Society Finch — “An old Japanese book on the cage-birds tells us that this bird comes from China, . . .”


. . .

The Bengalese. — Mr. Taka-Tsukasa’s article which is com-
menced in the present number reminds us that Japanese and Chinese
birds have practically disappeared from the European bird market
since the war. The little Bengalese in its three varieties has not been seen for years. It is an extraordinary little bird which is happier in a small cage than anywhere else. It nests freely in any cage, and if you keep a number together the hens will all lay in the same nest and rear their young indiscriminately, and if you like to change their eggs for those of any other small ornamental Finch they do not mind, but will carefully hatch them and foster the chicks as if they were their own.

Japanese Aviculture. — The Japanese appear to be getting very
keen on aviculture, according to Mr. Taka-Tsukasa, and we think our
members will be interested in his article, which will be continued in
the next number. We much hope that British aviculturists are not
becoming less keen, but we fear their numbers are considerably less
than they were before the war. An exchange of experiences between
the Japanese and ourselves will be very useful, and we hope will
stimulate both.

. . .


By N. Taka-Tsukasa

Thinking that some readers of this Magazine are interested in the
cage-birds of Japan, and also in the manner the Japanese keep these
birds, I am writing an article on the aviculture of Japan. For a
considerable time the Japanese have kept both native and foreign
birds in cages. Japanese history tells us that for the last 1,700 years the Japanese Bush Warbler was kept for the sake of its beautiful song, and that the Parrots, Peacocks, and Magpies have been imported from Corea for over 1,000 years.

During this period many times we have had both progress and
retrogression of this art, and about 100 years ago it was at its highest point, when we arrived at the present method of keeping birds.

During this epoch we have had many books on the subject of bird-
keeping, and many foreign birds were bred and reared in cages and
aviaries, such as the Mannikins, Pheasants, Peafowl, Ducks, and some
species of Soft-bills and Parrots, especially the Temmink’s Robin,
the White-headed Black Bulbul, the Hill Mynah, and the Purple-
capped Lory, which were bred in outdoor aviaries, and it is said that
the Crested Sheldrake was profusely imported from either Corea or
China during this time.

The Crested Sheldrake is now so scarce that there are only two
specimens in existence in the world, and even these are only stuffed
specimens. .

16 N. Taka-Tsukasa — Aviculture in Japan

At present the aviculture of Japan is progressing rapidly, and many
bird-lovers are eagerly studying it. In the Meiji years this was much
neglected, and I think that the aviculturist of Japan will soon arrive at the same level on this subject as the Europeans. Last year an avicultural society began to hold its meetings in Tokyo. These are
held every other month.

The Japanese aviculturists separate the cage birds, as Europeans
do, into two groups, namely, the seed-eaters or hard-bills and the
insect-eaters or soft-bills.

(a) Seed-eaters or Hard-bills

The Japanese bird-lovers give this group of birds chiefly various
kinds of millet (the Japanese name is Awa), Panicum miliaceum (Kibi)
and Panicum frumentaceum (Hiye), in the same manner as the canary
seed and millet are used by the Europeans, and also, in like manner as the Europeans, the Japanese mix any two kinds of Panicum, which
I mentioned above, in the same quantity for their food, and often add
the seed of Pellira ocimoides, hemp and rape, in such proportion as
one-sixth of the whole part of millets. This seed diet can be got from either the bird fanciers’ or cereal shops.

We have no canary seed in Japan now, but about 100 years ago,
when the first pair of Canary birds were introduced into Japan, the
canary seed was also brought into Japan and was sown as the food for
the Canary birds, but some time after the Japanese found that the
above-mentioned kinds of millets could be substituted for the canary
seed, and they stopped the cultivation of the canary seed, so it has
become extinct.

With respect to the caging of birds, we use the box-cage generally
now, though sometimes a rectangular bar-cage is used for that purpose.

