Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 30 – Thrasher + Mockingbird


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 30 – Jenny Wren’s Cousins


Peter Rabbit never will forget his surprise when Jenny Wren asked him one spring morning if he had seen anything of her big cousin. Peter hesitated. As a matter of fact, he couldn’t think of any big cousin of Jenny Wren. All the cousins he knew anything about were very nearly Jenny’s own size.

“Have you seen anything of my big cousin? It is high time for him to be here,” declared Jenny.

“To be quite honest, I don’t know him,” replied Peter.

“Oh yes you do, I mean Brownie the Thrasher!” boomed Jenny.

In his surprise Peter fairly jumped right off the ground. “What’s that?” he exclaimed. “Since when was Brownie the Thrasher related to the Wren family?”

“Ever since there have been any Wrens and Thrashers,” proclaimed Jenny. “Brownie belongs to one branch of the family and I belong to another, and that makes him my second cousin.”

“And here I have always supposed he belonged to the Thrush family,” Peter uttered. “He certainly looks like a Thrush.”

“Looking like one doesn’t make him one though,” observed Jenny. “And so do you know if he has he arrived yet?”

“Yes,” said Peter. “I saw him only yesterday on the edge of the Old Pasture. He was fussing around in the bushes and on the ground and jerking that long tail of his up and down and side wise as if he couldn’t decide what to do with it. I’ve never seen anybody twitch their tail
around the way he does.”

Jenny Wren giggled. “That’s just like him,” said she. “It is because he thrashes his tail around so much that he is called a Thrasher. And I suppose he was wearing his new spring suit.”


Thrasher by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“Well, I don’t know whether it was a new suit or not, however it was good looking,” replied Peter. “I just love that beautiful reddish-brown of his back, wings and tail, and it certainly does set off his white and buff waistcoat with those dark streaks and spots. You must admit, Jenny Wren, that any one seeing him dressed so much like the Thrushes is to be excused for thinking him a Thrush.”

“I suppose so,” admitted Jenny. “However, none of the Thrushes have such a bright brown coat. Did you notice what a long bill he has?”

Peter nodded. “And I noticed that he had two white bars on each wing,” he said.

“Did you hear him sing?” asked Jenny.

“Did I hear him sing? Oh yes!” cried Peter, his eyes shining at the memory. “He sang especially for me. He flew up to the top of a tree, tipped his head back and sang as few birds I know of can sing. He has a wonderful voice. And when he’s singing he acts as if he enjoyed it himself and knows what a good singer he is. I noticed that long tail of his hung straight down the same way Mr. Wren’s does when he sings.”

“Yes,” agreed Jenny. “That is a family trait and the tails of both my other big cousins do the same thing.”

“What’s that? Have you got more big cousins?” cried Peter in disbelief.

“Certainly,” reassured Jenny. “Mocker the Mockingbird and Kitty the Catbird belong to Brownie’s family, so they are my second cousins.”

Such a funny expression as there was on Peter’s face. He felt that Jenny Wren was telling the truth, and yet it was surprising news to him and so hard to believe that for a few minutes he couldn’t find his tongue to ask another question. Finally he ventured to ask, “Does Brownie imitate the songs of other birds the way Mocker and Kitty do?”

Jenny Wren shook her head. “No,” she said. “He’s perfectly satisfied with his own song.” Before she could add anything further the clear whistle of Glory the Cardinal sounded from a tree just a little way off. Instantly Peter forgot all about Jenny Wren’s relatives and scampered over to that tree. You see Glory is so beautiful that Peter never loses a chance to see him.

As Peter sat staring up into the tree, trying to get a glimpse of Glory’s beautiful red coat, the clear, sweet whistle sounded once more. It drew Peter’s eyes to one of the upper branches, and instead of the brilliant red coat of Glory the Cardinal he saw a bird about the size of Welcome Robin dressed in ashy-gray with two white bars on his wings, and white feathers on the outer edges of his tail. He was very trim and neat and his tail hung straight down after the manner of Brownie’s when he was singing. It was a long tail, although not as long as Brownie’s. Even as Peter blinked and stared in surprise the stranger opened his mouth and from it came Glory’s own beautiful whistle. Then the stranger looked down at Peter, and his eyes twinkled with mischief.

“Fooled you that time, didn’t I, Peter?” he chuckled. “You thought you were going to see Glory the Cardinal.”


Mockingbirds are attracted to fruit trees.


Then without waiting for Peter to reply, this stranger gave such a concert as no one else in the world could give. From that wonderful throat poured out song after song and note after note of Peter’s familiar friends of the Old Orchard, and the performance wound up with a lovely song which was all the stranger’s own. Peter didn’t have to be told who the stranger was. It was Mocker the Mockingbird.

“Oh!” gasped Peter. “Oh, Mocker, how under the sun do you do it? I was sure that it was Glory whom I heard whistling. Never again will I be able to believe my own ears.”

Mocker chuckled. “You’re not the only one I’ve fooled, Peter,” he said. “I flatter myself that I can fool almost anybody if I set out to. It’s
lots of fun. I may not be much to look at, and yet when it comes to singing there’s no one I envy.”

“I think you are very nice looking indeed,” replied Peter politely. “I’ve just been finding out this morning that you can’t tell much about folks just by their looks.”

“And now you’ve learned that you can’t always recognize folks by their voices, haven’t you?” chuckled Mocker.

“Yes,” replied Peter. “Now I shall never be sure about any feathered folks unless I can both see and hear them. Would you sing for me again, Mocker?”


Blackberry brambles are much loved by mockingbirds.


Mocker did. He sang and sang, for he clearly loves to sing. When he finished Peter had another question ready. “Somebody told me once that down in the South you are the most loved of all the birds. Is that so?”

“That’s not for me to say,” replied Mocker modestly. “I can tell you this, Peter, they do think a lot of me down there. There are many birds down there who are very beautifully dressed, birds who don’t come up here at all. Not one of them is loved as I am, and it is all on account of my voice. I would rather have a beautiful voice than a fine coat.”

“There’s Mrs. Goldy the Oriole over there,” said Mocker. “Watch me fool her.”

He began to call in exact imitation of Goldy’s voice when he is anxious about something. At once Mrs. Goldy came hurrying over to find out what the trouble was. When she discovered Mocker she lost her temper and scolded him; then she flew away a perfect picture of indignation. Mocker and Peter laughed, for they thought it a good joke.

Suddenly Peter remembered what Jenny Wren had told him. “Jenny said that you are a second cousin of hers. Are you really?” he asked.

Mocker nodded. “Yes,” he said, “we are relatives. We each belong to a branch of the same family.” Then he burst into Mr. Wren’s own song,
after which he excused himself and went to look for Mrs. Mockingbird. For, as he explained, it was time for them to be thinking of a nest.


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 –  Brown Thrasher
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Northern Mockingbird
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for both Mockingbird (p. 91-94) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.
  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and some colored pencils to complete the drawings of a Brown Thrasher (p8) and a Mockingbird (p27).

  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Brown Thrasher on page 38.

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!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 29 – Vireo + Another Warbler


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 29 – The Constant Singers


Over in a maple tree on the edge of Farmer Brown’s door yard lived Redeye the Vireo and Mrs. Vireo. Peter Rabbit knew that they had a nest there because Jenny Wren had told him so. He would have guessed it anyway, because Redeye spent so much time in that tree during the nesting season. No matter what hour of the day Peter visited the Old Orchard he heard Redeye singing over in the maple tree. Peter used to think that if song is an expression of happiness, Redeye must be the happiest of all birds.

He was a little fellow about the size of one of the larger Warblers and quite as modestly dressed as any of Peter’s acquaintances. The crown of his head was gray with a little blackish border on either side. Over each eye was a white line. Underneath he was white. For the rest he was dressed in light olive-green. The first time he came down near enough for Peter to see him well Peter understood at once why he is called Redeye as his eyes were truly red.

However it wasn’t often that Redeye came down so near the ground that Peter could see his eyes. He preferred to spend most of his time in the tree tops, and Peter only got glimpses of him now and then. It was even less often that he actually heard him. “I don’t see when Redeye finds time to eat,” declared Peter as he listened to the seemingly unending song in the maple tree.

“Redeye believes in singing while he works,” said Jenny Wren. “For my part I should think he’d wear his throat out. When other birds sing they don’t do anything else versus Redeye sings all the time he is looking for his meals and only stops long enough to swallow a worm or a bug when he finds it. Just as soon as it is down he begins to sing again while he looks for another. And I must say for the Vireos that they are mighty good nest builders. Have you seen their nest over in that maple tree, Peter?”

Peter shook his head. “I don’t dare go over there except very early in the morning before Farmer Brown’s folks are awake,” he said, “so I haven’t had much chance to look for it.”

“You probably couldn’t see it, anyway,” declared Jenny Wren. “They have placed it rather high up from the ground and those leaves are so thick that they hide it. It’s a regular little basket fastened in a fork near the end of a branch and it is woven almost as nicely as is the nest of Goldy the Oriole. How anybody has the patience to weave a nest like that is beyond me.”

“What is it made of?” asked Peter.


