In the last few days, the Burgess Bird Book for Children, has been receiving all kinds of birds back to Lee’s Birdwatching Adventures. It has almost been more enjoyable than watching the birds return in the fall. (Other than all the work involved in reactivating these great stories.)
This series of stories were written by Thornton W. Burgess. “The Burgess Bird Book for Children is a zoology book written in the form of a story featuring Peter Rabbit. Peter learns from his friend Jenny Wren all about the birds of North America, and we meet many of them in the Old Orchard, the Green Meadow, and the Green Forest.” (From Loyalbooks) Besides updating the stories with current photos of our avian wonders, I added scripture and questions for the younger (and older readers) to ponder. Also, for each of these stories, there is a public domain recording of the book being read.
From the Preface:
“This book was written to supply a definite need. Its preparation was undertaken at the urgent request of booksellers and others who have felt the lack of a satisfactory medium of introduction to bird life for little children. As such, and in no sense whatever as a competitor with the many excellent books on this subject, but rather to supplement these, this volume has been written.
Its primary purpose is to interest the little child in, and to make him acquainted with, those feathered friends he is most likely to see. Because there is no method of approach to the child mind equal to the story, this method of conveying information has been adopted. So far as I am aware the book is unique in this respect. In its preparation an earnest effort has been made to present as far as possible the important facts regarding the appearance, habits and characteristics of our feathered neighbors. It is intended to be at once a story book and an authoritative handbook. While it is intended for little children, it is hoped that children of larger growth may find in it much of both interest and helpfulness.”
Since it has been several years since this series was started, you might enjoy reading through, or listening, to some of these. You might even enjoy sharing these with your children or grand-children. They just might adopt your love for birds and birdwatching.
Enjoy! And stay tuned as more are produced in the future. (These 18 posts were all that were finished. There were 45 written by Burgess in total. Who know, maybe, if the interest is there, they might be extended.)
This verse has to do with teaching children the things of the Lord, but His creation also applies:
“Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren,” (Deuteronomy 4:9 NKJV)
Reddy Fox wasted very little time waiting for Peter Rabbit to come out from under that pile of brush where he had hidden at Sammy Jay’s warning. After making some terrible threats just to try to frighten Peter, he trotted away to look for some Mice. Peter didn’t mind those threats at all. He was used to them. He knew that he was safe where he was, and all he had to do was to stay there until Reddy should be so far away that it would be safe to come out.
Just to pass away the time Peter took a little nap. When he awoke he sat for a few minutes trying to make up his mind where to go and what to do next. From ‘way over in the direction of the Old Pasture the voice of Blacky the Crow reached him. Peter pricked up his ears, then chuckled.
“Reddy Fox has gone back to the Old Pasture and Blacky has discovered him there,” he thought happily. You see, he understood what Blacky was saying. To you or me Blacky would have been saying simply, “Caw! Caw!” But to all the little people of the Green Forest and Green Meadows within hearing he was shouting, “Fox! Fox!”
“I wonder,” thought Peter, “where Blacky is nesting this year. Last year his nest was in a tall pine-tree not far from the edge of the Green Forest. I believe I’ll run over there and see if he has a new nest near the old one.”
So Peter scampered over to the tall pine in which was Blacky’s old nest. As he sat with his head tipped back, staring up at it, it struck him that that nest didn’t look so old, after all. In fact, it looked as if it had recently been fixed up quite like new. He was wondering about this and trying to guess what it meant, when Blacky himself alighted close to the edge of it.
There was something in his bill, though what it was Peter couldn’t see. Almost at once a black head appeared above the edge of the nest and a black bill seized the thing which Blacky had brought. Then the head disappeared and Blacky silently flew away.
“As sure as I live,” thought Peter, “that was Mrs. Blacky, and Blacky brought her some food so that she would not have to leave those eggs she must have up there. He may be the black-hearted robber every one says he is, but he certainly is a good husband. He’s a better husband than some others I know, of whom nothing but good is said. It just goes to show that there is some good in the very worst folks. Blacky is a sly old rascal. Usually he is as noisy as any one I know, but he came and went without making a sound. Now I think of it, I haven’t once heard his voice near here this spring. I guess if Farmer Brown’s boy could find this nest he would get even with Blacky for pulling up his corn. I know a lot of clever people, but no one quite so clever as Blacky the Crow. With all his badness I can’t help liking him.”
Twice, while Peter watched, Blacky returned with food for Mrs. Blacky. Then, tired of keeping still so long, Peter decided to run over to a certain place farther in the Green Forest which was seldom visited by any one. It was a place Peter usually kept away from. It was pure curiosity which led him to go there now. The discovery that Blacky the Crow was using his old nest had reminded Peter that Redtail the Hawk uses his old nest year after year, and he wanted to find out if Redtail had come back to it this year.
Halfway over to that lonesome place in the Green Forest a trim little bird flew up from the ground, hopped from branch to branch of a tree, walked along a limb, then from pure happiness threw back his head and cried, “Teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher!” each time a little louder than before. It was Teacher the Oven Bird.
Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) by Raymond Barlow
In his delight at seeing this old friend, Peter quite forgot Redtail the Hawk. “Oh, Teacher!” cried Peter. “I’m so glad to see you again!”
Teacher stopped singing and looked down at Peter. “If you are so glad why haven’t you been over to see me before?” he demanded. “I’ve been here for some time.”
Peter looked a little foolish. “The truth is, Teacher,” said he very humbly, “I have been visiting the Old Orchard so much and learning so many things that this is the first chance I have had to come ‘way over here in the Green Forest. You see, I have been learning a lot of things about you feathered folks, things I hadn’t even guessed. There is something I wish you’d tell me, Teacher; will you?”
“That depends on what it is,” replied Teacher, eyeing Peter a little suspiciously.
“It is why you are called Oven Bird,” said Peter.
“Is that all?” asked Teacher. Then without waiting for a reply he added, “It is because of the way Mrs. Teacher and I build our nest. Some people think it is like an oven and so they call us Oven Birds. I think that is a silly name myself, quite as silly as Golden Crowned Thrush, which is what some people call me. I’m not a Thrush. I’m not even related to the Thrush family. I’m a Warbler, a Wood Warbler.”
“I suppose,” said Peter, looking at Teacher thoughtfully, “they’ve given you that name because you are dressed something like the Thrushes. That olive-green coat, and white waistcoat all streaked and spotted with black, certainly does remind me of the Thrush family. If you were not so much smaller than any of the Thrushes I should almost think you were one myself. Why, you are not very much bigger than Chippy the Chipping Sparrow, only you’ve got longer legs. I suppose that’s because you spend so much time on the ground. I think that just Teacher is the best name for you. No one who has once heard you could ever mistake you for any one else. By the way, Teacher, where did you say your nest is?”
“I didn’t say,” retorted Teacher. “What’s more, I’m not going to say.”
“Won’t you at least tell me if it is in a tree?” begged Peter.
Teacher’s eyes twinkled. “I guess it won’t do any harm to tell you that much,” said he. “No, it isn’t in a tree. It is on the ground and, if I do say it, it is as well hidden a nest as anybody can build. Oh, Peter, watch your step! Watch your step!” Teacher fairly shrieked this warning.
Peter, who had just started to hop off to his right, stopped short in sheer astonishment. Just in front of him was a tiny mound of dead leaves, and a few feet beyond Mrs. Teacher was fluttering about on the ground as if badly hurt. Peter simply didn’t know what to make of it. Once more he made a movement as if to hop. Teacher flew right down in front of him. “You’ll step on my nest!” he cried.
Peter stared, for he didn’t see any nest. He said as much.
“It’s under that little mound of leaves right in front of your feet!” cried Teacher. “I wasn’t going to tell you, but I just had to or you certainly would have stepped on it.”
Very carefully Peter walked around the little bunch of leaves and peered under them from the other side. There, sure enough, was a nest beneath them, and in it four speckled eggs. “I won’t tell a soul, Teacher. I promise you I won’t tell a soul,” declared Peter very earnestly. “I understand now why you are called Oven Bird, but I still like the name Teacher best.”
Feeling that Mr. and Mrs. Teacher would feel easier in their minds if he left them, Peter said good-by and started on for the lonesome place in the Green Forest where he knew the old nest of Redtail the Hawk had been. As he drew near the place he kept sharp watch through the treetops for a glimpse of Redtail. Presently he saw him high in the blue sky, sailing lazily in big circles. Then Peter became very, very cautious. He tiptoed forward, keeping under cover as much as possible. At last, peeping out from beneath a little hemlock-tree, he could see Redtail’s old nest. He saw right away that it was bigger than it had been when he saw it last. Suddenly there was a chorus of hungry cries and Peter saw Mrs. Redtail approaching with a Mouse in her claws. From where he sat he could see four funny heads stretched above the edge of the nest.
“Redtail is using his old nest again and has got a family already,” exclaimed Peter. “I guess this is no place for me. The sooner I get away from here the better.”
Red-tailed Hawk- Cochran Shoals Unit Chattahoochee River by SSlayton
Just then Redtail himself dropped down out of the blue, blue sky and alighted on a tree close at hand. Peter decided that the best thing he could do was to sit perfectly still where he was. He had a splendid view of Redtail, and he couldn’t help but admire this big member of the Hawk family. The upper parts of his coat were a dark grayish-brown mixed with touches of chestnut color. The upper part of his breast was streaked with grayish-brown and buff, the lower part having but few streaks. Below this were black spots and bars ending in white. But it was the tail which Peter noticed most of all. It was a rich reddish-brown with a narrow black band near its end and a white tip. Peter understood at once why this big Hawk is called Redtail.
It was not until Mr. and Mrs. Redtail had gone in quest of more food for their hungry youngsters that Peter dared steal away. As soon as he felt it safe to do so, he headed for home as fast as he could go, lipperty-lipperty-lip. He knew that he wouldn’t feel safe until that lonesome place in the Green Forest was far behind.
Yet if the truth be known, Peter had less cause to worry than would have been the case had it been some other member of the Hawk family instead of Redtail. And while Redtail and his wife do sometimes catch some of their feathered and furred neighbors, and once in a while a chicken, they do vastly more good than harm.
This story gives good examples of friends watching out for friends. Also, friends love their neighbors and go for visits now and then.
“But you be watchful in all things,…” (2 Timothy 4:5a NKJV)
Who was the one warning the animal and bird friends?
What is a call of the Crow?
Is it good for us to warn others of danger?
What does Peter really think it says?
Who was the little bird that Peter spotted up in the tree?
Why is he called by that name?
When Peter began to leave, why did the little bird become upset?
What bird was Peter looking for, yet had to make sure that bird didn’t see him?
Why didn’t Peter want to be seen?
Who sees us all the time? Can we hide from Him?
“A friend loveth at all times,…” (Proverbs 17:17a KJV)
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) at Bok Tower By Dan’sPix
The Crow and the Blue Jay.
The Burgess Bird Book For Children
Listen to the story read.
CHAPTER 17. More Robbers.
By the sounds of rejoicing among the feathered folks of the Old Orchard Johnny Chuck knew that it was quite safe for him to come out. He was eager to tell Skimmer the Tree Swallow how glad he was that Mr. Blacksnake had been driven away before he could get Skimmer’s eggs. As he poked his head out of his doorway he became aware that something was still wrong in the Old Orchard. Into the glad chorus there broke a note of distress and sorrow. Johnny instantly recognized the voices of Welcome Robin and Mrs. Robin. There is not one among his feathered neighbors who can so express worry and sorrow as can the Robins.