The Japanese box-cage is the same as the European one in its principle, but in dimension the height of the cage is greater than the length or width, and the box has in addition to the front door an entrance near the top of the side or at the back of the cage, and the door slides in sideways, while the door at the front slides up and down. This side entrance is used for taking the artificial nest in or out from the cage.

The box-cage generally has a paper screen on the front for the purpose

N. Taka-Tsukasa — Aviculture in Japan 17

of protecting the bird from cold at night in the winter, and damp and
chilly air in damp weather, and against the mosquitoes in the summer.
In the latter case we place a mosquito net on the slide in place of
the paper.

The artificial nest is made of straw, a saucer-shaped one being
used for the Canary birds and a jar-shaped one for the Mannikins
and Waxbill, but I personally found, for the Canary birds, an unglazed pottery saucer, called ” Kawarake ” by the Japanese, is more useful than straw ones, and the jar-shaped one is unfit for breeding, though it is quite enough to sleep in at night, for it is too small for the nest.

I use a small box for the nest of the Mannikins and Waxbills, and I get good results.

For the material of nest-building we use generally a kind of rootlet
called ” Karukaya ” by the Japanese aviculturists, and it is sold at
the bird fanciers, but a waste swab can be used successfully, and it is less expensive than using ” Karukaya “‘. The Japanese call the swab ” Pawashi “, and this is made of the same rootlets as “Karukaya.”

The Japanese bird fanciers’ shops sell branches of Niwatoko (elder)
for perches. The branch of this tree is soft and very handy for making a percli. The old Japanese bird-lovers think that this tree is beneficial for the birds’ legs, and often used the extracts of the branches and leaves of it for a lotion, which is used for broken wings or legs, the injured part being wrapped in a cloth which has been dipped in this extract.

We strew the floor of the cage with sand, and do not use other
materials for that purpose excepting old newspapers.

The cage, food, and water receptacles and other things which are
used in bird-keeping are obtained from the bird fanciers’ shops, but
food or water receptacles are also sold in china shops, and the parrot cage can also be purchased from the ironmongers’ shops and the sand from the builders.

The most popular and commonest Hard-bill which is kept in a cage
in Japan is the Canary bird. The Canary bird is bred in great numbers
by peasants and old men of the towns who have spare time, and, of
course, by bird-lovers. The most noted localities where the people
breed the Canaries are the outskirts of the city of Nagoya and the coasts of the inland sea.

l8 N. Taka-Ts2tkasa — Aviculture in Japan

The Canary birds of Japan are chiefly the offspring of the German
Rollers and the curled-feathered race, though the latter are less in
number than the former. The breed has now become inferior in all
respects to the original stock, for new blood has not been imported
during the Great War, and therefore inter-breeding in small circles
has been the result. But fortunately we have new stock now, though
the numbers are small from the native land, so they will be soon
improved, and the Green Canaries has been imported too.

Before the Great War we had often very good specimens of Lanca-
shire Coj)py, Yorkshire Coppy, and Belgian Fancy Canaries, but they
have all nearly vanished from the cage-birds of Japan.

The Japanese did not try cayenne feeding till last year, when Mr. T.
Takano, of Yokohama, tried this experiment, and has succeeded in
getting some colour-fed birds from the Japanese stock.

We get generally two or three broods a year, but if the birds are
in good condition we have one more brood in the autumn.

Just before the breeding season comes we give the seed of Pellira
ocimoides or rape, and in the breeding season we add a little quantity of the yolk of an egg boiled and chopped fine to the above mentioned seed.

The history of the importation of Canary birds in Japan, according
to a ” cage-bird ” book which was published about 100 years ago,
is as follows : The Canary birds were imported many years ago, before
this book was published, but the birds were all males, consequently
the Japanese could not get any fledglings ; but about forty years ago an European (probably Dutch) brought a pair of Canary birds to Nagasaki, from which he got many broods. The governor of Nagasaki received a present of the parent birds from the European, and brought them back to Yedo (now Tokyo), and he gave them to a Shogun knight. This knight attempted to get young birds from this jDair, but he failed the first year. However, the next year he succeeded, and had many birds in a few years. These birds he sold and gave away, and so the Canaries were soon distributed in all parts of Japan .

