Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 3 – Sparrows

Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE

Chapter 3 – Jenny Has a Good Word For Some Sparrows

The morning after Jenny and Mr. Wren had a few words with Billy the House Sparrow found Peter Rabbit in the Old Orchard again. He was so curious to know what Jenny Wren would do now for a new house that nothing other than some great danger could have kept him away from there. Truth to tell, Peter was afraid that not being able to have their old house, Jenny and Mr. Wren would decide to leave the Old Orchard altogether. So it was with a great deal of relief that as he hopped over a low place in the old stone wall he heard Mr. Wren singing with all his might.

The song was coming from quite the other side of the Old Orchard from where Billy and Mrs. Sparrow had set up housekeeping. Peter hurried over. He found Mr. Wren right away, although at first saw nothing of Jenny. He was just about to ask after her when he caught sight of her with a tiny stick in her bill. Peter watched her and saw her disappear in a little hole in a big branch of one of the old apple trees. Hardly had she popped in than she popped out again. This time her mouth was free, and so was her tongue.

“You’d better stop singing and help me,” she said to Mr. Wren pointedly. Mr. Wren immediately stopped singing and began to hunt for a tiny little twig such as Jenny had taken into that hole.

“Well!” exclaimed Peter. “It didn’t take you long to find a new house, did it?”

“Certainly not,” said Jenny “We can’t afford to sit around.”

“Are you afraid that Billy will try to take over that house too?” Peter ventured.

“No” said Jenny. “That new doorway’s too small for him to get more than his head in.”

“Agreed” said Peter.

“I can’t stop to talk to you any more right now, Peter Rabbit, as I’m busy setting up our new home. Mr. Wren, that stick looks too big.” Jenny plucked it out of Mr. Wren’s mouth and dropped it on the ground, while Mr. Wren went back out to hunt for another. Jenny joined him, and as Peter watched them he understood why Jenny is often considered a busy bird.

An apple tree in the Old Orchard beginning to blossom.

For some time Peter Rabbit watched Jenny and Mr. Wren carry sticks and straws into that little hole until it seemed to him they were trying to fill the whole inside of the tree. Just watching them made Peter positively tired. Mr. Wren would stop every now and then to sing, however Jenny didn’t waste a minute. In spite of that she managed to talk just the same.

“I suppose Little Friend the Song Sparrow got here some time ago,”she said.

Peter nodded. “Yes,” he said. “I saw him only a day or two ago over by the Laughing Brook, and although he wouldn’t say so, I’m sure that he has a nest and eggs already.”

Jenny Wren jerked her tail and nodded her head vigorously. “I suppose so,” she said. “He doesn’t have to make as long a journey as we do, so he gets here sooner. Everyone seems to enjoy Little Friend, don’t you think so?”

Once more Peter nodded. “That’s right,” he said. “It makes me feel sort of all glad inside just to hear him sing. I guess it makes everybody feel that way. I wonder why we so seldom see him up here in the Old Orchard.”

“Because he likes damp places with plenty of bushes better,” replied Jenny Wren. “It wouldn’t do for everybody to like the same kind of a place. He isn’t a tree bird, anyway. He likes to be on or near the ground. You will never find his nest much above the ground, not more than a foot or two. Quite often it is on the ground. Although I prefer Mr. Wren’s song, I must admit that Little Friend has one of the happiest songs of any one I know. He is often shy and retiring, content to make all the world glad with his song, and prefers to keep out of sight as much as possible. ”

Jenny chattered on as she hunted for some more material for her nest. “I suppose you’ve noticed,” she said, “that he and his wife dress very much alike. They don’t go in for bright colors any more than we Wrens do. I like the little brown caps they wear, and the way their breasts and sides are streaked with brown. Then, too, they are such useful folks. I suppose they stay rather later than we do in the fall.”

“Yes,” replied Peter. “They don’t go until Jack Frost pushes them along.”

Song Sparrow by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Speaking of the Sparrow family, did you see anything of Whitethroat?” asked Jenny Wren, as she rested for a moment in the doorway of her new house and looked down at Peter Rabbit.

Peter’s face brightened. “I should say I did!” he exclaimed. “He stopped for a few days on his way north. I only wish he would stay here all the time. He seems to think there is no place like the Great Woods of the North and always hurries along to get there. I could listen all day to his song. Do you know what he always seems to be saying?”

“What would that be?” asked Jenny.

“I live happ-i-ly, happ-i-ly, happ-i-ly,” replied Peter. “I guess he must too, because he makes other people so happy.”

Jenny nodded in her usual emphatic way. “I don’t know him as well as I do some of the others,” she said, “however when I have seen him down in the South he always has appeared to me to be a perfect gentleman. He is social, too; he likes to travel with others.”

“I’ve noticed that,” said Peter. “He almost always has company when he passes through here. Some of those Sparrows are so much alike that it is hard for me to tell them apart, though I can always tell Whitethroat because he is one of the largest of the familyl and has such a lovely white throat. He really is handsome with his black and white cap and that bright yellow spot before each eye. I am told that he is very dearly loved up in the North where he makes his home. They say he sings all the time.”

“I suppose Scratcher the Fox Sparrow has been along too,” said Jenny. “He also started sometime before we did.”

“Yes,” replied Peter. “He spent one night in the dear Old Briar-patch. He is fine looking too, the biggest of all the Sparrow family, and how he can sing. The only thing I don’t like about him is the color of his coat. It always reminds me of Reddy Fox, and I don’t like anything that reminds me of that fellow. When he visited us I discovered something about Scratcher which I don’t believe you know.”

“Oh? Do tell,” said Jenny.

“That when he scratches among the leaves he uses both feet at once,” announced Peter triumphantly. “It’s funny to watch him.”

“Actually, yes, I did know that,” said Jenny and she ducked back into her house.

P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects

Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:

    • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS – Song Sparrow 
    • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  White-throated Sparrow  
    • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Fox Sparrow
    • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for Song Sparrow (p. 89-91) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.
    • Ever Wonder . . .?  Have you ever step outside your door into your yard and simply listened to the sounds of nature? The gentle breeze whistling in your ear, a bee buzzing, or perhaps a bird calling in the distance? Did you ever wonder what the bird was saying? Perhaps you could take a moment and try listening to your local birds and create your own phrases to match their call just like Peter did with Whitethroat’s “I live happ-i-ly, happ-i-ly, happ-i-ly” song.
    • Curious? If you’d like to take it one step further you could research some of the calls that bird scientists (ornithologists) and naturalists have labeled and recorded in bird ID books for folks to use as a common way to get to know birds better.
    • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and color the Song Sparrow on page 38 (colored pencils recommended).
      • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Fox Sparrow on page 34 and a White-throated Sparrow on page 35.

FYI -These coloring books are an excellent companion for this bird story series.

Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided a new online version of all 45 chapters of this updated and annotated 100+ year old public domain classic to:

  • be suitable for the 21st century family by having the Thornton Burgess woodland characters evolve to model mindfulness and loving kindness
  • highlight and bring awareness to the New England nature settings and offer an opportunity to learn more about birds and other woodland animals through this story adventure
  • create story extension moments through P.L.A.Y. suggested activities and investigations for making new nature connections generated by the reader’s own curiosity
  • encourage families to keep their own nature notebooks for drawing, writing, painting, and recording their own local daily outdoor P.L.A.Y. adventures.

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!