Johnny was just in time to see all the birds hurrying over to that part of the Old Orchard where the Robins had built their home. The rejoicing suddenly gave way to cries of indignation and anger, and Johnny caught the words, “Robber! Thief! Wretch!” It appeared that there was just as much excitement over there as there had been when Mr. Blacksnake had been discovered trying to rob Skimmer and Mrs. Skimmer. It couldn’t be Mr. Blacksnake again, because Farmer Brown’s boy had chased him in quite another direction.
“What is it now?” asked Johnny of Skimmer, who was still excitedly discussing with Mrs. Skimmer their recent fright.
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out,” replied Skimmer and darted away.
Johnny Chuck waited patiently. The excitement among the birds seemed to increase, and the chattering and angry cries grew louder. Only the voices of Welcome and Mrs. Robin were not angry. They were mournful, as if Welcome and Mrs. Robin were heartbroken. Presently Skimmer came back to tell Mrs. Skimmer the news.
“The Robins have lost their eggs!” he cried excitedly. “All four have been broken and eaten. Mrs. Robin left them to come over here to help drive away Mr. Blacksnake, and while she was here some one ate those eggs. Nobody knows who it could have been, because all the birds of the Old Orchard were over here at that time. It might leave been Chatterer the Red Squirrel, or it might have been Sammy Jay, or it might have been Creaker the Grackle, or it might have been Blacky the Crow. Whoever it was just took that chance to sneak over there and rob that nest when there was no one to see him.”
Crow at Flamingo Gardens by Lee
Just then from over towards the Green Forest sounded a mocking “Caw, caw, caw!” Instantly the noise in the Old Orchard ceased for a moment. Then it broke out afresh. There wasn’t a doubt now in any one’s mind. Blacky the Crow was the robber. How those tongues did go! There was nothing too bad to say about Blacky. And such dreadful things as those birds promised to do to Blacky the Crow if ever they should catch him in the Old Orchard.
“Caw, caw, caw!” shouted Blacky from the distance, and his voice sounded very much as if he thought he had done something very smart. It was quite clear that at least he was not sorry for what he had done.
All the birds were so excited and so angry, as they gathered around Welcome and Mrs. Robin trying to comfort them, that it was some time before their indignation meeting broke up and they returned to their own homes and duties. Almost at once there was another cry of distress. Mr. and Mrs. Chebec had been robbed of their eggs! While they had been attending the indignation meeting at the home of the Robins, a thief had taken the chance to steal their eggs and get away.
Of course right away all the birds hurried over to sympathize with the Chebecs and to repeat against the unknown thief all the threats they had made against Blacky the Crow. They knew it couldn’t have been Blacky this time because they had heard Blacky cawing over on the edge of the Green Forest. In the midst of the excited discussion as to who the thief was, Weaver the Orchard Oriole spied a blue and white feather on the ground just below Chebec’s nest.
“It was Sammy Jay! There is no doubt about it, it was Sammy Jay!” he cried.
At the sight of that telltale feather all the birds knew that Weaver was right, and led by Scrapper the Kingbird they began a noisy search of the Old Orchard for the sly robber. But Sammy wasn’t to be found, and they soon gave up the search, none daring to stay longer away from his own home lest something should happen there. Welcome and Mrs. Robin continued to cry mournfully, but little Mr. and Mrs. Chebec bore their trouble almost silently.
“There is one thing about it,” said Mr. Chebec to his sorrowful little wife, “that egg of Sally Sly’s went with the rest, and we won’t have to raise that bothersome orphan.”
“That’s true,” said she. “There is no use crying over what can’t be helped. It is a waste of time to sit around crying. Come on, Chebec, let’s look for a place to build another nest. Next time I won’t leave the eggs unwatched for a minute.”
Meanwhile Jenny Wren’s tongue was fairly flying as she chattered to Peter Rabbit, who had come up in the midst of the excitement and of course had to know all about it.
Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus) at Lake Morton By Dan’sPix
“Blacky the Crow has a heart as black as his coat, and his cousin Sammy Jay isn’t much better,” declared Jenny. “They belong to a family of robbers.”
“Wait a minute,” cried Peter. “Do you mean to say that Blacky the Crow and Sammy Jay are cousins?”
“For goodness’ sake, Peter!” exclaimed Jenny, “do you mean to say that you don’t know that? Of course they’re cousins. They don’t look much alike, but they belong to the same family. I would expect almost anything bad of any one as black as Blacky the Crow. But how such a handsome fellow as Sammy Jay can do such dreadful things I don’t understand. He isn’t as bad as Blacky, because he does do a lot of good. He destroys a lot of caterpillars and other pests.
“There are no sharper eyes anywhere than those of Sammy Jay, and I’ll have to say this for him, that whenever he discovers any danger he always gives us warning. He has saved the lives of a good many of us feathered folks in this way. If it wasn’t for this habit of stealing our eggs I wouldn’t have a word to say against him, but at that, he isn’t as bad as Blacky the Crow. They say Blacky does some good by destroying white grubs and some other harmful pests, but he’s a regular cannibal, for he is just as fond of young birds as he is of eggs, and the harm he does in this way is more than the good he does in other ways. He’s bold, black, and bad, if you ask me.”
Remembering her household duties, Jenny Wren disappeared inside her house in her usual abrupt fashion. Peter hung around for a while but finding no one who would take the time to talk to him he suddenly decided to go over to the Green Forest to look for some of his friends there. He had gone but a little way in the Green Forest when he caught a glimpse of a blue form stealing away through the trees. He knew it in an instant, for there is no one with such a coat but Sammy Jay. Peter glanced up in the tree from which Sammy had flown and there he saw a nest in a crotch halfway up. “I wonder,” thought Peter, “if Sammy was stealing eggs there, or if that is his own nest.” Then he started after Sammy as fast as he could go, lipperty-lipperty-lip. As he ran he happened to look back and was just in time to see Mrs. Jay slip on to the nest. Then Peter knew that he had discovered Sammy’s home. He chuckled as he ran.
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) by Daves BirdingPix
“I’ve found out your secret, Sammy Jay!” cried Peter when at last he caught up with Sammy.
“Then I hope you’ll be gentleman enough to keep it,” grumbled Sammy, looking not at all pleased.
“Certainly,” replied Peter with dignity. “I wouldn’t think of telling any one. My, what a handsome fellow you are, Sammy.”
Sammy looked pleased. He is a little bit vain, is Sammy Jay. There is no denying that he is handsome. He is just a bit bigger than Welcome Robin. His back is grayish-blue. His tail is a bright blue crossed with little black bars and edged with white. His wings are blue with white and black bars. His throat and breast are a soft grayish-white, and he wears a collar of black. On his head he wears a pointed cap, a very convenient cap, for at times he draws it down so that it is not pointed at all.
“Why did you steal Mrs. Chebec’s eggs?” demanded Peter abruptly.
Sammy didn’t look the least bit put out. “Because I like eggs,” he replied promptly. “If people will leave their eggs unguarded they must expect to lose them. How did you know I took those eggs?”
“Never mind, Sammy; never mind. A little bird told me,” retorted Peter mischievously.
Sammy opened his mouth for a sharp reply, but instead he uttered a cry of warning. “Run, Peter! Run! Here comes Reddy Fox!” he cried.
Peter dived headlong under a great pile of brush. There he was quite safe. While he waited for Reddy Fox to go away he thought about Sammy Jay. “It’s funny,” he mused, “how so much good and so much bad can be mixed together. Sammy Jay stole Chebec’s eggs, and then he saved my life. I just know he would have done as much for Mr. and Mrs. Chebec, or for any other feathered neighbor. He can only steal eggs for a little while in the spring. I guess on the whole he does more good than harm. I’m going to think so anyway.”
Peter was quite right. Sammy Jay does do more good than harm.
When they found the feather, a verse comes to mind:
… and be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23b NKJV)
Why were Welcome Robin and Mrs. Robin upset?
Which bird was the one who destroyed the eggs?
What did their friends try to do to help the Robins?
Should we do that for our friends also?
Who was the next robber?
How did they know it was him?
Both the Crow and the Blue Jay are cousins. Why?
Why did Peter decide that Sammy Blue Jay was okay?
Can we sin just a little and then do lots of good? Does that make it right?
Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NKJV)
“I don’t believe it,” muttered Johnny Chuck out loud. “I don’t believe Jenny Wren knows what she’s talking about.”
“What is it Jenny Wren has said that you don’t believe?” demanded Skimmer the Tree Swallow, as he once more settled himself in his doorway.
“She said that Hummer the Hummingbird is a sort of second cousin to Sooty the Chimney Swift,” replied Johnny Chuck.
“Well, it’s so, if you don’t believe it,” declared Skimmer. “I don’t see that that is any harder to believe than that you are cousin to Striped Chipmunk and Nappy Jack the Gray Squirrel. To look at you no one would ever think you are a member of the Squirrel family, but you must admit that you are.”
Johnny Chuck nodded his head thoughtfully. “Yes,” said he, “I am, even if I don’t look it. This is a funny world, isn’t it? You can’t always tell by a person’s looks who he may be related to. Now that I’ve found out that Sooty isn’t related to you and is related to Hummer, I’ll never dare guess again about anybody’s relatives. I always supposed Twitter the Martin to be a relative of yours, but now that I’ve learned that Sooty isn’t, I suspect that Twitter isn’t either.”
“Oh, yes, he is,” replied Skimmer promptly. “He’s the largest of the Swallow family, and we all feel very proud of him. Everybody loves him.”
“Is he as black as he looks, flying round up in the air?” asked Johnny Chuck. “He never comes down here as you do where a fellow can get a good look at him.”
“Yes,” replied Skimmer, “he dresses all in black, but it is a beautiful blue-black, and when the sun shines on his back it seems to be almost purple. That is why some folks call him the Purple Martin. He is one of the most social fellows I know of. I like a home by myself, such as I’ve got here, but Twitter loves company. He likes to live in an apartment house with a lot of his own kind. That is why he always looks for one of those houses with a lot of rooms in it, such as Farmer Brown’s boy has put up on the top of that tall pole out in his back yard. He pays for all the trouble Farmer Brown’s boy took to put that house up. If there is anybody who catches more flies and winged insects than Twitter, I don’t know who it is.”
Barn Swallow in Cades Cove by Dan
“How about me?” demanded a new voice, as a graceful form skimmed over Johnny Chuck’s head, and turning like a flash, came back. It was Forktail the Barn Swallow, the handsomest and one of the most graceful of all the Swallow family. He passed so close to Johnny that the latter had a splendid chance to see and admire his glistening steel-blue back and the beautiful chestnut-brown of his forehead and throat with its narrow black collar, and the brown to buff color of his under parts. But the thing that was most striking about him was his tail, which was so deeply forked as to seem almost like two tails.
“I would know him as far as I could see him just by his tail alone,” exclaimed Johnny. “I don’t know of any other tail at all like it.”
“There isn’t any other like it,” declared Skimmer. “If Twitter the Martin is the largest of our family, Forktail is the handsomest.”
“How about my usefulness?” demanded Forktail, as he came skimming past again. “Cousin Twitter certainly does catch a lot of flies and insects but I’m willing to go against him any day to see who can catch the most.”
