Page images
PDF
EPUB

1

under which it was intended to train others : selves, though sometimes a few males come and we also heard of five pounds ten thil- along with chem. lings being given for a call bird linnet. The latter are diftinguited from the fe

A third fingular circumstance, which males not only by their superior size, but confirms an observation of Linnæus, is, that by a great swelling of their vent, which the male chaffinches fly by themselves, and commences on the first arrival of the in the flight precede the females; but this hens. is not peculiar to the chaffinches. When They do not build till the middle of the titlarks are caught in the beginning of May, and generally chuse a quickset to the fe ison, it frequenily happens, that forty inake their neft in. are taken, and not one female among them; If the nightingale is kept in a cage, it and probab!y the fame would be observed often begins to sing about the latter end of with regard to other birds (as has been done November, and continues to fing more or with relarion to the wheat-ear) if they were

less till June. attended to.

A young canary bird, linnet, skylark, or An experienced and intelligent bird. robin (who have never heard any other catcher informed us, that such birds as bird) are said best to learn the note of a breed twice a year, generally have in their nightingale. first brood a majority of males, and in their They are caught in a net-trap; the botsecond, of females, which may in part ac tom of which is surrounded with an iron count for the above ob/ervation.

ring; the net itself is rather larger than a We must not omit mention of the bull. cabbage-net. finch, though it does not properly come When the trappers hear or see them, they under the title of a singing-bird, or a bird strew some fresh mould under the place, of flight, as it does not otten move farther and bait the trap with a meal-worm from than from hedge to hedge; yet, as the the baker's shop. bird fells well on account of its learning to Ten or a dozen nightingales have been whistle tunes, and sometimes Aies over the thus caught in a day. Barrington. fiel is where the nets are laid ; the birdcatchers have often a call-bird to ensnare $ 21. Experiments and Observations on the it, though moit of them can imitate the call

SINGING of Birds. with their mouths. It is remarkable with regard to this bird, that the female answers

From the Philosophical Transactions, Vol. lxiii. the purpose of a cail-bird as well as the

As the experiments and observations I male, which is not experienced in any other bird taken by the London bird late to the singing of birds, which is a sub

mean to lay before the Royal Society recatchers.

It may perhaps surprise, that under this ject that hath never before been scientifi

It may perhaps surprise, that under this cally treated of, it may not be improper article of finging birds, we have not men

to prefix an explanation of some uncomtioned the nightingale, which is not a bird

mon terms, which I hall be obliged to uie, of light, in the sense the bird-catchers ule

as well as others which I have been under this term. The nightingale, like the ro

a neceflity of coining. bin, wren, and many other singing birds,

To chirp is the first found which a only moves from hedge to hedge, and does not take the periodical flights in October young bird utters, as a cry for food, and is and March. The persons who catch these tended to; so that the hearer 'may dítin

different in all nestlings, if accurately atbirds, make use of small call-birds, and are considered as inferior in guish of what species the birds are, though

the neit may hang out of his fight and dignity to other bird-catchers, who will not

reach. rark with them.

This cry is, as might be expected, very The nightingale being the firit of finging-birds, we shall here insert a few parti

* Kircher, indeed, in his Mulurgia, hath given culars relating to it.

us some few passages in the song of the nig it. Its arrival is expected by the trappers ingale, as well as the call of a quail and cuckow, in the neighbourhood of London, the first which he hath engraved in musical characters. week in April; at the beginning none but These instances, however, only prove that some

birds have in their song, notes which correspond cocks are taken, but in a few days the hens with the intervals of our common scale of the make their appearance, generally by them- musical octave.

weak

weak and querulous; it is dropped entirely late to this stage of singing in a bird, excepi, as the bird grows fronger, nor is after- perhaps, in the following lines of Statius: wards intermixed with its fong, the chirp

" Nunc volucrun novi of a nightingale (for example) being hoarse “ Quietus, inexpertumque caimen, and disagreeable.

" Quod tacitâ ftatuere bruma," To this definition of the chirp, I must

Stat. Sylv. L. IV. Ecl. 5. add, that it confits of a single sound, re A young bird commonly continues to peated at very short intervals, and that it is record for ten or eleven months, when he common to neslings of both sexes. is able to execute every part of his song,

The call of a bird, is that found which it which afterwards continues fixed, and is is able to make when about a month old; scarcely ever altered it is, in most instances (which I happen to

When the bird is thus become perfect in recollect) a repetition of one and the same his leffon, he is said to fing his song round, note, is retained by the bird as long as it or in all its varieties of passages, which he lives, and is common, generally, to both connects together, and executes without a the cock and hen *.

