Some Feathered Diggers
The Bank Swallow, the Kingfisher and the Sparrow Hawk.
The Burgess Bird Book For Children
CHAPTER XXII. Some Feathered Diggers.
Peter Rabbit scampered along down one bank of the Laughing Brook,
eagerly watching for a high, gravelly bank such as Grandfather Frog had
said that Rattles the Kingfisher likes to make his home in. If Peter had
stopped to do a little thinking, he would have known that he was simply
wasting time. You see, the Laughing Brook was flowing through the Green
Meadows, so of course there would be no high, gravelly bank, because the
Green Meadows are low. But Peter Rabbit, in his usual heedless way, did
no thinking. He had seen Rattles fly down the Laughing Brook, and so he
had just taken it for granted that the home of Rattles must be somewhere
At last Peter reached the place where the Laughing Brook entered the
Big River. Of course, he hadn’t found the home of Rattles. But now he did
find something that for the time being made him quite forget Rattles and
his home. Just before it reached the Big River the Laughing Brook wound
through a swamp in which were many tall trees and a great number of
young trees. A great many big ferns grew there and were splendid to hide
under. Peter always did like that swamp.
He had stopped to rest in a clump of ferns when he was startled by
seeing a great bird alight in a tree just a little way from him. His
first thought was that it was a Hawk, so you can imagine how surprised
and pleased he was to discover that it was Mrs. Longlegs. Somehow
Peter had always thought of Longlegs the Blue Heron as never alighting
anywhere except on the ground. But here was Mrs. Longlegs in a tree.
Having nothing to fear, Peter crept out from his hiding place that he
might see better.
In the tree in which Mrs. Longlegs was perched and just below her he
saw a little platform of sticks. He didn’t suspect that it was a nest,
because it looked too rough and loosely put together to be a nest.
Probably he wouldn’t have thought about it at all had not Mrs. Longlegs
settled herself on it right while Peter was watching. It didn’t seem big
enough or strong enough to hold her, but it did.
“As I live,” thought Peter, “I’ve found the nest of Longlegs! He and
Mrs. Longlegs may be good fishermen, but they certainly are mighty poor
nest-builders. I don’t see how under the sun Mrs. Longlegs ever gets on
and off that nest without kicking the eggs out.”
Peter sat around for a while, but as he didn’t care to let his presence
be known, and as there was no one to talk to, he presently made up his
mind that being so near the Big River he would go over there to see if
Plunger the Osprey was fishing again on this day.
When he reached the Big River, Plunger was not in sight. Peter was
disappointed. He had just about made up his mind to return the way he
had come, when from beyond the swamp, farther up the Big River, he heard
the harsh, rattling cry of Rattles the Kingfisher. It reminded him of
what he had come for, and he at once began to hurry in that direction.
Peter came out of the swamp on a little sandy beach. There he squatted
for a moment, blinking his eyes, for out there the sun was very bright.
Then a little way beyond him he discovered something that in his eager
curiosity made him quite forget that he was out in the open where it was
anything but safe for a Rabbit to be. What he saw was a high sandy bank.
With a hasty glance this way and that way to make sure that no enemy was
in sight, Peter scampered along the edge of the water till he was right
at the foot of that sandy bank. Then he squatted down and looked eagerly
for a hole such as he imagined Rattles the Kingfisher might make.
Instead of one hole he saw a lot of holes, but they were very small
holes. He knew right away that Rattles couldn’t possibly get in or out
of a single one of those holes. In fact, those holes in the bank were
no bigger than the holes Downy the Woodpecker makes in trees. Peter
couldn’t imagine who or what had made them.
As Peter sat there staring and wondering a trim little head appeared
at the entrance to one of those holes. It was a trim little head with a
very small bill and a snowy white throat. At first glance Peter thought
it was his old friend, Skimmer the Tree Swallow, and he was just on the
point of asking what under the sun Skimmer was doing in such a place as
that, when with a lively twitter of greeting the owner of that little
hole in the bank flew out and circled over Peter’s head. It wasn’t
Skimmer at all. It was Banker the Bank Swallow, own cousin to Skimmer
the Tree Swallow. Peter recognized him the instant he got a full view of
In the first place Banker was a little smaller than Skimmer. Then too,
he was not nearly so handsome. His back, instead of being that
beautiful rich steel-blue which makes Skimmer so handsome, was a sober
grayish-brown. He was a little darker on his wings and tail. His breast,
instead of being all snowy white, was crossed with a brownish band. His
tail was more nearly square across the end than is the case with other
members of the Swallow family.
“Wha–wha–what were you doing there?” stuttered Peter, his eyes popping
right out with curiosity and excitement.
“Why, that’s my home,” twittered Banker.
“Do–do–do you mean to say that you live in a hole in the ground?”
“Certainly; why not?” twittered Banker as he snapped up a fly just over
“I don’t know any reason why you shouldn’t,” confessed Peter. “But
somehow it is hard for me to think of birds as living in holes in the
ground. I’ve only just found out that Rattles the Kingfisher does. But
I didn’t suppose there were any others. Did you make that hole yourself,
“Of course,” replied Banker. “That is, I helped make it. Mrs. Banker did
her share. ‘Way in at the end of it we’ve got the nicest little nest of
straw and feathers. What is more, we’ve got four white eggs in there,
and Mrs. Banker is sitting on them now.”