With this he darted away. Watching him they saw him alight on the top of Farmer Brown’s barn. “It’s funny,” remarked Johnny Chuck, “but as long as I’ve known Forktail, and I’ve known him ever since I was big enough to know anybody, I’ve never found out how he builds his nest. I’ve seen him skimming over the Green Meadows times without number, and often he comes here to the Old Orchard as he did just now, but I’ve never seen him stop anywhere except over on that barn.”
“That’s where he nests,” chuckled Skimmer.
“What?” cried Johnny Chuck. “Do you mean to say he nests on Farmer Brown’s barn?”
“No,” replied Skimmer. “He nests in it. That’s why he is called the Barn Swallow, and why you never have seen his nest. If you’ll just go over to Farmer Brown’s barn and look up in the roof, you’ll see Forktail’s nest there somewhere.”
“Me go over to Farmer Brown’s barn!” exclaimed Johnny Chuck. “Do you think I’m crazy?”
Skimmer chuckled. “Forktail isn’t crazy,” said he, “and he goes in and out of that barn all day long. I must say I wouldn’t care to build in such a place myself, but he seems to like it. There’s one thing about it, his home is warm and dry and comfortable, no matter what the weather is. I wouldn’t trade with him, though. No, sir, I wouldn’t trade with him for anything. Give me a hollow in a tree well lined with feathers to a nest made of mud and straw, even if it is feather-lined.”
“Do you mean that such a neat-looking, handsome fellow as Forktail uses mud in his nest?” cried Johnny.
Skimmer bobbed his head. “He does just that,” said he. “He’s something like Welcome Robin in this respect. I—”
But Johnny Chuck never knew what Skimmer was going to say next, for Skimmer happened at that instant to glance up. For an instant he sat motionless with horror, then with a shriek he darted out into the air. At the sound of that shriek Mrs. Skimmer, who all the time had been sitting on her eggs inside the hollow of the tree, darted out of her doorway, also shrieking. For a moment Johnny Chuck couldn’t imagine what could be the trouble. Then a slight rustling drew his eyes to a crotch in the tree a little above the doorway of Skimmer’s home. There, partly coiled around a branch, with head swaying to and fro, eyes glittering and forked tongue darting out and in, as he tried to look down into Skimmer’s nest, was Mr. Blacksnake.
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) WikiC
It seemed to Johnny as if in a minute every bird in the Old Orchard had arrived on the scene. Such a shrieking and screaming as there was! First one and then another would dart at Mr. Blacksnake, only to lose courage at the last second and turn aside. Poor Skimmer and his little wife were frantic. They did their utmost to distract Mr. Blacksnake’s attention, darting almost into his very face and then away again before he could strike. But Mr. Blacksnake knew that they were powerless to hurt him, and he knew that there were eggs in that nest. There is nothing he loves better than eggs unless it is a meal of baby birds. Beyond hissing angrily two or three times he paid no attention to Skimmer or his friends, but continued to creep nearer the entrance to that nest.
At last he reached a position where he could put his head in the doorway. As he did so, Skimmer and Mrs. Skimmer each gave a little cry of hopelessness and despair. But no sooner had his head disappeared in the hole in the old apple-tree than Scrapper the Kingbird struck him savagely. Instantly Mr. Blacksnake withdrew his head, hissing fiercely, and struck savagely at the birds nearest him. Several times the same thing happened. No sooner would his head disappear in that hole than Scrapper or one or the other of Skimmer’s friends, braver than the rest, would dart in and peck at him viciously, and all the time all the birds were screaming as only excited feathered folk can. Johnny Chuck was quite as excited as his feathered friends, and so intent watching the hated black robber that he had eyes for nothing else. Suddenly he heard a step just behind him. He turned his head and then frantically dived head first down into his hole. He had looked right up into the eyes of Farmer Brown’s boy!
“Ha, ha!” cried Farmer Brown’s boy, “I thought as much!” And with a long switch he struck Mr. Blacksnake just as the latter had put his head in that doorway, resolved to get those eggs this time. But when he felt that switch and heard the voice of Farmer Brown’s boy he changed his mind in a flash. He simply let go his hold on that tree and dropped. The instant he touched the ground he was off like a shot for the safety of the old stone wall, Farmer Brown’s boy after him. Farmer Brown’s boy didn’t intend to kill Mr. Blacksnake, but he did want to give him such a fright that he wouldn’t visit the Old Orchard again in a hurry, and this he quite succeeded in doing.
No sooner had Mr. Blacksnake disappeared than all the birds set up such a rejoicing that you would have thought they, and not Farmer Brown’s boy, had saved the eggs of Mr. and Mrs. Skimmer. Listening to them, Johnny Chuck just had to smile.
Listen to the story read.
Barn Swallow at the New Mexico Welcome Center by Lee
Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God. (Psalms 84:3 KJV)
Johnny and Polly Chuck had made their home between the roots of an old apple-tree in the far corner of the Old Orchard. You know they have their bedroom way down in the ground, and it is reached by a long hall. They had dug their home between the roots of that old apple-tree because they had discovered that there was just room enough between those spreading roots for them to pass in and out, and there wasn’t room to dig the entrance any larger. So they felt quite safe from Reddy Fox; and Bowser the Hound, either of whom would have delighted to dig them out but for those roots.
Right in front of their doorway was a very nice doorstep of shining sand where Johnny Chuck delighted to sit when he had a full stomach and nothing else to do. Johnny’s nearest neighbors had made their home only about five feet above Johnny’s head when he sat up on his doorstep. They were Skimmer the Tree Swallow and his trim little wife, and the doorway of their home was a little round hole in the trunk of that apple-tree, a hole which had been cut some years before by one of the Woodpeckers.
Johnny and Skimmer were the best of friends. Johnny used to delight in watching Skimmer dart out from beneath the branches of the trees and wheel and turn and glide, now sometimes high in the blue, blue sky, and again just skimming the tops of the grass, on wings which seemed never to tire. But he liked still better the bits of gossip when Skimmer would sit in his doorway and chat about his neighbors of the Old Orchard and his adventures out in the Great World during his long journeys to and from the far-away South.
To Johnny Chuck’s way of thinking, there was no one quite so trim and neat appearing as Skimmer with his snowy white breast and blue-green back and wings. Two things Johnny always used to wonder at, Skimmer’s small bill and short legs. Finally he ventured to ask Skimmer about them.
“Gracious, Johnny!” exclaimed Skimmer. “I wouldn’t have a big bill for anything. I wouldn’t know what to do with it; it would be in the way. You see, I get nearly all my food in the air when I am flying, mosquitoes and flies and all sorts of small insects with wings. I don’t have to pick them off trees and bushes or from the ground and so I don’t need any more of a bill than I have. It’s the same way with my legs. Have you ever seen me walking on the ground?”
Johnny thought a moment. “No,” said he, “now you speak of it, I never have.”
“And have you ever seen me hopping about in the branches of a tree?” persisted Skimmer.
Again Johnny Chuck admitted that he never had.
“The only use I have for feet,” continued Skimmer, “is for perching while I rest. I don’t need long legs for walking or hopping about, so Mother Nature has made my legs very short. You see I spend most of my time in the air.”
Skimmer The Tree Swallow and Forktail The Barn Swallow
“I suppose it’s the same with your cousin; Sooty the Chimney Swallow,” said Johnny.
“That shows just how much some people know!” twittered Skimmer indignantly. “The idea of calling Sooty a Swallow! The very idea! I’d leave you to know, Johnny Chuck, that Sooty isn’t even related to me. He’s a Swift, and not a Swallow.”
“He looks like a Swallow,” protested Johnny Chuck.
“He doesn’t either. You just think he does because he happens to spend most of his time in the air the way we Swallows do,” sputtered Skimmer. “The Swallow family never would admit such a homely looking fellow as he is as a member.
“Tut, tut, tut, tut! I do believe Skimmer is jealous,” cried Jenny Wren, who had happened along just in time to hear Skimmer’s last remarks.
“Nothing of the sort,” declared Skimmer, growing still more indignant. “I’d like to know what there is about Sooty the Chimney Swift that could possibly make a Swallow jealous.”
Jenny Wren cocked her tail up in that saucy way of hers and winked at Johnny Chuck. “The way he can fly,” said she softly.
“The way he can fly!” sputtered Skimmer, “The way he can fly! Why, there never was a day in his life that he could fly like a Swallow. There isn’t any one more graceful on the wing than I am, if I do say so. And there isn’t any one more ungraceful than Sooty.”
Chimney Swift of Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897
Just then there was a shrill chatter overhead and all looked up to see Sooty the Chimney Swift racing through the sky as if having the very best time in the world. His wings would beat furiously and then he would glide very much as you or I would on skates. It was quite true that he wasn’t graceful. But he could twist and turn and cut up all sorts of antics, such as Skimmer never dreamed of doing.
“He can use first one wing and then the other, while you have to use both wings at once,” persisted Jenny Wren. “You couldn’t, to save your life, go straight down into a chimney, and you know it, Skimmer. He can do things with his wings which you can’t do, nor any other bird.”
“That may be true, but just the same I’m not the least teeny-weeny bit jealous of him,” said Skimmer, and darted away to get beyond the reach of Jenny’s sharp tongue.
“Is it really true that he and Sooty are not related?” asked Johnny Chuck, as they watched Skimmer cutting airy circles high up in the slay.
Jenny nodded. “It’s quite true, Johnny,” said site. “Sooty belongs to another family altogether. He’s a funny fellow. Did you ever in your life see such narrow wings? And his tail is hardly worth calling a tail.”
Johnny Chuck laughed. “Way up there in the air he looks almost alike at both ends,” said he. “Is he all black?”
“He isn’t black at all,” declared Jenny. “He is sooty-brown, rather grayish on the throat and breast. Speaking of that tail of his, the feathers end in little, sharp, stiff points. He uses them in the same way that Downy the Woodpecker uses his tail feathers when he braces himself with them on the trunk of a tree.”
“But I’ve never seen Sooty on the trunk of a tree,” protested Johnny Chuck. “In fact, I’ve never seen him anywhere but in the air.”
“And you never will,” snapped Jenny. “The only place he ever alights is inside a chimney or inside a hollow tree. There he clings to the side just as Downy the Woodpecker clings to the trunk of a tree.”
Johnny looked as if he didn’t quite believe this. “If that’s the case where does he nest?” he demanded. “And where does he sleep?”
“In a chimney, stupid. In a chimney, of course,” retorted Jenny Wren. “He fastens his nest right to the inside of a chimney. He makes a regular little basket of twigs and fastens it to the side of the chimney.”
“Are you trying to stuff me with nonsense?” asked Johnny Chuck indignantly. “How can he fasten his nest to the side of a chimney unless there’s a little shelf to put it on? And if he never alights, how does he get the little sticks to make a nest of? I’d just like to know how you expect me to believe any such story as that.”
Tree Swallows Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge by jeremyjonkman on Flickr From Pinterest
Jenny Wren’s sharp little eyes snapped. “If you half used your eyes you wouldn’t have to ask me how he gets those little sticks,” she sputtered. “If you had watched him when he was flying close to the tree tops you would have seen him clutch little dead twigs in his claws and snap them off without stopping. That’s the way he gets his little sticks, Mr. Smarty, He fastens them together with a sticky substance he has in his mouth, and he fastens the nest to the side of the chimney in the same way. You can believe it or not, but it’s so.”
“I believe it, Jenny, I believe it,” replied Johnny Chuck very humbly. “If you please, Jenny, does Sooty get all his food in the air too?”
