Friday, 4 July 2014

Pyrrhula pyrrhula

to kill a mocking birdThere’s a bit in To Kill A Mockingbird, when Scout’s teacher, Miss Caroline, cannot understand how Scout is able to read so competently in her first day in school. Miss Caroline accuses Scout of being taught to read and write by her father Atticus-whom she believes should leave the teaching to the teachers. Scout speaks up in his defence and says that her father is a busy man and doesn't have the time to teach her things.

Miss Caroline tells Scout that somebody must have taught her to read, because she wasn't born reading. That's when Scout says, "Jem (her brother) says I was. He read in a book where I was a Bulfinch instead of a Finch." Scout also says that her brother said her name was really Jean Louise Bulfinch.


This is an allusion to Bulfinch’s Mythology – Thomas Bulfinch was an American writer who produced this remarkably popular tome, full of stories from different traditions - the book is a prose recounting of myths and stories from three eras: Greek and Roman mythology, Arthurian legends and medieval romances. Scout Finch is a good storyteller too.

American schoolchildren would have probably understood the allusion – I never realised what it mean till much later, I was just intrigued that Bulfinch only had one ‘l’. But I thought about it again this week, because Bob told me he’d seen a bullfinch [with two ‘l’s] in the back garden. I have seen this bird now, and his lady friend! He is the most lovely bird- and he hovers as he looks for food. They are quite shy birds, so I am thrilled to have seen this flash of colour between the rosemary and the ceanothus. I have yet to get a photo, but here are some from the Filnore Woods Website

bullfinch m filmore

The lady bullfinch is much less showy!

Bullfinch f filnore

Pyrrhula pyrrhula  is the Latin name for this creature – not related to the bullfinches found in the New World [the loxigilla]

I shall be watching out for these visitors – hoping to hear their ‘mournful call’ – and maybe even getting a picture next time.


  1. You are v clever the way you link things dear Ang. I always marvel at it! The bull finchley is v pretty x

  2. Lovely to see them, usually Rita gets them in her garden in the autumn time.
    They look quite exotic don't they?
    I can't recall what they mostly feed on, probably seeds of some kind judging by their beak.

  3. We have a pair of bullfinches that visit the garden. I was amazed when I saw them as we only got bluetits, blackbirds and starlings at the old house. Strangely, we never get starlings here.

  4. Great post. L will be doing To Kill A Mocking Bird for her GCSE English.
    I don't think I've ever seen a Bullfinch for real. Beautiful bird though.


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