Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 45 – Northern Goshawk + Great Horned Owl


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



CHAPTER 45 – Peter Sees Two Feathered Hunters


While it is true that Peter Rabbit likes winter, it is also true that life is not easy for him that season. In the first place he has to travel about a great deal to get sufficient food, and that means that he must run more risks. There isn’t a minute of day or night that he is outside of the dear Old Briar-patch when he can afford not to watch and listen for danger. You see, at this season of the year, Reddy Fox often finds it difficult to get a good meal. He is hungry most of the time, and he is forever hunting for Peter Rabbit. With snow on the ground and no leaves on the bushes and young trees, it is not easy for Peter to hide. So, as he travels about, the thought of Reddy Fox is always in his mind.

However, there are others whom Peter fears even more, and these wear feathers instead of fur coats. One of these is Terror the Goshawk. Peter is not alone in his fear of Terror. There is not one among his feathered friends who will not shiver at the mention of Terror’s name. Peter will not soon forget the day he discovered that Terror had come down from the Far North, and was likely to stay for the rest of the winter. Peter went hungry all the rest of that day.

You see it was this way: Peter had gone over to the Green Forest very early that morning in the hope of getting breakfast in a certain swamp. He was hopping along, lipperty-lipperty-lip, with his thoughts chiefly on that breakfast he hoped to get, and at the same time with ears and eyes alert for possible danger, when a strange feeling swept over him. It was a feeling that great danger was very near, though he saw nothing and heard nothing to indicate it. It was just a feeling, that was all.

Now Peter has learned that the wise thing to do when one has such a feeling as that is to seek safety first and investigate afterwards. At the instant he felt that strange feeling of fear he was passing a certain big, hollow log. Without really knowing why he did it, he dived into that hollow log, and even as he did so there was the sharp swish of great wings. Terror the Goshawk had missed catching Peter by a fraction of a second.


Hollowed out log for hiding.


With his heart thumping as if it were trying to pound its way through his ribs, Peter peeped out of that hollow log. Terror had alighted on a tall stump only a few feet away. To Peter in his fright he seemed the biggest bird he ever had seen. Of course he wasn’t. Actually he was very near the same size as Redtail the Hawk, whom Peter knew well.

His back was bluish. His head seemed almost black. Over and behind each eye was a white line. Underneath he was beautifully marked with wavy bars of gray and white. On his tail were four dark bands. And Peter could see the eyes that were fixed on the entrance to that hollow log. Peter shivered as if with a cold chill.

“I hope,” thought Peter, “that Mr. and Mrs. Grouse are nowhere about.” You see he knew that there is no one that Terror would rather catch than a member of the Grouse family.

Terror did not sit on that stump long. He knew that Peter was not likely to come out in a hurry. Presently he flew away, and Peter suspected from the direction in which he was headed that Terror was going over to visit Farmer Brown’s hen yard. Of all the members of the Hawk family there is none more bold than Terror the Goshawk. He would not hesitate to seize a hen from almost beneath Farmer Brown’s nose. He is well named, for the mere suspicion that he is anywhere about strikes terror to the heart of all the furred and feathered folks. He is so swift of wing that few can escape him.


Barnyard hen is dinner for a Goshawk.


All that day Peter remained hidden in that hollow log. He did not dare put foot outside until the Dark Shadows began to creep through the Green Forest. Then he knew that there was nothing more to fear from Terror the Goshawk, for he hunts only by day. Once more Peter’s thoughts were chiefly of his stomach, for it was very, very empty.

However, it was not intended that Peter should fill his stomach at once. He had gone only a little way when from just ahead of him the silence of the early evening was broken by a terrifying sound “Whooo-hoo-hoo, whooo-hoo!” It was so sudden that Peter had all he could do to keep from jumping and running for dear life. He knew that voice and he knew, too, that safety lay in keeping perfectly still. So with his heart thumping madly, as when he had escaped from Terror that morning, Peter sat as still as if he could not move.

It was the hunting call of Hooty the Great Horned Owl, and it had been intended to frighten some one into jumping and running, or at least into moving ever so little. Peter knew all about that trick of Hooty’s. He knew that in all the Green Forest there are no ears so wonderful as those of Hooty the Owl, and that the instant he had uttered that hunting call he had strained those wonderful ears to catch the faintest sound which some startled little sleeper of the night might make. The rustle of a leaf would be enough to bring Hooty to the spot on his great silent wings, and then his yellow eyes, which are made for seeing in the dusk, would find his prey.

