Coun­try Mouse

A bird with charm

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

OUT­SIDE our of­fices, a charm of goldfinches (surely the finest col­lec­tive noun of them all) has been feast­ing on the this­tle seeds upon the waste ground wait­ing to be de­vel­oped into fur­ther of­fices. These strik­ing birds have seen a re­vival since al­most be­com­ing ex­tinct in many ar­eas in the late 19th cen­tury when trap­ping had caused their pop­u­la­tion to plum­met (for in­stance, 132,000 were re­ported to be taken near Wor­thing each year).

The finches were thrice cursed as ideal cage birds. First, they’re daz­zlingly beau­ti­ful with a dis­tinc­tive red, white and black face, white rump and shock of yel­low on their black wings. Se­cond, they’re de­light­ful tin­kling song­sters and, fi­nally, they pos­sess a rare dex­ter­ity be­tween bill and feet that could be used by their own­ers to force the bird to per­form tricks to get food and water.

To­day, they not only feast on this­tles, from which they de­rive their Latin name Car­du­elis car­du­elis, but, in­creas­ingly, also on niger seeds from the bird ta­ble, mak­ing them a fa­mil­iar gar­den visi­tor. Many mi­grate to Spain and France each win­ter, but sup­ple­men­tary feed­ing at the bird ta­ble may be keep­ing more at home, al­low­ing us to en­joy their com­pany with­out the cages. MH

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