plate 5 




ACCENTORS, ETC. 

1. Alpine Accentor. 2. Hedge Accentor. 3. Redbreast 4. Bluebreasc. 

S. Redstart. 6. Blackstart. 



ACCENTORS. 67 



THE ALriNE ACCENTOR, 

{Accentor alpinm-.) 

F[,ATE V. FIGURE I. 

TriE fint of tTiose sriontific nnnips comos from tlic Lntin roof, rnnfc, 
to sinfj, the meaning of the second is plain enough, of or belonging 
to hills or mountains. The bird frequents the highest parts of the 
Alpine districts of Italy, France, Spain, Germany, and Switzerland, 
during the summer, although in winter it seeks and finds a warmer 
temperature in the sheltered valleys. It has also a place among the 
native birds of Asia, being found in Japan. Although shy and re- 
tired in the warm season, yet in times of cold and scarcity of food 
it approaches the farm yards, villages, and country houses, and be- 
comes like the Redbreast, although not so commonly, a slinror of 
man's bounty. At such seasons it is not very particular as to its 
diet, but when with enough and to spare, it can pick and choose, it 
likes little else than insects and the smallest and softest of seeds. 

The male bird has a length of from six and a half to seven inches, 
a strong, straight, and finely pointed biU, the upper part of which is 
rusty black, fading off into yellowish white at the base, and this 
latter, with an orange tinge, is the colour of the lower part, except at 
the tip, which is brownish black. A light brownish grey is the 
colour of the head, crown, and neck, sides, and back; lightish grey, 
with a brown tinge, extends over the sides of the neck, while the 
front or breast, is a dull yellowish white, with a small black spot on 
each feather, which gives it a mottled appearance. The chin and 
throat are dull white, and the feathers here have a crescent-shaped 
spot on each, which is more or less distinct according to the season. 

This bird, which is sometimes called the "Alpine Warbkr," or the 
Collared Stare or Starling, is a rare species in England, five speci- 
mens only are recorded as having been seen in the country. The 
first of these was a female, taken in the gardens of King's College, 
Cambridge, in November, 1822j another, supposed to be the male was 



6& TUE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

seen at the same time, the pair frequenting the grass plots of the 
college, and climbing about its buttresses, in the tame and confiding 
manner which is characteristic of the bird. The other three specimens 
were found in Somerset, Suffolk, and Devonshire. 

The nest of this bird, which is made of moss and fine grass, lined 
with wool or hair, is generally built iu some lonely place, in a roclcy 
cavity or crevice, and sometimes under the shelter of a low bush, such 
as the Alpine rose, and has been found iu the roof of a lonely house, 
but not often. The eggs are four or five in number, of a beautiful 
light blue colour, and unspotted, like those of the species next to 
be described, only somewhat larger; the bird is said to produce two 
broods in the year. Seldom is this pretty Chanter seen in the 
branches of trees, but generally either on the ground or slight rocky 
elevations, where it will stand and shuffle its wings in a manner 
peculiar to the members of its genus, uttering its ordinary note tree, 
tree, or breaking into a low sweet warble. Insects, such as flies, 
grasshoppers, earwigs, ants, &c., are its ordinary food, with small 
seeds now and then for a change. 



THE HEDGE ACCENTOR, 

{^Accmlor modularis.^ 
PLATE V. — FIGDllS II. 

Sometimes called the Hedge Sparrow, or Dunnock; also known as 
the Hedge Warbler, Shuffle-wing, and Winter Fauvette. A singing 
bird, as the scientific name indicates, with a sweetly modulated song; 
retiring in its habits, without being particularly shy, gentle in its 
motions and manners, not fussy and fantastic as some birds are, but 
with a sort of subdued cheerfulness about it, like that arising from a 
contented spirit, with a neat, yet pretty dress of grey and brown, the 
latter flushing into red at j)laces, and the former deepening into blue, 
as in the head, nape, throat, and breast. It builds its deep, well-rounded, 
and finished nest of small twigs and grass, then, on the inner side, 
moss, and on that some softer substance, such as wool or linir, in 
hedges or low bushes, or in holes of walls, stacks of woodj or amid 



ACCEXTOnS. 69 

tho twisted ivy-bonj»lis, seldom many foot from the ground, and hero 
it lays its five or six beautiful light blue eggs, which aro so often 
taken by nest-robbers, not with any iutoUigent desire to study oology — 
that is, the science of eggs — or to arrange them in a cabinet, but because 
they look pretty strung upon a string with otbcrs, and show, as the 
owner thinks, what a clever follow he was to find and take them. It 
is a melancholy spectacle, these strings of grey, and brown, and white, 
and blue, speckled and spotted, or plain little spheres, rows and rows 
(if them, many of one sort, and one wonders where the pleasure can 
bo of exhibiting nucli a collection, only tho gratification of a childish 
vanity, or a greed for possessing, which may afterwards develope into 
avarice. A pair or two of each kind, arranged in a cabinet, and pro- 
perly labelled, is a pretty and a pleasing sight; it shows that the 
collector is a student of nature, who is cultivating at the same time 
his love of God's creatures and his powers of observation. Sufficient 
eggs for such a purpose, as well as a few supplementary ones, to 
exchange with other young naturalists, may always be obtained without 
cruelty or distress to the parent birds, who will not miss one or two 
taken from the nest. They are generally idle and truant boys, who 
make these large and unmeaning collections of eggs, which they ought 
to be ashamed to look upon, and no bird suffers more from their 
depredations than our pretty little Hedge Sparrow, whose nest is within 
easy reach of their mischievous fingers. Besides this affliction, the 
Dunnock has not uufrequently thrust upon it an expensive lodger, in 
the shape of a young Cuckoo. Of course our readers all know that 
this strange, wandering bird, whose double note they have often heard 
in the summer woods, sounding like a far-away echo, makes no nest 
of its own, but just goes quietly and drops one egg here and another 
there into that of another bird, which by and bye hatches a monster, 
almost as big aa herself, that takes more food than all the rest of her 
brood, and sometimes even with its broad back shovels them over the 
edge of their rightful home, so that they are killed by the fall or die 
of starvation, while the intruder gets fat upon all the produce which 
the old birds collect for the sustenance of their family; he grows and 
grows till he fills the whole nest, and some say even bites off the heads 
of his foster parents, but we do not quite believe this, notwithstanding 
that the fool in Shakespeare's play of King Lear says 

"The Hedge Sparrow fed the Cuckoo so long, 
That she had her head bit off by her young," 

meaning this ravenous monster of which she was involuntarily made the 
mother and nui'se. It appears that more young Cuckoos are hatched 



70 THE S2IALLEn BRITISH BIRDS. 

and fed by Hodge Sparrows than by any otlier kind of birds, and that 
thoy are among tbe earliest of builders, the nest being generally finished 
earljr in March; a month before the male may be heard singing his short 
and plaintive song which has httle variety in it, but it is very sweet in 
tune; it is continued with but little intermission, throughout the greater 
part of the year. When silent in autumn, the birds are undergoing their 
annual moult; then it is that many of their old feathers are shed, and 
new ones begin to grow. If you see a Dunnock flitting about the hedge 
or the copse, you may be pretty sure its mate is not far oiF, for these 
birds mostly go in pairs, even although it may not be in the breeding- 
season. But how are you to know it is a Dunnock? Well, it is a bird 
rather more than five inches and a half long, with a pretty full plump 
body, and a longish tail; it has a shortish, pointed, dark brown beak, 
lio-hter in colour at the base; the head, nape, and sides of the neck, are 
grey, striped with brown everywhere except behind and below the ear 
coverts, where the grey is nearly pure; the back and wings are reddish 
brown, with darker streaks; the wings and tail are also brown of various 
shades; and the chin, throat, and chest, grey; the sides are pale brown, 
streaked with dark brown; the lower part of the breast, and body, are 
white, with a reddish brown tinge; and the legs and toes are orange 
brown, with black claws, the hinder one of which is as long again as 
the other three. There you have Master Shufilewing drawn from life, 
as he is in the picture. 

All over England, you will find him, as much in the north as in the 
south, for he seems to care very little about the cold. And all through 
the year you will find him, for he does not fly away from us at the 
approach of winter, as many sweet songsters do; frequenting hedgerows, 
pastures, gardens, and cultivated fields, where he finds his natural food, 
insects, and seeds; he is no fruit eater, and therefore not so much at 
enmity with the gardener as some birds are. And all through Europe 
you will find him, from Italy on the south, to Sweden in the north; 
he has been taken in Smyrna, in December, but is a rare bird there. 
A celebrated American ornithologist characterises this as a beautiful 
httle bird; and Macgillivray speaks of it as "familiar, gentle, and 
modest." White, buff, and cieam-coloured varieties of this bird have 
been met with, and some with mottled plumage, consisting of a mi.Kture 
of two or more of these colouis. 



77/ A" REDliREA ST. Jl 



TlJlu liKDBIiEAST, 

{Syh'ia rubecula) 

PLATE V. KinUUK III. 

A RKD bin! of the wood, is the meaning of fhe scientific name, 
which naturalists have giver, to our old friend Robin, Robinet, or Rud- 
dock, whichever it pleases one to call him^ he is the prime favourite 
of our childhood; the hero of nursery song and story; the lover of 
Jenny Wren, who was killed by that wicked Sparrow, with his bow 
and arrow; at whose death, "All the birds of the air fell to sighing 
and sobbing," but although he was dead, and of his burial there is 
a very circumstantial account given, yet he is alive still, and has 
been at any time through the past centuries; he covered the children 
in the wood with leaves, when they laid them down to die of hunger 
and fatigue, and sang a dirge over them; and from the very begin- 
ning to the end of every year, may his sweet warble be heard in 
the leafy woods during the summer weather; in the cold, and bleak, 
and bare season, close about our habitations, into which he comes 
with a trusting confidence which insares his safety and welcome, to 
feed and be thankful. 

Thankful for his dole of crumbs^ 
In the winter Eobin comes, 
Pays us ^vith a warble sweet 
For the food he has to eat. 

We could fill this volume with extracts from the prose and poetical 
writers who have written about the Robin; but this would never do, for 
we have many other feathered chents who claim a place here, and 
we must be just to them; so to "the household bird with the red 
stomacher" we shall only give his due share of notice, and of the 
songs which have been sung in his honour, shall but quote a few 
snatches here and there- 

"Art thou the bird whom man loves best. 
The pious bird with the scarlet breast, 



7S THE SMALLER BRITISR BIRDS. 

Our little English Enbin; 
The bird that comes about our dnors 

When autmmi winds are sobbing? 
Art, thou the Peter of Norway boors? 

Their Thomas in Finland, 

And Russia far inland? 
The bird who by some name or other 
All men who know thee call thee brother." 

We give this short extract from the poet Wordsworth, tecause it 
alludes to some of the names of endearment by which this bird is 
known in foreign countries; thus in Sweden he is called Tommi Lidin, 
in Norway Peter Bonsmed, in Germany Thomas Guidet. In England 
we sometimes call him Bob, we are on such very familiar terms with 
him, and they know and love him almost if not quite as well in neai'ly 
all parts of Europe, in the colder countries of which he is a summer 
visitant only. He has been found in the northern parts of Africa, and 
also in Asia Minor, and Persia. His presence in the western hemisphere 
has not been recorded, the bird known as the Robin in America is 
quite a different species from 

"Robinet with ruddy breast, 
Best known of all and loved the best." 

A very bold bird is the Robin, exceedingly pugnacious, ready to 
stand up for his rights, and fight to the death with a rival for the 
affections of his mate, or a chosen nesting-place; terrible battles often 
ensue between two of the males, and sometimes one is killed thus by 
his own kith and kin. This readiness to quarrel and fight is the great 
stain upon his character, and perhaps it may be the reason why he is 
dressed, like a soldier, in red. Need we describe his plumage? nay, 
every child is familiar with his appearance, from the tip of his short 
pointed beak, to the end of his broadish, olive-brown, not over-long 
tail, and down to his longish slender legs and toes of ashy brown. 

Stories about Robins are as plentiful, as, we were going to say, 
"leaves in Valambrow," but perhaps our younger readers would hardly 
know what that meant, so we will say, as blackberries in a fruitful 
autumn; several are cited by Mr. Morris, in his very interesting volume 
entitled "Anecdotes in Natural History." Here is one of them taken 
from "The Newcastle Courant." — A granite-hewer, while at work in 
Dalbeattie heard what seemed to be a bird's cry of distress, and going 
to the spot from whence it proceeded, found a Robin in a stato of 
great agitation. A large adder had made its way up the face of the 
quarry, and had iust got its head over the edge of a nest built among 



THE KEDISREA S T. 73 

tho brnsliwood, and containin<T tbo unfloJged offspring of the poor 
Robin, who was dofoiidiiig thorn against the enomy as well as she 
could; rising above it in the air, and then coming down with a swoop, 
and endeavouring to drive her bill into its head. The man immediately 
dislodged the adder, and while ho was killing it, the Robin perched 
upon his arm, and testified her joy and gratitude by unmistakable signs. 
Then, when she had pecked awhile at the lifeless trunk of her enemy, 
and ascertained that all was safe in her nest, she settled upon the 
branch of a neighbouring tree and piped out a song of triumph. 

Some of our readers have no doubt hoard of the small dog, which 
being attacked and beaten by a larger one, formed an alliance with 
one yet larger than his enemy, and bringing this new ally to the scene 
of his disaster, had the satisfaction of seeing summary punishment 
inflicted on the offender. This is what a Robin did under the hkc 
provocation. Oui- red-breasted friend had been regularly fed at a certain 
house to which he came in the winter, and one day seeing a sparrow 
there also partaking of the dole, he attacked the intruder with great 
fury, and drove it away. But the defeated sparrow called some relatives 
to help him, and coming again, drove the Rubin from the crumb- 
strewed board, and the sjiarrows feasted away rejoicingly. However, 
they did not long remain in possession of the field, for the next day 
back came Robinet, with a dusky crow, whose beak was too formidable 
for a sparrow to come near. So this strangely-assorted pair kept the 
supplies as long as they needed them. 

Woe be to the intruder on Master Bobby's favourite places of resort, 
especially if they are feeding grounds. Desirous of witnessing an 
exhibition of the bird's pugnacity, a gentleman once placed a stuffed 
Robin by a window, to which a live pensioner of the same species used 
to come, just within the glass, against which the living bird flew with 
great vehemence and with fell intent; here he could not do much, but 
when the bird effigy was placed outside, at it went the live Robin, 
pecking at its eyes, and plucking out its feathers, in a most savage 
manner. 

The Robin is exceedingly attached to its mate, with which very 
probably it is paired until the death of one takes place. A female of 
this species, which was caught and caged in November, was for several 
weeks constantly attended by the male, which retired from the cage 
very unwillingly when any one approached it, uttering complaining 
cries if excluded from the room in which the cage was hung. Of 
Robin's boldness and familiarity when driven by inclement weather 
and scarcity of food, to seek the protection of man, instances out of 
number might be quoted. There was one which quartered itself in 



74 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

the sitting-room of a shoemaker in the village of Bishop's Clceve, 
Gloucestei'sbire. It settled itself behind a teapot ou the mautlo-piecOj 
and there built a nestj and laid eggSj on which it sat, taking no notice 
either of the family in which it had become domesticated, or of strangers 
who came to look at the strange sight; it even allowed itself to be 
touched and caressed, and when the meals were on the table, came 
fearlessly down for its share, and even seemed to recognize the several 
members of the family. 

There was another, that year after year, came and made itself a home 
in a large house, in which many persons resided; into kitchen and 
drawing-room, study and bed-room, went the impertinent bird, now 
snatching a morsel of meat from the hand of cook, now from the 
shoulder of the mistress flying on to the breakfast or dinner table, and 
picking up such scraps as pleased its fancy; this was a tailless bird, 
and therefore easily recognized as the same annual visitor; it preferred 
to sleep in an outhouse, and regularly tapped for the window to be opened 
when bed-time came, and to be let 'in again in the morning. If turned 
out of a room for some misconduct, or because it was not convenient to 
have him there, Robin would fly in at any opening he could find, and 
bo back again almost before the window was closed, from which he 
had been expelled. If taken a distance of several miles, and let loose, 
ho was sure to be back again in a very short space of time. There 
is little doubt that this shared the fate of so many feathered pets — fell 
a victim to the cat! 

The pugnacity of the Robin is sometimes turned to account in effecting 
the capture of others of its species; if one of them be fastened in a 
cage, the door of which is left open, it will not bo long before another 
is attracted by its cries and fluttering, and entering the cage, will at 
once engage in a fuj-ious fight with the captive, during which it can 
be easily secured. Indeed it is not even necessary to use a cage for 
this purpose; the decoy bird may be tied by the leg to any object, 
and so intent are the combatants in their murderous work, that they 
do not heed the approach of any person, and may be taken with the 
hand. Better, however, to leave the poor bird at liberty; plenty of 
opportunities will be aff'orded of hearing him warble his sweet and 
somewhat melancholy song, and of enjoying the pleasure of his company; 
he is so familiar and confiding, and comes so often of his own accord 
to be fed and cherished, that it is a shame to abuse his confidence. 

The nest of the Robin is formed for the most part of moss, leaves, 
and small twigs, lined with horse-hair or feathers; the eggs are from five 
to seven in number, of a dusky ash-colour, mottled with reddish brown 
spots; as a rule there is little variaLiuu iu the colours, but specimens 



TTTF. nEnnnFAsiT. 75 

hnvp ocfnrrr'il of a -noarly pnrn wTiite, and also of a ta^vny ■^oc' colour. 
This bird is a cviutioua buildei-, concealing' its nosfc witli groat caro, so 
that often the only way to discover it, is by watching the fenialo as 
she flies back, after leaving it for awhile. The situation may be among 
the roots of a bush or tree, in a thick wood, or a hole in a wall, 
well covered \vith ivy, or amid tho intertwining branches of that plant 
upon a rugged tree trunk; sometimes in tho thatched roof of an out- 
house, or in the tliickest part of a low evergreen, or of a privet hedge 
in the garden. Some Robins are much wilder and shyer than others, 
and these generally build in tho leafy woods, away from human habi- 
tations; those which frequent houses and gardens much, often display 
during the nesting-tinie, as they do in tho winter, groat fearlessness 
and confidence in man. Bishop Mant, in his descriptions of the British 
Months, alludes to some of these more exposed nesting-places: — 

'Thn Uobin Redbreast makes his bower 
For nestling in the vern.nl hour. 
In thatch, or root of aged tree, 
Moss-grown or arching cavity 
Of bank, or garden's refuse heap, 
Or where the broad-loaved tendrils creep 
Of \xy, and an arbour spread. 
O'er trellised porch, or cottage shed. 
So, as we pass tlio homestead round, 
At every change of place, the sound 
Of Robin's voice salutes the ear. 
Carolling to his partner near; 
And with sure gaze the observant eye 
May Robin's hidden home descry." 

Very singular places have been sometimes chosen by tliese hirds for 
their nests; thus, one pair built in a hole, caused by the passing of a 
shot, right through the foremast of Nelson's ship, the Victory; this was 
the mast, "against whicli the hero was standing when he received his 
death-wound, and AV^illimn the Fourth had part of it placed in a kind 
of temple in the grounds of Bushy Park, where he resided, and it was 
here tliat the Redbreasts made a family mansion of the circular hole 
so str.angely made. While the Crystal Palace at Sydenham was in 
course of construction, several Robins settled themselves very close to 
the workmen, making their nests amid the large roots, which were 
brought on to make the embankment on the southern end. The din 
around them was perfectly deafening, and the bustle incessant, but 
there they sat and hatched and I'eared their young, without displaying 
any signs of fear. 

One pair of these bold birds chose a child's covered cart, wliiuli hung 



76 TTTE SMALLER BRITISH BTRBS. 

against tlie wall over tlie fire-place of a small cottage, in whicli potatoes 
were kept, and wliich closely adjoined a blacksmitli's shop, where the 
roar of the forge fire, and the ring of the hammer on the anvil, were 
often heard. Numbers of visitors came to see the birds, but they took 
it all as a matter of course, and having raised a first brood, thought 
they would try a different position, so built another nest on a shelf on 
the opposite wall, close to a mousetrap. Tlie second brood reared, 
feeling that they had not yet done enough for society, they set about 
building a third nest, on a bundle of papers which lay on another 
shelf, yet in the same room, and a correspondent of "The Field 
Naturalist's Magazine," saw the hen bird on the 21st. of June, feeding 
the four little fiedgings which constituted this third brood, while a 
party of friends watched the proceedings, and the cock bird looked on 
from the outside of the building. 

It has been remarked that the hen of this species sits very close, 
and is not easily disturbed; she has been taken up with nest, eggs, 
and all, and placed in a cage, where she has continued to sit and 
hatch her young. One which was so served died of starvation, rather 
than neglect her duties, the inference being that she depended upon 
the cock bird for a supply of food. 

Another strange nesting-place chosen by the Bedbreast was a candle- 
stick, on a mantlepiece over the kitchen fire-place, at the house of a 
surgeon at Stansted, in Essex; and yet another was on the reading- 
desk of North Molten Church, Devon, directly under the Bible and 
Prayer-book; this was a very devotional bird, and no doubt the country 
people looked upon it with some degi-ee of reverence, as they commonly 
do upon all Robins; so it is said to be wicked to kill one of these 
birds, which are such special favourites with young peojDle, in whose 
nursery ballads and legends they jjlay so important parts. Several 
other instances have occurred of tlio Robins building in or about church 
pulpits, and they have been known to join in the songs of praise 
raised by the congregation. 

The average length of the Robin is abont five inches and three 
quarters, the hen being somewhat smaller; the wings expand to a little 
over nine inches; the young birds at first are covered with a loose 
down of greyish brown; they do not get the characteristic red coloui- 
on the breast until after the second moult, although a dull reddish or 
orange tinge gives promise of the glory that is to come. Varieties 
sometimes occur with the plumage nearly white or grey, or otherwise 
very difierent from the ordinary colours. 

The Robin is not a high flier, and it goes only short distances at 
the time, from one nesting-place to another, with a quick and straight 



THE nFT)BREAST. 77 

flifflit. On tlio ground it advances by a few hops, then pauses with a 
toss of the head, and a sidelong look, whieh is very peculiar; it feeds 
on fruit, seeds, and berries, those of tlie elder and blackthorn seeming 
to be especial favourites; it sometimes captures insects on the wing, 
but more comnioidy on the ground, or in the trees and shrubs. 

A very soft, sweet, and plaintive song is that of the llubin, heard 
in winter time when few otlun- sounds disturb the stillness of nature; 
it lias a soothing effect upon the mind, csp cially when we see how 
familiar and confiding the little songster is, and how earnestly he pleads, 
with his winning ways and sweetly warbled notes, for shelter and protection. 

Carrington, in his poem on Dartmoor, has some lines worth quoting 
on this subject: — 

" Sweet bird of Autumn, silent is the song 
Of earth and sky, that in the summer hour 
Rang joyously, and thou alone art left 
Sole minstrel of the dull and sinking year. 
But trust me, Warbler, lovelier lay than this. 
Which now thou pourest to the chilling eve. 
The joy-inspiring Summer never knew. 
The very children love to hear thy tale. 
And talk of thee in many a legend wild, 
And bless thee for those touching notes of thine! 
Sweet household bird, that infancy and age 
Delight to cherish, thou dost well repay 
The frequent crumbs that generous hands bestow; 
Beguiling man with minstrelsy divine, 
And cheering his dark hours, and teaching him 
Through cold and gloom. Autumn and Winter, Hope." 

Thomas Cooper, in his noble "Prison Rhyme," has some beautiful 
stanzas to the Robin, all of whieh, as they are probably new to our 
readers, we should like to quote, but for two of them only can we find 
room: — 

"Hasten, dear Eobin; for the aged dame 
Calls thee to gather up the honeyed crumbs 
She scatters at her door; and, at thy name, 
The youngsters crowd to see their favourite come. 
Fear not Grimalkin! — she doth sing 'three-thrum' 
With happy half-shut eyes, upon the warm 
Soft cushion on the corner chair: deaf, dumb. 
And toothless, lies old Growler: — fear no harm, 
Loved Robin! — thou shalt banquet bold without alarm. 

If thou return not, Gammer o'er her pail 
Will sing in sorrow, 'neath the brindled cow. 
And Gaffer sigh over his nut brown ale; 
Wliilc evermore the petlings, with sad brow. 



78 TEE SMALLER BRITISIT BIRDS. 

Will look for tbee upon the holly bough, 
Where thou didst chirp thy signal note, ere on 
The lowly grunsel thou did'st light, and show 
With such sweet confidence, those darling ones! 
Thy blithsome face,— and on thee all cried 'benison.' 



THE BLUEBREAST, 

{Sylvia stcecica.) 

PLATE V. PIQUEE IV. 

These two scientific names signifj' a wood, anrl of Pwoclon, and 
therefore they tell us that this is a woodland bird, of a northern lati- 
tude. It is sometimes called the Blue-throated Warbler, Redstart, or 
Robin, its claim of admission to the British Fauna resting in about 
five specimens taken in different parts of the country. Kent lays 
claim to the only pair captured, they were shot on the eastern coast 
near the old towers of Reculvers, in September, 1842, and are now 
in the Margate Museum. Northumberland, Dorset, and Norfolk, claim 
the other three j Russia, as far north as Siberia, as well as Spain, 
France, Germany, and Holland, know this bird well as a summer 
visitor, and it seems strange that so few specimens have reached our 
islands, where its principal food, insects, earth-worms, and bei'ries, is 
at certain seasons very abundant. 

Its chief haunts are said to be low marshy grounds, the outskirts 
of forests, and margins of streams, when the weather is favourable; 
but in cold and backward seasons it goes into the more cultivated 
grounds, approaching dwellings and farms in search of food. Large 
flisrhts of Bluebreasts migrate from one part of the Continent of Europe 
to the other, northwards in the spring, and southwards in the autumn; 
some probably pass over into Africa, whei-e they have been seen. Our 
rare visitant is a pretty gentle bird, with a sweet song, which it utters 
from the top of a bush, with the tail expanded and vibrating; hence 
some have called it the Blue-throated Fan tail, and thought that it ought 
to be classed with the Quaketails, a sub-family of the Wagtails. Some- 
times the bird rises a considerable height above the brushwood, in 
which its nest is probably placed, and sings for awhile on the wing, 
then alights, it may be fifty or sixty yards from the spot whence it 



THE BLUEBREAST. 79 

rose. It begins its song early in the morning, and often continues it 
Lite in the evening, when most other birds have gouo to rest; the 
slightest noise or stir near the spot will stay its musio. 

Mr. J. D. Hoy, a Suffolk naturalist, who has had opportunities of 
studying the habits of this bird on the Continent, says that it makes 
its appearance early in the spring, preceding the Nightingale ten or 
twelve days; in the breeding season it frequents low swampy grounds, 
on the woody borders of boggy heaths, and on the banks of streams 
that tlow through moist meadows, whore there is plenty of alder and 
willow underwood, near to or amid which the nest is generally placed 
on the ground among plants of the bog myrtle, or amid coarse 
grass; sometimes it is on the sides of sloping baidvs, well clothed 
with vegetation, or in tho scraggy brushwood of moist bottoms. The 
nest, which is closely hidden and difhcult to discover, ia composed of 
dead grass aud moss, lined with finer grass; the eggs are from four 
to six in number, of an uniform greenish blue colour, a good deal 
hke those of the Hedge Sparrow. Tho notes of the bird resemble 
those of the Wliiuchat, but they are more powerful; Bechstein com- 
pares the song to that of the Common Wagtail, with tho addition of 
a deep humming sound, like the vibration of a string, with which it 
commences. 

In appearance this bird presents many points of resen^blance to 
both the Kedstart and the Wagtail, forming as it were a link between 
the two; its usual length is about five inches and a half, of which 
the tail takes up two inches and a quarter: the sharp-pointed beak 
is blackish, with yellow corners, the iris is brown, the feet flesh- 
coloured, the claws dusky; the head, back, and wing coverts are 
brown, sprinkled with grey; a reddish white line passes over each 
eye; the cheeks are a rusty brown, bordered with dark grey; the 
throat and half way down the breast are dark azure blue, with a 
small white spot shiuiug out of it, like a star, tho brightness of which 
seems to increase when the bird is excited, as while singing; there 
is a blackisli bordei' around tho blue, aud an orange streak buyuud 
this; tho ijoUy lb diii^y white, the shanks uud sides reddish grey. 



80 TRE SMALLER BRITI&R BIRDS. 



THE REDSTART, 

(Sylvia phccniciirus.) 
PLATE V. HGUEB V. 

Meaning a bird of the wood, with a purple or red tail. It is a lively 
and graceful species, whose motions it is always interesting to watch, 
as it goes in and out of the covert of leafy boughs and thick under- 
growth, in which it most delights. Out it comes with a flutter and a 
start, flits or hops a little way, then dives in again, with a flash of the 
red tail that is quite startling. 

The bird is said to be neither common nor uncommon, shy nor 
familiar; it is found in at least twelve of the English counties, as well 
as in Wales and Scotland, and although it dwells chiefly in thickets and 
woods, yet on account of its restless habits it does not remain hidden 
long at the time, and invites attention by its eccentric motions; shunning 
observation, it is yet constantly thrusting itself into notice; although 
it builds in the closest thickets, yet it is seldom far from some pubHc 
path or high road. So our pretty Redstart, like many of those who 
claim to be reasonable beings, has a strangely contradictory character: 
let us describe his outward appearance. The male is in length generally 
a little over five inches and a half; in weight about three drachms and 
three quarters, that is, less than half an ounce; it has a black bill, 
edged with yellow; the sides of the head, and space about the bill, 
are black; the upper part of the forehead is white, and there is a streak 
of the same over each eye; the crown, upper part of the neck, and 
nape, are bluish grey with a tinge of light brown; the chin and throat 
are black; the breast a yellowish rust red on the upper part, fading off 
into a dingy white below; the back is grey on the top, rusty red on 
the sides; the ^vings are brown grey, and dull red prettily mingled; 
the long tail is brown and grey, brightening into orange beneath, 
hence the name Eedstart, from the Saxon steort, a tail. 

This bird, which is but a summer visitant with us, arriving about the 
middle of April, and departing in August or September, is distiibuted 
over the greater part of Em-ope, north as well as south; it is known 



THE BLACKSTART 81 

also in Asia Elinor, Persia, and Japan. In our westorn cni;nties it is 
not mucli seen, and is very rare in Ireland. 

It builds a loosely constructed nest of moss, dry grass, and louvrs, 
with a lining of feathers and hair, placing it frequently in a hole in 
an old wall, under the eaves of a house, in a hollow tree, or in tlie 
fork formed by the branches, or wherever sufficient support and shelter 
is offered; an old watering pot, flower pots, the ventilator of a stable, 
the narrow space between the upright iron on which a garden door was 
hung, the bottom of the nest resting on the hinge, and liable to bo 
shaken every time the door was opened, — -these are some of the strange 
places chosen by the Redstart for building. 

The bird is said to manifest great attachment to one spot, coming 
back year after year to renew its labour of love; the female sits very 
closely, and will often suffer herself to be touched and handled, without 
quitting her nest, and both birds are most attentive to, and careful of, 
the young brood; on one occasion the male having been killed, another 
joined the female, and took the place of the deceased father. The eggs 
are unspotted, of a light greenish blue colour, generally from four to 
six in number, sometimes seven, or even eight. They are smaller and 
more delicate in shape than those of the Dunnock, which they resemble 
in colour. The song of this bird is soft, sweet, and melodious; it has 
been heard as early as three in the morning, and as late as ten at night; 
the cry of anger or alarm Macgillivi'ay likens to the syllables ol-rlii't. 
All kinds of insects and worms, or caterpillars, and fruits and berries, 
arc eatcu by this species. 



THE BLACKSTART, 

(Sylvia tythus.) 

PLATE v. FIGUEE VI. 

There is some doubt as to the meaning of this generic term ti/l/nif:, 
Morris gives it up, and no other naturalist, that we are aware, at- 
tempts to explain it. Latham calls the bird Si/Ivia Gibraltar iensis, 
the Gibraltar Warbler; according to Macgillivray, it is the Black- 
breasted Redstart, others name it the Black Redstart, the Black Red- 
tail, and the Tythus Redstart. It is distinguished from the bird last 

M 



83 TEE SMALLER IIRITISE BIRDS. 

closcribed, by the intense black colour of the breast anrl belly, where 
the other species is reddish brown; this deep tint fades oil' at the 
cheeks, chin, and part of the breast and sides, into a sooty grey, 
becoming lighter towards the tail, the larger feathers of which, like 
the rump, are a fine chesnut brown; the top of the head, neck, and 
back, are bluish grey; the beak, legs, toes, and claws are black. The 
whole length of the bird is about five inches and three quarters. It 
is slender and graceful in form, like most of the Warblers; its man- 
ners and habits are much like those of the Redstart, only that it 
seems to prefer stony and rocky places, elevated above the plains. It 
feeds on worms, insects in theii* various stages, the smaller fruits, 
and berries. Sometimes it builds near to human habitations, in 
which case in a hole in a wall, under the eaves of a house, or in a 
church steeple. But in the solitudes which it loves best, the nest 
must be sought for in the cleft of a rock, or hole in the side of a 
chalk pit, or a ruined wall; it is formed externally of grass and 
lined with hair. The eggs are five or six in number, of a pure glossy 
white colour, very delicate and fragile. Two broods are often reared 
in one year, the first being hatched about the beginning of May, and 
the second some time in June. The same nesting-place is often resorted 
to year after year. 

The Blackstart has a light quick flight, rising and falling, and sporting 
in the air with much grace and elegance. On the ground it walks 
very erect, and has the same habit of oscillating its tail, as the other 
members of its family. Like the Dish-washers, or Wagtails, it has 
been observed to have that up and down, dipping motion of the 
body, especially when alarmed. It has a soft clear song of limited 
range; its ordinary call-note is likened by Meyer to the syllables 
"fid-fid! lacli-IacJc!" It is an early and late singer, like the Blue- 
throat. Although many specimens have been taken in this country, 
this is witli us a rare Lii-d; it is rare also in Sweden and other 
northern parts of the European Continent; although it is rather common 
as a summer visitor in the south, it appears to inhabit the Morea, 
and has been seen on the bare rocky hills near Smyrna. One specimen 
was taken on board ship, five hundred miles from Portugal, and four 
hundred from Africa. Mr. Gould first described it as a British bird 
from a specimen taken near London, in October, 1829. 



PlRle 



^"j 





ACCENTORS, ETC. 

1. Alpine Accentor. 2. Hedge Accentor. 3. Redbreast. 4. Bluebreasc. 

•>. Redstart. 6. Blackstart. 



ACC£NIOES, IX COXFIXFJfl'XT. 83 



IN CONFINEMENT. 



Our pp-eat antlinrity on Cage Birds, (Bcchstein), places flio Alpino 
Warhlcr, or Accentor, in the list of those birds "tameable when old," 
but he gives us no particidars as to its treatment, knowing evido itly 
very little about it; with its near relative the Hodge Accentor, or 
Diinnock, he is more familiar; he gives it the credit of being an agree- 
able addition to the aviary, on account of its liveliness, cheerful 
disposition, and pleasant song, but says that it has no pretension to 
the name of the Tree Nightingale, bestowed on it by some of his 
countrymen. It breeds in confinement, and the female will sometimes 
pair with the Redbreast. Strange to say, it is subject to the small-pox, 
and a cutaneous disease, which makes the eyes swell, the circle around 
them become bald, the beak grow scabby, and finally affects the feet 
and the whole of the body; notwithstanding the poor bird lives on, 
frequently for years in this sorry plight, much to the shame of its 
keeper. We should say, when the life of a bird, or any other 
creature kept by man, becomes a burden to it, a speedy death is the 
truest humanity. Master Bobby is such a familiar and domestic bird, 
we may bo sure that he would do well in confinement, and be a 
great favourite; he sings well, better in a cage than in the aviary, 
and can bo taught many pretty tricks, such as eating from the 
hand or the mouth, k'issing, chirping at the word of command, &c. 
If sheltered and fed during the winter, and set at liberty in the 
spring, he will often come and ask for admission when the inclement 
season comes again. He is a great destroyer of flies, fleas, and other 
insect tormentors. Diarrhaea and decline are the only two diseases to 
which he is subject; for the former a lively spider or two should be 
given, for the latter ants' eggs and mealworms. Only mind, yon must 
not turn two Cock Eobins loose in the aviary together, if you do 
murder may be committed, and the victor, when once his blood is up, 
may attack some other fellow-lodger, and kill him or her too. 

The Bluebreast, the Redstart, and the Blackstart are all very attractive 
aviary birds; sweet songsters every one, very tame and confiding, and 
beautiful in appearance. The German fanciers call the first the Italian 



84 THE SMALLER BRITISR BIRDS. 

or East Inrlian Nightingale; they feed it, when newly Cflnght, npon 
ants' eggs and mealworms, mixed with the universal paste, gradually 
withdrawing the insect food until they are brought to feed upon that 
alone; this is the course to be pursued with all the insectivorous birds, 
especially the Warblers. The Redstart and some others may be induced 
to take the paste by an admixture of elderberries; earthworms, however 
small they may be cut, seldom agree with such delicate birds in confine- 
ment; a great deal of motion is required to enable them to digest such 
strong food. They frequently die of atrophy, for want of power to 
assimilate even the milder kinds of nutriment generally given to them. 
The Blackstart, like its two relatives, may be allowed the free range 
of the aviary; if put into a cage, it should be a tolerably roomy one; 
they should be protected from draughts, and groat attention to 
cleanliness is required. Few of the warblers will breed in confinement, 
neither of the three species now under notice have been known to do 
so. They sometimes live as long as eight years in confinement, but 
not generally more than five or six. They all delight in bathing, as 
much as the Redbreast, and should be supplied with fresh water daily 
when the weather is mild. 



ClIA'IiS ASD H'AliBLEItS. 85 



CITATS AND WATJBLERS. 

A [jTITOUniT thn wlmlo of tlio hinls wo have now to rlpscribc 
arc cln?!so(] by some ornithologisfcs in tlic family SijJvianrv, Mac- 
gillivrav groii])S the Warblers only under that head, and places the 
Chats and tho Wheatear in the Saxicolince, a distinct family, all the 
members of which bear a more or less decided i-esemblance to the 
last mentioned. 

In general form the birds in this group are somewhat alike. Tkwy 
have slender bodies, with rather large and ovate heads; their l)ilis 
are short, straiLflit, slender, and tapering, and tJieir wings of modui-ate 
length, with eighteen quill feathers; their tails, which are composed 
of twelve feathers, are also of moderate length. With the exception 
of the Stonechat, they are all migratory birds, generally departing in 
the month of October They possess the power of emitting sweet 
and agreeable notes, and thus enliven the wild and desolate places in 
which they dwell. 

The Stone and Whin Chats belong to the genus Frutincola, and the 
Wheatear to the Saxicola; their favourite resorts are open commons 
and hc.Tths, where furze bushes, brambles, sloes, or othei- shnibs 
abound; and fhey are fond of perching on heaps of stones or other 
elevations, from whence they make short, but swift, darting flights, 
in ])nrsuit of the winged insects that form their principal food. They 
hop rapidly on the ground, and have a curious jerky motion of the 



8fi THE SiMALLER BRITISE BIRDS. 

tail. Tlieir nests are large, and lined witli wool, hair, or other soft 
materials; and their eggs of various shades of blue. 

The Warblers are distinguished from the Chats by their more 
slender form, and the narrowness of their beaks at the base. The 
Grasshopper Wai-bler, which belongs to the genus Si.bilatrix, frequents 
thickets and patches of furze, and is remarkable for its sharp, chir- 
ping note. The remaining birds make their homes in marshy places 
on the banks of rivers or pools, amid the reeds, sedges, and willows; 
here they cling by means of their long sharp-pointed claws to the 
stems and branches, or make short flights in pursuit of the dragon- 
flies and other insects which are plentiful in such situations. Several 
of them sing by night as well as by day, and their pleasant warble 
mav be heard when most other birds are silent. 



Never tiring, when on high 
Glowing planets deck the sky, 
Or the moon, with silvery ray, 
Chases gathering mists away. 
Still your song rings loud and sweot 
AVhen the night and morning meet. 
Little Warblers of the fen 
Do ye ever rest — and wheu .' 




1. Stonechat. 

5. Savi's Warbler 



CHATS AND WARBLERS. 
2. Whlnchat. 3. Wheatear. 4. Grasshopper Warbler. 

6. Sedge Warbler. 7. Reed Warbler. 



CUATS AND jrAIiJJLA'liS. 87 



THE STONECHAT, 

{Sylvia riibicola.') 

PLATE VI. FIGUEE I. 

The scientific nfime of tliis bird is derived from tlie Latin words 
fujlvia a wood, rubus a bramble, and colo to inhabit. It is a common 
species over the greater part of the European Continent, and has been 
observed in India, Asia Minor, Japan, and Africa. In this country 
it may be said to be a constant resident, the young birds of the previous 
breeding season only leaving us in the autumn to return again at the 
cud of the following Mai'ch, while the adults remain during the winter. 
It has been observed in most parts of the island, but is most common 
iu Norfolk, Suffolk, Dorsetshire, Northumberland, and Yorksbire; in 
the north, west, and south of Ireland, it is constantly to bo met with, 
and has been noticed in Scotland as far north as Sutherlandsliire. 
Macgillivi'ay includes it in his "Birds of the Hebrides," and it is stated 
to occasionally visit the Orkneys. 

Tlio Stonechat frequents open uncultivated spots, such as the sandy 
downs along the coast, dry commons, heaths, moors, and warrens; it 
prefers those parts which most abound with furze, brambles, sloes, 
junipers, and low brushwood; and where the ground is broken and 
rugged, so that there are many crannies and crevices in which it can 
retreat. During very severe weather it removes to more sheltered 
situations, and may sometimes be seen in the neighbourhood of farm- 
houses and cottages; near Bathgate, in Linlithgowshire, it has been 
seen in swampy districts in the depth of winter. It is particularly 
fond of perching on heaps of stones, turf fences, or other elevations, 
from whence it makes short and rapid flights, after the passing 
butterflies, or other insects which form its chief food. Of a very timid 
and wary disposition, this bird wUl dart off and conceal itself on the 
least alarm, but it often betrays its presence to the wanderer over 
the lonely common, by its loud and sharp cry of chat, chat, chat, 
which somewhab resembles the sound produced by striking two stones 



as TEE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

smartly together, and is probably the origin of its name. When 
hovering in the air at a low elevation, or perched upon the topmost 
twig of a bush, this lively and elegant little bird often breaks into 
a short, but sweet and softly-modulated warble; its performance may 
be heard from the beginning of April to the middle of June. It is 
extremely active and restless, rarely remaining in one spot for any 
length of time, but darting from bush to bush in a succession of 
short jerking flights, as if it had a vast amount of business to 
transact in a very short time, or hopping along the ground in an 
equally rapid manner, then pausing for a moment to give a knowing 
look round, or to pick up some larva or worm, and jerking its tail 
in a sudden and spasmodic manner at every bend of its body. 

This bird pairs early in March, and builds towards the end of the 
month. The nest, which is large, with rather a shallow cavity, and 
composed of grasses and fibrous roots, lined with moss, hair, and 
feathers, is generally placed on or near the ground, at the base of 
some bush, in the heather, or occasionally in a hedge adjoining the 
field or common which the bird frequents. It is well concealed and 
difficult to find, its locality being rarely betrayed by the birds. The 
female sits very close, and when off the nest, watches any intruder 
in order to seize an opportunity of dropping amid the furze so 
suddenly that the exact spot at which she disappeared cannot be 
ascertained. During the whole period of incubation the male makes 
himself conspicuous by his frequent outbursts of song, and he may at 
times be heard imitating the notes of other birds. The eggs, from 
five to seven in number, are of a pale greenish or greyish blue 
colour, and of an elongated oval shape; they are hatched in about a 
month. The parents exhibit great anxiety concerning the fledglings 
if any person approaches the nest, uttering their peculiar note in a 
sharp and excited manner, and practising various tricks to entice him 
away. The young birds are abroad by the end of May, or the 
beginning of June, and may be seen in company with the old ones 
for some time after leaving their snug place of birth. Their plumage 
is of a pale greyish brown colour, with a white spot at the end of 
each feather. 

The adult male is from five and a quarter to five and a half inches 
in length, and weighs about five drachms; in his summer dress, the 
head, back, and neck are nearly black, the latter having a white 
stripe on each side. The wings are blackish brown, each feather 
edged with lighter brown, and the hindmost coverts and pen feathers 
white. The breast is rich chesnut, fading into yellowish white below; 
the tail nearly black, the irides nut brown, and the legs, toes, and 



CUATR AND WARULERS. 80 

claws MaoTc. Aftor tlio antnmn inonlfc most of tlio flnrk fontliors aro 
edged with rufous brown, and tho bi-east and belly become of a 
lighter colour than in suinmer. 

Tho adiilfc female is covered on the nppor parts with featlicrs of a 
blackish bro\vn colour, edged with bufl'; tho throat is blackish, and 
the breast yellowish brown tinged with dull rod; the tail feathers 
brown, edged with buff; the white spaces on the wings and neck are 
smaller than those of the male. The legs, toes, and claws are black. 

The bird we have been describing is sometimes called the Stone 
Smith, Stone Chatter, and Blacky-top. Macgillivray names it the 
Black-headed Bushchat, and applies tho title of Stouechat to tho 
Wheatear, 



THE WlilNCHAT, 

(Sylvia ruin- Ira.) 
PI^TE VI. FIGDRE II. 

This bird sometimes goes by the name of the Furze Chat and M'liiu 
Bushchat; as its scientific name indicates, its habits and places of resort 
are similar to those of the Stonecliat, last described. During the 
summer, it is to be met with in suitable localities in Suffolk, Norfolk, 
Hampshire, Somersetshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Yorkshire, 
Durham, and Northumberland, but is rare in the more westerly parts 
of the island. In Ireland it is plentiful, and in Scotland was seen 
by Jlr. Selby as far north as Sutherlandshire; it also visits Wales. 
It has been observed in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, in the latter 
country especially in those parts that are clear of wood; and is common 
over the whole of the south of Europe to the shores of the Mediterra- 
nean. In the temperate parts of Russia it is found as far as the 
Uralian chain, but does not extend to Siberia. 

