Friday, 3 April 2015

Hawfinch in my living room

I've been planning to write about the other part of my zoo for a while. That we've been sharing our living room with a broken winged hawfinch for 4 years now.

Help the weak if you are strong

Giueseppe˙ was found in the Bükk in May 2011 and had a badly injured wing on one side that (as it later turned out) could not be healed. Darwinists may judge me: it might have been wrong to pick up a wild animal from the woods but consider: if we'd left him there, he would have been caught by a fox or a bird of prey within a few days or hours. And I bet that no one died of hunger because i took their supper. As said before, back then i still believed that he could have been healed.

Coccothraustes coccothraustes familiaris (Giuseppe)

The vet who examined him offered 2 options: either i leave the bird at the clinic and they find a sanctuary for him, or i take him home and take care of him. Well, Giuseppe might not have such an adventurous life with me in our house as his brothers outside do, but still, at least he grew to quite a senior age (he's at least 5 years old this spring), has his own chiropodist and of course his very own kitchen-maid (he too :)) , all this while living in a heated, sunshiny, wind- and rainproof apartment.

Right wing is useless.
He doesn't even have remiges on that side any longer. 

The romanticism of being woken up at 5 in the morning

Giuseppe starts his days each morning around sunrise, with a set of really harsh, very loud calling voice. This is what i usually wake up to. If you look up any ornitology sites (e.g. Xeno-canto, which i think is the biggest database for bird songs in the world but i am not sure) - most of the sounds you can listen to at Xeno-canto are usually these 'calling' voices. This is the part of the story that is known to the world...

One good turn deserves another

... and it is my personal reward that i've been able to get to know more of the hawfinch language. Every day, both in the morning around 9 o'clock and some time in the afternoon, there are other performances too. I call these 'talkings' and i have not really found anything like these in any database yet. Nor have i heard it in the woods yet. 

There are a few alterations towards the end of the monologues, but they are mostly the same tune.
I was really surprised how good ears a bird has got: having recorded the above song, i played it back for myself for a little editing. I used earphones since i didn't want to bother Giuseppe - he always gets very excited when he can hear his own or other birds' singing. I sat about 3 meters away from him (ears plugged in, volume set low) and yet he answered to his playback calls!

Hawfinch diet

You never know who it may be helpful for, so a few words on how to feed a hawfinch - based entirely on my experience, and i am not a scientist.

  • Giuseppe's diet features 'periods'. I noticed that he likes each food only for a few months, then i have to find an alternative for him, something else, something new. He usually shows me his being fed up with a kind of diet by soaking the food into his water dispenser. So every now and then i find cherry seeds or pieces of other fruits in his water container, and sometimes he gets hardcore and drowns crickets and worms into it. 
  • There are 2 main periods in general: a winter and a summer one. Seeds make up most of his diet in winter while he consumes more live food in the summer. 
  • In the first two winters (with us) his diet consisted of seeds only, and he used to accept live food and fruits only from spring to autumn. This proportion could have been the closest to their natural diet i guess. Then slowly it changed. He lived on crickets and apple all this winter. :)
  • Live food for an indoor hawfinch, in general, includes lob worms, larvae, insects (even as big as praying mantis) and crickets in the summer. He loves green catepillars. But only the green ones. 
  • Seeds and greens. In the beginning his absolute favourite was sunflower seed with a little millet. Then we had an apple seed era, and now the 'number one' is linen seed. Earlier I read that hawfinches also eat tree buds so i brought him spring twigs from the woods a few times, but i stopped because he wasn't interested in it at all. Once he ate almost half of a savoy cabbage leaf that i placed on his cage to make a shelter, like foliage on a tree. 
  • Fruits. Cherries, blackberry, raspberry, plum,  apple. Most red berries are very popular. The key is the redness. :) And let's count down with a myth: i've never seen him breaking up cherry seeds! He can clean them perfectly but he always spits them out. 


I used to have a broken winged Eurasian jay when i was a child. We kept it in my grandparents' garden until it got well and then released it in the woods with my Grandpa. I also had canaries, on the top of our kitchen cupboard. Mum loved it, you can guess. :) When i brought Giuseppe home, we had only half of our house (half-)ready and we were really short of space. Later we got plenty of space - all freshly painted, nice and new. I received much grumble for "my wretched chicken" for long (yes, he _can_ make a mess around his cage). Yet i am so happy to have this little bird here with us and to be the one to take care of him. 

Happy birthday (around soon), Giuseppe!

˙in fact, i've never been told what gender Giuseppe is, my opinion is based on his colours only. 

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