Written and Illustrated by F. J. S. Chatterton
Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medallist Paris, 1910-11; Specialist Breeder and Judge of Poultry, Pigeons, and Cage Birds; judge at the Grand International Show, Crystal Palate; Membre Societe des Aviculteurs Francais; Vice-president Poultry Club; Hon. Sec. Yokohama Club; on the
Mimic- How to Feed and Treat Birds Kept in Captivity having considered the hard-billed or seed-eating birds as pets (see pages 45.2, 575, and 1175) we will turn our attention to some of the soft-billed birds - viz., those which in the wild state live principally on various kinds of insects, such as grubs, worms, caterpillars, flies, etc.
The members of the thrush family claim the first place on the list, both on account of their popularity and for the excellence of their song. One does' not need to be a bird-fancier to stop, whilst on a ramble through the lanes, to listen to the sweet and happy song of the thrush or the blackbird, as he sits on the topmost branch and sings an evening song, which seems to express his complete happiness and contentment with all the world.
There are six members of the thrush family in Great Britain - viz., the missel thrush, song thrush, blackbird, ring-ouzel, redwing, and fieldfare.
The starling is not a member of the thrush family. He is a most interesting and amusing pet on account of his wonderful powers of mimicry
The term missel thrush is really a contraction of mistletoe thrush, a name given to the bird on account of its partiality for mistletoe berries, although it is equally fond of mountain ash, holly, and hawthorn berries. The name storm cock is given to this bird because it sings quite early in the year, and in spite of rough and stormy weather. It is no uncommon sight in some parts of the country to see a missel thrush on the highest twig of a tall tree, holding on tight with his powerful feet, and swaying to and fro as the strong March winds blow, and the rain comes every now and then in heavy showers. Yet, through it all, he sings his song of gladness and defiance; and one cannot help admiring him for his share in helping to make this world bright and happy. He is not kept as a pet so frequently as his relative, the song thrush, as he needs a larger cage, and his song is harder and much shriller. The best place to admire him is when he is on the top of his favourite tree, for he may be seen every evening and usually on the same twig of his particular tree.
The song thrush (Turdus musicus) is very often called the mavis, or the throstle, especially in the North. This is such a well known and popular bird that he needs very little description. He and the blackbird are by far the greatest favourites as pets amongst the soft-billed birds. They become very tame, and soon get to know their owner, and to be on the look out for any little dainties that he or she may offer them. They are often more popular in a cage than when at liberty, for being very fond of fruit they spoil and consume a large quantity, and would very soon clear a garden of its fruit unless it were protected with netting.
Although these birds are troublesome when the fruit is ripe, they do much good to the garden at other times by catching quantities of worms, slugs, snails, and other pests, and probably consider that they earn a certain amount of fruit in return for the good they have done earlier in the year.
The song thrush is one of our earliest breeders; young ones may be found as early as March, and they are out of the nest early in April. The familiar nest, which looks as though it were lined with cement, contains four or five eggs of a pretty blue colour, spotted with black.
The song thrush, as a songster, comes next to the nightingale, but is not nearly so difficult to keep in confinement, being a hardier and more robust bird, and one that stays with us all the winter, whilst the nightingale leaves us in the autumn for warmer climes.
Besides his vocal attraction he is a very pretty bird, his plumage being a blending of brown and grey, which is well set off by his. beautifully spotted breast. He takes very kindly to a life of confinement, and will sing many a sweet song, and with proper care and attention live for several years.
The blackbird (Turdus merula) is also a favourite, and familiar to most of us. His song has a softer and more mellow note than that of the thrush. In confinement he will mimic other sounds, and soon learns how to whistle; but he does not sing so long as the thrush, especially in the wild state.
As a pet, the blackbird certainly comes next to the song thrush in popularity amongst admirers of the soft-billed birds. He is also a very pretty bird, his deep black, lustrous plumage forming a most artistic contrast to his bright, orange-coloured beak. He, like the song thrush, thrives well in confinement, and will live happily in a cage for quite a long time.
The ring-ouzel (Turdus torquatus) which is sometimes called the white-throated blackbird, leaves this country during the winter months, returning to us about April. He frequents, for breeding, wild and hilly places, mostly in the North of England and of Scotland. This bird is very fond of the berries of the rowan-tree or mountain ash. As a songster he is much inferior to the song thrush or blackbird, but makes an interesting and rather uncommon-looking pet.