One of our readers asked if I might continue this Burgess Bird Book for Children Series in the Bird Tales section. [She is reading them to her children.] Since I already have the stories, photos, and recordings on my computer, I agreed. Here is Chapter 19, and there are 45 chapters all total. So, STAY TUNED!
A Maker of Thunder and a Friend in Black
The Ruffed Grouse and the Crow Blackbird.
The Burgess Bird Book For Children
Chapter 19. A Maker of Thunder and a Friend in Black.
Listen to the story read.
Peter Rabbit’s intentions were of the best. Once safely away from that
lonesome part of the Green Forest where was the home of Redtail the
Hawk, he intended to go straight back to the dear Old Briar-patch. But
he was not halfway there when from another direction in the Green Forest
there came a sound that caused him to stop short and quite forget all
about home. It was a sound very like distant thunder. It began slowly at
first and then went faster and faster. Boom–Boom–Boom–Boom-Boom-Boom
Boo-Boo-B-B-B-B-b-b-b-b-boom! It was like the long roll on a bass drum.
Peter laughed right out. “That’s Strutter the Stuffed Grouse!” he cried
joyously. “I had forgotten all about him. I certainly must go over and
pay him a call and find out where Mrs. Grouse is. My, how Strutter can
Peter promptly headed towards that distant thunder. As he drew nearer
to it, it sounded louder and louder. Presently Peter stopped to try to
locate exactly the place where that sound, which now was more than ever
like thunder, was coming from. Suddenly Peter remembered something.
“I know just where he is,” said he to himself. “There’s a big, mossy,
hollow log over yonder, and I remember that Mrs. Grouse once told me
that that is Strutter’s thunder log.”
Very, very carefully Peter stole forward, making no sound at all. At
last he reached a place where he could peep out and see that big, mossy,
hollow log. Sure enough, there was Strutter the Ruffed Grouse. When
Peter first saw him he was crouched on one end of the log, a fluffy ball
of reddish-brown, black and gray feathers. He was resting. Suddenly he
straightened up to his full height, raised his tail and spread it until
it was like an open fan above his back. The outer edge was gray, then
came a broad band of black, followed by bands of gray, brown and black.
Around his neck was a wonderful ruff of black. His reddish-brown wings
were dropped until the tips nearly touched the log. His full breast
rounded out and was buff color with black markings. He was of about the
size of the little Bantam hens Peter had seen in Farmer Brown’s henyard.
In the most stately way you can imagine Strutter walked the length of
that mossy log. He was a perfect picture of pride as he strutted very
much like Tom Gobbler the big Turkey cock. When he reached the end of
the log he suddenly dropped his tail, stretched himself to his full
height and his wings began to beat, first slowly then faster and faster,
until they were just a blur. They seemed to touch above his back but
when they came down they didn’t quite strike his sides. It was those
fast moving wings that made the thunder. It was so loud that Peter
almost wanted to stop his ears. When it ended Strutter settled down to
rest and once more appeared like a ball of fluffy feathers. His ruff was
Peter watched him thunder several times and then ventured to show
himself. “Strutter, you are wonderful! simply wonderful!” cried Peter,
and he meant just what he said.
Strutter threw out his chest proudly. “That is just what Mrs. Grouse
says,” he replied. “I don’t know of any better thunderer if I do say it
“Speaking of Mrs. Grouse, where is she?” asked Peter eagerly.
“Attending to her household affairs, as a good housewife should,”
retorted Strutter promptly.
“Do you mean she has a nest and eggs?” asked Peter.
Strutter nodded. “She has twelve eggs,” he added proudly.
“I suppose,” said Peter artfully, “her nest is somewhere near here on
“It’s on the ground, Peter, but as to where it is I am not saying a
word. It may or it may not be near here. Do you want to hear me thunder
Of course Peter said he did, and that was sufficient excuse for Strutter
to show off. Peter stayed a while longer to gossip, but finding Strutter
more interested in thundering than in talking, he once more started for
“I really would like to know where that nest is,” said he to himself
as he scampered along. “I suppose Mrs. Grouse has hidden it so cleverly
that it is quite useless to look for it.”
