20 MARCH 1942, Page 14


A SUGGESTIVE query has reached me from an observer of birds whose Observation Post is a bedroom in a southern sanatorium. She writes: "Do birds actually lose their voices during the periods 01 no song? I always imagined that they just stopped singing, but I have spent the last month or two watching chaffinches and tits, which become very tame here, and with a little encouragement, spend much of the day food-hunting on one's bed. For the last three or four weeks the cock chaffinches have been squatting on the bed opening and shutting their beaks quite silently, as though they had some obscure throat disease ; then a slight croak was occasionally produced —now they are rapidly bursting into song. One or two are in full voice, but most seem at the moment to be at a half-way stage: one spent some time on my balcony door practising a garbled and sub- dued version of their usual outburst. It certainly seems to me that it is a question of developing their vocal organs and not just begin- ning to sing." Do anatomists know whether the .,yrinx dwindles in winter, as they know that most birds cannot breed in winter?