Maple tree leaves dressed in autumn red.


“Strips of bark, plant down, spider’s web, grass, and pieces of paper!” replied Jenny. “That’s a funny thing about Redeye; he dearly loves a piece of paper in his nest. He’s as fussy about having a scrap of paper as Cresty the Flycatcher is about having a piece of snake skin. I had just a peep into that nest a few days ago and unless I am greatly mistaken Sally the Cowbird has managed to impose on the Verios. I am certain I saw one of her eggs in that nest.”

A few mornings after this talk with Jenny Wren about Redeye the Vireo Peter once more visited the Old Orchard. No sooner did he come in sight than Jenny Wren’s tongue began to fly. “What did I tell you, Peter Rabbit? I knew it was so, and it is!” cried Jenny.

“What is so?” asked Peter, for he hadn’t the least idea what Jenny Wren was talking about.

“Sally the Cowbird did lay an egg in Redeye’s nest, and now it has hatched and I don’t know whatever is to become of Redeye’s own children!” cried Jenny, and hopped about and jerked her tail and worked herself into a small brown fury.

“The Vireos are working themselves to feathers and bone feeding that young Cowbird while their own babies aren’t getting half enough to eat,” continued Jenny. “One of them has died already. He was kicked out of the nest by that young Cowbird.”

“Oh my!” cried Peter. “If he does things like that I should think the Vireos would throw him out of the nest.”

“They’re too soft-hearted,” declared Jenny. “They say it isn’t his fault that he’s there, and that he’s nothing but a helpless baby, and so they just take care of him.”

“Then why don’t they feed their own babies first and give him what’s left?” Peter wondered.


Curious Capkin finds a strip of bark just right for a bird’s nest.


“Because he’s twice as big as any of their own babies and so strong that he simply snatches the food out of the very mouths of the others. Because he gets most of the food, he’s growing twice as fast as they are. He might kick all the rest of them out before he gets through. Mr. and Mrs. Vireo are dreadfully distressed about it, and yet they will feed him because they say it isn’t his fault.”

“Speaking of the Vireos, Redeye seems to be the only member of his family around here,” remarked Peter.

“Hold on, listen!” said Jenny Wren. “Do you hear that warbling song way over in the big elm in front of Farmer Brown’s house where Goldy the Oriole has his nest?”

Peter listened. At first he didn’t hear it, and then he did. The voice was not unlike that of Redeye, the song was smoother though, more continuous and sweeter. Peter’s face lit up. “I do hear it,” he cried.

“That’s Redeye’s cousin, the Warbling Vireo,” said Jenny. “He sings from the time jolly Mr. Sun gets up in the morning until he goes to bed at night. He sings when it is so hot that the rest of us are glad to keep still for comfort’s sake. I don’t know of anybody more fond of the tree tops than he is. He doesn’t seem to care anything about the Old Orchard, he just stays over in those big trees along the road. He’s got a nest over in that big elm and it is as high up as that of Goldy the Oriole; I haven’t seen it myself, Goldy told me about it.”

“Somehow I don’t remember just what Warble looks like,” Peter confessed.

“He looks a lot like his cousin, Redeye,” replied Jenny. “His coat is a little duller olive-green and underneath he is a little bit yellowish instead of white. Of course he doesn’t have red eyes, and he is a little smaller than Redeye. The whole family looks pretty much alike anyway.”

“They get me all mixed up,” declared Peter. “If only some of them had some bright colors it would be easier to tell them apart.”

“One has,” replied Jenny Wren. “He has a bright yellow throat and breast and is called the Yellow-throated Vireo. There isn’t the least chance of mistaking him.”

“Is he a singer, too?” asked Peter.

“Oh yes,” replied Jenny. “Every one in that family loves to sing. It’s a family trait. Now I must get on with my day, goodbye Peter.”

“Goodbye Jenny!” Peter called out as he hopped away to the dear Old Briar-patch.


Some birds prefer tall trees, especially for their homes.


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 –  Red-eyed Vireo
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Yellow-throated Warbler
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for both Maple Tree + Elm Tree (p. 628-637 ) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.
  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and some colored pencils to complete the drawings of a Yellowthroat (p45) and a Red-eyed Vireo (p33).

FYI -This coloring book is an excellent companion for this bird story series with most of the 50 birds represented as characters throughout the chapters.


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!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 28 – Rose-breasted Grosbeak + Scarlet Tanager


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 28 – Peter Sees Rosebreast and Finds Redcoat


“Who is that?” Peter Rabbit pricked up his long ears and stared up at the tops of the trees of the Old Orchard.

Instantly Jenny Wren popped her head out of her doorway. She cocked her head to one side to listen.

Just then there were two or three rather sharp, squeaky notes from the top of one of the trees. “There!” cried Peter. “Did you hear that, Jenny?”

“Peter, that’s Rosebreast the Grosbeak. He and Mrs. Grosbeak have been here for quite a little while,” said Jenny, “Just listen to that song!”

Peter listened. There were many songs, for it was a very beautiful morning and all the singers of the Old Orchard were pouring out the joy that was within them. One song was a little louder and clearer than the others because it came from a tree very close at hand, the very tree from which those squeaky notes had come just a few minutes before. Peter suspected that that must be the song Jenny Wren meant. He was puzzled. “Do you mean Welcome Robin’s song?” he asked.

“No” said Jenny. “That song may sound something like Welcome Robin’s, and yet it isn’t Welcome Robin singing. Welcome Robin’s song is one of good cheer, and this one is of pure happiness.”

“Now you speak of it, Jenny, that song is quite different from Welcome Robin’s,” agreed Peter.

“That is Rosebreast singing right up in the top of that tree,” Jenny pointed out.


Rose-breasted Grosbeak by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Peter looked up to see a bird a little smaller than Welcome Robin. His head, throat and back were black. His wings were black with patches of white on them. And it was his breast that made Peter catch his breath with a little gasp of admiration, for that breast was a beautiful rose-red. The rest of him underneath was white.

“Isn’t he lovely!” cried Peter, and added in the next breath, “Who is that with him?”

“Mrs. Grosbeak” replied Jenny.

“I would never have guessed it,” said Peter. “She doesn’t look the least bit like him.”

This was quite true. There was no rose color about Mrs. Grosbeak. She was dressed chiefly in brown and grayish colors with a little buff here and there and with dark streaks on her breast. Over each eye was a whitish line. Altogether she looked more as if she might be a big member of the Sparrow family than the wife of Rosebreast. While Rosebreast sang, Mrs. Grosbeak was very busily picking buds and blossoms from the tree.

“What is she doing that for?” inquired Peter.

“For the same reason that you bite off sweet clover blossoms and leaves,” replied Jenny Wren.

“Do you mean to say that they live on buds and blossoms?” asked Peter.

“Tut, tut, tut! Buds and blossoms don’t last long enough,” said Jenny. “They eat a few just for variety, and then mostly live on bugs and insects. You ask Farmer Brown’s boy who helps him most in his potato patch, and he’ll tell you it’s the Grosbeaks. They certainly do love potato bugs. They eat some fruit, however on the whole they are about as useful around a garden as any one I know. Now it is time to run along, Peter Rabbit.”


Buds and blossoms on an apple tree.


Seeing Farmer Brown’s boy coming through the Old Orchard Peter decided that it was high time for him to depart. So he scampered for the Green Forest, lipperty-lipperty-lip. Just within the edge of the Green Forest he caught sight of something which for the time being put all thought of Farmer Brown’s boy out of his head. Fluttering on the ground was a bird about the size of Redwing the Blackbird. His wings and tail were pure black and all the rest was a beautiful scarlet. It was Redcoat the Tanager. At first Peter had eyes only for the wonderful beauty of Redcoat. Never before had he seen Redcoat so close at hand. Then quite suddenly it came over Peter that something was wrong with Redcoat, and he hurried forward to see what the trouble might be.

Redcoat heard the rustle of Peter’s feet among the dry leaves and at once began to flap and flutter in an effort to fly away, and yet he could not get off the ground. “What is it, Redcoat? Has something happened to you? It is just Peter Rabbit. You don’t have anything to fear from me,” Peter said.

The look of terror which had been in the eyes of Redcoat died out, and he stopped fluttering and simply lay panting.

“Oh, Peter,” he gasped, “you don’t know how glad I am that it is only you. I’ve had a terrible accident, and I don’t know what I am to do. I can’t fly, and if I have to stay on the ground some predator will be sure to get me. What shall I do, Peter?”

Right away Peter wanted to help. “What kind of an accident was it, Redcoat, and how did it happen?” he asked.

“Broadwing the Hawk tried to catch me,” sobbed Redcoat. “In dodging him among the trees I did not see just where I was going. I struck a sharp-pointed dead twig and drove it right through my right wing.”

Redcoat held up his right wing and sure enough there was a small stick projecting from both sides close up to the shoulder. The wing was bleeding a little.

“Oh, dear, whatever shall I do, Peter Rabbit?” sobbed Redcoat.


Scarlet Tanager by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“Does it pain you dreadfully?” asked Peter.

Redcoat nodded. “I don’t mind the pain,” he hastened to say. “It is the thought of what may happen to me.”

