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Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/308

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PAINTED FINCH.

ence of value on each individual, which converted the sixpence paid for it at New Orleans to three guineas in London.

The pugnacious habits of this species are common in a great degree to the whole family of Sparrows. Like the most daring, the Common House Sparrow of Europe, they may be observed in spring time, in little groups of four, five or six, fighting together, moving round each other to secure an advantageous position, pecking and pulling at each other's feathers with all the violence and animosity to which their small degree of strength can give effect.

A group thus occupied I have attempted to represent in the plate. I have at the same time endeavoured to save you the trouble of reading a long description of the changes which take place in their plumage, from the time at which the young leave the nest, until the fourth year following, when the males attain the full beauty of their brilliant livery. Where in fact would be the necessity of telling you more, than that the young, during the first summer, are similar in colouring to the female; that the next spring, the head of the males only has become of a handsome blue; that, the spring following, the same bird is mottled more or less with azure, carmine, yellow and green; and that it requires another return of the warm season before all these colours are perfected and rendered permanent; when at a single glance you can determine all this at once. Long descriptions of this kind are only fit to be read to the blind. Colours speak for themselves.

The flight of the Pape, by which name the Creoles of Louisiana know this bird best, is short, although regular, and performed by a nearly constant motion of the wings, which is rendered necessary by their concave form. It hops on the ground, moving forward with ease, now and then jetting out the tail a little, and, like a true Sparrow, picking up and carrying off on wing a grain of rice or a crumb of bread to some distance, where it may eat in more security. It has a sprightly song, often repeated, which it continues even when closely confined. When the bird is at liberty, this song is uttered from the top branches of an orange-tree, or those of a common briar, and although not so sonorous as that of the Canary, or of its nearer relative, the Indigo Bunting, is not far from equalling either. Its song is continued during the greatest heats of the day, which is also the case with that of the Indigo Bird.

The nest of this pretty bird is generally placed in a low situation, in an orange-tree, frequently within a few paces of the house, or far from it