“Of course,” replied Jenny tartly. “He eats nothing but insects, and he catches them flying. Now I must get back to my duties at home.”
“Just tell me one more thing,” cried Johnny Chuck hastily. “Hasn’t Sooty any near relatives as most birds have?”
“He hasn’t any one nearer than some sort of second cousins, Boomer the Nighthawk, Whippoorwill, and Hummer the Hummingbird.”
“What?” cried Johnny Chuck, quite as if he couldn’t believe he had heard aright. “Did you say Hummer the Hummingbird?” But he got no reply, for Jenny Wren was already beyond hearing.
Even the stork in the sky Knows her seasons; And the turtledove and the swift and the thrush Observe the time of their migration; But My people do not know The ordinance of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 NASB)
Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight. (Proverbs 26:2 ESV)
A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor. (Proverbs 29:23 NKJV)
Both of these birds belong to avian families that are mentioned in the Bible
Questions to think about:
Can you describe Skimmer the Swift?
What color is his breast, back and wings?
What is common about the legs of both Skimmer and Sooty?
How do both these birds catch their food?
Why was Skimmer showing a little pride?
Should we be prideful?
Can you describe Sooty the Swallow?
Where and how do Chimney Swallows they make their nest?
“Bob—Bob White! Bob—Bob White! Bob—Bob White!” clear and sweet, that call floated over to the dear Old Briar-patch until Peter could stand it no longer. He felt that he just had to go over and pay an early morning call on one of his very best friends, who at this season of the year delights in whistling his own name—Bob White.
“I suppose,” muttered Peter, “that Bob White has got a nest. I wish he would show it to me. He’s terribly secretive about it. Last year I hunted for his nest until my feet were sore, but it wasn’t the least bit of use. Then one morning I met Mrs. Bob White with fifteen babies out for a walk. How she could hide a nest with fifteen eggs in it is more than I can understand.”
Peter left the Old Briar-patch and started off over the Green Meadows towards the Old Pasture. As he drew near the fence between the Green Meadows and the Old Pasture he saw Bob White sitting on one of the posts, whistling with all his might. On another post near him sat another bird very near the size of Welcome Robin. He also was telling all the world of his happiness. It was Carol the Meadow Lark.
Peter was so intent watching these two friends of his that he took no heed to his footsteps. Suddenly there was a whirr from almost under his very nose and he stopped short, so startled that he almost squealed right out. In a second he recognized Mrs. Meadow Lark. He watched her fly over to where Carol was singing. Her stout little wings moved swiftly for a moment or two, then she sailed on without moving them at all. Then they fluttered rapidly again until she was flying fast enough to once more sail on them outstretched. The white outer feathers of her tail showed clearly and reminded Peter of the tail of Sweetvoice the Vesper Sparrow, only of course it was ever so much bigger.
Peter sat still until Mrs. Meadow Lark had alighted on the fence near Carol. Then he prepared to hurry on, for he was anxious for a bit of gossip with these good friends of his. But just before he did this he just happened to glance down and there, almost at his very feet, he caught sight of something that made him squeal right out. It was a nest with four of the prettiest eggs Peter ever had seen. They were white with brown spots all over them. Had it not been for the eggs he never would have seen that nest, never in the world. It was made of dry, brown grass and was cunningly hidden is a little clump of dead grass which fell over it so as to almost completely hide it. But the thing that surprised Peter most was the clever way in which the approach to it was hidden. It was by means of a regular little tunnel of grass.
“Oh!” cried Peter, and his eyes sparkled with pleasure. “This must be the nest of Mrs. Meadow Lark. No wonder I have never been able to find it, when I have looked for it. It is just luck and nothing else that I have found it this time. I think it is perfectly wonderful that Mrs. Meadow Lark can hide her home in such a way. I do hope Jimmy Skunk isn’t anywhere around.”
Peter sat up straight and anxiously looked this way and that way. Jimmy Skunk was nowhere to be seen and Peter gave a little sigh of relief. Very carefully he walked around that nest and its little tunnel, then hurried over toward the fence as fast as he could go.
“It’s perfectly beautiful, Carol!” he cried, just as soon as he was near enough. “And I won’t tell a single soul!”
“I hope not. I certainly hope not,” cried Mrs. Meadow Lark in an anxious tone. “I never would have another single easy minute if I thought you would tell a living soul about my nest. Promise that you won’t, Peter. Cross your heart and promise that you won’t.”
Peter promptly crossed his heart and promised that he wouldn’t tell a single soul. Mrs. Meadow Lark seemed to feel better. Right away she flew back and Peter turned to watch her. He saw her disappear in the grass, but it wasn’t where he had found the nest. Peter waited a few minutes, thinking that he would see her rise into the air again and fly over to the nest. But he waited in vain. Then with a puzzled look on his face, he turned to look up at Carol.
Carol’s eyes twinkled. “I know what you’re thinking, Peter,” he chuckled. “You are thinking that it is funny Mrs. Meadow Lark didn’t go straight hack to our nest when she seemed so anxious about it. I would have you to know that she is too clever to do anything so foolish as that. She knows well enough that somebody might see her and so find our secret. She has walked there from the place where you saw her disappear in the grass. That is the way we always do when we go to our nest. One never can be too careful these days.”
Then Carol began to pour out his happiness once more, quite as if nothing had interrupted his song.
Somehow Peter never before had realized how handsome Carol the Meadow Lark was. As he faced Peter, the latter saw a beautiful yellow throat and waistcoat, with a broad black crescent on his breast. There was a yellow line above each eye. His back was of brown with black markings. His sides were whitish, with spats and streaks of black. The outer edges of his tail were white. Altogether he was really handsome, far handsomer than one would suspect, seeing him at a distance.
Having found out Carol’s secret, Peter was doubly anxious to find Bob White’s home, so he hurried over to the post where Bob was whistling with all his might. “Bob!” cried Peter. “I’ve just found Carol’s nest and I’ve promised to keep it a secret. Won’t you show me your nest, too, if I’ll promise to keep THAT a secret?”
Rob threw back his head and laughed joyously. “You ought to know, Peter, by this time,” said he, “that there are secrets never to be told to anybody. My nest is one of these. If you find it, all right; but I wouldn’t show it to my very best friend, and I guess I haven’t any better friend than you, Peter.” Then from sheer happiness he whistled, “—Bob White! Bob—Bob White!” with all his might.
Peter was disappointed and a little put out. “I guess,” said he, “I could find it if I wanted to. I guess it isn’t any better hidden than Mrs. Meadow Lark’s, and I found that. Some folks aren’t as smart as they think they are.”
Bob White, who is sometimes called Quail and sometimes called Partridge, and who is neither, chuckled heartily. “Go ahead, old Mr. Curiosity, go ahead and hunt all you please,” said he. “It’s funny to me how some folks think themselves smart when the truth is they simply have been lucky. You know well enough that you just happened to find Carol’s nest. If you happen to find mine, I won’t have a word to say.”
Bob White took a long breath, tipped his head back until his bill was pointing right up in the blue, blue sky, and with all his might whistled his name, “Bob—Bob White! Bob—Bob White!”
As Peter looked at him it came over him that Bob White was the plumpest bird of his acquaintance. He was so plump that his body seemed almost round. The shortness of his tail added to this effect, for Bob has a very short tail. The upper part of his coat was a handsome reddish-brown with dark streaks and light edgings. His sides and the upper part of his breast were of the same handsome reddish-brown, while underneath he was whitish with little bars of black. His throat was white, and above each eye was a broad white stripe. His white throat was bordered with black, and a band ofblack divided the throat from the white line above each eye. The top of his head was mixed black and brown. Altogether he was a handsome little fellow in a modest way.
Suddenly Bob White stopped whistling and looked down at Peter with a twinkle in his eye. “Why don’t you go hunt for that nest, Peter?” said he.
“I’m going,” replied Peter rather shortly, for he knew that Bob knew that he hadn’t the least idea where to look. It might be somewhere on the Green Meadows or it might be in the Old Pasture; Bob hadn’t given the least hint. Peter had a feeling that the nest wasn’t far away and that it was on the Green Meadows, so he began to hunt, running aimlessly this way and that way, all the time feeling very foolish, for of course he knew that Bob White was watching him and chuckling down inside.
It was very warm down there on the Green Meadows, and Peter grew hot and tired. He decided to run up in the Old Pasture in the shade of an old bramble-tangle there. Just the other side of the fence was a path made by the cows and often used by Farmer Brown’s boy and Reddy Fox and others who visited the Old Pasture. Along this Peter scampered, lipperty-lipperty-lip, on his way to the bramble-tangle. He didn’t look either to right or left. It didn’t occur to him that there would be any use at all, for of course no one would build a nest near a path where people passed to and fro every day.
And so it was that in his happy-go-lucky way Peter scampered right past a clump of tall weeds close beside the path without the least suspicion that cleverly hidden in it was the very thing he was looking for. With laughter in her eyes, shrewd little Mrs. Bob White, with sixteen white eggs under her, watched him pass. She had chosen that very place for her nest because she knew that it was the last place anyone would expect to find it. The very fact that it seemed the most dangerous place she could have chosen made it the safest.
… and do not reveal another’s secret, (Proverbs 25:9b ESV)
Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the LORD; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:24 NKJV)
Which bird whistles his own name?
How many little ones did they have?
Did Peter ever find their nest?
Who’s nest did Peter find?
What did he promise not to tell?
Can you describe the Meadow Lark?
What does the Bob White look like?
How does the Meadow Lark fly?
How do the birds keep people and animals from finding their nest?
Peter Rabbit was dozing. Yes, sir, Peter was dozing. He didn’t mean to doze, but whenever Peter sits still for a long time and tries to think, he is pretty sure to go to sleep. By and by he wakened with a start. At first he didn’t know what had wakened him, but as he sat there blinking his eyes, he heard a few rich notes from the top of the nearest apple-tree. “It’s Goldy the Oriole,” thought Peter, and peeped out to see.
But though he looked and looked he couldn’t see Goldy anywhere, but he did see a stranger. It was some one of about Goldy’s size and shape. In fact he was so like Goldy, but for the color of his suit, that at first Peter almost thought Goldy had somehow changed his clothes. Of course he knew that this couldn’t be, but it seemed as if it must be, for the song the stranger was singing was something like that of Goldy. The stranger’s head and throat and back were black, just like Goldy’s, and his wings were trimmed with white in just the same way. But the rest of his suit, instead of being the beautiful orange of which Goldy is so proud, was a beautiful chestnut color.
Peter blinked and stared very hard. “Now who can this be?” said he, speaking aloud without thinking.
“Don’t you know him?” asked a sharp voice so close to Peter that it made him jump. Peter whirled around. There sat Striped Chipmunk grinning at him from the top of the old stone wall. “That’s Weaver the Orchard Oriole,” Striped Chipmunk rattled on. “If you don’t know him you ought to, because he is one of the very nicest persons in the Old Orchard. I just love to hear him sing.”
“Is—is—he related to Goldy?” asked Peter somewhat doubtfully.
“Of course,” retorted Striped Chipmunk. “I shouldn’t think you would have to look at him more than once to know that. He’s first cousin to Goldy. There comes Mrs. Weaver. I do hope they’ve decided to build in the Old Orchard this year.”
“I’m glad you told me who she is because I never would have guessed it,” confessed Peter as he studied the newcomer. She did not look at all like Weaver. She was dressed in olive-green and dull yellow, with white markings on her wings.