The Whinchats arrive in the southern parts of England about the 
middle of April, and disperse themselves over the whole island by the 
end of the month. They frequent open commons and moors, like the 
Stonechats, selecting those which are covered with furze, sloes, brambles 
and briars, and are occasionally to bo met with on upland pastures, 

N 



po THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

or on tlie outskirts of woods. Although Gilbert White, in his 
"Natural History of Selborne," says that these birds remain in this 
country during the winter, later authorities agree in stating that they 
depart in autumn for warmer climates, and express their opinion that 
the mistake has arisen from their many points of resemblance to the 
Stonechats, which, as we have said, certainly stay all the year round. 
There seem to be only two authentic instances on record of Whinchats 
having been seen in England during the winter months; the first is 
given by Macgillivray, who received it from his correspondent, the 
Rev. Robert Holdsworth, of Brixham. This gentleman states, "In a 
path near my residence, situated at the entrance of the river Dart, 
I found a Whinchat dead during a very severe frost, January 20th., 
1829." The second is to bo found in Neville Wood's "British Song 
Birds;" he says, — "Mr. H. Barlow, of Cambridge, informs me that 
during the remarkably mild winter of 1833, he observed the Whinchat 
hopping about near some furze bushes on a common in his neigh- 
bourhood. He supposes that these individuals must have wintered in 
Britain, as he observed them each time near the same spot. They 
were bi'isk and lively as at midsummer, and perhaps more so, being 
incited by the cold to activity. They were never heard to sing." It 
is probable that the birds observed in the instances mentioned, re- 
mained here from some unusual and accidental causes, and there seems 
little doubt that the Whinchats depart, almost to a bird, in the 
middle of October, or in very mild autumns at the beginning of 
November. 

The song of the Whinchat, which is most frequently delivered from 
the topmost spray of a hedge or bush, is sweet and lively, but 
somewhat disconnected. Its oi-dinary cry resembles the syllable chack, 
or cJud, uttered in a short and clnrp manner, whence, with the furze 
or whin bush, to which it is so partial, its popular names. 

The nest of this bird, generally placed on the ground among 
shrubs or herbage, is composed of stems and blades of grass, mosses, 
and fibrous roots, and is lined with finer fibres and hair; it measures 
about six inches in external diameter, with a cavity of about two and 
a half, and is usually carefully concealed. The eggs, five or six in 
number, are of a greenish blue colour, sometimes marked with minute 
brownish red dots. 

The male is from five to five and a quarter inches in length, and 
of a pale brown colour on the upper parts of the body, with an oval 
pn.tch of dark brown in the centre of each feather; a white streak 
runs from the beak over the eye to the ear coverts, and another 
from the same point along the side of the neck, the two being 



CEATS AND WARBLEnS. 91 

Beparatod by a bvoiul streak of rlark brown; tlic iridos aro brown; 
the throat and breast a delicate t'awn-colonr, passin,!:^ i"to pale bull' 
beneath. The smaller and foremost wing coverts aro dark brown, 
with light reddish edges, the hindmost wholly or half white. 'J'lio 
quill feathers are dark brown, edged with reddish brown, some of the 
outer ones white at the base. The tail, which is short, is white at 
the base, except the two middle feathers, aud the remainder dark 
brown, edged with paler brown. The legs, toes, and claws arc black. 

The female resembles tlic male, but the white markings on the 
wings are less extensive, the stripes about the eye yellowish \vhite, 
and the colouring altogether paler. The young arc at first mottled 
grey and white, but when fully fledged resemble the female. 

The food of tho Wliincliat consists of flies and other insects, slugs, 
snails, and worms, for which it searches morning and evening, generally 
resting- during tho middle of tho day. 



TTTl'. W HE A TEAR, 

(Sylvia ccnanllie.) 
PLATE VI. — FIGURE Til. 

From its effective colouring, elegant and compact form, and lively 
habits, the Whcatear is one of the most attractive of the sylvan 
birds. It arrives in this country about the middle of March. Mr. 
Couch remarks, that on the coast of Cornwall, "this bird reaches 
our shores so early as to prove that it must have taken flight from 
the French coast long before daylight. Few come after nine o'clock 
in the morning, and none after twelve. They sometimes perch on 
our fishing boats, at two or three leagues from land, in an almost 
exhausted state. They do not cross tho Cliauuel every day; and as 
it usually happens that our own residents are not tho first to arrive, 
it is common for them to abound in tho morning; but in the after- 
noon, and for a day or two after, for not one to bo seen." 

In a few weeks they spread themselves over the whole island, 
selecting stony slopes in the vicinity of pastures, sandy downs along 
the sea coast, and valleys in the more mountainous districts, as their 



92 TIIE SMALLER BRITISR BIRDS. 

places of resort for the summer months. They are nowhere more 
abundant than on the extensive downs of Sussex and Dorset. In 
Wales and Ireland they are plentiful, and are among the commonest 
birds of the Orkney and Shetland Isles, and the outer Hebrides. 
Maegillivray says, "The stony slopes of Arthur^s Seat and Salisbury 
Craigs, in the King's Park, near Edinburgh, are favourite resorts of 
the Wheatears: and there, although they are much disturbed by boys, 
their manners may be satisfactorily studied with little trouble. So 
abundant are they in Hari'is, that the boys regularly search the walls 
every year in the beginning of May for their nests, of which great 
numbers are destroyed, the object of the plunderers being to procure 
their eggs for food." 

These birds are to bo found over the whole continent of Europe, 
but arc most abundant in the warmer parts bordering on the Medi- 
terranean, and in Norway and Sweden. They have been observed in 
Asia Minor, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland, and a specimen was seen 
by Captain James Eoss in Arctic America. 

The adult male is about six inches and a half in length, and weighs 
six and a half drachms; the irides are dark brown; a black line ex- 
tends from the beak to the ear coverts, beneath the eye and on the 
cheeks it expands to a considerable width; a narrow line above this 
is white. The whole upper part of the body is a liglit ashen grey, 
slightly mottled with reddish brown. The chin and throat are a dull 
yellowish white, and the breast yellowish brown; the wing coverts 
and quill feathers are almost black. The tail is white for the two 
thirds nearest the body, and the remainder black, except the two centre 
feathers, which are entirely black. The bill, feet, and claws, are black. 
The female is reddish grey on the back, and generally darker than 
the male; the white of the tail is tinged with red, and the smaller 
wing coverts edged with the same colour. After the first moult the 
male and female both exhibit the reddish grey tint on the back. 

Like the Stone and Whin Chats, these birds are fond of perching 
on slight elevations, from whence they can keep a sharp look-out all 
around them. They are very alert aud wary, and will rarely allow 
any intruder on their haunts to approach very closely, betaking them- 
selves to walls or hedges, along which they fly with great celerity, 
incessantly emitting their cry of chaclc, chack. Their song is short, 
lively, and sweet, and is frequently uttered while they hover at a 
small height in the air. When engaged in searching for food, which 
consists entirely of slugs, worms, suails, and small insects, these birds 
hop along the ground with rapidity, jerking out tho tail, and inclining 
the body in the manner of the other Chats, whenever they stop. 



CHATR AM) WAr.r.LF.nS. 03 

TIio Tiost, wliicli is comincnced at llie end of April or l)c<jimn'iig 
of -May, is constructed iu liolos in walls, hollows in gnivol or chalk 
pits, or deserted rabhit burrows. It is larj^c, with a somewhat shallow 
cavity, and is genprally formed of grass and fibrous roots, and lined 
with moss, hair, and feathers, but the materials vary aecordiiig to the 
locality. The eggs, from four to seven in number, ai'c of an elongated 
form, and of a delicate pale blue colour; they are said to be of a 
most delicious flavour, and are strongly recommended for invalids. 

In the southern part of England Wheatears are captured in immense 
numbers, and sold in the markets for food; their flesh is delicate and 
agreeable. Pennant states that as many as 1840 dozen have been 
taken in one season in the neighbourhood of Eastbourne, and in the 
Linnasan Transactions it is recorded that no less than 84 dozen were 
caught by a shepherd in a single day. The snaring time is from St. 
James' Day, the 25th. of July, to about the third week in September, 
and during this period it is not unusual for a shepherd and his lad 
to manage from six to seven hundred traps. These are simply con- 
structed by placing two tufts on edge, with a small horse-hair noose 
attached to a stick at each end. On the slightest alarm, even the 
shadow of a passing cloud, or a few drops of rain, the birds run 
beneath the turf and become entaue-led in the nooses. 



THE GI^ASSnOPPER W AH BEEP., 

(Sylvia [onnUlhiJ 



PLATK VI. — FIGUIIK IV. 



This elegant bii-d is sometimes called the Grasshopper C'hirper, the 
Cricket Bird, or the Sibilous Brakehopper; its scientilic name; Idciinfella, 
means a small locust, and is applied to it from the resemblance its cry 
bears to the chirp of the grasshopper. In the "Natural History of 
Selborne," Gilbert White says, "Nothing can be more amusing than 
the whisper of this little bird, which seems to be close by though at 
a hundred yards distance; and, when close at your ear, is scarce any 
louder than when a great way off. Had I not been a little acquainted 
with insects, and known that the grasshopper kind is not yet hatched, 



94 THE SMALLER BRITISn BIRDS. 

1 should ba,ve hardly believed but that it had beau a lurnstu whispering 
in the bushes. The country people laugh when you tell them that it 
is tlie note of a bird/' 

On the European Continent this species is found durinij' the summer 
in the central and southern parts, but is nowhere very abundant. It 
is sometimes seen on the banks of rivers in Holland, but is rare in 
that country. It arrives in the south of England about the middle 
of April, and gradually spreads northwards, reaching the district around 
Edinburgh in the early part of May. Within a few miles of London 
this bird has been noticed, and in most of the counties bordering on 
the English Channel, also in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Yorkshire, 
Cumberland, Northumberland, and Durham. Montagu says it is es- 
pecially plentiful on Malmsbury Common, in Wiltshire. In a few 
instances it has been seen in Ayrshire and Galloway, in Scotland, and 
is plentiful in South Wales and Ireland. 

In its habits the Grasshopper Warbler is remarkably shy and 
vigilant, especially during the breeding season, so that in places 
where it is moderately abundant it is not often seen; it rarely ventures 
far from some thielvLt or clump of bushes, and secretes itself on the 
slightest alarm. Yarrell says it will creep along for many yards in 
succession under a hedge, more like a mouse than a bird. Its food 
consists of insects, slugs, and worms; it is supposed that its peculiar 
cry may serve as a decoy to grasshoppers, who mistake it for the call 
of one of their own kind. 

The nest of this bird is cunningly concealed in hedges and thickets, 
and very diffieult to find. Mr. Weir thus relates how he discovered 
one at Wallhouse, near the top of Bathgate Hills. "I was watching 
a pair of Stonechats feeding their young, when I observed a little 
bird, which I had never before seen, rise in the air again and again 
in pui'suit of flies. I immediately ran to the spot to get a nearer 
view of it, and after a good deal of searching at length discovered 
its nest. It was placed in the middle of a clump of very tiiick whins, 
and completely overhung by their prickly branches. So cunningly was 
it concealed, that I was obliged to beat the female out of it several 
times before I could find it out." The nest was rather large, and 
composed of stems and blades of grass, lined with finer portions of 
the same material. It contained six beautiful white eggs, freckled all 
over with carnation spots. 

In form this bird is slender an<l elegant, but its plumage is plainly 
coloured. Tho upper parts of the male are dull olive brown, each feather 
having a dusky spot in the centre. Tlie beak is brown, and tlie irides 
hazel. The wing and tail feathers are dark greyish brown, edged with 



CIFATS AND WARBLEliS. ^h 

rcfldish brown, appearing, in certain lights, to be marked with indistinct 
tninsvorso bands. The chin, tliroat, and breast are pale yellowish brown, 
tho hitter slightty mottled with darker brown. Tlio legs, toes, and 
claws are pale brown. The weight is about tliroo drachras and a 
quarter, and the length a little over five and a half inches. The female 
is a little smaller, but of a similar colour, (wcept that the bi'cast is 
wthout the darker spots. The young are of a yellowish brown, spotted 
above with dusky brown. 



SAVrS WARBLER, 

(■Sylvia luscinoides.J 

I'l.ATE VI.- — FIGURE V. 

A SYLVAN bird resembling the nightingale, is the meaning of tho 
scieiilillc name of this species. It was first observed in Tuscany by 
Professor Savi, who published a description of it in the year 1824, 
but since that time has been found in France and other parts of 
southern Europe, and also in Africa. In England the earliest specimen 
recorded was captured in 1825, in the mai'shes near Norwich, by the 
Rev. James Brown; and others were procured from the fens of Cam- 
bridgeshire by Mr. J. Baker, and presented to the British Museum in 
1840. Although for a long period considered extremely rare, it is now 
known that this Warbler is abundant in the marshy districts of both 
Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire, where it breeds regularly every 
season. 

Of extremely shy and wary habits, this species hides among the 
reeds and bushes on the least alarm, rarely permitting an intruder on 
its resorts to obtain more than a brief glimpse of its form and plumage. 
Its nest is placed on the ground, and formed of the leaves of the 
reed, curiously wound round and interlaced, but is without any other 
lining. The eggs are dull white, speckled with pale red and light 
grey. Its note is peculiar, and has been compared to the whirring 
noise made by a spinning wheel. 

The plumage of the upper parts of the male is reddish brown, the 
tail is of the same colour, faintly barred with darker bands. The 
chin and throat are almost white, and the breast pale reddish brown, 
becoming darker on the under surface of the body. The legs, toes, 
and claws are pale brown. Total length five inches and a half. 



36 THE SMALLER BRITISR BIRBS,. 



THE SEDGE WARBLER, 

{^Sylvia salicaria!) 



PLATE VI. FIGURE TI. 

Tms delicate and lively little bird, wliicli goes by tbe narnes of the 
Sedge Reedling, Sedge Wren, Sedge Bird, and Reed Fauvette, is 
generally to be found during the summer, along the margins of rivers 
and pools which are overgrown with sedges, reeds, or other aquatic 
plants, but it sometimes resorts to hedges or bushes, at some little 
distance from water. Its ordinary note is a somewhat shrill cJicep, 
but its song is lively and modulated, though very varied, and often 
uttered in an excited and hurried manner. It sings almost constantly, 
by night as well as by day, scarcely ever seeming to take rest; Neville 
Wood states that he visited a spot, (where he knew from observation 
but a single pair of these birds dwelt,) at intervals of an hour throughout 
a summer night, and always heard their notes. Nor are these merry 
Warblers effected by the burning heat of mid-day, in their cool and 
shady retreats, for they then pour forth their varied strains with the 
same unflagging energy. Neither rain, storm, nor wind seem to make 
any difference to them. 

The Sedge Warbler arrives in England towards the end of April, 
and remains until the beginning of October; it is however recorded 
that a specimen was seen near High Wycombe, in Buckinghamshire, 
in winter. In Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, York- 
shire, and Northumberland, it occurs plentifully, and has been observed 
in Cornwall, Devonshire, Dorsetshire, and Hampshire. The marshy 
reed-covered sjDots on the banks of the Thames, are also favourite 
resorts of this bird; it is here little disturbed, as the soft and swampy 
nature of the ground protects it from intrusion. It visits Wales and 
the north of Ireland, and is not uncommon in many parts of Scotland. 
In Germany, France, and Italy it is abundant, and also in the numerous 
marshes of Holland. It has been observed in Norway and Sweden, 
and in Russia and Siberia, even as far as the Arctic Circle. 



Cir.lTS AXD U'.tnnLERS. 07 

The food of this bird consists of tlio insects to bo met with in 
swampy districts, which it pursues on tlie wng, and of worms and 
shigs. Its uest is usually placed near tho ground, among reeds, willows, 
or coarse herbage, and is often compo'-"d of stalks of grass and otlicr 
slender plants, and lined with finer grass and hair, but tho material 
varies with the locality; one found by Mr. Weir in a whin bush, was 
formed of moss and straw. It is generally bulky and loosely constructed, 
although neat and shapely. Tho eggs, five or six in nuiuber, are of a 
pale yellowish brown colour, slightly mottled with light brown and 
dull greyj some have been found, however, nearly white, and others 
of a dull yellow; they are hatched towards the end of May or tho 
beginning of June. Tho female sits very close, and will allow a person 
to pass quite near to tho nest without moving. During tho breeding 
season it is a difficult matter to catch a sight of either of the birds, 
as they seek their food among the reeds, and rarely fly high into the 
air, or perch in conspicuous places. "To observe the habits of this 
bird, and to gain a competent knowledge of its way of life," says the 
enthusiastic author of the "British Song Birds," "it is necessary to 
lie down amongst the grass and aquatic plants, as the Sedge Warbler 
is so extremely shy and timid, that the moment you enter within its 
territories it darts down into the midst of the thickest foliage the 
place affords, and is no more seen as long as you remain near the 
spot, though it will favour you wit.h its song, even if you approach 
within two or three yards of the bird. It is true that it may not be 
very pleasant to lie down on one's back for half an hour in the marshy 
places frequented by these birds, and might appear preposterous to a 
common person, yet the ornithologist considers jt no inconvenience, 
and indeed scarce bestows a thought on his situation while engao-ed 

O DO 

in studying the manners of his feathered friends." Few of our readers 
will probably care to run the risk of a severe attack of rheumatism 
by following the directions here given, and we can scarcely blame 
them; a considerable amount of information respecting the habits of 
these and other birds may be gained, however, in a more agreeable 
manner, by means of a good field-glass. Water-rats, weasels, and other 
nocturnal brigands, sometimes make sad havoc in the nests of the 
Sedge Warblers, destroying both the eggs and the young birds, and 
sometimes even attacking the adults, when they have composed them- 
selves for slumber. 

This species resembles the Grasshopper Warbler, both in form and 
habits, but may be distinguished therefrom by a broad yellowish white 
band, which extends from the bill over the eye. The male weighs 
about three drachms, and ia nearly four inches and a half in length; 

o 



98 THE S2IALLER IIRITISII JilRDS. 

the beak is browiij the upper part of the head brownish black, streaked 
with a lighter colour, and the back and wing coverts pale reddish 
brown, with a dark spot in tho centre of each feather. The tail is 
also brown, the chin and throat white, and the breast and lower parts 
dusky white. The irides are brown, and the legs, toes, and claws of 
tlio same colour. The female is slightly larger than the male, and has 
the band over the ej'o less distinct, and the head and upper parts of 
a lighter tint. Tho young when fully fledged resemble the adults, but 
are more tinged with red. 



Where rushes hide the stagnant pool, or fringe the gliding streani, 

And in the sunshine dragon-flies, like winged jewels, gleam; 

Where on the borders of the marsh tho stunted hawthorns grow, 

And thrift, and wild sea-lavender, shed o'er a purple glow; 

Where alders tremulously stand, and osier twigs are seen 

To dance unto tho singing breeze, like fairies clad in green; 

Where drooping willows kiss the wave, and whistling reeds in ranks 

Incline their velvet heads unto the shores and shelving banks; 

AVhere dives the purple water-rat; where leaps the speckled frog; 

And flies and midges gaily sport above the quaking bog; — 

'T is there the blithe Sedge Warbler dwells, and there his nest he builds 

In rushy tuft, or whatso'er the needful shelter yields; 

'Tis there he singeth constantly, a sweet, though scarce-heard song, 

When skies are beautifully blue, and summer days are long. 

And sometimes in the misty morn, and sometimes in the night, 

He chanteth out right merrily, to show his heart is light. 

He glanceth 'twixt the bending reeds, he skimmeth o'er the tide, 

And many a snug retreat is there, his form from foes to hide; 

Come weal, coine woe, his constant mate still sitteth on her nest, 

And food is plentiful, that he may pick and choose the best; 

And for his rising family he hath no anxious cares, 

Like men, that know the world is full of pitfalls and of snares; 

With fears, that truly prophesy, his heart is never stirred; 

Ho is unconscious of all these — oh, happy, happy bird! 



CITATS A.XJJ irAliliLERS. 99 



THE REED WAEBLER, 

{^Sylvia aninditiaaa.) 

PLATE VI. FIGUKK VU. 

Like the otlier Warblers wo have been describing, this bird fre- 
quents swampy districts bordering on lakes and i-ivers, and overgrown 
with aquatic plants, hence its scientific name arundinacea, of or 
appertaining to reeds. It seems to have been first noticed in England 
by the Rev. John Lightfoot, whose account of its appearance and 
habits was read before the Royal Society, and printed in their volume 
of Transactions for the year 1785. Although somewhat locally dis- 
tributed, it has been seen in the counties of Essex, Kent, Sui-rey, 
Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Staff"ordshire, Derbyshire, and Lincolnshire. 
A few specimens have been taken in Devonshire, but it is there 
considered rare. In Ireland it is recorded that one was shot by 
Robert Montgomery, Esq., of the Manor House, Raheny, near Dublin, 
on the 21st. of December, 1843, and another was observed near 
Belfast, but it has never been noticed in Scotland. This bird frequents 
Germany and France, is abundant in the marshes of Holland, and, 
according to Professor Savi, is often met with in Italy from spring 
to October. 

The Reed Warbler, also called the Marsh Reedling and Reed Wren, 
is sometimes mistaken for the Sedge Warbler last described, which 
it resembles in size, habits, and the localities it frequents. It may, 
however, be readily distinguished by its longer bill, the uniform tint 
of the upper parts, and the absence of the light band over its eye. 
Its song, which is varied and pleasing, is often performed at night, 
and has obtained for it the name of the Night Warbler in some 
localities. The note of a bird, in any situation, heard in the stillness 
of the night, when all around is dark and dismal, has a most pleasing 
effect; but to the traveller on the deserted roads and paths that skirt 
the edges of rivers, where the only sound that breaks upon the ear, is 
the rustle of the reeds or the gurgle of the stream, the suddenly 



100 THE SMALLEU BlilTISn BIRDS. 

outburstincf sniip^ of the Reed Warbler has a peciih'ar charm, telling of 
life and happiness, where all else suggests to the mind ideas of gloom, 
decay, and death. 

The nest of tins bird is generally placed in the centre of a group 
of rushes, at the height of about three feet from the surface of the 
waterj the materials of the exterior, blades and stalks of grass, are 
twined and interlaced around the stems of four or five rushes, in such 
a manner as to securely hold the structure in its place; the interior 
cavity is deep, and lined with fine grass, hair, and wool. Here, well 
sheltered and concealed, the young are reared, the wind performing 
the part of nurse as far as rocking the cradle goes. The eggs are 
usually four or five in number, of a greenish white colour, spotted 
and freckled with ash green and light brown. 

Towards the end of autunm these birds may sometimes be seen in 
gardens and about houses, searching for insects, worms, and slugs; 
Sweet states they are particularly fond of house flies, and may readily 
be caught in traps baited with small moths or green caterpillars. 

The adult male is about five inches and a half in length, and 
weighs nearly three drachms. The irides are chesnut brown; the 
upper mandible of a pale brown, and the under yellowish white, and 
brown towards the end. The plumage of the upper parts is of a 
uniform pale reddish brown colour, with a tinge of chesnut; the quill 
feathers are darker brown. The chin and throat are white, and the 
breast and lower parts pale greyish yellow; the legs, toes, and claws 
pale brown, The female is rather smaller than the male, but of a 
similar colour. 



IN CONFINEMENT. 

The Stnncchat should not be introduced into the aviary in an aduh 
state, as it is almost certain to pine, refuse food, and die, but the 
young may often be reared, with care and attention. They must at 
first bo fed on ants' eggs, but as they grow older, bruised hemp seed 
and bread, with very small pieces of lean raw beef or nmtton, mixed 
together into a moist paste, will suit them well. All kinds of insects 
may be given them as often as they can be procured, and eggs boiled 
liard and chopped very fine form a wholesome occasional change. The 
kind oi cagj recommended by Uechstcin for these and other sylvan 



Piste B. 











CHATS AKD WARBLERS. 



I. Stonechat. ?. Whlnehat. 3. Wheatear. 

5. Savi'a Warbler. 6. Sedge Warbler. 



4. Grasshopper Warbler. 
7. Reed Warbler. 



CUATS AND irAIHILKPiS. 101 

birds, has wires in the front and on tlio two sidos, with a closo back, 
uiul !i green baizo top. It should bo eighteen inches long, thirteen 
inches high at the sides, and fifteen inches in tho middle under the 
roof. In such a cage, tho Stonechat will bo likely to thrive, and 
will prove a most interesting and agreeable pet, singing sweetly all 
the year round, both by day and night, and imitating tho notes of 
other birds which may bo placed near it, with great facility. 

Although the Wliinchat may bo kept alive for some tiino in con- 
finement, Bechstein states that "it is always quiet and melancholy; if 
allowed to run about, it only moves to procure food, and resumes its 
place immediately, witli its head sunk upon its breast." This of course 
refers to tho adult, and after such a description, from so great an 
authority, few of our readers will probably care to deprive one of the 
pretty creatures of its liberty; the young birds, however, may be 
sometimes brought up, if treated in tho manner described for the 
Stonechat. 

The Wheatear, altliough rather difBcult to rear, is an attractive 
occupant of an aviary. Sweet says, "it is very amusing to see these 
birds play, flying up and down, and spreading open their wings in a 
curious manner, dancing and singing at the same time." When first 
taken they must be fed plentifully on ants' eggs and meal-worms; 
afterwards tho diet of bruised hemp, &c., already described, may be 
gradually substituted, but they should be often fed on insects, of 
which cockroaches and crickets are their especial favourites. 

Tho Grasshopper Wai-blcr should be taken young, and reared in the 
iiest, which should be placed in a covered basket, nearly filled with 
dry hay or moss. Great attention must be paid to cleanliness, and 
its food, consisting of the paste before recommended, should have a 
few very small gi\ivel stones mixed in it. Of tho treatment of Savi's 
Warbler we are unable to give any certain information, as we have 
never met with a case of one kept in confinement. 

The Sedge Warbler is a most charming pet, it soon becomes very 
tame, and will perform its prettily modulated song nearly all the year 
through. To keep it in health, it should have free access, during the 
warm weather, to a dish or pan of water, as it is particularly fond of 
bathing, and will sometimes perform its ablutions three or four times 
in the course of a day. In the winter it must not be allov.'cd this 
luxury more than once a week, the water should be placed in tho 
cage in the morning, and removed as soon as the bird has made use 
of it. When first caught, flies, caterpillars, and maggots, form its 
best food; these after a few days may be mixed with a small quantitv 
of bruised hemp seed, and finely cut raw lean meat, well luoisteueil 



102 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

together. The Reed Warbler should be treated in a siim'lar Tnannei, 
but is a delicate bird, and does not become easily reconciled to con- 
finement. It must not at first be shut up without companions, but 
should be placed in an aviary with a number of other tame birds; 
if this cannot be done, its cage should be hung near that of some 
other of its species. After a time it becomes very tame and familiar, 
and has an agreeable habit of singing in the morning and evening 
twilight. 



WAllBLHRS. 103 



WARBLERS. 

TTTE havo Tiere another group of Sylvan Birds or Warblers, and a 
specially interesting one, as it contains our unrivalled songster, the 
Nightingale, and another bu-d only second on the list of woodland 
choristers for the perfection of its vocal powers — the Blackcap. How 
marvellous is the gift possessed by these little creatures, of pouring 
forth so powerful and rich a melody from such tiny throats, filling the 
very air of the woods and groves in which they dwell with their sweet 
thrilling music. Could human beings possess an equal amount of 
power in proportion to their size, what singers we should have, the 
inhabitants of a whole town might listen to their voices without even 
leaving their homos. The Nightingale is the only British representative 
of the genus rhUomda ; it is distinguished from the birds of the genus 
Sylvia, to which the Blackcap and the other species in our group belong, 
by its more slender form, and longer wings, legs, and tail. It feeds 
on insects, and is a migratory bird in this and other temperate countries. 
The SylvisB or Warblers are sprightly active bttle birds, fi-equenting 
woods, plantations, hedgerows, gardens, and orchards. Their bills are 
short, straight, and thin, their tails and wings of moderate length, their 
legs rather short, and their feet slender. In plumage they are not 
briUiant or conspicuous, being for the most part of a greyish or reddish 
brown tint on the wings and upper parts; the black head of one, and 
the white throats of two others, are their most prominent features. 



104 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

Tlioir nests arc cup shaped, and generally neatly constructed, nltlinnq'h 
some of tliem are thin and lotisoly woven; they lay from five to seven 
eggs, mostly of a greenish white colour, and rear at least two broods 
in a season. They are all migratory birds, but do not perform their 
journeys in large flocks, the males arrive in this country first, and the 
females several days, or in some cases over a week later. They feed 
on insects, of which they destroy immense numbers, ridding our fruit 
trees and crops of the aphides, caterpillars, and other pests, that would 
inevitably, without their timely aid, I'educe the face of nature to a leaf- 
less and desolate wilderness. They are certainly also great eaters of 
cherries, currants, raspberries, and other fruit, but we must regard their 
depredations as the wages, and remarkably small ones too, for the vast 
amount of valuable work they perform. Wil^h Bishop Mant we heartily 
agree when he says; — 

"Molest them not! the vernal bloom 
If chance the prying bill consume, 
The ill o'erlooked they'll more than buy 
The indulgence with the snail or fly 
Excluded: — if the ripening fruit 
Perchance their curious palate suit, 
To the pleased ear they more than pay 
Its value with the tuneful In^." 



Flute 7. 




WARBLERS. 



I. Nightingale. 2. Blackcap. 3. Orphean Warbler. 4. Garden Warbler. 

5. Whitethroat. 6. Lesser Whitethroat. 



n\tJi BLAHS. 105 



THE NTGTTTTNGALE, 

(Philomela luscinia.J 
PLATE VII. FIGURE I. 

Tuis bird, the undisputed {jriiico of songsters, arrives in England about 
tbc middle or end of April, the males reach our shores first, and the 
females from seven to fourteen days later. It settles in most of the 
southern, midland, and eastern counties, extending as far north as Yoi-k 
and Carlisle, but does not visit the western districts, none being found 
in Cornwall, Wales, or Ireland. But few individuals reach Scotland, 
and although attempts have been made to introduce it into that country 
by Sir John Sinclair, they have proved unsuccessful. 

On the Continent of Europe, the Nightingale is a summer resident 
in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Holland, Sweden, and Denmark, and 
has been found in Russia and Siberia. During the winter it has been 
seen in Egypt, along the banks of the Nile, and also in North Africa 
and Syria. The localities most frequented by this bird are woods, copse?. 
and plantations, it generally prefers those where there is a thick under- 
growth and a moist soil, it is also found among thick hedges ii' 
sheltered situations, and in shady gardens. Some authors have affirmcii 
that it delights in places where there is an echo, but although it may 
sometimes be heard in such spots, it seems hardly probable that they 
havi; been selected by the bird for that reason. 

The song of the Nightingale has been the theme of poets of all ages, 
and prose writers seem to vie with each other in describing its charms 
in the most rapturous and enthusiastic language. Of the latter few have 
written more honestly and fervently than that sincere lover of all ani- 
mated beings, Isaac Walton; he says "But the Nightingale, another of 
my airy creatures, breathes such sweet loud music out of her little 
instrumental throat, that it might make mankind to think that miracles 
are not ceased. He that at midnight, when the very labourer sleeps 
securely, should hear, as I have very often, the clear aii-s, the sweet 
descants, the natural rising and falling, the doubling and redoubling of 

P 



100 THE SMALLER BlUTISa BIRDS. 

hor voice, mio^lit well be lifted above earth, and say, 'Lord, what music 
hast thou provided for the Saints in Heaven, when thou affordest bad 
men snch music on earth!'" Most of the poets describe the Nightingale 
as a luclaucholy and complaining bird, thus Thompson says, — 

"All abandoned to dcsjiair kIio sin>!M 
Her sorrows through the night." 

And Milton, — 

" Most musical most melanclioly bird." 

But Coleridge will not allow our sweet songster to possess this cha- 
racter, he says, — 

" 'Tig the merry Nightingale^ 
That crowds, and hurries, and precipitates. 
With fast, thick warble, his delicious notes, 
As he were fearful that an April night 
Would be too short for him to utter forth 
His love-chaunt, and disburthen his full soul 
Of all its music." 

On this disputed point lot us take the anthnrity of a naturalist, and 
one well acquainted with the notes of most of our British songsters, 
Neville Wood — he gives his opinion thus — "The strains of the Night- 
ingale are loud, rich, mellow, silvery and clear, I know few songs which 
equal it in sprightlincss and vivacity, with the exception however of 
one part, consisting of three or four lengthened notes, which are 
certainly of a pecuharly melancholy character." For ourselves we will 
only say, that the few notes here alluded to are so full of special 
sweetness, that they have certainly impi-essed us more than the re- 
mainder of the song, which in its other parts is somewhat broken, and 
have thus produced a feeling akin to sadness. Much perhaps may be due 
to the hour, and the surrounding circumstances under which we have 
generally listened to his strain, the fast-falling darkness and the still- 
ness of approaching night. If heard in the daytime, as the song of 
this bird may often be, the livelier part would perhaps be more likely 
to impress the listener than the more melancholy. This may perhaps 
account for the difference of opinion we have referred to. Some orni- 
thologists have endeavoured to give an idea of the song of the Nightin- 
gale either by means of syllables or musical notes, the most elaborate 
attempt has been made by Bechstein of which we subjoin a portion for 
the benefit of our roadei'.^"., and can only say, if they are able to form 



WARBLEnS. 107 

any cvinception of its beauty, its fompass, or any otlicr of its 
cliuractcristics thcrofroin, tlu'y must be much cleverer than ourselves. 

"Tinu tinu tinu tinn — Spo tin zqua. 
Zozozozozozozozozozozozo zirrluiding! 
Tsisisi tsisisisisisisisi Zorro zorrc zorrc zorro hi 
Heyeyeycycyeyeyoyeyoj'cycyeycyeyey quarrbozchoi 
Higaigaigaigaigaigaigai gaigaigaigaigai — Ouior ziozio ]ii." 

Nightingales do not sing on their first arrival, but await tlie appear- 
ance of the females, for whose ears their amatory strains are intended. 
As soon as this takes place, their sweet notes may bo heard as early 
as three or four o'clock in the morning, at intervals during the day, 
and often throughout the night, especially if the moon bo shining and 
the air still. There is great rivalry between the males, and they will 
sometimes sing against each other until utterly exhausted. Once mated, 
the Nightingales choose some sheltered spot in a clump of trees or 
bushes for the construction of their nest, and commence building; the 
materials they collect are dried leaves, coarse weeds, and fibrous roots, 
these they place in a somewhat irregular circle of about five and a 
half inches diameter, upon the bare ground. It is so loosely built, and 
shghtly bound together, that it cannot be moved without falling to 
pieces, and resembles a heap of debris blown together by the wind, 
more than the nest of a bird. A lining of hair and fine grass is placed 
in the central cavity, and in it arc deposited from four to six eggs; of 
a uniform dull olive brown colour. The male brings food to the femali; 
while she sits, and sometimes takes her place on the nest. He often 
perches on a neighbouring tree and warbles delightfully to his mate,. 
but in June, when the eggs are hatched, his song ceases entirely, and 
both parents occupy themselves in feeding their offspring with calei-- 
pillars, worms, and the eggs of ants and other insects. The juveniles 
quit the nest very early, and may be seen hopping about on the ground 
or among the branches until they are able to fly. As soon as they are 
old enough to take care of themselves, the parent birds prepare another 
nest, and a second, or even a third brood is reared before the summer 
is over. Should any intruder approach the family residence, the birds 
utter a kind of croak, as a note of warning, or make a peculiar snap- 
ping noise with their beaks, which is supposed to express defiance. 

Were there nothing about the Nightingale more attractive than its 
plumage, it would be among the least noticed of our feathered species, 
for its garb is of the plainest and homeliest description; nor would its 
habits make it in any way conspicuous, as it keeps very close in its 
shady retreats, and conceals itself on the slightest alarm; when it does 



108 TEE SMALLER BItlTISE BIRDS. 

take to the wing, it rarely flies liigh or to any great distance. There 
are many persons who have frequently heard the sweet song of this 
modest and retiring bird, but have never caught more than a momen- 
tary glimpse of its form. Mudie, in his British Birds, states that he 
endeavoui-ed to obtain some insight into the habits of Nightingales by 
personal observation, extending over a period of five years, in a spot 
whei'e they were abundant, but at the end of that time he was about 
as wise as at the beginning. 

The Nightingale is the largest of the British Warblers, the male 
being from six and three quarters to seven inches in length, between 
ten and eleven in the stretch of its wings, and about six drachms in 
weight. The upper mandible is blackish brown, with a tinge of red, 
the lower pale yellowish, and dusky brown at the point. The head, 
back, tail, and wings, are of a uniform rich brown, tinged with chesnut. 
The chin and throat are dull greyish white; the breast, and under 
surface of the body, of the same colour, except that the former is 
slightly tinged with brown. The legs, toes, and claws, are pale grey- 
ish brown. The female is similar in colour, but rather less in size. 
The young have the feathers on the under surface of the body with 
dark margins, and those on the upper surface spotted with buff colour. 



THE BLACKCAP, 

(Sylvia alricapilla.) 
PLATE VII. — FIGURE II. 

The scientific name of this species is derived from the Latin words 
Sylvia a wood, atcr black, and capillus the hair of the head; their 
application is sufliciently plain, as the most prominent feature in the 
appearance of this little gentleman is his black pate. In some parta 
of the country he is called the Mock Nightingale, and in the richness 
and variety of his notes, he is only excelled by our prince of 
songsters, which he somewhat resembles in plumage. His favourite 
position when singing is the topmost branch of a bush or low tree, 
from whence, with distended throat, he pours forth a rich, full, and 
sweet warble, that charms and delights, while it astonishes the hearer, 
by the variety of its melodious trills and cadences. Some authors 



WARBLERS. 109 

have affirmed that ho is a great imitator of tho notes of the Black- 
bird, Tlirush, !iud other of our finest choristers of tho groves, but 
ilacgiilivray docs not agree with them, ho says, — "If you listen 
attentively, you will bo }3ersuaded that the bird is no imitator, but 
that it sends forth in gladness the spontaneous, unpremeditated, and 
unborrowed strains that nature has taught it to emit as the expres- 
sion of its feelings. The song, if divided into fragments, would 
suffice for half a score of ordinary warblers, and is of surprising 
compass, and melodious beyond description. None of the notes seem 
to resemble those of the Blackbird, although they have been so repre- 
sented; nor are they so plaintive as those of tho Thrush. The song 
is decidedly cheerful, but not merry like that of the Lark, and is 
therefore not apt to cherish melancholy, but rather to encourage 
hope, and induce a placid and contented frame of mind, in which 
are combined admiration of the performer, and a kind of affection 
towards it, which renders it almost impossible for you to level your 
death-dealing tube at it." The only points in which the song of the 
Blackcap seems inferior to that of the Nightingale, are its volume, 
and the distinctness of its articulation. This bird sings very constantly, 
and may be heard late at night and very early in the morning, Ijut 
it will cease on the slightest disturbance, and hide itself in the densest 
parts of the thicket or shrubbery, where it will remain until the in- 
truder on its haunts has departed, or will silently withdraw to some 
more secure retreat. When the young are hatched, the song becomes 
broken and less melodious, gradually subsiding into the usual call- 
note, which resembles the syllables talc, tak, frequently and sharply 
uttered. The female sometimes sings, but not so loudly or so sweetly 
as the male. 

This species is most extensively distributed, being found in all the 
temperate countries of Europe. In Germany it is called the Monk, 
from its hood or cap; the French call it Fauvette a fete noir — the 
Fauvette with the black head. In many parts of Africa, and in Persia, 
Java, and Japan it is well known, as also in Madeira and the Azores; 
in the latter islands the female is called Red Hood. It arrives in 
England about the middle of April, and departs in September, but 
a few individuals remain throughout the winter. One was causrht in 
Bedwardine, near Worcester, on the 20th. January, 1813; another near 
Dover, in January, 1847; and a third in Norfolk, in December, 1852; 
others are stated to have been seen in the neighbourhood of Bristol 
during two successive winters. The counties in which it is most 
plentiful aa-e those along the southern coast from Sussex to the Land's 
End, but it has been met with in aU parts of the country. It visits 



110 TIIE SMALLER URlTISn BIRDS. 

Wales and the Nortli of Ireland. In Scotland it has been observed 
throughout the southern parts. It is not uncommon in the valley of 
the Clyde, especially about Hamilton; and occurs in Renfrewshire, 
Ayrshire, Perthshire, and Forfarshire. Mr. T. Edwards has heard 
these birds sing near Banff, at Mayen and Rothicmary, and in the 
grounds of Duff House. They have never been noticed in the Shetland 
Ibles, but a single specimen is recorded to have been shot in Orkney, 
in the summer of 1846. 

'^I'ho fxvourite resorts of the Blackcap are woods, plnntations, thick 
hedges, shrubberies, gardens, and orchards. It builds its nest in the 
fork of a bush, at the height of two or three feet from the ground, 
and is very carefid in selecting a well-sheltered and thoroughly con- 
cealed position, sometimes even abandoning the structure before it is 
completed in two or three instances, in consequence of some real or 
fancied insecurity in the spot chosen. In construction the nest is 
strong and tolerably compact, although slight. Tlie materials of the 
exterior are dry grass and fibrous roots, mixed with a little wool 
or moss; the interior is lined with fino fibrous roots and hair. The 
eggs, four or five in number, are usually of a pale greenish white 
colour, faintly mottled with brown and grey, and spotted and streaked 
with blackish brown. They vary a good deal both in colour and size; 
specimens have been found of a beautiful salmon colour, and others 
pure white, richly blotched with red. The males share with the 
females the duties of the nest, but they have a habit of singing 
loudly when so occupied, and thus sometimes attract the notice of 
the passer by, and cause the discovery of the nest, and the loss of 
the eggs. 

These birds feed lar^^'ely upon insects, but also upon raspberries, 
red currants, cherries, and other fruit. They are also very partial to 
elderberries; Mr. Stevenson, in the "Birds of Norfolk," says, — "I once 
saw a Blackcap partaking of these berries with such amusing voracity 
that he finished a largo bunch in detail before ho noticed my face 
within a few inches of his fruit-stained beak. At that moment his 
combined expression of fright and repletion was one of the most 
comic bird scenes I ever witnessed. A small unfcathered biped, caught 
in the very act of clearing a jam-pot, with his rueful countenance 
besmeared with the sweets, would perhaps form the nearest approach 
to the guilty look of that little glutton." When searching for cater- 
pillars, beetles, and flies, these birds wind about among the branches 
in a most graceful and agile manner, inspecting every likely spot with 
the closest care and attention, and making their way through the 
thickest underwood with wuuderful ease and rapidity. 



WARIir.KRS. Ill 

The male Blackcap is from five and three qnnrtcrs to six inches 
in length, and about eight and three quarters in the stretch of the 
wings J it weighs nearly four drachms and a half. Tlio bill is dark 
horn-colour, paler beneath, the edges yellowish grey; the iridos 
dark hazel; the top of the head above the eyes jet black; the chin, 
neck, and throat ash grey, and the breast of the same colour on the 
upper part, and white tinged with yellowish grey on the lower. The 
back, wings, and tail are greyish brown; the legs and toes lead-colour, 
the latter tinged with green beneath; the claws brown. The female 
resembles the male in size and colour, except that the head is reddish 
brown on the crown, and the other parts of the body more tinged 
with brown. The young, when fully fledged, resemble the adults, but 
the hood is not so conspicuous. They are said to leave the nest 
sooner than most other birds of the same family, and to roost for 
some time afterwards on the branches with the j);u-eut3. 



THE ORPHEAN WAKBLER 

(Sylvia orphea.) 
PLATE VII. FIGHKE 111. 

The "Zoologist" records that a specimen of this bird was shot on 
the 6th. of July, 1818, in a small plantation near Wetherby, in the 
West Riding of Yorkshire, and preserved by Mr. Graham, of York, 
for W. M. E. Milner, the then M.P. for that city. It was a female, 
and appeared to have been sitting the same summer. For some time 
previously it had been noticed in the neighbourhood in company with 
the male. 

In Italy the Orphean Warbler is abundant, especially in Lombardy, 
Piedmont, and Tuscany. Ifc is also common in the southern parts of 
France, and has been noticed in Switzerland and the surroundiugf 
districts. 

The male is a little over six inches in length, it has a strong and 
tiiick bill, of a black colour, the upper mandible is very much grooved, 
and the lower of a yellowish brown at the base; the head and neck 
are dark brown, and the back of the same colour, but rather lighter; 
the chin, throat, and breast are white, the latter having a delicate 
tinge of rose-colour. The wings are nearly black, edged with greyish 



112 THE SMALLER BRITISH RIRDS. 

brown; tlie tail dark reddish brown, slightly tinged with olive, except 
the outer feather on each side, which is white, tinged with brown on 
its inner edge, and the second, which is tipped with white. The 
under tail coverts are pale reddish brown; the legs, toes, and claws 
black. 

The female is about the same size as the male, and similar in 
colour, but without the rose tint on the breast. 

The nest of this bird is built in hedges and low bushes, or in 
holes in rocks and walls; sometimes also in the roofs and under the 
eaves of outhouses and deserted buildings. The eggs, four or five in 
number, are dull white, mottled with yellowish brown, and spotted 
with darker brown, chiefly at the larger end. 

The food of the Orphean Warbler consists of insects and berries. 

The scientific title of this species is derived from the Latin, sylvia 
a wood, and Orpheus, the name of the celebrated musician of antiquity, 
who charmed the birds of the air and the beasts of the field by the 
sound of his lyre. 



THE GARDEN WARBLER, 

(Sylvia horlensis.) 
PLATE VII. FIGURE IV. 

This bird, as both its English and scientific titles indicate, is a 
lover of the cultivated garden and orchard, but it also frequents 
woods, shrubberies, and thick hedgerows. It goes by the several 
names of the Greater Pettychaps, the Garden Fauvette, and Billy 
Whitethroat. The first specimens found in this country were obtained 
in Lancashire by Sir Ashton Lever, who made the species known to 
British ornithologists. It has since been found in the counties of 
Norfolk, Sufl'ulk, Wiltshire, Devonshire, Yorkshire, Durham, and 
Northumberland. In Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire it is abundant, 
and is not uncommonly seen in the market gardens around London. 
In Ireland a few specimens have been found, but it is there ex- 
tremely rare. Throughout Scotland it is frequently met with, especially 
in the wooded parts bordering on lakes and rivers. It does not 
appear to have been noticed in Wales. It is a resident in all the 
temperate and southern parts of Europe throughout the summer 
months. 