So Peter sat still, fearful that the very thumping of his heart might reach those wonderful ears. Again that terrible hunting cry rang out, and again Peter had all he could do to keep from jumping. He did not jump though, and a few minutes later, as he sat staring at a certain tall, dead stub of a tree, wondering just where Hooty was, the top of that stub seemed to break off, and a great, broad winged bird flew away soundlessly like a drifting shadow. It was Hooty himself. Sitting perfectly straight on the top of that tall, dead stub he had seemed a part of it. Peter waited some time before he ventured to move. Finally he heard Hooty’s hunting call in a distant part of the Green Forest, and knew that it was safe for him to once more think of his empty stomach.


Icy babbling brook in winter


Later in the winter while the snow still lay in the Green Forest, and the ice still bound the Laughing Brook, Peter made a surprising discovery. He was over in a certain lonely part of the Green Forest when he happened to remember that near there was an old nest which had once belonged to Redtail the Hawk. Out of idle curiosity Peter ran over for a look at that old nest. Imagine how surprised he was when just as he came within sight of it, he saw a great bird just settling down on it. Peter’s heart jumped right up in his throat. At least that is the way it seemed, for he recognized Mrs. Hooty.

Of course Peter stopped right where he was and took the greatest care not to move or make a sound. Presently Hooty himself appeared and perched in a tree near at hand. Peter has seen Hooty many times before, always as a great, drifting shadow in the moonlight. Now he could see him clearly. As he sat bolt upright he seemed to be of the same height as Terror the Goshawk, although with a very much bigger body. If Peter had known it, his appearance of great size was largely due to the fluffy feathers in which Hooty was clothed. Like his small cousin, Spooky the Screech Owl, Hooty seemed to have no neck at all. He looked as if his great head was set directly on his shoulders. From each side of his head two great tufts of feathers stood out like ears or horns. His bill was sharply hooked. He was dressed all in reddish-brown with little buff and black markings, and on his throat was a white patch. His legs were feathered, and so were his feet clear to the great claws.

Above all else it was on the great, round, yellow eyes that Peter kept his own eyes. He had always thought of Hooty as being able to see only in the dusk of evening or on moonlight nights, and somehow he had a feeling that even now in broad daylight Hooty could see perfectly well, and he was quite right.

For a long time Peter sat there without moving. He dared not do anything else. After he had recovered from his first fright he began to wonder what Hooty and Mrs. Owl were doing at that old nest. His curiosity was aroused. He felt that he simply must find out. By and by Hooty flew away. Very carefully, so as not to attract the attention of Mrs. Owl. Peter went back the way he had come. When he was far enough away to feel reasonably safe, he scampered as fast as ever he could. He wanted to get away from that place, and he wanted to find some one of whom he could ask questions.

Presently he met his cousin, Jumper the Hare, and at once in a most excited manner told him all he had seen.

Jumper listened until Peter was through. “If you’ll take my advice,” he said, “you’ll keep away from that part of the Green Forest, Cousin Peter. From what you tell me it is quite clear to me that the Owl Family have begun nesting.”

“Nesting!” exclaimed Peter. “Nesting! Why, gentle Mistress Spring will not get here for a month yet!”


Winter Wonderland


“Hooty the Great Horned Owl doesn’t wait for Mistress Spring,” said Jumper. “He and Mrs. Owl believe in getting household cares out of the way early. Along about this time of year they hunt up an old nest of Redtail the Hawk or Clever the Crow or Chatterer the Red Squirrel, for they do not build a nest themselves. Then Mrs. Owl lays her eggs while there is still snow and ice. Why their youngsters don’t catch their death from cold when they hatch out is more than I can say. They simply don’t. I’m sorry to hear that the Owl Family have a nest here this year. It means a bad time for a lot of little folks in feathers and fur. I certainly shall keep away in from that part of the Green Forest, and I advise you to.”

Peter said that he certainly should, and then started on for the dear Old Briar-patch to think things over. The discovery that already the nesting season of a new year had begun turned Peter’s thoughts towards the coming of sweet Mistress Spring and the return of his many feathered friends who had left for the far away South so long before. A great longing to hear the voices of Welcome Robin and Winsome Bluebird and Little Friend the Song Sparrow swept over him, and a still greater longing for a bit of friendly chatting with Jenny Wren. In the past year he had learned so much about his feathered neighbors, and there were still so many things he wanted to know, things Jenny Wren and others could tell him. He couldn’t wait to begin the year anew with more questions and curiosity about his feathered friends and all of the creatures in the great Green Forest, and beyond.



