CAGE BIRDS

Birds may be kept in either indoor or outdoor aviaries or cages, but the more delicate and exotic birds are safer indoors, unless the weather is extremely clement. Outdoor aviaries require a N., N .E., or E. aspect. protected by wall, hedge or trees. The majority of British species, as well as canaries, thrive in an outdoor aviary all the year round, but should the birds be obviously suffering, they should be brought inside immediately.

The cages should allow ample room for unrestricted movement, and should be provided with perches, food and water pots, nesting boxes (when required), and adequate water, both for drinking and bathing. The floor should be plentifully sprinkled with clean sand and grit, and there should be arrangements to facilitate regular cleaning.

The following are the most popular cage birds:

Blackbird.

This familiar bird has ebony feathers, a crocus beak and yellow rings round the eyes. The hen is brown-black, with a dirty yellow bill. Blackbirds should be hand-reared from the nest. They require good sized wood-shelled cages. The usual food is crushed hemp-seed and bread, rape and other seeds; also a few worms, slugs, insects, and a little raw meat finely chopped up with bread, may be given as tit-bits, and occasionally a little ripe fruit.

The. young birds are hatched about April. They should be kept warm, and given an insectivorous mixture with broken biscuit moistened. Meal-worms and pieces of snail cut up, may also be given as they grow older, and also finely chopped hard-boiled egg, shredded lettuce and grated raw carrot.

Bullfinches.

These are popular cage birds. They may be taught to sing by means of artificial bird calls and flageolets, and with patient teaching become beautiful singers. Bullfinches are very apt to over-eat, and should not be given too much food. Canary and rape seed, with an occasional treat of crushed hemp-seed should be their usual diet. A little green dandelion may be given in the spring, and in the winter, a slice of apple now and then; they also appreciate a small branch of tree to peck for berries and insects. This bird does not require a very large cage.

Buntings.

Of the numerous varieties of these pretty little birds, the Ycllow-Hammer is quite the most popular. Other specimens are the Cirl Bunting, Com Bunting, Black-Headed Bunting, Lapland Bunting and Snow Bunting. They are all nearly related to the Finches, and their general treatment is similar to the latter. They require an insect, as well as a seed diet. The Black-Headed Bunting, whose throat is black as well as his head, is only a winter visitor to these shores, as also is the smaller Lapland Bunting. The Corn Bunting is larger than the Yellow-Hammer; it is a somewhat shy bird, greyer than the Yelloio-Hammcr, and speckled on the breast. The Cirl Bunting has a triangular patch on the throat. The beautiful little Snow Bxmling has some brown feathering, but is mainly white. He is happy in a cold climate. Do not put a perch in his cage—give him a good large piece of stone instead.

Canaries.

Everyone who starts 216 bird-fancying, begins with Canaries. This is perhaps due to the fact that they are about the most satisfactory of cage birds; they are hardy and fairly easily reared, capable of multitudinous ‘crossings,’ easy to feed, and their cheery song is a perpetual joy. It is, in fact, an excellent bird to experiment on. Originally a green bird from the Canary Islands, it has been crossed with Bullfinches, Greenfinches, Linnets, and Siski)is, until Canaries can now be got in almost any colour. The leading varieties are the London Fancy, Belgian, Lancashire, Lizard, Yorkshire, Scots Fancy, Norwich Crest, Norwich Plainhead, Border Fancy and Cinnamon. Canaries should be kept in a room without a fire, and with a regu lar temperature; they shouId not be moved backwards and forwards between a hot and a cold temperature. As with all cage birds, they should be kept perfectly clean, and their cages should be sanded each day. They also require plenty of fine gravel; iron in their water during moulting and always plenty of water for drinking and bathing.

Their food is generally canary seed and rape seed, with an occasional teaspoonful of egg food, and a little green vegetable or fruit according to season. The birds should have their claws cut occasionally.

The young birds are fed on hard-boiled egg and boiled rape seed given in separate vessels.

Canaries prefer a large cage, plain, and without too many perches. Give them plenty of room to move about.

Chaffinch.

This little bird with its blue cap, brick-red under-part and green rump is common enough in the wild state in England. It makes an admirable cage bird, and under patient teaching, learns to sing and perform many tricks very well. Its usual menu should be canary teasel and summer rape, with tit-bits of hemp, oats, groats, live grubs and insects. They take their moult very seriously—nioping distressingly, during which time they are rather apt to pine away, and even die. They thrive wonderfully in an outdoor aviary, where they should be given nesting accommodation.

Doves and Pigeons.

These birds are so easily and completely tamed that they are very often allowed unrestricted freedom. Doves thrive in wicker cages, however, or in aviaries, if hand reared. They are not so gregarious as Pigeons, and may be kept in pairs, when they will breed, if well fed and happy and contented. Doves are of many breeds, but the favourites are the Turtle Doves and the common Wood Pigeons, otherwise known as the Ring Dove. The innumerable breeds of Pigeons are known only to the breeder. These make bad cage birds, but if kept in flocks and allowed freedom, they multiply amazingly.

They are not hard to feed— maize and cornpeas, and the usual table refuse suits pigeons, and for the smaller breeds of doves, canary, millet and other seeds and soft oats. For the larger ones, corn-pea, vetches and buckwheat, also.

Finches.

