lizbrownlee – poet

Poems, animal info, extraordinary women, my books!

G is for Greenfinch

This is a slightly different post, and a true story. Greenfinches hold a very special place in my heart. When I was a child, my friend Sharon brought round two baby birds whose nest had been destroyed. I used to volunteer at the vets’ and I took them both along to find out how to look after them. The vet I saw said they were greenfinches.

Goodness knows how he could tell, they didn’t even have pin feathers, they were just two little sacs of pink skin, so translucent you could see their veins.

He told me to feed them on a half egg-yolk, half milk mixture soaked into wholemeal bread. I can still smell that mixture!

My brother and I both looked after them, we kept them in a shoebox in a nest of cotton wool, and we kept the lid on between feeds, which we did regularly every half an hour.

As they grew we started grinding corn and putting it in with the mixture, then cutting tiny seeds up and mixing them in, gradually increasing the sizes until they were eating whole seeds.

Both the fledglings survived – one, the male, flew away one day, but the female, who we called Grizelda, stayed. Grizelda never fledged quite properly – she was always a little bald round her neck.

She lived in the kitchen in an open cage, and she could come out when she wanted. She rode around with us in the garden on our shoulders or fingers. She went go-karting with my brother, down and back up the hill behind us.

She would fly up to trees, but she would always come back, and if you called her, she came.

She loved having baths in a saucer of water – it had to be warm enough, or she wouldn’t get in. She would still walk around that saucer for ages, dipping her  her toes in and leaping out again with a chirp as if to say, ‘call that warm?’

Then she would decide to take the plunge – she would flap her wings in there for ages, and get so wet her wings were too heavy to hold up, and they dragged on the floor.

Then she would hop on my slipper, walk up my leg and body and on to my shoulder, where she would riffle her feathers and tuck herself in between my neck and my collar to get warm and dry. She smelled of honey.

She used to sing long trills, and always sang loudly when my mum and dad’s car drew up outside when they were home from work.

Being children, we fed her things I suppose we wouldn’t dream of doing now – her favourite food was tiny pieces of polo mint. She’d spot polo mints across a room and come running over.

I have so many memories of her – but the way she loved sunbathing is a favourite – she would raise her feathers and fan her wings and tail and just sit there, ecstatic.

One day, my brother and I had her in the garden – it was windy day, and as she was flying around she got caught by a gust and take down over the housing estate we lived on.

We spent the rest of the day, and the evening with torches, asking people, searching gardens etc. trying to find her. We didn’t.

The next day I went to school, which was only a road away, but my brother didn’t. He stayed at home with Grizelda’s cage door open in the garden.

A teacher came into my classroom and told me my mum had called, and could I go home.  A neighbour had phoned my mum at work to tell her they thought they might have seen our bird walking up the pavement. I dashed home (can’t imagine a school allowing this nowadays!).

Before I arrived, Grizelda had walked under the back gate, up my brother’s leg and hopped into her cage!

She had a gash on the back of her neck – so I rushed her to the vet, where she was given penicillin coated seeds, as she also had pneumonia. She survived.

In fact she lived for 13 years, and I was still enjoying her company when I was first married. So now you know why I love greenfinches – they are intelligent birds, the first to learn how to use peanut feeders. And why I long to see her again. Grizelda sunbathing on my hand:





Sit in the tree

green bird

you don’t have to sing

just sit

and spread your wings

in the sun


sing if you like


Liz Brownlee

All material © Liz Brownlee

If you’d like to blog hop to another A-Z Challenge blog, click here.


  1. Wonderful story. That is one of the best things I’ve come across in ages.


    • She was quite a character. We had no idea just how unusual this was – we accepted the fact she would not be kept shut up, or kept from flying, and she stayed with us. If it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t believe it! We didn’t take that many photos in those days, so I’m glad we took some of her in the garden at least!


  2. Liz, what a wonderful story…the connection between us and animals can certainly run deep.



    • Hello Beth – I think it does. I have a little alert dog, Lola, and the connection between us is very strong!


  3. What a lovely story, and such a sweet photo too


    • Thanks, Eunice! We don’t have many photos of her… but we do have some old 8mm film of her having a bath – I must have a look at that some time!


  4. Great story! I bet she has taught you a thing or two as well…like never give up? Against the odds the little birds survived.


    • Well, it is true, Maria, that I don’t give up!


    • Maria,I’ve just be to your blog and commented, but my comment just vanished into thin air when I clicked ‘publish’ or ‘reply’ whichever it was… could you do me a favour and tell me if it did post? I keep getting this problem!


  5. That is an amazing story, Liz, and no idea such a small bird might live so long, either. You and your brother had endless patience it would seem to feed the birds so regularly in the early days.


    • Hi Ann, I think in captivity songbirds can live a while. I fed her mostly, and prepared her food – I can’t recall it being a chore, she was great fun.


  6. What an amazing, and wonderful story. Dear little Grizelda! What a reward for all your hard work and preserverance. Well done, you and your bro.


  7. X


  8. Jarm Del Boccio

    What a sweet story! I remember nurturing a baby sparrow, who survived my care, but not the big bad world in our yard when I let her go free…
    Enjoy the A to Z Challenge!



  9. Steven Chapman

    Beautiful story, Liz! Cheered me right up.

    When I was young a baby lovebird flew right into our house and adopted us right there on the spot. We had about a decade with him and he was as quirky and weird and Grizelda sounds like she was.

    This story made me think of him 🙂


    • Gosh, Steve, where did you live?


      • Leeds! 😛 We can only assume he escaped from the local area. There were a few aviaries about but no one seemed to be missing him when we asked.


  10. Grizelda the Greenie, great story Liz.
    I love greenies myself (have a habit of calling ’em that cause my parents & grandparents always have right from when they first took me birdwatching). I have a female, regular visitor to our garden, always calls us with a long shrill when the black sunflower seeds are empty. She’s never wrong and never does it any other time…and is the only bird that does it. Every other feeder (and there are about ten different ones) can be full but boy does she let us know when the black sunflower one is empty. Beautiful, clever birds with a song like a canary.



    • Wow! Grizelda used to do that, she’d sit on top of her pots of food when they became empty and peck at them making a right old noise, then trill loud and long! She loved sunflower seeds, but in those days we could only get the plain old stripy ones!


  11. A wonderful story and excellent poem which was a joy to read.

    Thank you for your comment and your tenacity in getting through to me. why I don’t have anon comments is a while back many of my published poems were”stolen” and put on another poetry site. The poems were in my two books and were covered by the copyright act and all rights reserved. I was advised not to put anon readers.
    Hope you understand.


    • Than you Yvonne, and gosh, yes, of course I understand. The option you have though ONLY allows for Blogger comments – no other type at all, which is strange. I ‘m finding it quite a trial going through the blogs, which is a shame, there are some fab blogs out there!


  12. Liz

    Lovely wtory liz – when a creature adopts you, or stays voluntarily, it feels so special.


  13. I so enjoyed reading this story. While reading about how she got carried away in the gust of wind, I was hoping she would return and she DID. Glad you could enjoy her company for 13 years!


    • Thank you! She was a much-loved part of my childhood.


  14. what a great story! I loved it. thanks sharing it with us.


    • Thank yu Steve – don’t know why you were in Spam!


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