WAIHSLERS. ua 

Tlie Garclcn AVavlilcr arrives in tliis country nhonfc tlio nnd of April 
or the beginning of May, but being of plain and inconspicuous plu- 
mage, and of secluded habits, rarely attracts notice even in the places 
where it is most abundant. Gilbert Wliite, keen observer as he was, 
does not appear to have noticed it, although it is very common in 
the neighbourhood in which he resided. It generally warbles from 
the middle of a thick clump of bushes or brakes, not often perching 
in an exposed position like the Blackcap. Its notes arc remarkably 
soft and rich, somewhat resembling the Blackbird's, but they want 
the silvery clearness of the Nightingale's. Mr. Bligh states that he 
has heard it sing with great spirit against the latter bird, as if it 
were determined not to be outdone. Sometimes its strains are con- 
tinued for half an hour without intermission, and it often chooses the 
calm and delightful period of twilight for its sweet warble, singing as 
it were a farewell to departing day. 

The food of this bird consists largely of insects and grubs. Sweff^ 
states that it is especially partial to the caterpillar of the cabbage 
butterfly, and is almost the only bird of its genus that will eat n. 
As a compensation for its services to the gai-dener in ridding the trees 
and plants of insect pests, it helps itself somewliat liberally to the 
strawberries, currants, raspberries, and cherries, not despising the ripe 
pears, plums, and early apples. 

Its nest is built on or near the ground, in a thick hedge, a patch 
of tall rank grass, or a bed of nettles. It is usually constructed of 
goose or other grass, straws or bents, mixed with a small quantity 
of wool or moss, and lined with fine fibrous roots and hair. Some- 
times it is attached to the branches by means of spiders' webs r.Tid the 
cocoons of chrysaUdes. It is loosely woven, and not very carefully 
concealed. Mr. Jesse mentions having found one three times in suc- 
cession in an ivy tree against a wall. Another was taken by Mi. 
Yarrell in a row of peas in a garden. The eggs, four or five in 
number, are of a dull yellowish grey or pale purple brown, spotted 
and streaked, chiefly at the larger end, with light grey and oiive 
brown. Although the young do not generally quit the nest until 
they are nearly full grown, Neville Wood says that on suddenly ap- 
proaching a nest, he has seen the whole brood dart out by common 
consent, and although he has searched for them with the utmost 
diligence, they could not be discovered, as they squat down and lie 
perfectly quiet among the long grass until an intruder leaves the spot. 

The Garden Warbler closely resembles the Blackcap, both in size 
and form. There is scarcely any diflference between the plumage o£ 
the male and female^ except that the latter is of rather a paler colour. 

Q 



Ill THE SMALLER BRITISH hlRhS. 

Tlio bin IS rlnrlc hrown, tlu cjgos and base of tlio lower nianUiLile 
yellow; the legs, toes, and claws, greyish brown. The upper parts of 
the body are of a uniform light greyish brown, with a slight tinge 
of orange. 'Ihe wing coverts and quills are dusky brown slightly 
margined with olive, the under wing coverts of a delicate buff colour. 
The chin and throat, and breast, are brownish white, the upper part 
of the latter tinged with reddish brown, and fading into greyish wniie 
on the under surface of the body. The young, when fledged, resemble 
their parents, but have a somewhat yellower tint. Two broods are 
generally reared in a season. 

Although this bird does not appear to be esteemed in the British 
Isles as a.n article of food, it is captured in large numbers on the 
Continent for the tables of the dainty; this may be owing to the fact 
that in the sunny climes of Italy, Spain, and the South of France, it 
feeds larofcly on the figs, grapes, and other rich fruit that there come 
to perfection, and its tlesh is probably more delicate and delicious va. 
conscquuiice. 



T 11 E \V 11 1 T E '1^ [1 R A T, 

(Svltiia n/icmi.) 
PI.A'l'E VI] . KiaUitK V 

Of the \\^;irblers thnt visit this conntvy, tlie Whito'hroat is the most 
abundant and extensively distributed; it has been seen in almost 
everv county, but is commonest along fclie southern coast, from Kent 
and Sussex to Cornwall. In Yorkshire it is plentiful, but in Durham 
and Northumberland is less numerous. In Scotland it has been ob- 
served in Argyleshire and Suthcrlandshire, and a specimen was shot 
in tJie Orkneys, at Sandy, in May, 1850. It is a regular summer 
visitor to all parts of Ireland. As might be expected from its 
plentiful distribution, this species has a variety of popular names, 
many of them more expi'essive tha.n elegant; here are some of them, 
Wheatie-why, Chnrr, Muft; MuR'et, Why-beard, Peggy Whitethroat, 
Muggy, Eeardy, Blethering-Tam, Whallie, Whiskey, Nettle Creepeiv 
it is also called the White-throated W.arbler, and the Greater White- 
throat. There are few parts of Europe that this bird does not visil; 
ifc is common during the summer in Holland, France, Spain, fta'y. 
Sardinia, and Germany, and has also been observed in Kussia, Siberia, 



WARnLERS. 115 

Norway, SwecIoT), and Donniark. Specimona have been received by 
the Zoological Society from Trcbi/.ond, aiul it has been noticed in 
Smyrna. 

The males arrive in this country about the tliird week in April, 
and resort to the borders of woods, thic-kcts, plantations, and gardens, 
but mov,> particularly to bushes and hedijerows, where tliey await the 
arrival of the females, whicli takes place ten or twelve days later. 
They depart for warmer climates about the end of Se]itember; a 
specimen was shot, however, in 18l;3, at Raheny, near Dublin, as late 
as December. The soug of the Whitothroat is loud, lively, and for 
the most part sweet, but it contains a few somewhat harsh notes; 
it is performed in a sprigiilly and earnest manner, usually from the 
top of a hedge; the bird accompanies it with many curious jerks of 
the wings and tail, at the same (inio erecting his crest and widely 
distending his pretty white throat. He warbles from sunrise to sunset, 
not ceasing even during heavy rain and thunder-storms. Macgillivray 
says, — "If you be walking along a hedge m the early twilight, the 
hltlc creature is sure to come up, announcing its presence by a song, 
and flitting in advance for perlia]is a long way. One morning in 
July, 1835, when approaching Ediuburirh after walking all night from 
Glasgow, I encountered several Whitethroats in this manner, some of 
which accompanied or preceded me several hundred yards, although I 
could not see one of thcni." It has been noticed that at the pairing 
time these birds will mount into the air to a considerable height, in 
a curious kind of circuitous flight, pouring forth their notes at the 
same time in an excited and vehement manner. 

Of extremely aclivu and restless manners, the antics and gestures 
of these elegant little birds are most amusing to watch, as they sport 
merrily in the hedges, and dart from tree to tree with many a jerk 
of the tail and twist of the body, now and then pausing for a monieut 
and glancing around, with a knowing and roguish twinkle of the eye. 
"The peasant boys in East Lothian," says Mr. Hepburn, "think that 
these birds are mocking or laughing at them as they tumble over 
the hedges and bushes in the lane, and they therefoi'e persecute them 
at all times, even more virulently than they do Sparrows. They fre- 
rpicntly enter our gardens in search of food. They delight to mob 
cats, never ceasing their alarm-note till their foe retires." 

The food of the Wliitethroat consists chiefly of insects and larvas, 
for wln'eh it searches the trees and shrubs, or darts into the air. It 
also eats cherries, currants, raspberries, and other fruit. Its nest is 
built among long grass or nettles, and sotnelimcs in low bushes; it i^* 
generally carefully hidden, but has been occasionally found in exposed 



116 THE SMALLER BEITISII BIRDS. 

situations close to public highways or occupied dwelling-houses. Mr. 
Josse discovered one in a vine close to a window. In construction it 
is slight, but it is well woven and compact; the common catch weed, 
so plentiful in waste places, or dried stems of grass, and fibrous 
roots, is usually the material of the exterior, and the lining consists 
of fine grass, and sometimes a little hair. The eggs, four or five in 
number, are of a greenish white colour, spotted and speckled 
with greenish grey and brownish grey. Although the female will 
desert tbe nest for very trivial causes before the eggs are laid, she 
will rarely do so afterwards, especially when the young are hatched; 
if any person approaches its vicinity, she utters a sharp petulant cry, 
and flits witli great rapidity from bush to bush,, with the object of 
attracting him away. Meyer mentions an instance in which one of 
these birds effected its purpose by throwing itself down the side of a 
bank, and then struggling and shuffling along just out of reach, until 
it had led him a considerable distance from its nest, when it flew 
away. The fledglings quit the nest very early, sometimes, if in any 
way disturbed, even before they are able to fly. Three broods are 
not unfrequently reared in a season, the first being fledged about the 
end of May. The plumage of the young is of a uniform reddish 
brown on the upper parts, and greyish white on the under. 

The adult male is of a slender and elegant form, but appears rather 
stouter than it really is from its habit of swelling out its plumage. 
It is a little over five and a half inches in length, and weighs about 
four drachms. The upper mandible is dusky brown, the lower pale 
yellowish browu, darker at the point, and the corners of the moutli 
yellowish green. The irides are hazel; the legs and toes pale brown, 
and the claws dusky brown. The head and neck are brownish grey; 
the back of the same colour, but paler; the tail dusky brown, with 
a nearly white feather on each side. The wings are reddish brown, 
edged with chesnut; the chin and throat silvery white, slightly tinged 
with grey; the breast dull white, tinged with rose-colour on the upper 
part, and greyish below. 

The female is somewhat smaller, of a duller colour, and without the 
rose tint on the breast; tho throat and feathers on the edges of the 
tail are not so white. 



n'^iicuLM-JUfi. 117 



TIJE LESSER WTTITETTTROAT, 

fSjtiiu sylviclla.) 
rr,.\Ti; yii. — figure vi. 

In form and lKil)ils tlio Lesser AVliitcthroat closely resembles tlio 
tpecies last described, but it is a little smaller and slighter. It makes 
its home in all the temperate and sontliern countries of Europe, and is 
one of the commonest hedge birds in Germany. lu these parts, how- 
ever, it is only a summer resident, leaving even the warm and sunny 
climate of Genoa and Italy in September. M. Temminck states that it 
is abundant in many parts of Asia. 

Tliis species which goes by the names of the White-breasted Warbler, 
the Babbling Warbler, and the Babillard, arrives in the south of England 
about the third week in April, and spreads over the eastern and mid- 
land counties, a few individuals only reaching the extreme north. In 
the districts surrounding London it is moderately abundant, and has 
been observed in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Derby- 
.t^hire, Yorkshire, and Durham. It has also been noticed in Hampshire, 
Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, and Somersetshire, but in Cornwall and Wales 
it is very rare. In Scotland it visits Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire, Had- 
dingtonshire, and Ayrshire, and has been mot with near Edinburgh, 
where, however, it is extremely uncommon. It has never been observed 
in Ireland, the Orkney Isles, or the Hebrides. 

The favourite resorts of the Lesser Whitethroat are thick hedges, 
copses, thickets, orchards, and gardens, but especially the latter, where 
it feeds on the cheri-ies, currants, and other fruit, and also the cater- 
pillars and numerous insects which infest such places. These birds have 
been observed in wheat fields, cHnging to the stalks, and pecking the 
insects from the ears; they have sometimes been caught with their 
beaks filled with the black aphides which attack the bean. It is not 
easy to obtain a good view of this Htlle Warbler, as it is of very shy 
and retiring habits. "When you approach its haunts," writes Mr. 
fclepburn, "it conceals itself in the thickest shade, where it utters its 
.ilarni note. One day in July, when lying in wait for Wood Pigeons 
beneath the shade of some hedge-row trees, I observed ouo sporting 



113 TIIE SMALLER BRITTSH lilRDS. 

among tlie liawtliorn twigs. He once sprung into the air, caught an 
insect, and then began to sing in a very low voice, ending in a very ■ 
shrill tremulous cry. The little fellow ceased his song when he observed 
me, and sought the middle of the hedge, where he remained till I left 
my place." blaster Whitethroat is of a very irritable and pugnacious 
disposition, he has been seen to attack and drive away much larger 
birds than himself. In Germany he is called the Little Miller, from 
the resemblance some of his notes bear to the noise of a mill — "Klap, 
klap, klap!" His whole song is not very sweet or varied, it is rather 
low, except the last shake, which is loud and shrill. 

The nest of this bird is very slightly constructed of dry stalks of 
grass with occasionally a little wool or hair intermingled, the lining 
consists of small fibrous roots and hair. It is generally placed in the 
lower part of a hedge, but rarely in a nettle bed, like that of its larger 
namesake. The eggs are laid on or about the 20th. of May, and arc 
hatched in twelve or fourteen days; they number four or five, and are 
oi' a greenish white colour, spotted, chiefly at the larger end, with ash 
grey and light brown. Two and sometimes three broods are reared in 
a season. Bechstein remarks,- — -"the affection of the Babillard for its 
young, like that of all its genus, is so great, that as soon as anyone 
comes near the nest, the sitting bird drops out as if senseless, and 
flutters helplessly upon the ground, uttering an anxious twitter." 

As we have stated, this bird closely resembles the common AV'liite- 
throat in plumage; the principal ditlerenco is in the wings, which have 
less of the red tint about tlicui. The total length of the male is from 
five to live :nid a quarter inches, the i'eniile is a trifle smaller. 



IN CONFINEMENT. 

Ft r- sometimes difficult to obtain a good Nightingale, by which we 
mean of course a bird that will sing well in confinement; any one de- 
siring to make such a purchase is very likely to be imposed on by the 
dealers unless thoroughly well acquainted with the appearance and 
manners of this charming songster. If all our readers were of the 
same opinion with ourselves any information respecting the caging of 
Nightingales, and a great many other birds, would be valueless, but 
as there arc probably some who simci-cly believe that such creatni-os 
may be happy in confinement, if well cared for and attended tn, \vc 
v/ill give the best information on the subject that can be obtained from 



Plftte 7. 












WAR3 L ERS. 

1. Kightiogale. 2. Blackcap. 

3. Orphean Warbler. 4. Garden Warbler. S. Whitelhroat. 

6. Lesaer Whltethroat. 



WAnnLi:ns. no 

Bcchstein, Swoet, and other experienced keepers of fcntliored pets. 
First as to purchase; — mind a Redstart is not palmed off on you as a 
Ni"-htincrale, as this is a trick often practised by dishonest dealers. 
The chief differences between the two birds are these: — The Redstart 
is smaller, and the general colour darker than the Nightingale; its 
tail is of a lighter colour, and longer. The Nightingale has a ]iroudcr 
and more dignified can-iago tlian the Redstart, he Imhls his head 
more erect, and has a peculiar, deliberate manner of hopping, as if 
he were conscious of his importance. "If anything attracts his atten- 
tion, he generally looks at it with only one eye; if he catches sight 
of an insect, he does indeed hop quickly to the spot, yet does not 
seize it greedily like other birds, but stands over it a moment, as if 
ill consideration." It is a difficult matter to distinguish the male 
Nightingale from the female, indeed none but an experienced bird- 
fancier is able to do so. The chief differences are, the legs of the 
latter are shorter, her eyes smaller and less bright, her head rounder, 
and neck shorter. Prom five shillings to seven and sixpence is the 
])rico commonly asked for an adult Nightingale at the bird marts of 
Whitecha]U'l or Seven Dials; it is, however, by no means safe to 
purchase a bird unless it has been heard to sing several times; even 
this is no great security, for these birds when first taken will sing 
fiercely and almost unceasingly till they drop down dead with exhaustion. 
Should any of our readers come into possession of a freshly-caught 
Nightingale, that has not passed through the hands of the dealers, 
they cannot probably do better than follow the practice pursued by 
the Whitechapel bird-catchers, as detailed by William Kidd, of 
Hammersmith, a well-known and enthusiastic lover of song birds, iu 
the "Gardeners' Chronicle." He says, — "Some fresh raw beef is 
scraped, and being divested of all fibrous substance, it is mixed into 
a soft paste, with cold water and hard-boiled yolk of egg. This is 
put into a large bird-pan. In the middle of this food is placed a 
very small inverted litpujr glass, v^ith the stem broken off. Under 
this glass are introduced three or four lively mealworms, whose ofi- 
repeated endeavours to break out of prison attract the attention of 
the Nightingale. Not understanding how these worms are placed 
beyond his reach, he continues to peck at them, until by degrees he 
tastes the beef and egg, which is artfully rubbed over the sides of 
the glass. This being palatable, he satiates his appetite with it, and 
soon feels a zest for it — particularly as his attempts to get at the 
mealworms always prove abortive. He now cats regularly; he is wluit, 
is called 'meated olf.' " If Nightingales are taken young there is little 
chance of rearing them, and even aliujld ihcy survive, tliey are not 



120 TBE &MALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

likely to sing well unless placed under the tuition of adult birds of 
the same species. 

And now, supposing a bird to have been obtained, and to some 
extent reconciled to confinement, our readers will wish to know the 
form of cage best adapted for his dwelling-place, and also the nature 
of the food on which he is most likely to thrive. With regard to the 
first, it should be roomy, with a close back, and a green baize roof; 
the perches should be covered with cloth, or some other soft material, 
as the feet of this bird are very tender. As for its food, the paste 
alluded to may form its regular diet, but it should also have a con- 
stant supjily of ants' eggs or mealworms, especially in the summer. 
Bechstein says no one should keep a Nightingale who cannot command 
a supply of the former; if fresh eggs cannot be obtained, dry ones 
will answer the purpose, and should be mixed with Swedish turnips, 
and bullock's heart, boiled, dried, and grated small. Fresh water must 
be placed in the cage daily, not only for the bird to drink, but also 
for him to bathe in; the floor must, however, never be allowed to 
remain wet, or his feet will be injured. 

The Blackcap thrives much better in confinement than the Nightin- 
gale; it will sing through the greater part of the year, and soon 
becomes very tame and familiar. It should be fed on bruised hemp- 
soed and bread mixed into a paste, but to keep it in perfect health 
it is necessary that berries or fruit of some sort be frequently given 
it. Insects of any kind that can be procured should be placed in 
its cage as often as possible. Although Blackcaps have sometimes 
been kept for twelve or fourteen years in confinement, they do not 
often live nearly so long, generally dying of decline. If any symptoms 
of this malady appear, they should be fed almost entirely on ants' 
eggs and mealworms, and an iron nail should be allowed to remain 
in the vessel from which they drink. 

The Garden Warbler should be treated in the manner described for 
the Blackcap, but it is a delicate bird, and rarely lives in coufincmeut 
for more than three or four years. 

The AVhitothroat will feed on the paste of bruised hemp-seed, bread, 
and raw lean meat, but it requires a frequent supply of insects, and 
keeps in better health during the summer and autumn if occasionally 
indulged with fruit. A constant supply of fine gravel should be kept in 
its cage, and also plenty of fresh water, as it is very fond of bathing. 

The Lesser Whitethroat is worth keeping in confinement, as it 
becomes remarkably tame and attached to the person that feeds it; 
it must have a plentiful supply of ants' eggs and mealworms, as well 
as the paste of hemp-seed, etc., and will then live for several years. 



WAIiJJLEIlS. 121 



WARBLERS. 

(continued.) 

A LTHOUGH (lif liirds in this group vary consitlirably l)otli in furm 
and size, they have certain chai'acteristics in common, and all 
belong the family S'jlviance. The Wood and Willow Warblers, and 
the Chiff Chaff, are placed by Macgillivray in the genus PhijUopneuste, 
and are called Wood Wrens; they are of small size and slender build, 
only differing from tlie Sylvice, to which most of the birds in our last 
group belong, in having more attenuated bills and feet. Their favourite 
resorts are wooded districts, especially those in the neighbourhood of 
water. Here they may be seen actively searching the branches or the 
ground for insects and worms, on which they entirely subsist. They 
are only summer residents in this country, arriving about the middle 
or end of April, and departing in September. Tlieir flight is rapid and 
undulating, but usually short, and they sing sweetly and melodiously. 
The Dartford Warbler, which belongs to the genus McUzojihiluK, is 
not uncommon in some few localities in the south ol^ England, where 
it remains throughout the year. It has a remarkably elongated tail, 
and both in form and habits very much resembles the Whitethroat. 

Next we have the Wren, a charming little creature, common all 
over the country, and universally admired and beloved. It is the only 
British representative of the genus Anorllnira, and is remarkable for 
its round compact little body and turned up tail; its bill is long, 



12-2 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

slender, and tapering, and its wings short. In hedgerows, woods, and 
gardens, Httle Kitty Wren may be seen hopping busily about among 
the branches, or taking short, but swift flights, in her search for 
insects, seeds, and soft fruits. Of her nest, which is built in some 
sheltered spot, such as the recess overhung by a bank, a hole in a 
wall, or a crevice among stones, Wordsworth says: — 

"Among the dwellings framed by birds, 
In field or forest, with nice care, 
Is none that with the little Wren'a 
In snugness may compare. 

So warm, so beautiful withal. 

In perfect fitness for its aim, 
That to the kind by special graca 

Their instinct's surely come." 

In this ologant structure she lay.s four or five pale yellowish brown 
eggs. Her song is sweet, full, and wonderfully loud iu proportion to 
her size. 

The beautiful little creatures known as Gnldcrest and Firecrest arc 
near relatives of the Wren's; they are remarkable for their small size, 
and the brilliant tuft of silky yellow feathers on their heads, which, from 
its resemblance to a golden crown, has given them the scientific title 
of Reguli, or Kinglets. Their bills are short, straight, and slender, 
their wings and tails of moderate length, and their legs and claws 
long. The Goldcrests are the smallest of British birds, but among- 
the most lively and interesting. They are permanent residents in this 
country, and are always found in large flocks. But a few specimens 
of the Fii-ecrest have been met with in England, although it is a 
common bird in some parts of the Continent. Both these species 
inhabit woods and thickets, moving with great agility among the 
branches, in pursuit of the insects on which tiiey entirely subsist. 



Plate ». 




WARBLERS. 

1. Wood Warbler. 2. Willow WarDler. 3. Chiff-ChaflF. 4. Dartford Warbler. 

5. Wren. 6. Goldcrest. 7. Firecrest. 



WAlillLERS, 128 



THE WOOD WAIJBLER, 

(Sylvia sjlvkola.) 

ri.ATK VIII. FIGURE I. 

TriE "Wood "Wai-blcr, somptimes called the Tollow Wai-blcr, or the 
Yellow Wood Wren, is one of the most graceful and elegant of our 
British species. As its scientific name indicates, it is a dweller in 
woods and plantations, although it may occasionally be seen in sheltered 
gardens and shrubberies. It frequents lofty trees, especially oaks and 
beeches, and even in places whore it is most abundant, usually confines 
itself to some spot of limited area — a special corner of a wood, or a 
particular clump of trees. The males arrive in the south of England 
at the end of April, or the beginning of May, and the females a 
week or ten days later. A large number take up their residence in 
the counties along the southern coast, and others find their way into 
Norfolk, Suffolk, Derbyshire, and Durham. Mr. Selby states that they 
arrive in Northumberland just ■ as the oak and elm are bursting into 
leaf. They also visit Wales and Scotland, but have not been observed 
in Ireland. This species is included by M. Nilsson among the summer 
visitors to Sweden, but is rare in the northern parts of Europe 
gcncrallyj it is not uncommon in Germany, Holland, France, and 
Italy, departing from the latter countiy about the end of September, 
and passing the winter, according to S. Savi, in Africa and Asia. 

There is little difficulty in observing the habits of the Wood 
Warbler, as he is by no means shy, and admits of a very near 
approach. He is very lively and restless, hopping nimbly among the 
branches of the oaks and beeches, and gliding about amid the leaves 
with wonderful dexterity, as he searches for his insect food. He often 
attracts attention by his peculiar note, likened by Mr. Blyth to the 
syllables Tw'tl, twit, twit, tit, tit, tit, ti-ti-ti-i-i-i, beginning slow, but gra- 
dually becoming quicker, until it dies away in a kind of thrill." While 
uttering it, the little Warbler may be seen perched on a lofty bough, 
with inflated throat, beak pointed upwards, and the feathers of the head 



124 TBI: SMALLER BRLTISIL BLED8. 

and neck erect; his wings droop and quiver violently, and lie seems 
greatly excited. Sweet says, from this peculiar motion of the wings, 
the little creatui'o was known in the neighbourhood of Bristol, when 
he was a boy, as the "shaking bird of the wood." The notes are sweet 
and pleasing, although without much variety; they have a curious 
hissing trill running through them, that has given this bird, with 
some authors, the scientific name of sihilainx. The song, which is 
sometimes uttered on the wing, is continued through the greater part 
of the summer, and can bo heard at a considerable distance. While 
the bird has a family to attend to, his only note is a simple and 
rather mournful tweet. 

The nest of the Wood Warbler is oval, and domed over, with the 
entrance in the side. It is jolaced on the ground amongst herbage or 
bushes, but usually in some spot where the sunshine can penetrate and 
disjDcl the damp and gloomy atmosphere which would otherwise sur- 
round it. It is constructed of dry grass, leaves, and moss, and lined 
with finer grass and hair, but never with feathers; the absence of the 
latter enables it to be at once distinguished from the nest of either 
the Willow Warbler or the ChifF Chaff, which it otherwise closely 
resembles. The eggs are six, or sometimes seven in number, spotted 
and speckled all over with dark purple, red, and grey, on a white 
ground; the markings are so thick on some sjDCcimens that the ground 
is almost hidden. 

This bird is of great service to man, and its visits should be 
encouraged by the gardener and agriculturist, for while it destroys 
immense numbers of insects and their larvte, it never touches fruit or 
berries. It hunts among the leaves for caterpillars, and darts with a 
rapid and undulating flight in jjursuit of butterflies, and other denizens 
of the air. 

The Wood Warbler is of very elegant form and handsome plumage. 
The wings are long, and the tail slightly forked. The males and 
females differ little either in size or colour; both are from five to five 
and a quarter inches in length, and weigh nearly three drachms. The 
irides are hazel; tlie beak blackish brown, but lighter in colour along 
the edges of the mandibles. The general tint of the head and upper 
parts of the body is yellowish green; a streak of sulphur yellow passes 
from the base of the upper mandible over the oyo; under it, before 
and behind the eye, is a brown line. The chin, throat, and breast 
are delicate sulphur yellow, fading into pure white on the under parts 
of the body. The wings are dusky brown, most of the feathers edged 
with yellowish green; the tail greyish brown, the outer edges of the 
feathers yellow, except the side ones, which are edged v.-ith pale brown 



TTARnLERS. 125 

Tlio logs, toes, and claws, aro greenish brown. Towards tlie end of 
tLe season the yellow edgiugs of the feathers of the wiugs and tail 
disappear, and the white extends higher up the breast. The young, 
when completely fledged, resemble their parents, but aro of a rather 
paler colour; they retain their first plumage until they migrate. 



Tiir: wirj.ow warcleh, 

(Svlvia irochihts.) 
PLATE VIII. PIGDEK II. 

Tnis lively and elegant little Warbler very closely reseinbles the 
species last described, but it is a little smaller, and of a dai-ker and 
more dingy colour; its wings are shorter, its legs of a yellower tint, 
and the streak over the eye narrower and less bright. The differences 
are, however, so slight that Macgillivray says "a person not having 
before him specimens of both, would find some difiiculty in determining 
to which of the two species an individual of either belonged." Its 
scientific name trochiliis signifies a Wren, and it is very commonly 
called the Willow AVren; it is also known as the Yellow Warbler, the 
Hay Bird, and Huck-Muck. 

This bird is one of the earliest of our summer visitors, arriving on 
the soatheru coast towards the end of March or the beginning of April. 
From that time until the end of September it is plentiful in the south- 
ern and eastern counties — Kent, Sussex, Hants, Wilts, Dorset, Essex, 
Suffolk, Norfolk, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Durham, and' Northumberland. 
Although Montagu stated that it did not visit Devonshire or Cornwall 
at the period at which he wrote, of late years it has been observed in 
both these counties, and also in Wales. It is abundant in many parts 
of Ireland, and in Scotland is plentiful about Tongue, Laing, and Loch 
Naver, Loch Assynt, Leith Water, Currie, Slateford, Edinburgh, and 
the Pentland HUls. Several specimens have been seen in the Orkney 
Isles, but it does not appear to visit the Shetland Isles, or the Hebrides. 
It is a regular summer resident in most parts of the continent of 
Europe, from Russia and Norway to Italy. Mr. Strickland has noticed 
it in Persia, and Mr. Gould has received specimens from the western 
portions of India; it is also found in North America. 

This bird is much more abundant than the preceding species, and 



120 THE SMALLER BHITISn BIRDS. 

does not exiiibit the same partiality to lofty treesj its favourite resorts 
are woods, plantations, shrubberies, and hedgerows, but especially places 
on the borders of streams, where the alder, the willow, and the osier 
flourish. It may also be seen on open commons covered with furze 
bushes and brambles, and sometimes visits gardens and orchards. 

The little Willow Warbler is not at all shy or timid, and will allow 
an observer to come within a few yards of him without attempting to 
fly away or to hide himself; indeed he sometimes advances towards the 
intruder on his haunts in a most daring and impudent manner, frisking 
about on the branches, and flitting in and out amid the leaves, as if 
he wished to exhibit his agility, and, as Mr. Morris remarks, "seeming 
to think that his diminutive size or conscious innocence is a guarantee 
for his safe security from molestation or injury.^' This interesting 
little bird may be often seen on the fruit trees, gliding about among 
the branches with wonderful rapidity, but he is only searching for flies, 
aphides, and other insects, and will not partake of the fruit. If any 
other bird intrudes upon his preserves he immediately shows fight, and 
will not rest until his feathered enemy is driven away. Even the 
young have been observed to exhibit the same pugnacious disposition. 

The song of the Willow Warbler is soft, mellow, and very sweet 
and pleasing. Mr. Stevenson says, "On a bright sunny morning in 
the early spring, when the trees are putting forth their freshest green, 
and all is life and animation amongst the feathered throng, it is one of 
the most delightful and cheering sounds of that tuneful season. If we 
walk through any large plantation on the first arrival of these birds, 
the whole place seems alive with their merry notes, and as we trace 
the sound into the topmost branches, nearly every other tree seems to 
have a separate vocalist, whose song, commencing in a high key, runs 
down the scale with the most charming modulations." The bird some- 
times utters this delightful warble when flying from tree to tree, as 
well as when perched on the branches; he may be heard at a distance 
of six hundred yards, or even more. Towards the end of July the 
song begins to decrease in strength; at the close of the season it is 
very low and subdued, and only occasionally uttered. The ordinary 
call-note is a short shrill "cheep." 

Bishop Mant, who was an ardent lover of nature, and an enthusiastic 
admirer of all 'the birds of tlie air,' gives the following charming 
Hues respecting this bird: — 

"Wliei-e the gay sallow's bursting down 
Is gilt with many a golden crown, 
Fain would I now, in rival gold 
His slender loim attired, behold 



WARTiLERS. 127 

Tlio willow-hniiiitiiig Wren, nnd 1i(;;ip 
His plaintive wood-notes, vnrbled clciir 
As on the breath of niorniiijj floats 
The music of liis hymn-like notes." 

riio nest of tlio Will'jw Warhlor is, as wo have statfd, siinllir in 
construction and materials to that of the species last described, exce])L 
that it is lined with feathers; it is very large for the size of the Lird, 
and is usually built on the ground, among tall grass, weeds, or brii.sli- 
wood; one has been met with, however, in the ivy on a wall. The 
eggs, from four to seven in number, are generally of a light pinkish 
white, thickly spotted with pale rusty red, but they vary greatly in colour, 
some have been found very sparingly spotted, and otiiers pure white. 
The female sits very close and exhibits a wonderful attachment to hei' 
nest, not even deserting it after it has been much disturbed or meddled 
with; a curious instance is thus recorded in the "Field Naturalist" by 
a lady. "In tlio spring of 1832, walking through an orchard, I was 
attracted by something on the ground in the form of a largo ball, and 
composed of dried grass. I took it up in my hands, and upon exam- 
ination found it was a domed nest of the Willow AVren. Concerned at 
my precipitation, I put it down again as near the same place as I 
could suppose, but with very little hope that the architect would ever 
claim it again after such an attack. I was, however, agreeably surprised 
to find, next day, that the little occupier was still proceeding with its 
work. The feathers inside were increased, as I could perceive by the 
alteration in colour. In a few days, two eggs were laid, and I thought 
my little prot^gi^ safe from harm, when a flock of ducks, that had strayed 
from the poultry yard, with their usual curiosity, went straight to the 
nest, and with their bills spread it quite open, displaced the eggs, and 
made the nest a complete ruin. I now despaired; but immediately on 
driving the authors of the mischief away, I tried to restore the nest 
to something hke its proper form, and placed the eggs inside. The 
same day I was astonished to find an addition of another egg; and in 
about a week four more. The bird sat, and ultimately bruught out 
seven young ones; but I cannot help supposing it a singular instance 
of attachment and confidence, after being twice so rudely disturbed." 



128 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRBS. 



THE CHTFF CHAFF, 

(Sylvia hippolais.j 
PLATE VIII. FIGUEE III, 

The Cliiff Chaff differs but little in appearance from the two preceding 
speciesj but is a little smaller than either, and seems to stand inter- 
mediate between them and the Reguli or Kinglets, next to be described. 
Prom the other Wood Wrens, it may readily be distinguished by its 
shorter wings, the darker colour of its legs and feet, and the browner 
tints of its plamage. It is, with the exception of the ^Vheatear, the 
first to visit us in spring and the last to depart in autumn, having been 
seen as early as the 12th. of March, and- as late as the middle of 
October. A few individuals have been known to remain in the southern 
counties throughout the winter; Montagu speaks of two that wei'e seen 
in his garden about Christmas, and a specimen was shot near New- 
haven, in January, 1836. It sometimes goes by the names of the Lesser 
Pettychaps, and the Least Willow Wren; Macgillivray calls it the 
Short-winged Wood Wren, and, like the species last described, it is 
known in some localities as the Hay Bird. Although nowhere so 
abundant as the Willow Warbler, this bird is found iu all the southern 
counties, from Sussex to Cornwall; it has also been observed in Essex, 
Norfolk, Westmoreland, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Durham, and North- 
umberland. It visits some parts of Scotland, but in the neighbourhood 
of Edinburgh is stated to be very rare; a specimen was killed in 
Orkney in November, 1850. It has also been observed in Wales and 
Ireland. On the European continent it is common in the countries 
bordering on the Mediterranean, remaining in Italy throughout the 
winter; Mr. Hewitson also found it in Norway. In Asia Minor, Mr. 
Strickland saw some individuals at Smyrna, in the month of November. 

The little ChifF Chaff makes its home iu woods, coppices, hedgerows, 
and gardens, and may often be seen in the reed and osier beds on the 
borders of rivers. Like the Wood Warbler, it is very partial to tall 
oaks, beeches, and firs, running about among the branches with the 
same reckless activity in its search after insects and their larva. It 
constantly emits the peculiar double note from which it derives its 
commoa name. This, however, is said by MacgUlivray to resemble 



WARBLERS. \ jn 

Tiidro closely tlio syllables "chi'rp, clicrp," tlian tlio "chilf, chaff,'" usuiilly 
attributed to it, as it is sharp and slinll. W'luii alarmed its cry is 
quite ditt'erent, and is best represented, according to Mevcr, by the 
word "hoo-id." The song, which is either delivered from the top of a 
lofty tree, or while the little creature is on the wing, is sweet, melo- 
dious, and varied. 

The nest is arched over, and has the aperture near the top; it very 
mnch resembles that of the Willow Warbler, but is not so neatly con- 
structed. The materials vary according to the situation in which it is 
placed — grasses, leaves, fern, and moss, intermingled with the bark of 
the birch tree, wool, the down of flowers, and the shells of chrysalides, 
with feathers or hairs for the interior lining. It is generally placed on 
the ground among brambles, furze, or other bushes, but sometimes 
raised a little among the branches, or in the moss-clad stump of a tree. 
Mr. Henry Doubleday found one at a height of two feet in a dead fern, 
and Mr. Hewitson mentions another which was built in some ivy against 
a wall, at an equal elevation. From five to seven eggs are laid towards 
the middle or end of May, and hatched in about thirteen days, they 
are particularly large at one end, and small and pointed at the other, 
of a white ground colour, and spotted sparingly with blackish red or 
purple brown. Two broods are reared in a season. The young when 
tledged very nearly resemble the adults, but the yellow and green tints 
are a little brighter, and the bill, legs, and feet of a paler brown. 

Sweet says these birds render much service to man in devouring the 
caterpillars of the ditforent species of Tortris, that arc rolled up in the 
unfolding buds of various trees, and would otherwise destroy a great 
part of the fruit. They feed also on aphides, flies, and moths. 

The scientific name, hippolais, means a Hedge Sparrow, and has been 
applied to this bird by British ornithologists, while continental authors 
term it Sylvia rufa. 



THE DARTFORD WARBLER, 

(Sylvia provinciah's.) 



PLATE VIII. FIGURE IV. 



This bird, also called the Provence Furzeling and the Furze Wren, 
is not uncommon on the European continent in Spain, Italy, and the 
south of France. The first specimens found in this country were obtained 



130 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

at Boxloy Heath, near Dartford, in Kent, in tlie year 1773, and it 
thouce derived its English name. Dr. Latham, to whom its discovery 
was communicated, made it known to Pennant, who described it in 
his "British Zoology," published in 1776. Since that time it has been 
frequently met with on furzy commons in Kent, Surrey, Middlesex, 
Devonshire, Sussex, Cornwall, Hampshire, Worcestershire, Leicestershire, 
Staffordshire, and Norfolk. It appears to remain in this country 
throughout the year, as Gould states that he has obtained specimens at 
all seasons, and Rennie has seen it as early as the end of February. 

The Dartford Warbler is about the size of the Chiff Chaff, but it 
is of slenderer build and has a much longer tail. In its habits it 
is very shy and timid, concealing itself in the thickest furze on the 
slightest alarm. Even in those places where it is most abundant it can 
be rarely seen, unless driven from its retreats, as it sometimes is, by the 
dogs engaged in rabbit or fox hunting; it then rises above the bushes 
in a short jerky flight, but soon perches and conceals itself again. 

The song, which was heard by Eennie so early as the end of Feb- 
ruary, is described as weak and shrill, but often repeated; it is uttered 
while the bird is perched on the topmost twig of a bush, or hovering 
above it in the manner of the Whitethroat and Whinchat. It is some- 
times continued for half an hour at a time. The common note resembles 
the syllables 'clia, cha. cha,' or 'tsclia, tscJia, fsrha.' 

The nest, which is of slight and flimsy construction, is usually placed 
in a furze bush, at a height of about two feet from the ground. It 
is built of dry stalks of grass and j^icces of furze, with sometimes a 
small quantity of wool interwoven, and has a thin lining of finer grass. 
The eggs are greenish white, speckled with olive brown and grey; 
towards the larger end the markings run together and form a sort of 
zone. Two broods appear to be reared in each season, the first early 
in May, and the second about the end of July. 

The food of this Warbler consists principally of small insects, which 
it frequently captures on the wing, making swiit darts from the top of 
a hedge or bush, and immediately returning to its station. 

The adult male is a little over five inches in length. The beak is 
neai-ly black, particularly towards the point, the edges of the upper 
mandible, and base of the lower reddish yellow. The head and neck 
are greyish black; the throat and breast chesnut brown, and the under 
surface of the body white. The back is blackish grey or brown tinged 
with olive; the tail, which is wedge-shaped, is also blackish brown, 
the feathers edged with pale brown. The legs and toes are pale reddish 
brown, and the claws darker brown; the irides reddish yellow. The 
female resembles the male, but has the tints lighter, and the throat 



WAJiliLEnfi. 131 

faintlv sfrf'nicpil witli wliito. Tiic yomijj avc siniilar to tlic adults, 
except that the irides are of a paler colour. 



TTTE WREN, 

f Sylvia troglodytes.) 

PLATE Vni. FIOUKE V. 

Fot; \\<^ XicrlitiTifral" our feelings are those of unqualified admiration, 
and, we might almost say, respect, for the marvellous perfection of 
its vocal powers, but for little Jenny Wren we have a strong and 
lively affection, not for any gifts that she possesses above other of 
our feathered friends, but for herself, her familiar habits and merry 
antics; she is essentially a good-tempered, genial little body, visiting 
our gardens and gamboling before our eyes, not darting away and 
concealing herself as soon as we approach, in the manner of most 
birds, but exhibiting an amount of confidence that wins our lie;u-ls, 
and renders it impossible for us to molest or injure her. Even in 
our early childhood she enlisted our sympathies, and with Cock Robin 
shared the first place in our affections of all the heroes or heroines of 
nursery literature. 

"The little woodland dwarf," as Graham appropriately calls this 
universal favourite, is common from one end of England to the other. 
It is likewise known in AVales, Ireland, Scotland, and the Orkney 
and Shetland Isles. On the continent of Europe, it is more abundant 
in the northern than in the southern and central parts, even visiting 
the wild and desolate shores of Iceland and Greenland. It has also 
been seen at Smyrna, and specimens have been received by the 
Zoological Society from Trebizond. It has received the specific title 
of trogJochjtcs from its habit of hiding in caves or holes, in the manner 
of the people of that name mentioned in ancient history. Its favourite 
resorts are lanes and hedgerows, thickets, gardens, and orchards, 
and it may often be met with along stone walls, and among fragments 
of rocks. It remains in this country throughout the year, especially 
frequenting the vicinity of houses, both in town and countrj', during 
the winter months. The song of this interesting little bird may be 
heard at all seasons, even during the coldest weather, when the only 
other songster who braves the frost and snow is " the household bird 
with the red stomacher." Graham says, — 



102 TEE SMALLER BRITI8R BIRDS. 

"Amid the leafless thorn the merry Wren, 
When icicles hang dripping from the rock, 
Pipes her perennial lay; even when the flakes 
Broad on her pinions fall, she lightly flies 
Athwart the shower, and sings upon the wing." 

In the summer, when the woods ring with the many and varied 
strains of other birds, the ]3ipe of the tiny Wren does not attract 
attention, but when nearly all the otlicr sylvan choristers are silent, 
its sweet and lively, although somewhat shrill song, is most welcome. 
The little singer generally utters his music from the upper branches 
of a hedge or bush; he stands with raised head, expanded throat, and 
drooping wings, and hops from his perch as soon as he has finished 
his performance. His voice is of wonderful power in proportion to 
his size. Mr. W. Thompson says, "On the yard wall before my window 
in the couuti-y, a Wren once appeared on the 23rd. of September, 
singing with such extraordinary loudness as immediately to attract 
other birds to the spot. First came a Hedge SjDarrow to buifet it, 
followed by a male and female Chaffinch, also with sinister intent, 
but it maintained its position against them all, and sang away as 
fiercely as ever. A Robin too alighted beside the songster, but, 
unlike the others, did not seek to disturb it. For this strange pro- 
ceeding on the part of the Wren there was no apparent cause. When 
a bird of prey appears, the little Wren often gives the alarm, by 
uttering rapidly its note of fear, shirl-! slireh! so quickly repeated 
that it sounds like a miniature watchman's rattle; this is usually 
accompanied witli a curtseying or dipping motion in the manner of 
tlie Redbreast." 

This bird is extremely lively and restless, it scarcely remains in 
one position for a moment, hopping from one branch to another with 
fluttering wings and elevated tail, or taking little frisking flights at a 
short distance from the surface of the ground. It will allow anyone 
to approach very close without taking alarm, but if it fancies any 
harm is intended, off it darts into the nearest hedge, and its diminutive 
form is soon lost amid the foliage. 

The nest of the Wren, which is built early in spring, varies very 
much both in form and materials. Montagu says, "The materials are 
generally adapted to the place; if built against the side of a hay 
rick, it is composed of hay; if built against the side of a tree 
covered with white moss, it is made of that material, and with green 
moss if against a tree covered with the same, or in a bank. Thus 
instinct directs it for security." Mr. Hewitson mentions one built 
against a clover stacK, and formed entirely of clover; and Mr. Jesse 



WARBLERS. 133 

states in liis "Gli>anin<^s," that lio lins ono in liis possession, bnilt 
amongst some litter thrown into a yard, which so nearly reseinhlcd 
the surrounding objects tliat it was only discovered by the birds 
flying out of it. Tho nest is very lari^o in proportion to the size of 
the bird, generally of a sphcrieal shape, llatteucd on the side next 
tho substance against which it is placed, and having the aperture at 
ono end or in the side. ]5at this form is not always adhered to; ]\Tr. 
Thompson, of Belfixst, mentions one that was not at all dome-shaped. 
It was placed in a hole of a wall inside a house, the only entrance 
being through a broken pane of the window; and another built in a 
bunch of herbs hanging to the beams of an outhouse, which was 
formed entirely of the herbs, twisted and matted together. We might 
quote hundreds of accounts of the curious places chosen by this bird 
in which to construct her nest, and the almost endless variety in 
both form and materials; how one was built in the deserted nest of 
a Thrush, another in tho nowly finished nest of a Martin, and another 
again in an old bonnet fixed up among some peas to frighten away 
birds; but they all go to prove that little Jenny is not at all particular, 
and is ready to build in any corner that presents itself, and to make 
use of the materials that are close at hand. The eggs are usually 
from seven to ten in number, but as many as fourteen have been 
found; they are generally white with crimson spots, but are sometimes 
without spots; the shell is very thin and smooth. During incubation, 
which lasts ten or twelve days, the male feeds the female on the nest. 
Tho young are said to lodge for some time in their place of bii-th 
after being fledged. 

The male is a little over four inches in length, and weighs about 
two drachms and three quarters; the beak is long and slender, the 
upper mandible dark brown, the lower paler, and dark only at the 
point; the irides hazel. The head, neck, and back are reddish brown, 
barred transversely with narrow streaks of dark brown. The chin, 
throat, and breast are greyish buff, the latter brownish at the sides 
and lower parts. Tho wings are reddish brown, barred with darker 
brown, and the quills are barred alternately with dark brown and 
black; the upper wing coverts are spotted with white. The legs, toes, 
and claws are light brown. The female is rather smaller than the 
male, of a redder colour, and has tho transverse bars less distinct. 



