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imitates very closely indeed. In confinement it will often sing during the greater part of the year, and to this state it soon becomes reconciled. In the woods it may sometimes be heard as early as March 23rd, and as late as
October 15th, about which time it migrates to the south. The black cap, which gives the bird its name, is worn only by the male, and not by him until after the first moult, as the change of feathers is called; for all birds, it should be understood, have a new dress once a year: the old feathers fall off and new ones come in their places; but they do not fall off all at once, or the bird would be naked: it is a gradual process. This is a convenient arrangement, for however would Mr. O.ck Sparrow or Miss Jenny Wren get the money for a new suit of clothes? It saves all trouble, too, about following the fashion: if our clothes grew on our backs we must take them as they came, and be thankful that we got so cheap a covering.
Sad to say, this is a greedy bird: he must be supplied sparingly, or he will cat more than is good for him. He should have the same kind of food as the nightingale; soft fruit he is very partial to, and a little will do him no harm.
The Garden Warblek, or the Whitethroat, and the Fauvette, or the l'E'lTlchAP, are both very pretty birds of this family, which are sweet songsters, but most difficult to rear and keep. They do best in an aviary where there are growing plants: if in a cage, it should be kept well shaded with green boughs. Like all the warblers, they require fine gravel, which they eat to assist digestion, and plenty of clear, fresh water. The food of all the members of this family may be pretty much the same as that recommended for those already described. When meal-worms, ants' eggs, and maggots cannot be procured, a little bullock's heart, boiled and grated, will not be a bad substitute.
The Babillard, or Babblino Warbler, the Lesser Pettichap, or ARBOUR Bird, the latter of which builds a nest covered with a dome, are all interesting members of the same family, but they arc very rarely kept. The country people call the last "chiff-chaff," because its cry resembles these words.
The Willow and Heed Warblers.—These birds arc sometimes called the Willow and Wood Wrens; they are both elegant birds, and much alike in their general appearance and habits: their song is shrill and tremulous, and is very constantly uttered. They are great at fly-catching, being very fond of these as of other insects. They sometimes become very tame and familiar with their feeder, taking flies out of the hand, and drinking milk from a spoon or cup while perched on the finger.
The Common and Golden-crested Wrens.—Every boy and girl knows the little Jenny Wren, with its round body and short cocked-up tail, and must have listened with pleasure to the low sweet warble of the bird, which in confinement is lively and engaging. It is very sociable, and should always have a companion in its cage, or be left at liberty to fly about a room or aviary with other birds. The gold-crest is the smallest of all British birds, and is as quick and restless as he is small. When at liberty, he lives chiefly amid the dark pine-woods, and his crest of flame-coloured feathers flashes amid the gloom like real fire. The closely-woven nest, like a little mossy cup, is suspended to the bough of a pine or larch, generally far up and hidden by the thick foliage; in it are eight or nine flesh-coloured eggs, no bigger than peas.
The Redbreast seems out of place in a cage: he ought to be hopping about on the table, or under it, picking up the crumbs; coming to the window to be fed when the snow lies thick on the ground; or out in the woods, covering with leaves the two poor children who were there left to wander alone and die of hunger. Of course, every boy has read the old nursery story of the "Children in the Wood," and loved the Robin Redbreast all the better for the compassionate part he played in that sad drama. He is a bold, confiding bird, and has a sweet voice of his own, although it has not much power or compass in its melody. In the summer it is seldom heard, as the singer then keeps pretty much in the leafy woods, away from houses; but when the cold weather comes and there is a scarcity of food, then, too, comes Robin, to tune his pipes in the garden and ask to be fed. In at the open door or window he hops, gives a bright intelligent look all round, then two or three lively chirrups, as much as to say, " Here we are again 1" and then proceeds to make himself at home. If you have an aviary, just put him in, and let him out again in February, that he may go away and help his mate to build her nest where he best loves to be, „„,. , . , . _ «
'Flutmg about from tree to tree.
Robins that have been placed when young under the tuition of a nightingale are said to make splendid songsters: their natural song, though soft and sweet, is not sufficiently powerful to attract much attention. They may be kept in almost any kind of cage; but care must be taken not to put two male birds together, as they will be sure to fight, Master Bobby being, I grieve to say, a very quarrelsome fellow: for that reason he is often troublesome in the aviary. He may be taught a variety of tricks, and is generally a very pleasant and amusing bird. We wish it, however, to be understood that we do not advocate the caging of wild birds, and only give these directions in the hope of ameliorating the condition of those which have already been captured.
We have now done with the warblers, all of which, except the wrens and Robin, leave this country at the approach of winter, for more southern latitudes, because they require warmth and plenty of insect food; and this flying to and fro between one country and another, at certain regular periods, we call migration. It is wonderful how these seemingly weak and delicate birds can fly hundreds of miles over land and sea straight as an arrow to the places best suited for them, and how, at certain dates, which scarcely ever vary, they set off on these long flights. All we can say in explanation is that God teaches and strengthens them.