pause. The next stage in the notes of a bird is I would therefore define a bird's song to termed, by the bird.catchers, recording, be a succession of three or more different which word is probably derived from a notes, which are continued without intermusical instrument, formerly used in En- ruption during the same interval with a gland, called a recorder t.

musical bar of four crotchets in an adagio This attempt in the nestling to fing, may movement, or whilst a pendulum swings be compared to the imperfect endeavour in four seconds. a child to babble. I have known instances By the first requisite in this definition, I of birds beginning to record when they mean to exclude the call of a cuckow, or were not a month old.

clucking of a hen t, as they coulist of only This first eslay does not seem to have the two notes ; whilst the short bursts of singing least rudiments of the future fong; but as birds, contending with each other (called the bird grows older and Itronger, one may jerks by the bird-catchers) are equally disbegin to perceive what the neitling is aim- tinguished from what I term song, by their ing at.

not continuing for four seconds. Whilst the scholar is thus endeavouring As the notes of a cuckow and hen, to form his song, when he is once sure of a therefore, though they exceed what I have passage, he commonly raises his tone, which defined the call of a bird to be, do not he drops again, when he is not equal to amount to its fong, I will, for this reason, what he is attempting ; just as a finger take the liberty of terming such a succes. saises his voice, when he not only recollects fion of two notes as we hear in these birds, certain parts of a tune with precision, but the varied call

. knows that he can execute them.

Having thus settled the meaning of cerWhat the nestling is not thus thoroughly tain words, which I Mall be obliged to master of, he hurries ever, lowering his make use of, I shall now proceed to state tone, as if he did not wish to be heard, and some general principles with regard to the could not yet fatisfy himself.

singing of birds, which seem to result from I have never happened to meet with a the experiments I have been making for passage, in any writer, which seems to re several years, and under a great variety of

circumstances. For want of terms to distinguish the notes of Notes in birds are no more ionate, than hirds, Beion applies the verb cbantert, or fing, to language is in man, and depend entirely the goose and crane, as well as the nightingale upon the master under which they are bred, * Plugeurs oiseaux cbantent la nuit, comme eft l’oye, la grue, & le rollignol.” Belon's Hift, of

as far as their organs will enable them 19 Birds, p. 50.

imitate the sounds which they have fre+ li seems to have been a species of flute, and quent opportunities of hearing. was probabiy used to teach young birds to pipe

* The bird called a Twite by the bird-catches, Lord Bacon describes this instrument to have cummonly fies in company with linnets, yet sacia been strait, to have had a lefer and greater bore, two species of birds never learn each other's Duxs, boch above and below, to have required tery little which always continue totally different. breach from the blower, and to have had what he + The common hen, when the lays, repeats the calls a lipple, or stopper. See his second Century of fame note, very often, and concludes with tire faith Experiments.

above, which the holds for a longer time.

Mol

tunes.

Most of the experiments I have made lina ", which imitated its African master on this subject have been tried with cock so exactly, without any mixture of the linnets, which were fledged and nearly able linnet fong, that it was impossible to disto leave their neit, on account not only of tinguish the one from the other. this bird's docility, and great powers of

This vengolina-linnet was absolutely imitation, but because the cock is easily perfect, without ever uttering a single note diftinguished from the hen at that early by which it could have been known to be period, by the superior whiteness in the a linnet. In some of my other experiments, , wing.

however, the nestling linnet retained the In many other forts of singing birds the call of its own species, or what the birdmale is not at the age of three weeks fo catchers term the linnet's chuckle, from certainly known from the female; and if fome resemblance to that word when prothe pupil turns out to be a hen,

nounced.

I have before stated, that all my nestling " ibi omnis

linnets were three weeks old, when taken “ Effurus labor."

from the nest; and by that time they fre

quently learn their own call from the paThe Greek poets made a songfer of the rent birds, which I have mentioned to contotiž, whatever animal that may be, and fist of only a single note. it is remarkable that they observed the fe

To be certain, therefore, that a nesling male was incapable of singing as well as will not have even the call of its species, it hen birds:

hould be taken from the nest when only a

day or two old ; because, though neftlings Ειτ' εισιν οι τετιιγες εκ ευδαιμονες,

cannot see till the seventh day, yet they Ωι ταις γυναιξίν αδοτιαν φωνης ει ; Comicorum Græcorum sententiæ,

can hear from the instant they are hatched, p. 452. Ed. Steph.

and probably, from that circumstance, at

tend to sounds more than they do afterI have indeed known an instance or two wards, especially as the call of the parents of a hen's making out something like the announces the arrival of their food. song of her species ; but these are as rare as I must own, that I am not equal myself, the common hen's being heard to crow. nor can I procure any person to take the