Peter couldn’t help thinking how much easier it must be for her than for her handsome husband to hide among the green leaves.
As he watched she flew down to the ground and picked up a long piece of grass. “They are building here, as sure as you live!” cried Striped Chipmunk. “I’m glad of that. Did you ever see their nest, Peter? Of course you haven’t, because you said you had never seen them before. Their nest is a wonder, Peter. It really is. It is made almost wholly of fine grass and they weave it together in the most wonderful way.”
“Do they have a hanging nest like Goldy’s?” asked Peter a bit timidly.
“Not such a deep one,” replied Striped Chipmunk. “They hang it between the twigs near the end of a branch, but they bind it more closely to the branch and it isn’t deep enough to swing as Goldy’s does.”
Peter had just opened his mouth to ask another question when there was a loud sniffing sound farther up along the old stone wall. He didn’t wait to hear it again. He knew that Bowser the Hound was coming.
“Good-by, Striped Chipmunk! This is no place for me,” whispered Peter and started for the dear Old Briar-patch. He was in such a hurry to get there that on his way across the Green Meadows he almost ran into Jimmy Skunk before he saw him.
“What’s your hurry, Peter?” demanded Jimmy
“Bowser the Hound almost found me up in the Old Orchard,” panted Peter. “It’s a wonder he hasn’t found my tracks. I expect he will any minute. I’m glad to see you, Jimmy, but I guess I’d better be moving along.”
“Don’t be in such a hurry, Peter. Don’t be in such a hurry,” replied Jimmy, who himself never hurries. “Stop and talk a bit. That old nuisance won’t bother you as long as you are with me.”
Peter hesitated. He wanted to gossip, but he still felt nervous about Bowser the Hound. However, as he heard nothing of Bowser’s great voice, telling all the world that he had found Peter’s tracks, he decided to stop a few minutes. “What are you doing down here on the Green Meadows?” he demanded.
Jimmy grinned. “I’m looking for grasshoppers and grubs, if you must know,” said he. “And I’ve just got a notion I may find some fresh eggs. I don’t often eat them, but once in a while one tastes good.”
“If you ask me, it’s a funny place to be looking for eggs down here on the Green Meadows,” replied Peter. “When I want a thing; I look for it where it is likely to be found.”
“Just so, Peter; just so,” retorted Jimmy Skunk, nodding his head with approval. “That’s why I am here.”
Peter looked puzzled. He was puzzled. But before he could ask another question a rollicking song caused both of them to look up. There on quivering wings in mid-air was the singer. He was dressed very much like Jimmy Skunk himself, in black and white, save that in places the white had a tinge of yellow, especially on the back of his neck. It was Bubbling Bob the Bobolink. And how he did sing! It seemed as if the notes fairly tumbled over each other.
Jimmy Skunk raised himself on his hind-legs a little to see just where Bubbling Bob dropped down in the grass. Then Jimmy began to move in that direction. Suddenly Peter understood. He remembered that Bubbling Bob’s nest is always on the ground. It was his eggs that Jimmy Skunk was looking for.
“You don’t happen to have seen Mrs. Bob anywhere around here, do you, Peter?” asked Jimmy, trying to speak carelessly.
“No,” replied Peter. “If I had I wouldn’t tell you where. You ought to be ashamed, Jimmy Skunk, to think of robbing such a beautiful singer as Bubbling Bob.”
“Pooh!” retorted Jimmy. “What’s the harm? If I find those eggs he and Mrs. Bob could simply build another nest and lay some more. They won’t be any the worse off, and I will have had a good breakfast.”
“But think of all the work they would have to do to build another nest,” replied Peter.
“I should worry,” retorted Jimmy Skunk. “Any one who can spend so much time singing can afford to do a little extra work.”
“You’re horrid, Jimmy Skunk. You’re just horrid,” said Peter. “I hope you won’t find a single egg, so there!”
Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) by J Fenton
With this, Peter once more headed for the dear Old Briar-patch, while Jimmy Skunk continued toward the place where Bubbling Bob had disappeared in the long grass. Peter went only a short distance and then sat up to watch Jimmy Skunk. Just before Jimmy reached the place where Bubbling Bob had disappeared, the latter mounted into the air again, pouring out his rollicking song as if there were no room in his heart for anything but happiness. Then he saw Jimmy Shrunk and became very much excited. He flew down in the grass a little farther on and then up again, and began to scold.
It looked very much as if he had gone down in the grass to warn Mrs. Bob. Evidently Jimmy thought so, for he at once headed that way. When Bubbling Bob did the same thing all over again. Peter grew anxious. He knew just how patient Jimmy Skunk could be, and he very much feared that Jimmy would find that nest. Presently he grew tired of watching and started on for the dear Old Briar-patch. Just before he reached it a brown bird, who reminded him somewhat of Mrs. Redwing and Sally Sly the Cowbird, though she was smaller, ran across the path in front of him and then flew up to the top of a last year’s mullein stalk. It was Mrs. Bobolink. Peter knew her well, for he and she were very good friends.
“Oh!” cried Peter. “What are you doing here? Don’t you know that Jimmy Skunk, is hunting for your nest over there? Aren’t you worried to death? I would be if I were in your place.”
Mrs. Bob chuckled. “Isn’t he a dear? And isn’t he smart?” said she, meaning Bubbling Bob, of course, and not Jimmy Skunk. “Just see him lead that black-and-white robber away.”
Peter stared at her for a full minute. “Do you mean to say,” said he “that your nest isn’t over there at all?”
Mrs. Bob chuckled harder than ever. “Of course it isn’t over there,” said she.
“Then where is it?” demanded Peter.
“That’s telling,” replied Mrs. Bob. “It isn’t over there, and it isn’t anywhere near there. But where it is is Bob’s secret and mine, and we mean to keep it. Now I must go get something to eat,” and with a hasty farewell Mrs. Bobolink flew over to the other side of the dear Old Briar-patch.
Peter remembered that he had seen Mrs. Bob running along the ground before she flew up to the old mullein stalk. He went back to the spot where he had first seen her and hunted all around in the grass, but without success. You see, Mrs. Bobolink had been quite as clever in fooling Peter as Bubbling Bob had been in fooling Jimmy Skunk.
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” (Psalms 91:1-2 NKJV)
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; therefore associate not with him who talks too freely. [Rom. 16:17, 18.] (Proverbs 20:19 AMP)
What was Peter Rabbit doing when he heard singing?
Can you tell what the Orchard Oriole looks like?
What does their nest look like?
Who was Peter afraid my find him?
Who told Peter not to worry as long as he was with him? Why?
Having other things to attend to, or rather having other things to arouse his curiosity, Peter Rabbit did not visit the Old Orchard for several days. When he did it was to find the entire neighborhood quite upset. There was an indignation meeting in progress in and around the tree in which Chebec and his modest little wife had their home. How the tongues did clatter! Peter knew that something had happened, but though he listened with all his might he couldn’t make head or tail of it.
Finally Peter managed to get the attention of Jenny Wren. “What’s happened?” demanded Peter. “What’s all this fuss about?”
Jenny Wren was so excited that she couldn’t keep still an instant. Her sharp little eyes snapped and her tail was carried higher than ever. “It’s a disgrace! It’s a disgrace to the whole feathered race, and something ought to be done about it!” sputtered Jenny. “I’m ashamed to think that such a contemptible creature wears feathers! I am so!”
“But what’s it all about?” demanded Peter impatiently. “Do keep still long enough to tell me. Who is this contemptible creature?”
“Sally Sly,” snapped Jenny Wren. “Sally Sly the Cowbird. I hoped she wouldn’t disgrace the Old Orchard this year, but she has. When Mr. and Mrs. Chebec returned from getting their breakfast this morning they found one of Sally Sly’s eggs in their nest. They are terribly upset, and I don’t blame them. If I were in their place I simply would throw that egg out. That’s what I’d do, I’d throw that egg out!”
Peter was puzzled. He blinked his eyes and stroked his whiskers as he tried to understand what it all meant. “Who is Sally Sly, and what did she do that for?” he finally ventured.
“For goodness’ sake, Peter Rabbit, do you mean to tell me you don’t know who Sally Sly is?” Then without waiting for Peter to reply, Jenny rattled on. “She’s a member of the Blackbird family and she’s the laziest, most good-for-nothing, sneakiest, most unfeeling and most selfish wretch I know of!” Jenny paused long enough to get her breath. “She laid that egg in Chebec’s nest because she is too lazy to build a nest of her own and too selfish to take care of her own children. Do you know what will happen, Peter Rabbit? Do you know what will happen?”
A Shiny Cowbird (Molothrus bonariensis) chick being fed by a Rufous-collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia Capensis)
Peter shook his head and confessed that he didn’t. “When that egg hatches out, that young Cowbird will be about twice as big as Chebec’s own children,” sputtered Jenny. “He’ll be so big that he’ll get most of the food. He’ll just rob those little Chebecs in spite of all their mother and father can do. And Chebec and his wife will be just soft-hearted enough to work themselves to skin and bone to feed the young wretch because he is an orphan and hasn’t anybody to look after him. The worst of it is, Sally Sly is likely to play the same trick on others. She always chooses the nest of some one smaller than herself. She’s terribly sly. No one has seen her about. She just sneaked into the Old Orchard this morning when everybody was busy, laid that egg and sneaked out again.”
“Did you say that she is a member of the Blackbird family?” asked Peter.
Jenny Wren nodded vigorously. “That’s what she is,” said she. “Thank goodness, she isn’t a member of MY family. If she were I never would be able to hold my head up. Just listen to Goldy the Oriole over in that big elm. I don’t see how he can sing like that, knowing that one of his relatives has just done such a shameful deed. It’s a wierd thing that there can be two members of the same family so unlike. Mrs. Goldy builds one of the most wonderful nests of any one I know, and Sally Sly is too lazy to build any. If I were in Goldy’s place I—”
“Hold on!” cried Peter. “I thought you said Sally Sly is a member of the Blackbird family. I don’t see what she’s got to do with Goldy the Oriole.”
“You don’t, eh?” exclaimed Jenny. “Well, for one who pokes into other people’s affairs as you do, you don’t know much. The Orioles and the MeadowLarks and the Grackles and the Bobolinks all belong to the Blackbird family. They’re all related to Redwing the Blackbird, and Sally Sly the Cowbird belongs in the same family.”
Peter gasped. “I—I—hadn’t the least idea that any of these folks were related,” stammered Peter.
“Well, they are,” retorted Jenny Wren. “As I live, there’s Sally Sly now!”
Peter caught a glimpse of a brownish-gray bird who reminded him somewhat of Mrs. Redwing. She was about the same size and looked very much like her. It was plain that she was trying to keep out of sight, and the instant she knew that she had been discovered she flew away in the direction of the Old Pasture. It happened that late that afternoon Peter visited the Old Pasture and saw her again. She and some of her friends were busily walking about close to the feet of the cows, where they seemed to be picking up food. One had a brown head, neck and breast; the rest of his coat was glossy black. Peter rightly guessed that this must be Mr. Cowbird. Seeing them on such good terms with the cows he understood why they are called Cowbirds.