134 THE SMALLER BRITISU BLRDS. 



THE G0LDCKE8T, 

{Rtguhis cns/a/us.) 
PLATE VIII. PIGDKE VI. 

The little crcsfed or crowned king is tlie moaning of tlie specific 
name of this, the smallest of our British birds. He has been sometimes 
called the English Humming Bird, a title most appropriate, both on 
account of his tiny and delicate form and exquisite plumage. Although 
plentiful in almost all parts of the British Isles, the Golden-Crested 
Wren, as he is frequently named, often escapes observation in conse- 
quence of his small size; his favourite haunts are fir woods or plantations, 
but he may be also met with among oaks, birches, and other trees. 
He is extremely active, and may be seen hopping and running about 
among the brandies with wonderful rapidity, or clinging by means of 
his long sharp claws in all kinds of queer positions, sometimes even 
hanging head downwards; in fact he is a very acrobat among birds, 
and his performance forms one of the prettiest and most amusing sights 
the rural rambler can behold. Where one of these little creatures is 
seen many others are sure to be found, as they keep in large flocks 
even during the breeding season. Like children tliey would be miserable 
without companions, and they seem to spend their lives in a perpetual 
game of hide and seek amongst the branches, exhibiting just the same 
spirit of fun and merriment that we see in the lively romps of our 
own dear little ones. There is no difficulty in watching the funny 
antics of the tiny Goldcrests, as they are by no means shy or timid, 
and will allow an observer to approach quite close without attempting 
to fly away or hide themselves; even when a shot is fired amongst 
them, those that are uninjured exhibit but little alarm. They appear 
to live together in the most perfect amity, never interfering or quar- 
reling with each other, except at the commencement of the bi-eeding 
season, when, sad to say, terrible battles sometimes take place between 
the males. An account of one of these fights is thus given in the 
pages of "The Naturalist:" — "In the garden of F. Barlow, Esq., of 
Cambridge, in 1849, two Golden-crested Wrens were engaged in direful 
contest; a female sitting on a tree near them. They fell to tlie ground 
fighting, heedless of the gardener standing close to thorn, who placed 



Plate 8. 



^ 



..•■.«■ 






WA RB L ERS. 

1. Wood Warbler. 2. Willow Warbler. 

3. Chief Chaff 4. Dartford Warbler. 5. Wren. 

6. Coldcrest. 7. Firecrest. 



WARliLF.RS. 135 

Ill's liaiitls over tliem, and tof'k tlicm into custody, carried them into 
tlie lionse, and imprisoned tliem under a wire meat-cover. One soon 
diedj when the other perched upon him, pecked him, and endeavoured 
to draw him round liis prison. Shortly after, the conqueror shewed 
signs of exliaustion, was taken out and placed near an open window, 
but died also. The female selected a mate, and built her nest over 
the spot where the Lattlo was fought." 

The GolJi'n-crests frequently associate with birds of other species; 
they have been seen in company with Titmice and Creepers, foraging 
the woods in parties of several dozens, all together, as one family. 

These birds remain with us throughout the year, but their numbers 
are much swelled in winter by the arrival of large flocks from colder 
climates. It seems singular that such diminutive and delicate creatures 
should be able to travel across wide extents of sea during the often 
boisterous weather of autumn, but such is the indisputable fact; many 
doubtless perish, and others reach the shore in an utterly exhausted 
condition. Mr. Selby speaks of an immense floci that arrived on the 
coasts of Northumberland and Durham in October, 1822, after a severe 
north-east gale, and expresses his opinion that they came from the 
pine forests of Norway and Sweden. In further confirmation of this 
curious fact, Mr. Stevenson, in the "Bii-ds of Norfolk," quotes from a 
letter from Capt. Longe, of Great Yarmouth, as follows: — "As I was 
walking to Hemsby, about 7-30 on the moruing of the 2ud. of 
November, 18G2, about half a mUe from Yarmouth on the Caister road, 
my attention was attracted to a small bush overhanging the marsh dyke, 
which borders the pathway, by the continuous twittering of a small 
bird. On looking closely I found the bush, small as it was, litf rally 
covered with Golden-crested Wrens; there was hardly an inch of twig 
that had not a bird on it. I went the next morning to look for them, 
but they were all gone. The wind had been easterly, with much fog." 

The song of the Goldcrest is very sweet and melodious, but so soft 
that it cannot be heard unless the listener is quite close. He generally 
delivers it when perched on a bush or hovering above it, but sometimes 
when on the wing. The ordinary note, which he utters constantly 
when searching for food, is weak and feeble, although rather shrill; 
it resembles the syllables 'tzit, hit,' and 'see,' or 'sree.' 

The Goldcrests begin to jDair as early as the end of February, and 
immediately leave open localities and retire to the interior of the fir, 
larch, or oak woods, where they construct their tiny nests. These they 
generally suspend to the under surface of the branches, by interweaving 
the materials of the exterior — moss, wool, or gi-ass — with the projecting 
twigs; Sdmetimes they are made to rest on the branches immediately 
underneath. Thej are frequently lined with feathers, and altogether 



136 THE SMALLER BlUTISR BIRDS. 

form some of tlie prettiest specimens of bird-architecture to be met 
with. So closely do they assimilate to the branches to which they are 
attached, that they are very difficult to discover. The eggs are smaller 
than those of any other British bird, being not quite half an inch in 
length. They are usually nearly round, and number from four to ten 
or eleven; in colour they are brownish or reddish white, darker at the 
larger end. While the female is sitting she is not easily disturbed, 
permitting an intruder to almost touch her before she takes to flight. 
When the young are hatched she is most active in supplying them with 
food. Colonel Montagu timed one that fed her offspring in a nest 
which had been taken from its original position, and placed in a room. 
She visited them about once in every minute and a half or two minutes, 
or on an average thirty-six times in an hour, and this was continued 
for full sixteen hours in a day. The male would not venture into the 
room, but the female was so tame as to continue her maternal duties 
while the nest was held in the hand. Two broods appear to be reared 
in each season, the first in March, and the second at the end of May 
or the beginning of June. 

The male Goldcrest is a little over three and a half inches in length, 
and weighs from seventy-six to eighty grains. The bill is black, the 
mouth dusky orange, and the irides are hazel. The crest feathers are 
bright yellow, tipped with orange, and bordered on each side of the 
head by a narrow baud of black. The general colour of the upper 
parts is pale yellowish brown, and of the lower light greyish brown. 
The wing coverts are purple brown, bordered with yellowish green, 
and tipped with white; the quills and tail feathers dusky, margined 
with greenish yellow. The legs and feet are brown. The female re- 
sembles the male, but is a little smaller, and not so brightly coloured; 
the crest is lemon yellow. The youug are without the yellow on the 
head, and of a lighter colour than the adults. 



THE FIRECREST, 

(^Regulus ignicapillus.) 
PLATE VIII. FIGURE VII. 

R'(j}tliis, a little king, ignis fire, and capillus the hair of the head, 
are the Latin words from which the scientific name of this bird is 
derived. It is a little larger than the species last described, and "although 
similar in colouriug," says Macgillivray, "is easily distinguished by its 
two additional dusky bands on each side of the head. Its bill is slightly 



WARIiLEltS. 13? 

longer, and somow^iat wider at the base; tlio t\i('b of silky feathers on 
tho head is larger, and the tail a little longer." 

The Rev. Leonard Jenyns first made the Firccrest Imown as a Tintish 
epccies, having obtained a specimen in his garden at Swad'ham Bulbcck, 
near Cambridge, in the month of August, 1832. It was a young bird, 
and had probably been reared in the neighbourhood. Since that time 
others have been observed at Brighton, in Sussex, and one was caught 
on the rigging of a ship five miles off the coast of Norfolk in the early 
part of October, 1836. A specimen was also procured at Yarmouth in 
November, 1813, and another near Durham. Mr. E.II.Rodd, of Penzance, 
states in the "Zoologist" "that this species frequents tliat neighbourhood, 
chiefly at Larrigan Valley, every year about the beginning of December, 
and that one was killed near ^farazion in 1852. In Scotland it is stated 
to have been met with in Suthcrland.shire, but no instances are recorded 
of its having been found in Wales or Ireland. On the Continent 
it has been observed in tho extensive forests of Germany, and in 
Belgium, France, and Switzerland. 

Like the Goldcrests, these little birds are of extremely active and 
restless habits, but they are not nearly so bold, and do not keep in 
such large flocks. They frequent woods and plantations, appearing to 
prefer young firs and brushwood to lofty trees. Temminck, who 
describes this bird as a migratory species in the Belgian provinces, 
says, "I have never heard the song of the Firecrest, but I can readily 
distinguish its call-note among a host of the common Goldcrests; it is 
shorter, not so shrill, and pitched in a different key, that to one well 
versed in the language of birds it is easily discovered." 

Tho nest is said to be built of moss, wool, and grass, and lined 
with fur and feathers; it is suspended from the branch of a fir or 
other tree. A specimen found by M. Vieillot near Rouen contained 
five eggs, but as many as eight or ten are stated to be sometimes 
laid. They are generally of a pale reddish yellow tint, minutely 
speckled with yellowish grey at the larger end, but vary much both 
in colour and size. 



IN CONFINEMENT. 

Sweet recommends the Wood Warbler as a very desirable bird to 
keep in confinement, as it is both elegant in form and plumage, and 
has a ])leasant and singular song. It is best reared if taken when 
young in the nest, which should be placed in a covered basket nearly 

T 



138 THE SMALLER BRITI8R BIRDS. 

filled with moss. The food given at first should bo moist Tiroad and 
hempseed, mixed with small pieces of raw meat. The fledglings 
require to be fed several times a day, and a drop of water should 
be allowed to fall into their mouths occasionally. As they grow older 
a little gravel should be mixed with their food, to strengthen their 
bones and prevent cramp. Their diet should afterwards consist of the 
same paste of bruised hempseed, etc., but should be frequently varied 
with yolk of egg boiled hard and crumbled, and flies, small moths, 
aphides, or any other insects that can be procured. 

The Willow Warbler may be reared by hand in the same manner, 
or it may be taken in an adult state, in which latter case it becomes 
accustomed to the food of the aviary if flies are mixed with it. Ifc 
is, however, a delicate bird, and must be kept very warm during the 
winter. 

The Chifi" Chafl" soon becomes very tame in confinement, and will 
thrive if treated like the previous birds. Mr. Sweet says, "One that 
I caught soon became so familiar that when out in the room, if a 
fly was held towards it, it would fly up and take it out of the hand. 
It was also taught to drink milk out of a tea-spoon, by putting 
some flies into it; if the spoon was held towards it, and it was called 
Sylvia, it would fly up and perch on the finger, or on the handle 
of the sjDoon and drink the milk." The Dartford Warbler should be 
managed exactly the same as the other species. 

The Wren is a difiicult bird to preserve in confinement, Bechstein 
says he has never succeeded in keeping it alive for more than a 
year; he recommends that when first caught it be fed on mealworms, 
flies, and elderberries, by the use of which it may after a time be 
brought to eat the common paste. The Goldcrest is a charming occu- 
pant of an aviary. While he pleases the eye by his small size and 
beautiful plumage, he delights the ear by his sweet and melodious, 
though weak song. The Rev. W. Herbert states that he caught half 
a dozen of these tiny birds at the beginning of winter, and they lived 
extremely well on egg and meat. At roosting time there was always 
an amusing conflict among them for inside places, as being the warmest. 
A severe frost, however, killed all but one in a single night, although 
they were kept in a furnished drawing-room. Bechstein says they may 
be fed upon the common paste, but must never be allowed to touch 
rape or camclLna seed, either of which would immediately kiU them. 



FL YCA TCHERS. 109 



FLYCATCHERS. SWALLOAVS, AND 
BEE-EATEK 

rr^HB Flycatchers, wliich occupy the first place in our present group, 
are the only British representatives of the Myioilwrince, an extensive 
family, of which species are found in all parts of the world. They 
belong to the genus Muscicapa, and, as their name indicates, subsist 
entirely on the flies and other insects so abundant in the summer 
months, during which they are our visitors. These they usually pursue 
on the 'vviug, darting from the top rail of a fence or other elevated 
station, and returning thereto after each capture. They are of sombre 
plumage and slender build, with tails and bills of moderate length, 
and longish wings. When at rest they have a rather dull and languid 
appearance, but their flight is rapid, light, and graceful. Their nests 
are of moderate size, neatly constructed of straws, grass, moss, and 
similar materials, and lined with hair or feathers. 

The Swift is remarkable for tlie conformation of its feet, all the 
toes being pointed forward, and the claws turned inward, in such a 
manner as to adapt them for clinging, while rendering them unsuitable 
for walking on a flat surface. This peculiarity has caused some authors 
to place the bird in a distinct family, but it is usually included in 
the Ilinindince with the Common Swallow and the Martins, which it 
otherwise closely resembles. The members of the Swallow tribe are 
so numerous and widely distributed, that almost everybody is able to 



HO THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

distinguish one species from another, and knows something of their 
habits. Except the Sand Martin, they all take up their abode close 
to our habitations, building their nests and rearing their young almost 
before our eyes. So constantly are they about us, and withal so elegant 
in appearance and lively in their manners, that we seem to look upon 
them as a necessary part of summer, and should miss their presence, 
even as we should miss the flowers from the woods, fields, and 
hedgerows. 

The Bee-eater, a rare visitor to our shores, belongs to the gen as 
Merops, and is somewhat similar in its habits to the Swallow, capturing 
its prey on the wing in the same manner. It is remarkable for its 
elongated bill, small and feeble feet, and brilliant plumage, resembling 
in all these particulars the; Kingfishers, to which family naturalists have 
attached it. 



PiBie ?. 




FLYCATCHERS, SWALLOWS, BEE-EATF. R. 

1. Pied Flycatcher. 2. Spotted Flycatcher. 3. Swift. 4. Swallow. 

5. Martin. 6. Sand Martin. 7. Bee-eater. 



XILE PIED FLYCATCHER. i41 



THE riET) FLYOATCTTEE, 

( Miiscicapa liutuosa . ) 
II,ATF. IX. KICiUKE 1. 

Tnrs species is only a summer rcsi<lont in Britain, amving about the 
middle or end of Aprils and departing in September. In some few 
districts in Westmorland, Cuinbirland, Yorkshire, and Durham it is 
moderately abundant, and has al.so been observed in Lancashire, Dcr- 
bysliire, Worcestershire, and Staffordshire. A few specimens have been 
met with in most of the southern and south-eastern counties, but as 
they have generally been seen in the spring, it seems probable that 
they were individuals on their way to more northern localities; the 
bird, however, is stated to breed at Horsey and Hickling, in Norfolk. 
It does not appear to visit Ireland, and is very rare in Scotland; in 
Wales it has been observed in the county of Denbighshire. 

The Pied Flycatcher resembles the Ecdstart in many of its habits; 
the two species arrive about the same time, associate together, and 
sometimes contend for the same hole to build in. A correspondent of 
the "Magazine of Natural History" states that he once found a dead 
Redstart in a nest of the former bird, and relates that on one occa- 
sion a Redstart having been deprived of her own nest, took possession 
of that belonging to a Pied Flycatcher, hatched the eggs, and brought 
up the young. The nest, which is built about the middle of May, is 
usually placed in a hollow tree, or a hole in a wall at a few feet 
from the ground, but sometimes it has been found on a branch at a 
considerable elevation. It is composed of moss, grass, leaves, straw, 
and bark, and lined with hair and feathers. The eggs, generally five 
or six in number, are pale greenish blue, or occasionally nearly white. 
In a nest found by Mr. T. C. Heysham, of Carlisle, they were sym- 
metrically arranged as follows: — "One lay at the bottom, and the 
remainder were all regularly placed perpendicularly round the side of 
the nest, with the smaller ends resting upon it, the effect of which 
was exceedingly beautiful." The parents take turns on the nest, and 
the young are hatched in about fourteen days. 



142 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

The song of the Pied Flycatcher is short and little varied, but 
decidedly pleasing; it is commonly uttered from the branch of a tree, 
but sometimes when the bird is on the wing. The alarm, which is 
frequently repeated when any intruder approaches the nest, is said to 
resemble the word chuck. 

The food of this bird consists almost entirely of small flies, hence 
both its English and scientific names, the latter being derived from 
the Latin words, inusca a fly, and ca^io to catch or take; luduosa, 
mourning or sorrowful, is added thereto to indicate its peculiarly sad 
and melancholy appearance, as it stands on the branch of a bush or 
tree on the look out for passing insects. 

The adult male is about five inches in length, and weighs a little 
more than three drachms. The bill, feet, and claws are black; the 
irides hazel. The head is black on the crown, and has a patch of 
white on the forehead; the head, nape, and back are black; the chin, 
throat, and breast white, tinged with yellowish brown on the sides. 
The wings are brownish black, some of the feathers edged and 
patched with white; the tail also brownish black, partly edged with 
white. The female is a little smaller, and without the white mark on 
the forehead; the upper parts are rather browner than those of the 
male, and the breast is a duller white. 



THE SPOTTED FLYCATCPIER, 

( Musckapa grisola.) 

PLATE IX. FIGURE II. 

This bird does not arrive in England until the middle or cud of 
May, and is therefore one of the latest of our summer visitors. It is 
common in nearly all parts of the country, but particularly abundant 
in the southern and midland districts. In Wales and Ireland it is 
also plentiful, but in Scotland is rather rare. It is distributed over 
the European Continent as far north as Norway and Sweden, and it 
is also found in southern and western Africa. 

In gardens, orchards, woods, plantations, and shrubberies, this small 
and rather insignificant-looking bird may frequently be seen perched 
on the extreme end of a branch, or the top of a post or rail, with a 
general air of Ustlessness or dejection, but no sooner does an insect 
come within range than he shows he is awake and vigilant, by the 



THE SPOTTED FLTCATCUER. 143 

rapid manner in which he darts into the air and seizes it, generally 
returning to the same position to continue his watch. These birds 
have been accused of helping themselves to raspberries, cherries, aiui 
other fruit, but an examination of the stomachs of these killed in 
orchards and gardens seems to prove that the charge is unfounded, as 
nothing but insects have been found. 

Immediately on their arrival in this country the Spotted Flycatchers 
commence building operations; the female is believed to be the archi- 
tect, while the male simply collects the materials. The nest is placed 
in a variety of situations — a hole in a tree or wall, a rocky ledge, the 
branch of a fruit tree nailed against a wall, or the beam of a shed or 
other outbuilding. Although very small, not more than four and a 
half inches external, and two and a half internal diameter, it is a 
beautiful structure, and has an immense amount of labour bestowed 
npon it: it is composed of various materials, twigs, grass, moss, 
catkins, straws, and fibrous roots, and is lined with hair, wool, down, 
and feathers, especially those of domestic birds. Yarrell says, "long 
stems of grass or long horse hairs are interwoven by the bird, fixing 
in one end, and then traversing the edge of the nest, laying in the 
remainder as she makes circle after circle. A female has been seen 
going backward round the upper edge of the nest, arranging the ma- 
terials which formed the inner lining." In selecting a position for the 
birth-place of their family, these birds exhibit but little regard to the 
close vicinity of mankind, and are not easily disturbed or driven fi-om 
the spot once chosen. A pair built in the hinge of an outhouse door, 
where people were continually passing and re-passing; another in the 
angle of a lamp-post in Leeds; and another in the crown of a lamp 
near Portland Square, in London. More curious still, it is related 
that at Cuckfield Place, in Sussex, a pair of these birds constructed 
their nest on the top of a garden hoe hanging on a rail against a 
wall, beneath a small shelf. Four eggs were laid, upon which the 
female sat, and notwithstanding she was constantly visited during the 
time of incubation, in due time the young were hatched. Whenever 
the hoe was required for use, the nest was taken off and placed on 
the shelf or the ground, but this did not appear to alarm the old 
birds, who continued feeding the young and attending to their domestic 
duties as if nothing had happened; as soon as it was replaced in its 
original position they would express their gratification by flying round 
and chirruping forth their joy; thus bringing up their progeny until 
they were able to leave the nest and provide for themselves. The 
eggs of thi? bird, four or five in number, are greenish or greyish 
white, clouded and spotted with pale reddish brown and purplish grey. 



141 THE SMALLER BRITISE RIRDS. 

the markings are thickest at the larger end. When the young are 
hatched they are fed with wonderful frequency by the parents; Mr. 
D. Weir, who went to the trouble of watching a nest during a whole 
day, states that he saw the old birds bring food to them no less than 
five hundred and thirty-seven times. After they have quitted the nest 
they are still fed by their parents, and may sometimes be seen perched 
in a row on a branch or fence, while the old ones procure thorn flies. 
These birds are remarkable for their habit of returning to the same 
spot year after year; a pair have been known to build their nest in 
an old wall no less than eight years in succession. 

The Spotted Flycatcher is not a gifted songster, indeed in this 
respect he is not to be compared with his pied relation last described, 
as his only note is a weak and rather mournful kind of_ chirp. 

In plumage this bird is extremely plain and unattractive. The 
adult male, which is a little over five and a half inches in length, 
has the bill dark brown; the irides hazel; the legs, toes, and claws 
black. The head is bi-own, with a few darker spots on the crown; 
the whole upper surface of the body, and the wing coverts, of the 
same colour, except that the quill and tail feathers are a little darker. 
The under parts are dull white, with the throat and breast spotted 
and streaked with brown. The female is a little smaller, but other- 
wise can scarcely be distinguished from the male. The young, when 
fully fledged, have each brown feather tipped with buS", so that they 
present a very spotted appearance. 

To the wide distribution of this species, its abundance, and familiar 
habits, may be attributed the large number of popular names which 
have been given it — Beam Bird, Cobweb Bird, Bee Bird, Cherry 
Chopper, Post Bird, Cherry Sucker, Chanchider, and Eafter. 



THE SWIFT, 

{^Hinmdo apus.') 
PLATE IX. — FIGUEE III. 

This species is common in all parts of the British Isles during the 
summer months; it is believed to migrate hither from the continent 
of Africa, where it is very abundant. It generally arrives early in 
May, a little after the Common Swallow and the Martin, and departs 



TEE SWIFT. 14.=, 

about tlio beginning or middle of August: a few spccimons, however, 
have bceu known to stay much later; one was seen in Pertlisliiro on 
the 8th. of November, 1831-, and another in Devonshire on the 27th. 
of November, 1835, while there are numerous records of individuals 
having been observed in the months of September and October. 

The favourite resorts of the Swift are lofty towers and steeples, 
fortresses, castles, and abrupt rocks; it is rarely to be seen on the 
level ground, probably because the shortness of its legs, and the 
length of its wings, render it unable to mount into the air without 
great difficulty from such a positioTi. Its curious flight i.s familiar to 
all; starting from some elevation, it darts with lightning-like speed 
into space, alternately flapping its long narrow wings, and gliding or 
sailing with those organs expanded and apparently motionless. It exe- 
cutes the most rapid turns with wonderful ease and grace, and continues 
its flight for long periods without apparent fatigue. As the main 
object of its evolutions is the capture of insects, which form its sole 
food, it usually flies at a considerable height in fine dry weather, and 
near the surface of the ground when the atmosphere is damp, thus 
accommod.ating itself to the level at which its prey is most abundant. 
Heavy rains, or even thunder-storms, do not prevent the Swift from 
continuing its pursuit, and it only seems to desist during very high 
winds and the hours of darkness, when it takes refuge in some crevice 
of a wall, or under the eaves of a house. The number of insects it 
consumes must be enormous; Bishop Stanley states that a whole 
table spoonful were extracted from the mouth of one that had been 
shot. 

Swifts may usually be seen in small parties of from six to twenty; 
as they fly they frequently utter a harsh and shrill kind of scream, 
which is supposed to be an expression of enjoyment, and an intima- 
tion to their fellows of the plentiful existence of food. "Who is there," 
says Mr. Stevenson, "with an ear for nature's sounds, that cannot 
recall some quiet Sunday evening in the parish church, when, through 
the open doors and windows, scarce a breath of air is felt — when 
human frailty, too much for even the best intentions, is yielding by 
degrees to an irresistible drowsiness, and the worthy minister is soothing 
rather than rousing those slumbering listeners? Suddenly, with a 
screech that makes one jump again, the Swifts come dashing past 
the upper windows, no sooner heard than gone, and circling round 
the steeple in their evening flight, repeat with every passing swoop 
their strange alarm." 

The literal meaning of the specific name of this bird is "the Swallow 
without feet," but it must not be supposed that it is entirely destitute 

o 



146 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS 

of" tliese appcuclages. They are, however, fashionocl in a very peculiar 
manner, and are better suited for clinging or hanging than for walking; 
instead of one of the toes being directed backwards, as is the casft 
with most birds, they all point forward, and have the claws turned 
up beneath. It might be supposed that the feet, being thus cramped 
and unfitted for terrestrial locomotion, would cause the Swift much 
inconvenience, especially when it has to collect materials for its nest; 
but when so engaged it continues on the wing, adroitly picking up 
any substance it may require with its beak as it passes. The nest is 
generally placed in holes and crevices at a great height in towers 
and steeples, as also under the eaves of houses and barns, and in 
the sides of cliffs and chalk-pits. It is large, shallow, and roughly 
constructed of twigs, straws, grass, hair, and feathers. The Swift builds 
in the same spot year after year. The eggs are usually two, but 
sometimes three in number; they are pure white, and avei-age about 
an inch in length. Only one brood is reared in the season, the 
young being hatched towards the end of June, so that by the time 
they are well able to fly the period of their migration has arrived. 

This bird also goes by the names of the Black Martin, Screecli, 
Screech Martin, Screamer, Cran, and Squealer; in some parts of the 
country it is known as the Deviling, a term probably suggested by 
its sooty plumage and unearthly cry. Of the Swallow tribe that visit 
this country the Swift is the largest, being about seven inches in 
length, and nearly eighteen inches across the expanded wings. Its 
weight seems disproportionate to its size, not exceeding one ounce. 
The whole plumage is blackish brown, with a greenish metallic tinge, 
with the exception of a small patch of greyish white under the chin. 



THE SWALLOW, 

{Hirtmdo riislica.) 
PLATE IX.— FIGUEE IV. 

Theee is no bird, with the appearance and habits of which we are 
better acquainted than the Common Swallow. We hail his arrival 
with delight, for he is the announcer of approaching summer, and we 
observe his preparations for departure with sadness, knowing that when 
he is gone, all the brightness and beauty of the year will shortly 
vanish also, for gloomy cheerless winter is at hand. But apart from 



THE SWALLOW. \.\1 

tlio interest wo talio in tliis hird as a sort of index of the seasons, 
he is so constantly about our homes, and so beautiful and harmless, 
tliat we look upon him as a familiar friend, and love to sec hiin 
darting swiftly past our windows, or perching on our roofs. 

Tlie Swallow sometimes makes its appearance in the south of 
England as early as the beginning of Api-il, but generally about the 
middle of that month. It does not commence building until three or 
four weeks after its arrival. The situations selected for its ne.st arc 
sheltered spots beneath eaves or projecting roofs of any kind, beams 
or rafters of outhouses, the under sides of spouts and bridge arches, 
or the interiors of boll turrets. It has also been known to build in 
the sides of wells and the shafts of deserted coal-pits. In the "Natural 
History of Selborne," Gilbert Wliite says, "In general with us this 
Hirundo breeds in chimneys, and loves to haunt those stacks where 
there is a constant fire, no doubt for the sake of warmth. Not that 
it can subsist in the immediate shaft where there is a fire, but prefers 
one adjoining to that of the kitchen, and disregards the perpetual 
smoke of that funnel, as I have often observed with some degree of 
wonder.'' It is a curious fact that in Ireland Mr. Thompson states 
tiiat he has never known this bird to build in chimneys. Ornithological 
literature teems with records of the extraordinary positions in which 
Swallows' nests have been found. One was placed in the knocker of 
a door, another under the wooden cover of a large bell that was 
rung every day, and another in the half-open drawer of a table in an 
nnoccujDied garret, to which access was only obtainable through a 
broken pane of glass. In the museum of Sir Ashton Lever one was 
preserved which was attached to the body of a dead owl that had 
been nailed against a barn. The nest, which is broad and cup-shaped, 
is composed of earth or clay, collected in a moist state from the 
sides of ponds or streams, and intermingled with straw or grass; it is 
lined with fine grass, feathers, or other soft materials. The eggs, from 
four to six in number, are white or reddish white, speckled, chiefly at 
the larger end, with dark red and ash-colour; they vary considerably 
in size and form. Two broods are produced in the season, the first 
of which flies in June, and the second about the middle or end of 
August. While tho young are in the nest, it is stated that the old 
birds supply them with insects about once in every three minutes 
during the greater part of the day. After they are fledged their food 
is dexterously placed in their mouths as they follow their parents on 
tlie wing. 

Like the Swifts, and for the same reason, these birds fly high in 
fine dry weather, and near the ground when the air is damp. As 



148 THE SMALLER BRLTLSE BIRDS. 

they wheel about in parties of a dozen or movOj they frequently utter 
a short sharp cry, consisting of two high notes. Often when perched 
on the roof, just after daybreak, the Swallows may be heard engaged 
in a sort of lively twittering conversation, their soft voices strike the 
ear agreeably, and seem well in harmony with the brightness and 
chcorfulness of the early summer morniiig. 

Although the general appearance of the Swallow is familiar to all, 
it requires a close inspection to become acquainted with the minutiae 
of its plumage. The head, back, and wings are brownish black, with 
a steely blue reflection which is only seen in certain lights. The tail 
is of the same colour, with some of the outer edges of the feathers 
patched with white. The forehead, chin, and throat are chesnut; the 
breast and under parts of the body bully white. The irides are hazel; 
the beak, wings, and feet black. 

It was supposed at one time that the Swallows passed the winter 
in this country, concealed in caves and hollow trees, in a state of 
torpor or sleep; but this is now known to be a mistake, and has 
doubtless arisen from some few individuals, that from weakness or 
some other cause had been unable to undertake the journey, having 
been found in this condition. Towards the end of October these birds 
may be observed collecting in large flocks on the fences, roofs, and 
chimneys; they plume their wings, and twitter to each other as if 
talking of the long journey that is before them. After this they rise 
into the air, and wheel around in rapid circles, gradually mounting 
higher and higher, until at last they take a decided southerly direction, 
and disappear in the distance. Thus to the Swallow, in the words of 
Sir Humphrey Davy, "winter is unknown, and he leaves the green 
meadows of England foi- the myrtle and orange groves of Italy, and 
for the palms of Africa." How he finds his way over so many miles 
of sea and land to these distant countries, and by what means he is 
enabled to know when the time for his departure has arrived, must 
remain among the many unfathomable mysteries of instinct. 



THE MARTIN, 

( Ilinindo urhica.) 
PLATE IX. — FIGURE V. 

The ]\Iartin generally makes its appearance in this country a few 
days later than the Swallow, about the 18th. of April being the average 



THE MARTIN. 140 

timo of if-s arrival. Tlu^ two bii-ds nrc bolicvorl to commpnco tlieir 
niigration from tlio continent of Africa, where tkoy spen<l \\w winter, 
in company, but the smaller wins; of tlie former, and its consequently 
diminished powers of flight, cause it to fixll behind on the journey. 
It remains with us until the middle or end of October, taking up its 
abode in the vicinity of towns, villages, and farm buildings. It is 
especially fond of building under the eaves of houses, and in the upper 
corners of windows, hence its names of House Martin and Window 
Martin. 

The nest, which is commenced about the middle of May, is composed 
of mud or clay, intermingled with straws and stems of grass to bind 
it together. The birds collect the material from the edges of pools 
and streams, or the rain-puddles in roads, and carry it in their bills, 
plastering it against the wall selected, and gradually placing layer upon 
layer from the bottom upwards. When completed the nest is of an 
liemispheric form, from six to eight inches in diameter, and has an 
extei-nally knobbed or rugged appearance, from the projection of parts 
of the separate pellets of which it is formiMl. The? interior is Uned 
with a small quantity of grass, hair, and feathers. When once a nest 
is constructed the birds return year after year to the same spot, re- 
building or repairing it as necessary, and will drive away any stranger 
that gets possession of it. Bishop Stanley relates that a certain pair, 
one of which was remarkable for a peculiar white feather in its wing, 
having returned to their old corner of the previous year, and com- 
pleted their abode, "a strange Swallow conceived the plan of taking- 
possession of the property, and once or twice actually succeeded in 
driving the owners out. For a week there was a constant battling; 
at length the two rightful owners were observed to be very busily 
engaged in lessening the entrance into the nest, which in a short 
time was so reduced, that it was with difficulty they could force 
themselves into it singly. After this, one or other of them always 
remained within, with his bill sticking out, ready to receive any sudden 
attack. The enemy persevered for a week, but at length, finding his 
prospects hopeless, left the pair to enjoy the fruits of their forethought." 
On another occasion, it is recorded in the pages of the "Naturalist," 
that an impudent Sparrow ensconced himself in a Martin's nest, and 
its owners having tried in vain to eject him, flew away and obtained 
the assistance of thirty or forty of their species, who dragged the 
unfortunate culprit out, and with one accord fell upon him and killed 
him. 

The eggs, four or five in number, are about three quarters of an 
inch in length, smooth, white, and unspotted; they are hatched in 



150 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

about thirteen days. Usually two, but sometimes as many as four 
broods are reared in a season. It is most amusing to watch the en- 
deavours of the parents to tempt the young from the nest; they spring 
into the air, and dart around for a few moments, apparently with the 
object of proving to their timid oflFspring what a simple matter flight 
is, and then retui-n with many an affectionate and coaxing twitter, re- 
peating this persuasive treatment until their efforts are successful, and 
the little troop make their first nervous and uncertain venture into 
space; or, should kindness and coaxing fail, they will sometimes adopt 
severer measures, and gently push or drag the waiverers over the 
edge of the nest. 

The habits of the Martin are very similar to those of the Swallow; 
its note is a lively twitter, very sweet and pleasing, especially when 
heard in the early morning. 

The adult male is a little over five inches and a quarter in length. 
The beak is short and black; the irides brown; the head, hind part 
of the neck, and back are glossy bluish black; the tail coverts white, 
and the tail and wings dull black. The chin, throat, and breast are 
white; the legs and toes covered with short downy white feathers, 
and the claws greyish horn-colour. The female resembles the male, 
but the colour of the upper parts is not so pure, and the chin and 
throat are of a soiled or greyish white. The young resemble the 
female. 



THE SAND MARTIN, 

{HiiunJo /ipan'a.) 
PLATE IX. PIGDEE VI. 

- Like the other members of the Swallow tribe, the Sand Martin 
makes its way to our shores from the continent of Africa, over the 
larger portion of which it is abundant. It arrives a little earlier than 
the previous species, and although somewhat locally distributed, is to 
be met with in all parts of the British Isles, even to the extreme 
north. The situations it frequents are the steep banks of rivers, sand 
or loam -pits, and clifTs or quarries where the soil is soft and yielding; 
hence its specific title, Hirundo riparia, meaning the Bank Swallow. 
Tn Euch localities extensive colonies establish themselves, the members 
of which excavate tunnels or galleries of from two to four feet in 



TTTE BEE-EATER. 151 

length, at tho end of wliicli tboy place tlicir nests. The binls perform 
this work by means of their short and pointed bills, using them after 
the manner of a pickaxe, while they cling with their sharp claws to 
the face of the bank. As the cavity deepens they force their bodies 
into it, and push the iehns out with their feet. When they have 
tunneled a sufficient distance, they deposit at the inner end a little 
hay or wool, or a few small feathers, upon which from four to six 
white eggs are laid. Two broods are hatched in the season, the first 
being able to fly by the middlo of June, and the second towards the 
end of July. 

Like the rest of their genus, these birds feed exclusively upon insects, 
which they capture on the wing. 

The males and females differ little either in size or plumage. The 
length is about five inches. The bill is black; the irides brown; the 
legs, toes, and claws reddish brown. The general colour of the upper 
parts is greyish brown; of the breast and lower parts brownish white. 



THE BEE-EATER, 

(Merops apiaster.) 

PLATE IX. FIGURE vn. 

The Bee-eater, sometimes called the Gnat-snapper, is but a rare 
visitor to the British Isles, although abundant in some parts of the 
continent of Europe. In Africa it is said to be extensively distributed, 
and from thence small flocks find their way into Spain, Portugal, 
Greece, and other countries bordering on the Mediterranean. In Italy 
it is sold in the markets for food. A few individuals have also been 
met with in Switzerland, France, and Germany, and two were killed 
in Sweden in 1810. The first specimen obtained in this country, was 
shot out of a flock of about twenty, at Mattishall, in Norfolk, in June, 
1794, and a portion of the same flock was observed passing over the 
same spot in the following October. Since that time others have been 
obtained in Yorkshire, Sui-rey, Kent, Sussex, Dorsetshire, and Hamp- 
shire. 

In Ireland, one was taken on the sea shore near Wexford, in the 
winter of 1820, another in the county of Wicklow, and two others 
occurred in the interior. In Scotland, one was shot in the Mull of 
Galloway, in October, 1832 



152 THE SMALLER BRITISLL BLRDS. 

The resorts of this bird on the continent are the banks of rivors, 
vineyards, olive-yards, and sheltered valleys. It is entirely insectivorous, 
capturing its food princii^ally on the wing in the manner of the 
Swallow. Although, as may be inferred from its name, it is especially 
pa,rtial to bees, it also eats beetles, grasshoppers, gnats, flies, or 
indeed any insect that comes in its way. In the island of Crete, the 
boys have a simple method of capturing the Bee-eater, by means of 
a fly fastened to a bent pin or fish-hook, and tied to a long slender 
line. The insect, when released from the hand, mounts into the air, 
and the Merops, ever on the watch, springs at it, and swallowing the 
bait, is drawn down and taken. 

The nest is placed in a hole scooped out in a clayey bank, generally 
by the side of a river. It is formed of moss, and contains from live 
to seven glossy white eggs of about an inch in length. 

The note of this bird, which is usually uttered on the wing, is des- 
cribed as a "rich warbling chirp." Meyer likens it to the syllables 
griUgririririU. 

In plumage the Bee-eater is particularly brilliant and conspicuous; 
indeed he seems better fitted to take his place with the gorgeously- 
attired feathered inhabitants of the tropics than with the somewhat 
sombre dwellers in our own woods and fields. The adult male is fi-om 
ten to eleven inches in length. The bill is nearly blackj the irides 
red; the forehead is light greenish blue, fading into white in front; 
the crown, neck, back, and wing coverts are reddish brown, passing 
into saffron yellow towards the tail, which is greenish blue. The chin 
and throat are bright saffron yellow, the latter bounded below by a 
line of bluish black. The quills are greenish blue, with the shafts 
black. The legs and feet are reddish brown. The females are not so 
bright in colour as the males, and have the green parts tinged with 
red. 



IN CONFINEMENT. 

ALTHOUon the Swallow has been kept alive for as long as two years 
in confinement, it is not a suitable occupant of an aviary, and the 
same may be said of the other species included in our present group. 



Plate D. 






FLYCATCHERS. SWALLOWS, BEE-EATER. 

1. Pled Flycatcher. 2. Spotted Flycatcher. 3. Swift. 4. Swallow. 

5. MarliQ. 6. Sand Martin. 7. Bee-eater. 



BUNTINGS. 163 



BUNTINGS. 

"TT will be seen at a glance that all the birds brought together in 
our present group bear a strong resemblance to each other in 
general conformation, although they difler considerably in the tints of 
their plumage. They have therefore been placed by ornithologists in 
a single family, and are called Emherizidcf, or Buntings. These birds 
form the connecting link between the; Larks on the one hand and the 
Finches on the other, their wings and claws proving their relationsnip 
to the former, and their bills to the latter family. The Buntings are 
characterized by their rather stout bodies, short necks, wings of 
moderate length, and longish straight or forked tails; their legs are 
rather short and toes long, the hinder one furnished with a long claw. 
Their bills are peculiarly adapted for cracking the husks or shells of 
the various seeds and berries on which they feed, being short, conical, 
and pointed, with the edges of the mandibles turned inwards; the 
upper mandible is slightly overlapped by the lower, and its roof is 
furnished with a hard projecting knob. Most of the Buntings are social 
in their habits, living peacefully together in large flocks, except during 
the breeding season, and being frequently seen in company with their 
first cousins the Finches and Larks. They are none of them gifted 
songsters, indeed their notes are in general harsh, shrill, and monoto- 
nous. Their nests are simply constructed of straws and fibrous roots. 



154 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

with a lininpf of fine grnss, hair, aud feathers, and are either pLiced in 
a hulluw, or th'glitly raised above the surface of the ground. 

The beautiful Snow and Lapland Buntings belong to the genus 
Fledroplianes ; the first only visits the shores of Britain with regularity, 
being met with chiefly in the north of Scotland dui-ing the winter; of 
the other species only a few isolated specimens have been found in 
England. 

The five remaining species form a separate group called Emheriza, 
and differ from the members of the previous genus in having the 
upper mandible narrower, the wings shorter and less pointed, and the 
knob on the palate more angular and elevated. Of these the Yellow 
and Black-headed Buntings are the commonest in Britain, the former 
especially being one of the most familiar and attractiTe of the feathered 
sj^iecies to be met with in our country rambles. 



Plalp 10. 




BUNTINGS. 
1. Snov7. 2. Lapland. 3. Common. 4. Black-headed. 

5. Yellow-hammer. 6. CirL 7. Ortolan. 



TEE S:^0 II ' JJ UNTIXO. lf,5 



THE SNOW BUNTINC;, 

(Pkclrophanes nivalis.) 

PLATE X. riGCKE I, 

This profty finrl lively little bird dwells for half flie yenr in tlio 
cold and desolate Arctic Regions, and the islands of the Polar Seas. 
Here, during what it seems a mockery to call summer, it builds its 
nest and rears its young. It also breeds in Iceland, Lapland, Siberia, 
Norway, Sweden, and other northern countries, only forsaking these parts 
during the winter months, when it visits the British Isles, Germany, 
Austria, Franco, and even Italy. It arrives on the shores of the Orkney 
and Shetland Isles about the middle of October, and by the end of the 
month becomes dispersed over the greater part of Scotland and England. 
Large flocks may bo frequently seen in the northern districts, but a 
few individuals only reach the south. Mr. Saxby gives the folhnving 
graphic account of this species as observed by him in Shetland: — "Seen 
against a dark hill-side or a lowering sky, a flock of these birds 
presents an exceedingly beautiful appearance, and it may then be seen 
how aptly the term 'snow-flake' has been applied to the species. I 
am acquainted with no more pleasing combination of sight and sound 
than that afforded when a number of these birds, backed by a dark 
grey sky, drop as it were in a shower to the ground, to the music 
of their own sweet tinkling notes." Macgillivray thinks it probable 
that the Snow Bunting breeds on the higher Grampians, as on one 
occasion he saw a flock of eight individuals which evidently consisted 
of two old birds with their young family. 

TUdron a spur, lohaim to show, and nivalis snowy, are the words 
from which this interesting little bird derives its specific name. During 
frost and snow it frequents the neighbourhood of the sea-shore, but 
retires inland when the weather is mild. In this country it feeds on 
oats, wheat, barley, and other seeds, and also on small insects, but 
in the bleak regions of the Pole it subsists on the seeds of the 



156 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

grasses, which are there so abundant that they form one-fifth of the 
phscnogamous vegetation (that is, plants whose seed-vessels are placed 
externally), while in other parts of the globe the proportion is less 
than half as groat. The seeds of these grasses are retained during 
the winter, so that the Buntings can obtain them immediately on their 
arrival, after the melting of the snow. "In passing down the Seneca 
River, towards Lake Ontario," says Wilson, "I was surprised by the 
appearance of a large flock of these birds feeding on the surface of 
the water, supported on the tops of a growth of weeds that rose from 
the bottom, growing so close together that our boat could with great 
difficulty make her way through them. They were running about with 
great activity; and those I shot and examined were filled, not only 
with the seeds of this plant, but with a minute kind of shell-fish 
that adhered to the leaves. In these aquatic excursions they are 
doubtless greatly assisted by the length of the hind heel and their 
claws." 

The flight of these birds is described as low, performed in an un- 
dulated line, by means of repeated flappings and short intervals of 
cessation; when they have arrived at a fitting place, they wheel sud- 
denly round, and alight rather abruptly. Usually, when not about to 
travel to a distance, they fly near the ground; Naumann says the 
evolutions performed by a flock are extremely curious, they whirl round 
each other, and wind about, much in the fashion of waltzcrs in a 
ball-room. On the ground they run with rapidity, not hopping after 
the manner of Sparrows, but moving each foot alternately. 

The nest is generally placed in the cleft of a rock, or in a pile of 
stones or timber on the sea-shore; sometimes under a single largo 
stone; the entrance being only just large enough to admit the bodies 
of the owners. It is composed of dry grass and moss, and lined with 
down, feathers, and a little hair. One was found by Captain Lyons 
at Southampton Island in the bosom of a dead Esquimaux child which 
had been buried under a heap of stones. The eggs, from four to six 
in number, are greenish or bluish white, with a zone of umber brown 
spots around the thicker end, and numerous blotches of pale purple. 

The plumage of this bird varies greatly; some specimens have the 
head, neck, and under parts of the body, a patch on the wings, and 
the edges of the outer tail feathers pure white, and the remainder of 
the plumage black. Others are much tinged with brown. The amount 
of white is subject to great variation. These difi'erences were the cause 
of much confusion with naturalists, the varieties being described as 
distinct species under the names of the Mountain, Tawny, and Snow 
Bantings. All doubts as to their identity were set at rest by Mr. 



TEE LAPLAND BUNTIXG. 157 

Foljambc, who in a letter to Colonel Montagu says: — "K few years 
ago I sliot more than forty from the same flock, hardly any two of 
which exhibited precisely the same plumage, but varied from the 
perfect 'I'awuy to the Snow Bunting in its whitest state." 



THE LAPLAND BUNTING, 

(Pkchvplituics Lappotiica.) 
FLATE X. FIGUKE II. 

This species, also called the Lapland Lark Bunting, Lapland Finch, 
and Lapland Long-spur, very closely resembles the Snow Bunting in 
form and proportions, but its wings are rather shorter, and its bill 
shaped more like that of a Finch. It is a native of the northern 
countries of Europe and Asia, and the Arctic Regions, but a few 
specimens have been met with in Germany, France, and Switzerland, 
and others in our own island. The first of the latter was purchased 
in the London market, and afterwards placed in the museum of the 
Zoological Society. The second was taken on the Sussex downs, and 
the third a few miles north of London. Another was caught at Preston, 
in Lancashire, and another near Kendal, in Westmorland. Two other 
specimens were obtained in Norfolk, the first near Postwick in January, 
1850, and the second at Crostwick in April, 1862. 