I rather suspect also, that those parrots, trouble of breeding up a bird of this age, magpies, &c. which either do not fpeak at as the odds against its being reared are alall, or very little, are hens of those kinds. most infinite. The warmth indeed of in

I have educated nestling linnets under cubation may be, in some measure supplied the three best singing larks, the skylark, by cotton and fires; but these delicate aniwoodlark, and titlark, every one of which, mals require, in this state, being fed almoft instead of the linnet's song, adhered entirely perpetually, whilst the nourishment they to that of their respective instructors. receive hould not only be prepared with

When the note of the titlark-linnet t great attention, but given in very small was thoroughly fixed, I hung the bird in a portions at a time. room with two common linnet:, for a quar Though I must admit, therefore, that I ter of a year, which were full in fong; the have never reared myself a bird of fo tentitlark-linnet, however, did not borrow any der an age, yet I have happened to see both passages from the linnet's song, but adhered a linnet and a goldfinch which were taken itedfastly to that of the titlark.

from their nelts when only two or three I had some curiosity to find out whether days old. an European nestling would equally learn The first of these belonged to Mr. Mat. the note of an African bird: I therefore thews, an apothecary at Kensington, which, educated a young linnet under a vengo

This bird feems not to bave been described by The white reaches almost to the shaft of the any of the ornithologists; it is of the finch tribe, quill feathers, and in the hen does not exceed and about the same fize with our aberdavine (or fil. more than half of that space : it is also of a brighter kin). The colours are grey and white, and the cock hue.

hath a bright yellow spot upon the rump. It is + I thus call a bird which fings notes he would a very familiar bird, and fings better than any of not have learned in a wild state ; thus by a skylark- those which are not European, except the American linnet, I mean a linnet with the skylark song: a mocking bird. An instance hath lately happened, nightingale robin, a robin with the nightingale in an aviary at Hampstead, of a vengolina's breeding

with a Canary bird, song, &

from

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

in a cage.

from a want of other sounds to imitate, al. But, to prove this decisively, I took a most articulated the words pretty boy, as common sparrow from the net when it was well as some other short sentences : I heard fledged, and educated him under a linnet : the bird myself repeat the words pretty the bird, however, by accident, heard a boy; and Mr. Matthews assured me, that goldfinch allo, and his song was, therefore, he had neither the note or call of any bird a mixture of the linnet and goldfinch. whatsoever.

I have tried several experiments, in orThis talking lionet died last year, before der to observe, from what circumstances which, many people went from London to birds fix upon any particular note when hear him speak.

taken from the parents; but cannot settle The goldfinch I have before mentioned, this with any sort of precision, any more was reared in the town of Knighton in than at what period of their recording they Radnorshire, which I happened to hear as determine upon the song to which they will I was walking by the house where it was adhere. kept.

I educated a young robin under a very I thought indeed that a wren was finge fine nightingale; which, however, began ing; and I went into the house to inquire already to be out of song, and was perfeci. after it, as that little bird seldom lives long ly mute in less than a fortnight.

This robin afterwards sung three parts The people of the house, however, told in four nightingale; and the rest of his forg me, that they had no bird but a goldiinch, was what the bird-catchers call rubbilhi, which they conceived to sing its own na or no particular note whatsoever. tural note, as they called it; upon which I hang this robin nearer to the nightinI staid a considerable time in the room, gale than to any other bird; from which whilft its notes were merely those of a wren first experimen: I conceived, that the schowithout the leait mixture of goldfinch. lar would imitate the maiter which was at

On further inquiries, I found that the the leait difiance from him. bird had been taken from the neit when From several other experiments, howonly a day or two old, that it was hung in ever, which I have fince tried, I find it to a window which was opposite to a lmall be very uncertain what notes the neftlings garden, whence the nellling had undoubt will most attend to, and often their forg is edly acquired the notes of the wren, with a mixture; as in the instance which I beout having had an opportunity of learn- fore itated of the sparrow, ing even the call of the goldfinch.

I must own also, that I conceived, frora These facts, which I have fated, seem the experiment of educating the robin unto prove very decisively, that birds have der a nightingale, that the scholar would not any innate ideas of the notes which are fix upon the note which it first heard when supposed to be peculiar to each species. taken from the nest: I imagined likewise, But it will poflibly be alked, wly, in a wild that, if the nightingale had been fully in ftate, they adhere so steadily to the same fong, the instruction for a fortnight would song, infomuch, that it is well known, have been suficient. before the bird is heard, what notes you I have, however, since tried the followare to expect from him.

ing experiment, which convinces me, fo This, however, arises entirely from the much depends upon circumitances, and neitling's attending only to the inftruction perhaps caprice in the scholar, that no geof the parent bird, whilft it disregards the neral inference, or rule, can be laid down notes of all others, which may perhaps be with regard to either of these fuppofitions, finging round him.