I have little information on the subject of mule birds, but it is said that the Canaries are crossed Avith the Siskins and Japanese Green- finches ; so far I have not yet met with such birds. I have heard
recently Mr. Takano has succeeded in getting such mule birds.

N. Taka-Tsuhasa — Aviculture in Japan 19

Bengalee or Pied Manuikin. This bird is also very popular in
Japan, and is divided into three varieties by the bird-lovers according to coloration : firstly, the albino, in which the plumage is all white, and it has flesh-coloured bill and legs, but the eyes are not red ; secondly, the cinnamon and white bird ; and thirdly, the dark-brown and white bird. The markings of these varieties are bold and irregular, and the bill is black on the upper mandible and flesh-coloured on the lower, and the legs of these two varieties are equally flesh-coloured.

The box-cage suits this bird the best, because it has been hatched
and lived all its life for over 100 years in such a box-cage, so the constitution of this bird has become quite adapted to a box-cage, and
generally it is too delicate to live in an aviary or a large cage.

This bird can also stand very simple diet, which consists of any one
kind of millet, and this is the only bird which accepts the artificial nest sold at the bird fanciers’ shops without any alterations having to be made to it. The artificial nest for this bird is jar-shaped, and if we give it some materials for nest-building it instantly makes a nest and hatches its eggs, and as soon as its young leave the nest it lays another clutch ‘^f eggs ; thus it gives us many broods through a year, but generally Ave have two broods in the spring and the same in the autumn.

The number of a clutch of eggs is either three or four, and the
fledglings can easily be reared, as they are generally very strong and the parents take great care of their young. As this bird has generally a very good nature it is often (nearly in all cases) used as a foster- mother for the Zebra Finches, Grouldian Finches, and other rare species of the ornamental Finches.

An old Japanese book on the cage-birds tells us that this bird
comes from China, and in the original species the upper parts are dark brown and the breast and abdomen are white with pale dusky streaks. Its bill is black and the legs are pale bluish-grey, and its tail is long and pointed. According to this description I think that the Bengalee
comes from the Sharp-tail Finch (Uroloncha acuticauda), which is
a common bird in the southern parts of China, Formosa, and other
tropical parts of Asia.

This bird was imported into Japan about 200 years ago, and during

20 N. Taka-Tsiikasa — Aviculture in Japan

fifty years it was distributed in all parts of Japan, but still during this
time it seems that the White and Cinnamon varieties did not appear.

The Bengalee can be easily crossed with any of the other varieties
of its kind, or such Mannikins as the Sharp-tail Finch and ‘Spice
bird. The mules between this bird and Sharp-tail Finch, which were
hatched in my aviary, are similar to the Sharp-tail Finch, but the skin of the mule-birds is always white.

The Java Sparrow is also one of the most familiar birds of Japan.
It is a favourite with the Japanese artists, and it is often painted in
pictures. There are three varieties. The first is the common grey
bird, which is the most numerous of the three, and every year great
numbers are imported into Japan, besides those that are bred in this
country. The second one is the White Java Sparrow, which is chiefly
bred in Japan, and the third is a brown one, whose upper parts are
dark brown, with white cheeks, the head is the darkest. The under-
parts are yellowish brown, except the breast, which is the same colour as the upj)er parts, and a dark-brown band runs across the lower breast, which is separated by this band from the abdomen. Some
persons think this variety is a hybrid between the Java Sparrow
and the Zebra Finch. The third variety is the rarest.

We keep the Java Sparrow in a box-cage as we keep the Canaries
which I have already mentioned in this article, but we use a small
box for its nest instead of the saucer-shaped artificial nest. The box is similar to those which are used by the Europeans for an artificial nest for the Mannikin or Waxbill. This artificial box-nest can be obtained from the bird fanciers’ shops. We have generally two broods in a season.