These birds, British and foreign, are nearly all seed-eaters, though, during the rearing season, they like gentles, ants’ eggs and mealworms. They shou Id also be given a little groundsel, chickweed, grass, etc. It should be remembered that the tropical finches are only suitable for indoor keeping, and should be kept warm. The Green and Grey Singing Finches are the most popular breeds for cage purposes.

Flycatchers.

These birds should have’ as large a cage as possible; they are shy and very restless. Their food is insecti-. vorous, the diet consisting chiefly of ants’ ieggs, gentles, mealworms, etc. It is a good plan to mix one part of dry biscuit meal with the ants’ eggs, and to this, add half a part of ground silkworm pupa? and finely sieved meat meal. This forms an admirable regular meal for most of the insect-eating birds. The supply should be kept in a dry jar or tin with a tight fitting lid, and just the day’s supply should be taken out at a time—made crumbly by the addition of a little boiling water. The Pied Flycatcher is the commonest of this species, but the Spoiled and Red-breasted varieties are also seen occasionally.

Goldfinch.

This popular bird has a crimson face, white cheeks, golden wings, light brown body plumage, and black shoulder and tail feathers. He is about the prettiest and sweetest singing of cage birds. The hen is rather more sober in colouring. The staple diet should be canary seed, teasel, summer rape, etc., with the regular addition of hemp. The rape seed should be given to him scalded, and the hemp should be well crushed. All green stuff given him should be fresh, and he prefers water from a pond or well—not tap water.

Jackdaw.

This bird is popular amongst the children on account of his mischievous habits. It is the smallest of the crows, and is quite common in the wild state. It is usual to clip its wing feathers a little and allow it the free run of the house and garden. Jackdaws will eat almost anything, but they have a decided penchant for mice: a dead one occasionally is a great treat.

Jays.

These bold and beautiful birds are excellent pets if hand-reared. Their plumage is black or fawn, with black flights on the tail, and patches of clear blue on wings and forehead. They are dangerous companions for other birds, and, if caged, should be alone—preferably in a wicker cage.-The cocks readily learn to talk, and are admirable company. They should be given a little animal food, any kinds of worms and insects and peas, beans, etc.

Larks.

These sweet singers eat both seeds and insects, and their staple food should include a good proportion of best ants’ eggs, ripe fruit in season, and a moderate allowance of yolk of egg (hard-boiled). The ants’ eggs should be prepared in much the same way as for the Flycatchers. They should have a large cage, with plenty of dust to roll in, and a soft pad of some description should be fastened inside the tip of the cage, as Larks endeavour to soar when they sing, and are apt to injure themselves.

Magpie .

This is another British crow; it is pied black and white, with peacock-green reflections on wings and tail. It will eat anything—nothing really seems ‘to disagree with it, but it should be given only restricted liberty (or a cage), as it is shamelessly mischievous.

Nightingales.

These warblers do not sing so well in captivity as in the free state, but they do quite well in either a large cage or an aviary during the summer, and a large cage (with warmth) in winter. They should be hand-reared from the nest, and require good grade food, plenty of live grubs, and small red garden worms cut in two. The cock is rust brown above, and greyish cream beneath, with reddish brown wings and tail. The hen is paler.

Parrots.

These loosely include the Macaws, Parrakects, and Cockatoos, though strictly speaking neither of these three belong to the genus. However, the treatment of the whole species is the same. They are subject to diseases of the throat and chest, and should be protected from cold. Their diet is very varied—soaked bread, biscuit, mashed potatoes, hemp, maize, nuts, fruit and sunflower seed. They should not, however, be given meat.

Siskins are both winter migrant and resident species. They are lively little birds, light-green with striated plumage above and canary-yellow below. They wear black caps and sometimes have black throats. The hens lack the yellow breast—theirs is dirty white, lined and speckled. Good breeders, engaging.pets and sweet songsters. Their food is similar to that of the Buntings and Finches.

Thrushes, with their near relatives Starlings, thrive under the same conditions as to accommodation and diet as Blackbirds.

They are particularly fond of sunflower seeds, and relish an occasional fat slug or a shell snail.

Tits are perhaps the most engaging of aviary birds. They exhibit extraordinary ‘topsyturvy’ movements in searching for insects, and their quaint nest-building is a perpetual source of interest. They are easily tamed, and become extremely confiding pets. They require soft food, insects, seeds (such as sunflower), as well as tiny scraps of meat and fat to keep them healthy. The best known are the Great Tit, which has a black head, and the tiny Blue Titmouse, and the Long-Tailed Tit.

Waxbills.

There are dozens of species of this dainty little bird. They are all exotic, but semi-hardy (I.e. they should be taken in when winter arrives, if kept in an outside aviary). These birds are seed eaters. They do well on white and spray millet seed, with the addition of a little canary seed. Like most foreign seed-eaters, they take readily to seeding grass, and occasionally like chick-weed and shepherd’s purse, but they do not like bitter seeding weeds like dandelion, or aromatic ones like teasel. Their name is derived from the sealing-wax-like colour of their beaks.

Tonic for Birds.

Iron is an excellent tonic for birds, and is best administered in the drinking water in the form of tincture of steel or the tincture of iron. From three (waxbill size) to six drops (grey parrot size) to two ounces of water is the dosage. Tincture of gentian and extract of dandelion in similar dosages are also good tonics in bracing up the system after digestive disturbances or liver disease.

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