I was just a little child of 7-8 years old when I already used to go with my older brother to look for nests in the farmhouse we lived in. My brother was a great bird lover; he liked to keep in cages all local species our parents allowed him to (goldfinches, greenfinches, linnets and some other similar species). He also had domestic pigeons. I remember that I was fascinated with goldfinches and greenfinches and I would have loved to have some for me; but as I was too young, I had to be content with my brother’s. Once, I accompanied my brother to the place of one of my father’s friends; there I saw a bird that immediately attracted my attention: it looked like a goldfinch but it was not one of them. That man, really kindly, explained to me that it was a mixture, this is: a hybrid between goldfinch and canary. I thought it was fascinating, being able to breed birds in captivity, just like my brother was doing with the pigeons, and moreover, being able to cross species in order to obtain unique specimens. Amazing, I was impatient to start doing it, although I had to wait some years until I grown up and I had the time and availability.
My brother also started to breed some bird species, but he did not succeed, so he gradually lost interest while I started to take care of them more and more. When my brother finally left the family house, I definitively took care of all birds he had. I got my father to provide me with some canaries and so I started breeding canaries, some hybrids and then local species: goldfinches, greenfinches, linnets, serins, sparrows and some others. In order to do this I had to get informed about how to breed canaries in captivity; I got a small but really good book, addressed to beginners in this fields. It was harder to gather information about local species; obviously there was not related bibliography, at least not in Spanish; even now the one which exists is really scarce; so the only path I could follow was to apply the behavior of the birds in freedom: food, environment and so on. I just had to prepare the nest the most similar to the nests they built in nature; starting in birdhouses and ending in cages with hidden nests between plastic plants, as I keep doing nowadays.
Between all bibliography I purchased it could be found some books about exotic birds and the one about birds of Spain and Europe. They included Common Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), it seemed to me such a beautiful bird when I saw the photography, what an impressive range of colours, tubby form, a quite robust beak… It seemed to me – and still seems – one of the most beautiful birds of the European fauna. In the 1989, thanks to my holidays in Asturias, I finally got my first common bullfinches. Next spring I easily got the birds to build the nest and incubate their own eggs in cage, the same as if they were canaries. Unfortunately, when it came to feed the young birds, their behavior was too different from the one I had seen in other species. Between the third and fourth day all new born died. If I put them with the canaries, the same happened, it was disheartening, I had to find out where the mistake was, it was not easy and it took me some seasons to understand why little birds refused to ask for food from, usually, the third day on. Finally, it had a logical explanation, which I expose in my book.
Afterwards, I got more imported bullfinch species, some related to the Common Bullfinch, like the beavan’s Bullfinch (Pyrrhula erythaca), those of genus Rhodopechys (Desert Bullfinch, Trumpeter, of Mongolian and finally the Crimson-Winged), also other species of genus Carpodacus (Pallas’s Rosefinch, Vinaceous, Common Rosefinch and finally the House Rosefinch). The House Rosefinch proved me to be a genuine surprise, because if previous mentioned bullfinches were relatively well reproduced in captivity, I did not expect this one to do it so easily and well. It is a sight to see how the babies were fed in the cages like canaries. Clutches of 4-5 babies with their crop full of food, being able to feed them almost with any kind of food we used them to eat. Among them I found an excellent mother to breed other species of bullfinches, including the commons bullfinches. They are able to breed up to 3 babies of that specie quite easily.
During this time I tried to find books about those and others species in Spanish, but I found nothing, only some in English and French. In Spanish I only found a little book about bullfinches. It was an Italian translation and was only about 14 species. I knew that there were many more and began to consider writing the book you now know about, where all the species which, one way or another, we call in Spanish bullfinches, were reflected. It wasn’t easy, especially to get the pictures. In fact, the shot included in this article, as you will have proven if you got the book, the picture is not appearing in it. It is the female of the Scarlet Bullfinch (Haematospiza sipahi). I could not get a picture under conditions of being published; now this picture has been sent to me by breeder who got to know my book.
The book has five sections. First describes the 45 species of bullfinches, with the corresponding pictures. The description of every of them has been done in genus order: first the 6 species of the genus Pyrrhula, followed by the 2 species of the genus pinicola, then the 4 species of the genus Rhodopechys, followed by the 21 species of the genus Carpodacus and finally the unique specie of the genus Uragus and also the unique of Urocynchramus. Follow the 3 species of the genus Leucostice, also describing and including pictures of some subspecies of Leucostice arctoa, then the unique species of genus Callacanthis, Pyrrhoplectes, Haematospiza y Melopyrrha, this last one of the family Emberizidae, like the 3 species of the genus Loxigulla, with which I complete the description. The second section is about interesting hybrids. Being the bullfinches robust species, with beautiful and attractive colors, they provide us to obtain unique and exceptional hybrids. The third part deals about their breeding, where I describe how to reproduce them, reflecting my own experience. There are innumerable plants to feed the birds; here I describe some of particular predilection by bullfinches. The fifth deals about the diseases they often have, a problem that in many aviaries makes abort the reproductive effort of all the breeding season if nothing is done about it. Often, after get them to breed, species which are difficult to reproduce in captivity, we realize that the babies die within days of their birth, with their crops full of food.
In this first book that I publish and third I began to write, as first I wrote LA CLASIFICACION DE LAS AVES DEL MUNDO EN SUS ORDENES ZOOLOGICOS (classification of birds of the world at their zoos order) that isn’t published yet. Afterwards I began TODOS LOS CARDUELIS (every Carduelis): Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Siskin’s and Linnets, which I have not finished. Finally I started this one because it deals about the species that I like and I had in this moment. It was the second I ended and the first to be published.
Female Scarlet Bullfinch (Haematospiza sipahi).