This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
The Bullfinch (Pyrrhula vulgaris or europaea), Fig. 37, belongs to the sub-family Pyrrhulinae of the family Frigillidae, and is noted for the beauty of its plumage and remarkable for the facility with which it is tamed and taught to "pipe," or even to articulate words. It has a short, rounded, robust bill, a black cap, and the plumage on the back is of an ash or dark blue-grey colour; the inferior parts of the body are reddish. The female is greyish-red beneath. In habits, the bullfinches are semi-gregarious, inhabiting coppices, thickets, and neglected hedges, pairing during the breeding season, and visiting gardens and fruit plantations. The nest is built in hedges and various low trees. The eggs are of a pale greenish-white, spotted with orange brown. The young are chiefly reared upon small caterpillars.
The Bullfinch feeds almost exclusively from February to April inclusive on the buds of various bushes and trees, in gardens and fruit plantations on buds of gooseberry and currant bushes, buds of plum, and occasionally pear and apple trees. Outside the garden and fruit plantation bullfinches feed on the buds of hawthorn, bird cherry, blackthorn and bullace, crab, larch, beech, etc. During the remainder of the year the bullfinch feeds on weed seeds, such as docks, thistles, hard heads, grasses, etc. Its attacks on fruit are limited to the raspberry, the seeds, no doubt, being the object; but this is not frequently practised. The bill, strong and thick, of the bullfinch is well adapted for feeding on seeds and buds. The natural note of the bullfinch is low and can only be heard at a short distance, but when tamed and well-trained, the bird whistles, or "pipes," as it is called, any melody which has been taught it, in a fine flute-like tone. A good piping bullfinch sells at a high price, as much as £5 being demanded for a single bird.
Fig. 37. - The Cock (lower) and Hen (upper) Bullfinch on Dock.