Meanwhile Mrs. Tanager was flying about in the tree tops near at hand and calling anxiously. She was dressed almost wholly in light olive-green and greenish-yellow. She looked no more like Redcoat than did Mrs. Grosbeak like Rosebreast.

“Can’t you fly up just a little way so as to get off the ground?” she cried anxiously. “Isn’t it dreadful, Peter Rabbit, to have such an accident? We’ve just got our nest half built, and I don’t know what Ishall do if anything happens to Redcoat. Oh dear, here comes somebody! Hide, Redcoat! Hide!” Mrs. Tanager flew off a short distance to one side and began to cry as if in the greatest distress. Peter knew instantly that she was crying to get the attention of whoever was coming.

Poor Redcoat, with the old look of terror in his eyes, fluttered along, trying to find something under which to hide. There was nothing under which he could crawl, and there was no hiding that wonderful red coat. Peter heard the sound of heavy footsteps, and looking back, saw that Farmer Brown’s boy was coming. “Don’t be afraid, Redcoat,” he whispered. “It’s Farmer Brown’s boy and I’m sure he won’t hurt you. Perhaps he can help you.” Then Peter scampered off for a short distance and sat up to watch what would happen.

Of course Farmer Brown’s boy saw Redcoat. He saw, too, by the way Redcoat was acting, that he was in great trouble. As Farmer Brown’s boy drew near and Redcoat saw that he was discovered, he tried his hardest to flutter away. Farmer Brown’s boy understood instantly that something was wrong with one wing, and running forward, he caught Redcoat.

“You poor, beautiful little creature,” said Farmer Brown’s boy softly as he saw the twig sticking through Redcoats’ shoulder. “We’ll have to get that out right away,” continued Farmer Brown’s boy, stroking Redcoat ever so gently.

Somehow with that gentle touch Redcoat lost much of his fear, and a little hope sprang in his heart. He saw, too, that this was a friend. Farmer Brown’s boy took out his knife and carefully cut off the twig on the upper side of the wing. Then, doing his best to be careful and to hurt as little as possible, he worked the other part of the twig out from the under side. Carefully he examined the wing to see if any bones were broken. None were, and after holding Redcoat a few minutes he carefully set him up in a tree and withdrew a short distance. Redcoat hopped from branch to branch until he was halfway up the tree. Then he sat there for some time as if fearful of trying that injured wing. Meanwhile Mrs. Tanager came and fussed about him and talked to him and coaxed him and made as much of him as if he were a baby.

Peter remained right where he was until at last he saw Redcoat spread his black wings and fly to another tree. From tree to tree he flew, resting a bit in each until he and Mrs. Tanager disappeared in the Green Forest.

“I knew Farmer Brown’s boy would help him, and I’m so glad he found him,” Peter pronounced happily and started for the dear Old Briar-patch.


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 –  Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Scarlet Tanager
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for the Old Orchard filled with Apple Trees (p.661-668 ) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.
  • A copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Rose-breasted Grosbeak coloring page (p18) and a Scarlet Tanager on page 37.

FYI -This coloring book is 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!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 27 – Cardinal + Catbird


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



CHAPTER 27 – A New Friend and an Old One


Peter Rabbit never will forget the first time he caught a glimpse of Glory the Cardinal, sometimes called Redbird. He had come up to the Old Orchard for his usual morning visit and just as he hopped over the old stone wall he heard a beautiful clear, loud whistle which drew his eyes to the top of an apple tree. Peter stopped short with a little gasp of sheer astonishment and delight. Then he rubbed his eyes and looked again. He couldn’t quite believe what he saw. He hadn’t supposed that anyone, even among the feathered folks, could be quite so beautiful.

The stranger was dressed all in red, except a little black around the base of his bill. Even his bill was red. He wore a beautiful red crest which made him distinguished looking, and how he could sing! Peter had noticed that quite often the most beautifully dressed birds have the poorest songs. This stranger’s song was remarkably beautiful as his coat. Of course he lost no time in finding Jenny Wren. “Who is it, Jenny? Who is that beautiful stranger with such a lovely song?” cried Peter, as soon as he caught sight of her.

“It’s Glory the Cardinal,” replied Jenny. “Isn’t he the loveliest thing you’ve ever seen? I do hope he is going to stay here. As I said before, I don’t often envy anyone’s fine clothes, although when I see Glory I’m sometimes tempted to be envious. If I were Mrs. Cardinal I’m afraid I should be jealous. There she is in the very same tree with him. Did you ever see such a difference?”


Cardinal by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Peter looked eagerly. Instead of red like Glory, Mrs. Cardinal’s back was a brownish-gray. Her throat was a grayish-black. Her breast was a dull buff with a faint tinge of red. Her wings and tail were tinged with dull red.

Altogether she was very trim, neat looking little person. And she could sing.

“Glory’s a model husband,” remarked Jenny. “If they make their home around here you’ll find him doing his full share in the care of their babies. Sometimes they raise two families. When they do that, Glory takes charge of the first lot of youngsters as soon as they are able to leave the nest so that Mrs. Cardinal has nothing to worry about while she is sitting on the second lot of eggs. He fusses over them as if they were the only children in the world. Excuse me, Peter, I’m going over to find out if they are really going to stay.”

When Jenny returned she was so excited she couldn’t keep still a minute. “They like it here, Peter!” she cried. “They like it so much that if they can find a place to suit them for a nest they’re going to stay. I told them that it is the very best place in the world. They like an evergreen tree to build in, and I think they’ve got their eyes on those evergreens up near Farmer Brown’s house.”


Simply sweet evergreens after a spring rain.


Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal whistled and sang as if their hearts were bursting with joy, and Peter stayed awhile to listen. He would have sat there the rest of the morning had he not caught sight of an old friend of whom he is very fond, Kitty the Catbird. In contrast with Glory, Kitty seemed a regular little Quaker, for he was dressed almost all in gray, a rather dark, slate-gray. The top of his head and tail were black, and right at the base of his tail was a patch of chestnut color. He was a little smaller than Welcome Robin.

Peter forgot all about Glory in his pleasure at discovering the returned Kitty and hurried over to welcome him. Kitty had disappeared among the bushes along the old stone wall, and Peter had no trouble in finding him because of the odd cries he was uttering, which were very like the meow of Black Shadow the Cat. They were very harsh and unpleasant and Peter understood perfectly why their maker is called the Catbird. He did not hurry in among the bushes at once instead he just waited expectantly. In a few minutes the harsh cries ceased and then there came from the very same place a song which seemed to be made up of parts of the songs of all the other birds of the Old Orchard.

It was not loud, it was simply charming. It contained the clear whistle of Glory, and there was even the tinkle of Little Friend the Song Sparrow. The notes of other friends were in that song, and with them were notes of southern birds whose songs Kitty had learned while spending the winter in the South. Then there were notes all his own.

Peter listened until the song ended, then scampered in among the bushes. At once those harsh cries broke out again. You would have thought that Kitty was scolding Peter for coming to see him instead of being glad. That was just Kitty’s way. He is simply brimming over with fun and mischief, and delights to pretend.

When Peter found him, he was sitting with all his feathers puffed out until he looked almost like a ball with a head and tail. He looked positively sleepy. Then as he caught sight of Peter he drew those feathers down tight, cocked his tail up after the manner of Jenny Wren, and was as slim and trim looking as any bird of Peter’s acquaintance. He didn’t look at all like the same bird of the moment before. Then he dropped his tail as if he hadn’t strength enough to hold it up at all. It hung straight down. He dropped his wings and all in a second made himself look fairly different. And all the time his eyes were twinkling and snapping, and Peter knew that these changes in appearance were made out of pure fun and mischief.

“I’ve been wondering if you were coming back,” Peter called out. “I don’t know of any one of my feathered friends I would miss so much as you.”

“Thank you,” responded Kitty. “It’s very nice of you to say that, Peter.”


Catbird by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“Did you pass a pleasant winter down South?” asked Peter.

“Fairly so,” replied Kitty. “By the way, Peter, I picked up some new songs down there. Would you like to hear them?”

“Of course,” replied Peter, “although I don’t think you need any new songs. I’ve never seen such a fellow for picking up other people’s songs excepting Mocker the Mockingbird.”

At the mention of Mocker a little cloud crossed Kitty’s face for just an instant. “There’s a fellow I really envy,” said he. “I’m pretty good at imitating others, and yet Mocker is better. I’m hoping that, if I practice enough, some day I can be as good. I saw a lot of him in the South and he certainly is clever.”

“You don’t need to envy him,” said Peter. “You are some imitator yourself. How about those new notes you got when you were in the South?”

Kitty’s face cleared, his throat swelled and he began to sing. It was a regular medley. It didn’t seem as if so many notes could come from one throat. When it ended Peter had a question all ready.

“Are you going to build somewhere near here?” he asked.

“I certainly am,” replied Kitty. “Mrs. Catbird was delayed a day or two. I hope she’ll get here today and then we’ll get busy at once. I think we shall build in these bushes here somewhere. I’m glad Farmer Brown has sense enough to let them grow. They are just the kind of a place I like for a nest. They are near enough to Farmer Brown’s garden, and the Old Orchard is right here.”

