Bird BOOK LOOK – Curiosity Projects -The Burgess Bird Book for Children (Annotated)


P.L.A.Y. in Place Curiosity


Missed Chapter 1? Begin Online for FREE HERE

So now that you have read the 45 chapters in The Burgess Bird Book for Children (Annotated) series provided by P.L.A.Y. online, what’s next?

Time to make use of your family’s interests generated from this adventure story with Peter Rabbit and his feathered friends to create new leaping off points into projects and activities that can easily be done at home.

Below are some sample curious questions to help get you started.

Be sure to have each family member generate their own list of what they enjoyed most  and what they’d like to explore further as this keeps everyone engaged and motivated.

Curiosity propels us forward into new ideas as well as digging deeper into topics that were only covered at the surface level. All super life learning moments!


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects + Activities


  1. Parts of a Bird: Our feathered friends have eyes, throat, shoulders, and a belly just like us. What other parts make up the bird anatomy that is different from humans?
  2. Beak Shape: What are the uses of a bird beak? Can you list them? What different types of shaped beaks are there and what are their clever uses? Dig deep!
  3. Bird Size Silhouettes: How does the outline or shape of a bird (their silhouette) help in identifying from a distance? What characteristics can you tell from a silhouette?
  4. Bird Songs + Calls: Can you track the songs of the birds that live just outside your windows? Who do you hear singing on a spring morning? Who do you hear on a summer’s eve? Do you hear more high notes or low notes? Slow notes or fast? Loud notes or soft notes? Can you duplicate the song you hear on a flute or by whistling? What are bird song mnemonics? Example: Chick-a-dee-dee-dee
  5. Feathers: What purpose do they serve beyond flying? Why is there a variety in colors? How do they vary in size? Do they vary in shape?
  6. Ornithologists: Who are they? Look into what the study of birds was like in the late 1800’s vs. how current day scientists engage with this work.
  7. Birds Can Be: Make a list of what birds can be. Example – seed spreaders, morning wake-up alarms, winged dancers, egg layers, singers, etc.
  8. Bird Watchers: Over 40+ million people in the United States consider themselves birders. How do folks engage with the study of our feathered friends even when they are not scientists by profession?  What is a hobbyist vs. a citizen scientist? Can all birders see activity in their local habitat year round in the United States?
  9. A great winter bird project in New England for the whole family is to engage with Project Feeder Watch by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It is helpful to prepare before the first frost if you need to put poles in the ground and certainly before the first winter storm blankets the ground with snow.
  10. Bonus! How many books can you name with a bird in the title? How many songs can you name that have a bird mentioned in it? What artwork have you seen with birds as a theme?

P.L.A.Y. in Place:

Read, Get Curious, and Enjoy the Journey!

If you haven’t already purchased one or two basic Bird ID books to have on hand in your home you might like to give these two a try.


National Audubon Society

The Sibley Guide to Birds

Written and Illustrated by David Allen Sibley

This guide edition copyright 2000 has been used extensively by my son for identifying birds in his photography as well as by other family members simply looking out our windows. This volume is very thorough in covering birds across the United States and specifically here in New England providing standard deviations to help distinguish between any differences.


The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Backyard Birdsong Guide to Eastern and Central North America: A Guide to Listening

by Donald Kroodsma

This book has a matching audio recording of 75 bird songs and calls to help you ID what you are hearing outdoors with a family friendly format.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Online Resources


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided this 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 – Summary – The Burgess Bird Book for Children (Annotated)


Peter Rabbit has taken us on quite the adventures in the past 45 chapters in this New England setting by introducing us to all of his feathered friends and learning about their habits and interactions throughout the Old Orchard, Green Forest, and beyond.


*If you missed Chapter 1 begin Online for FREE HERE


Having completed your reading of The Burgess Bird Book for Children (Annotated) now would be a great time to make use of your family’s interests generated from this story and use them as a leaping off point to make more discoveries about the natural world. Have each family member make a short list of what they enjoyed most or what they are still curious about for further exploring. Dig in!

Below is a list of some top online resources and books to look up at your local library for more great birding adventures. Enjoy!


P.L.A.Y. in Place Online Resources


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:


P.L.A.Y. in Place:

Read, Get Curious, and Enjoy the Story!


Into the Nest: Intimate Views of the Courting, Parenting, and Family Lives of Familiar Birds

by Laura Erickson & Marie Read

This book is a fantastic compliment to the Burgess Bird Book story as it goes into great depth about all the habits of 25 bird species that were mentioned throughout Peter Rabbits adventures. Filled with gorgeous color photos you get to meet “Jenny Wren and her family” and countless other feathered friend real life “characters”. This is a top pick!


What It’s Like To Be A Bird:

From Flying to Nesting, Eating to Singing, What Birds Are Doing, And Why 

by David Allen Sibley

David Sibley’s latest book is also great for the entire family with fantastic color illustrations of most all the birds mentioned in the Burgess Bird Book and engaging details that keep curious folks coming back for more. This too is a top pick and comes highly recommended by my 20 year old son who has taken on bird photography just in the past year. Visit my son’s collection of New England bird nature photos HERE.


My Side of the Mountain

by Jean Craighead George

Ready to settle into another great read aloud (or solo read)? How about a story that highlights both spending time outdoors, befriending a bird, and showing how to connect to nature and make peace with feeling lonely at times? This classic has it all!


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

P.L.A.Y. has provided this 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 6 – Phoebe + Least Flycatcher


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 6 – An Old Friend In a New Home


Every day brought newcomers to the Old Orchard, and early in the morning there were so many voices to be heard that perhaps it is no wonder if for some time Peter Rabbit failed to miss that of one of his very good friends. Most unexpectedly he was reminded of this as very early one morning he scampered, lipperty-lipperty-lip, across a bridge over the Laughing Brook.

“Dear me! Dear me! Dear me!” cried rather a plaintive voice. Peter stopped so suddenly that he all but fell head over heels. Sitting on the top of a tall, dead, mullein stalk was a very trim little fellow, a very little larger than Billy the House Sparrow. Above, his coat was of a dull olive-brown, while underneath he was of a grayish-white, with faint tinges of yellow in places. His head was dark, and his bill black. The feathers on his head were lifted just enough to make the tiniest kind of crest. His wings and tail were dusky, little bars of white showing very faintly on his wings, while the outer edges of his tail were distinctly white. He sat with his tail hanging straight down, as if he hadn’t strength enough to hold it up.

“Hello, Dear Me!” cried Peter joyously. “What are you doing way down here? I haven’t seen you since you first arrived, just after Winsome Bluebird got here.”


Very early one morning Peter Rabbit scampered, lipperty-lipperty-lip, across a bridge over the Laughing Brook.


Dear Me the Phoebe did not reply at once, he simply darted out into the air, and Peter heard a sharp click of that little black bill. Making a short circle, Dear Me alighted on the mullein stalk again.

“Did you catch a fly then?” asked Peter.

“Dear me! Dear me! I did,” was the prompt reply. And with each word there was a jerk of that long hanging tail. Peter almost wondered if in some way Dear Me’s tongue and tail were connected. “I suppose,” said he, “that it is the habit of catching flies and bugs in the air that has given your family the name of Flycatchers.”

Dear Me nodded and almost at once started into the air again. Once more Peter heard the click of that little black bill, then Dear Me was back on his perch. Peter asked again what he was doing down there.

“Mrs. Phoebe and I are living down here,” replied Dear Me. “We’ve made our home down here and we like it very much.”

Peter looked all around, this way, that way, every way, with the funniest expression on his face. He didn’t see anything of Mrs. Phoebe and he didn’t see any place in which he could imagine Mr. and Mrs. Phoebe building a nest. “What are you looking for?” asked Dear Me.

