furze-wren defined in 1930 yearfurze-wren - Furze-Wren;
furze-wren - [re:Melizophilus undatus]Upper parts greyish black; wing-coverts and feathers blackish brown; outer tail feathers broadly, and the rest narrowly, tipped with light brownish grey; under parts chestnut-brown; belly white. Tail long; wings very short. Length, five inches.
The furze-wren, never a common species in this country, is now become so scarce, and is, moreover, so elusive, that it is hard to find, and harder still to observe narrowly. Its somewhat singular appearance among the warblers - its small size, short, rounded wings, great length of tail, and very dark colour - its peculiar song, and excessively lively and restless habits, and the fact that it was first discovered in this country (1773), where, though so small and delicate a creature, it exists on open, exposed commons throughout the year, have all contributed to make it a fascinating subject to British ornithologists. In England it inhabits Surrey and the counties bordering on the Channel; but it has also been found in suitable localities in various other parts of the country, and ranges as far north as the borders of Yorkshire. I have sought for it in many places, but found it only in Dorset. Forty or fifty years ago it was most abundant in the southern parts of Surrey; it was there observed by the late Edward Newman, who gave the following lively and amusing account of its appearance and habits in his ' Letters of Rusticus on the Natural History of Godalming ' (1849): 'We have a bird common here which, I fancy, is almost unknown in other districts, for I have scarcely ever seen it in collections.... I mean the furze-wren, or, as authors are pleased to call it, the Dartford warbler. We hear that the epithet of Dartford is derived from the little Kentish town of that name, and that it was given to the furze-wren because he was first noticed in that neighbourhood.... If you have ever watched a common wren (a kitty-wren we call her), you must have observed that she cocked her tail bolt upright, strained her little beak at right angles, and her throat in the same fashion, to make the most of her fizgig of a song, and kept on jumping and jerking and frisking about, for all the world as though she was worked by steam; well, that's more the character of the Dartford warbler, or, as we call her, the furze-wren. When the leaves are off the trees and the chill winter winds have driven the birds to the olive-gardens of Spain, or across the Straits, the furze-wren is in the height of his enjoyment. I have seen them by dozens skipping about the furze, lighting for a moment on the very point of the sprigs, and instantly diving out of sight again, singing out their angry, impatient ditty, for ever the same. Perched on the back of a good tall nag, and riding quietly along the outside, while the foxhounds have been drawing the furze-fields, I have often seen these birds come to the top of the furze.... They prefer those places where the furze is very thick, and difficult to get in.... And although it is so numerous in winter, and so active and noisy when disturbed by dogs and guns, still, in the breeding season it is a shy, skulking bird, hiding itself in thick places, much in the manner of the grasshopper lark, and seldom allowing one to heai the sound of its voice.'
Spring is, however, the season of the furze-wren's greatest activity: its lively gestures, antics, and dancing motions on the topmost sprays of the bushes are then almost incessant, as it pursues the small moths and other winged insects on which it feeds; and its curious and impetuous little song is then delivered with the greatest vigour. It has also a harsh, scolding note, uttered several times in rapid succession, and a loud musical call-note.
The nest is placed among the dense masses of the lower, dead portion of a thick furze-bush. It is a flimsy structure, composed of dead furze-leaves, small twigs, and grass-stems, lined with finer stems, and sometimes with horsehair. Four or five eggs are laid, white in ground-colour, sometimes tinged with buff or with greenish, thickly spotted and freckled with pale brown over paler brown and grey markings. Two broods are reared in the season.
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