By this time the air seemed to be full of Banker’s friends, skimming and
circling this way and that, and going in and out of the little holes in
“I am like my big cousin, Twitter the Purple Martin, fond of society,”
explained Banker. “We Bank Swallows like our homes close together. You
said that you had just learned that Rattles the Kingfisher has his home
in a bank. Do you know where it is?”
“No,” replied Peter. “I was looking for it when I discovered your home.
Can you tell me where it is?”
“I’ll do better than that;” replied Banker. “I’ll show you where it is.”
He darted some distance up along the bank and hovered for an instant
close to the top. Peter scampered over there and looked up. There, just
a few inches below the top, was another hole, a very much larger hole
than those he had just left. As he was staring up at it a head with a
long sharp bill and a crest which looked as if all the feathers on the
top of his head had been brushed the wrong way, was thrust out. It was
Rattles himself. He didn’t seem at all glad to see Peter. In fact, he
came out and darted at Peter angrily. Peter didn’t wait to feel that
sharp dagger-like bill. He took to his heels. He had seen what he
started out to find and he was quite content to go home.
Peter took a short cut across the Green Meadows. It took him past a
certain tall, dead tree. A sharp cry of “Kill-ee, kill-ee, kill-ee!”
caused Peter to look up just in time to see a trim, handsome bird whose
body was about the size of Sammy Jay’s but whose longer wings and longer
tail made him look bigger. One glance was enough to tell Peter that
this was a member of the Hawk family, the smallest of the family. It was
Killy the Sparrow Hawk. He is too small for Peter to fear him, so now
Peter was possessed of nothing more than a very lively curiosity, and
sat up to watch.
Out over the meadow grass Killy sailed. Suddenly, with beating wings,
he kept himself in one place in the air and then dropped down into the
grass. He was up again in an instant, and Peter could see that he had a
fat grasshopper in his claws. Back to the top of the tall, dead tree
he flew and there ate the grasshopper. When it was finished, he sat up
straight and still, so still that he seemed a part of the tree itself.
With those wonderful eyes of his he was watching for another grasshopper
or for a careless Meadow Mouse.
Very trim and handsome was Killy. His back was reddish-brown crossed by
bars of black. His tail was reddish-brown with a band of black near
its end and a white tip. His wings were slaty-blue with little bars
of black, the longest feathers leaving white bars. Underneath he was a
beautiful buff, spotted with black. His head was bluish with a reddish
patch right on top. Before and behind each ear was a black mark. His
rather short bill, like the bills of all the rest of his family, was
As Peter sat there admiring Killy, for he was handsome enough for any
one to admire, he noticed for the first time a hole high up in the trunk
of the tree, such a hole as Yellow Wing the Flicker might have made and
probably did make. Right away Peter remembered what Jenny Wren had
told him about Killy’s making his nest in just such a hole. “I wonder,”
thought Peter, “if that is Killy’s home.”
Just then Killy flew over and dropped in the grass just in front of
Peter, where he caught another fat grasshopper. “Is that your home up
there?” asked Peter hastily.
“It certainly is, Peter,” replied Killy. “This is the third summer Mrs.
Killy and I have had our home there.”
“You seem to be very fond of grasshoppers,” Peter ventured.
“I am,” replied Killy. “They are very fine eating when one can get
enough of them.”
“Are they the only kind of food you eat?” ventured Peter.
Killy laughed. It was a shrill laugh. “I should say not,” said he. “I
eat spiders and worms and all sorts of insects big enough to give a
fellow a decent bite. But for real good eating give me a fat Meadow
Mouse. I don’t object to a Sparrow or some other small bird now and
then, especially when I have a family of hungry youngsters to feed. But
take it the season through, I live mostly on grasshoppers and insects
and Meadow Mice. I do a lot of good in this world, I’d have you know.”
Peter said that he supposed that this was so, but all the time he
kept thinking what a pity it was that Killy ever killed his feathered
neighbors. As soon as he conveniently could he politely bade Killy
good-by and hurried home to the dear Old Briar-patch, there to think
over how queer it seemed that a member of the hawk family should nest
in a hollow tree and a member of the Swallow family should dig a hole in
*** Bold points for questions at the bottom or for Christian traits.
*** Add Tags as appropriate
Listen to the story read.
A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
(Proverbs 18:24 NKJV)
So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
(Genesis 1:21 NKJV)
- Birds of the Bible – Migration
- Interesting Things – Amazing Bird Migration
- Interesting – Migration and Mechanics of Flight
- Bible Birds – Hawk Migration
- The House Wren – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography
- Wrens – Troglodytidae Family
- House Wren – All About Birds
- House Wren – Wikipedia
Next Chapter (The Nighthawk, the Whip-poor-will and Chuck-wills-widow. Coming Soon)