“For Mrs. Phoebe and your home,” declared Peter quite frankly. “I don’t suppose you and Mrs. Phoebe ever built a nest on the ground, and I don’t see any other place around here for one.”

Dear Me chuckled. “I wouldn’t tell any one other than you, Peter,” said he, “and since I’ve known you so long I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Mrs. Phoebe and I have our home under the very bridge you are sitting on.”

“I don’t believe it!” cried Peter.

Dear Me knew from the way Peter said it that he really didn’t mean that. “Look and see for yourself,” said Dear Me.


Eastern Phoebe by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


So Peter lay flat on his stomach and tried to stretch his head over the edge of the bridge so as to see under it. His neck wasn’t long enough, or else he was afraid to lean over as far as he might have. Finally he gave up and at Mr. Phoebe’s suggestion crept down the bank to the very edge of the Laughing Brook. Dear Me darted out to catch another fly, then flew right in under the bridge and alighted on a little ledge of stone just beneath the floor. There, sure enough, was a nest, and Peter could see Mrs. Phoebe’s bill and the top of her head above the edge of it. It was a nest with a foundation of mud covered with moss and lined with feathers.

“That’s perfectly splendid!” cried Peter, as Dear Me resumed his perch on the old mullein stalk. “How did you ever come to think of such a place? And why did you leave the shed up at Farmer Brown’s where you have built your home for the last two or three years?”

“Oh,” replied Dear Me, “we Phoebes always have been fond of building under bridges. You see a place like this is quite safe. Then, too, we like to be near water. Always there are many insects flying around where there is water, so it is an easy matter to get plenty to eat. I left the shed at Farmer Brown’s because that pesky cat up there discovered our nest last year, and we had a dreadful time keeping our babies out of her clutches. She hasn’t found us down here, and she wouldn’t be able to trouble us if she should find us.”

“I suppose,” said Peter, “that as usual you were the first of your family to arrive.”

“Yes, we are always the first,” replied Dear Me. Mrs. Phoebe and I don’t go as far south in winter as the other members of the family do. They go clear down into the Tropics. However, we manage to pick up a pretty good living without going as far as that. So we get back here before the rest of them, and usually have begun housekeeping by the time they arrive. My cousin, Chebec the Least Flycatcher, should be here by this time. Have you heard anything of him up in the Old Orchard?”

“No,” replied Peter, “although, to tell the truth, I haven’t looked for him. I’m on my way to the Old Orchard now, and I certainly shall keep my ears and eyes open for Chebec. I’ll tell you if I find him. Goodbye.”

“Dear me! Dear me! Dear me! Goodbye Peter,” replied Mr. Phoebe as Peter started off for the Old Orchard.


Old Orchard apple tree beginning to bud in the spring time in New England.


Perhaps it was because Peter was thinking of him that almost the first voice he heard when he reached the Old Orchard was that of Chebec, repeating his own name over and over as if he loved the sound of it. It didn’t take Peter long to find him. He was sitting out on the tip of one of the upper branches of an apple tree where he could watch for flies and other winged insects. He looked so much like Mr. Phoebe, save that he was smaller, that any one would have know they were cousins. “Chebec! Chebec! Chebec!” he repeated over and over, and with every note jerked his tail. Now and then he would dart out into the air and snap up something so small that Peter, looking up from the ground, couldn’t see it at all.

“Hello, Chebec!” cried Peter. “I’m glad to see you back again. Are you going to build in the Old Orchard this year?”

“Yes, I am,” replied Chebec promptly. “Mrs. Chebec and I have built here for the last two or three years, and we wouldn’t think of going anywhere else. Mrs. Chebec is looking for a place now. I suppose I ought to be helping her, however I learned a long time ago, Peter Rabbit, that in matters of this kind it is just as well not to have any opinion at all. When Mrs. Chebec has picked out just the place she wants, I’ll help her build the nest. It certainly is good to be back here in the Old Orchard and planning a home once more. We’ve made a very long journey, and I for one am glad it’s over.”

