A bird with charm
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