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sucker makes while chasing its prey. When it settles on any small building, its notes will give a sensible vibration to the whole fabric.
The starling, or stare (sturnus vulgaris), builds in hollow trees and clefts of rocks, is very easily tamed, and can add to its natural notes any words or modulation it is taught to lear: they live long and seem happy in servitude, mimicking the voice of other birds and other noise in the reach of their hearing. It will imitate the human voice; and Hotspur, in his indignation against Henry IV, for refusing to ransom his brother Mortimer, exclaims,
I'll have a starling shall be taught to speak
To keep his anger still in motion'. The finches ’ (fringilla) are numerous and interesting. The goldfinch (f. carduelis) is one of the most beautiful and pleasing of English birds; and equally remarkable for the elegance of its plumage, the sweetness of its song, and its extreme docility. The nest of the goldfinch, which it builds in fruit trees, is neatly made of lichen and moss, lined with hair, wool, and the down of the thistle and willow, the seeds of which are its principal support; whence its name carduelis. The cruelty of confining and then neglecting these cheerful and innocent creatures is too frequent. It is a sort of guilt against the design of nature, to imprison animals made to soar above the clouds, or enjoy their existence among the leaves of the forest; but to make these inoffensive creatures prisoners for our amusement, and then to condemn them to the most lingering and painful
* On the flight and migration of the starling, see p. 255.
2 Now where the thistle blows his feathered seed
death through neglect and idleness, is a degree of cruelty, of which it is painful even to think'.
Time was, when I was free as air,
My drink the morning dew:
My strains for ever new.
And of a transient date;
Bird-Catching. The business of bird-catching, which supports a number of people in the vicinity of London, is founded on the annual removals of those singing birds, which are termed birds of flight, in the language of that art. The metropolis affording a ready sale for singing birds, this trade has long been established in its neighbourhood; where it is carried on at a great expense, and with systematical perfection. The wild birds begin to fly, as birdcatchers term it, in the month of October, and part of the preceding and following months. The different species of these birds do not make their periodical flights exactly at the same time, but follow one another in succession. The pippet commences his flight, every year, about Michaelmas; the woodlark next succeeds, and continues his flight till towards the middle of October.
It is remarkable, that, though both these tribes of birds are very easily caught during their flight, yet, when that is over, no art can seduce them to the nets. It has never hitherto been found what is the nature
'C. Smith's History of Birds, vol. ii, p. 70.
of that call by which the tame birds can arrest their flight, and allure them under the nets at that particular season, and at no other. Perhaps it is from their anxiety to carry the tame birds along with them, that these may avoid the severity of the winter. Perhaps, as the tame birds are males, it is a challenge to combat; or it may be an invitation to love, which is attended to by the females, who are flying above, and who, in obeying it, inveigle the males, along with themselves, into the net. If the last be the case, they are severely punished for their infidelity to their mates; for the females are indiscriminately killed by the bird-catcher, while the male is made a prisoner, and sold at a high price, for his song.
The flights of these birds begin at daybreak, and continue till noon. Autumn is the time when the birdcatcher is employed in intercepting them on their passage. The nets are about twelve yards long, and two and a half broad. They are spread upon the ground, at a small distance from each other, and so placed, that they can be made to flap suddenly over upon the birds that alight between them. As the wild birds fly always against the wind, the birdcatcher, who is most to the leeward, has a chance of catching the whole flight, if his call-birds be good. A complete set of call-birds consists of five or six linnets, two goldfinches, two greenfinches, one woodlark, one redpole; and, perhaps, of a bullfinch, a yellow hammer, a titlark, and an aberdavine. These are placed, in little cages, at small distances from the nets. He has likewise his flur-birds, which are placed within the net, and raised or let down accord ing as the wild birds approach.
This, however, is not enough to allure the wild bird down; it must be called from the cages by one of the call-birds which are kept there, and which have been made to moult early in the summer, in order to improve their notes. Pennant observes, that there appears a malicious joy in these call-birds, to
bring the wild ones into the same state of captivity. After they have seen or heard the approach of the wild birds, which is long before it is perceived by the birdcatchers, the intelligence is announced from cage to cage with the utmost ecstasy and joy. The pote by which they invite them down is not a continual song, like that which the bird uses in a chamber; but short jerks, as they are called by the birdcatchers, which are heard at a great distance. So powerful is the ascendency of this call over the wild birds, that, the moment they hear it, they alight within twenty yards of three or four birdcatchers, on a spot which, otherwise, would never have attracted their notice. After the fatal string is pulled, and the nets are clapped over the unsuspecting stangers, should one half of the flock escape, such is their infatuation, that they will immediately after return to the nets, and share the same fate with their companions; and should only one bird escape, the unhappy survivor will still venture into danger, till he be also caught; so fascinating is the power which the call-birds have over this devoted race.
All the hens that are thus taken are immediately killed, and sold for threepence or fourpence a dozen. Their flesh is so exquisite, that they are regarded as a delicate acquisition to the tables of the luxurious. The taste for small birds is however far from being so prevalent in England as in France and Italy; and even the luxury of the Italians will appear parsimony when compared with the extravagance of their predecessors, the Romans. Pliny says, that Clodius Æsopus, a tragedian of Rome, paid no less a sum than six thousand eight hundred and forty-three pounds for a single dish of musical birds; an immense tribute to caprice and gluttony. The highest price given for these singing birds in London is five guineas a piece; a strong proof how much more their song is relished here than their flesh. . We cannot conclude this subject without alluding
to a most cruel practice which is common among the bird-fanciers, in the neighbourhood of London; it is the acceleration of the molting season, and we notice it only to deprecate it in the strongest terms. The molting of birds, even when left to the operation of nature, is a severe malady; its fatal effects, however, have been greatly increased by the interference of man, in endeavouring to bestow artificial accomplishments on those birds which he reduces into captivity for the sake of the beauty of their colours, or the melody of their song. The birdcatchers, chiefly to gratify the whimsical and capricious, have invented a method of accelerating the season; to effect this, by which it is pretended that birds are improved both in their song and beauty, they shut them up in a dark cage, closely wrapt up with woollen cloth, allowing their dung to remain and increase the heat of the cage. In this state of confinement, which oontinues for a month, they are only now and then supplied with water, the putrid air, and the fever which it occasions, depriving them of all appetite for food. By this violent operation, which is termed stopping, an artificial and premature molt is produced, at the expense of the lives of many of the ill-fated creatures who are subjected to so unnatural a regimen. The price of a stopped bird rises in proportion to the danger attending it; for it is pretended that its note is not only louder and more piercing than that of a wild one, but that its plumage is also more vivid and beautiful: in short, that there is as much difference between a wild and a stopped bird, as between a horse kept in body-clothes and one at grass.
But we turn with loathing from practises so abhorrent to humanity; let us cease to contemplate these unfortunate prisoners, each in his caged cell confined'-and wing our excursive flight to the great AVIARY OF NATURE, where the free and merry