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The Bullfinch
Look at the bright colours of this beautiful little bird: y...

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[illustration: The Goose]
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The Bullfinch








Look at the bright colours of this beautiful little bird: you can
scarcely find one with prettier plumage or a sweeter note. His native
song is not very remarkable, but he is so docile, and so readily taught
to whistle different airs, that he is highly valued. Bullfinches are
common enough in our woods and gardens, but gardeners are sad enemies to
these little birds, declaring that they spoil trees by picking off their
buds. It is, however, now thought by intelligent persons that the only
buds destroyed by the bullfinch are those infested with insects, so that
he really confers a benefit on us instead of doing mischief. Almost all
the piping bullfinches as they are called, kept in cages in this
country, are brought from Germany, where much care is devoted to their
instruction in the art of music. In their education the following method
is pursued. "The birds are taken from the nests of wild ones when about
ten days old, and are brought up by a person who is very kind and
attentive to them, so that they very soon grow gentle and tame. As soon
as they begin to whistle their studies commence, they being then about
two months' old. Formed into classes of six or so, they are kept a
little while hungry and in the dark, whilst the tune they are to learn
is played over to them on a bird-organ, which has a sort of bird-like
note. Over and over again the same air is repeated, until, one by one,
the birds begin to imitate what they hear. Directly they do this, light
is admitted, and they have a little food given to them. By this means
the birds learn to think of the tune and their dinners at the same
time, and directly they hear the organ will begin to whistle. They are
then turned over to the care of boys, whose sole business it is to go on
with their education, each boy having a separate bird placed under his
charge, and he plays away from morning to night, or as long as the birds
can pay attention, during which time their first teacher, or feeder,
goes his rounds, scolding or rewarding his feathered scholars by signs
and modes which he has taught them to understand, until they become so
perfect, and the tune, whatever it may be, so imprinted on their memory,
that they will pipe it for the remainder of their lives."

Bullfinches that are perfect in their song, are worth a great deal of
money. Both the male and female sing, but the colours of the male are
the brightest. These birds, however, in confinement, lose their
brilliancy of hue, and, from growing duskier and duskier, sometimes
become entirely black, as if putting on mourning for their lost liberty.
The same change has been observed in a bird which lost its mate to whom
it had been tenderly attached. It is principally for its power of
imitation and memory that this bird is prized. His wild notes, when
loud, are not particularly sweet, but at times are very soft and
plaintive.

I will conclude with a pretty and affecting little story of a piping
bullfinch that once belonged to Sir William Parsons. When young he was a
great musician, and had taught his bullfinch to sing "God Save the
King." On going abroad, he committed his feathered friend to the care of
his sister, with many injunctions to be watchful of its health and
happiness.

On his return she told him the little bird had seemed pining away, and
was then very ill. Grieved to hear this news, Sir William went at once
to the room where it was kept, and, putting his hand into the cage,
called the little creature. It knew the voice of the dear master for
whom it had so pined and, opening its eyes and shaking its disordered
feathers, as if to do him honour, staggered on to his finger, piped "God
Save the King," and then fell dead.





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Previous: The Robin Redbreast



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