“I just saw your cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Phoebe, and they already have a nest and eggs,” said Peter.

“The Phoebes are the only members of the family that can stand cold weather,” replied Chebec. “What pleasure they get out of it I don’t understand. They are different in that they never build their nests in trees as the rest of us do.”

“Are you the smallest in the family?” asked Peter, for it had suddenly struck him that Chebec was a very little fellow indeed.


Least Flycatcher by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Chebec nodded. “I’m the smallest,” said he. “That’s why they call me Least Flycatcher. I may be least in size, but I can tell you one thing, Peter Rabbit, and that is that I can catch just as many bugs and flies as any of them.” Suiting action to the word, he darted out into the air. His little bill snapped and with a quick turn he was back on his former perch, jerking his tail and uttering his sharp little cry of, “Chebec! Chebec! Chebec!” until Peter began to wonder which he was the most fond of, catching flies, or the sound of his own voice.

Presently they both heard Mrs. Chebec calling from somewhere in the middle of the Old Orchard. “Excuse me, Peter,” said Chebec, “I must go at once. Mrs. Chebec says she has found just the place for our nest, and now we’ve got a busy time ahead of us. We are very particular how we build a nest.”

“Do you start it with mud the way Welcome Robin and your cousins, the Phoebes, do?” asked Peter.

“Mud?” cried Chebec. “Oh no, Peter, you must understand that we are very particular about what we use in our nest. We use rootlets, strips of soft bark, fibers of plants, the brown cotton that grows on ferns, and perhaps a little hair when we can find it. We make a dainty nest and we fasten it securely in the fork made by two or three upright little branches. Now I must go because Mrs. Chebec is getting impatient. Come see me again when I’m not so busy 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 –  Eastern Phoebe
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Least Flycatcher
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – BEAKS! – for many activities and explanations as to why birds have a variety of beak shapes and how they use them.
  • Q –What is the difference between a beak and a bill? A- Cornell Labs have the answer HERE
  • Take a moment, when you get the chance, to compare the beak of a hen vs. a duck bill.
  • Q/A –Does the hen or a duck have a soft or hard bill? What does a chicken eat? What does a duck eat? Does their bill match as the best tool to eat those foods? How so?
  • Q/A – Do duck’s and chickens smell through holes in their beak? Do other birds have a sense of smell?

Some of these questions have been inspired by or quoted from the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.

See pages 39-40 of this classic for more Q + A 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 2 – House Sparrow


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 2 – Billy in the Old Orchard


Peter Rabbit’s eyes twinkled when Jenny Wren said that she must look her old house over to see if it was fit to live in.

“Oh, well, I can tell you that your old house is already occupied,” replied Peter. “Billy the House Sparrow has been living in it for the last two months. In fact, he already has a good size family there.”

“What?” exclaimed Jenny and Mr. Wren together. Then without even saying goodbye to Peter, they flew to see it with their own eyes. Presently he heard them chattering as fast as their tongues could go, and this is very fast indeed.

“They will have to find a new house this year,” said Peter. “Billy the House Sparrow and Mrs. Sparrow won’t budge from their new home. My, my, my, just hear that racket! I think I’ll go over and see what is going on.”

So Peter hopped to a place where he could get a good view of Jenny Wren’s old home and still not be too far from the safety of the old stone wall. Jenny’s old home had been in a hole in one of the old apple trees. Looking over to it, Peter could see Mrs. Sparrow sitting in the little round doorway and quite filling it. She was chattering excitedly. Hopping and flitting from twig to twig close by were Jenny and Mr. Wren, their tails pointing almost straight up to the sky, and chattering as fast as they could make their tongues go. Flying at one and then at the other, and almost drowning their voices with his own harsh cries, was Billy himself. All this noise had brought all the other birds in the Old Orchard to see what was going on.

By ruffling up his feathers and raising his wings slightly as he hopped about, Billy managed to make himself appear much bigger than he really was. He was perhaps one fourth larger than Mr. Wren, although he looked half again as big.

His new spring suit was very dirty, due to his fondness for taking dust baths. His back was more or less of an ashy color with black and chestnut stripes. His wings were brown with a white bar on each. His throat and breast were black, and below that he was of a dirty white. The sides of his throat were white and the back of his neck chestnut.


House Sparrow (bottom left) and Chipping Sparrow (top right) by Lous Agassiz Fuertes


Billy the House Sparrow is also a born challenger. He never is happier than when he is in the midst of a challenge or a fuss of some kind. The fact that his neighbors disagreed with him today didn’t bother Billy in the least.

“Hey -that’s my house, and the sooner you get out of it the better!” yelled Jenny Wren, jerking her tail with every word as she hopped about just out of reach of Billy.

“It may have been your house once and it is mine now!” said Billy. “You didn’t make this house and you deserted it when you went south last fall. It is our turn now.”

Peter Rabbit nodded. “He’s right there,” muttered Peter. “It is true that he has a perfect right to that house. If folks leave things for half a year and fly south they can’t expect to find them just as they left them if or when they come back. My, my, my what a racket you are all making!”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Sparrow sat in the little round doorway. She knew that as long as she sat there it would be impossible for either Jenny or Mr. Wren to get in.

All the time Billy was darting back and forth in agitation. “Mrs. Sparrow and I are in the Old Orchard to stay!” declared Billy. The rest of the birds just watched and talked amongst themselves as Mr. Wren and Jenny Wren sat in frustration discussing the situation.


An apple tree in the Old Orchard beginning to blossom.


How long that squabble in the Old Orchard would have lasted had it not been for something which happened, no one knows. Right in the midst of it someone discovered Black Shadow, the cat who lives in Farmer Brown’s house, stealing up through the Old Orchard, her tail twitching and her yellow eyes glaring eagerly. She had heard that dreadful racket and suspected that in the midst of such excitement she might have a chance to catch one of the feathered folks. You can always trust Black Shadow to be on hand at a time like that.


Black Shadow the cat watching the birds in the Old Orchard.


No sooner was she discovered than everything else was forgotten. With Billy in the lead, and Jenny and Mr. Wren close behind him, all the birds turned their attention to Black Shadow. She was the predator of all, and they straight away forgot their own quarrel. Only Mrs. Sparrow remained where she was, in the little round doorway of her house. She intended to take no chances, and simply added her voice to the general racket. How those birds did shriek and scream! They darted down almost into the face of Black Shadow, and none went nearer than Billy the English Sparrow and Jenny Wren.

Now Black Shadow does not like to be the center of so much attention. She knew that, now that she had been discovered, there wasn’t a chance in the world for her to catch one of those feathered folks in the Old Orchard. So, with tail still twitching angrily, she turned and, with such dignity as she could, left the Old Orchard. Clear to the edge of the orchard the birds followed, shrieking and screaming after her.

When finally she disappeared towards Farmer Brown’s barn, those angry voices changed. It was such a funny change that Peter Rabbit laughed right out. Instead of anger there was triumph in every note as everybody returned to attend to their own affairs. Jenny and Mr. Wren seemed to have forgotten all about Billy and his wife in their old house.

They flew to another part of the Old Orchard to talk it all over and rest and get their breath. Peter Rabbit waited to see if they would come over near enough to him to chat a bit more. They didn’t and finally Peter started for his home in the dear Old Briar-patch to settle in the shade for a bit of rest.


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 – HOUSE SPARROW (aka English Sparrow)
  • House Sparrow nature journal coloring page at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE (*page W75).
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for both House Sparrow (p. 83-86) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.
  • Imagine . . . what if . . .  you arrived home from your trip “down south” just like Jenny and Mr. Wren and you found other folks who had moved into the home that you had left empty for 6 months. What would you do? Write about it in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal. Ask your friends and family the same “What if” question and hear their response. Think about how humans and animals handle this differently, or do they?
  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and color the House Sparrow on page 23 (colored pencils recommended).

    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 1 – House Wren



Chapter 1 – Jenny Wren Arrives

Lipperty-lipperty-lip scampered Peter Rabbit behind the tumble-down stone wall along one side of the Old Orchard. It was early in the morning, very early in the morning. In fact, jolly, bright Mr. Sun had hardly begun his daily climb up in the blue, blue sky. It was nothing unusual for Peter to see jolly Mr. Sun get up in the morning. It would be more unusual for Peter not to see him, for you know Peter is a great hand to stay out all night and not go back to the dear Old Briar-patch, where his home is, until the hour when most folks are just getting out of bed.

Peter had been out all night this time, however he wasn’t sleepy, not the least teeny, weeny bit. You see, sweet Mistress Spring had arrived, and there was so much happening on every side, and Peter was so afraid he would miss something, that he wouldn’t have slept at all if he could have helped it. Peter had come over to the Old Orchard so early this morning to see if there had been any new arrivals the day before.

“Birds are funny creatures,” said Peter, as he hopped over a low place in the old stone wall and was fairly in the Old Orchard.

“Tut, tut, tut!” said a voice. “Tut, tut, tut! They are not funny creatures at all. They are the most sensible folks in all the wide world.”

Peter cut a long hop short right in the middle, to sit up with shining eyes. “Oh, Jenny Wren, I’m so glad to see you! When did you arrive?” he cried.

“Mr. Wren and I have just arrived, and thank goodness we are here at
last,” replied Jenny Wren, fussing about, as only she can, in a branch above
Peter.


Mr. Sun beginning his climb into the blue, blue sky in the Spring.


“I never was more thankful in my life to see a place than I am right this minute to see the Old Orchard once more. It seems ages and ages since we left it.”

“Well, if you are so fond of it why did you leave?” asked Peter. “It is just as I said before – you birds are funny creatures. So many of you do not stay put. Sammy Jay and DeeDee the Chickadee and Drummer the Woodpecker and a few others do not go off on long journeys. And yet the rest of you do,” declared Peter.

“Tut, tut, tut!” interrupted Jenny Wren. “You don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Well if you are as fond of the Old Orchard as you claim to be, why did you ever leave it?” asked Peter again.

Jenny Wren’s eyes brightened. “Well, why do you eat?” she asked.

“Because I’m hungry,” replied Peter promptly.

“What would you eat if there were nothing to eat?” responded Jenny.

“I don’t know how to answer that question,” said Peter.

“Well we birds can’t live without eating any more than you can,” replied Jenny, “and in winter there is no food at all here for most of us, so we go where there is food. Those who are lucky enough to eat the kinds of food that can be found here in winter stay here. They are lucky. That’s what they are–lucky. Still–” Jenny Wren paused.

“Still what?” prompted Peter.


House Wren by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“I wonder sometimes if you folks who are at home all the time know just what a blessed place home is,” replied Jenny. “It is only six months since we went south and it seems ages. The best part of going away is coming home. I don’t care if that does sound rather mixed; it is true just the same. It isn’t home down there in the sunny South, even if we do spend as much time there as we do here. This is home, and there’s no place like it! What’s that, Mr. Wren? I haven’t seen all the Great World? Perhaps I haven’t, however I’ve seen enough of it, let me tell you that! Anyone who travels a thousand miles twice a year as we do has a right to express an opinion, especially if they have used their eyes as I have mine. There is no place like home, and my dear, I know you; you are just as tickled to be back here as I am.”

“He sings as if he were,” said Peter, for all the time Mr. Wren was singing with all his might.

Jenny Wren looked over at Mr. Wren fondly. “Isn’t he a dear to sing to me like that? And isn’t it a perfectly beautiful spring song?” said she. Then, without waiting for Peter to reply, she continued on. “I do wish he would be careful. Sometimes I am afraid he will overdo. Just look at him now! He is singing so hard that he is shaking all over” said Jenny. “He always is that way. There is one thing true about us Wrens, and this is that when we do things we do them with all our might. When we work we work with all our might. When Mr. Wren sings he sings with all his might.”

“Did you have a pleasant journey up from the sunny South?” asked Peter.

“Fairly pleasant,” replied Jenny. “We took it rather easily. Some birds hurry right through without stopping, however I should think they would be tired to death when they arrive. We rest whenever we are tired, and just follow along behind Mistress Spring, keeping far enough behind so that if she has to turn back we will not get caught by Jack Frost. It gives us time to get our new suits on the way. How do you like my new suit, Peter?” Jenny bobbed and twisted and turned to show Peter.

“Very much,” replied Peter. “I am very fond of brown. Brown and gray are my favorite colors.” Peter’s own coat is also brown and gray.

“The more I see of bright colors the better I like brown,” said Jenny. “It goes well with almost everything. It is neat and it is useful. If there is need of getting out of sight in a hurry you can do it if you wear brown. However, if you wear bright colors it isn’t so easy. I never envy anybody who happens to have brighter clothes than mine. I’ve seen dreadful things happen all because of wearing bright colors.”

“What things?” asked Peter.

“I’d rather not talk about them,” declared Jenny in a very emphatic way.

“Way down where we spent the winter some of the feathered folks who live there all the year round wear the brightest and most beautiful suits I’ve ever seen. They are simply gorgeous. I’ve also noticed that in times of danger these are the folks dreadful things happen to. You see they simply can’t get out of sight. For my part I would far rather be simply and neatly dressed and feel safe than to wear wonderful clothes and never know a minute’s peace. Why, there are some families I know of which, because of their beautiful suits, have been so hunted by men that hardly any are left. Oh my gracious, Peter Rabbit, I can’t sit here all day talking to you! I must find out who else has arrived in the Old Orchard and must look my old house over to see if it is fit to live in.”


Blossoms in an Old Orchard Apple Tree


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these fun activities to extend your bird story adventures:

  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS – HOUSE WREN
  • Visit Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  BIRD MIGRATION
  • Try sketching your own version of Jenny Wren, the Old Orchard, or Mr. Sun appearing in the blue, blue sky. Create a nature journal with a collection of your drawings. Write what you think may happen next to Jenny Wren or who Peter Rabbit may encounter next in the story.
  • Research and map the migration flight plan that Jenny Wren may have taken from down south up to New England. Trace it on a globe or in an atlas with your finger or print off a blank USA map and label the states and draw Jenny + Mr. Wren in flight!
  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and color the House Wren on page 24 (colored pencils recommended).

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.

Feathered Friend BONUS!


House Wren

“If you want some jolly little neighbors for the summer, invite the wrens to live near you year after year by putting up small, one family box houses under the eaves of the barn, the cow shed, or the chicken house, on the grape arbor or in the orchard. Beware of a pair of nesting wrens in a box nailed against a piazza post: they beat any alarm clock for arousing the family at sunrise.

When you are sound asleep some April morning, a tiny brown bird, just returned from a long visit south of the Carolinas, will probably alight on the perch in front of one of your boxes, peep in the doorhole, enter—although his pert little cocked-up-tail has to be lowered to let him through—look about with approval, go out, spring to the roof and pour out of his wee throat a gushing torrent of music. The song seems to bubble up faster than he can sing. After the wren’s happy discovery of a place to live, his song will go off in a series of musical explosions all day long, now from the roof, now from the clothes posts, the fence, the barn, or the wood pile. There never was a more tireless, spirited, brilliant singer.” ~Birds Every Child Should Know by Neltje Blanchan Copyright 1907


P.L.A.Y. + Pass it on!