Sure that Sally Sly had left the Old Orchard, the feathered folks settled down to their personal affairs and household cares, Jenny Wren among them. Having no one to talk to, Peter found a shady place close to the old stone wall and there sat down to think over the surprising things he had learned. Presently Goldy the Baltimore Oriole alighted in the nearest apple-tree, and it seemed to Peter that never had he seen any one more beautifully dressed. His head, neck, throat and upper part of his back were black. The lower part of his back and his breast were a beautiful deep orange color. There was a dash of orange on his shoulders, but the rest of his wings were black with an edging of white. His tail was black and orange. Peter had heard him called the Firebird, and now he understood why. His song was quite as rich and beautiful as his coat.
Shortly he was joined by Mrs. Goldy. Compared with her handsome husband she was very modestly dressed. She wore more brown than black, and where the orange color appeared it was rather dull. She wasted no time in singing. Almost instantly her sharp eyes spied a piece of string caught in the bushes almost over Peter’s head. With a little cry of delight she flew down and seized it. But the string was caught, and though she tugged and pulled with all her might she couldn’t get it free. Goldy saw the trouble she was having and cutting his song short, flew down to help her. Together they pulled and tugged and tugged and pulled, until they had to stop to rest and get their breath.
“We simply must have this piece of string,” said Mrs. Goldy. “I’ve been hunting everywhere for a piece, and this is the first I’ve found. It is just what we need to bind our nest fast to the twigs. With this I won’t have the least bit of fear that that nest will ever tear loose, no matter how hard the wind blows.”
Once more they tugged and pulled and pulled and tugged until at last they got it free, and Mrs. Goldy flew away in triumph with the string in her bill. Goldy himself followed. Peter watched them fly to the top of a long, swaying branch of a big elm-tree up near Farmer Brown’s house. He could see something which looked like a bag hanging there, and he knew that this must be the nest.
“Gracious!” said Peter. “They must get terribly tossed about when the wind blows. I should think their babies would be thrown out.”
“Don’t you worry about them,” said a voice.
Peter looked up to find Welcome Robin just over him. “Mrs. Goldy makes one of the most wonderful nests I know of,” continued Welcome Robin. “It is like a deep pocket made of grass, string, hair and bark, all woven together like a piece of cloth. It is so deep that it is quite safe for the babies, and they seem to enjoy being rocked by the wind. I shouldn’t care for it myself because I like a solid foundation for my home, but the Goldies like it. It looks dangerous but it really is one of the safest nests I know of. Snakes and cats never get ‘way up there and there are few feathered nest-robbers who can get at those eggs so deep down in the nest. Goldy is sometimes called Golden Robin. He isn’t a Robin at all, but I would feel very proud if he were a member of my family. He’s just as useful as he is handsome, and that’s saying a great deal. He just dotes on caterpillars. There’s Mrs. Robin calling me. Good-by, Peter.”
With this Welcome Robin flew away and Peter once more settled himself to think over all he had learned.
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. (Ephesians 4:28 NKJV)
That is an interesting verse. Did Sally Sly “steal” another bird’s nest? Could she have made her own nest, raise her own chicks and feed them? Sure she could have and many of the Cowbirds do. But there are a few that sneak around and place eggs in other nests.
Are we suppose to steal answers from someone else’s paper? No, we are supposed to study and write our own answers.
Why were all the birds upset?
What kind of bird caused the problem?
What Family of birds does it belong to?
What other birds belong to that bird family?
Was Sally Sly being kind?
Eph 4:32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Is it a Downy or Hairy Woodpecker? Brevard Zoo by Dan
Drummers and Carpenters
The Downy, Hairy and Red-headed Woodpeckers.
The Burgess Bird Book For Children
Listen to the story read.
CHAPTER 11. Drummers and Carpenters.
Peter Rabbit was so full of questions that he hardly knew which one to ask first. But Yellow Wing the Flicker didn’t give him a chance to ask any. From the edge of the Green forest there came a clear, loud call of, “Pe-ok! Pe-ok! Pe-ok!”
“Excuse me, Peter, there’s Mrs. Yellow Wing calling me,” exclaimed Yellow Wing, and away he went. Peter noticed that as he flew he went up and down. It seemed very much as if he bounded through the air just as Peter bounds over the ground. “I would know him by the way he flies just as far as I could see him,” thought Peter, as he started for home in the dear Old Briar-patch. “Somehow he doesn’t seem like a Woodpecker because he is on the ground so much. I must ask Jenny Wren about him.”
It was two or three days before Peter had a chance for a bit of gossip with Jenny Wren. When he did the first thing he asked was if Yellow Wing is a true Woodpecker.
“Certainly he is,” replied Jenny Wren. “Of course he is. Why under the sun should you think he isn’t?”
“Because it seems to me he is on the ground more than he’s in the trees,” retorted Peter. “I don’t know any other Woodpeckers who come down on the ground at all.”
“Tut, tut, tut, tut!” scolded Jenny. “Think a minute, Peter! Think a minute! Haven’t you ever seen Redhead on the ground?”
Peter blinked his eyes. “Ye-e-s,” he said slowly. “Come to think of it, I have. I’ve seen him picking up beechnuts in the fall. The Woodpeckers are a funny family. I don’t understand them.”
Just then a long, rolling rat-a-tat-tat rang out just over their heads. “There’s another one of them,” chuckled Jenny. “That’s Downy, the smallest of the whole family. He certainly makes an awful racket for such a little fellow. He is a splendid drummer and he’s just as good a carpenter. He made the very house I am occupying now.”
Peter was sitting with his head tipped back trying to see Downy. At first he couldn’t make him out. Then he caught a little movement on top of a dead limb. It was Downy’s head flying back and forth as he beat his long roll. He was dressed all in black and white. On the back of his head was a little scarlet patch. He was making a tremendous racket for such a little chap, only a little bigger than one of the Sparrow family.
“Is he making a hole for a nest up there?” asked Peter eagerly.
“Gracious, Peter, what a question! What a perfectly silly question!” exclaimed Jenny Wren scornfully. “Do give us birds credit for a little common sense. If he were cutting a hole for a nest, everybody within hearing would know just where to look for it. Downy has too much sense in that little head of his to do such a silly thing as that. When he cuts a hole for a nest he doesn’t make any more noise than is absolutely necessary. You don’t see any chips flying, do you?”
“No-o,” replied Peter slowly. “Now you speak of it, I don’t. Is—is he hunting for worms in the wood?”
Jenny laughed right out. “Hardly, Peter, hardly,” said she. “He’s just drumming, that’s all. That hollow limb makes the best kind of a drum and Downy is making the most of it. Just listen to that! There isn’t a better drummer anywhere.”
But Peter wasn’t satisfied. Finally he ventured another question. “What’s he doing it for?”
“Good land, Peter!” cried Jenny. “What do you run and jump for in the spring? What is Mr. Wren singing for over there? Downy is drumming for precisely the same reason—happiness. He can’t run and jump and he can’t sing, but he can drum. By the way, do you know that Downy is one of the most useful birds in the Old Orchard?”
Just then Downy flew away, but hardly had he disappeared when another drummer took his place. At first Peter thought Downy had returned until he noticed that the newcomer was just a bit bigger than Downy. Jenny Wren’s sharp eyes spied him at once.
“Hello!” she exclaimed. “There’s Hairy. Did you ever see two cousins look more alike? If it were not that Hairy is bigger than Downy it would be hard work to tell them apart. Do you see any other difference, Peter?”
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) by Raymond Barlow
Peter stared and blinked and stared again, then slowly shook his head. “No,” he confessed, “I don’t.”
“That shows you haven’t learned to use your eyes, Peter,” said Jenny rather sharply. “Look at the outside feathers of his tail; they are all white. Downy’s outside tail feathers have little bars of black. Hairy is just as good a carpenter as is Downy, but for that matter I don’t know of a member of the Woodpecker family who isn’t a good carpenter. Where did you say Yellow Wing the Flicker is making his home this year?”
“Over in the Big Hickory-tree by the Smiling Pool,” replied Peter. “I don’t understand yet why Yellow Wing spends so much time on the ground.”
“Ants,” replied Jenny Wren. “Just ants. He’s as fond of ants as is Old Mr. Toad, and that is saying a great deal. If Yellow Wing keeps on he’ll become a ground bird instead of a tree bird. He gets more than half his living on the ground now. Speaking of drumming, did you ever hear Yellow Wing drum on a tin roof?”
Peter shook his head.
“Well, if there’s a tin roof anywhere around, and Yellow Wing can find it, he will be perfectly happy. He certainly does love to make a noise, and tin makes the finest kind of a drum.”
Just then Jenny was interrupted by the arrival, on the trunk of the very next tree to the one on which she was sitting, of a bird about the size of Sammy Jay. His whole head and neck were a beautiful, deep red. His breast was pure white, and his back was black to nearly the beginning of his tail, where it was white.
“Hello, Redhead!” exclaimed Jenny Wren. “How did you know we were talking about your family?”
“Hello, chatterbox,” retorted Redhead with a twinkle in his eyes. “I didn’t know you were talking about my family, but I could have guessed that you were talking about some one’s family. Does your tongue ever stop, Jenny?”
Jenny Wren started to become indignant and scold, then thought better of it. “I was talking for Peter’s benefit,” said she, trying to look dignified, a thing quite impossible for any member of the Wren family to do. “Peter has always had the idea that true Woodpeckers never go down on the ground. I was explaining to him that Yellow Wing is a true Woodpecker, yet spends half his time on the ground.”
Redhead nodded. “It’s all on account of ants,” said he. “I don’t know of any one quite so fond of ants unless it is Old Mr. Toad. I like a few of them myself, but Yellow Wing just about lives on them when he can. You may have noticed that I go down on the ground myself once in a while. I am rather fond of beetles, and an occasional grasshopper tastes very good to me. I like a variety. Yes, sir, I certainly do like a variety—cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes. In fact most kinds of fruit taste good to me, not to mention beechnuts and acorns when there is no fruit.”
Jenny Wren tossed her head. “You didn’t mention the eggs of some of your neighbors,” said she sharply.
Redhead did his best to look innocent, but Peter noticed that he gave a guilty start and very abruptly changed the subject, and a moment later flew away.
“Is it true,” asked Peter, “that Redhead does such a dreadful thing?”
Jenny bobbed her head rapidly and jerked her tail. “So I am told,” said she. “I’ve never seen him do it, but I know others who have. They say he is no better than Sammy Jay or Blacky the Crow. But gracious, goodness! I can’t sit here gossiping forever.” Jenny twitched her funny little tail, snapped her bright eyes at Peter, and disappeared in her house.
Bold points for questions at the bottom or for Christian traits.
For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. (or your beak) (Psalms 128:2 KJV)
He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he. (Proverbs 16:20 KJV)
Seems like these woodpeckers enjoy doing what that is a sign they are happy?
Who are the four members of the Woodpecker family mentioned?
How does a Woodpecker fly?
Which is the smallest member of the family?
Can you describe him?
Which Woodpecker is just a little bit larger?
What about its tail?
Which one likes to eat on the ground half the time?
The Red-winged Blackbird and the Golden-winged Flicker.
The Burgess Bird Book For Children
CHAPTER 10. Redwing and Yellow Wing.
Listen to the story read.
Peter had come over to the Smiling Pool especially to pay his respects to Redwing the Blackbird, so as soon as he could, without being impolite, he left Mrs. Teeter sitting on her eggs, and Teeter himself bobbing and bowing in the friendliest way, and hurried over to where the bulrushes grow. In the very top of the Big Hickory-tree, a little farther along on the bank of the Smiling Pool, sat some one who at that distance appeared to be dressed all in black. He was singing as if there were nothing but joy in all the great world. “Quong-ka-reee! Quong-ka-reee! Quong-ka-reee!” he sang. Peter would have known from this song alone that it was Redwing the Blackbird, for there is no other song quite like it.