“Why do you want to be near Farmer Brown’s garden?” Peter asked.

“Because that is where I will get a good part of my living,” Kitty answered. “He ought to be glad to have me about. Once in awhile I take a little fruit, and then I pay for it ten times over by the number of bugs and worms I get in his garden and the Old Orchard. I pride myself on being useful. There’s nothing like being useful in this world, Peter.”

Peter nodded as if he quite agreed.


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 –  Northern Cardinal
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Gray Catbird
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – BIRD ACADEMY – Catbird = An Expert Mimic (video)
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE (page W55 Northern Cardinal).
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for both Northern (Grosbeak) Cardinal (p. 127) and Catbird (p. 95) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.
  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and some colored pencils to complete the drawings of a Northern Cardinal (p10) and a Gray Catbird (p11).

  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Cardinal on page 5.

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!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 26 – Even More Warblers


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 26 – Peter Gets a Crick in His Neck Visiting Some Warblers in the Green Forest


For several days it seemed to Peter Rabbit that everywhere he went he found members of the Warbler family. Being eager to know all of them he did his best to remember how each one looked, it was just that there were so many and some of them were dressed so nearly alike that after awhile Peter became so mixed up that he gave up. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, the Warblers disappeared. That is to say, most of them disappeared. You see they had only stopped for a visit, being on their way farther north.

In his interest in the affairs of others of his feathered friends, Peter had quite forgotten the Warblers. Then one day when he was in the Green Forest where the spruce trees grow, he stopped to rest. This particular part of the Green Forest was low and damp, and on many of the trees gray moss grew, hanging down from the branches and making the trees look much older than they really were. Peter was staring at a hanging branch of this moss without thinking anything about it when suddenly a little bird alighted on it and disappeared in it. At least, that is what Peter thought. It was all so unexpected that he couldn’t be sure his eyes hadn’t fooled him.

Of course, right away he became very much interested in that bunch of moss. He stared at it very hard. At first it looked no different from a dozen other bunches of moss, then presently he noticed that it was a little thicker than other bunches, as if somehow it had been woven together. He hopped off to one side so he could see better. It looked as if in one side of that bunch of moss was a little round hole. Peter blinked and looked very hard indeed to make sure. A minute later there was no doubt at all, for a little feathered head was poked out and a second later a dainty mite of a bird flew out and alighted very close to Peter. It was one of the smaller members of the Warbler family.

“Sprite!” cried Peter joyously. “I missed you when your cousins passed through here, and I thought you had gone to the Far North with the rest of them.”


The Green Forest in the spring before the foliage fills in on all the trees.


“Well, I haven’t, and what’s more I’m not going to go on to the Far North. I’m going to stay right here,” declared Sprite the Parula Warbler.

As Peter looked at Sprite he couldn’t help thinking that there wasn’t a daintier member in the whole Warbler family. His coat was of a soft bluish color with a yellowish patch in the very center of his back. Across each wing were two bars of white. His throat was yellow. Just beneath it was a little band of bluish-black. His breast was yellow and his sides were grayish and brownish-chestnut.

“Sprite, you’re just beautiful,” declared Peter in frank admiration. “What was the reason I didn’t see you up in the Old Orchard with your cousins?”

“Because I wasn’t there,” was Sprite’s prompt reply as he flitted about, quite unable to sit still a minute. “I wasn’t there because I like the Green Forest better, so I came straight here.”

“What were you doing just now in that bunch of moss?” Peter inquired, a sudden suspicion of the truth popping into his head.

“Just looking it over,” replied Sprite, trying to look innocent.

At that very instant Peter looked up just in time to see a tail disappearing in the little round hole in the side of the bunch of moss. He knew that that tail belonged to Mrs. Sprite, and just that glimpse told him all he wanted to know.

“You’ve got a nest in there!” Peter exclaimed excitedly. “There’s no use denying it, Sprite; you’ve got a nest in there! What a perfectly lovely place for a nest.”

Sprite saw at once that it would be quite useless to try to deceive Peter. “Yes,” said he, “Mrs. Sprite and I have a nest in there. We’ve just finished it. I think myself it is rather nice. We always build in moss like this. All we have to do is to find a nice thick bunch and then weave it together at the bottom and line the inside with fine grasses. It looks so much like all the rest of the bunches of moss that it is seldom any one finds it.”

“Isn’t it rather lonesome over here by yourselves?” asked Peter.

“Not at all,” replied Sprite. “You see, we are not as much alone as you think. My cousin, Fidget the Myrtle Warbler, is nesting not very far away, and another cousin Weechi the Magnolia Warbler is also quite near. Both have begun housekeeping already.”

Of course Peter was all excitement and interest at once. “Where are their homes?” he asked eagerly. “Tell me where they are and I’ll go straight over and say hello.”

“Peter,” reminded Sprite, “you ought to know better than to ask me to tell you anything of this kind. You have been around enough to know that there is no secret so precious as the secret of a home. You happened to find mine, and I guess I can trust you not to tell anybody where it is. If you can find the homes of Fidget and Weechi, all right, however I certainly don’t intend to tell you where they are.”


The Green Forest in the late summer when the trees are lush and full.


Peter knew that Sprite was quite right in refusing to tell the secrets of his cousins, and yet he couldn’t think of going home without at least looking for those homes. He tried to look very innocent as he asked if they also were in hanging bunches of moss. Sprite was too smart to be fooled and Peter learned nothing at all.

For some time Peter hopped around this way and that way, thinking every bunch of moss he saw must surely contain a nest. Though he looked and looked, not another little round hole did he find, and there were so many bunches of moss that finally his neck ached from tipping his head back so much. So after a while Peter’s patience ran out and he gave up the search and started on his way home. On higher ground, just above the low swampy place where grew the moss covered trees, he came to a lot of young hemlock trees. These had no moss on them. Having given up his search Peter was thinking of other things when there flitted across in front of him a black and gray bird with a yellow cap, yellow sides, and a yellow patch at the root of his tail. Those yellow patches were all Peter needed to see to recognize Fidget the Myrtle Warbler, one of the two friends he had been so long looking for down among the moss covered trees.

“Oh, Fidget!” cried Peter, hurrying after the restless little bird. “Oh, Fidget! I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

“Well, here I am,” Fidget answered. “What can I do for you?” All the time Fidget was hopping and flitting about, never still an instant.

“You can tell me where your nest is,” replied Peter promptly.

“I can, although I won’t,” said Fidget.

“Sprite told me that you had a nest not very far from his,” Peter explained, “and I’ve looked at bunches of moss until I’ve got a crick in the back of my neck and I was just curious to know.”

“Bunches of moss!” exclaimed Fidget. “What under the sun do you think I have to do with bunches of moss?”

“Why I just thought you probably had your nest in one, the same as your cousin Sprite,” admitted Peter.

Fidget laughed right out. “I’m afraid you would have a worse crick in the back of your neck than you’ve got now before ever you found my nest in a bunch of moss,” said he. “Moss may suit my cousin Sprite, it doesn’t suit me at all. Besides, I don’t like those dark places where the moss grows on the trees. I build my nest of twigs and grass and weed stalks and I line it with hair and rootlets and feathers. Sometimes I bind it together with spider silk, and if you really want to know, I like a little hemlock tree to put it in. It isn’t very far from here, where it is though I’m not going to tell you. Have you seen my cousin,Weechi?”

“No,” replied Peter. “Is he anywhere around here?”

“Right here,” replied another voice and Weechi the Magnolia Warbler dropped down on the ground for just a second right in front of Peter.


The Green Forest in autumn as the leaves begin to change into a carpet of colors.


The top of his head and the back of his neck were gray. Above his eye was a white stripe and his cheeks were black. His throat was clear yellow, just below which was a black band. From this black streaks ran down across his yellow breast. At the root of his tail he was yellow. His tail was mostly black on top and white underneath. His wings were black and gray with two white bars. He was a little smaller than Fidget the Myrtle Warbler and quite as restless.

Peter fairly itched to ask Weechi where his nest was, however by this time he had learned a lesson, so wisely kept his tongue still.

“What were you fellows talking about?” asked Weechi.

“Nests,” replied Fidget. “I’ve just been telling Peter that while Cousin Sprite may like to build in that hanging moss down there, it wouldn’t suit me at all.”

“Nor me either,” declared Weechi promptly. “By the way, Fidget, I stopped to look at your nest this morning. I find we build a good deal alike and we like the same sort of a place to put it. I suppose you know that I am a rather near neighbor of yours?”

“Yes,” replied Fidget. “In fact I watched you start your nest. Don’t you think you have it rather near the ground?”

“Not too near, I like to be within two or three feet of the ground ” answered Weechi.

“I do as well,” replied Fidget.

Fidget and Weechi became so interested in discussing nests and the proper way of building them they quite forgot Peter Rabbit. Peter sat around for a while listening, then being more interested in seeing those nests than hearing about them, he finally went away to look for them.


The Green Forest as winter arrives.


