Because it feeds in this season upon the "hips" of the dog-rose, which are scarce in hard weather; when they are gone, it seems to pine for food, and is starved, or perhaps frozen, on its roost, as few are observed to survive a long inclement winter.
Because they are fed on hemp-seed. Such influence has food on the colour of animals ! The pied and mottled colours of domesticated animals, are supposed to he owing to high, various, and unusual food. - White.
Because they are taken, when very young, from their nests, and taught by a barrel-organ. Their tuition is a task of strict discipline, and is commenced when they first begin to whistle, or at the age of two months. They are taught in classes of about six in number; they are naturally great mimics; the barrel-organ is of a single diapason, and only plays one air. The birds, before they make their first essay, are comparatively starved, are placed in a dark room round the organ, and the air is played slowly to them. The moment they mimic the organ, the light is admitted into the room, and a little food is given to them; this is repeated so often, and works upon them so mechanically, that the organ is to them a sure presage of their being fed. During this time, they are fed and attended by one person only. After a month's drilling, they are handed over to boys, who are employed to play to them. Each boy takes a bird; and during these exercises, or rather rehearsals, they are occasionally visited, and always fed, by their old teacher; who, by various motions of the head and mouth, checks or encourages them in their piping, according to their merits : for instance, when they repeat a stave too often, he scowls and blows upon them ; and when they proceed correctly he waves his head. They perfectly understand these motions, and by dint of perseverance on the part of the teacher, and attention and practice on theirs, acquire the habit of piping, which never leaves them till death. It is, however, observable, that, though all the bullfinches have the same advantages, as far as teaching goes, and the same power of voice, there are not above five out of a hundred that pipe correctly.
Blumenbach says, "Both sexes readily learn to whistle tunes, to sing in parts, and even to pronounce words."