Dr. Ricliardson states that this bird breeds in moist meadows on the 
shores of the Arctic Sea. The nest, usually placed on a small hillock 
among moss and stones, is composed of dry stems of grass, and lined 
with deer's hair and feathers. The eggs, from live to seven in number, 
are pale ochre-yellow, spotted with brown. 

The food of the Lapland Bunting consists chiefly of the seeds of 
arctic and alpine plants, such as the willow and arbutus, and also of 
insects. Its call-note is melancholy, and is said by Meyer to resemble 
the syllables 'itirr' and 'twee.' The male has a simple but pleasant 
song, which it usually utters whilst on the wing. 

In Lapland these birds are commonly to be seen in large flocks, 
they move rapidly along the ground in their search for food; but if 
disturbed, mount into the air and fly swiftly and buoyantly. They are 
said to sometimes associate with Larks and other birds of similar habits 



158 THi: SMALLER BRlTmil BIRDS. 

Naumann states that fhey are frequently killed for food, and that their 
flesh is delicate and agreeable. 

The adult male is a little over six inches and a half in length. The 
bill is yellow and blackish at the point. The irides are chesnut, and 
the legs, toes, and claws nearly black. The top of the head and throat 
are black; a reddish white line passes over the eyes and takes the 
form of the letter S at the lower part. The back is brown, streaked 
with a deeper shade; the wings brownish black, with the small coverts 
and quills edged with reddish. The lower part of the body is greyish 
white, spotted and streaked at the sides with brownish black. The 
tail is blackish brown, the feathers edged with reddish, and the outer 
marked with a wedge-shaped white spot at the end. The female is 
without the black on the head and throat, and the rest of her plumage 
is of a redder tint than that of the male. 



THE COMMON BUNTING, 

(Emhcriza nuliaria.J 



PLATE X. FIGURK III. 



This species is most plentiful in the southern counties from Sussex 
to Cornwall, and in the districts surrounding London, but it is to be 
met with on open pastures, and grass and corn fields in all parts of 
the country. It is common in North Wales, Ireland, and some parts 
of Scotland — Dumfriesshire, Edinburghshire, and Sutherlandshire; as 
also in the Orkney and Shetland Isles, and the Hebrides. On the 
continent of Europe it is found from Russia to the Mediterranean, and 
also in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. It has likewise been observed 
in Egypt and the Canary Isles. 

During the spring and summer the Common Bunting may be fre- 
quently seen perched on a low fence or hedge, or the branches of a 
small tree, uttering its rather harsh and unmusical notes, which from 
their resemblance to the noise produced by a stocking-machine, has 
gained for the bird the name of "Stocking Weaver." The ordinary 
call-note is represented by the syllables 'chuck' or 'chit.' 

This species has a strong and undulated but rather clumsj' flight. 
'When surprised in a field, it flies ofl' with a direct rapid motion; but 



THE COJDrON BUNTIXG. 150 

often wlion an individual, whicli lias boeu resting on a twig or wall- 
top, starts away, it allows its feet to hang for a short tiino before it 
commences its bounding flight.' On the ground its movements arc 
slow and ungraceful, in consequence of the shortness of its legs com- 
pared with the size of its body. 

The food of this bird consists partly of insects, but principally of 
grain, and the seeds of tho millet and other grasses, henco its specific 
name Miliaria. During the winter it visits farm-yards, in company 
with Chaffinches, Sparrows, and other birds, and sometimes does great 
damage to tho corn-stacks. Knapp, in his "Journal of a Naturalist," 
says, "It could hardly be supposed that this bird, not larger than a 
Lark, is capable of doing serious injury; yet I this morning witnessed 
a rick of barley, standing in a detached field, entirely stripped of its 
thatching, which this Bunting effected by seizing tho end of the straw^ 
and deliberately drawing it out, to search for any grain the ear might 
contain. The Sparrow and other birds burrow into tho stack, and 
pilfer the corn; but the deliberate operation of unroofing the edifice 
appears to be the habit of the Bunting alone." In consequence of 
its partiality to grain this bird is often called the Corn Bunting; its 
flesh is considered excellent eating. 

The nest, which is finished towards the end of April, is usually 
placed on the ground, under the shelter of a bush or tuft of grass, 
or sometimes slightly raised among brambles or briars. It is composed 
of straw and fibrous roots, intermingled with dry grass and leaves, 
and lined with fine fibres and hair. The eggs, from four to six in 
number, are of a pale greyish or yellowish white ground colour, irreg- 
ularly spotted and streaked with reddish brown or greyish purple. They 
are usually of an obtuse oval shape, but vary much in form, as also 
in size and. colour. Some specimens have a nearly white ground. 

Although these birds live in pairs during the spring and summer, 
they are usually to be seen in large flocks during the autumn and 
winter; many of them roost in the bushes when the nights are cold, 
while others nestle amid the stubble; the latter are frequently caught 
in the nets employed for capturing Sky Larks. 

The Common Bunting is the largest of its family, being about seven 
and a half inches in length. Its body is particularly stout and robust, 
while its wings and legs are rather short, so that it has an awkward 
and unwieldly appearance. Neither is its plumage at all gay or attractive; 
the upper parts are light yellowish brown, with tho shaft of each feather 
blackish brown at tho extremity. The general colour of the lower parts 
is pale yellowish grey, many of the feathers of the throat and breast 
are tipped with brownish black. The irides are dark hazel; the legs. 



160 THE SMALLER BRITISE BIRDS. 

toes, and claws pale yellowisli brown; and the beak dark brown ou 
the upper mandible, and yellowish on the lower. Varieties in colour 
are not uncommon — Neville Wood possessed the skin of one which was 
nearly white, and another specimen was found at Pickering, in 1850, 
cf a pale straw-colour. The female closely resembles the male, but the 
young birds are rather darker, and the spots upon the feathers larger. 



THE BLACK-HEADED BUNTING, 

(Emberiza sc/iaiu'cliis.J 



PLATE X. FIGDKE IV. 

Although the Black-headed Bunting is almost as abundant in this 
country as its yellow relation next described, it is not nearly so well 
known, partly on account of its more sequestered habits, and partly 
because its plumage is less brilliant, and does not so readily attract 
the eye. It remains in England throughout the year, but is migratory 
in most parts of Scotland, arriving about the middle of April and de- 
parting in October. On the Continent of Europe it is a summer 
visitor to Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and is also found from Russia 
to Italy, being particularly abundant in Holland. 

This species is called by the several names of the Mountain Sparrow, 
Passerine Bunting, Ring Bunting, Chink, and Black Bonnet. It also 
has the titles of Water Sparrow and Reed Bunting, on account of its 
partiality to marshy spots on the borders of lakes and streams, where 
the reed, the rush, and the osier flourish. To the wanderer in tho 
fens of Cambridgeshire or the broads of Norfolk it is a most familiar 
object, flitting gracefully about among the tall aquatic plants, or 
clinging to their stems while it picks out their seeds with its short and 
powerful bill. ''The security and even grace with which it rides,^' says 
Mudie, "when the stems are laid almost level with the water, now on 
one side and then on another, are well worthy of notice. It not only 
adheres as if it were part of the plant, but contrives to maintain nearly 
the same horizontal position, with its head to the wind." In the 
winter months these Buntings forsake the marshes and collect in small 
flocks, visiting farms and stackyards in company with other grain-eating 
birds. The parties break up again towards the end of March, and 



TII.F. BLA Cir- TTEA DED B UNTINQ. 1 G 1 

return in pairs to tlieir summer haunts. They build on or near tlie 
ground among coarse grass or rushes, or in the lower part of a thorn 
or otlier bush. The nest is composed of stems and stalks of grasses, 
fragments of rushes, and other similar materials, and neatly lined with 
finer grass, hair, and the down of the reed. The eggs, which are 
deposited about the first week in 3Iay, are of a yellowish or greenish 
grey colour, delicately mai-ked and spotted with a darker shade of the 
samoj the larger end is frequcutly covered with fine angular and 
curved lines. The parent birds display a strong solicitude for their 
young, and will use many artifices to attract an intruder from the 
vicinity of the nest. In the "JIagazino of Natural History," Mr. 
Salmon, of Thetford, thus writes: — "Walking last spring among some 
rushes near a river, my attention was arrested by observing a Blaek- 
headcd Bunting shufliing through the rushes, and trailing along the 
ground, as if one of her legs or wings were broken. I followed her 
to see the result, and she, huving led mo to a considerable distance, 
took wing, no doubt mrt;h rejoiced on return to find her stratagems 
had been successful in preserving her young brood, although not in 
preventing the discovery of the nest, which I found was placed, as 
usual, on the side of a hassock or clnmp of grass, and almost screened 
from view by overhanging dead grass." 

The song of this bird is rather harsh and shrill, and consists merely 
of two or three short notes, succeeded by a long one; Meyer likens 
it to the word 'slierrip' pronounced quickly. It may bo heard at all 
seasons, and is uttered from the top of a reed or low bush. 

The male of this species is really a handsome bird. The head and 
throat are rich velvet black; a line from the beak down the sides of 
the neck, and a broad band over the back of the neck are white. 
The feathers of the back, wings, and tail are blackish bordered with 
chesnut. The breast and nnder surface of the body are greyish white. 
The irides are hazel; the legs, toes, and claws, dusky brown. The 
male is about six inches and a quarter iu length, and the female a 
little shorter. The plumage of the latter is of a redder tint, and the 
baud over the neck is yellowish grey. The young resemble the female. 



1G2 'THE UMALLER BBITISH BIRDS. 



THE YELLOW BUNTING, 

{^Emberiza dtrinella.) 



PLATE X. PIGDRE V, 

This species is common in all parts of tlie Britisli Isles, and goes 
by a variety of names — the Yellow-Hammer, Yeldriug, Yoldring, Yowley 
or Yite, Yeldrock, Yoit, Skite, Goldie, Golden Bunting, and Devil's 
Bird. It frequents wooded districts and commons covered with gorse 
or broom, and often attracts the attention of the traveller by its bril- 
liant plumage and elegant form, flitting before him from tree to tree, 
or pei'ching conspicuously on the top of a hedge or bush. From the 
latter position the male frequently utters his somewhat harsh and mo- 
notonous song, which consists of a 'few shrill notes, concluding with 
a protracted one.' Indifferent as his music is, compared with that of 
many of the woodland choristers, it is far from disagreeable to the true 
lover of nature; Graham says — 

"Even in a bird the simplest notes have charms; 
For me I love the Yellow-Hammer's song. 
When earliest buds begin to bulge, his note, 
Simple reiterated, oft is heard 
On leafless briar, or half-grown hedge-row thin, 
Nor does he cease his note till autumn's leaves 
Fall fluttering round his golden head so bright." 

Mr. Stevenson, in his interesting work on the "Birds of Norfolk," 
says, "Though resident with us at all seasons, the Yellow Bunting 
seems more particularly associated with the recollection of heat and 
dust, its long-drawn weary song accords so well with the dry scorching 
atmosphere, and, through a strange vcntriloquial power (possessed by 
this bird in an eminent degree), its notes are heard, from a distance, 
as though close to the ear of the listener, and when apparently farthest 
off, are not unfrequeutly uttered within a few yards." Whilst singing 



THE YELLOW nUXTTXG. IG.'j 

tliis bird oxliihits no animation, but sits motionless, and appears to 
use but little exertion. The ordinary note, wliicli is uttered at the 
end of autumn and throughout the winter, is a rather harsh and low 
chirp. 

Early in the spring the Yellow Buntings select their partners, and 
commence building operations. They usually choose some well sheltered 
spot amid bushes, or in a clump of grass or other herbage, and con- 
struct a rather bnlky nest of dry grass, fibrous roots, twigs, and moss, 
lining it neatly with finer grass and hair. In this are deposited from 
four to six eggs, of a pale purplish white colour, streaked and spotted 
with dark reddish brown. 'Hie markings have been thought to bear 
some resemblance to written characters; hence this bird has been some- 
times called the 'Writing Lark.' In the first volume of the "Zoological 
Journal," Mr. Blackwell records the curious fact that a female of this 
species deposited her eggs on the bare ground, and sat upon them 
until they were hatched. The male is an affectionate and attentive 
husband, often taking the place of his mate upon the nest, and ex- 
hibiting his pleasure in thus lightening her labours by singing cheerfully 
the while. The young are seldom able to fly before the second week 
in June, but usually leave the nest within a fortnight after the time 
they are hatched, and roost at night with their parents. In favourable 
seasons two or even three broods are reared. 

During the winter those birds are to be seen in large flocks, visiting 
in company with other species the stack-yards and stubble-fields in 
search of grain, seeds, and insects. Their flight is strong and rapid, 
but easy and graceful; they alight in a sudden and abrupt manner 
when anything attracts their attention on the trees or 'terra firina,' 
jerking out all their tail feathers at the same moment. On the ground 
they advance by short leaps, with the body in a horizontal position, 
and the breast almost in contact with the surface. "When perched on 
a tree, especially in windy weather, they crouch close to the twigs, 
draw in their nock, nnd keep the tail declined." 

This beautiful bird, which obtains its specific name from ntrua, a 
lemon or citron tree, rarely attracts the attention it merits in conse- 
quence of its great abundance. "Few persons ai-e fully aware," says 
Neville AVood, "of the exquisite though simple colouring of the Yellow 
Bunting, which, common though it be, is not, in my opinion, surpassed 
in this particular by any rarer species that visits our island." 

The adult male, which weighs about seven drachms, and is a little 
over seven inches in length, has the head and lower portion of the 
neck of a bright lemon yellow, and the breast and sides yellowish i-ed, 
with each feather darker in the centre. The upper part of the back 



1G4 THE SIFALLER BrdTIHU BIRBB. 

and ■win'Ts are reddish brown, and the quill and tail feathers dusky 
black margined with chesnnt browu and olive. The bill is a bluish 
horn-colour. The irides are dark brown, and the legs, toes, and claws 
light yellowish brown, tinged with red. The female is much duller in 
colour than the male, and is less marked with yellow. The young, 
wlion first fledged, ar-^ dull yellowish brown abo%'o and yellowish grey 
beneath, they are without the bright yellow on tlie head 



THE CIRL BUNTING, 

{Emheriza ciilus.J 
PLATE X. — FIGURE VI. 

This rare species bears a strong resemblance to the Yellow Bunting, 
and no doubt sometimes escai^es observation in consequence. It was 
first identified and described as a British bird by Colonel Montagu 
in the year 1830, from specimens observed in the neighbourhood of 
Knightsbridge, and in the following summer the same distinguished 
ornithologist discovered that it bred in several localities on -the coast 
of Devonshire, and communicated his observations as to its habits, etc., 
to the Linnean Society. Individuals have sine been met with in 
various parts of England, most of them in the southern counties, but 
some as far north as Yorkshire. In Scotland a single specimen was 
procured near Edinburgh. It is a migratory bird in most of the 
temperate and southern parts of Europe, and occurs also in Asia 
Minor. 

Mr. Blyth, who has carefully observed the habits of this bird in 
the Islo of Wight, where it is known as the French Yellow-hammer, 
says it is much more shy than the Yellow Bunting, and frequents 
trees rather than hedges, particularly the summits of lofty elms. 

The nest is usually placed in furze or low bushes, and is composed 
of dry stalks of grass and a little mosa, and lined with long hair and 
fibrous roots. The eggs, four or five in number, are of a dull bluish 
or greenish white, irregularly streaked and spotted with reddish brown, 
they vary greatly both in colour and markings. The young are hatched 
in a little over a fortnight, and are fed by the parents exclusively on 
insects. 



TUE OliTOLAN' BUXrrxa. IGj 

Tiic TTinlo frequently sings from tlio upper brancli of a tree, or the 
top of a bush, in the manner of the Yellcjw Bunting. His note is by 
no means musical, being harsh, shrill, and very monotonous. ITo 
continues in full song until the middle or end of August, when the 
autumnal moult takes place. 

The food of this bird consists partly of caterpillars, beetles, and 
other insects, but chiefly of seeds and berries; some old birds were 
observed near Brading, in the Isle of Wight, to eat freely of the 
berries of the woody nightsliade. 

The summer plumage of the adult male is as follows : — Back and 
wings bright chcsnut brown, the central part of each featlier brownish 
black; top of the head dark olive, streaked with black; a streak 
above the eye, another beneath it, and a crescent-shaped patch on 
the throat, bright lemon yellow; chin and upper part of throat black; 
upper part of breast and sides yellowish red; lower part yellow; tail 
feathers dusky black, the outer ones patched with white. Bill bluish 
lead-colour; irides hazel; legs, toes, and claws light brown. The 
winter plumage is less brilliant generally. The head of the female is 
of a lighter colour, and she is without the bright lemon yellow above 
and below the eye and on the throat. 



THE OETOLAN BUNTING, 

{^Emberiza horlulaua.) 

PLATE X. FIGUniC VII. 

TiTE Ortolan Bunting is a common species in many parts of the 
European continent, visiting Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and also 
France, Spain, Italy, and Holland. But a few specimens have been 
obtained in this country; the first which came under the notice of 
British ornithologists was captured in Jlary-la-bonne fields by a London 
bird-catcher, and described by Brown in his "Illustrations of Zoology," 
undi'r the name of the Green-headed Bunting. Another was obtained 
off the coast of Yorkshire by the master of a merchant vessel in the 
month of May, 1822, and a third was killed near Manchester in 
November, 1S27. Another was taken near Norwich, another in tlio 
Scilly Isles, and another near Worthing, in Sussex. 



166 THE S21ALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

As may be inferred from its specific name, {Jiortulana, from liortus, 
a garden,) this bird is a frequenter of tlie cultivated garden and orchard, 
but it also resorts to woods, hedges, and fields, especially those in the 
neighbourhood of water. It feeds chiefly on insects during the early 
part of the season, but afterwards on grain and the seeds of grasses. 
Its nest is frequently built in a corn-field iu some slight hollow in 
the ground, but sometimes in the lower branches of a tree or bush; 
it is composed of dry grass and small roots, thickly lined with finer 
portions of the latter, with occasionally a few hairs. The eggs, num- 
bering from four to six, are bluish white or reddish grey, streaked 
and spotted with blackish blue, but they vary much in colour. 

The song of this bird very much resembles that of the Yellow 
Bunting, but it is rather clearer and not quite so harsh, although 
equally monotonous. It is repeated frequently by the male during the 
pairing season. 

In Italy, Germany, and France, great numbers of these birds are 
captured in nets, and fattened for the table. Their flesh is much 
esteemed, and is said to resemble that of the Snipe, but to be even 
more delicate. Mr. Gould says that "when they are caught they are 
kept in a dark room, and there fed with plenty of oats and millet 
seed, upon which they quickly fatten." A correspondent of the "Illus- 
trated London News," writes, "This is true only to a certain extent, 
and is apt to mislead many of your readers. The fact is that the 
Ortolan has a pecidiar habit of feeding, which is opposed to its rapid 
fattening. To surmount this peculiarity, those who pander to the taste 
of Italian gourmands, place the Ortolans in a warm chamber, perfectly 
dark, with only one aperture in the wall. Their food is scattered over 
the floor of the chamber. In the morning the keeper of the birds 
places a lantern in the orifice of the wall; by the light thus thrown 
in, the Ortolans, thinking the sun is about to rise, greedily consume 
the food upon the floor. More food is scattered about, and the lantern 
withdrawn. The Ortolans soon fall asleep. In about two hours the 
whole process is repeated, and so on four or five times every day. 
Tlie Ortolans thus treated become like little balls of fat in a few days." 
When ready for the market the birds are killed, steeped in boiling 
water, and packed in cask.s filled with spiced vinegar, to preserve them 
for home use or exportation. During the later years of the Roman 
Empire, when great wealth had produced its usual result of luxuriousness 
and effeminacy, the delicacy of the flesh of the Ortolan was well known, 
and immense numbers were eaten after being fattened in the same 
miumer as in the present day. 

This species is a little smaller than the Yellow Bunting, the male 



BUNTINGS IN CONFINEMENT. 167 

beinf from six and a quarter to six and a half inches in total length. 
The beak is reddish brownj the irides are brown; the legs, tocSj and 
claws pale brown. The head, nape, and front of the neck are grey, 
with a stripe that passes from the beak down the neck, and a space 
around the eye bright yellow. The back is reddish brown, marked 
with dark streaks. The wings are dusky, with the quills edged with 
reddish brown. The tail is also dusky, the two outer feathei'S having 
on them a wedge-shaped white spot. The chin, throat, and breast are 
yellowish green, fading into reddish buff on the under surface of the 
body. The female is a little smaller, of a similar colour, but rather 
duller. 



IN CONFINEMENT. 

Beohstein kept a pair of Snow Buntings in his aviary for six years, 
they were fed on the universal paste, always kept cool, and allowed 
plenty of water to bathe in. He says, "If birds of this species are 
confined in a cage, they must be fed on oats, millet, poppy, hemp, or 
linseed." Probably the Lapland Bunting would thrive if treated in a 
similar manner, but our readers are not likely to have an opportunity 
of trying the experiment, in consequence of its extreme rarity in this 
country. 

The Common and Black-headed Buntings are rather delicate birds, 
but may be kept alive in confinement if fed on the ordinary paste, 
varied with oats, and the other seeds above mentioned. They may 
either be allowed the range of the room, or confined in a large Lark's 
cage. 

The beautiful plumage of the Yellow Bunting renders it an attractive 
occupant of an aviary, although its colours are not nearly so bright 
when it is kept in confinement as when at liberty. It is by no 
means a dainty feeder, indeed a continual change of diet is necessary 
to keep it in health. Oats, poppy-seed, bread crumbs, soaked hemp- 
seed, canary-seed, meat, all will suit it, and it will also eat freely 
of caterpillars and insects of all kinds. It is, however, rather subject 
to decline, a disease which manifests itself externally by a puffed and 
inflated appearance of the body. Should such symptoms be observed, 
it should be fed chiefly on crushed oats, hemp-seed, and ants' eggs, 
and a piece of oak bark and a rusty nail should be kept in its drinking 
water. 



168 TEE SMALLER BRITISE BIRDS. 

Monta2iU states tliafc "having taken tlie young of tlie Cirl Bunting, 
it was found that insects were their most partial food, especially the 
common grasshopper. Wlien they could peck, the smaller seeds were 
acceptable, and canary the favourite; of grain, wheat and barley were 
rejected, but oats were greedily devoured, after they had dexterously 
and quickly deprived them of their outer coat." 

The Ortolan Bunting is so rarely obtained in this countiy that it 
■would be sapertluous to describe its treatment in continement. 



Piatt- 10. 




• A',-*,;: 








"m 



■•^f^ 
V^** 






tr^ 






* • '■-•: 



»>»: 



BUNTINGS. 

1. Snow. 2. Lapland. 3. Uommon. 4. Black-headea. 

5. Tellow-hamnier. 6. Cirl. 7- Ortolan. 



FINCHES. ICO 



FINCHES. 

'' I "'HE present group includes some of tlio most beautiful and familiar 
of our British species; several of its members are particularly rich 
and soft in tlio colouring of their plumage, and will bear comparison 
in this respect with the brilliant feathered inhabitants of warmer climates 
than our own. Althougli, in calling them all Fiuelies we have adopted 
the popular rather than the scientific nomenclature, we are but following 
in the steps of some of the earlier ornithologists. As we wish our 
readers, however, to become acquainted with their present arrangement 
into genera, we will, after describing as briefly as possible the general 
characteristics of the family to which they belong, enumerate the 
divisions according to modem authorities. 

All the birds here grouped together agree in the following particulars 
— their bodies are ovate, their heads large, necks short, and their tails 
and wings of moderate length. Now if you carefully examine a common 
kSparrow you will observe that this description exactly applies to him. 
He has therefore been chosen as a typical bird, and his Latin name 
passer has been applied to the whole family of birds of similar structure. 
The PasserincB are active and lively little creatures, living chiefly on 
seeds and grain, for the removal of the hard coverings of which their 
beaks are specially adapted. They are generally distributed over the 
country, and are to bo met with chiefly in the cultivated parts. During 
the winter they assemble in large flocks, and approach the habitations 



170 TRi: SMALLER BltlTLSE BIRDS 

of marij in tlicir search for food in. tlie stackyards and stubble-fields. 
Tlicy build rather large but comjDact nests, and lay from four to eight 
eggs, usually spotted, streaked, or clouded. Their flight is in general 
strong and rapid, but they move rather clumsily on the ground. First 
in our grouf) we have the only two British representatives of the genus 
Fringilla, the Chaffinch and Mountain Finch. The Fringillai are neat 
and compact in shape, and have shortish, straight, and conical beaks. 
Their plumage is brightly coloured, and delicately marked. 

The Green and Haw Finches belong to the Coccothraustes, a genus 
deriving its name from coccos a berry, and thraud to break j they have 
thick and powerful bills, by means of which they are not only able 
to crack the outer husks of seeds and grain, but even the hard stones 
of plums, cherries, and other fruit. Their heads are large, broad, and 
rather flat at the top, their necks thick, and their legs short. Next 
we have our favourite and familiar friend the Goldfinch; he belongs to 
the genus Carduelis, and has a rather longer bill, and more slender 
body than most of his relations, so that his appearance is less clumsy 
and heavy. Last comes a representative of the genus Loxia, the portly 
BuUfincJi, with his glossy black head and brilliant red breast. 



1 ',:<.'■ 11. 




FINCHES. 
1. Chaffinch. 3. Mountain Finch. 3. Greenfinch. ^. Hawfinch. 

5. Goldfinch. 6. Bullfinch. 



THE CJlAFFJiXCir. 171 



THE CTIAFFINCn, 

(Fringilla Calebs. J 

PLATK XI. FIGURE I. 

Tnis prrtfy finrl lively Httlo bin! is a poniiaront resicloni in Britnin, 
and is generally distributed from the soutliern counties o£ England 
to the extreme north of Scotland and the Orkney Islands. It is also 
common in most parts of the European continent, being stationary 
in the warmer, and migratory in the colder countries. It has been 
met with in the Canary Islands, Madeira, and the north of Africa. 

Towards the end of autumn the number of our resident birds is 
much increased by the arrival of visitors from Sweden and Norway. 
Tlicy cross the sea in large flocks, usually reaching our shores in the 
night, as is testified by the numbers that are killed by contact with 
the windows of lighthouses. Linnteus, in his "Fauna of Sweden," says 
that only the females migrate from that country, but the males remain; 
lie has therefore bestowed the title of ccelehs on this species, with 
reference to the solitary state of the latter. Professor Nilsson, how- 
ever, states that at the present time the larger portion of both sexes 
leave the country, but in distinct flocks. A similar separation takes 
place in Britain about the month of November, and from that period 
until the return of spring few females are to be seen. The males 
associate with Yellow Buntings, Sparrows, and other birds of similar 
habits, feeding in the stubble-fields while the weather continues mild, 
and the ground free from snow, but visiting stackyards and other 
places where food and shelter are obtainable during the depth of 
winter. These flocks break up towards the end of March, and a 
terrible amount of wrangling and fighting takes places connected with 
the selection of partners. Often two or more rival males may be 
seen perched on the branches, singing with all their might and main, 
and with every appearance of intense excitement; when their voices 
fail they rush at each other with partly expanded wings and open 
beaks, and fight furiously, not unfrequcntly wounding each other 
severely. As soon as they have paired, a spot is selected for the nest, 
generally the forked or knarled branch of an old tree, and building 



172 TEE ajTALLER BniTISH BIRDS. 

operations are commenced. The Cliaffinch is a skilful arcliitoct, and 
constructs a nest of wonderful neatness and compactness. The materials 
used for tho exterior are grasses, fibrous roots, and stalks of plants, 
intermingled vvitk pieces of bark, spiders' webs, moss, and licliens; the 
latter are fixed on the surface, and render it so similar in appearance 
to the branch on which it is placed that only the experienced nest- 
hunter is able to discover it. The lining consists of wool, feathers, 
and the hair of the horse or cow. The last is obtained by the birds 
from the cracks and crevices in fences or trees in the pasture fields, 
against which the cattle are in the habit of rubbing themselves. 
Besides tho branches of trees, the Chaffinch not uncommonly builds in 
the ivy on walls, or among the twigs of the hawthorn and other 
bushes. 

A correspondent of the "Field Naturalist's Magazine," relates that 
a pair of those birds placed their nest in a shrub so close to his 
drawing-room windows that ho was able to observe their operations. 
The female alone worked at the structure, and was almost unceasingly 
employed on it for nearly three weeks. "Think of this, bird-nesters," 
says Mr. Morris, and we heartily echo his sentiments, "and leave the 
artist the product of her toil; take gently out, if you will, an egg or 
two for your collection, but leave her some to gladden her maternal 
heart." The eggs are four or five in number, generally of a dull bluish 
green colour, thinly spotted with reddish brown, and having a few 
irregular lines of the same. The colour is, however, rather variable; 
some have been found of a uniform dull blue, without any spots. 
While the female sits the male perches close on the branches, and 
cheers her with his song, and when she quits the nest in search of 
food, takes her place. The young are hatched in about a fortnight, 
and are fed by both parents exclusively on insects. Two broods are 
usually reared in a season. 

The Chaffinch has a short but mellow and cheerful song, which is 
sometimes heard as early as the end of February. Macgillivray says, 
"the people of the south of Scotland most unpoetically imagine it to 
resemble the words 'wee, wee, wee, wee drunken sowie,' to wliich no 
doubt it bears some resemblance." In Belgium, where the song of 
tho Chaffinch is highly esteemed, trained birds are brought together 
by their owners to compete with each other. Heavy bets arc laid as 
to the result, tho bird that 'trills' the oftenest in the course of an 
hour being considered the victor. The ordinary call-note of this species 
resembles tho syllables 'twlnh, twinh,' or 'pinli, pink;' hence two of 
its populir names. 

The farmer too often looks upon the Chaffinch as a deadly enemy, 



TEE ^roujVT.im Fixcir. itt 

to bo destroyed on every opportunity, forgetting tliat nllliougli it fre- 
quently does considerable damage to the crops, it also destroys a largo 
number of insects, and performs much useful work iu consuming the 
seeds of groundsel, crowfoot, and other weeds. 

The Chatlinch is one of the handsomest of our British species, his 
plumage is bright and beautifully marked. Tn longlli lie is about si.K 
inches, and in breadth across the wings eleven and a half inches. Oi 
the forehead he is black; the upper part of the head and neck are 
ash grey; the chin, throat, and breast purplish red. The wings arc 
chiefly black, striped in two places with white. The tail is brownish 
black, with some of the feathers white. The irides are hazel; the legs, 
toes, and claws wood brown. The female is a little smaller, and of a 
greyer colour than the male 



THE MOUNTAIN FINCH, 

{Fri/igilla montifringilla.) 
PLATE XI. — FIGURE II. 

Tnis bird, also called the Brambling, Bramble Finch, and Liilean 
Finch, derives its scientific title from mnns, a mountain, and frinfjiUa, 
a ChaflBnch. Closely resembling the species last described, in general 
form and the markings of its plumage, it is almost impossible to 
distinguish it therefrom at only a slight distance. One of the chief 
differences revealed by a close inspection is a tooth-like projection on 
the edge of the lower mandible near the base. The male is about 
six and a half inches iu length, and has the bill dusky, and bluish 
black at the point; the head, neck, and back deep black, except 
during the winter, when the feathers are tipped with grey; the chin, 
throat, and breast on the upper part, light reddish brown, the latter 
white or yellowish white on its lower part, and spotted on the sides 
with black and brown; the wings for the most part black, with two 
nearly white bands running across them, and many of the feathers 
edged with light reddish brown; the tail black, edged with grey; the 
irides brown; the legs, toes, and claws light brown. The female is a 
little smaller than the male, and of a browner colour; her sides are 
marked with long pale black streaks. 

The little Mountain Finch resembles its congener as much in 
manners as in appearance, moving on the ground by short leaps iu a 



174 TEE S2IALLER BEITISE BIRDS. 

similar way, and having the same rapid and undulated flight. It 
builds among the branches of the lofty fir-trees, that lift their vast 
pyramids of green in the clear mountain air of northern regions. 
Its nest is neatly constructed of moss, and lined with wool and 
feathers; it usually contains from four to five white eggs, spotted with 
yellowish brown. Like the rest of its family it feeds chiefly on seeds, 
but partly on flies and other insects. Mr. Scales, a Norfolk farmer, 
used to consider these birds of service to his land from their de- 
vouring large quantities of the seeds of the knot-grass. In severe 
weather flocks have been observed feeding on beech-mast. 

The call-note of this bird is a simple and monotonous chirp resembling 
the syllable 'tweet.' Its song, which is uttered chiefly in the spring, 
is very similar to that of the Chaflinch, but less sweet and pleasing. 
Meyer likens it to the word ' chijj-u-waij .' 

The Mountain Pinch makes its summer home and rears its young 
in the northern parts of Europe. It is common in Norway, Sweden, 
Denmark, and Lapland, and particularly numerous in Finland. About 
the end of August it departs from these regions, and gradually spreads 
over the whole continent as far as Gi'eece and Italy. It is stated to 
also visit Asia and Asia Minor. It arrives in this country in large 
flocks, generally in September, but sometimes much later, and takes up 
its abode chiefly in the northern counties, although considerable 
numbers have occasionally been met with in the extreme south. A 
correspondent of the "Times" stated that an immense flock visited 
Stoke Park, near Slough, in November, 1865. Their numbers were so 
great, that "the flight, which was seen starting from their roosting- 
place one morning, continued streaming on without intermission for 
thirty-five minutes. The person who noted this killed forty-five at one 
shot." 



THE GREENFINCH, 



( Coccotluansles cJilon's. ) 



IT.ATE XI. — FIGUKE 111. 



ALTirouGii loss plcniiful than the species last described, the Green 
[iinnet, as this bird is frequently called, is to be met with in all the 
cultivated pai'ts of Britain, except the northern and western Scottish 
islands. It is also common over the whole of Europe and a large 



TUE GREENFINCIL 175 

portion of Asia. Tlio upper parts of the bofly and bronst nf tho nialo 
aro olive green; the wings ash grey, with bright yellow odging.s to 
the quills; the tail brownish black, except the four outer feathers oa 
each side, which aro yellow for three fourths of their length. The 
whole under surface of the body is greenish yellow. The bill, legs, 
and feet are pale reddish brown, and the irides dark hazel. Tlie 
female is without the bright yellow on the wings and tail, and 
altogether of a greyer tint. 

This is a sprightly and active little bird, notwithstanding the rather 
heavy and clumsy appearance it presents in consequence of the great 
size of its head and bill. It flies with ease and rapidity, flapping its 
wings quickly two or three times, and then closing them until a fresh 
impetus is required; it usually hovers for a few moments before 
alighting. "On being alarmed," says Macgillivray, "these birds rise 
abruptly, fly off, and betake themselves to the twigs of the highest 
trees in the neighbourhood, on which they settle abruptly, and remain 
in a crouching attitude until the alarm is over, when they drop into the 
field or j'ard." Frequently when perched, and sometimes when flying, 
the Greenfinch utters its call-note, which is likened by Meyer to the 
word 'twaij;' it is rather sweet and full, and though soft can be 
heard at a considerable distance. The alarm-note is similar, but is 
accompanied by a distinct low whistle. This bird can scarcely be said 
to possess a song, although its notes are slightly varied, and by no 
means unpleasing during the spring and autumn. 

The food of this bird consists largely of wheat, oats, and other 
grain, but it also devours the seeds of many of the common weeds; 
in the spring it feeds chiefly on insects and their larvae. On the 
Continent it is said to eat large quantities of hemp, rape, and linseed. 

At the commencement of the breeding season, a good deal of 
fighting takes place between the males, but blood is rarely spilt. The 
positions selected for the nest are low bushes or hedges, the ivy 
against walls, or the forked branches of trees. Very frequently a 
number of nests are found quite close to each other in a shrubbery, 
or sometimes several in a single large bush. The structure is put 
together entirely by the female, and consists of straws, twigs, and fine 
roots, covered with a layer of moss, and snugly lined with wool, hair, 
feathers, and thistle-down. The eggs are from four to six in number, 
of a bluish or reddish white, spotted with purplish grey and reddish 
brown, and more or less streaked with black. Some have been found 
without any markings at all, and others mottled all over. Two broods 
are generally reared in a season. For the fortnight during which the 
female sits she is supplied with food by her attentive mate. The 



176 TEE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

young are fori on caterpillars and small insects, and are most care- 
fully tended and guarded by the old birds, who utter loud cries of 
distress and alarm if any intruder approaches the nest. iMcycr relates 
the following instance of their affection for their off-spring: — "One 
day several little nestlings were caught in a field adjoining the garden; 
they were scarcely fledged, and could not fly; we put them in a small 
cage, which we placed in a low hedge bordoring the field where they 
were captured. It was not long before they were discovered by the 
parents, who immediately visited them, and appeared to bring them 
food. These marks of affection interested us, and fearing that where 
they were placed the young nestlings might become a prey to prowling 
cats, we gave them their liberty. The parents, however, appeared not 
yet satisfied respecting the safety of their young ones, for a short 
time after they were observed in the act of carrying one of them 
away; they were bearing it between them at about the elevation of 
a foot and a half from the ground, and in this manner were seen to 
carry it about fifty yards, namely, from the spot where the young 
birds were set at liberty, to the end of a gravel path, where they 
entered a clump of fir-trees. In what manner the parents supported 
the nestling was not very apparent, as the observers did not like to 
follow too quickly, lest the old birds should relinquish their burden; 
but from the close vicinity of the three during their flight, it appeared 
as if they must have upheld it by means of their beaks. The other 
nestlings had apparently been conveyed away in the same manner, as 
none of them were to be found." 

Ou the approach of winter the Greenfinches collect in large flocks 
and resort to stubble-fields, stackyards, and the neighbourhood of farm 
buildings. 



THE HAWFINCH, 

(Coccothraustcs vulgaris.') 
PLATE ^.. — Figure iv. 

The Hawfinch is one of the least elegantly formed and graceful of 
our British species; "it looks," says Macgillivray, "like a small bird 
on which has been stuck the head and bill of another double the size." 
Notwithstanding the clumsiness of its shape, however, the tints and 
markings of its plumage are so delicate and beautiful, that its general 
appearance is both handsome and attractive. 



TUE UAWFiyVE. Ill 

Until lain jonrs ornithologists described tlio ITawTinoli as merely aa 
occasional winter visitant to our island, but it is now known to be a 
p'.-rmanent resident in several of tlio southern and midland counties. 
Undoubtedly great additions are made to the numbers of our own 
birds by the arrival of flocks from other countries at the commencement 
of winter. Individuals, probably in most instances from these foreign 
flocks, have been captured in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumberland, and 
also in Ireland. One or two have been killed in Dumfriesshire, in 
Scotland. In all the temperate and southern countries of Europe this 
bird is to be met with; it also occurs, though more rarely, in Sweden, 
Denmark, Siberia, and Russia. 

As may be imagined from the thickness and clumsiness of his shape, 
the Hawfinch is by no means an active or sprightly bird; when upon 
the ground his small legs seem scarcely strong enough to support his 
body, and he moves but slowly, but upon the branches his movements 
are- more rapid. His flight is described as 'swift, undulatory, and 
noisy, owing to the rapid motion of his wings.' He frequently perches 
on the topmost branch of a tree, keeping a sharp look-out, and con- 
cealing himself most artfully amid the foliage if any intruder appears. 
He is so extremely shy and wary that the collector has the greatest 
diSicuIty in approaching within gunshot, and it is almost impossible to 
learn anything of his manners without the aid of a glass. 

These birds feed chiefly on the larger kinds of seeds and berries. 
They frequently destroy largo numbers of plums and cherries for the 
sake of the kernels, cracking the stones by means of their powerful 
bills with such force as to produce a noise that may be heard at the 
distance of thirty paces. They do considerable damage amongst the 
green peas both in gardens and fields. In the early part of the year 
they have been observed catching insects on the wing, especially the 
common cockchaSer. 

The nests of these birds have been found in a variety of situations ; 
on the horizontal branches of large oaks, in thorn bushes and holly 
trees, and among the branches of horse-chesnut, fir, and apple trees; 
the height at which they were placed varying from five to thirty feet. 
They are usually made of small twigs, such as those of the oak and 
honeysuckle, intermingled with pieces of grey lichen. The eggs are 
from four to sis in number, of a pale olive green, spotted with brownish 
black, and irregularly streaked with dusky. The young are hatched 
towards the end of May, and are fed by their parents until their 
beaks are strong enough to crack the hard-shelled seeds upon which 
they subsist. "As soon as they are able to provide for themselves," 
says Mr. Doubleday, "they unite with the old bu-ds in flocks, varying 

2 a 



178 TUE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

in numbers from fifteen or twenty to one hundred, or even to two 
hundred individuals. In this manner they remain through the winter, 
feeding on the hornbeam seeds whicli have fallen to the ground, the 
newly-cracked shells of which are to be seen in abundance at their 
haunts." 

The Hawfinch sometimes utters a few soft, plaintive, and agreeable 
notes, bearing some resemblance to those of the Bullfinch. Its call is 
sharp and unpleasant, and is likened by Bechstein to the syllables 
'Itz! tziss!' 

The male weighs about two ounces, and is a little over seven inches 
in length. The bill is blue in summer, and flesh-coloured in winter. 
The irides are light grey, and the legs, toes, and claws brownish red. 
The head and neck are fawn-colour, the latter crossed behind by a 
broad band of ash grey. The throat and the space between the beak 
and the eye are black. The back is rich chesnut above, fading into 
brownish grey, and then changing downwards into yellowish brown. 
The tail is black, with the two centre feathers grey at the tips, and 
the outer ones partly edged with white. The wings are for the most 
part black, with a broad band of white running across them, and the 
quill feathers tipped with steel-blue. The breast and under parts of 
the body are pale yellowish brown. The female is a little smaller, and 
considerably paler in colour. 



THE GOLDFINCH, 



f Cairluch's cL'gans.) 
PLATE XI. — FIGURE V. 



The Goldfinch is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful of our British 
birds, and well deserves the title of ehgans (elegant), for not only is 
his plumage brilliantly coloured and handsomely marked, but his shape 
is remarkably graceful and compact. Besides his personal appearance, 
his sprightly manners, docile disposition, and sweet song combine to 
make him a universal favourite. 

This bird inhabits a very large extent of country, being distributed 
over the whole of Europe, a large part of Asia, and the north-western 
portion of Africa. It is also found in the Canary Isles, Madeira, and 
Cuba. In the British Isles it is to be met with in numerous localities 
throughout England and Wales, and is plentiful in many parts of 



TTTE GOLDFIXCn. 179 

Trolaiul and tlio south of Scotland. Its favonrite resorts nro wooded 
districts, upon fields, commons, and heaths, hut it often visits orchards 
and gardens, especially in the early part of tlio year. 

It frequently builds in orchard and other trees, and sometimes in 
hedges, thick bushes, and evergreens in plantations. The nest, which 
is often placed at a height of five and twenty feet from the ground, 
is a beautiful specimen of bird architecture, and is most carefully 
concealed. Tiie female usually constructs it with but little assistance 
from her partner, who generally perches on the nearest twig and sings 
gaily while tho work is in progress. The outer wall consists of grass, 
moss, lichens, small twigs, and roots, interwoven with wool and hair, 
and the interior lining is made up of the down of various plants, 
feathers, and other soft substances, all laid in with the greatest regu- 
larity. Herein are deposited four or five delicate thin-shelled eggs, 
of a pale greyish blue or bluish white, marked with a few sjDots of 
greyish purple and brown, and occasionally a few dark streaks. They 
are laid about the end of May, and hatched in thirteen or fourteen 
days. The female rarely leaves the nest, and is fed by her mate. 
The young are reared on caterpillars and small insects, and when able 
to fly may be seen in company with their parents, roving over the 
commons and uncultivated lands in search of the seeds of the thistle, 
plantain, groundsel, and other plants. A prettier sight than one of 
these little family parties cannot well bo imagined; they flit about in 
the most graceful manner, and cling to the stems head downwards, 
and in all kinds of queer attitudes, scattering the down from the 
thistle heads all around them as they pick out the seeds by means of 
their long pointed beaks. 

Tlie song of the Goldfinch, which may bo heard from the end of 
March to the middle of July, is very sweet and varied. Tho ordinary 
call note is represented by the words 'tixji'd,' or 'siicJiIit.' 

Goldie, Goldspink, King Harry, Redcap, and Proudtail arc some of 
the popular names that have been bestowed on this beautiful little 
bird of which we have now to describe the plumage, etc. The male 
is about five inches in length; the irides are dark brown; the legs 
and toes flesh-colour, and the claws brown. The front of the head is 
crimson, and the same colour extends from the base of the beak 
underneath the eye. The crown, and a semicircular band running 
down the sides of the neck, are black. The space between the black 
line and the crimson is white, which also extends round the throat. 
The whole of the under surface of the body is dull white, tinged on 
the sides with wood brown. The back is reddish brown on the upper 
parts and yellowish ou the lower. The tail is black, tipped with 



180 TRE SMALLER BRITISII BIRDS. 

■white. The wings, which are also black, are crossed "hj a band of 
brilliant yellow, so that when expanded they pi-esent a most beautiful 
appearauce: — 

"Like fairy fans of goldon spokes they soom." 

All the qnills are tipped with white. The female is a little over four 
inches and three quarters in length, and has her plumage less brightly 
coloured. 

Goldfinches arc very docile, and may bo taught a variety of simple 
but amusing tricks. At an exhibition which took place in London 
some years ago, several of these birds, with Canaries and Linnets, 
went through a wonderful performance. One feigned death, and was 
held up by the tail or claw, without exhibiting any signs of life; a 
second stood on its head with its feet in the air; a third imitated a 
Dutch milk-maid going to market with pails on her shoulders; a fifth 
appeared as a soldier, and mounted guard as a sentinel; a sixth assumed 
the part of a cannoneer, wearing a cap on its head, and cai-rying a 
gun on its shoulder, and a match in its claw, with which it discharged 
a small cannon. The same bird also acted as if it had been wounded, 
and was wheeled in a barrow as if to convey it to an hospital, after 
which it flew away before the company. The seventh turned a kind 
of windmill; and the last bird stood in the midst of some fireworks, 
which were discharged all round it, without exhibiting the slightest 
symptom of alarm. It is always to be feared that when birds perform 
such elaborate tricks as these tliey have been taught by means of 
some method of cruelty or torture, and therefore, for our own part, 
we would rather see tliom without these accomplishments. 