On his way he passed a certain big tree. All around the ground was
carpeted with brown, dead leaves. There were no bushes or young trees
there. Peter never once thought of looking for a nest. It was the last
place in the world he would expect to find one. When he was well past
the big tree there was a soft chuckle and from among the brown leaves
right at the foot of that big tree a head with a pair of the brightest
eyes was raised a little. Those eyes twinkled as they watched Peter out
“He didn’t see me at all,” chuckled Mrs. Grouse, as she settled down
once more. “That is what comes of having a cloak so like the color
of these nice brown leaves. He isn’t the first one who has passed me
without seeing me at all. It is better than trying to hide a nest, and I
certainly am thankful to Old Mother Nature for the cloak she gave me.
I wonder if every one of these twelve eggs will hatch. If they do, I
certainly will have a family to be proud of.”
Meanwhile Peter hurried on in his usual happy-go-lucky fashion until
he came to the edge of the Green Forest. Out on the Green Meadows just
beyond he caught sight of a black form walking about in a stately way
and now and then picking up something. It reminded him of Blacky the
Crow, but he knew right away that it wasn’t Blacky, because it was so
much smaller, being not more than half as big.
“It’s Creaker the Grackle. He was one of the first to arrive this spring
and I’m ashamed of myself for not having called on him,” thought Peter,
as he hopped out and started across the Green Meadows towards Creaker.
“What a splendid long tail he has. I believe Jenny Wren told me that he
belongs to the Blackbird family. He looks so much like Blacky the Crow
that I suppose this is why they call him Crow Blackbird.”
Just then Creaker turned in such a way that the sun fell full on his
head and back. “Why! Why-ee!” exclaimed Peter, rubbing his eyes with
astonishment. “He isn’t just black! He’s beautiful, simply beautiful,
and I’ve always supposed he was just plain, homely black.”
It was true. Creaker the Grackle with the sun shining on him was truly
beautiful. His head and neck, his throat and upper breast, were a
shining blue-black, while his back was a rich, shining brassy-green.
His wings and tail were much like his head and neck. As Peter watched
it seemed as if the colors were constantly changing. This changing of
colors is called iridescence. One other thing Peter noticed and this
was that Creaker’s eyes were yellow. Just at the moment Peter couldn’t
remember any other bird with yellow eyes.
“Creaker,” cried Peter, “I wonder if you know how handsome you are!”
“I’m glad you think so,” replied Creaker. “I’m not at all vain, but
there are mighty few birds I would change coats with.”
“Is–is–Mrs. Creaker dressed as handsomely as you are?” asked Peter
Creaker shook his head. “Not quite,” said he. “She likes plain black
better. Some of the feathers on her back shine like mine, but she says
that she has no time to show off in the sun and to take care of fine
“Where is she now?” asked Peter.
“Over home,” replied Creaker, pulling a white grub out of the roots of
the grass. “We’ve got a nest over there in one of those pine-trees on
the edge of the Green Forest and I expect any day now we will have four
hungry babies to feed. I shall have to get busy then. You know I am
one of those who believe that every father should do his full share in
taking care of his family.”
“I’m glad to hear you say it,” declared Peter, nodding his head with
approval quite as if he was himself the best of fathers, which he isn’t
“May I ask you a very personal question, Creaker?”
“Ask as many questions as you like. I don’t have to answer them unless I
want to,” retorted Creaker.
“Is it true that you steal the eggs of other birds?” Peter blurted the
question out rather hurriedly.
Creaker’s yellow eyes began to twinkle. “That is a very personal
question,” said he. “I won’t go so far as to say I steal eggs, but I’ve
found that eggs are very good for my constitution and if I find a nest
with nobody around I sometimes help myself to the eggs. You see the
owner might not come back and then those eggs would spoil, and that
would be a pity.”
“That’s no excuse at all,” declared Peter. “I believe you’re no better
than Sammy Jay and Blacky the Crow.”
Creaker chuckled, but he did not seem to be at all offended. Just then
he heard Mrs. Creaker calling him and with a hasty farewell he spread
his wings and headed for the Green Forest. Once in the air he seemed
just plain black. Peter watched him out of sight and then once more
headed for the dear Old Briar-patch.
“There are three things which are stately in their march, Even four which are stately when they walk: The lion which is mighty among beasts And does not retreat before any, The strutting rooster, the male goat also, And a king when his army is with him. If you have been foolish in exalting yourself Or if you have plotted evil, put your hand on your mouth.” (Proverbs 30:29-32 NASB)
- Who did Peter hear first in the forest?
- What did that bird sound like? What kind of instrument?
- Are we supposed to act better than others?
- Did he find Mrs. Grouse? Why not?
- How is the Grackle different from a Crow?