Rage

John tells us the story of the havoc that happens for putting a robin in a cage.

“A Robin Redbreast in a cage puts all heaven in a rage.” So says William Blake [1757-1827] and I can certainly vouch for that! I know from experience it is absolutely true. A captive robin will cause all the birds around to erupt into a fury.

On Friday, the fifth of October, nineteen seventy three, an extremely tired robin flew through the doorway of my office and to my amazement it dropped onto my desk, almost into my hand. The bird seemed close to death. At this time my son, Bryan, had a collection of cage birds and a vacant ‘hospital’ cage, a wooden box with a wire mesh front, and into this I put the robin with water and meal worms then placed it along with the others on a bench in our back garden.

I had scarcely sat down in the house when came the sound of pandemonium from the garden! It seemed as though every bird in the vicinity were there; starlings, sparrows, greenfinches, blue tits, other robins, and what a din they made as they flew around the captive robin’s cage! The starlings were particularly noisy as they settled on the top with their harsh calls of alarm, and stretched down their heads for an upside down view of the prisoner, while the sparrows clung to the wire in a frenzied manner! The birds behaviour was astonishing to say the least, neighbours came to see what could be causing such consternation, some thought a cat had got one of the cage birds. Old Billy Blake was right, there certainly was Rage in our village that afternoon.

I took the cage into the house to quell the rumpus and next day the robin was looking more alert, but we were in for another surprise! When I bent down for a closer look at the robin the cunning little bird fell from his perch to drop flat on his back on the cage floor! To all intents and purposes he was dead, but I knew he was only feigning death, he had forgotten to close one of his very bright eyes, and when I took him outside to hold him out on my outstretched hand off he went into the blue!

Note. He may have been she, both sexes of robin are identical.

— John Davison