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 44 – Pine Grosbeak + Common Redpoll


Bird Book for HOMESCHOOLING



Jumper the Hare didn’t have time to reply to Peter Rabbit’s question when Peter asked if there was any one else besides the Crossbills who had come down from the Far North.

“I’ve come from the North,” said a voice from a tree just back of them.

It was so unexpected that it made both Peter and Jumper hop in startled surprise. Then they turned to see who had spoken. There sat a bird just a little smaller than Welcome Robin, who at first glance seemed to be dressed in strawberry-red. However, a closer look showed that there were slate-gray markings about his head, under his wings and on his legs. His tail was brown. His wings were brown, marked with black and white and slate. His bill was thick and short.

“Who are you?” asked Peter.


Sumac in the fall in full foliage flare!


“I’m Piny the Pine Grosbeak,” replied the stranger.

“Oh,” said Peter. “Are you related to Rosebreast the Grosbeak who nested last summer in the Old Orchard?”

“I certainly am,” replied Piny. “He is my very own cousin. I’ve never seen him because he never ventures up where I live and I don’t go down where he spends the winter, however all members of the Grosbeak family are cousins.”

“Rosebreast is very lovely and I’m very fond of him,” said Peter. “We are very good friends.”

“Then I know we are going to be good friends,” replied Piny. As he said this he turned and Peter noticed that his tail was distinctly forked instead of being square across like that of Welcome Robin. Piny whistled, and almost at once he was joined by another bird who in shape was just like him, although they were dressed in slaty-gray and olive-yellow, instead of the bright red that he himself wore. Piny introduced the newcomer as Mrs. Grosbeak.

“Lovely weather, isn’t it?” she said. “I love the snow. I wouldn’t feel at home with no snow about. Why, last spring I even built my nest before the snow was gone in the Far North. We certainly hated to leave up there, and yet food was getting so scarce that we had to. We have just arrived. Can you tell me if there are any cedar trees or ash trees or sumacs near here?”


Sumac berries spell supper for winter birds!


Peter hastened to tell her just where she would find these trees and then rather timidly asked why she wanted to find them.

“Because they hold their berries all winter,” replied Mrs. Grosbeak promptly, “and those berries make very good eating. I rather thought there must be some around here. If there are enough of them we certainly shall stay a while.”

“I hope you will,” replied Peter. “I want to get better acquainted with you. You know, if it were not for you folks who come down from the Far North the Green Forest would be a rather lonely place in winter. There are times when I like to be alone, and I also like to know that there is someone I can call on when I feel lonesome. Did you and Piny come down alone?”

“No, indeed,” replied Mrs. Grosbeak. “There is a flock of our relatives not far away. We came down with the Crossbills. All together we made quite a party.”


A dear old-briar patch off of the meadow in the snowy sunshine.


Peter and Jumper stayed a while to chat with the Grosbeaks. Then Peter thought that it was high time for him to return to the dear Old Briar-patch, and bidding his new friends goodbye, he started off through the Green Forest, lipperty-lipperty-lip. When he reached the edge of the Green Forest he decided to run over to the weedy field to see if the Snowflakes and the Tree Sparrows and the Horned Larks were there. They were, and almost at once Peter discovered that they had company. Twittering cheerfully as he busily picked seeds out of the top of a weed which stood above the snow, was a bird very little bigger than Chicoree the Goldfinch. When Peter looked at him he just had to rub his eyes.

“Goodness gracious!” he muttered, “it must be something is wrong with my eyes so that I am seeing red. I’ve already seen two birds dressed in red and now there’s another. It certainly must be my eyes. There’s Dotty the Tree Sparrow over there; I hear his voice. I wonder if he will look red.”

Peter hopped near enough to get a good look at Dotty and found him dressed just as he should be. That relieved Peter’s mind. His eyes were quite as they should be. Then he returned to look at the happy little stranger still busily picking seeds from that weed top.

The top of his head was bright red. There was no doubt about it. His back was toward Peter at the time and but for that bright red cap Peter certainly would have taken him for one of his friends among the Sparrow family. You see his back was grayish-brown. Peter could think of several Sparrows with backs very much like it. When he looked closely he saw that just above his tail this little stranger wore a pinkish patch, and that was something no Sparrow of Peter’s acquaintance possesses.

Then the lively little stranger turned to face Peter and a pair of bright eyes twinkled mischievously. “Well,” he said, “how do you like my appearance? ”


Green Forest in Winter


“My, how pretty you are!” Peter exclaimed.

The little stranger was pretty. His breast was pink. Below this he was white. The middle of his throat was black and his sides were streaked with reddish-brown. He looked pleased at Peter’s exclamation.