I educated a nestling robin under 2 Young Canary birds are frequently woodlark-linnet, which was full in song, reared in a room where there are many and hung very near to him for a monik other forts; and yet I have been inform- together: after which, the robin was reed, that they only learn the song of the moved to another house, where he could

only hear a skylark-linnet. The confeEvery one knows, that the common quence was, that the neitling did not fing a house-sparrow, when in a wild state, never note of woodlark (though I afterwards does any thing but chirp: this, however, hung him again just above the woodlaskdoes not arise from want of powers in this linnet) but adhered entirely to the song of bird to imitate others; but because he only the skylark-linnet. attends to the parental note.

Having thus stated the result of several

experiments,

parent cock.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

notes

experiments, which were chiefly intended They who live in the country, on the to determine, whether birds had any innate other hand, do not hear birds fing in their ideas of the notes or song, which is sup- woods for above two months in the year, posed to be peculiar to each species, I shall when the confusion of notes prevents their now make some general observations on attending to the song of any particular tlieir finging: though perhaps the subject bird; nor does he continue long enough in may appear to many a very minute one. a place, for the hearer to recollect his notes

Every poet, indeed, speaks with raptures with accuracy. of the harmony of the groves; yet those

Belides this, birds in the spring fing very even, who have good musical ears, seem loud indeed; but they only give short to pay little attention to it, but as a pleaf. jerks, and scarcely ever the whole compass ing noise.

of their song I am also convinced (though it may For these reasons, I have never happenfeein rather paradoxical) that the inhabi. ed to meet with any person, who had not tants of London distinguish more accurate. resided in London, whose judgment or opi. ly, and know more on this head, than of nion on this subject I could the least rely all the other parts of the island taken to upon; and a stronger proof of this cannot gether.

be given, than that most people, who keep This seems to arise from two causes. Canary birds, do not know that they fing

The first is, that we have not more mu- chiefly either the titlark, or nightingale sical ideas which are innate, than we have of language; and therefore those even, Nothing, however, can be more marked who have the happiness to have organs than the note of a nightingale called its which are capable of receiving a gratifica- jug, which most of the Canary birds tion from this fixth sense (as it hath been brought from the Tyrol commonly have, called by forne) require, however, the best as well as several nightingale strokes, inftruction.

or particular passages in the song of that The orchestra of the opera, which is bird. confined to the metropolis, hath diffused a I mention this superior knowledge in the good liyle of playing over the other bands inhabitants of the capital, because I am of the capital, which is, by degrees, com convinced, that, if others are consulted in municated to the fidler and ballad-finger relation to the singing of birds, they will in the streets; the organs in every church, only mislead, instead of giving any mateas well as those of the Savoyards, contri- rial or useful information t. bute likewise to this improvement of mu

Birds in a wild state do not commonly sical faculties in the Londoners.

If the finging of the ploughman in the * I once saw two of these birds which cane country is therefore compared with that of from the Canary Inands, neither of which had the London blackguard, the superiority is any song at all; and I have been informed, that infinitely on the side of the later; and the

a ibip brought a great many of them not long

fince, which lung as little fame may be observed in comparing the Mot of thote Canary birds, which are imported voice of a country girl and London house from the Tyrol, have been educated by parents, the maid, as it is very uncommon to hear the progenitor of which was instructed by a nightingale ; former sing tolerably in tune.

our English Canary birds have commonly more of

the titlark note. I do not mean by this, to asiert that the

The trafic in these birds makes a small article inhabitants of the country are not born of commerce, as four Tyruleze generally bring with as good musical organs; but only, over to England fixteen hundred every year; and that they have not the same opportunities though they carry them on their backs one thousand of learning from others, who play in tune

miles, as well as pay 20 1. duty for such a number, themselves.

yet, upon the whole, it answers to sell these birds at

5 s. a piece. The other reason for the inhabitants of The chief place for breeding Canary birds is London judging better in relation to the Inspruck and its environs, from whence they are song of birds, arises from their hearing fent to Conftantinople, as well as every part of each bird sing distinctly, either in their

Europe. own or their neighbours shops ; as also

+ As it will not answer to catch birds with from a bird continuing much longer in clap-nets any where but in the neighbourhood of song whilf in a cage, than when at li- London, most of the birds which may be heard in

a country town are nestlings, and consequently berty; the cause of which I shall endea- cannot fing the supposed natural song in any pervoui hereafter to explain.

fection.
4 A

fing

« PreviousContinue »