THE BULLFINCH, 

(Loxia pjrrht/ld.) 
PLATE XI. FIGURE VI. 

This species is to be mot with througliout England, L-eland, and 
Scotland, frequenting woods, plantations, thickets, hedgerows, gardens, 
and orchards, but avoiding bleak and exposed situations, such as 
commons or moors. On the continent of Europe it is fonnd in Nor- 



TITE BULLFINCH. 181 

way, Sweden, Dpnmnrlc, Russia, (io"iii:my, and Franco. It also occurs 
in Asia, both in Tartary and Japan. 

The scientific name of this bird is demVed from loxos, obliqne or 
transverse, and pyrrnx, red; the first has reference to the shape of its 
bill, and the second to the colour of its throat and breast. The short 
thick neck, largo head, and stout body of the Bullfinch render liiin 
rather clumsy and awkward in appearance, but his plumago is so rich 
and beautiful, that he is, notwithstanding, a really haudsomo fellow, 
and a great ornament to our woods. Should you wish to observe his 
habits in his native haunts, you must endeavour to approach him so 
quietly that he may not notice you, as he is extremely shy and vigilant, 
and will flit off on the slightest disturbance. He is very active in his 
movements among the branches, and can fly with moderate rapidity, 
but hops on the ground in a rather ungainly manner. 

Tlie call-note of this bird is a soft and plaintive whistle, but it has 
a rather sweet and pleasing, though simple song. "In the distance 
the sound of the male's voice is soft and mellow; that of the female 
greatly resembles it, though they are readily distinguished by a prac- 
tised car. Whilst uttering this a smart twitch of the tail may bo 
observed, and when the female is on the nest, her mate frequently 
sits for hours together on a neighbouring branch, sounding his jDlaintivc 
note, or amusing her with his curious whining song. While singing 
it ])uffs out its plumage, and makes strange contortions with its head." 

Tiie Bullfinch feeds on the seeds of the groundsel, chickweed, and 
other plants, hips and haws, berries and fruits. The gardeners call 
him 'Pick-a-bud,' because he commits sad havoc among the flower-buds 
of the fruit-trees and gooseberry bushes. Whether he destroys them 
to get at the insects they often contain, or for their own sakes, is a 
disputed point. Neville Wood believes the former to be the case, but 
very strong evidence derived from the examination of the stomachs of 
some of his species killed 'in the very act,' almost compels us to accept 
the latter supposition as the correct one, although Macgillivray says 
that, "judging from the structure of its digestive organs, it is doubtful 
that such crude vegetable matters as buds could afford it sufficient 
nourishment." 

The nest of the Bullfinch is usually placed at no great height from 
the ground in a hawthorn or other bush. It is not unfrequently built 
on the lower branches of some tree in a shrubbery. The exterior wall 
consists of small twigs, rather loosely compacted, and it has a lining 
of fine fibrous roots. The eggs, four or five in number, are of a bluish 
or purplish white colour, spotted and streaked with purplish grey and 
dark purple. They are hatched about the end of May, after an incu- 



183 TTTE SMALLER BRITISH BIBBS. 

bntinn of fifteen days. As a rule the sliglitcst clisturljance will cause 
the nest to be deserted} but it is recorded in "The Naturahst/' by 
W. H. R. Read, Esq., of Frickley Hall, in Yorkshire, that a Bullfinch, 
which had built in a laurel bush near the house, allowed herself to be 
caressed while sitting on her young ones, and would feed from the 
hand without exhibiting the least fear. The nestlings are at first fed 
upon insects, but afterwards on seeds, the hard coverings of which have 
been removed by the parents. 

One of the most interesting traits in the character of the Bullfinch 
is its strong attachment to its species. A naturalist states that when 
one of a small flock is killed, the others cannot endure leavincr their 
companion on the ground, and will make every effort to take the body 
with them. 

The male is from six to six and a half inches in length. The bill, 
which is very short and thick, is shining black. The irides are dark 
brown; the legs, toes, and claws purple brown. The whole of the top 
of the head and a band at the base of the beak are jet black. The 
back is delicate bluish grey, and white towards the tail. The tail and 
wings are black, the latter crossed by a bar of white. The cheeks, 
throat, and breast are a beautiful red between lake and vermilion. 
The female is considerably smaller than the male, and of a similar 
colour, but less bright. The young resemble the female, but are 
without the black head. 

In some parts of Germany hundreds of young Bullfinches are captured 
for the purpose of training them, and teaching them to whistle different 
airs. They undergo a nine months course of instruction, and are then 
exported to London, Paris, and other great cities, and sold at prices 
varying according to their proficiency. Some will whistle two or even 
three tunes without missing a note, and are worth several pounds. 



IN CONFINEMENT. 

The Germans value the Chaffinch so highly that we are told a cow 
has been given in exchange fur a particul.nrly fine singer. Probably 
few of our readers would be willing to make such an exchange if they 
had it in their power to do so, especially as a well-trained bird can 
be purchased at any time from the dealers for from six to eight 
shillings. In confinement Cliaffinches should be fed chiefly on rape- 
seed that has been well soaked in water. "A little hemp in spring," 



Plnlc II. 






.^.^^ 



•r^fe 












FINCHES. 



1. Chaffinch. 



2. Mountain Fmoh. 
6. Goldfinch. 



3. Greenflnch. 
6. Bullfinch. 



Hawfinch. 



FIXCHES IN CONFINEMENT. 183 

saya Bnolistcin, "has a great effect in inducing these birds to sing; 
but tliey are so fond of it as to render it advisable not to put it iu 
the same trough with the rape-seed, wliicli they would waste to get 
at their favourite food. A httlo green food, especially groundsel, and 
iu winter a slice of apple aids the process of digestion." Old Challinches 
frequently become lame in consequence of the accumulation of scales 
on their legs; these may be removed by means of the point of a pen- 
knife, an operation requiring considerable caro and delicacy. 

The Mountain Finch will thrive if treated in the same manner as 
the Chaffinch, but its song is not particularly agreeable, and it is very 
much given to quarreling over its food if kept in an aviary with other 
birds. 

The Greenfinch is an unusually hardy bird, and may be kept to the 
age of ten or twelve years. If confined with or near the Chafllinch it 
soon acquires its song, which is much sweeter and more varied than 
its own. The young may be reared if fed upon white bread, soaked 
in milk and mixed with a small quantity of bruised hemp and rape- 
seed. As they grow up they should be fed chiefly on the latter. 

The Hawfinch becomes very tame in confinement, but is a delicate 
bird, and very liable to take cold. It should be given the same food 
as the last-mentioned species. 

The Goldfinch is much prized as a cage-bird, both on account of 
its beautiful plumage and sweet song. It should be kept in a large 
and roomy cage, open on all sides, but with a close wooden or zinc 
top. When taken from the nest it may be reared on poppy-seed and 
bread soaked in milk or water. It should afterwards be fed on canary, 
rape, hemp, or poppy-seed, especially the latter. Let it have plenty 
of water both for bathing and drinking, and an occasional supply of 
groundsel or other green food. The Goldfinch is rather subject to 
epilepsy, a disease brought about by over-feeding and want of exercise. 
Bechstein says the best remedy is to dip the bird affected once or 
twice in the coldest water that can be procured, and then to cut the 
claws so closely as to let blood. Sore and swollen eyes are disorders 
from which this bird sometimes suffers; they may generally be cured 
by an application of unsalted butter. 

The Bullfinch rarely lives beyond six or seven years in confinement; 
but the remarkable talents he displays in learning to whistle or 'pipe' 
various tunes, and his tameness and docility render him an especial 
favourite with the lovers of cage-birds. The young of this species may 
be reared on soaked bread and bruised hemp-seed. They must be fed 
about every two hours from six in the morning until dark, and kept 
very warm, "If they are to be taught to whistle," says Bechstein, 



184 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

"they must be taken out of the nest when twelve or fourteen clay3 
old, and fed on soaked rape-seed, mixed with wheaten bread. They 
do not begin to whistle till they are able to feed themselves; but 
must nevertheless be whistled to, as soon as taken, as in. this case 
the lesson is more deeply and readily impressed upon their memory. 
They are most attentive and capable of learning immediately after 
they have been fed. The course of instruction must last at least three 
quarters of a j^ear. Even when they have been taught, it is well to 
keep them ajDart from other birds, as they are so quick at learning, 
as readily to catch up any novelty. It is also necessary to help them 
when they hesitate, and to repeat their song to them, especially at 
moulting time." Adult birds will thrive on canary, rape, or hemp- 
seed. If allowed free range of the aviary, (and this ajiplics to all the 
species in our present group,) the universal paste, varied with a little 
rape-seed, will suit them perfectly. 

"Goldfinch, pride of woodland glade, 
In thy jet and gold arra3''d; 
Gentle bird, that lov'st to feed 
On the thistle's downy seed; 
freely frolic, lightly sing. 
In the sunbeam spread thy wiiig! 
Spread thy plumage, trim and gay, 
Glittering iu the noontide ray ! 
As upon the thorn-tree's stem 
Perch'd, thou sipp'st the dewy gem. 
Tickle bird, for ever roving, 
Endless changes ever loving; 
Now in orchards gaily sporting. 
Now to flowery fields resorting; 
Chasing now the thistle's down, 
By the gentle zephyrs blown, 
Lightly on thou wing'st thy way, 
iiiwaya hapjiy, always gay." 



FJNCUES. 185 



FINCHES AND ALLIED SPECIES. 

'T'^IIE SiskiDj the smallest species in our present group, is very similar 
in structure to the Goldfinch, and belongs also to the genus Car- 
duelis. These birds, commonly called Thistle-finches, feed entirely upon 
seeds, principally those of the various kinds of weeds, thus performing 
valuable service to the agriculturist. They have shortish and sharply- 
pointed beaks, rather slender bodies, and longish wings. Tlie Siskin, 
with which wc are now chiefly concerned, is a winter visitor to this 
country from the northern parts of Europe, but has in a few instances 
been known to remain and breed here. 

The Linnet, Redpole, Mealy Redpole, and Twite, form a separate 
genus, taking its name from the first mentioned. The lAnarice are 
neat and lively birds of small size, most of them permanent residents 
in Britain. Their beads are rather large, necks short, wings long, 
legs short, and toes slender. The Linnet is the most common, Deing 
found in all parts of the country throughout the year, while the Mealy 
Redpole is the rarest, and only a winter visitor. 

The Sparrows, belonging, as we have previously stated, to the genus 
Passer, are very closely allied to both the true Finches and the Linnets. 
The House Sparrow is of all British birds the most common and 
familiar; ho is to be met with from one end of the country to the 
other, but always close to the habitations of man. Barry Coi'uwall 
says concerning him — 

2 B 



186 THE S2IJLLER BPdTISII BIRDS. 

"He dotli follow us 
From spot to spot, amidst tlie turbulent town, 
And ne'er deserts us. To all other birds 
The woods suffice, the rivers, the sweet fields, 
And nature in her aspect mute and fair; 
But he doth herd with man. 
Untiring follower! what doth chain thee hereP 
What bonds 'tween thee and man? Thy food the same 
As tbeirs who wing the woods, — thy voice ns wild, 
Tliy wants, thy power the same; we nothing do 
To serve thee, and few love thee; yet thou hangst 
About our dwelliiigs, like some humble friend. 
Whom custom and kind thoughts do link to u.s. 
And no neglect can banish." 

Tlie Tree Sparrow is cliiefly confined to some of the mid]an(5 and 
northern counties of England. Contrary to the habit of its more 
plentiful relation, it seems rather to avoid the neighbourhood of towns 
and villages, and to prefer wild hilly and mountainous districts. Both 
of these birds feed on seeds and grain, but their depredations on the 
latter are amply compensated by their whole.sale destruction of insects, 
especially when they are rearing their young. They breed several times 
in a season, building rather rude and loosely-compacted nests, but 
lining them plentifully with leathers and other soft materials. 



Plate 13. 




I. Siskin. 



2. Linnet. 

6. Sparrow. 



F I N C tl E S, ETC. 
3. Redpole. 4. Mealy Redpole. 



Twite. 



7. Tree Sparrow, 



Till: :ilSKtN. 187 



THE SISKIN, 

(^Cardiitlis s/n'm/s.) 
PLATE XII. FIGURE I. 

ALTiTOrori tTic Sislcia is not so brilliantly colourpd as tlie Goldfinch, 
it is a beautiful bird, and particularly neat and compact in form. The 
male, wliicli a good deal resembles the green variety of the Canary, is 
about five inches in leni^th, and nine inches across the expanded wings. 
The bill is light grey, and blackish at the point. The irides arc dusky 
brown; the legs, toes, and claws pale reddish brown. The upper part 
of the head, chin, and throat are black. A pale yellow band extends 
over the eye and for some distance backwards. The neck, cheeks, and 
back are yellowish green, the latter speckled with black. The wings 
and tail are black, with many of the feathers edged or tipped with 
yellow. The breast is greenish yellow, fading into whitish on the 
under surface of the body. The female is a little smaller than the 
male, and her plumage is in general paler. The head and back are 
greyer and more spotted with black. 

This species is fonnd throughout the continent of Europe, but is 
most plentiful in the mountainous districts of Norway, Sweden, and 
Russia. It visits this country in large flocks about September, and 
takes up its abode chiefly in the northern parts, althougli considerable 
numbers have occasionally been met with in the south. A few indi- 
viduals have been known to remain throughout the year, and to breed 
both in England and Scotland. A nest containing three young birds 
was found in Camperdown woods near Dundee; it was placed at the 
height of about six feet from the gi-ound, at the insertion of a bianch, 
and close to the trunk of a spruce fir, and was composed of materials 
similar to those used by the Chafiinch. Another was discovered in a, 
similar position near Bathgate: Mr. Weir says it was one of the best 
concealed nests he ever saw. Mr. Yarrell mentions two instances in 
which this bird has been known to breed near London, and Mr. Meyer, 
two others, both in Coombe Wood, in the same neighbourhood. In 
Germany, Bechstein tells us, the Siskin "prefers building in forests of 



188 THE SMALLER BBITISE BIRDS. 

pine or fir, and places its nest on the highest branch of one of these 
trees, or sdiiiotimes on the bough of the akler. Ifc is fastened to the 
brancli with spiders' webs, coral-moss, and threads from the cocoons 
of various insects, and 's clevei-ly constructed of those materials, woven 
together with small twigs, and lined with very fine roots." The eggs 
vary greatly in size, shape, and colour, but are in general of a greyish 
or greenish white, spotted around the larger end with purple and 
brown. The female, without any assistance from her mate, sits on the 
eggs for about fourteen days; the young are Hedged in fifteen more, 
and are able to leave the nest at the end of the third week. Two 
broods are generally reared in a season. 

The food of these birds consists of the seeds of the fir, pine, beech, 
alder, thistle, dandelion, and other trees and plants. They cling to 
the branches and stems, and exhibit the same nimbleness and activity 
as the Goldfinches. The song of the male, although little more than 
a continuous chirrup, is sweet and pleasing. The ilight of the Siskin 
is light, rapid, and undulating, but it rarely remains long on the wing 
in this country. On the ground it hops with considerable rapidity. 

This bird is sometimes called the Aberdevine, or the Black-headed 
Thistle Finch. Its scientific title is derived from carduus a thistle, 
and spinus a thorn. 



THE LINNET, 

{^Linaria cannahina.') 

PLATE XII. FIGDEE II. 

The tints of the plumage of this species undergo such great changes 
at different seasons and periods of life, that it has been called by the 
various names of the Brown, Grey, White, and Rose Linnet. It is 
also known as the Whin Linnet, the Greater Redpole, and the Liutie. 
Its scientific title is derived from linum flax, and canna a cane or 
reed. 

The Linnet is plentiful in nearly all parts of the European continent, 
a large portion of Asia and Asia Minor, and in north-western Africa. 
It is well known throughout Britain, being as common in the Orkney 
and Shetland Islands as in the southern counties of England. During 
the summer these birds frequent open commons, moors, and the borders 



THE LINNET. 189 

of- woods and plantations, where they may bo soon feeding on the seeds 
of flax, daiuleliou, thistle, and other plants. The pairing season com- 
mences early in April; the nest is neatly constructed of grass and small 
twigs, intermingled with moss and wool, and lined with hair. It is 
usually ])laced in the centre of a thick furze bush or a clump of brush- 
wood, close to the ground, but has been found in a fir tree, at the 
height of ten or eleven feet. The eggs are from four to six in number, 
of a bluish white colour, spotted, most thickly at the larger end, with 
purplish grey and reddish brown. \Vlien the young are hatched the 
parents exhibit great solicitude for their safety, and will use various 
artifices to attract an intruder from the vicinity of the nest. 

The "Edinburgh Philosophical Journal" gives the following inter- 
esting anecdote, showing how the natural timidity of a pair of these 
birds was overcome by their affection for their offspring: — "A nest, 
containing four young Linnets, scarcely fledged, was found by some 
children, who resolved to carry them home, for the purpose of rearing 
and taming the young birds. The old ones, attracted by their chirp- 
ing, continued fluttering round the children till they reached the 
house, when the nest was carried upstairs to the nursery, and placed 
outside the window. The old birds soon afterwards made their appear- 
ance, approached the nest, and fed the family, without showing alarm. 
This being noticed, the nest was soon afterwards placed on a table, 
in the middle of the apartment, and the window left open. The parent 
birds came boldly in, and fed their . offspring as before. Still further 
to pat their attachment to the test, the nest and young ones were 
placed within a bird-cage; still the old ones retm-ned, entered boldly 
within the cage, and supplied the wants of their brood as before, and, 
towards evening, actually perched on the cage, regardless of the noise 
made around them by several children. This continued for several 
days, when an unlucky accident put an end to it. The cage had been 
again set on the outside of the window, and was unfortunately left 
exposed to a sudden and heavy fall of raiu; the consequence was, that 
the whole of the young were drowned in the nest. The poor parents 
continued hovering round the house, and looking wistfully in at the 
window, for several days, and then disappeared." 

The young are generally able to fly by the end of May, and two 
broods are commonly reared every year. 

As soon as the breeding-season is over,- the Linnets collect in large 
flocks, and leaving the breezy heath and moorland, resort to the lower 
districts, where they search the stubble-fields for the fallen grain, or 
visit the farmers' stackyards to pilfer from his store. So large are 
these flocks, especially in mid-winter, and so closely do the birds keep 



190 THE SMALLER UllITISH BIRDS. 

together, that it is recorded that upwards of one hundred and forty 
were on one occasion killed at a single shot. 

The flifTht of this bird is light, ^'apid, and undulatingj Macgillivray 
says, "the flocks glide and wheel, the individuals crossing the direction 
of each other, in a very beautiful manner." On the ground it advances 
by short leaps, in a quick and sprightly manner. 

The song of the Linnet is soft, mellow, varied, and sweet. 

The length of the adult male is about five inches and three quarters. 
During the spring he appears in his brightest colours. The forehead 
and breast are then of a beautiful crimson. The rest of the head, 
nock, and sides of the throat are grey. The back and wing coverts 
are rich chesnut brown, and the tail feathers and quills black, with 
naiTOW white edges. The under part of the body is pale wood brown. 
The bill bluish grey, and the feet dull brown. During the autumn 
and winter the bright red on the head and breast is replaced by dark 
brown. The female is a little smaller than the male, and of a lighter 
colour. 



THE REDTOLE, 

(Linaria minor.) 
PLATE XII. — noaRK III. 

This elegant little bird, also called the Lesser Redpole and the 
Smaller Redpole Linnet, is the smallest British member of the Passerine 
family, being rather less than five inches in total length. It remains 
throughout the year iu Scotland, Ireland, and the north of England, 
but is frequently met with iu the south during the winter. On the 
continent of Europe it inhabits Norway, Sweden, Siberia, and other 
northern countries, aud is a winter migrant to the southern parts. 

Like the Common Linnet, the Redpole has the forehead and breast 
bright crimson during the breeding-season. The general colour of the 
upper parts is yellowish brown, streaked with blackish brown. The 
wings and tail are dusky brown, edged with pale yellowish brown, the 
former crossed by two bands of the same. The under surface of the 
body is whitish. 

In Scotland, the Redpolo is said to breed iu the hilly districts, 
among the brushwood that skirts the Hanks of iho mountains or 



THE MEALY REDFOLE. 1!)1 

covers the marg'ins of streams. The nest is plared in a low bush ov 
tree, such as the alder, willow, or hazel, and is composed of moss and 
dry grass, with a lining of willow catkins and feathers. On this soft 
bed are deposited from four to six eggs, of a pale bluish green colour, 
spotted chiefly at tho larger end with orange brown, with occasionally 
a few fine stroalvs of blackish brown. Pennant says, "We found the 
nest of this species on an alder stump near a brook, between two 
and three feet from the grouudj the bird was sitting on four eggs, 
and was so tenacious of her nest, as to suffer us to take her off with 
our hand; and we found that after we had released her she would not 
forsake it." 

These birds feed on the seeds of the alder, thistle, dandelion, and 
other trees and plants; they have sometimes been seen picking young 
buds in pieces, probably to get at the small insects they so frequently 
contain. Wlien feeding they may be watched with the greatest ease, 
as they will allow an observer to come within half a dozen yards 
without attempting to fly away. Even when fired at they only rise 
into the air and wheel about several times, returning in a few seconds 
to the tree or bush from which they started. Audubon says, "Few 
birds display a more affectionate disposition than the Little Rcdpole, 
and it was pleasing to see several on a twig feeding each other by 
passing a seed from bill to bill, one individual sometimes receiving from 
liis two neighbours at tho same time." 

The song of the Redpole is clear and loud, but without much variety; 
It may be heard chiefly during the pairing season. Its call-uote is 
rather shrill, and is frecLueutly repeated when on the wing. 



THE MEAL^ REDPOLE, 

(Linaria borealis.j 



PLATE Xn. FIGURE IV. 



The Mealy Redpole very closely resembles the species last described, 
indeed it was for some time looked upon as merely a large variety of 
the same. At the present time, however, most ornithologists believe 
it to be distinct and identical with a species that is found in the 
northern parts of Europe, Asia, aud America. 



192 TIIE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

In this country it is in general very rare, but a large number are 
said to have been taken in the year 1827, and again in 1829. Several 
specimens were obtained near Colchester in January, 1836; when shot 
they were feeding on the seeds of the alder, in company with Siskins. 
Another specimen was killed in the neighbourhood of Saffron Walden, 
in the month of May, of the same year. Others have been met with 
in Yorkshire, Suffolk, and other parts of the country, most of them 
in winter. 

The eggs of this bird are described as pale greenish Ijlue, sprinkled 
all over with pale but distinct sjjots of a reddish brown colour, some 
of them inclining to lilac, chiefly confined to a zone around the larger 
end. 

In its habits this species is said to resemble the Common Ecdpole. 
Its food consists of the seeds of various forest trees. 



THE TWITE, 

{Linaria mo?ilatia.) 
PLATE XII.- — FIGURE V. 

The Twite is to be met with chiefly in hilly and mountainous 
districts, and is therefore very commonly called the Mountain Linnet. 
In size it stands intermediate between the Common Linnet and the 
Eedpole, and in general appearance it bears some resemblance to both 
these birds; it may, however, be readily distinguished by its more 
elongated and slender form, the tawny tint of its throat, and the 
absence of the red colour on both the forehead and breast. 

This bird inhabits Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, but is said to 
be rare in Eussia. During the winter it visits Germany, France, and 
even Italy, and is stated to be a permanent resident among the 
Swiss Alps. It is also found in Japan, where, according to M. 
Temminck, it is known by the name of Tuzume. It is plentiful 
throughout the year in all the northern parts of the British Isles, 
but is only a winter visitor to the southern counties of England. 

In its habits the Twito closely resembles the Linnet, with which it 
sometimes associates during the winter, the individuals of both species 



THE SPARROW. 193 

uniting to form large flocks, which visit the lower grounds and 
stubble fields in search of seeds and grain. Macgillivray states that 
it feeds largely on the seeds of the cultivated grasses, and that ho 
has found the contents of the stomachs of those shot to consist almost 
entirely of such. 

Early in the spring the flocks break up, partners are selected, and 
building operations commenced. The nest is placed on the ground, 
among heath or gorse, on the rugged slopes of the mountains. It 
is neatly constructed, and consists externally of dry grass, small roots, 
heather, and moss, and is lined with wool, hair, and a few feathers. 

The eggs rarely exceed six in number, and are of a pale greenish or 
bluish white, marked chiefly at the larger end with light reddish 
brown and purplish red, with sometimes a few blackish dots. Only 
one brood is usually roared in a season. 

The ordinary note of this bird resembles the word twite, hence its 
name. Mr. Selby says its song is pleasing, though scarcely equal in 
compass to that of the Common Linnet. 

The Twite flies rapidly, and in an undulated manner ; before alighting 
it wheels around several times, uttering a soft twitter at intervals. 
It is by no means a shy bird, but if disturbed generally betakes 
itself to lofty trees, or to some distant field. 



THE SPARROW, 

{Passer domesticus.) 

PLATE XII. FIQUEE VI. 

The Sparrow, to which the appellation of the word common is more 
appropriate than to any other British bird, is as well known to the 
inhabitants ot the greater part of the European continent as to our- 
selves. The dark-skinned dwellers in the northern parts of Africa, 
and the Asiatics of the districts bordering on the Himalaya Mountains, 
are also well acquainted with his bold, pert, and familiar ways. Over 
a largo portion of the globe, wherever man rears his habitation, bo it 
the mud cottage of poverty, or the marble palace of royalty, this little 
bird takes up its abode also, building its nest and rearing its young 
in the thatch of the former, or among the sculptured ornaments of the 

2 c 



194 THE SMALLER BRnliill BIRDS. 

latter. "A villnge witliout Sparrows/' says Macgillivraj', "has as deso- 
late an aspect as a house without children; but fortunately for the 
worldj the one is nearly as rare as the other. Multitudes of these 
birds in a place are indicative of its prosperity, for where there are 
few crumbs there will bo few beggars." 

A description of the plumage of the Sparrow would be quite un- 
necessary, and indeed almost an insult to the powers of observation 
of our readers, but we may remark, that the country bird, with the 
rich brown of the upper parts of his body, the black of his throat, 
and the white bands on his wings, bears but little resemblance to the 
dingy smoke-begrimed inhabitant of the city. 

Although the Sparrow exhibits so little fear of man that it will 
permit his approach to within a few feet, it is at the same time very 
wary and alert, and no sooner catches sight of an elevated gun, or 
even a stick held in a similar position, than it darts off to what it 
considers a safe distance. " It is often remarked," says Bishop Stanley, 
"what impudent birds are Loudon Sparrows! and not without reason. 
Born and bred in the bustle of the town, they must either live and 
jostle with the crowd, or look down from the house-tops and die of 
hunger. Naturally enough, they prefer the former; and all our London 
readers will, we are sure, testify to the cool intrepidity with which this 
familiar bird will pounce upon a bit of bread, or some other tempting 
morsel which happens to catch its eye upon the pavement, and with 
what triumph and exultation it bears it off to its mate, seated on some 
window-sill or coping-stone above, or followed, perhaps, by three or 
four disappointed companions, who were a moment too late in seizing 
the spoil. A Sparrow is not only bold with regard to men, but still 
more so on particular occasions towards other birds. On the edge of 
a certain lawn grew a close thick bush. On this lawn, amongst others, 
the Blackbirds used to come and forage for worms. One day a person 
happened to be looking at a Blackbird in the act of making off with 
a prize, wheu a Sparrow, darting from the thick bush, instantly assailed 
the Bltickbird, and compelled him to drop the worm, of which he took 
immediate possession. So singular a circumstance induced the observer 
to look out now and then when Blackbirds came, and he frequently 
saw the same piratical practice adopted by the Sparrow, who thus, by 
keeping watch in the bush, was enabled to enrich himself on the labours 
of the larger bird." 

At the pairing season a great deal of fighting and quarrelling takes 
place, although blood is rarely spilt. A battle commenced by two 
rival males is often taken part in by half a dozen of the spectators; 
all of them apparently pecking at each other iadiscrimiuately, and 



THE SPAUliOW 1 9a 

twittering and scroamiiij^ at tlio top of theif voices, a^ tbcy wliirl about 
from one spot to another. Tlio nest, which is usii.iliy placed in any 
holes or cavities which will uirnrJ it sufficient sup'jort or shelter, in 
the roofs or other parts uf buildings, but sometimes in trees and 
bushes, is composed of hay, str.iw, moss, and sin ill twigs, and plenti- 
fully lined with wool, foatli:).-s and othor soft materials. It is very 
closely constructed, and often raoasur.^s as much as six inches in 
diameter. 

Sparrows sometimes place their nests in the most curious and appa- 
rently unsuitable positions. A pair once built in the hollow of the 
lock attached to the entrance gates of the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum; 
the fact that these gates were locked and unlocked rarely less than 
three hundred times in the course of a day, renders the circumstance 
especially remarkable. The eggs were laid, and the young successfully 
reared. Another pair built in the mouth of the lion over Northum- 
berland House, at Charing Cross. Mr. Morris records how a still more 
extraordinary place was chosen by a north-country couple: — "A coal 
vessel from Newcastle put into Nairn, in Scotland, and while there 
two sparrows were frequently observed to alight on the top of the 
vessel's mast, while she remained in port. This occasioned no great 
surprise to the crew ; but after putting to sea, the two Sparrows were 
seen following the sloop, and having come up with her, resumed their 
posts at the top of the mast. Crumbs of bread were scattered upon 
the deck, with a view of enticing them down, of which they soon 
availed themselves; and after eating heartily, they again returned to 
the mast-head. By the time the vessel had been two days at sea, 
they became much more familiar, and descended boldly for the purpose 
of feeding. The voyage was a long one, lasting for some days, when 
on reaching the river Tyne, to which they were bound, the nest with 
four young ones was carefully taken down, and being put in the crevice 
of a ruined house, on the banks of the river, they continued to rear 
their brood." Another curious situation selected by a pair of those 
birds was a thorn bush, stuck in the top of a kitchen chimney; here, 
notwithstanding the smoke that was constantly issuing, the eggs were 
laid and the young reared. 

The eggs, from four to six in number, are dull greyish or purplish 
white, spotted with dark grey and brown. The male and female sit 
alternately on the nest for tliirteeu or fourteen days, by the end 
of which time the young are hatched. Three broods are frequently 
produced in a season. Both parents feed the young on insects, and 
exhibit the strongest attachment to them. Mr. Graves relates that 
having noticed a pair of old birds that had built close to his houso. 



196 THE SMALLER BUITISE BLUBS. 

continuing to bring food to the nest some time after the brood had 
left it, he had the curiosity to phice a ladder against the wall, and 
to look into the nest. To his surprise he found a full-grown bird, 
which had got its foot entangled in some thread that formed part of 
the nest. It was doubtless one of the young which had been thus 
prevented from leaving with the rest of the brood. Wishing to see 
how long the parents would continue to feed it, he allowed it to 
remain as it was, and observed that it was supplied by them until after 
Christmas, when, fearing the cold would kill it, he released it. la a 
day or two it went with the old birds, but they continued to feed it 
till March, and during the whole time they all nestled together. 

" A few years ago," says Mr. J. Blaydon, of Pontypool, in the pages 
of the " Zoologist," " I was sitting in a cottage, when my attention 
was attracted to an unusual screaming of a small bird. I immediately 
went to the back door, and saw that it proceeded from a House 
Sparrow, that was fluttering about on the wall, at the base of which 
was a duck with something in its bill, which it was endeavouring 
to swallow. Upon attentively observing it, I found this to be a 
callow nestling, and from the agonies of the poor Sparrow there was 
no mistaking the parent; the feathers of the latter were all erect, 
and it continued hopping and fluttering about, and uttering the most 
distressing cries for the loss of one of its young, which I suppose had 
fallen out of the nest." 

When the corn is standing in the fields, the Sparrows may frequently 
be seen picking the grains from the ears ; they also feed on the field 
and garden peas, and the seeds of the charlock, mustard, groundsel, 
and other plants. The loss occasioned to the crops by the depredations 
of these birds has often caused the farmers to wage war with them, 
but", as they are now beginning to find out, to their own cost; for 
in those districts where, through the agency of Sparrow Clubs and 
other organized systems of destruction, these useful creatures have been 
exterminated or greatly reduced in numbers, the insects have increased 
to such an alarming extent as to threaten the destruction of all vege- 
tation. The fact that the number of caterpillars alone captured by a 
single pair of these birds for the support of their young, is estimated 
by competent authorities at not less than four thousand a week, will 
help us to understand how they must repay the farmer a thousand-fold 
for the grain they pilfer from him. But, besides this, the old birds 
themselves feed largely on all kinds of insects, they free the beans 
from aphides, and may bo frequently seen darting on the common 
white butterfly when she settles for the purpose of depositing her 
numerous eggs on the cabbages, etc. In the flower garden too they 



777";? TREE SPARROW. 197 

do good sorTice in destroying tho earwigs atid other pests that hide 
among the petals of tho dahlias, polyanthu-^es, and otlier plants. They 
also devotfr large quantities oE slugs and snails. 

Tho note of the Sparrow is a monotonous and rather harsh and 
shrill chirp; when a number of individuals aro collected on a tree or 
house-top, the otfoct of their united voices is by no means agreeable 
to the ears of man, although thoy themselves for aught we know may 
regard the result of their eilorts as most harmonious and delightful. 

A curious anecdote of the Sparrow is related in the "Naturalist's 
Magazine." — "A lady, living in Chelsea, was extremely fond of birds, 
of which she kept a considerable number in cages. Amongst others 
she had a Canary, which was a particular favourite, but the loudness 
of his note often obliged her to put him outside of her window, in 
some trees which were trained up in the front of her house. One 
morning, during breakfast, wlieu the cage was there placed, a Sparrow 
was observed to fly round about it, then perch upon the top, and 
twitter to the bird within, between whom and itself a sort of conver- 
sation seemed to ensue. After a few moments he flew away, but 
returned in a short time, bearing a worm or small grub in his bill, 
which he dropped into tho cage, and immediately flew away. Similar 
presents were received day after day, at tho same time, by the Canary 
from his friend the Sparrow, with whom at length he became so 
intimate that he very often received the food thus brought into his 
own bill from that of the Sparrow. The circumstance attracted the 
notice of the lady's neighbours, who often watched these daily visits; 
and some of them, to try tho extent of the Sparrow's kindness, also 
hung their birds out at the window, when they found them also fed; 
but the first aud longest visit was always paid by tho Sparrow to his 
original friend." 



THE TREE SPAJIHOW, 

{Passer ?iwn/anus.) 
PT.ATK XII. FIGDRE VII. 

Thk Tree or Mountain Sparrow very closely resembles tho common 
species, but may be very readily distinguished by its smaller size. 
It is a common bird in Holland, France, Spain, and Italy, and is 



198 THE SMALLER BRITlsn BIRDS. 

also found iti Norway, Sweden, Lapland, and Siberia. In Asia it has 
been met with in Japan, China, and the northern parts of India. In 
the British Isles it is in general rather rare, but is found in Norfolk, 
Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshii-e, Rutland, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, 
Durham, and Northumberland. It is said to be not uncommon in 
Shropshire, and has been observed in Lancashire about Chat Moss. 

This species is not nearly so bold and familiar as its more common 
relative; it rarely approaches towns or villages; unless compelled by 
the severity of the weather to resort thither through lack of food 
eK'cwhere. Its home is among the hills and mountains, as indicated 
by its specific name, {montanus, from mons, a mountain,) and it builds 
chiefly in holes in the trees which frequently skirt their bases, but 
sometimes, in thoroughly country places, in the thatch of barns and 
outhouses, and in stacks of wood and faggots. The nest is formed 
of hay rather loosely put together, and is lined with wool, down, and 
feathers. The little Tree Sparrow has been known to take possession 
of the old nest of the Magpie or Crow, doming it over, and otherwise 
adapting it to its requirements. The first eggs are laid in March; 
they are from four to six in number, and of a dull white, speckled 
all over with different shades of light greyish brown. Both parents 
share in the duties of the nest, and the yoaug are hatched in thirteen 
or fourteen days. It is said that this bird frequently pairs with other 
species, and that when this occurs the male is a Tree and the female 
a Hedge Sparrow. 

The common note of this bird is desi.'ribjd as not unlike that of 
the House Sparrow, but rather more shrill. Its song, if such it may 
be called, "consists," says Mr. Blyth, "of a number of chirps, inter- 
mixed with some pleasing notes, delivered in a continuous unbroken 
strain, sometimes for many minutes together, very loudly, but having 
a characteristic Sparrow-like tone throughout." 

Durino- the spring and summer the Tree Sparrow fee Is on insects 
and soft vegetables, supplying its young with the sane; for the re- 
mainder oE the year it lives on seeds and grain. 



IN CONFjyEMEXT. VJ'i 



IN CONFINEMF.NT. 



The London bird-catchers ask rather a high price for the Siskin 
both on account of its rarity and its vahie as a pairing bird with 
the Canary, the joint offspring being reniarkabhi for the softness and 
sweetness of their song. If kept in a cage, it shonUl bo fed on 
poppy and canary seed, mixed occasionally with a small quantity of 
crushed hemp seed; but if allowed the free range of the aviary, it will 
thrive on the universal paste. It requires a plentiful supply of water 
both for drinking and bathing purposes. 

The Linnet is a favourite cage bird on account of its rich and 
flute-like song, and the facility with which it may be taught to whistle 
various airs. In the latter particular Bechstein says it excels all other 
birds, and can also acquire the song of the Nightingale, Chaffinch, 
Lark, etc. Young birds, taken from the nest, may be reared on a 
mixture of soaked bread crumbs, rape seed, and hard boiled egg. 
The adults will thrive on rape seed, with an occasional supply of green 
food. They must never be allowed to eat hemp seed, as it acts upon 
them almost as a poison, and should be fed sparingly, as they are 
rather liable to epilepsy. The cage best adapted for them is the 
small square-cornered kind, known as the Chaffinch's. In confinement 
these birds lose the beautiful red colour on the head and breast, which 
is so great an ornament to them when at liberty; indeed if taken 
very young they never acquire it. 

The Eedpole becomes very tame in confinement, and can be taught 
to eat out of its master's hand. It may be kept alive for eight or 
nine years, and is particularly interesting on account of its affectionate 
manners, not only towards its own species, but to any birds that it is 
allowed to associate with. If kept in a cage, it should be given the 
same food as the Linnet, but if allowed to range the room, the uni- 
versal paste will agree with it. Both the Mealy Eedpole and the 
Twite will thrive ou the same diet. 

"If many birds be confined together in a room," says Bechstein, 



200 TEE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

"it may be worth while to admit a Sparrow or two, especially as 
they breed freely with the Tree Sparrow. For this purpose, a male 
of the House Sparrow and a female of the Tree Sparrow must be 
selected, and placed in some I'etired cornei", provided with a box or 
artificial nest in which to build." It would be nothing short of 
cruelty to confine this active aud lively little bird in a cage, and we 
could only counteuanco his imprisonment in a spacious aviary. He 
will eat almost anything — seeds and insects of all kinds, or the uni- 
versal paste; but requires an occasional supply of green meat to keep 
him in good health. Mr. William Kidd, of Hammersmith, states that 
the Sparrow will acquire the song of the Canary, if brought up from 
the nest in the same room with one of these birds that is a good 
singer, and never allowed to hear the voice of its own or any other 
species. 

The Tree Sparrow rarely lives long in confinement, being very subject 
to decline. A rusty nail should always bo kept in its drinking water. 






Plate 10. 



r' , 






^5i 
•r^" 













FINCHES. ETC. 

SisKin. 2. Linnet. 3. Redpole. 4. Mealy Redpole. 5. Twite. 

6. Sparrow. 7. Tree Sparrow, 



OllOSSBEAK AND CROHSBlLLiS. lioi 



GROSS BEAK AND CROSSBILLS. 

X \ 7"E have hero a group of visitors to our shores from other lands, 
not from the tropics, as our readers might infer from tho 
richness of their plumage, and their general resemblance to the parrot 
tribe, but from cold northern climes, where they make their home in 
the gloomy forests of pine and fir. Like the species constituting our 
three previous groups, they are all Passerine birds, but form a separate 
genus, called Loxia, from tho Greek word loxos — curved or oblique, 
which name has been applied to them with reference to the peculiar 
shape of their beaks. These birds have large roundish heads, thick 
necks, stoutish bodies, short and strong legs, and loug curved claws. 
Their wings are rather long, and their tails short. 

The Pine Grossbeak is placed by some ornithologists in the genus 
Pyrrhula, with tho Common Bullfinch, which it greatly resembles both 
in the shape of its beak and its general form; but others, following 
iu tho steps of the great LiunEeus, have included it with the Cross- 
bills, as it agrees with these birds in many of its habits, and also 
in tho colouring and changes of its plumage. 

Tho Crossbills are remarkable for the curious structure of their 
beaks, the points of the mandibles crossing each other at the extremity, 
in some specimens from left to right, and in others from right to 
left. The learned Buffon speaks of this peculiarity as a defect and 
a deformity, but the investigations of later naturalists have shown that 



202 TUE SMALLER BRLTISIL BLRDS. 

instead of such being the case, it is a wonderful instance of the 

perfect manner in which the Creator has fitted everything for the 

purpose it is intended to accomplish. The Crossbill subsists chiefly 

on the seeds of the pine and fir, which, being contained in hard 

scaly coverings, could not possibly be removed by a bird's beak of 

ordinary construction. In order to obtain them, this bird brings the 

points of its mandibles together, and thus reduced in compass inserts 

thorn between the scales of the conesj then separating the points, 

forcibly closing the mandibles, and working them sideways, the scales 

are wrenched open by the points acting in opposite directions. The 

seeds are then taken out by means of another wonderful organ, the 

tongue, which is specially adapted for the purpose, by having an 

additional portion, formed partly of bones, and of a scoop shape, 

jointed on to the end. The Comuion Crossbill has been met with in 

all parts of the British Isles, generally appearing in large flocks, and 

sometimes doing considerable damage in the apple orchards, but its 

coming and going are very irregular. In certain years it has been 

very plentiful, and in others not a specimen has been seen. The 

Parrot Crossbill, so named from its remarkably strong, short, and 

curved beak, is a much rarer visitor to our shores, although it is 

sometimes moderately abundant in Germany. The remaining species, 

the American and Two-barred Crossbills, have only been met with in 

a few instances in this country. As these birds are very similar in 

general appearance it seems a matter of doubt, with several of the 

specimens taken, as to which of the two species they really belong, 



Pl«'- i;i. 




GROSSBEAK AND CROSSBILLS. 

1. Pine Grossbeak. 2. Crossbill. 3. Parrot Crossbill. 

i, American Whtte-winged Crossbill. 5. Two-barred Crossbill. 



Tiir. rrxE onn.^s/uc.iir. 203 



THE PINE GROSSBEAK, \ 

(Lnxiii eiiuclealor.) 

PLATR XIII. — FIGURE I. 

This species is a native of Norway, Sweden, Russia, Siberia, and 
Lapland, and is sometimes met with in Franco, Germany, and Italy. 
It is also found in tho nortliorn parts of the American Continent. 
To this country it is but an occasional visitor. A flight was observed 
on Yarmouth Denes in November, 1822, and Messrs. Gurney and 
Fisher, in their " Account of the Birds found in Norfolk," state that 
in two instances individuals attempted to breed in that county. In 
the first of these cases, the nest, containing four eggs, was said to 
have been found on the branch of a fir tree, at a height of about 
three feet from the ground. In the second, the pair of old birds 
were shot while in the act of building. Other specimens were met 
with at Harrow-on-the-Hill, in Middlesex, and Hutton, in Lancashire. 
In Scotland, Pennant says he saw these birds flying above the great 
forests of Invercauld, in Aberdeenshire, as early as the 5th. of August. 
The late W. Thompson, Esq., of Belfast, stated that one was shot at 
Cavehill, in December, 1819. 

This bird, frequently called the Pine Bullfinch, very closely resembles 
tho Common Bullfinch in the shape of its beak and its general form. 
Audubon, the groat American ornithologist, who met with it in New- 
foundland, on the coast of Labi-ador, and at Hudson's Bay, says, 
"The flight of the Pine Grossbeak is undulating and smooth, performed 
in a direct Hue when it is migrating, at a considerable height above 
the forest, and in groups of from five to ten individuals. They ali^'ht 
frequently during the day, on such trees as are opening their buds or 
blossoms. At such times they are exceedingly gentle, and easily ap- 
proached. They are exceedingly fond of bathing, and whether on the 
ground or on branches, move by short leaps. I have been much 
surprised to sec, on my having fired, those that were untouched fly 
directly .towards me until within a few feet, and then slide off, and 
alight on the ln\Ycr branches of the nearest tree, where, standing as 
erect ns little hawks, they gazed npon mo as if I was an object quite 
new, and of whose nature they were ignorant." The confiding and 
unsuspecting nature of these interesting birds causes them to readily 



204 TEE SMALLER BRITISE BIRDS. 

fall into traps and snares, even of the most simple construction. The 
members of the little flocks appear greatly attached to each other; it 
is related that on one occasion, when three out of a party of four 
had been captured in a net, the fourth crept in, in order that it 
might share the fate of its beloved companions. 

The note of this bird, which is only to be heard in perfection from 
June to August, is described as rich, full, and clear. It sings, in its 
native land, in the fine summer nights as well as during the day, and 
is known as "the Watchman." 

The nest is usually placed on the branch of a tree, only a few feet 
above the ground; it consists of small sticks and dry stalks of plants, 
and is lined with feathers. The eggs, four or five in number, are 
white or bluish white. The young are said to be hatched iu June. 

The food of this bird consists of the seeds, berries, and buds of all 
kinds of trees, and occasionally insects. 

The adult male is about eight inches and a half in length, and 
lias the bill dark brown, with the lower mandible tinged with red. 
The irides are liazel; the legs and toes blackish brown, and the claws 
black. The head, neck, and breast are red. The feathers of the 
back are brownish grey, edged with red. Those of the wings and 
tail are greyish black, mostly edged with white. The wing coverts 
are tipped with white. The under surface of the body is grey. 