As soon as Peter appeared in sight Redwing left his high perch and flew down to light among the broken-down bulrushes. As he flew, Peter saw the beautiful red patch on the bend of each wing, from which Redwing gets his name. “No one could ever mistake him for anybody else,” thought Peter, “For there isn’t anybody else with such beautiful shoulder patches.”
“What’s the news, Peter Rabbit?” cried Redwing, coming over to sit very near Peter.
“There isn’t much,” replied Peter, “excepting that Teeter the Sandpiper has four eggs just a little way from here.”
Redwing chuckled. “That is no news, Peter,” said he. “Do you suppose that I live neighbor to Teeter and don’t know where his nest is and all about his affairs? There isn’t much going on around the Smiling Pool that I don’t know, I can tell you that.”
Peter looked a little disappointed, because there is nothing he likes better than to be the bearer of news. “I suppose,” said he politely, “that you will be building a nest pretty soon yourself, Redwing.”
Redwing chuckled softly. It was a happy, contented sort of chuckle. “No, Peter,” said he. “I am not going to build a nest.”
“What?” exclaimed Peter, and his two long ears stood straight up with astonishment.
“No,” replied Redwing, still chuckling. “I’m not going to build a nest, and if you want to know a little secret, we have four as pretty eggs as ever were laid.”
Peter fairly bubbled over with interest and curiosity. “How splendid!” he cried. “Where is your nest, Redwing? I would just love to see it. I suppose it is because she is sitting on those eggs that I haven’t seen Mrs. Redwing. It was very stupid of me not to guess that folks who come as early as you do would be among the first to build a home. Where is it, Redwing? Do tell me.”
Redwing’s eyes twinkled.
"A secret which is known by three
Full soon will not a secret be,"
said he. “It isn’t that I don’t trust you, Peter. I know that you wouldn’t intentionally let my secret slip out. But you might do it by accident. What you don’t know, you can’t tell.”
“That’s right, Redwing. I am glad you have so much sense,” said another voice, and Mrs. Redwing alighted very near to Redwing.
Peter couldn’t help thinking that Old Mother Nature had been very unfair indeed in dressing Mrs. Redwing. She was, if anything, a little bit smaller than her handsome husband, and such a plain, not to say homely, little body that it was hard work to realize that she was a Blackbird at all. In the first place she wasn’t black. She was dressed all over in grayish-brown with streaks of darker brown which in places were almost black. She wore no bright-colored shoulder patches. In fact, there wasn’t a bright feather on her anywhere. Peter wanted to ask why it was that she was so plainly dressed, but he was too polite and decided to wait until he should see Jenny Wren. She would be sure to know. Instead, he exclaimed, “How do you do, Mrs. Redwing? I’m ever so glad to see you. I was wondering where you were. Where did you come from?”
“Straight from my home,” replied Mrs. Redwing demurely. “And if I do say it, it is the best home we’ve ever had.”
Redwing chuckled. He was full of chuckles. You see, he had noticed how eagerly Peter was looking everywhere.
“This much I will tell you, Peter,” said Redwing; “our nest is somewhere in these bulrushes, and if you can find it we won’t say a word, even if you don’t keep the secret.”
Then Redwing chuckled again and Mrs. Redwing chuckled with him. You see, they knew that Peter doesn’t like water, and that nest was hidden in a certain clump of brown, broken-down rushes, with water all around. Suddenly Redwing flew up in the air with a harsh cry. “Run, Peter! Run!” he screamed. “Here comes Reddy Fox!”
Peter didn’t wait for a second warning. He knew by the sound of Redwing’s voice that Redwing wasn’t joking. There was just one place of safety, and that was an old hole of Grandfather Chuck’s between the roots of the Big Hickory-tree. Peter didn’t waste any time getting there, and he was none too soon, for Reddy was so close at his heels that he pulled some white hairs out of Peter’s tail as Peter plunged headfirst down that hole. It was a lucky thing for Peter that that hole was too small for Reddy to follow and the roots prevented Reddy from digging it any bigger.
For a long time Peter sat in Grandfather Chuck’s old house, wondering how soon it would be safe for him to come out. For a while he heard Mr. and Mrs. Redwing scolding sharply, and by this he knew that Reddy Fox was still about. By and by they stopped scolding, and a few minutes later he heard Redwing’s happy song. “That means,” thought Peter, “that Reddy Fox has gone away, but I think I’ll sit here a while longer to make sure.”
Now Peter was sitting right under the Big Hickory-tree. After a while he began to hear faint little sounds, little taps, and scratching sounds as of claws. They seemed to come from right over his head, but he knew that there was no one in that hole but himself. He couldn’t understand it at all.
Finally Peter decided it would be safe to peek outside. Very carefully he poked his head out. Just as he did so, a little chip struck him right on the nose. Peter pulled his head back hurriedly and stared at the little chip which lay just in front of the hole. Then two or three more little chips fell. Peter knew that they must come from up in the Big Hickory-tree, and right away his curiosity was aroused. Redwing was singing so happily that Peter felt sure no danger was near, so he hopped outside and looked up to find out where those little chips had come from. Just a few feet above his head he saw a round hole in the trunk of the Big Hickory-tree. While he was looking at it, a head with a long stout bill was thrust out and in that bill were two or three little chips. Peter’s heart gave a little jump of glad surprise.
“Yellow Wing!” he cried. “My goodness, how you startled me!”
The chips were dropped and the head was thrust farther out. The sides and throat were a soft reddish-tan and on each side at the beginning of the bill was a black patch. The top of the head was gray and just at the back was a little band of bright red. There was no mistaking that head. It belonged to Yellow Wing the Flicker beyond a doubt.
“Hello, Peter!” exclaimed Yellow Wing, his eyes twinkling. “What are you doing here?”
“Nothing,” replied Peter, “but I want to know what you are doing. What are all those chips?”
“I’m fixing up this old house of mine,” replied Yellow Wing promptly. “It wasn’t quite deep enough to suit me, so I am making it a little deeper. Mrs. Yellow Wing and I haven’t been able to find another house to suit us, so we have decided to live here again this year.” He came wholly out and flew down on the ground near Peter. When his wings were spread, Peter saw that on the under sides they were a beautiful golden-yellow, as were the under sides of his tail feathers. Around his throat was a broad, black collar. From this, clear to his tail, were black dots. When his wings were spread, the upper part of his body just above the tail was pure white.
“My,” exclaimed Peter, “you are a handsome fellow! I never realized before how handsome you are.”
Yellow Wing looked pleased. Perhaps he felt a little flattered. “I am glad you think so, Peter,” said he. “I am rather proud of my suit, myself. I don’t know of any member of my family with whom I would change coats.”
A sudden thought struck Peter. “What family do you belong to?” He asked abruptly.
“The Woodpecker family,” replied Yellow Wing proudly.
Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.” (Ezekiel 3:21 NKJV)
I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. (1 Corinthians 4:14 NKJV)
That was mighty nice of Redwing to warn Peter Rabbit. We need to listen when others warn us. Like, “don’t get too close to the fire” or “watch out for the cars!” We should also help others by warning them so they don’t get hurt. We need to tell others about Christ and warn them to not ignore His teaching.
From the decided way in which Jenny Wren had popped into the little round doorway of her home, Peter knew that to wait in the hope of more gossip with her would be a waste of time. He wasn’t ready to go back home to the dear Old Briar-patch, yet there seemed nothing else to do, for everybody in the Old Orchard was too busy for idle gossip. Peter scratched a long ear with a long hind foot, trying to think of some place to go. Just then he heard the clear “peep, peep, peep” of the Hylas, the sweet singers of the Smiling Pool.
“That’s where I’ll go!” exclaimed Peter. “I haven’t been to the Smiling Pool for some time. I’ll just run over and pay my respects to Grandfather Frog, and to Redwing the Blackbird. Redwing was one of the first birds to arrive, and I’ve neglected him shamefully.”
When Peter thinks of something to do he wastes no time. Off he started, lipperty-lipperty-lip, for the Smiling Pool. He kept close to the edge of the Green Forest until he reached the place where the Laughing Brook comes out of the Green Forest on its way to the Smiling Pool in the Green Meadows. Bushes and young trees grow along the banks of the Laughing Brook at this point. The ground was soft in places, quite muddy. Peter doesn’t mind getting his feet damp, so he hopped along carelessly. From right under his very nose something shot up into the air with a whistling sound. It startled Peter so that he stopped short with his eyes popping out of his head. He had just a glimpse of a brown form disappearing over the tops of some tall bushes. Then Peter chuckled. “I declare,” said he, “I had forgotten all about my old friend, Longbill the Woodcock. He scared me for a second.”
“Then you are even,” said a voice close at hand. “You scared him. I saw you coming, but Longbill didn’t.”
Peter turned quickly. There was Mrs. Woodcock peeping at him from behind a tussock of grass.
“I didn’t mean to scare him,” apologized Peter. “I really didn’t mean to. Do you think he was really very much scared?”
“Not too scared to come back, anyway,” said Longbill himself, dropping down just in front of Peter. “I recognized you just as I was disappearing over the tops of the bushes, so I came right back. I learned when I was very young that when startled it is best to fly first and find out afterwards whether or not there is real danger. I am glad it is no one but you, Peter, for I was having a splendid meal here, and I should have hated to leave it. You’ll excuse me while I go on eating, I hope. We can talk between bites.”
“Certainly I’ll excuse you,” replied Peter, staring around very hard to see what it could be Longbill was making such a good meal of. But Peter couldn’t see a thing that looked good to eat. There wasn’t even a bug or a worm crawling on the ground. Longbill took two or three steps in rather a stately fashion. Peter had to hide a smile, for Longbill had such an air of importance, yet at the same time was such an odd looking fellow. He was quite a little bigger than Welcome Robin, his tail was short, his legs were short, and his neck was short. But his bill was long enough to make up. His back was a mixture of gray, brown, black and buff, while his breast and under parts were a beautiful reddish-buff. It was his head that made him look queer. His eyes were very big and they were set so far back that Peter wondered if it wasn’t easier for him to look behind him than in front of him.
Suddenly Longbill plunged his bill into the ground. He plunged it in for the whole length. Then he pulled it out and Peter caught a glimpse of the tail end of a worm disappearing down Longbill’s throat. Where that long bill had gone into the ground was a neat little round hole. For the first time Peter noticed that there were many such little round holes all about. “Did you make all those little round holes?” exclaimed Peter.
“Not at all,” replied Longbill. “Mrs. Woodcock made some of them.”
“And was there a worm in every one?” asked Peter, his eyes very wide with interest.
Longbill nodded. “Of course,” said he. “You don’t suppose we would take the trouble to bore one of them if we didn’t know that we would get a worm at the end of it, do you?”
Peter remembered how he had watched Welcome Robin listen and then suddenly plunge his bill into the ground and pull out a worm. But the worms Welcome Robin got were always close to the surface, while these worms were so deep in the earth that Peter couldn’t understand how it was possible for any one to know that they were there. Welcome Robin could see when he got hold of a worm, but Longbill couldn’t. “Even if you know there is a worm down there in the ground, how do you know when you’ve reached him? And how is it possible for you to open your bill down there to take him in?” asked Peter.