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 –  Northern Parula
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Yellow-rumped Warbler (Eastern)
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS – Magnolia Warbler
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – BIRD SONG HERO – with all these Warbler songs it is time to play Bird Song Hero!
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available about the Green Forest with a focus on the Hemlock Tree (p.679-680 ) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.

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!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 25 – More Warblers


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 25 – Three Cousins Quite Unlike


As Peter Rabbit passed one of the apple trees in the Old Orchard, a thin, wiry voice hailed him. “Hello, Peter Rabbit,” said the voice.

Peter, who had been hopping along rather fast, stopped abruptly to look up. Running along a limb just over his head, now on top and now underneath, was a little bird with a black and white striped coat and a white waistcoat. Just as Peter looked it flew down to near the base of the tree and began to run straight up the trunk, picking things from the bark here and there as it ran. Its way of going up that tree trunk reminded Peter of one of his winter friends, Seep-Seep the Brown Creeper.

“It is a wonder that you haven’t greeted me yet after I traveled all this way from South America,” said the little black and white bird with twinkling eyes.

“Oh, Creeper, I didn’t know you were here!” cried Peter. “I’m so glad to see you, just as glad as can be. You are such a quiet fellow I’m afraid I shouldn’t have seen you at all if you hadn’t spoken. You know it’s always been hard work for me to believe that you are really and truly a Warbler.”

“Why so?” asked Creeper the Black-and-white Warbler, for that is the name by which he is commonly known. “Don’t I look like a Warbler?”

“Well, yes,” said Peter slowly. “You look like one however you don’t act like one.”

“In what way do I not act like one?” questioned Creeper.

“Well,” replied Peter, “all the rest of the Warblers can’t seem to keep still a minute. They are forever flitting about this way and that way. It tires me just to watch them. And you are not a bit that way. Also the way you run up tree trunks and along the limbs isn’t a bit Warbler like. Why is it you don’t flit and dart about as the others do?”


Old Orchard apple tree with plenty of insects and such on the trunk and branches for Warbler’s to dine on.


Creeper’s bright eyes sparkled. “I don’t have to,” he said. “I’m going to let you into a little secret, Peter. The rest of them get their living from the leaves and twigs and in the air, however I’ve discovered an easier way. I’ve found out that there are lots of little worms and insects and eggs on the trunks and big limbs of the trees and that I can get the best kind of a living there without flitting about. I don’t have to share them with anybody except the Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and DeeDee the Chickadee.”

“That reminds me,” said Peter. “Those folks you have mentioned nest in holes in trees; do you?”

“Oh, I should say not,” remarked Creeper. “I don’t know of any Warbler who does. I build on the ground and I nest in the Green Forest. Sometimes I make my nest in a little hollow at the base of a tree; sometimes I put it under a stump or rock or tuck it in under the roots of a tree that has been blown over.”

And so Creeper continued on up the trunk of the tree, picking here and picking there. Just then Peter caught sight of another friend whom he could always tell by the black mask he wore. It was Mummer the Yellow-throat. He had just darted into the thicket of bushes along the old stone wall. Peter promptly hurried over there to look for him.

When Peter reached the place where he had caught a glimpse of Mummer, no one was to be seen. Peter sat down, uncertain which way to go. Suddenly Mummer popped out right in front of Peter, seemingly from nowhere at all.

His throat and breast were bright yellow and his back wings and tail a soft olive-green. And the most remarkable thing about him was the mask of black right across his cheeks, eyes and forehead. At least it looked like a mask, although it really wasn’t one.

“Hello, Mummer!” Peter called out.

“Hello yourself, Peter Rabbit!” Mummer answered and then disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared.

Peter blinked and looked in vain all about.


Toppled tree with a root ball as an option for a Warbler’s nest.


“Looking for someone?” asked Mummer, suddenly popping into view where Peter least expected him.

“For goodness sake,” Peter pronounced, “how do you expect a fellow to talk to you when he can’t keep his eyes on you more than two seconds at a time!”

“You wanted to talk to me?” responded Mummer, and popped out of sight. Two seconds later he was back again and his bright little eyes fairly shone with mischief. Then before Peter could say a word Mummer burst into a pleasant little song. He was so full of happiness that Peter couldn’t be cross with him.

“There is something I like about you, Mummer,” declared Peter, “and that is that I never get you mixed up with anybody else. I should know you just as far as I could see you because of that black mask across your face. Has Mrs. Yellow-throat arrived yet?”

“Certainly,” replied another voice, and Mrs. Yellow-throat flitted across right in front of Peter. For just a second she sat still, long enough for him to have one good look at her. She was dressed very like Mummer save that she did not wear the black mask.

Peter was just about to say something polite and pleasant when from just back of him there sounded a loud, very emphatic, “Chut! Chut!” Peter whirled about to find another old friend. It was Chut-Chut the Yellow-breasted Chat, the largest of the Warbler family. He was so much bigger than Mummer that it was hard to believe that they were own cousins. Although Peter knew they were, and he also knew that he could never mistake Chut-Chut for any other member of the family because of his big size, which was that of some of the members of the Sparrow family. His back was a dark olive-green, and his throat and breast were a beautiful bright yellow. There was a broad white line above each eye and a little white line underneath. Below his breast he was all white.

To have seen him you would have thought that he suspected Peter might do him some harm, or at least he acted that way. If Peter hadn’t known him so well he might have been offended. Peter knew that there is no one among his feathered friends more cautious than Chut-Chut the Chat. He never takes anything for granted. He appears to be always on the watch for danger, even to the extent of suspecting his very best friends.


Bramble tangles in the winter clearly seen without their foliage.


When he had decided in his own mind that there was no danger, Chut-Chut came out to talk for a bit. And like all the rest of the Warblers he couldn’t keep still. Right in the middle of the story of his travels from far away Mexico he flew to the top of a little tree, began to sing, then flew out into the air with his legs dangling and his tail wagging up and down in the funniest way, and there continued his song as he slowly dropped down into the thicket again. It was a beautiful song and Peter hastened to tell him so.

Chut-Chut was pleased. He showed it by giving a little concert all by himself. It seemed to Peter that he never had heard such a variety of whistles and calls and songs as came from that yellow throat. When it was over Chut-Chut abruptly said goodbye and disappeared. Peter could hear his sharp “Chut! Chut!” farther along in the thicket as he hunted for worms among the bushes.

“I wonder,” said Peter, speaking out loud as he was thinking, “where he builds his nest. I wonder if he builds it on the ground, the way Creeper does.”

“No,” declared Mummer, who all the time had been darting about close at hand. “He doesn’t, although I do. Chut-Chut puts his nest near the ground, however, usually within two or three feet. He builds it in bushes or briars. Sometimes if I can find a good tangle of briars I build my nest in it several feet from the ground, and as a rule I would rather have it on the ground under a bush or in a clump of weeds. Have you seen my cousin Sprite the Parula Warbler, yet?”

“Not yet,” said Peter, and he started for home.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:


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!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 24 – Redstart + Yellow Warbler


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 24 – The Warblers Arrive


If there is one family of feathered friends which perplexes Peter Rabbit more than another, it is the Warbler family.

“So many of them come together and they move about so constantly that a fellow doesn’t have a chance to look at one long enough to recognize him,” Peter mentioned to Jenny Wren one morning when the Old Orchard was fairly alive with little birds no bigger than Jenny Wren herself.

And such restless little folks they were! They were not still an instant, flitting from tree to tree, twig to twig, darting out into the air and all the time keeping up an endless chattering mingled with little snatches of song. Peter would no sooner fix his eyes on one than another entirely different in appearance would take its place. Occasionally he would see one whom he recognized, one who would stay for the nesting season. The majority of them would stop only for a day or two, being bound farther north to make their summer homes.

Jenny was a little fearful these birds would not leave enough for her to get her own meals easily as there were so many of them and they were so busy catching all kinds of small insects.

“I don’t see what they have to stop here for,” uttered Jenny. “They could just as well go somewhere else where they would not be taking the food out of the mouths of folks who are here to stay all summer.”

As for Peter, he was thoroughly enjoying this visit of the Warblers, despite the fact that he was having no end of trouble trying to tell who was who. Suddenly one darted down and snapped up a fly almost under Peter’s very nose and was back up in a tree before Peter could get his breath.

“It’s Zee Zee the Redstart!” cried Peter joyously.


Redstart by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“I would know Zee Zee anywhere. Do you know who he reminds me of, Jenny Wren?” asked Peter.

“Who?” Jenny inquired.

“Goldy the Oriole,” Peter replied . “Only of course he’s ever so much smaller. He’s all black and orange-red and white as Goldy is, only there isn’t quite so much orange on him.”

For just an instant Zee Zee sat still with his tail spread. His head, throat and back were black and there was a black band across the end of his tail and a black stripe down the middle of it. The rest was bright orange-red. On each wing was a band of orange-red and his sides were the same color. Underneath he was white tinged more or less with orange.

It was only for an instant that Zee Zee sat still; then he was in the air, darting, diving, whirling, going through all sorts of antics as he caught tiny insects too small for Peter to see. Peter began to wonder how he kept still long enough to sleep at night. And his voice was quite as busy as his wings. “Zee, zee, zee, zee!” he would cry. This was only one of many notes. At times he would sing a beautiful little song and then again it would seem as if he were trying to imitate other members of the Warbler family.

“I do hope Zee Zee is going to stay here,” said Peter. “I just love to watch him.”

“I don’t imagine he’ll stay in the Old Orchard” Jenny thought out loud. “He and Mrs. Redstart will probably make their home on the edge of the Green Forest. They seem to like it better over there. There’s Mrs. Redstart now. Just notice that where Zee Zee is bright orange-red she is yellow, and instead of a black head she has a gray head and her back is olive-green with a grayish tinge. She lets Zee Zee do the singing and the showing off and she does the work. I expect she’ll build that nest with almost no help at all from him. Zee Zee is a good father as he’ll do his share in feeding their babies.”

Just then Peter caught sight of a bird all in yellow. He was about the same size as Zee Zee and was flitting about among the bushes along the old stone wall. “There’s Sunshine!” cried Peter, and without even bidding Jenny Wren farewell, he scampered over to where he could see the one he called Sunshine flitting about from bush to bush.


Yellow Warbler by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“Oh, Sunshine!” he cried, as he came within speaking distance, “I’m ever so glad to see you back. I do hope you and Mrs. Sunshine are going to make your home somewhere near here where I can see you every day.”

“Hello, Peter! I am just as glad to see you as you are to see me,” cried Sunshine the Yellow Warbler. “Yes, indeed, we certainly intend to stay here if we can find just the right place for our nest. It is lovely to be back here again. We’ve journeyed so far that we don’t want to go a bit farther if we can help it. Have you seen Sally the Cowbird around here this spring?”

Peter nodded. “Yes,” he said, “I have.”

“I’m sorry to hear it,” declared Sunshine. “She made us a lot of trouble last year. We fooled her though.”

“How did you fool her?” asked Peter.

Sunshine paused to pick a tiny worm from a leaf. “Well,” he said, “she found our nest just after we had finished it and before Mrs. Sunshine had had a chance to lay an egg. Of course you know what she did.”

“I can guess,” replied Peter. “She laid one of her own eggs in your nest.”

Sunshine stopped to pick two or three more worms from the leaves. “Yes,” he said. “She did just that. And it didn’t do her a bit of good. That egg never hatched. We fooled her and that’s what we’ll do again if she repeats that trick this year.”

“What did you do, throw that egg out?” asked Peter.

“No,” replied Sunshine. “Our nest was too deep for us to get that egg out. We just made a second bottom in our nest right over that egg and built the sides of the nest a little higher. Then we took good care that she didn’t have a chance to lay another egg in there.”

“Then you had a regular two story nest, didn’t you?” Peter exclaimed, opening his eyes very wide.

Sunshine nodded. “Yes, sir,” he said, “and it was a mighty fine nest, if I do say it. If there’s anything Mrs. Sunshine and I pride ourselves on it is our nest. Our babies have a soft cozy home.”

“What do you make your nest of?” asked Peter.


Tall meadow grasses available as bird nesting materials.


“Fine grasses and soft fibers from plants, some hair when we can find it, and a few feathers. And we always use a lot of that nice soft fern cotton. There is nothing softer that I know of.”

All the time Peter had been admiring Sunshine and thinking how wonderfully well he was named. At first glance he seemed to be all yellow, as if somehow he had managed to catch and hold the sunshine in his feathers. There wasn’t a white feather on him. When he came very close Peter could see that on his breast and underneath were little streaks of reddish brown and his wings and tail were a little blackish. Otherwise he was all yellow.

Presently he was joined by Mrs. Sunshine. She was not as bright yellow as was Sunshine, having an olive-green tint on her back. Underneath she was almost clear yellow without the reddish-brown streaks. She too was glad to see Peter although she couldn’t stop to chat, for already, as she informed Sunshine, she had found just the place for their nest. Of course Peter begged to be told where it was.

The two little folks in yellow snapped their bright eyes at him and told him that that was their secret and they didn’t propose to tell a living soul.

Perhaps if Peter had not been so curious and eager to get acquainted with other members of the Warbler family he would have stayed and done a little spying. As it was, he promised himself to come back to look for that nest after it had been built; then he scurried back among the trees of the Old Orchard to look for other friends among the busy little Warblers who were making the Old Orchard such a lively place that morning.

“There’s one thing about it,” cried Peter. “Any one can tell Zee Zee the Redstart by his black and flame colored suit. There is no other like it. And anyone can tell Sunshine the Yellow Warbler because there isn’t anybody else who seems to be all yellow. My, what a lively, lovely lot these Warblers are!”


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 –  Amercan Restart
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Yellow Warbler
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS – A fascinating story of a Yellow Warbler tracked from Columbia, South America to NY, USA (here).
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS – A map and explanation of when Yellow Warblers migrate back to your area (here).
  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and some colored pencils to complete the drawing of a Yellow Warbler (p46).

  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with an American Redstart on page 32.

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!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 23 – Nighthawk + Whip-poor-will


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 23 – Some Big Mouths


Boom!!! Peter Rabbit jumped. It was all so sudden and unexpected that Peter jumped before he had time to think. He had been scared when there was nothing to be afraid of.

“What are you jumping for, Peter?” tittered Jenny Wren. “That was only Boomer the Nighthawk.”

“You know being suddenly startled is apt to make people jump,” Peter answered. “If I had seen him anywhere about he wouldn’t have made me jump. It was the unexpectedness of it. I don’t see what he is out now for, anyway. It isn’t even dusk yet, and I thought him a night bird.”

“So he is,” agreed Jenny Wren. “Anyway, he is a bird of the evening, and that amounts to the same thing. Just because he likes the evening best isn’t any reason why he shouldn’t come out in the daylight.”

“I see Boomer late in the afternoon nearly every day. On cloudy days I often see him early in the afternoon. He’s an odd fellow. Such a mouth he has! I suppose it is very handy to have a big mouth if one must catch all one’s food in the air,” declared Jenny Wren.

“I’ve never noticed that Boomer has a particularly big mouth,” noted Peter.

“He’s got a little bit of a bill and a great big mouth to go with it. I don’t see what folks call him a hawk for when he isn’t a hawk at all,” Jenny remarked.

“I believe you told me the other day that Boomer is related to Sooty the Chimney Swift,” said Peter.

Jenny nodded vigorously. “So I did, Peter,” she replied. “Boomer and Sooty are sort of second cousins. There is Boomer now, way up in the sky. I do wish he’d dive and scare someone else.”

Peter tipped his head way back. High up in the blue, blue sky was a bird which at that distance looked something like a much overgrown Swallow. He was circling and darting about this way and that. Even while Peter watched he half closed his wings and shot down with such speed that Peter actually held his breath. It looked very, very much as if Boomer would dash himself to pieces. Just before he reached the earth he suddenly opened those wings and turned upward. At the instant he turned, the booming sound which had so startled Peter was heard. It was made by the rushing of the wind through the larger feathers of his wings as he checked himself.

In this dive Boomer had come near enough for Peter to get a good look at him. His coat seemed to be a mixture of brown and gray, very soft looking. His wings were brown with a patch of white on each. There was a white patch on his throat and a band of white near the end of his tail.


Nighthawk by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“Do you happen to know what kind of a nest the Nighthawks build, Jenny?” asked Peter.

“They don’t build any,” answered Jenny Wren.

“If there isn’t any nest where does Mrs. Boomer lay her eggs?” Peter inquired. “They must have some kind of a nest.”

“Mrs. Nighthawk only lays two eggs,” said Jenny. “Perhaps she thinks it isn’t worthwhile building a nest for just two eggs. Anyway, she lays them on the ground or on a flat rock and lets it go at that. She isn’t quite like Sally the Cowbird, for she does sit on those eggs and tend to them mother. Did you ever see Boomer in a tree?”

Peter shook his head. “I’ve seen him on the ground,” he said. “Never have I seen him in a tree. Why do you ask, Jenny?”

“I just wanted to see if you had noticed anything peculiar about the way he sits in a tree,” observed Jenny. “He sits lengthwise of a branch. He never sits across it as the rest of us do.”

“How funny!” exclaimed Peter. “I suppose that is Boomer making that odd noise we hear.”

“Yes,” replied Jenny. “He certainly does like to use his voice. They tell me that some folks call him Bullbat, though why they should call him either bat or hawk is beyond me. I suppose you know his cousin, Whip-poor-will.”

“I should say I do,” replied Peter. “There isn’t a person of my acquaintance who can say a thing over and over so many times without stopping for breath. Do I understand that he is cousin to Boomer?”

“He is a sort of second cousin, the same as Sooty the Chimney Swift,” explained Jenny Wren. “They look enough alike to be own cousins. Whip-poor-will has just the same kind of a big mouth and he is dressed very much like Boomer, save that there are no white patches on his wings.”

“I’ve noticed that,” said Peter. “That is one way I can tell them apart.”

“I wonder if you also noticed Whip-poor-will’s whiskers,” Jenny inquired.

“Whiskers!” cried Peter. “Who ever heard of a bird having whiskers?”

“Whip-poor-will finds whiskers to be just as useful as you find yours, and a little more so,” Jenny stated confidently. “I know this much, that if I had to catch all my food in the air I’d want whiskers and lots of them so that the insects would get tangled in them. I suppose that’s what Whip-poor-will’s are for.”

“By the way, do the Whip-poor-wills do any better in the matter of a nest than the Nighthawks?” Peter asked.

“Not a bit,” replied Jenny Wren. “Mrs. Whip-poor-will lays her eggs right on the ground, and usually in the Green Forest where it is dark. Like Mrs. Nighthawk, she lays only two. It’s the same way with another second cousin, Chuck-will’s-widow.”

“Who? I’ve never heard of such a bird,” Peter said while wrinkling his brow.

“I know Chuck-will’s-widow from being down South,” Jenny stated with confidence. “He looks a whole lot like the other two we’ve been talking about, and has an even bigger mouth. What’s more, funny and yet true, he has whiskers with branches. In his habits he’s just like his cousins, no nest and only two eggs. Now I must get back to my nest, goodbye Peter.”


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 –  Common Nighthawk
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Eastern Whip-poor-will
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – BIRD ACADEMY – impressive aerial display – Nighthawk video
  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and some colored pencils to complete the drawing of a Common Nighthawk (p30).

  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Whip-poor-will on page 45.

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!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 22 – Bank Swallow + American Kestrel


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 22 – Some Feathered Diggers


Peter Rabbit scampered along down one bank of the Laughing Brook, into the Green Meadow, eagerly watching for a high, gravelly bank such as Grandfather Frog had said that Rattles the Kingfisher likes to make his home in. Peter didn’t realize that he would not see a high, gravelly bank following the Laughing Brook, because the Green Meadows are low. He had seen Rattles fly down the Laughing Brook, and so he had just taken it for granted that the home of Rattles must be somewhere down there.

At last Peter reached the place where the Laughing Brook entered the Big River. He did not find the home of Rattles at first. Instead he found something that for the time being made him quite forget his search for Rattles and his home. Just before it reached the Big River the Laughing Brook wound through a swamp in which were many tall trees and a great number of young trees. A great many big ferns grew there and were splendid to hide under.


Curious Capkin on a clump of ferns in the forest.


He had stopped to rest in a clump of ferns when he was startled by seeing a great bird alight in a tree just a little way from him. His first thought was that it was a hawk, so you can imagine how surprised and pleased he was to discover that it was Mrs. Longlegs. Somehow Peter had always thought of Longlegs the Blue Heron as never alighting anywhere except on the ground. And here was Mrs. Longlegs in a tree. Having nothing to fear, Peter crept out from his hiding place that he might see better.

In the tree in which Mrs. Longlegs was perched and just below her he saw a little platform of sticks. He didn’t suspect that it was a nest, because it looked too rough and loosely put together to be a nest. Probably he wouldn’t have thought about it at all had not Mrs. Longlegs settled herself on it right while Peter was watching. It didn’t seem big enough or strong enough to hold her, and yet it did.

“As I live,” thought Peter, “I’ve found the nest of Longlegs! I don’t see how under the sun Mrs. Longlegs ever gets on and off that nest without kicking the eggs out.”

Peter sat around for a while, and since he didn’t care to let his presence be known, and as there was no one to talk to, he presently made up his mind that being so near the Big River he would go over there instead to see if Plunger the Osprey was fishing again on this day.

When he reached the Big River, Plunger was not in sight. Peter was disappointed. He had just about made up his mind to return the way he had come, when from beyond the swamp, farther up the Big River, he heard the harsh, rattling cry of Rattles the Kingfisher. It reminded him of what he had come for, and he at once began to hurry in that direction.


Sandy beach along the river’s edge.


Peter came out of the swamp on a little sandy beach. There he squatted for a moment, blinking his eyes, for out there the sun was very bright. Then a little way beyond him he discovered something that in his eager curiosity made him quite forget that he was out in the open where it was not safe for a rabbit to be. What he saw was a high sandy bank. With a hasty glance this way and that way to make sure that no danger was in sight, Peter scampered along the edge of the water till he was right at the foot of that sandy bank. Then he squatted down and looked eagerly for a hole such as he imagined Rattles the Kingfisher might make. Instead of one hole he saw a lot of holes, and they were very small holes. He knew right away that Rattles couldn’t possibly get in or out of a single one of those holes. In fact, those holes in the bank were no bigger than the holes Downy the Woodpecker makes in trees. Peter couldn’t imagine who or what had made them.

As Peter sat there staring and wondering a little head appeared at the entrance to one of those holes. It was a trim little head with a very small bill and a snowy white throat. At first glance Peter thought it was his old friend, Skimmer the Tree Swallow, and he was just on the point of asking what under the sun Skimmer was doing in such a place as that, when with a lively twitter of greeting the owner of that little hole in the bank flew out and circled over Peter’s head. It wasn’t Skimmer at all. It was Banker the Bank Swallow, own cousin to Skimmer the Tree Swallow. Peter recognized him the instant he got a full view of him.

In the first place Banker was a little smaller than Skimmer. His back, instead of being steel-blue like Skimmer’s, was a grayish-brown. He was a little darker on his wings and tail. His breast, instead of being all snowy white, was crossed with a brownish band. His tail was more nearly square across the end than is the case with other members of the Swallow family.

“What were you doing there?” cried Peter, his eyes popping right out with curiosity and excitement.

“Why, that’s my home,” twittered Banker.

“Do you mean to say that you live in a hole in the ground?” asked Peter.

“Certainly, why not?” Banker replied as he snapped up a fly just over Peter’s head.

“I don’t know any reason why you shouldn’t,” confessed Peter. “Somehow though it is hard for me to think of birds as living in holes in the ground. I’ve only just found out that Rattles the Kingfisher does. I didn’t suppose there were any others. Did you make that hole yourself, Banker?”

“Yes,” replied Banker. “That is, I helped make it. Mrs. Banker did her share. Way in at the end of it we’ve got the nicest little nest of straw and feathers. What is more, we’ve got four white eggs in there, and Mrs. Banker is sitting on them now.”

By this time the air seemed to be full of Banker’s friends, skimming and circling this way and that, and going in and out of the little holes in the bank.

“I am like my big cousin, Twitter the Purple Martin, fond of society,” explained Banker. “We Bank Swallows like our homes close together. You said that you had just learned that Rattles the Kingfisher has his home in a bank. Do you know where it is?”

“No,” replied Peter. “I was looking for it when I discovered your home. Can you tell me where it is?”

“I’ll do better than that;” replied Banker. “I’ll show you where it is.”

He darted some distance up along the bank and hovered for an instant close to the top. Peter scampered over there and looked up. There, just a few inches below the top, was another hole, a very much larger hole than those he had just left. As he was staring up at it a head with a long sharp bill and a crest which looked as if all the feathers on the top of his head had been brushed the wrong way, was thrust out. It was Rattles himself. He didn’t seem at all glad to see Peter. In fact, he came out and darted at Peter angrily. Peter didn’t wait to feel that sharp dagger-like bill. He took to his heels. He had seen what he started out to find and he was quite content to go home.


Tall dead tree in the meadow near the old orchard.


Peter took a short cut across the Green Meadows. It took him past a certain tall, dead tree. A sharp cry of “Kill-ee, kill-ee, kill-ee!” caused Peter to look up just in time to see a trim bird whose body was about the size of Sammy Jay’s and whose longer wings and longer tail made him look bigger. One glance was enough to tell Peter that this was a member of the Hawk family, the smallest of the family. It was Killee the Sparrow Hawk. He is too small for Peter to fear him, so now Peter was eager and curious to sit and watch.

Out over the meadow grass Killee sailed. Suddenly, with beating wings, he kept himself in one place in the air and then dropped down into the grass. He was up again in an instant, and Peter could see that he had a fat grasshopper in his claws. Back to the top of the tall, dead tree he flew and there ate the grasshopper. When it was finished he sat up straight and still, so still that he seemed a part of the tree itself. With those wonderful eyes of his he was watching for another grasshopper or for a meadow mouse.

Killee’s back was reddish-brown crossed by bars of black. His tail was reddish-brown with a band of black near its end and a white tip. His wings were slaty-blue with little bars of black, the longest feathers leaving white bars. Underneath he was a beautiful buff, spotted with black. His head was bluish with a reddish patch right on top. Before and behind each ear was a black mark. His rather short bill, like the bills of all the rest of his family, was hooked.

As Peter sat there admiring he noticed for the first time a hole high up in the trunk of the tree, such a hole as Yellow Wing the Flicker might have made and probably did make. Right away Peter remembered what Jenny Wren had told him about Killee’s making of his nest in just such a hole. “I wonder,” thought Peter, “if that is Killee’s home.”

Just then Killee flew over and dropped in the grass just in front of Peter, where he caught another fat grasshopper. “Is that your home up there?” asked Peter.


Grasshopper


“It certainly is,” replied Killee. “This is the third summer Mrs. Killee and I have had our home there.”

“You seem to be very fond of grasshoppers,” Peter ventured.

“I am,” replied Killee. “They are very fine eating when one can get enough of them.”

“Are they the only kind of food you eat?” Peter inquired.

“I should say not,” said Killee with a laugh. “I eat spiders and worms and all sorts of insects big enough to give a fellow a decent bite. For real good eating give me a fat meadow mouse. I don’t object to a Sparrow or some other small bird now and then, especially when I have a family of hungry youngsters to feed. However, I live mostly on grasshoppers and insects and meadow mice.”

As soon as he conveniently could Peter politely bade Killee goodbye and hurried home to the dear Old Briar-patch, there to think over how odd it seemed that a member of the hawk family should nest in a hollow tree and a member of the Swallow family should dig a hole in the ground.


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 –  Bank Swallow
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Sparrow Hawk (aka American Kestrel)
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – NEST WATCH – Bird House Plans for American Kestrel
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for Grasshopper (p. 338-343)  and Ferns (p. 693-706) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.

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!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 21 – Kingfisher + Blue Heron


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 21 – A Fishing Party


Peter Rabbit sat on the edge of the Old Briar-patch trying to make up his mind whether to stay at home or to go call on some of the friends he had not yet visited. A sharp, harsh rattle caused him to look up to see a bird about a third larger than Welcome Robin, and with a head out of all proportion to the size of his body. He was flying straight towards the Smiling Pool, rattling harshly as he flew. The mere sound of his voice settled the matter for Peter. “It’s Rattles the Kingfisher,” he cried. “I think I’ll run over to the Smiling Pool and pay him my respects.”

So Peter started for the Smiling Pool as fast as his long legs could take him lipperty-lipperty-lip. He had lost sight of Rattles the Kingfisher, and when he reached the bank of the Smiling Pool he was in doubt which way to turn. It was very early in the morning and there was not so much as a ripple on the surface of the Smiling Pool. As Peter sat there trying to make up his mind which way to go, he saw coming from the direction of the Big River a great, broad-winged bird, flying slowly. He seemed to have no neck at all, and carried straight out behind him were two long legs.


Kingfisher by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“Longlegs the Great Blue Heron! I wonder if he is coming here,” exclaimed Peter. “I do hope so.”

Peter stayed right where he was and waited. Nearer and nearer came Longlegs. When he was right opposite Peter he suddenly dropped his long legs, folded his great wings, and alighted right on the edge of the Smiling Pool across from where Peter was sitting. If he seemed to have no neck at all when he was flying, now he seemed to be all neck as he stretched it to its full length. The fact is, his neck was so long that when he was flying he carried it folded back on his shoulders. Never before had Peter had such an opportunity to see Longlegs.

He stood quite four feet high. The top of his head and throat were white. From the base of his great bill and over his eye was a black stripe which ended in two long, slender, black feathers hanging from the back of his head. His bill was longer than his head, stout and sharp like a spear and yellow in color. His long neck was a light brownish-gray. His back and wings were of a bluish color. The bend of each wing and the feathered parts of his legs were a rusty-red. The remainder of his legs and his feet were black. Hanging down over his breast were beautiful long pearly-gray feathers quite unlike any Peter had seen on any of his other feathered friends. He was both graceful and handsome.

“I wonder what has brought him over to the Smiling Pool,” thought Peter.

He didn’t have to wait long to find out. After standing perfectly still with his neck stretched to its full height until he was sure that no danger was near, Longlegs waded into the water a few steps, folded his neck back on his shoulders until his long bill seemed to rest on his breast, and then remained as motionless as if there were no life in him. Peter also sat perfectly still. By and by he began to wonder if Longlegs had gone to sleep. His own patience was reaching an end and he was just about to go on in search of Rattles the Kingfisher when like a flash the dagger like bill of Longlegs shot out and down into the water. When he withdrew it Peter saw that Longlegs had caught a little fish which he at once proceeded to swallow head first. Peter almost laughed right out as he watched the funny efforts of Longlegs to gulp that fish down his long throat. Then Longlegs resumed his old position as motionless as before.

It was no trouble now for Peter to sit still, for he was too interested in watching this lone fisherman to think of leaving. It wasn’t long before Longlegs made another catch and this time it was a fat pollywog. Peter thought of how he had watched Plunger the Osprey fishing in the Big River and the difference in the ways of the two fishermen.


Blue Heron by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“Plunger hunts for his fish while Longlegs waits for his fish to come to him,” thought Peter. “I wonder if Longlegs ever goes hunting.”

As if in answer to Peter’s thought Longlegs seemed to conclude that no more fish were coming his way. He stretched himself up to his full height, looked sharply this way and that way to make sure that all was safe, then began to walk along the edge of the Smiling Pool. He put each foot down slowly and carefully so as to make no noise. He had gone only a few steps when that great bill darted down like a flash, and Peter saw that he had caught a careless young frog. A few steps farther on he caught another pollywog. Then coming to a spot that suited him, he once more waded in and began to watch for fish.

Peter was suddenly reminded of Rattles the Kingfisher, whom he had quite forgotten. From the Big Hickory tree on the bank, Rattles flew out over the Smiling Pool, hovered for an instant, then plunged down head first. There was a splash, and a second later Rattles was in the air again, shaking the water from him in a silver spray. In his long, stout, black bill was a little fish. He flew back to a branch of the Big Hickory tree that hung out over the water and thumped the fish against the branch until it was dead. Then he turned it about so he could swallow it head first. It was a big fish for the size of the fisherman and he had a dreadful time getting it down. At last it was down, and Rattles set himself to watch for another. The sun shone full on him, and Peter gave a little gasp of surprise.

“I never knew before how handsome Rattles is,” thought Peter. He was about the size of Yellow Wing the Flicker, and his head made him look bigger than he really was. You see, the feathers on top of his head stood up in a crest, as if they had been brushed the wrong way. His head, back, wings and tail were a bluish-gray. His throat was white and he wore a white collar. In front of each eye was a little white spot. Across his breast was a belt of bluish-gray, and underneath he was white. There were tiny spots of white on his wings, and his tail was spotted with white. His bill was black and, like that of Longlegs, was long, and stout, and sharp. It looked almost too big for his size.

Presently Rattles flew out and plunged into the Smiling Pool again, this time, very near to where Longlegs was patiently waiting. He caught a fish, for it is not often that Rattles misses. It was smaller than the first one Peter had seen him catch, and this time as soon as he got back to the Big Hickory tree, he swallowed it without thumping it against the branch. As for Longlegs, he looked thoroughly put out. For a moment or two he stood glaring angrily up at Rattles. You see, when Rattles had plunged so close to Longlegs he had frightened all the fish. Finally Longlegs seemed to make up his mind that there was room for only one fisherman at a time at the Smiling Pool. Spreading his great wings, folding his long neck back on his shoulders, and dragging his long legs out behind him, he flew heavily away in the direction of the Big River.

Rattles remained long enough to catch another little fish, and then with a harsh rattle flew off down the Laughing Brook. “I would know him anywhere by that rattle,” thought Peter. “There isn’t any one who can make a noise anything like it. I wonder where he has gone to now. He must have a nest, although I haven’t the least idea what kind of a nest he builds. Hello! There’s Grandfather Frog over on his green lily pad. Perhaps he can tell me.”


Plump Pollywog


So Peter hopped along until he was near enough to talk to Grandfather Frog. “What kind of a nest does Rattles the Kingfisher build?” repeated Grandfather Frog. “Chug-arum, Peter Rabbit! Rattles doesn’t build a nest. At least I wouldn’t call it a nest. He lives in a hole in the ground.”

“What!” cried Peter, and looked as if he couldn’t believe his own ears.

Grandfather Frog grinned and his goggly eyes twinkled. “Yes,” he said,“Rattles lives in a hole in the ground.”

“What kind of a hole?” asked Peter.

“Just a plain hole,” reported Grandfather Frog, grinning more broadly than ever. Then seeing how perplexed and puzzled Peter looked, he went on to explain. “He usually picks out a high gravelly bank close to the water and digs a hole straight in just a little way from the top. He makes it just big enough for himself and Mrs. Rattles to go in and out of comfortably, and he digs it straight in for several feet. I’m told that at the end of it he makes a sort of bedroom, because he usually has a good sized family.”

“Do you mean to say that he digs it himself?” asked Peter.

Grandfather Frog nodded. “If he doesn’t, Mrs. Kingfisher does,” he replied. “Those big bills of theirs are picks as well as fish spears. They loosen the sand with those and scoop it out with their feet. I’ve never seen the inside of their home myself, although I’m told that their bedroom is lined with fish bones. Perhaps you may call that a nest, I certainly don’t.”

“I’m going straight down the Laughing Brook to look for that hole,” declared Peter, and left in such a hurry that he forgot to be polite enough to say thank you to Grandfather Frog.


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 –  Kingfisher
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Blue Heron
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this chapter conversation going are available for Kingfisher (p.97),  Hickory Tree (p. 643) and Grandfather Frog (p. 180) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.
  • A copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy has a Great Blue Heron coloring page (p20) and a Kingfisher page (p23).

FYI -This coloring book is 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!