The female is of a greener tint than the male, and has the head 
and neck yellow instead of red. 

The Pine Bullfinch and Greater Bullfinch are other names by which 
this bird is known. Its specific title is derived from the Latin, 
enucleator — one that takes out the kernel of a thing. 



THE CROSSBILL, 

[Loxi'a curviroslra.) 
PLATE Xlir. — FIQDRE II. 

This bird is plentiful in the pine forests of Russia, Siberia, G-ermany, 
ind Switzerland. It also inhabits Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, where, 
according to Professor Nilsson, it builds during the winter in the top- 
most branches of the fir trees. In Prance, Spain, and Italy it is 
sometimes abundant. 

The Crossbills are very irregular visitors to the British Isles; when 



THE CROSSBILL. 205 

they do come, it is generally in considerable numbers, and at no par- 
ticular time of tlio year. An old manuscript, quoted by Mr. Yarrell, 
seems to be the earliest record of their appearance; it runs as follows: 
"Tiiat the yeere 1593 was a greate and exceeding yeere of apples; and 
there were greate plenty of Strang birds, that showed themselves at 
the time the apples were full rype, who fedde uppon the kernolls onely 
of those apples, haveinge a bill with one beake wrythinge over the other, 
which would presently bore a greate hole in the apple, and m;iko way 
to the kcrnells; they were of the bignesso of a Bullfinch^ the henno 
right like the henne of the Bullfinch in coulour; the cocke a very glori- 
ous bird, in a manner al redde of yellowe on the brest, backe, and head. 
The oldest man living never hoard or reado of any such like bird; and 
the thinge most to be noted was, that it seemed they came out of some 
country not inhabited; for that they at the first would abide shooting 
at them, either with pellet, bowc, or other engine, and not remove till 
they were stricken downe and killed with often throweing at them with 
apples. They came when the apples were rype, and went away when 
the apples were cleane fallen. They were very good meate." The next 
account is from an old work on "The Natural Rai-ieties of England, 
Scotland, and Wales:" — "In Queen Elizabeth's time aflockof Birds came 
into Cornwall about harvest, a little bigger than a Sparrow, which had 
bils thwarted crosswise at the end, and with these they would cut an 
apple iu two at one snap, eating onely the kernels; and th"ey made a 
great spoil among the apples." There are many records of these birds 
visiting the British Isles since the periods previously alluded to. In 
June and July, 1791, a hundred pair were captured at Bath, and sold 
for about five shillings each. A flock was observed in a clump of fir 
trees at Penllergare, in Glamorganshire, in the winter of 1806. In the 
latter end of the year 1822 they were numerous in various jjarts of the 
country, especially in Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and Oxfordshire. 
In 1828 they appeared in Westmorland, and were again numerous in 
many parts of England in 1829, 1833, 1834, 1837, 1838, and 1839. 

It is a remarkable fact in the history of this bird that it nestles 
at all times of the year. The nest is usually placed in the forked 
branches of fir or pine trees, and is loosely compacted of moss, grass, 
and small twigs, and lined with finer moss, dry leaves, and feathers. 
The eggs, which somewhat resemble those of the Greenfinch, are white, 
slightly tinged with blue or green, and spotted, chiefly at the larger 
end, with reddish or purplish brown. In April, 1839, the nest, eggs, 
and young, found in the neighbourhood of Farnham, in Surrey, were 
exhibited at a meeting of the Zoological Society by Mr. Charlesworth. 
This was the first instance in which the Crossbill had been known to 



206 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

breed in this country. Other nests liavo been seen near Dartford, in 
Kent, in a pine tree, and near Saffron Walden, in an apple tree, but 
no eggs were laid in either of those cases. 

This bird has a soft and pleasing note, which it sometimes utters 
while on the wing. As it feeds among the branches of the trees, it 
keeps up a constant twitter to its companions, accompanying every 
sound with a movement of the body. Besides its ordinary note, it 
occasionally when flying gives forth a sharp and ringing tone, which 
is known in Germany as the Crossbill's crow. 

These birds have an undulated but smooth and rapid flight. They 
feed chiefly on the seeds of the pine and fir, but will also eat those 
of the apple, mountain ash, alder, and hawthorn. "In the autumn of 
1821," says Macgillivray, "when walking from Aberdeen to Elgin, I 
had the pleasure of observing a flock of several hundreds of Crossbills 
busily engaged in shelling the seeds of the berries which hung in 
clusters on a clump of rowan-trees. They clung to the twigs in all 
sorts of positions, and went through the operation of feeding in a quiet 
and business-like manner, each attending to his own affairs, without 
interferin.o- with his neighbours. It was indeed a pleasant sight to see 
how the little creatures fluttered among the twigs, all in continued 
action, like so many bees on a cluster of flowers in sunshine after 
rain." 

These birds are considei-ed excellent eating; in the market at Vienna 
Mr. Gould saw immense numbers exposed for sale; they appeared to 
be in great request. 

The adult male varies in length from six inches and a quarter to 
seven and a half. The bill is dark greyish brown above, and dull 
yellowish beneath. The irides are hazel, the legs and toes purple brown, 
and the claws brownish black. The head and crown are pale dull red; 
and the neck of the same colour, mixed with grey. The upper part of 
the breast is pale dull red, mixed with yellow, the lower greyish white, 
darker at the sides. The back is dusky red, and reddish yellow towards 
the tail. The winc^-s are brownish black, with some of the feathers 
tinged with dull red. The tail is deep brown. The plumage of this 
bird varies greatly at different ages and seasons of the year, at certain 
periods the yellow greatly predominates over the red. The prevailing 
tint of the female is dull brownish or yellowish grey. 

This bird is sometimes called the European Crossbill, and the Shel 
or Sheld Apple; its specific title is derived from curvas — curved, and 
rostrum — a beak. 



lUE rAUROT CllU:SsniLL. 207 



THE PAKROT CKOSSIULL, 

{Loxia /'i/yopsillacus.) 
PliATB XIII. — FIGURE III. 

Thb Parrot Crossbill, sometiiuos called tLo Fir Grossbeak, very nearly 
resembles the species last described, both iu form and plumage; indeed 
Bechstein says he considered it to be identical, until he kept the two ' 
birds in the same room, and had an opportunity of comparing them. 

The male is from seven and a quarter to a little over seven and a 
half inches iu length. The bill is thicker, and has the mandibles more 
curved than in the Common Crossbill. 

This species inhabits Sweden, Norway, and most of the northern 
countries of Europe. It is not uncommon in Germany, but is rare in 
France and Holland. The first notice of its appearance in this country 
occurs in Pennant's "Zoology," published in the year 1776. He says, 
in his account of the Common Crossbill: — "We received a male and 
female of the large variety out of Shropshire: the bill was remarkably 
thick and short, more iucurvated than that of the common bird, and 
the ends more blunt." Since that time several other specimens have 
been obtained; one was shot in Surrey, and another in Bpping Forest, 
Essex, in the autumn of 1835. Others were taken at Riddlesworth 
Hall, in Norfolk, and at Saxham, iu Suffolk, the latter in November, 
1850. In March, 1838, several specimens were brought for sale to the 
Loudon market, and eagerly purchased by those who were aware of 
their rarity. Another was shot at Harrc w-on-the-Hill, Middlesex, on 
the 21st. of January, 1850, and a correspondent of Mr. Morris' states 
that he saw a small flock of these birds in a larch plantation at 
Dodington, in Kent, in September, 1851. Two specimens have been 
met with iu Scotland, and one in Ireland. 

These birds frequent forests of pine and fir. They are said to sit 
very still among the uppermost branches of the trees, and to feed on 
the seeds which they extract by means of their curious curved bills. 
They are usually seen iu parties of from twelve to twenty-four, and 
roost close together at night. When hop]jiug from tree to tree, they 
utter a loud harsh call, not unlike that of the Common Crossbill, 'gep, 



208 TEE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS 

gep, gep.' The males have a deep and ringings but very broken song, 
whicla they utter very constantly. 

In Sweden the nest is said to be constructed early in April. The 
exterior consists of small twigs and moss, and the lining of the inner 
bark of the fir tree and a few feathers. It is usually placed among 
the topmost brandies of very high trees, and contains three or four 
eggs of a pale grey or bluish white colour, spotted with bluish red 
and dusky at the larger end. The young are hatched in about a 
fortnight, and are very soon able to leave the nest. 

The scientific name of this species is derived from loxos — curved or 
oblique, pittiis — a pine tree, and psittacus — a parrot. 



AMERICAN WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL, 

{Loxia leucoptera.) 
PLATE XIII. — FIGURE IV. 

This species, which derives its name from leucos — white, and pteron 
— a wing, is most abundant in the northern parts of North America. 
It is sometimes met witli in Europe, chiefly in Sweden and Germany; 
a considerable number appeared in Silesia and Thuringia in the autumn 
of 1826. The first specimen noticed in the British Isles was shot near 
Belfast in January, 1802. Others have been obtained in various parts 
of England, and a single one in Scotland. 

Like the other species of Crossbills, these birds inhabit pine and fir 
forests. They build their nests among the branches of these trees, 
placing them near the centre of the larger limbs, and forming them 
of grasses cemented together with earth; the interior lining consists 
of feathers. The eggs ai'e five in number, white, spotted with yellow. 
The young are able to leave the nest in June. About September 
young and old collect in small flocks, and migrate southward, or 
retire to the sheltered woods in the interiors of the countries they 
inhabit. Prince Bonaparte saj's, "Thoy keep in flocks of from twenty 
to fifty, when alarmed suddenly taking wing all at once, and after a 
little manoeuvring in the air, generally alighting again nearly on the 
same pines whence they had set out, or adorning the naked branches 
of some distant, high, and insulated tree. When a deep snow has 
covered the ground, they appear to lose all sense of danger, and by 
spreading some favourite food, may bo knocked down with sticks, or 
even caught by hand while busily eugaged in feeding.^' 



Plhte 13. 






%i 



■• • 






rt. 



■T 






GROSSBEAK AND CROSSBILLS. 



1, Fine Grossbeak. 2. Crossbill. 

4. American White-winged Crossbill. 



3. Pairot Crossbill. 
6. Two-barred Crossbill. 



THE TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL. 209 

The song of this bird is described as mellow aud agreeable; it 
differs, however, from that of the other Crossbills, as docs also its 
call-note. 

The adult male is about six inches in length, and has the bill 
black; the irides dark hazel; and the legs, toes, and claws dark 
brown. Tiie head, neck, chin, throat, and breast are bright crimson. 
The wings and tail are black, the latter crossed by two bands of 
white. The young are very soberly attired, having all those parts 
which afterwards become crimson of a greenish grey colour. The 
female resembles the young birds, except that her breast is of a 
yellower tint. 



THE TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL, 

{Loxia icenioptera) 
PLATE XIII. FIGURE V. 

Another rare visitor to the British Isles, very similar in general 
appearance to the species last described, but having the head, back, 
and breast of a duller tint, and the wings and tail deep brown instead 
of black. 

This bird inhabits Siberia and Northern Asia, occasionally migrating 
at uncertain periods into the more temperate regions of Russia, Sweden, 
Germany, Holland, and Belgium. 

The adult male varies from six inches and a quarter to a little 
over seven in length. The bill is wider at the base than that of the 
American species. The wings are shorter and the tail longer than in 
the Common Crossbill. 

The specific name of this bird is derived from tainia — a band, and 
pteron — a wing. 



IN CONFINEMENT, 

In Germany, where the Pine Grossbeaks are moderately abundant, 
they are captured by means of a brass ring fixed to the end of a pole, 
and provided with several horse-hair nooses. This is simply throwu 
over their heads while they are feeding. The great tameness and 
pleasant song of these birds render them desirable occupants of aa 

2 E 



210 TRE SMALLER IIRITISU BIRDS. 

aviary, and tliey may sometimes be purchased from the German 
dealers on their periodical visits to London. They should be fed on 
hemp and rajje seed, or bread soaked in water and mixed with a 
small quantity of grated carrot and wheaten flour. A friend of Mr. 
Audubon says, "I received a male of this species in splendid plumage, 
but so emaciated that he seemed little else than a mass of feathers. 
By cautious feeding, however, he soon regained his flesh, and became 
so tame as to eat from my hand without the least appearance of fear. 
To reconcile him gradually to confinement^ he was permitted to fly 
about my bedroom; and upon rising in the morning, the first thing I 
did was to give him a small quantity of seed. But three mornings in 
succession I happened to lie rather later than usual, and each morning 
I was aroused by the bird fluttering upon my shoulder, and calling for 
his usual allowance. The third morning I allowed him to flutter about 
me some time before showing any symptom of being awake; he no 
sooner observed that his object was effected than he retired to the 
window, and waited patiently until I arose. As the spring approached, 
he used to whistle occasionally in the morning, and his notes were 
exceedingly rich and full. About the time, however, when the species 
began to remove to the north, his former familiarity entirely disappeared." 

The Common Crossbill may be also purchased in the London market. 
It will feed on hemp and rape seed, and soon becomes reconciled to 
confinement, and very tame. If kept in a cage it climbs over the 
wires with its beak and claws, in the manner of the Parrot. Mr. 
Yarrell mentions a pair kept by Mr. Morgan, which constantly amused 
themselves by twisting out the ends of the wires of their prison. The 
male was especially fond of trying his strength on a short flat-headed 
nail which held some strong network. This, after much perseverance, 
he succeeded in drawing out, not, however, before he had broken off 
the point of his bill in the experiment. "The exhalations of a room, ^' 
says Bechstein, "have a bad efl'ect on these birds, so that they are 
subject, when in confinement, to sore eyes, and swollen or ulcerated 
feet. The country folk of the mountains are simple enough to believe 
that these birds have the power of attracting their diseases to them- 
selves, and are therefore glad to keep them." 

The Parrot Crossbill sings very constantly in confinement, and becomes 
very tame. It is a great eater, and will thrive on the same diet as 
that recommended for the Grossbeak. 

To keep these birds in good health they should be supplied with 
the seeds of the fir and pine whenever they can be obtained. 

The American and Two-barred Crossbills are such rare birds that it 
will be unnecessary to speak of their treatment in confinement. 



ROSE-COLOURED PASTOR. 211 



THE ROSE-COLOURED PASTOR, STARLING, 
DIPPER, AND THRUSHES. 

r I "\HB two birds occnpying tlio first places in our present group 
belong to the Graculince, a family allied to the Crows on the one 
hand and the Thrashes on the other. They have compact bodies, 
shortish necks, rather slender and nearly straight beaks, and wines 
and tails of moderate length. The elegant Rose-coloared Pastor is 
only a rare visitor to our shores, while its less brilliantly attired but 
handsome relative, the Starling, is a constant resident in all parts of 
the country, and one of the most familiar of British species. The 
first belongs to the genus ThremmapMlus, (a name deriveil from two 
Greek words, signifying the friend of cattle,) and the second to the 
genus Stumus. 

Next we have the Dipper, a member of the Mijrmotherince, or Ant- 
catcher family. The habits of this singular bird have been a fruitful 
source of contention among naturalists for many years past. Some 
assert that upon diving it is able to remain beneath the surface of the 
water without any perceptible muscular effort, and that it can walk 
at the bottom with the same ease that it can upon dry laud, while 
others deny its power of remaining submerged, except by the constant 
and rapid action of its wings. The question as to whether or not the 
bird feeds upon the spawn of fish has also been the cause of much 
discussion. In general form the Dipper resembles a Thrush with 



212 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

shortened wings and tail; but in many of its habits it resembles the 
Moorhen. 

The remaining three species in our group belong to the Turdinae, 
or Thrush family. During the greater part of the year these birds 
feed upon snails, slugs, and larvae, which they obtain in the fields and 
pastures, but the various hedge berries form their chief food in severe 
weather. In general form they are rather slender; their bills, wings, 
and tails are o£ moderate length. The Missel Thrush, the largest of 
the family, is a constant resident in this country, but the Fieldfare and 
the Redwing are only winter visitors from the northern parts cf Europe. 



Plato 11. 




> II I . li^B 



ROS S-COL O a RED PASTOR, ETC, 

1. Rose-coloured Pastor. 2. Starling. 3. Dipper. 4. Missel Thrush. 

S. FlelJfare. 6. Redwing. 



Tnr. ROSE-COLOURED PASTOR. 213 



THE ROSE-COLOURED PASTOR, 

( Thrcmmaphilus roseus.) 
PLATE XIV. FIGURE I. 

Tnis boantiful bird, which is sometimes called the Rose-coloured 
Starling', Ouzo), Tlirush, or Cow-bird, is but a rare aud accidental 
visitor to the British Isles; its true home is in Africa and the warmer 
parts of Asia. In India it appears to bo particularly abundant. Colonel 
Sykes, in his ''Catalogue of the Birds of the Dukkan," says, "These 
birds darken the air by their numbers, at the period of the ripening 
of the broad grains in December. Forty or fifty have been killed at 
a shot. They prove a calamity to the husbandman, as they are as 
destructive as locusts, and not much less numerous." From Africa 
the Pastors migrate with tolerable regularity into Italy, Spain, and 
the south of France; a few individuals also find their way into Russia, 
Siberia, Lapland, and Sweden. Of the specimens that have been 
obtained in this country, one of the first was killed at Norwood, in 
Surrey. About thirty others are recorded to have been taken, severa] 
of them in Ireland, and two in Scotland. 

In its habits this bird closely resembles the Common Starling; 
usually moving from place to place in large flocks, and flying with 
rapidity. Its food consists chiefly of insects, in search of which it 
frequently perches on the backs of sheep and cattle. At Aleppo it is 
held sacred because it feeds on the destructive locust. It is also 
partial to fruit, and is accordingly met with in gardens. A specimen 
shot in July, 1836, was in the act of feeding on cherries in a nursery 
garden near Swansea. 

These birds are by no means shy, and will admit of a very close 
approach, especially when perched on the trees. When thus placed 
they have a most beautiful appearance, as they sit very close together, 
and look like masses of red flowers. Their common note is harsh and 
unmusical, but they have a rich and agreeable song. 

They build in holes in trees, and in cavities in old walls or among 



214 TUE SMALLER BBITISn BIRDS. 

stones. lu au account of this bird, as observed at Smyrna, whicli 
appeared in the "Zoologist," the Marquis Oratio Antinori says, "We 
found the nests in thousands, some quite open and uncovered, others 
concealed amongst the blocks of stones. They were often so close 
together as to touch one another, and were made with little care: the 
birds content themselves with a slight hollow in the ground, in which 
are placed some dead stalks of plants, and, in a few instances, a lining 
of grass. I observed many in which the eggs lay on the bare earth. 
The number of eggs may amount to four or five, some are fleshy 
white, others pearl-white with a tinge of blue; some have a few small 
dark specks at the thick end; the shell is very beautiful, strong, and 
shining." The same observer states that the female, while she sits on 
the nest, is fed by her partner upon grasshoppers, and that similar 
food is given to the young. 

The male, which is nearly nine inches in length, has the beak of a 
yellowish rose-colour, aud the head, crest, throat, wings, and tail, 
glossy black. The remainder of the body is of a delicate rose-colour. 
The female resembles the male, but her colour is much duller. 



THE STARLING, 

[S/trnus vulgaris.) 
PLATE XIV. — FIGURE II. 

The Starling, with his beautiful metallic tints of blue, purple, and 
green, and the regularly disposed pale brown or white tips to the 
feathers over the greater part of his compact and shapely body, is 
really a handsome bird, although we are apt to pass him by almost 
unnoticed, for the simple, but by no means good reason, that he is 
"so common." There are indeed few parts of the British Isles in 
which he may not constantly be met with. Nearly all over the 
European Continent, too, he is equally abundant. In Asia he inhabits 
Indin, China, and Japan; and in Africa is found even as far south as 
the Cape of Good Hope. 

During the greater part of the year Starlings live in large flocks, 
which scour the country in search of food, returning every night to 



THE ST.IRLIXG. 215 

some fixed resting-placo, such as a bed of reeds or clump of trees. 
The flocks of our residoafc birds arc greatly swelled iu the autumu 
by the addition of visitors from colder couatrios, their arrival beiug 
testified by the immense numbers sometimes found at the bases of 
our lighthouses, which have been "killed, maimed, or stupefied" by 
contact with the glass lanterns. The late Bishop Stanley, iu his 
"Familiar History of British Birds," states that in 183G no less than 
seventeen dozen were thus found near the lighthouse at Fiamborough 
Head. An account of the appearance of an enormous flock of these 
birds is given in Mr. Stevenson's " Birds of Norfolk," which was 
communicated by Mr. J. G. Dave}', of the Manor House, Horningtoft. 
" One night last week I watched a single flock, which appeared to 
extend over about five acres, as they were wheeHng around, when 
another mass came from the south-west; I can form no estimate of 
the number ; the former flock I considered large till these came, they 
also circled round, and the smaller lot joined this immense flock, and 
it seemed as if it was putting twenty people into a London crowd, it 
appeared no larger than before. They settled down in the wood in 
two parties, and occupied about thirty acres." In the feu districts of 
Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, and Huntingdonshire, whei'e reeds are of 
some value for various purposes, these birds frequently do considerable 
mischief by settling on them in such immense numbers as to bear 
down and break them ; so that large patches may be seen completely 
crushed and flattened almost to the surface of the water. 

Starlings generally fly in a compact body, which moves with a 
steady but at the same time swift and graceful motion. Bishop 
Stanley thus graphically describes the flight of a large flock : — " At 
first they might be seen advancing high in the air like a dark cloud, 
which, in an instant, as if by magic, became almost invisible, the 
whole body, by some mysterious watchword or signal, changing their 
course, and presenting their wings to view edgeways, instead of 
exposing, as before, their full expanded spread. Again, in another 
moment, the cloud might be seen descending in a graceful sweep, so 
as almost to brush the earth as they glanced along. Then once more 
they were seen spiring in wide circles on high, till at length, with 
one simultaneous rush, down they glide, with a roariug noise of wing, 
till the vast mass buried itself unseen but not unheard, amidst a bed 
of reeds; for no sooner were they perched, than every throat seemed 
to open itself, forming one incessant confusion of tongues." 

This bird builds iu holes in the walls of towers or other buildings, 
church-steeples, or ruins; frequently in cli8"s and lofty rocks over- 
hanging the sea, and sometimes in hollow trees. In the first volume 



216 TRE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

of tbe "Naturalist/' J. Mcintosh, Esq., describing a famous chestnut 
tree iu tho grounds of Canford House, Dorsetsliire, mentions that at 
its base was a colony of i-abbits, in the trunk a nest of cats, and 
above both a nest of Starlings. The nest is large, and composed of 
straws, roots, dry grass, and stems of plants, with a rude lining of 
feathers and hair. The eggs are four or five in number, of a uniform 
pale blue colour; they are hatched in about sixteen days. Both parents 
feed the young, and exhibit a particularly strong attachment to them. 
A pleasing anecdote in illustration of this is given in Mr. Morris's 
" Anecdotes of Natural History," extracted from the " Gloucestershire 
Chronicle:" — "A gentleman who had discovered a Starling's nest, in 
which were several young birds, being desirous to domesticate them, 
had the nest removed from its situation, near Marie Hill, at a late 
honr in the evening, when the young birds were brought down to hia 
residence in the heart of the town, and placed in a cage which was 
suspended in his garden. About three o'clock in the afternoon of the 
following day, the female Starling was observed at the bars of the 
cage, actively employed in feeding its young, which, by an instinct 
hardly inferior to reason, it had thus succeeded in discovering." 
Another display of parental affection occurred some years ago during 
a fire at Dover. A Starling was observed in her nest on a tree 
not far from the burning building. As the flames approached she 
manifested her anxiety by flitting uneasily backwards and forwards. 
At last, when the danger became imminent, she was seen to take one 
of her young ones and remove it to a safe distance. This she repeated 
five times, and succeeded in saving all her brood. 

The food of these birds consists of worms, caterpillars, grasshoppers, 
and all kinds of insects, in search of which they may be seen in 
company with Rooks, Jackdaws, and Thrushes. With other species 
they rarely quarrel, unless they should both happen to come upon the 
same dainty morsel together, and even then the feud rarely becomes 
serious. They often perch on the backs of sheep, to feed on the 
ticks and other insects that so frequently infest their woolly covering. 
On horses and cows, too, they sometimes alight for a similar purpose. 
Towards winter, as insects become scarce, the Starlings frequent the 
corn-yards and stubble-fields in search of grain. During very severe 
weather they may be seen upon the sea-shore, turning over the stones 
to obtain marine worms and small moUusca. 

The Starling has a soft and rather pleasing note, which it frequently 
utters in bright and sunny weather, even in winter. When a number 
of these birds are singing, if it may be so called, together, the 
result is melodious and decidedly agreeable. Their common call-note 



THE DIP t Ell. 217 

is couiparod by Moyer to tLo words "slarliiKj, star, or stoar." The 
flosh of tlio Starling is said to be very good eating, somowliat similar 
to tliat of the Tiirush, but rather tougher, and a trifle bitter. 



THE DIPPER, 

{Ct'nclus aquaiicus.) 

PLATE XIV. PIGDEE in. 

This species, which is particularly interesting on account of its peculiar 
habits, is a native of Russia, Siberia, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, 
Germany, and Spuiu. It is also common in Central Asia, Palestine, 
and North-western Africa. In Great Britain it is to be met with in 
the mountainous districts, frequenting the streams which there take 
their rise, and following the numerous cascades and waterfalls that 
maks them so beautiful and attractive until they reach the lowlands. 
Nowhere is this bird moro abundant than upon the banks of the 
picturesque Derbyshire rivers, the Dove and Derwent. 

In general appearance the Dipper is not unlike the Wren, which it 
also somewhat resembles in its motions and attitudes. The adult male 
is about seven inches and three quarters in length, and has the bill 
bluish black, and the irides pale brown. His plumage is simply but 
strikingly coloured. The head and nape are dark brown, and the rest 
of the upper parts slate grey. The chin and throat are pure white, 
and the breast and under part of the body brownish red. The female 
is a little smaller, and of a slightly paler colour than the male. 

This singular bird passes a large portion of its time in the water; 
it plunges boldly into the bed of the foaming, roaring waterfall, and 
remains below the surface in a most surprising manner, either propelling 
itself by means of its wings, or grasping the stones with its claws, 
and thus moving about at the bottom. The latter fact, however, we 
must inform our readers is disputed by some eminent naturalists, 
although very many excellent observers have borne witness in its 
favour. At any rate the bird docs not usually traverse much space below 
the surface, but appears in a short time somewhere near the same 
spot at which it entered ihe water, very frequently returning again 

2 p 



218 TUE SMALLER JJRITISH BIRDS. 

and again to some particular stone or projecting piece of rock. "In 
one or two instances/' says Montagu, "where we have been able to 
perceive it under water, it appeared to tumble about in a very extra- 
ordinary manner, with its head downwards, as if picking up something; 
and at the same time great exertion was used, both by wings and 
legs." This bird is often accused of destroying tlie eggs and fry of 
the salmon and trout, and is therefore shot or snared by gamekeepers 
and others on every opportunity. Much discussion has taken place on 
this point in the columns of the "Field," "Zoologist," "Times," etc., 
but we think the evidence tends most strongly to prove the charge 
unfounded, and to show that the Dipper is really protecting tho spawn, 
by destroying the various water-beetles and larvae that are known to 
]ircy on it. In support of this view Mr. Buckland writes, "It may be 
observed that I do not mention the Dipper as destructive to spawn — 
this advisedly, as of late I have carefully examined the gizzards of 
several of these beautiful little birds, and have found only the remains 
of water-insects in them; write the Dipper the friend and not tho enemy 
of fish spawn." 

The nest of this bird is usually placed close to the stream in holes 
in the rocks or beneath some overhanging stone. It is large, measuring 
ten or twelve inches in diameter, and seven or eight in depth, and 
consists of twigs, grass, and moss, with a thick lining of leaves. Being 
domed over and firmly compacted, it prevents the entrance of any 
water, even when placed in the spray of a cascade. The eggs, from 
four to six in number, are glossy white, and of a regular oval form. 
Three broods are frequently reared in a season. 



THE MISSEL THRUSH, 

{Turdus viscivorus.') 

PLATE XIV. FIGUEB IV, 

This bird, whicli derives both its common and scientific names from 
its supposed fondness for the berries of the mistletoe, is the largest 
European member of its genus, measuring upwards of eleven inches 
in length, and having a spread of wing exceeding eighteen inches. It 
is a resident in this country throughout the year, being most plentiful 



THE MISSEL Til RUSH 219 

in the soutliorn and midland counties. In AVales it is abundant, and 
is known by tlio namo of " Penn y Ilwi/n," or "Master of the Coppice." 
In Ireland it is also common, but in Scotland is rarely met with except 
in the southern parts. On the European continent it is found in 
Scandinavia, Russia, Germany, France, and Italy. 

These Thrushes are generally to be met with in woodland districts, 
or along the borders of fields; they fly in loose flocks of about twenty 
in number, uttering a kind of low scream at intervals as they proceed. 
^Vllen a recently ploughed field or other desirable feeding place is 
found, they alight rather suddenly, and disperse over its surface in 
search for worms, larva), or seeds. While thus engaged they continue 
extremely alert and wary, "the moment one is alarmed it emits a low 
churr, which is repeated by the rest, when they either fly to the ti-oes 
in the neighbourhood, or flit to a distant field.'" Their flight is rapid 
and undulated, but rather clumsy and uneven. 

Towards the end of March the flocks break up, and about the middle 
of the following month partners are selected, and building operations 
commenced. The nest is usually placed in the fork of the branch of 
a tree in a wood, garden, or orchard, very frequently in an apple tree 
in the latter. It is a loose structure of about four inches and a half 
in diameter, and is composed of twigs, dry grass, moss, leaves, and 
lichens, coated internally with a layer of mud, and lined with finer 
grass, roots, and moss. The same tree is often returned to year after 
year, and the same nest has been known to be used twice in a season. 
The eggs are from three to five in number, of a greenish or reddish 
white colour, spotted irregularly with reddish brown or purple red. 
Two broods are produced in the season. The young are fed on insects, 
worms, or snails. Mr. Weir watched a pair of old birds bring food 
of this kind to their ofi'spring sixty-six times during the course of a 
day. 

The song of the Missel Thrush, which somewhat resembles that of 
the Blackbird, but is rather harsher and not so rich, may be heard 
very early in the year, sometimes even in February. Often, spite of 
wind, rain, and storm, this bird will pour forth his strain from the 
top of some lofty oak, beech, or fir tree. 

The title of "Master of the Coppice," which we have mentioned as 
applied to this bird in Wales, is well deserved, for he is of a very 
bold and quarrelsome disposition, especially during the breeding season, 
driving all smaller birds from his haunts, and even ferociously attacking 
those of his own size. He has a bad reputation, too, for destroying 
yonng birds and eggs of other species. On one occasion Mr. Weir 
saw a Missel Thrush flying off with a young Hedge Sparrow in its 



220 THE SMALLER BniTlSll BIRDS. 

bill, closely pursued by the bereaved parent. The same observer gives 
another instauce of his predatory habits. "One forenoon," ho says, 
"■v^en going to ray garden, I looked into the nest of a Thrush, and 
saw that it contained four young ones neai-ly fledged. Having returned 
in the course of a few hours I again peeped into it, when, to my 
astonishment, I beheld one of them severely cut iu the breast, and 
almost at the point of death. I could not imagine what had been 
the cause of this sudden catastrophe. The gardener, however, told me 
that hearing the male .-ind female Thrushes setting up the most doleful 
screams, he immediately ran to the spot in the expectation of seeing 
a cat or a weasel; but in the place of them he beheld a Missel Thrush 
in the very act of killing one of their brood." 

This bird feeds on berries of various kinds, especially those of the 
mountain-ash, the holly, ivy, and yew. It also eats caterpillars, beetles, 
slugs, snails, insects, and seeds. 

The adult male weighs nearly five ounces, and is about eleven inches 
and a half in length. The beak is dark brown; the irides hazel. The 
top of the head and back are clove brown. The wings and tail are 
umber brown. All the under surface of the body is white, tinged 
with yellow and spotted with black. Tho female is similar botli in 
size and colour. 



TFIE FIELDFARE, 

(Turdus pihitis.J 
PLATE XIV.— PiaUKE V. 

Of the various birds that visit the British Isles during the winter, 
tho Fieldfare arrives the latest, not making its appearance until tho 
end of October or the middle of November. About tho end of April 
it aq;ain departs for the extensive birch forests of the northern parts 
of Europe, where it makes its home and rears its young. In Prussia 
and Austria it dwells throughout the year, but in France, Switzerland, 
and the other southerly parts of the Continent it is, as with us, only 
a winter visitor. 

The Chesnut-backed Thru.sh, Feldfar, Feltyfare, Felt, Blue-bark, 
Blue-tail, and Blue Felt, are all n:imes by which this species is known. 



THE FIELDFARE. 221 

Ifc is generally to bo met with in \r\.v%Q flocks, which during mild 
weather sj)ro;id themselves over tho low pasture lands in search of 
worms, slugs, or tho larvae of insects, but in winter, when their 
hunting grounds are covered with snow, resort to the uplands to 
obtain the haws and other berries from tho hedges. Should tho 
weather, however, become unusually severe, tho Fieldfares leave us to 
go further south, and visit us again on their migration homewards. 

The flight of this species is i-ather slow, but easy and slightly 
undulated; the wings are alternately flapped quickly about a dozen 
times, and then extended motionless for a second or two. While 
proceeding in this manner, a low cry is uttered at intervals, until a 
desirable feeding grcmnd being sighted, tho whole flock wheel around 
several times, and then alight. " After settling," says MacgilHvray, 
"each is seen to stand still with its wings close, but a little drooping 
its tail slightly declined, and its head elevated. It then hops rapidly 
a few steps forward, picks up a seed, an insect, or other article of 
food, and again proceeds." 

The Fieldfare has a soft and not unmclodious song, which is some- 
times heard as early as the end of February. A number of these 
birds will frequently, as they sit upon tho upper branches of the trees 
unite their voices in pleasing chorus. Their alarm note resembles the 
syllables " cliack, cJiack, chaclc." 

In a few instances this species has been known to breed in Britain. 
Pennant mentions two cases that came to his knowledge, and a nest 
has been found in Kent, and others in Yorkshire and Scotland. In 
Norway a number of nests are usually found close together, they are 
placed either against tho trunks or among the branches of the spruce 
firs, at heights varying from four to thirty or forty feet, and consist 
of sticks, grass, and weeds, gathered wet, and cemented together with 
moist clay, and thickly lined with grass. The eggs are from three 
to six in number, of a pale bluish green, spotted with dark reddish 
brown. The young are able to fly about the first week in August. 

We may mention that the Fieldfare is supposed to be the species 
of Thrush so highly esteemed by the Romans as an article of food, 
and which they fattened with a paste composed of figs and flour. Its 
flesh is said to be tender and sapid, although slightly bitter. Great 
numbers are sometimes shot or snared in this country for the table, 
and may be purchased in the markets of London, Edinburgh, and 
other cities. 

The male weighs about four ounces, and is from ten and a half to 
ten and three quarter inches in length. Tho head and hind neck are 
ash grey; the hack dull chesnut brown; the wings and tail mostly 



222 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

black. The chin and throat are pale reddish yellow, streaked with 
black. The upper part of the breast is light yellowish red above, and 
almost white below, spotted with brownish black. The female closely 
resembles the male, but is a little smaller. 



THE REDWING, 

[Tiirdiis i/iaais.) 

PLATE XIV.— FIQDEE VI. 

Like the Fieldfare, the Redwing is a winter visitor to our shores 
from the northern and north-eastern parts of Europe. It arrives, 
however, somewhat earlier, being frequently seen in Scotland by the 
middle of October. The end of April or the beginning of May is 
usually the time of its departure, but in very backward seasons it has 
been known to remain till June. The British Isles are by no means 
the southern limit of the winter wanderings of the Redwing, for it 
finds its way into France, Spain, and Italy, and has been seen by 
Mr. Strickland in Smyrna. 

In different parts of Britain this species is known by the names 
of the Red-sided Thrush, the Wind Thrush, and the Swinepipe. In 
form and colour it bears a strong resemblance to the Common Thrush, 
but it is a little smaller, and has a white streak over the eye, which 
in that bird is wanting. Its whole length is about eight inches and 
three quarters. The top of the head, hind neck, back, and tail, are 
dark olive brown. The sides are bright reddish orange. The chin 
and throat are dull white; the breast is greyish white spotted with 
brown. 

In this country the Redwings, like the Fieldfares, are to be met 
with in large flocks, which disperse during mild weather over the 
pasture-lands and moist meadows in search for worms and grubs. 
When the ground is covered with snow or hardened by frost, they 
betake themselves to the hedges and feed on the berries of the 
holly and the hawthorn. Should the cold weather be of long con- 
tinuance, these birds are among the first to suffer. In the severe 
winters of 1799, 1814, and 1822, many perished, and hundreds wei'e 



m COAFJXFJ/JLX'J'. 223 

found in a starving conrlition. On such occasions they settle about 
springs and brooks, and are easily destroyed. Tho flocks of Redwings 
often mingle with Fieldfares and Missel Thrushes. They fly in a 
rapid and slightly undulated manner, usually at a considerable height. 

The ordinary note of this bird is a rather harsh scream. Mr. Slaney 
says it resembles "a sort of inward deep-drawn sigh, like an attempt 
at ventriloquism." In fine weather, it may be heard, when perched 
on the topmost branches of a tree, singing a subdued and murmuring 
kind of song that is rather pleasing. AVith us, however, it docs not 
appear to exert its full powers, for Linnaeus in his "Tour in Lapland,'' 
says "tho amorous warblings of the Redwing from the top of the 
spruce fir were delightful. Its high and varied notes rival those of 
the Nightingale herself." Other naturalists describe its song as loud, 
sweet, clear, musical, and at tho same time delightfully wild. 

Tho nest is said to bo placed in a birch, alder, or other tree, or in 
a thorn or other bush. It is very similar to that of the Fieldfare, 
being composed of moss, roots, and dry grass, cemented together with 
clay, and lined with finer grass. Tho eggs, which are laid in June, 
are about six in number, of a pale bluish green, spotted with reddish 
brown. In a few instances tho Redwing has been known to breed in 
Britain; a nest was taken near Barnet, in Middlesex, and another 
near Godalming, in Surrey. In 1836, a nest containing four eg^s, 
was found at KilJare, in Cleveland. 



IN CONFINEMENT. 

OtJE readers are not likely to obtain a live specimen of the Rose- 
coloured Pastor, but it may interest them to know that it has been 
kept alive in confinement for several years. Bechstein tells us that in 
1774 M. Von Wachter, a German clergyman, having obtained one that 
had been slightly wounded, placed it in a spacious cage, and fed it on 
barley-meal moistened with milk. It soon recovered from its injuries, 
and rewarded its preserver by exhibiting great tameuess and affection, 
and singing very sweetly. "A connoisseur who had not discovered 
the bird, but heard its voice, thought he was listening to a concert 
of two Starlings, two Goldfinches, and perhaps a Siskin; and when he 
saw that it was a single bird, he could not conceive how all this 
music proceeded from the same throat." In the summer of 1837 or 



224 TUE SMALLER BEITISU BIRDS. 

1838, a London dealer had three living specimens of this species for 
sale. 

The Starling is a well known and favourite cage bird. Being of 
a restless disposition, it requires a cage of at least two feet in length 
and a foot and a half in breadth, or it will injure its plumage against 
the sides. It is no dainty feeder, but will thrive on the universal 
paste, insects, bread, or indeed anything which is not sour. Being 
extremely fond of bathing, it requires a constant supply of fresh water. 
It may readily be taught to pronounce words or to whistle tunes. Mr. 
Weir gives an account of an individual kept by a carver and gilder 
of Edinburgh, that articulated most distinctly the following sentences 
when he entered the shop, "Come in, Sir, and take a seat. I see by 
your face that you are fond of the lasses. George, send for a coach 
and six for pretty Charlie. Be clever, Georgey! I want it immediately." 
If an adult wild bird be obtained, it may soon be reconciled to the 
food of the aviary by a diet of mealworms, and will become as tame 
as if reared from the nest. 

The habits of the Dipper render it a rather unsuitable bird to keep 
in confinement, but it will live for some j'ears in an aviary, if fed on 
the universal paste, to which it must at first be gradually inured by 
a judicious use of mealworms and insects. 

The Missel Thrush will live in confinement for ten or twelve yeaisi 
but its song is so loud as to be disagreeable if it is kept in a 
sitting-room. It will thrive on the universal paste, or wheaten bran 
moistened with water. If placed in a small cage, it will generally 
manage to reduce its tail to a mere stump by rubbing against the 
wires. It is fond of bathing, and must bo kept cool. 

The Fieldfare and Redwing may be treated as the preceding species. 



Plate 14 





..t- 











ROSE-COLOURED PASTOR, ETC. 

1. Rose-coloured Pastor. 2. Starling. 3. Dipper. 4. Missel Thrush 

.■>. Fieldfare. 6. Redwing. 



TU RUSHES. 



THRUSHES, BLACKBIRD, OUZEL, ORIOLE, 
AND WAXWING. 

A T tlio end of tlio cTiapter accompanying onr last group we gave 
our readers a sliort account of the general form, proportions, and 
habits of the Turdinoe, or Thrushes. Of the birds placed by ornitho- 
logists in this interesting family, three were mentioned and fully described 
in the pages that followed, and the remaining British species aro in- 
cluded in our present group. First we have an important contributor 
to tho natural music of tho woods and glades, the favourite Song 
Thrush. Of this sweet minstrel Graham writes— 

"The Thrush's song 
Is varied as his plumes; and as his plumes 
Blend beauteous, each with each, so run his notes 
Smoothly, with many a hapjjy rise and fall. 
How prettily, upon his parded breast. 
The vividly contrasting tints unite 
To please the admiring eye; so, loud and soft. 
And high and low, all in his notes combine. 
In alternation sweet, to charm the ear." 

The Song Thrush is about two inches shorter than the Missel Thrush, 

and has a longer bill in proportion to its size, but in general form it 

closely resembles that bird. The Rock Thrush, the smallest of its 

family, has been met with in this country in a few instances only, 

although it is moderately abundant in most of the mountainous parts 

2 o 



226 TEE SMALLER BlilTISE BIRDS. 

of tlie European continent. Next follows the Blackbird^ famous alike 
for his beautiful glossy jet plumage, handsome form, and rich flute-hke 
song. He is a permanent resident in nearly all parts of Britain, and 
cannot fail to be loved, and looked upon as a familiar friend, by all 
those dwellers or ramblers in the country who 



"Go abroad rejoicing in the joy 
Of beautiful and well-created things." 



The Ring Ouzel could scarcely be distinguished from the Blackbird 
at a slight distance, were it not for a sharply defined patch of pure 
white on the upper part of his breast. He is no doubt known to 
many of our readers who dwell in Scotland, or the northern counties 
of England, but to those whose homes aro in the southern parts, he 
is probably a stranger. 

The Golden Oriole, though a member of the same family as the 
previous species, belongs to a separate genus, called Oriolus. In Ger- 
many and some other parts of Europe this briUiantly-plumaged bird is 
a common summer resident, but its visits to our island aro "few and 
far between.'" The Orioles are distinguished from the Thrushes proper 
by their longer and stouter beaksj shorter necks and legs, and rather 
longer wings and tails. 

The Waxwing is the only British representative of the Ampelince or 
Chatterers, a family characterized by short necks, full and compact 
bodies, tails of moderate length, and lougish wings. Our British species, 
which is, however, but a rare and accidental visitor from northern 
regions, belongs to the genus Bornby cilia. 




TH RU S HES, ETC. 

1. Thrush. 2. Rock Thrush. 3. Blackbird. 4. King Ouzel. 

S. Golden Oiiole. 0. Waxwing. 



THE THRURU. 227 



THE THRUSH, 

(Tiirdus musicus.) 

PLATE XV. FIGURE I. 

The Commnn Tlirnsli, often called the Throstle or tlip ]\ravi's, is to 
be met with in all parts of the British Isles throughout the year. Its 
favourite resorts are woods, plantations, shrubberies, and tlie banks of 
streams weU covered with bushes and thick vegetation. Not unfre- 
quently it may be seen in gardens and orchards, but it avoids the 
vicinity of houses, except during the winter, when it often exhibits 
great boldness in approaching the doors and windows in search of 
food. 

In form and proportions this bird resembles the Missel Thrush, but 
it is considerably smaller, rarely measuring more than nine inches and 
a quarter in total length. Its plumage, though by no moans striking, 
is not destitute of beauty. The upper part of the head, neck, back, 
wings, and tail, are yellowish brown. The throat is whitej the sides 
of the neok and breast are pale reddish yellow, each feather terminating 
with a triangular dark brown spot. The irides are hazel, the legs and 
feet brown. 

The food of the Thrush consists of insects, slugs, and worms. It 
is particularly partial to the various species of garden snails, the shells 
of which it ingeniously breaks against a stone, and then shakes or 
picks out the slimy inhabitants. Heaps of these broken shells may 
sometimes be found scattered around a large stone in a retired corner 
of a garden, or by the edge of a thicket. In the Hebrides, where 
this bird frequents the shores in winter, Macgillivray says it treats 
the whelk and other moUusca in the same manner. Besides the food 
we have mentioned, the Thrush sometimes partakes of fruit and berries. 
In France, Italy, and Spain, it feeds largely during the autumn on 
the ripe grapes. At that time its flesh is considered particularly 
delicate and delicious, and it is consequently shot or snared in large 
numbers for the tables of the wealthy. 



