MANAKINS, MANNIKINS OR mannequins? In certain articles submitted to C&AB the spelling has been no guide as to which, er, family is under discussion. We’ll leave the third lot out of it because we all know their place is not in the bird shed. It’s the second group that fanciers are most familiar with: the estrildid finches, all those miniature marvels like the munias. In fact, so far as I know, mannikins and munias are like doves and pigeons, with no more than an arbitrary dividing line. (Or can anyone put me right on that?)

Whereas manakins – the two “a” spelling – are quite different. You won’t find these in an African rice paddy, but lurking in the undergrowth of a Neotropical forest where (as seen on various Attenborough-style TV programmes) cock birds gather in lek displays like pint-sized birds of paradise. Silly noises are emitted to impress the females: whizzings, fizzings, ploppings and rasps. (One tiny species keeps squeaking Nicky the Greek!) And of course you’ll also find manakins in articles by Geoff Gradwell, e.g. on page 10, alongside other New World beauties such as honeycreepers and flowerpiercers. All of those species are now rare in aviculture, and it’s a privilege to share some of the knowledge that enabled them to flourish in an aviary environment.

■ How splendid that the NCA has chosen to honour the veteran fancier Ron Palfreyman (see News, page 3).
I still remember with pleasure the two articles that the late Roy Stringer wrote seven or eight years ago giving Mr Palfreyman’s recollections of cultivating bird food during the Second World War – beautifully practical first-hand advice. What a fitting tribute now to a true birdman.

■ July 30th, and the first robin was singing again in the garden. A lovely trickle of sound, but with a touch of melancholy because it signals that the year is on the wane. How deftly the poet Edward Thomas’s phrase captures both qualities: Sad songs of autumn mirth…

■ Press Release of the Week: “Baby dolphins don’t sleep much, if at all, for the first few months,” begins Sam Summers on behalf of home-interior specialist Hillary’s. Curtains is the clue to Sam’s slanting run-up, I reckon. Then, bingo: “In 1971, Tony Hillary began making blinds in his garage in Nottingham.” You dared to dream, Tony, and look where it got you.

Have a great week with your birds!


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