THE order of perchers contains many of the finest flyers and singers among birds, and the plumage of some of them is hard to surpass. It is the largest order of all and its members are distinct by having, as a rule, three toes in front and one behind. The females are often smaller and less brilliant in colour than the males. They always live in trees and usually build their nests there, frequently showing great skill in their construction. In the early stages the young are very helpless and depend on their parents for food.
One of the largest families of song-birds is the finches, which form a big part of our native British birds. They often add a touch of colour to the hedges by their pretty feathers. They are all small birds with short, stout beaks, particularly well suited for feeding on seeds. The commonest of all birds, the sparrow, belongs to this family, as does also the domestic canary.
The shrikes, or Butcher Birds, may be said to be in a transitional stage between a perching bird and a bird of prey, for while the claws are weak, the bill is hooked and tearing, and some of these birds’ characters as regards their neighbours are none too good. The Red-backed Shrike visits Britain in summer and often impales insects and small mammals on thorns near its nest to form a sort of larder. Hence the name Butcher Bird.