In Nagoya, where this bird is chiefly bred, the bird fanciers rear the young birds in the following manner : They separate the young birds from their parents (either natural or foster) when they are about a week old and rear them by the hand.

At first the fanciers divide the fledglings into two or three groups,
according to the strength of the birds, their diet consisting of a paste made of crushed millet, dried river fish, and greens.

The fancier attaches this paste to a bamboo spatula, with which he
pushes the food into the birds’ mouths. The young birds soon learn

N. Taka-Tsukasa — Aviculture in Japan 21

tliis method of feeding, and as soon as a man comes to the cage they
open their mouths and take the paste from the spatula skilfully.
While the fancier feeds the fledglings in this manner, he sorts out the groups again and again as soon as he finds some weaker birds in a group.

This method of rearing gives the fancier less loss than he would
have if he left them to their parents until they were old enough to leave them naturally, and by this method he often obtains one more brood than is usual.

The fancier needs the assistance of two or three men’s hands,
including his own, to rear about 500 to 7,000 fledglings to maturity.

The White Java Sparrow, I have heard, was produced at ISTagoya,
and obtained from some common grey birds which had some
white plumes in the wing, but I think this refers to the origin of the white bird in Japan. The white birds were probably produced in
China earlier than the Japanese birds, and it seems that there is no
relationship between the stock of Nagoya and that of China.

The Zebra Finches are also bred numerously in Japan, but this
bird is n’:t allowed generally to hatch its eggs itself, for what reason I do not know, but the fanciers use the Bengalee hen as a foster-mother to hatch its eggs and rear its young. But personally I have reared many fledglings without using the Bengalee. The Zebra Finch breeds freely in an aviary if it has been accustomed to the aviary life, as this bird is chiefly reared by Nagoya fanciers who keep the birds always in box- cages, so its wings generally are not strong enough when it is put into an aviary to fly about at once and freely. This bird thrives well on the diet which I have mentioned before, and also endures an outdoor life in the winter.

Recently the Gouldian Finch has been bred in Japan in fairly
large numbers. But the young birds are very delicate until they finish their first moult. The hatching of the Gouldian Finch is done either by using the Bengalee as a foster-mother or by the parents themselves.

The newly imported birds are also very delicate, and the hen is apt
to suffer from egg-binding when she first lays.

The following foreign Finches are commonly seen in the cages of
the bird fanciers’ shops in great numbers : the Amanduvade, Spice
Bird, Sharp-tailed Finch and Black-headed Nun. The Diamond Finch,

22 AUe7i Silver — Foreign Birds at Olympia

Indian Silver Bill, Three-coloured Nun, Chestnut-breasted Finch,
Sydney Waxbill, Cherry Finch, Ribbon Finch, and Pin-tailed Nonpareil
are often imported, but not so numerous as the former mentioned birds.

Generally the African Finches are imported less than those of
Tropical Asia and Australia. All these birds and Weavers and
Whydahs are quite hardy in the Japanese winter, especially after their first winter. I- have had some Weavers and Whydahs in my outdoor aviary without any heat in winter for ten years, and they are now in quite the same condition as they were when imported. Of course, this aviary has glass screens for protection against the bad weather.

The Japanese generally keep the newly imported birds in box-
cages during the first winter and the rainy season, which is as bad as the cold winter for the delicate and weak birds in Japan, as well as newly imported birds.

We put the cage in a sunny place in the daytime and a warm room
at night or on chilly days, and from my personal experience it is not
necessary to heat this room unless the weather is damp. Generally
the front of the box-cage is covered with a paper screen.

Personally I advise that it is better to remove the nest-boxes from
the aviaries in which birds are kept that have come from the southern
hemisphere, because they are apt to breed in winter, and they will
often get egg-bound.

(To be continued.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *