21 January 2014

The Bird Trade of New York

"Harmony" writes to the Mobile Register:

"Early this morning I started out to procure a pair of little green parroquitos. I found them scarce and high priced. — For a pair scarcely larger than Java swallows, $8 was asked. I visited five large bird stores devoted to nothing else. Each contained thousands of Canary birds. Each bird has its own cage. — It would seem impossible to give seed and water to each tenement and its inmate. — Yet it is done, not precisely in the way that one thousand locks in the State prison are turned, and one thousand bolts shut at the same moment. The cages are tied together, and an adroit bird feeder will put seed in the box of each cage, and water in the jar very speedily. He will feed 1,000 birds an hour.

"These canary birds are supposed by unsophisticated buyers to have come from Hartz Mountains, in Germany, via Havre, France, or down the Rhine to Rotterdam. I however, am of the opinion that the millions are reared on the champagne districts. A good singer retails at $4; the wholesale price is $2.50. But they must be males and singers. — Females are sold at $1 each. Java sparrows, parrots, mocking-birds, robin red-breasts, and rice birds, make up the main stock of the bird stores. You cannot get cages at the same place where the birds are sold. To get a nice cage you visit the regular bird cages stores, where you can procure a vast assortment.

"Java sparrows sell at $1 each. A boy — proprietor now of the bird stores I visited this morning, and worth $50,000 — commenced his career peddling a pair of canaries.

"They will send to the Philippian Islands for Birds of Paradise, to Charleston for a turkey-buzzard, or to Illinois for a white cow [?crow]."

May 24, 1860. Stroudsburg Jeffersonian 19(20): 1.