Longbill chuckled. “That’s easy,” said he. “I’ve got the handiest bill that ever was. See here!” Longbill suddenly thrust his bill straight out in front of him and to Peter’s astonishment he lifted the end of the upper half without opening the rest of his bill at all. “That’s the way I get them,” said he. “I can feel them when I reach them, and then I just open the top of my bill and grab them. I think there is one right under my feet now; watch me get him.” Longbill bored into the ground until his head was almost against it. When he pulled his bill out, sure enough, there was a worm. “Of course,” explained Longbill, “it is only in soft ground that I can do this. That is why I have to fly away south as soon as the ground freezes at all.”
“It’s wonderful,” sighed Peter. “I don’t suppose any one else can find hidden worms that way.”
“My cousin, Jack Snipe, can,” replied Longbill promptly. “He feeds the same way I do, only he likes marshy meadows instead of brushy swamps. Perhaps you know him.”
WWilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata) at Circle B by Dan
Peter nodded. “I do,” said he. “Now you speak of it, there is a strong family resemblance, although I hadn’t thought of him as a relative of yours before. Now I must be running along. I’m ever so glad to have seen you, and I’m coming over to call again the first chance I get.”
So Peter said good-by and kept on down the Laughing Brook to the Smiling Pool. Right where the Laughing Brook entered the Smiling Pool there was a little pebbly beach. Running along the very edge of the water was a slim, trim little bird with fairly long legs, a long slender bill, brownish-gray back with black spots and markings, and a white waistcoat neatly spotted with black. Every few steps he would stop to pick up something, then stand for a second bobbing up and down in the funniest way, as if his body was so nicely balanced on his legs that it teetered back and forth like a seesaw. It was Teeter the Spotted Sandpiper, an old friend of Peter’s. Peter greeted him joyously.
“Peet-weet! Peet-weet!” cried Teeter, turning towards Peter and bobbing and bowing as only Teeter can. Before Peter could say another word Teeter came running towards him, and it was plain to see that Teeter was very anxious about something. “Don’t move, Peter Rabbit! Don’t move!” he cried.
“Why not?” demanded Peter, for he could see no danger and could think of no reason why he shouldn’t move. Just then Mrs. Teeter came hurrying up and squatted down in the sand right in front of Peter.
“Thank goodness!” exclaimed Teeter, still bobbing and bowing. “If you had taken another step, Peter Rabbit, you would have stepped right on our eggs. You gave me a dreadful start.”
Peter was puzzled. He showed it as he stared down at Mrs. Teeter just in front of him. “I don’t see any nest or eggs or anything,” said he rather testily.
Mrs. Teeter stood up and stepped aside. Then Peter saw right in a little hollow in the sand, with just a few bits of grass for a lining, four white eggs with big dark blotches on them. They looked so much like the surrounding pebbles that he never would have seen them in the world but for Mrs. Teeter. Peter hastily backed away a few steps. Mrs. Teeter slipped back on the eggs and settled herself comfortably. It suddenly struck Peter that if he hadn’t seen her do it, he wouldn’t have known she was there. You see she looked so much like her surroundings that he never would have noticed her at all.
“My!” he exclaimed. “I certainly would have stepped on those eggs if you hadn’t warned me,” said he. “I’m so thankful I didn’t. I don’t see how you dare lay them in the open like this.”
Mrs. Teeter chuckled softly. “It’s the safest place in the world, Peter,” said she. “They look so much like these pebbles around here that no one sees them. The only time they are in danger is when somebody comes along, as you did, and is likely to step on them without seeing them. But that doesn’t happen often.”
Eastern Wood Pewee (Contopus virens) by Raymond Barlow
Old Clothes and Old Houses
The Wood Peewee and Some Nesting Places.
The Burgess Bird Book For Children
CHAPTER 8. Old Clothes and Old Houses.
Listen to the story read.
“I can’t stop to talk to you any longer now, Peter Rabbit,” said Jenny Wren, “but if you will come over here bright and early to-morrow morning, while I am out to get my breakfast, I will tell you about Cresty the Flycatcher and why he wants the cast-off clothes of some of the Snake family. Perhaps I should say WHAT he wants of them instead of WHY he wants them, for why any one should want anything to do with Snakes is more then I can understand.”
With this Jenny Wren disappeared inside her house, and there was nothing for Peter to do but once more start for the dear Old Briar-patch. On his way he couldn’t resist the temptation to run over to the Green Forest, which was just beyond the Old Orchard. He just HAD to find out if there was anything new over there. Hardly had he reached it when he heard a plaintive voice crying, “Pee-wee! Pee-wee! Pee-wee!” Peter chuckled happily. “I declare, there’s Pee-wee,” he cried. “He usually is one of the last of the Flycatcher family to arrive. I didn’t expect to find him yet. I wonder what has brought him up so early.”
It didn’t take Peter long to find Pewee. He just followed the sound of that voice and presently saw Pewee fly out and make the same kind of a little circle as the other members of the family make when they are hunting flies. It ended just where it had started, on a dead twig of a tree in a shady, rather lonely part of the Green Forest. Almost at once he began to call his name in a rather sad, plaintive tone, “Pee-wee! Pee-wee! Pee-wee!” But he wasn’t sad, as Peter well knew. It was his way of expressing how happy he felt. He was a little bigger than his cousin, Chebec, but looked very much like him. There was a little notch in the end of his tail. The upper half of his bill was black, but the lower half was light. Peter could see on each wing two whitish bars, and he noticed that Pewee’s wings were longer than his tail, which wasn’t the case with Chebec. But no one could ever mistake Pewee for any of his relatives, for the simple reason that he keeps repeating his own name over and over.
Wood Pewee of Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897
“Aren’t you here early?” asked Peter.
Pewee nodded. “Yes,” said he. “It has been unusually warm this spring, so I hurried a little and came up with my cousins, Scrapper and Cresty. That is something I don’t often do.”
“If you please,” Peter inquired politely, “why do folks call you Wood Pewee?”
Pewee chuckled happily. “It must be,” said he, “because I am so very fond of the Green Forest. It is so quiet and restful that I love it. Mrs. Pewee and I are very retiring. We do not like too many near neighbors.”
“You won’t mind if I come to see you once in a while, will you?” asked Peter as he prepared to start on again for the dear Old Briar-patch.
“Come as often as you like,” replied Pewee. “The oftener the better.”
Back in the Old Briar-patch Peter thought over all he had learned about the Flycatcher family, and as he recalled how they were forever catching all sorts of flying insects it suddenly struck him that they must be very useful little people in helping Old Mother Nature take care of her trees and other growing things which insects so dearly love to destroy.
But most of all Peter thought about that odd request of Cresty’s, and a dozen times that day he found himself peeping under old logs in the hope of finding a cast-off coat of Mr. Black Snake. It was such a funny thing for Cresty to ask for that Peter’s curiosity would allow him no peace, and the next morning he was up in the Old Orchard before jolly Mr. Sun had kicked his bedclothes off.
Jenny Wren was as good as her word. While she flitted and hopped about this way and that way in that fussy way of hers, getting her breakfast, she talked. Jenny couldn’t keep her tongue still if she wanted to.
“Did you find any old clothes of the Snake family?” she demanded. Then as Peter shook his head her tongue ran on without waiting for him to reply. “Cresty and his wife always insist upon having a piece of Snake skin in their nest,” said she. “Why they want it, goodness knows! But they do want it and never can seem to settle down to housekeeping unless they have it. Perhaps they think it will scare robbers away. As for me, I should have a cold chill every time I got into my nest if I had to sit on anything like that. I have to admit that Cresty and his wife are a handsome couple, and they certainly have good sense in choosing a house, more sense than any other member of their family to my way of thinking. But Snake skins! Ugh!”
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) by Raymond Barlow
“By the way, where does Cresty build?” asked Peter.
“In a hole in a tree, like the rest of us sensible people,” retorted Jenny Wren promptly.
Peter looked quite as surprised as he felt. “Does Cresty make the hole?” he asked.
“Goodness gracious, no!” exclaimed Jenny Wren. “Where are your eyes, Peter? Did you ever see a Flycatcher with a bill that looked as if it could cut wood?” She didn’t wait for a reply, but rattled on. “It is a good thing for a lot of us that the Woodpecker family are so fond of new houses. Look! There is Downy the Woodpecker hard at work on a new house this very minute. That’s good. I like to see that. It means that next year there will be one more house for some one here in the Old Orchard. For myself I prefer old houses. I’ve noticed there are a number of my neighbors who feel the same way about it. There is something settled about an old house. It doesn’t attract attention the way a new one does. So long as it has got reasonably good walls, and the rain and the wind can’t get in, the older it is the better it suits me. But the Woodpeckers seem to like new houses best, which, as I said before, is a very good thing for the rest of us.”
“Who is there besides you and Cresty and Bully the English Sparrow who uses these old Woodpecker houses?” asked Peter.
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) by J Fenton
“Winsome Bluebird, stupid!” snapped Jenny Wren.
Peter grinned and looked foolish. “Of course,” said he. “I forgot all about Winsome.”
“And Skimmer the Tree Swallow,” added Jenny.
“That’s so; I ought to have remembered him,” exclaimed Peter. “I’ve noticed that he is very fond of the same house year after year. Is there anybody else?”
Again Jenny Wren nodded. “Yank-Yank the Nuthatch uses an old house, I’m told, but he usually goes up North for his nesting,” said she. “Tommy Tit the Chickadee sometimes uses an old house. Then again he and Mrs. Chickadee get fussy and make a house for themselves. Yellow Wing the flicker, who really is a Woodpecker, often uses an old house, but quite often makes a new one. Then there are Killy the Sparrow Hawk and Spooky the Screech Owl.”
Peter looked surprised. “I didn’t suppose THEY nested in holes in trees!” he exclaimed.
“They certainly do, more’s the pity!” snapped Jenny. “It would be a good thing for the rest of us if they didn’t nest at all. But they do, and an old house of Yellow Wing the Flicker suits either of them. Killy always uses one that is high up, and comes back to it year after year. Spooky isn’t particular so long as the house is big enough to be comfortable. He lives in it more or less the year around. Now I must get back to those eggs of mine. I’ve talked quite enough for one morning.”
“Oh, Jenny,” cried Peter, as a sudden thought struck him.
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) by Ray
Jenny paused and jerked her tail impatiently. “Well, what is it now?” she demanded.
“Have you got two homes?” asked Peter.
“Goodness gracious, no!” exclaimed Jenny. “What do you suppose I want of two homes? One is all I can take care of.”
“Then why,” demanded Peter triumphantly, “does Mr. Wren work all day carrying sticks and straws into a hole in another tree? It seems to me that he has carried enough in there to build two or three nests.”
Jenny Wren’s eyes twinkled, and she laughed softly. “Mr. Wren just has to be busy about something, bless his heart,” said she. “He hasn’t a lazy feather on him. He’s building that nest to take up his time and keep out of mischief. Besides, if he fills that hollow up nobody else will take it, and you know we might want to move some time. Good-by, Peter.” With a final jerk of her tail Jenny Wren flew to the little round doorway of her house and popped inside.
“But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you; (Job 12:7 NKJV)
What is Peter Rabbit still trying to find?
Has he found out why it is need for yet?
Who is our newest arrival?
Is he on time or early?
What does Pewee’s bill look like?
Is tail longer or shorter than his wings?
Can you find and name the birds listed that use tree holes?
Were the birds friendly and kind in this chapter?
A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24 NKJV)
“But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you; (Job 12:7 NKJV)