Before we proceed to speak about certain birds of gay plumage and harsh discordant voices, which are all foreigners, let us finish with the natives, and say a few words about those that caw and croak, and hoot and scream, and otherwise disport themselves, in our own dear native land.
Among the commonest of these are several members of the Corvus, or Crow tribe, some of which are made household pets, and are valued for their talking powers or other amusing qualities: foremost among them is
which is what the Scotch call an "uncanny bird," which we can best translate by the word "unearthly." There is something strange and mysterious about him: he is black, and all black; his cry is a dismal ero-a-k, coming, as it seems, from a sepulchre; his motions are odd and ungainly; he hops all on one side, and never looks directly at you, but, with his head awry, peers up in a very suspicious manner, so that he ever seems bent on mischief.
But why keep such a disagreeable creature about the house? Well, some people have a fancy for oddities, and the raven is one. He has great imitative powers: he will talk and whistle, crow like a cock, bark like a dog, mew like a cat, and make all manner of queer noises, and perform the strangest antics in the gravest possible manner. So, although he is a dirty, spiteful, and altogether unloveable bird, and frightens children into fits, by going up to them sideways, as if he did not see them, and then suddenly darting at their legs; although he steals all he can lay his hands—or rather beak—on, and hides it away; although he is greedy, and even blasphemous—for swearing he seems to learn most easily, and repeats with the greatest gusto—yet people keep and pet him, even while they are half afraid of him, and look upon him as something like an incarnation of evil. There are many mysteries in the world, and this is one of them. The raven has a wonderful history, too: we hear of him as far back as the Deluge; his great black wings went flap-flapping heavily over the wide waste of waters, in which floated so many ghastly corpses, on some of which he, no doubt, alighted to feast, for he is very partial to decomposed flesh; he fed Elijah, you know, at the time of the great famine in Israel; and in the sacred narrative, as well as in profane history, his name frequently occurs. Wherever there is a lonely, barren, desolate, and sin-cursed place upon earth, there is the raven sure to be: his croak has always been considered ominous of evil, and the shadow of his wings a foreboding of death. Such has been, and is, the notion of superstitious people; but we know better, and simply look upon the raven as a cunning, mischief-loving bird, with a hoarse voice, which he cannot help, and a desire to steal and hide anything that comes in his way; but then we know some people who are very like him in this respect. So, if you will keep him about you, let him have plenty to eat, and a sheltered corner to hide and sleep in; and, as he has such wonderful powers of imitation, be as careful as possible that he hears only words which are pleasant and proper. We had the honour of the acquaintance of one of these birds, who lived in a military hospital, where there was a guard-house, and when the sentry at the gate was aware of the approach of the visiting officer, or any person of distinction to whom the honour was due, he cried, "Guard, turn out!" and out rushed the soldiers from the guard-house, to stand in a row and give the salute.
Ralph had noticed these proceedings, as he noticed, without seeming to do so, everything that was going on, and he thought he would have a bit of fun; so one night he crept out of his corner and broke the stillness with his hoarse command, "Guard, turn out!" and out they came in the darkness, and stood ready; but there was no one to be saluted, so, after awhile, they turned in again, wondering what it could mean. It was afterwards discovered that the raven had played the trick. Poor Ralph died long since, and was gathered to his fathers. He lived to a great age, as ravens commonly do, and his loss was deplored, as he was a source of great amusement to the hospital folk.
is another amusing bird of the crow family, which is easily tamed and taught to speak. If kept in a cage, it should be a large one; but it is best to let h:m have the run of the house. If taken when grown up, his wings should be cut about every six months, to prevent his flying away. Young birds should be taken from the nest in the church steeple, ruined tower, hole in the cliff, or hollow tree, when about half fledged, and fed upon bread and milk, with caterpillars, worms, and other insect food, or entrails: they will grow strong enough to take care of themselves, and, if brought up in this way, may generally be trusted, with uncut wings, to go where they please. They have the thievish propensity common to all the family, and there is a funny story, told by Thomas Ingoldsby, of one who stole "my Lord Cardinal's ring," and was excommunicated; but, having repented and made restitution, he was again received into the Church, became a very pious bird, and dying in the odour of sanctity, was canonized under the name of Jim Crow!
is a very handsome and a very knowing bird. He is described by one of our old poets as " the cunning magpie, with his head awry," peeping and peering into every hole and corner. His black and white plumes give him a clerical appearance, which is not borne out by his habits, for he is a great chatterer and is by no means honest; silver spoons must be taken care of where he is,
for anything bright and glittering seems to have an irresistible attraction for him. The nest of a magpie is often a wonderful structure, built of sticks piled up to an amazing height; it has a dome at the top, and the hole for entrance is at the side; it is generally placed in some ruinous out-of-the-way place, and far up out of reach.
Young magpies should be taken when about a fortnight old, and fed as directed for young jackdaws. If carefully instructed they will become accomplished talkers.
This is a very beautiful kind of crow, which is not unfrequently seen in a wicker cage, and heard uttering words and other sounds in a somewhat discordant manner, screaming, whistling, and making all sorts of curious noises.