228 THE SMALLER nniTISR BLRBS. 

Abont the latter end of ]\Iarcli this bird constructs its nest, wbicli 
is formed externally of moss, fine roots, grass, or twigs, and lias its 
inner surface coated smoothly with clay or cow-dung and decayed 
wood. It measures about seven inches in diameter, and from two and 
a half to four in depth. Frequently it is placed in the centre of a 
thick hedge or bush, or among the lower branches of a fir or holly 
tree, but very curious positions are sometimes selected; a specimen 
was found on the shaft of a thrashing machine, and another on the 
top of a rail. Open sheds or tool-houses in gardens are not uncom- 
monly built in. Bishop Stanley relates an instance of this kind: — "A 
short time ago, in Scotland, some carpenters working in a shed adjacent 
to a house, observed one of these birds flying in and out, which induced 
them to direct their attention to the cause, when, to their surprise, 
they found a nest commenced among the teeth of a harrow, which was 
placed upon the joists of the shed just over their heads. The car- 
penters had arrived soon after six o'clock; and at seven, when they 
found the nest, it was in a state of great forwardness, and had 
evidently been the morning's work of a pair of these indefatigable 
birds. Their activity throughout the day was incessant, and when 
the workmen left off in the evening, and came again in the morning, 
they found the female seated on her half finished mansion; when she 
flew off for a short time, it was seen that she had already laid an 
egg, though the bottom of the nest was the only part plastered and 
completed. When all was finished the male bird took his share in 
the hatching. The young were hatched in thirteen days." The eggs, 
four or five in number, are of a beautiful pale blue colour, with a few 
distinct black sjiots at the larger end. Two broods are reared in a 
season. "The feeling of tenderness," says MacgOlivray, "which these 
birds manifest toward the young of other birds, has been displayed 
in several very striking instances. I ha%'e now in my possession a 
male Thrush which, when it was sis weeks old, brought up a brood 
of half-flcdged Larks. What is still more remarkable, he with the 
most tender care and anxiety fed a young Cuckoo, which had been 
taken out of a Titlark's nest." 

The Thrush is justly celebrated for the sweetness and beauty of its 
song. Very few of our woodland choristers possess the power of 
pouring forth so charming a variety of clear, rich, and mellow notes. 
He may be heard as soon as the first golden beams of morning shoot 
up in the eastern sky, and his voice, less vigorously exerted dui-ing he 
day, rings again through the woods, clear and loud, but full of tender 
and delicate cadences, as the sun sinks behind the western hills, and 
the hush of approaching night steals gently and gradually over the 



TEE ROCK THE USH. 229 

face of nature. As the Thrush is one of the sweetest, so ho is also 
one of the earliest of singers. Gilbert White gives from the 6th. to 
the 13th. of January as the period of the commencement of his joyous 
strains, and Burns records his pleasure in hearing one of these birds 
sing thus early in the year, in a sonnet beginning — 

"Sing on, sweet Thrush, upon the leafless bough; 
Siug on, sweet bird, I listen to thy strain: 
See aged winter, 'mid his surly reign. 
At thy blithe carol clears his furrowed brow." 

Few birds sing with greater animation than the Thrush, as the 
following anecdote, related by Bishop Stanley, will testify: — "In the 
garden of a gentleman in Sussex, a Thrush had for some time perched 
itself on a particular spray, and made itself a great favourite from 
its powerful and constant singing, when one day it was observed, by 
the gardener, to drop suddenly from the bough in the midst of its 
song. He immediately ran to pick it up, but found it quite dead; 
and upon examination, discovered that it had actually broken a blood- 
vessel by its exertion, and thus perished." 



THE EOCK THRUSH, 

( Turdus saxalilis.') 
PLATE XV. FIGURE II. 

This species, according to M. Temminck, inhabits the highest rocky 
mountains, and is found in the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the Appenines. 
It is also met with occasionally along the coasts of the Meditcn-anean, 
and in France, Germany, and the islands of the Grecian Archipelago. 

Mr. Yarrell states that a specimen was shot by Mr. Joseph Twigg, 
at Therfield, near Royston, in the county of Hereford, on the 19th. of 
May, 1843; and it is recorded that another individual was killed in 
this country by a gamckeepei", but neither date nor locality is given. 

The male, which is about seven and a half inches in total length, 
has the bill black, the legs and feet reddish brown, and the irides 
dark brown. The head and neck are bluish grey. The back is of 



230 TEE SMALLER BRiriSn BIRDS. 

the fsame colour on tlie upper part, and nearly white, witli a few bluisli 
feathers, on the lower. The chin, throat, and breast, are light chosuut 
brown. The wings are dark brown, marked with white. The tail is 
chesnut brown, with the two central feathers darker than the others. 
The female is of a duller colour than the male. 

The Rock Thrush is said to be a very shy bird, rarely permitting 
any one to come within gunshot. It builds a nest of moss in the 
crevices of rocks, or in heaps of stones, and lays four eggs of a 
o-reenish blue colour. Its food consists of beetles and other insects, in 
search of which it has been seen turning over the smaller stones on 
the bare sides of the mountains. When the ground is covered with 
snow, and insects cannot be procured, it eats berries. Bechstein says 
it is an exceedingly good songster. 



THE BLACKBIRD, 

(Tuidus menila.J 

PLATE XV. FIGURE Iir. 

The Blackbird is so common throughout the British Isles, that all our 
readers must be familiar with his glossy black plumes, and bright yellow 
bill. All over the European continent, too, he is more or less abundant, 
from Norway and Sweden in the north, to the coasts of the ilediterranean 
in the south. He is also to be met with in many parts of Asia and 
Africa. 

This bird frequents thickets, hedges, woods, and plantations, but is 
rarely seen in wild and uncultivated districts. In winter it approaches 
houses and towns, concealing itself among thick vegetation in gardens 
and shrubberies. Unlike most of the members of the Thrush family, 
it is seldom met with in large flocks, more than a pair being rarely 
seen in company, even in winter. In its habits it is shy and vigilant; 
on the least alarm it takes wing, uttering at the same time a peculiar 
loud chuckling cry; it rarely flies, however, to any great distance, but 
hides in some neighbouring hedge or bush till the real or fancied 
danger is past. The Blackbird is of a very lively and restless dispo- 
sition. "It is amusing," says Macgillivray, "to observe one that has 
just alighted on a twig, and see how gracefully it bends forward, 
throws up its tad, jerking it at intervals, depresses and at intervals 



THE BLACKBTRI). 231 

flaps its wings, and then perhaps flits to another branch, where it per- 
forms the same motions, or alights on the wall, hops along, suddenly 
stops, jerks its tail, flaps its wings, and then commences singing." 
When this bird is passing over an open space where it does not 
intend to alight, its flight is steady and without undulations, but it 
flits in a wavering and uncertain manner over bushes and thickets. 

The food of the Blackbird is very various. In the spring, summer, 
and autumn it eats worms, snails, slugs, larvte, beetles, and other 
insects, as well as fi-uit of various kinds; but during the winter it feeds 
on wheat, oats, and many sorts of seeds and berries. As is the case 
with most of our fruit-eating birds, it probably does a much greater 
amount of good than harm in our gardens and orchards. In support 
of this opinion a writer in "Chambers's Edinburgh Journal," relates 
that a grass-jjlot attached to a country house was observed to be visited 
by a number of Blackbirds, and to be completely ploughed uf» by their 
beaks. The owner of the property being unwilling to shoot them, 
caused the plot to bo dug up in several places to discover the cause 
of their proceedings, and found it to be overrun with the larvae of 
chafers. The birds were left in undisturbed possession, and although 
the walls were covered with ripe fruit, they left it untouched, and 
devoted their attention to the grubs, which they entirely destroyed; 
and the grass-plot soon resumed its original appearance. Even allowing 
that the Blackbird fi-equently helps himself rather liberally to the pro- 
duce of the garden, surely he more than repays us for our loss by his 
delightful song, without taking anything else into consideration. Thus 
thought Sir Alan Chambre, a judge in the Court of Common Pleas, 
as is shown by the language he is recorded to have addressed to his 
gardener, on discovering he had shot one of these birds. — "You have 
destroyed, sir," said he, "that which you cannot restore to life! You 
have removed that creature from my presence for ever which I greatly 
cared for. That Blackbird, for many spring mornings together, delighted 
me and comforted me with his goodly song. Did the bird ever harm 
you? deprive you of your rest, or rob you of your possessions? I 
think not. Sir, I shall insist that no servant in my employ shall, under 
any pretension whatever, destroy a single bird upon my premises. Let 
the birds enjoy what fruit I have. It is only my paying them back 
in my fruit for the enjoyment they impart to me with their charming 
melody; and this justifies me in addressing you to the purport I have 
done." 

The Merle, as this bird is often called, commences his song very 
early in the year, in allusion to which the Scottish poet Graham bids 
us— 



232 TILE SMALLER BRITISH BIRBS. 

"List to the Merle's dulcet pipe! melodious bird! 
Who, hid behind the milk-white hawthorn's spray. 
Whose early flowers anticipate the leaf, 
Welcomes the time of buds, the infant year." 

Alt.liongli not remarltable for compass or variety, tis notes are par- 
ticularly rich and powerful. They ring through the woods in the early 
mornings, at intervals during the day, and again in the evening twi- 
light, when all other songsters, except the Thrush and the Nightingale, 
are silent. Even during heavy rain and thunder-storms, he has been 
heard pouring forth his song with unabated vigour. He is a great 
imitator of the sounds made by other birds, and has been known to 
closely copy part of the song of the Nightingale, and also of the 
Thrush. Several instances are on record of his crowing so exactly 
like a cock as to deceive the neighbouring farm-yard fowls, and to be 
answered by them; and in another case he was heard to imitate the 
cackle of a hen. 

A Blackbird's nest, containing two eggs, was found at Brompton, in 
Yorkshire, as early as the 8th. of January, but building does not usually 
commence with this bird, until about the end of February. The nest 
is commonly placed in the middle of a thick bush at a height of three 
or four feet, occasionally it is fixed in a tree, or among the ivy against 
a wall. The materials used in the construction of the exterior are 
roots, twigs, rushes, or coarse grass; these are plastered over internally 
with clay or mud, and then covered with a Lining of finer grass. The 
eggs, from four to six in number, vary greatly both in size and colour, 
most commonly they are about an inch and a twelfth in length, and 
of a pale bluish green, speckled with light reddish brown. 

An interesting story, exhibiting the brave manner in which the 
Blackbird will defend its ofispring, is related in Mr. Morris's "Anecdotes 
of Natural History." — A cat was endeavouring to get at a nest that 
was placed near a paled fence. The hen flew to meet her, and placed 
herself almost within reach of the intending plunderer, uttering loud 
screams of terror and despair. As soon as the cock bird perceived the 
danger, he likewise screamed wildly, and settled on the fence in front 
of the cat, who was unable to make a spring at him in consequence 
of the narrowness of her footing. At length, the danger increasing, 
he made a sudden dart at puss, settled on her back, and pecked her 
head so violently that she fell to the ground, and was compelled to 
beat a retreat 



THE HIS a OUZEL. 238 



THE RING OUZEL, 

(Turdus torquatus.) 

PLATE XV. FIQUltE IV. 

The Latin word torquatus, meaning one that wears a collar or chain, 
is applied to this species on account of the broad, half-moon-shaped 
patch of white at the lower part of the neck, that stands out so con- 
spicuously from the nearly black plumage of the remainder of its body. 
In general form it resembles the Blackbird, but is rather stouter, and 
has the wings longer, and the tail shorter. 

This bird, sometimes called the Rock, Tor, or Mountain Ouzel, the 
Wliite-breasted or Moor Blackbird, and the Ringed Thrush, visits the 
British Isles about April, and departs in October. It spends the 
winter in the warmer parts of Europe — France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, 
Switzerland, and Germany; but its northern range extends, during 
the summer, as far as Noi'way and Sweden. In this country it resorts 
chiefly to the northern and western rocky and mountainous districts, 
breeding in some parts of Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, as also in 
the counties of Cumberland, Northumberland, Yorkshire, Westmoreland, 
Durham, Derbyshire, and Devonshire. In the other parts of England 
it is frequently seen, when migrating during the spring and autumn, 
but rarely remains to breed. About October flocks of twenty or 
thirty are sometimes met with along the southern coasts preparing 
for departure. 

The Ring Ouzel is veiy shy and wary, except during the breeding 
season, when, if any person approaches its nest, it is bold and cla- 
morous. Like the other members of the Thrush family, it is of a 
restless and active disposition, rarely remaining long in one position, 
and frequently twitching its tail and jerking its wings. Its flight is 
strong, rapid, and but slightly undulated; when disturbed it usually 
flies off in a direct manner to a considerable distance. It feeds on 
worms, snails, and insects, but before migrating in the autumn, often 
leaves the wild and desolate mountain regions for the lower cultivated 
districts, and attacks the cherries, gooseberries, and other fruit. "The 

2 H 



234 THE SMALLER llRITISn BIELS. 

Moor Blackbird," says the Eev. N. Paterson, of Galashiels, in Selkirk- 
shire, "has of late years become a most troublesome spoiler of the 
garden. The daring thief comes before the windows and carries off 
a plum nearly as large as itself, showing by its chatter more of 
anger than fear when it is disturbed in the work of depredation. The 
finest wall-fruits are its prey." In Prance, Buffon says it feeds 
largely on grapes. 

The nest resembles that of the Blackbird, being composed of coarse 
grass, plastered internally with clay, and lined with finer grass. It is 
usually placed amid the heather, under the shelter of a furze or other 
bush, or in some weU concealed hollow in a rock. It has sometimes 
been found in a tree at a heischt of five or six feet from the "'round. 
The eggs are from four to six in number, of a pale greenish blue 
colour, spotted, most thickly at the larger end, with reddish brown 
or pale purple. The young are fully fledged by about the middle of 
June. 

The song of the Ring Ouzel is without much variety, but loud and 
mellow. Its cry of alarm "consists of a repetition of strong clear 
notes, like those of the Blackbird, but louder." Meyer likens its ordi- 
nary note to the syllable 'tiih.' 



THE GOLDEN OPJOLE, 

{Onuliis gall/ula.') 
LATE XV. — FIGUKE V. 

In size and shape this species resembles the Blackbird. The plumage 
of the male is exceedingly beautiful, being of a brilliant golden yellow, 
except the wings and tail, which are black, edged and tipped with 
yellow. The female is more soberly attired, the tip of the tail only 
is yellow, while the general colour of the upper parts of the body is 
greenish yellow, and of the lower yellowish white, streaked with dark 
brown. 

The Golden Oriole is plentiful in Asia and Africa, and from thence 
visits Italy, Finance, Spain, Germany, and Holland about April, re- 
turning in September. It is not ;. regular visitor to the British 
Isles, but a few accidental stragglers have beei. obtained in England, 
chiefly in the southei'n counties, and a few in Ii-eland. 



THE jr.ixjr/xo. 235 

These birds are said to frequent forests of birch or oak, always 
keeping among the thickest foliagCj so as to conceal themselves from 
view. They are very restless, constantly hopping or flying from one 
branch to another in search for caterpillars, beetles, and other insects. 
Wlien the fruit is ripe they visit the orchards and gardens, and are 
especially troublesome in Germany during the cherry season. Their 
flight is described as "heavy, noisy, rapid, and very undulating." On 
the ground they move by a series of awkward leaps. Their song is 
said to bo loud, full, and clear, and to bo very constantly uttered 
from, the upper branches of a tree. Their call-note is supposed to 
resemble and to be the origin of their name — Oriole in English, 
Turiol in Spanish, and Loriot in French. 

The nest of this beautiful bird, which has been found in a few in- 
stances in England, is usually attached to a forked and slender branch. 
It ij cup-shaped, and composed of stalks of grass and roots interwoven 
with wool. It varies greatly in depth; some specimens are so shallow 
as to almost resemble a saucer, while others are so deep as to present 
a purse-liko appearance. The eggs, four or five in number, are of a 
regular oval form, of a purplish white colour, and mai-ked with a 
few dark grey or reddish spots. They are laid about June, and the 
young are hatched within a fortnight. 

In the southern counties of Europe this bird can be purchased in 
the food markets towards the middle of autumn, when it has been 
feeding for some time on the ripe grapes and other fruit, and its 
flesh is in good condition. It is known to epicures under the name 
of Beccalico. 



THE WAXWING, 

{Bombycilla garrulus.) 
PLATE XV. FIGURE VI. 

Tnis species is often called the Bohemian Chatterer, a most inapi)i-o- 
priate name, as it is rarer in Bohemia than in many other parts of 
Europe, and is also a remarkably silent bird. Its home is in the ex- 
treme northern regions of both Europe and America, and the elevated 
parts of Asia. In severe winters it advances southward, and is then 
met with in Germany, Switzerland, Trance, and the British Isles. Its 



236 THE S^FALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

visits, however, to all these countries are extremely irregular. In some 
yeai's it has appeared in Scotland and the northern counties of England 
in considerable numbers, and again, for several successive winters 
scarcely a specimen has been seen. In 1849 and 1850 the Waxwings 
were particularly abundant, no less than five hundred and eighty-six 
are recorded to have been killed, most of them in the month of January 
of the latter year. At this period a considerable number of individuals 
were obtained in the southern and south-eastern counties of England, 
but as a rule only a few isolated specimens find their way to these 
warmer parts. 

The Waxwing derives its name from a number of curious appendages 
to the quill feathers, resembling red sealing-wax. These are really 
prolongations of the horny shafts of the feathers beyond the webs. 
They vary in number from four to nine on each side, according to 
the age and sex of the bird. The general colour of the plumage is 
reddish grey, darkest on the back, and fading into greyish white 
beneath. The head is surmounted by a beautiful silky crest. The 
throat, and a band from the nostrils to the back of the head are black. 
The quill feathers are black, some tipped with white and others with 
yellow. The tail is also black, tipped with yellow. The male is about 
eight inches in length, and the female a little smaller. 

Mr. Woolley, who visited Lapland in 1857, obtained no less than 
six hundred of the eggs of this bird. The nests were discovered in 
spruce and Scotch firs; they were placed at no great height from the 
ground, and composed of dry twigs and portions of the surrounding 
branches. The eggs are described as bluish or purplish white, thinly 
spotted and streaked with brown, black, or violet. Their number varies 
from four to seven. When a portion of Mr. Woolley's duplicate Wax- 
wings' eggs were sold in London in May, 1860, they fetched on an 
average £3 3s. each. 

These birds have a light, graceful, and rapid flight, strongly resera 
bling that of the Starling. On the ground they move heavily and 
clumsily. They roost amongst the thickest branches of trees and bushes; 
and in windy weather seek shelter very near the ground, or hide in 
the crevices of rocks in rocky countries. Their food consists of berries 
and insects; the latter they capture in the manner of the Flycatcher. 
The song of the Waxwing is little more than a low twitter. "While 
singing," says Bechstein, "the bird alternately elevates and depresses 
its crest, and so §quats in a heap, as to conceal all motion in the 
throat." The common call-note is described as a chirp frequently 
repeated. 



PInte It. 




^ 





-^•^/.;^ 







TH RUS aES, ETC. 

1. Thrush. 2. Root Thrush. 3. Blackbird. 4. Ring Ouzel. 

S. Golden Oriole. 6. Waxwing. 



m aONFINEMENT. 2o7 



IN CONFINEMENT. 



TiiK Thrush is a very favourite cage bird on account of the sweetness 
of its soug. It may be fed either upon the universal paste, or crushed 
barley-meal moistened with equal quantities of milk and water. In 
order to keep it in good soug, a small quantity of finely shredded 
meat should be given it two or three times a week. Fresh air is 
essential to its health, and it should have a roomy cage, for if too 
closely conCned it will mope and probably fall into a decline. If kcjjt 
clean, and always well supplied with fresh water, both for bathing and 
drinking, the prisoner will be likely to live seven or eight years. 

Bechstein says the Rock Thrush is sometimes kept in confinement 
in Germany, where a handsome cage usually distinguishes it as a rare 
bird. The male has a pleasing habit of singing by night, if placed 
near a lamp. It can be taught to whistle tunes, and to speak like a 
Starling. 

The Blackbird is a most interesting and amusing pet; he should be 
reared from the nest on & diet of sop made of stale white bread and 
milk. It is most important that this food be never in the slightest 
degree sourj and he should be fed for the fii'st few weeks every two 
hours fi'om sunrise to sunset. As he grows older the universal paste 
may be gradually substituted, but he should frequently have a meal 
of lean shredded meat. If it is desired to teach him to whistle a 
tune, it is necessary that it be played to him slowly and distinctly on 
a flute or other wind instrument the fii'st thing every morning, and 
the last at night. On each occasion, after it has been repeated about 
twenty times, the instructor should leave off and keep perfectly quiet 
to give him an opportunity of imitating it. His endeavours should be 
rewarded with a worm, which it is well to have placed in such a position 
that he can see it during the whole lesson. He will soon understand 
what is required of him, and do his best to obtain the prize. A tune 
once thoroughly learned by a Blackbird is rarely forgotten. This species 
sometimes attains a great age in confinement; the following instance 
of unusual longevity is recorded in the "Belfast Chronicle" of December 
26th., 1839: — "There is at present in the possession of ilr. John 
Spence, of TuUaghgarley, near Ballymena, a Blackbird that has arrived 



238 THE SirALLEP. BEITISR BIRDS. 

at the ■wonderful age of twenty years and nearly eight monthg. lb 
was taken by him from the nest when young, and ever since has en- 
jo3-ed the best of health. It still continues to sing, and that well." 

The Ring Ouzel will live for six or seven years in an aviary, if 
treated in the manner recommended for the Thrush. 

The beautiful Golden Oriole has been kept alive in confinement for 
several years, on a diet of bread and milk and dry ants' eggs. Bech- 
stein says, "I have seen two young males, which had been reared from 
the nest, that beside the natural song, whistled, one a flourish of 
trumpets, and the other a minuet. The round, full, flute-like tone, 
rendered their song exceedingly pleasing." 

The Waxwing is an attractive cage bird, on account of its beautiful 
silky plumage, but is otherwise particularly uninteresting, as it does 
little else than sit stUl and eat. It will keep in good health if fed 
on barley -meal moistened with water. 



NUTUATCn. 233 



NUTHATCH, WRYNECK, CREEPER, 
SHRIKES, AND KINGFISHER. 

^["^HE ouly species now remaining to be described, in order to render 
our volume a complete "Natural History of the Smaller British 
Birds/' are included in the group before us. Though only seven in 
number, they belong to no less than five distinct families. First the 
little Nuthatch represents the Sittincs, a family remarkable for the 
restless and active habits of its members. Their legs and feet are 
short, while their claws are long, curved, and very sharp, this con- 
struction enabling them to move about over the trunts and branches 
with extreme rapidity, and to cling to them with perfect safety and 
security with the body downwards or in any position. They are full and 
compact in form, and have short necks, large heads, long wings, and 
short tails. Their beaks are straight, strong, and sharp. Only one 
species of Nuthatch is found in this country. 

The Wryneck, one of the most delicately marked and beautiful of 
British birds, belongs to a lamiiy neaiiy allied to the Woodpeckers, 
and having the not very elegant name of Yunx. Its general form is 
slight, and it has a rather short beak, wings of moderate length, and 
a longish tail. 

Next in order comes the diminutive Creeper, belonging to the Cer- 
thincB. Short and slender bodies, wings of moderate length, and long 
tails, are the characteristics of this family. 



240 TRE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

The Shrikes belong to the Laniince. The only three British species 
included in this family are represented in our group — the Great Shrike, 
the Red-backed Shrike, and the Woodchat. All these birds have full 
compact bodies, short necks and legs, wings of moderate length, and 
long tails. Their habit of hanging upon thorns the insects and small 
animals they have captured for food, has given them the name of 
Butcher Birds. Macgillivray says, "They are generally unsocial birds, 
whose sympathies do not extend beyond the circle of their own family, 
tyrannical, and consequently disliked by their neighbours of the insec- 
tivorous tribes, many of whom exhibit as much alarm at their presence 
as they would on approaching a hawk." 

The Kingfisher stands last on our list, but though last certainly not 
least, for a more exquisitely plumaged bird can scarcely be imagined. 

"The emerald shines on his kingly head. 
And his corset is of ruby red: 
An emerald mantle is on his back, 
Varied with waves of ebon black; 
And a lovely band of the brightest blue 
Gives to the whole a glorious hue." 

Most of the Alcedince are inhabitants of the warmer regions of the 
globe. They have stout bodies, short necks, largo heads, short wings 
and tails, and very small feet. The habits of our British Kingfisher, 
fully described in the following pages, well represent those of the whole 
family. 



Plate K. 




NUTHATCH, ETC. 



1. Nuthatch. 2. V/jyueck, 

5. Red-backed Shrilce. 



3. Creeper. 

C. Woodchat 



4. Great Shrike. 
7. Kingfisher. 



TUB XUTHATCn. 2-11 



THE NUTHATCH, 



fSilla Europcea.) 



rr.ATK XVI. FIGUKIO r. 



The Nuthatch, or Nutjobber as this interesting species is some- 
times called, derives its names from its habit of feeding on the 
kernels of nuts, which it extracts from their shells in the following 
curious manner. Having firmly fixed the Buts in a chink or crevice 
in the bark of a tree, the bird hammers them repeatedly with his 
sharp-pointed bill until the shells are shattered. "During the oper- 
ation," says the Eev. W. T. Brce, in Loudon's Magazine, "it some- 
times happens that the nut swerves from its fixture, and falls towards 
the ground; it has not descended, however, for the space of more than 
a few yards, when the Nuthatch, with admirable adroitness, recovers it 
in its fall, and replacing it in its former position, commences the 
attack afresh. The fall of the nut in the air, and its recovery by 
the bird on the wing, I have seen repeated several times in the 
space of a few minutes." Although nuts constitute the favourite food 
of this species, it also eats acorns, seeds, grain, caterpillars, and 
various kinds of insects. 

This bird is found in most of the temperate and northern parts of 
Europe and Asia. In this country it occurs chiefly in the southern 
and midland counties, but is nowhere very abundant. In Ireland and 
Scotland it does not appear to have been observed. Its favourite 
resorts arc woods and parks containing large oaks or beech trees; 
here it may be seen climbing about upon the trunks and larger arms 
with remarkable ease and rapidity. Its feet and claws are of unusual 
construction, and specially adapted for holding on to the rugged bark, 
so that it can even hang head downwards from the under surface of 
a limb with perfect security. Yai-i-oU says, "the Nuthatch creeps or 
runs along so smoothly that its motions more resemble those of a 
mouse than those of a bird." 

The Nuthatch usually constructs its nest in a hollow in the trunk 

2 X 



242 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

of an old tree. If the opening is large tlie intending resident plasters 
it up with clajj leaving just sufficient room to admit of the passage 
of its body. Within the chamber, dry leaves, moss and grass are 
heaped together to form a lining. The eggs, from six to eight in 
number, are greyish white, spotted with reddish brown. The note 
of this bird resembles the syllables 'quit, quit;' it is mellow and flute- 
like, and may be heard at a considerable distance. 

An interesting anecdote of the Nuthatch is related by Bechstein in 
his "Cage Birds:" — "A lady amused herself in winter with throwing 
seeds on the terrace below the window, to feed the birds in the 
neighbourhood. She put some hemp-seed and cracked nuts even on 
the window-sill, and on a board, particularly for her favourites, the 
Blue Tits. Two Nuthatches came one day to have their share in this 
repast, and wore so well pleased that they became quite familiar, and 
did not even go away in the following spring to get their natural 
food and to build their nest in the wood. They settled themselves in 
the hollow of an old tree near the house. As soon as the two young 
ones, which they reared here, were able to fly, they brought them to 
the hospitable window where they were to be nourished, and soon 
after disappeared entirely. It was amusing to see the two new visitors 
hang or climb on the walls or bhnds, while their benefactress put their 
food on the board. These pretty creatures, as well as the Tits, knew 
her so well, that when she drove away the Sparrows which came to 
steal what was not intended for them, they did not fly away also, but 
seemed to know that what was done was only to protect and defend 
them. They remained near the house for the whole summer, rarely 
wandering, tiU one fatal day, at the beginning of the sporting season, 
in autumn, when on hearing the report of a gun, they disappeared, 
and were never seen again." 

The adult male weighs about six drachms, and is about five inches 
and three quarters in length. The upper parts of the body are bluish 
greyj the cheeks and throat are white. A black band runs from the 
beak beneath the eye, and for some distance down the sides of the 
head. The lower parts are light reddish yellow. The female is a little 
smaller than the male, and has the tints of her plumage somewhat 
paler. 



lEi: WRYNECK. 248 



THE WRYNECK, 

{Fu7ix lorquilla.) 
PLATE XVI. FIGUEE 11. 

ATTHOiraH the plnmage of the Wryneck is neither brilliant nor rich 
in ctilouring, it is so delicately marked and shaded, as to render the 
bird one of the most beautiful and attractive of British species. The 
upper parts are light brownish grey, marked and spotted with a deeper 
shade. A broad stripe of dark brown runs from the top of the head 
half way down the back. The cheeks, throat, and upper part of the 
breast are reddish yellow, covered with fine wavy lines of black. The 
under surface of the body is yellowish white. The wings and tail are 
beautifully marked and mottled with various shades of reddish and 
brownish black. 

The AVryneck is common in the south-eastern counties of England, 
but decreases in numbers towards the northern and western parts. 
Its name is derived from a curious habit it has of twisting and turning 
its head about in various directions, sometimes only from side to side, 
but at others quite round. These grotesque movements it accompanies 
with a fanning of the tail, and a general bowing and dipping of the 
whole body. In some pai-ts of the country this twisting of the neck, 
and a hissing noise it makes when surprised on its nest, have obtained 
for it the name of the Snake-bird. In other places it is called the 
Cuckoo'.s Alato or ilessenger, because it arrives about the same time, 
or a Httle earlier than the Cuckoo. 

The Wrynecks are unsocial birds, more than a pair being rarely seen 
in company; they frequent woods, plantations, orchards, and gardens, 
and may often be seen along the sides of ditches, or upon sunny banks 
and ant-hills. If disturbed they do not usually fly to any great distance, 
but hide among the nearest foliage. Their movements are awkward, 
both on the wing and on the ground. 

The food of this bird consists chiefly of ants and their eggs, wliich 
it obtains by means of its long and sharp-pointed tongue. "A quantity 



214 THE SMALLER BRITISII BIRDS. 

of monlt]," says Montagu, "with emmets and their eggs, was given to 
one of these birds confined in a cage; and it was curious to observe 
the tongue darted forward and retracted with such velocity, and with 
such unerring aim, that it never returned without an ant or an eg^ 
adliering to it, not transfixed by the horny point, as some have 
imagined, but retained by a peculiar tenaciona moisture, by nature 
provided for that purpose." The Wryneck cats oiher kinds of insects 
besides ants, and has been known to feed upon elderberries. 

But little care is bestowed by tho "Wryneck on the construction of 
its nest. It usually selects some hollow in an apple or other tree, 
and having scraped together tho mouldered wood, deposits its eggs 
thereon. The eggs, from six to ten in number, are pure white. The 
same spot is resorted to for several successive years. The young a7'0 
hatched in about fourteen days, and are fed upon ants and caterpillars. 

The Wryneck has no song; his note resembles that of the Hawk, 
and is likened to the syllables ' gui, (jui, gui.' 



THE CEEEPER, 

{Cerih'a /amih'aris.) 

ITATn XVI. — FIGURB IIT. 

Tnrg interesting little creature is plentiful in nearly all parts of tho 
European continent. In the British Isles it is generally distributed, 
frequenting wooded districts, parks, and plantations. Although not 
particularly shy, its colour so closely resembles the bark of the trees, 
over which it climbs or creeps by means of its sharp curved claws, 
that an observer has some difficulty in detecting its presence even 
whero it is abundant. The difficulty is increased by its habit of 
running round to the opposite side of the trunk or branch as soon as 
it is approached. It is far ofteuer heard than seen, as it emits at 
every jerky movement of its body a shrill but feeblo cry. Macgillivray 
thus describes its ordinary course of action. — "It alights at the bottom 
of a tree, clinging to the bark with its claws, and without a moment's 
delay begins to ascend, which it does by short starts, leaping forward 
as it were, and supportiu"- itself by pressing the tail against the bark. 
In this manner it proceeds, diligently searching for insects, which it 
picks out with the greatest dexteritj'." 



TTTE GUEAT SIFRfKE. 245 

Tlicso diminutive birds aro rarely seen iu flocks, although a few- 
individuals often accompany the flocks of Tits and Kinglets during the 
winter. Their flight is rapid and undulated, but generally short — merely 
from one tree to another. While on the wing they utter their cry 
very constantly. They pair early in April, and build about the end 
of that month. The nest is generally placed in some hollow in the 
trunk of a tree, and consists of twigs, grass, fibrous roots, and pieces 
of bark; these aro bound together with spiders' webs and the cocoons 
of chrysalides, and the whole is lined with feathers. Gilbert White 
says, "A ])air of Creepers built at one cud of the parsonage house at 
Grcatham. It was very amusing to see them run, creeping up the walls 
with the agility of a mouse." The eggs, from five to eight in number, 
are white, spotted with brownish red chiefly at the larger end. The 
parents sit on the nest by turns, and the young arc hatched in thirteen 
days. 

This tiny bird only weighs about two drachms; its plumage is very 
soft and silky. The upper part of the head is dark brown, with the 
centre of each feather of a lighter tint. The back is yellowish brown, 
streaked with pale greyish brown. The wings are dusky and nearly 
crossed by a whitish band. The tail is greyish brown. The chin, 
throat, and uudcr surface of the body are silveiy white. 



THE GREAT SHRIKE, 

(^Latiius excubi/or.) 
PLATE XVI. FIGURE IV. 

The Great Shrike is not a regular visitor to the British Isles, but 
a considerable number of specimens have been obtained in England, 
and a few iu Scotland and Ireland, chiefly during the winter months. 
It is common in most other European countries, and throughout a 
large portion of Asia, Northern Africa, and North America. 

Its popular name, Butcher Bird, and its generic title, which has the 
same meaning, have been applied to it on account of the manner in 
which it slaughters smaller birds, mice, lizards, and insects of all kinds 
for food. Having deprived them of life by repeated blows on the head 
with its bill, it affixes them to a thorn, or wedges them into the fork 



246 TUE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

of a branch, that it may tear them in pieces at its leisure. On the 
continent this bird is made use of by trappers of Falcons. It is fixed 
to the ground, and gives notice by its loud screams of the approach 
of a Hawk. Some suppose that it has on this account been called 
'excubitor' — the sentinel; but MacgilUvray thinks it more probable that 
it has obtained the name from its habit of remaining perched in one 
position, on a twig or decayed branch, for a long time together, when 
on the look out for prey. Few birds are more courageous than the 
Great Shrike; it will attack those that are considerably larger than 
itself, and will allow no Hawk or Magpie to approach its nest. 

On the continent this species is to be met with in woods and forests; 
it places its nest at a considerable elevation, in the fork of a branch, 
forming it of grass, moss, and fine roots, and lining it with wool, 
down, or hair. The eggs, from four to seven in number, are of a 
greyish or reddish white colour, spotted at the thicker end with reddish 
brown and purple. The parents exhibit a very strong affection for 
their young, and raise loud cries if any intruder approaches the nest. 

The Great Shrike is said to have a 'very pleasing sort of warbling 
song.' Its common call-note is likened by Meyer to the words 'shack, 
shack.' Possessing considerable flexibility of voice, it imitates with 
ease the notes of other birds, for the purpose, it is supposed, of luring 
them to destruction. A wi-iter in "The Naturalist" says, "My first 
acquaintance with the Butcher Bird was occasioned by hearing notes 
not entirely familiar to me, though much resembling those of the 
Stonechat. Following the sound, I soon discovered the utterer; and 
while listening, to my surprise, the original notes were discarded, and 
others adopted of a softer and more melodious character, never, how- 
ever, prolonged to anything like a continuous song." 

The full-grown male of this species is from nine to ten inches in 
length, and weighs a little over two ounces. The head, neck, back, 
and wing coverts are ash grey, and the lower parts of the body white. 
A black band runs from the base of the beak, under the eye, and for 
some distance beyond. The wings and tail are black, the former 
bari-ed, and the latter edged with white. The female resembles the 
male, but, as is frequently the case, has her plumage of a lighter tint. 



THE RED-UACKED HHIilKE. 217 



THE RED-BACKED SHRIKE 

(Lanius coUurio.) 
HATE XVI. — FIQUBE 7. 

This spocies is not uncommon in the southern countios of England, 
but becomes rare towards the northern, and is not found in either 
Scotland or Ireland. It is only a summer visitor to our shores, arriving 
about the beginning of April, and departing again in September. Like 
the Grey Shrike it affixes to thorns the small anicaals and insects it 
captures for food, either for the purpose of the more easily tearing 
them in pieces, or, as some have supposed, of attracting small birds to 
its neighbourhood. We have now before us some thorns with bees 
affixed to the points, most probably by either this species or the last. 
They were procured from a hedge adjoining a small group of trees 
and bushes near Minster, in the Isle of Sheppoy, and previous to being 
broken off had been observed with a number of similar ones for 
upwards of a week. They do not appear to have received the slightest 
injury, any further than that occasioned by the entry of the thorn 
into the thorax, a fact that seems to favour the supposition that they 
have simply been used as baits. This bird has been known to drag 
young Pheasants through the bars of the breeding coops, and to attack 
the decoy birds of fowlers. On one occasion it was seen in pursuit of 
a Blackbird. 

The Eed-backed Shrike is not a neat or careful builder; it forms a 
largo and loosely-compacted nest of twigs, grass, and moss, and hues 
it with wool. The eggs, five or six in number, vary greatly in colour; 
in general they are pale reddish white, spotted with red and reddish 
brown; sometimes they are bluish white, spotted with brown, red, or 
grey. The old birds are very noisy if any person approaches the nest. 
Meyer says, "We have seen them help the young ones out of the nest 
for the purpose of hiding them in the thicket beneath; and the moment 
they have reached the ground, not another chirp is heard from the 
nesthngs, which have apparently received a signal to be quiet, although 



2 18 THE SMALLER BRITISH BIRDS. 

die parent birds, perched in a tree at a little distance, keep np a, 
continual clamour." This species has a chirping note, resembling that 
of the Sparrow, and, like its larger relation, is said to imitate in a 
broken manner the songs of other birds. 

The male has the head and neck grey; the back and wing coverts 
chesnut brown; the chin nearly white; and the breast and sides rose- 
coloured. A band of black runs from the beak to behind the ear- 
The wings are black, edged with brownish red. The tail feathers are 
dusky black, with the larger half of the outer ones white nearest the 
body. The female has the upper parts reddish brown, and the lower 
greyish whitej with waved dusky Hnea. 



THE WOODCIiAT, 

{T.anins nifiis.) 
PLATE XVI. FIGURE VI, 

This is another species of Shrike, or Butcher Bird, but of much 
rarer occurrence in this country than either of the two already described, 
the whole number of specimens obtained only amounting to about a 
dozen. On the continent it visits Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, 
Greece, and Holland, but is never met with in the northern countries. 
In Africa, where it is said to be a permanent resident, it is found in 
Egyptj Senegal, and the Cape of Good Hope. 

In form the Woodchat resembles the Great Shrike, but it is much 
inferior in size. Its plumage, though somewhat similar to that bird's, 
is in general much darker, the forehead and back being black, and 
the crown of the head and nape of the neck rich chesnut red. 

In its habits this species resembles the other Shrikes; its food is of 
the same kind, and it deals with it in a similar butcher-like fashion. 
On one occasion an individual was seen fixing a Yellow-Hammer on a 
thorn. Its nest, as described by Mr. Iloy, in Loudon's "Magazine of 
Natural History," is composed externally of sticks, wool, and moss, 
and lined with fine grass and wool. It is placed in the fork of a 
projecting branch of an oak, or other large tree. The eggs, four or 
five in number, are rather smaller than those of the Red-backed Shrike, 
and vary much in colour and markings; in some the ground is palo 



THE KING FISHER. 219 

bluo, and in others dirty wbito; the spots arc usually of a rust-coloiir, 
eitiior collected iu a zone arouud the larger end, or dispersed ovei- the 
surface. Both parents sit on the nest by turns, and the yoini"- are 
hatched iu about a fortnight. 



THE KINGFISHER, 



{Alcedo ispida.) 



PLATE XVr. — FIQUKE VII. 



Few of our British birds will bear comparison with tlie Kingflsilicr 
for brilliancy of colouring, although many are far more elegant in 
shape. Indeed his thick body, large head, immense bill, diminutive 
feet, and short stumpy tail would render him altogether a most unat- 
tractive object were it not for the splendid tints of blue, and green, 
and gold, that gleam and flash from his plumage. These so delight 
the eye of the observer with their beauty and richness as to cause 
him to scarcely notice the form and proportions of the body they 
cover. 

The Kingfisher is common in suitable localities in nearly all parts 
of Great Britain, and is generally distributed over the European con- 
tinent. It is also found in Asia and Africa. The banks of still rivers, 
brooks, and ponds are its favourite resorts. Here it preys on the small 
fish that sport in the clear water, and the numerous insects that dart 
over its surface. Macgillivray most graphically describes the manner 
in which it procures its food. Bidding his readers follow him in fancy 
to the banks of a woodland stream, he says, "See, perched on the 
stump of a decayed willow jutting out from the bank, stands a King- 
fisher, still and silent, and ever watchful. Let us creep a little nearer, 
that we may observe him to more advantage. There he is, grasping 
the splint with his tiny red feet, his bright blue back glistening in 
the sunshine, his ruddy breast reflected from the pool beneath, his long 
dagger-like bill pointed downwards, and his eye intent on the minnows 
that swarm among the roots of the old tree that project into the water 
from the crumbling bank. He stoops, opens his wings a little, shoots 
downwards, plunges headlong into the water, re-appears in a moment, 
flutters, sweeps off in a curved line, wheels round, and returns to his 
post. The minnow in his bill ho beats against the decayed stump 

2 K 



250 THE SMALLER BTdTISH BIRDS. 

until it is dead, then, tossing up Lis Lead, swallows it, and resumes 
Lis ordinary posture, as if notLing had Lappened." 

TLe deserted Lole of a water-rat generally forms the nestling place 
of the Kingfisher. TLe Lole is said to be frequently enlarged or 
altered by tLe nevv tenant to suit its convenience. Some authors assert 
tLat tLe bird often excavates the tunnel itself, loosening the earth or 
sand with its bill, and jjushing it out backwards with its feet. Although 
no person appears to have witnessed the operation with our British 
Kingfisher, it is stated as an observed fact by Audubon that the 
American species thus digs its own nest chamber. The direction of 
the excavation is always upwards in a nearly straight line, and it 
penetrates three or four feet into the bank. The further end is scooped 
into a slight hollow, in which are deposited a number of small fish 
bones mixed with eartL. Upon tLis Lard bed are laid six or seven 
smootL and nearly round eggs. TLeir shells are pure white, but so 
transparent as to take a delicate pink tinge from the colour of the 
yolk. The food of the young birds is disgorged from the stomachs of 
their parents. The young do not leave the nest until fully fledged 
and able to fly. 

The Kingfisher has a direct and rapid flight; its short wings beating 
the air so quickly as to be almost invisible. Its note is a shrill pipe, 
similar to that of the Sandpiper. 

In ancient times this bird was called the Halcyon, and it was believed 
that while the female was hatching her oggs she had the power of 
keeping the water calm and unruSled. This power was supposed to 
be exerted not only upon all rivers and streams, but extended even to 
the ocean. The period of incubation was therefore called the Halcyon 
Days, and was considered the safest part of the year for mariners to 
put to sea, as they were then secure from storms and tempests. 

Shakespeare, in King Lear, speaks of rogues, who 

"Turn their Halcyon beaks 
With every gale and vary of their masters." 

This has reference to a sujDerstition that a dead Kingfisher, if carefully 
balanced and suspended by a single thread, would always turn its beak 
to that point of the compass from which the wind blew. 

The adult male of this handsome species has the top of the head 
deep olive green, with each featLer tipped with light blue. The upper 
part of the back dark green, and the lower light greenisL blue. A 
band of yellowish red extends from the nostril to the eye, and a similar 
baud runs from the eye backwards. Below these bands, and extending 



Plate IS. 



^ 




;• •''X." *Ks 



V 




>♦ 







NUTHATCH, ETC. 

1. Nuthatch. 2. Wryneck. 3. Creeper. 4. Great Shrike. 

6. Eed-backed Shrike. 0. Woodchat. 7. Kingfisher. 



7X COyi'lNEMKXT. 251 

from tlio lower niniuliljlo, is anntlipr of grcenisli Lino, tr-rminnting heliind 
in a patch of white. The throat is yellowish white, and the rest of the 
lower part of the body yellowish rod. The win<^ coverts are trreenish 
blue, and the pen feathers blackish. Tho tail is dark hhie. The fenwde 
is similar in colour, but rather darker. 



IN CONFINEMENT. 

Bechstein includes the Nuthatcli among tho birds 'tameable when 
old.' He says, " in confinement it may be fed on hemp-seed and 
barley-meal, and will also eat oats and bread. The oats it has often 
been seen to fix one by one in the joints of the floor, and always 
with the thinner end uppermost, that they might be split with less 
difficulty." 

The Wryneck is esteemed as a cage bird, both on account of its 
handsome plumage, and the grotesque habit from which it derives its 
name. If not allowed the range of tho aviary, it requires a roomy 
cage. The universal paste will agree with it, but it is a delicate bird, 
and will not live long unless frequently supplied with its natural food 
— ants and their eggs. 

We know of no instance of the little Creeper being kept in confine- 
ment, and can therefore give no information concerning its mode of 
treatment. 

The habits of the Shrikes and Woodchat do not render them very 
desirable birds to keep in confinement. When first caught they require 
to be fed upon insects, such as grasshoppers or beetles, and small 
animals. After a little while they will take raw or cooked meat. They 
should be kept in wire cages apart from all other birds, and require 
a plentiful supply of water. Mr. Yarrell quotes the following portion 
of a letter from Mr. H. Doubleday, of Epping, with, reference to the 
Great Shrike: — "An old bird of this species taken near Norwich, in 
October, 1835, lived in my possession twelve months. It became very 
tame, and would readily take its food from my hands. When a bird 
was given it, it invariably broke the skull, and generally ate the head 
first. It sometimes held the bird in its claws, and pulled it to pieces 
in the manner of Hawks, but seemed to prefer forcing part of it 
through the wires, then pulling at it. It always hung what it could 
not eat up on the sides of the cage. It would often eat three small 



253 TSE SMALLER BRITISE BIRDS. 

birds in a day." After sucli .a description few of our lady readers, wo 
should fancy, would desire to make a pet of a bird of this species. 

The Kingfisher is described by Bechstein as "an awkward and 
obstinate inmate of an aviary/' so we would recommend our readers to 
lot him remain in the enjoymenj of his beautiful homo by the silvery 
stream or plashing waterfall, and not to deprive him of pleasures for 
which they can give no compensation. 



j3, Y A-VJCKTT & PO., 
pAST J^ODGE j^RTNTING ^VoRKS, 

Priffield. 



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