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OTHER SMALL BIRDS
THERE are many other small birds which you may find out for
yourselves, but I should like to tell you of a few
which are interesting. First there is the little
Goldfinch, which is so useful to us because it eats
thistle seeds and dandelion seeds. It builds a lovely
little nest of fine roots, wool, and horsehair, and
often lines it with the soft down of the coltsfoot,
that big yellow flower which blooms in the spring
 and has feathery seed-boxes. The goldfinch has a
beautiful red forehead and throat, and black wings
barred with yellow, and tipped with white. You may
know it from the bullfinch because its breast is pale
brown, while the bullfinch has a rich red breast and
grey and black wings.
Then there is the cock-Linnet with his crimson breast,
brown wings, and a red patch on his head. Linnets
change colour at different times of the year. In the
winter, the breasts of both birds are grey striped with
All birds moult, that is change their feathers,
at least once a year. The father-birds are nearly
always more gaudy when they are building their nests.
You will notice too that hen-birds are scarcely ever so
gay as their mates. This is most likely because they
sit on the nests, and it would not do for them to be
seen too easily.
Linnets feed in big flocks in the winter. You may see
them in the evening dropping down among the gorse and
other bushes to sleep. It is sad that both the
goldfinch and the linnet are caught and sold to sing in
cages. This is why we have not nearly so many in
England as we used to have.
I hope you will look out for the Nuthatch, a little
bird with a short black beak, a blue-grey back and
wings, and a pale yellow breast, shaded with red. He
is often seen in orchards and gardens in the autumn,
when the nuts are ripe. You may catch sight of him
coming down a nut tree, head downwards. He sticks the
nuts into the cracks of the trunk and hammers them with
his beak to
 break them. You may sometimes find a little store of
nuts which he has hidden at the foot of the tree. He
feeds on other things, besides nuts and beech-mast, and
he will peck at a piece of bacon in winter, if you hang
it out for him.
You must listen for the Blackcap. You will hear him
more easily than you will see him. He is a little dark
grey bird, with a black head and a pale grey breast,
and sings almost as well as a nightingale. He comes
back to England in April, and if you listen well you
may hear him practising his song. He hides himself in
a thick bush and begins gently in a low voice, singing
over and over again till he gains strength. In a few
days his voice is ready, and he trills out a wild,
sweet song all the summer day, flitting from bush to
bush as he sings. He feeds on insects and berries, and
brings up four or five little ones in a lovely nest
made of dry grass and spiders' webs, and lined with
horsehair. Then he flies away in October till the next
spring. But he has been so often caught that he is not
so common as he used to be.
BLACK-CAPS IN A MAPLE BUSH.
Then there is the little Whitethroat, which creeps
along almost everywhere under the hedges, and is often
called the "nettle-creeper." He too is a brown-grey
bird with a little red at the tips of his feathers and
on his breast. He hops and flies a little way as the
hedge-sparrow does, chattering all the time, and
sometimes flying higher and higher and singing louder.
He, too, comes in May and goes in October.
There are two other little birds you may very
 likely see. One is the Stonechat, which lives on
commons and sits on the top of the furze bushes. It is
a small brown-black bird with white markings and a
rusty red breast. It cries "chat, chat, chat," and
hides its nest so well in the gorse bushes that you
will scarcely find one.
The other is the little Dipper or water-ouzel, which
hops about the stones in the bed of rapid streams and
rivers. It feeds on insects and water snails. It is a
black bird not quite as big as a thrush, with a very
short tail and a snowy-white breast. It has a curious
way of dipping its head down and flirting its tail.
There is not room to tell about magpies or jays, but if
you have any near you, you will know them already.
Find out these small birds and any others in your
neighbourhood, and try to know their nests and