Sunday 24 January 2010: Birds in folklore #2
I'm a huge fan of the Goldfinch, they're a wonderfully cheerful little bird on grey winter days. The Anglo Saxons called it Thisteltuige, which means thistle tweaker probably from their habit of feeding on both thistle and teasel. And the Gaelic word for them is Las air-choille (flame of the wood).
In terms of folklore they were considered good luck, and the name goldfinch was the slang name for a golden guinea in the 16th/17th century.
I once heard the song of a group of goldfinches described as the tinkling of a set of tiny Chinese bells. This might be where the name for a group of Goldfinches, a Charm, came from. Which in Middle English translates as a magic song or spell.