“I’m glad you think I’m pretty,” he said. “I like pink myself. I like it very much indeed. I suppose you’ve already seen my friends, Snipper the Crossbill and Piny the Grosbeak.”

Peter promptly bobbed his head. “I’ve just come from making their acquaintance,” he said. “By the way you speak, I presume you also are from the Far North. I am just beginning to learn that there are more folks who make their homes in the Far North than I had dreamed of. If you please, I don’t believe I know you at all.”

“I’m Redpoll,” was the prompt response. “I am called that because of my red cap. Yes, indeed, I make my home in the Far North. There is no place like it.”

Redpoll called softly and almost at once was joined by another red-capped bird without a pink breast, and with sides more heavily streaked. “This is Mrs. Redpoll,” announced her lively little mate. Then he turned to her and added, “I’ve just been telling Peter Rabbit that as long as he cannot visit our beautiful Far North he must become acquainted with those of us who come down here in the winter. I’m sure he’ll find us very friendly folks.”

“I’m sure I shall,” said Peter. “If you please, do you live altogether on these weed seeds?”

Redpoll laughed a happy laugh. “Hardly, Peter,” he replied. “We like the seeds of the birches and the alders, and we eat the seeds of the evergreen trees when we get them. Sometimes we find them in cones Snipper the Crossbill has opened and hasn’t picked all the seeds out of. Sometimes he drops some for us. Oh, we always manage to get plenty to eat. There are some of our relatives over there and we must join them. We’ll see you again, Peter.”

Peter said he hoped they would and then watched them fly over to join their friends. Suddenly, as if a signal had been given, all spread their wings at the same instant and flew up in a birch tree not far away. All seemed to take wing at precisely the same instant. Up in the birch tree they sat for a minute or so and then, just as if another signal had been given, all began to pick out the tiny seeds from the birch tassels. No one bird seemed to be first. It was quite like a drill, or as if each had thought of the same thing at the same instant. Peter chuckled over it all the way home. And somehow he felt better for having made the acquaintance of the Redpolls. It was the feeling that everybody so fortunate as to meet them on a cold winter’s day is sure to have.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:


Did you miss Chapter 1 – 43? Begin 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 42 – Eastern Screech Owl


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



CHAPTER 42 – Peter Learns Something About Spooky


Peter Rabbit likes winter. At least he doesn’t mind it so very much, even though he has to really work for a living. Perhaps it is a good thing that he does, for he might grow too fat to keep out of the way of Reddy Fox. You see when the snow is deep Peter is forced to eat whatever he can, and very often there isn’t much of anything for him except the bark of young trees. It is at such times that Peter gets into mischief, for there is no bark he likes better than that of young fruit trees. Now you know what happens when the bark is taken off all the way around the trunk of a tree. That tree dies. It dies for the simple reason that it is up the inner layer of bark that the life giving sap travels in the spring and summer. Of course, when a strip of bark has been taken off all the way around near the base of a tree, the sap cannot go up and the tree must die.

Now up near the Old Orchard Farmer Brown had set out a young orchard. Peter knew all about that young orchard, for he had visited it many times in the summer. Then there had been plenty of sweet clover and other green things to eat, and Peter had never been so much as tempted to sample the bark of those young trees. Now things were very different, and it was very seldom that Peter knew what it was to have a full stomach. He kept thinking of that young orchard. He knew that if he were wise he would keep away from there. And the more he thought of it the more it seemed to him that he just must have some of that tender young bark. So just at dusk one evening, Peter started for the young orchard.


Winter in the Old Orchard and Green Forest with a cloak of white.


Peter got there safely and his eyes sparkled as he hopped over to the nearest young tree. When he reached it, Peter had a dreadful disappointment. All around the trunk of that young tree was wire netting.

Peter couldn’t get even a nibble of that bark. He tried the next tree with no better result. Then he hurried on from tree to tree, always with the same result. You see Farmer Brown knew all about Peter’s liking for the bark of young fruit trees, and he had been wise enough to protect his young orchard.

At last Peter gave up and hopped over to the Old Orchard. As he passed a certain big tree he was startled by a voice. “What’s the matter, Peter?” said the voice. “You don’t look happy.”


Screech Owl by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Peter stopped short and stared up in the big apple tree. Look as he might he couldn’t see anybody. Of course there wasn’t a leaf on that tree, and he could see all through it. Peter blinked. He knew that had there been any one sitting on any one of those branches he couldn’t have helped seeing him.

“Don’t look so high, Peter,” said the voice with a chuckle. This time it sounded as if it came right out of the trunk of the tree. Peter stared at the trunk and then suddenly laughed right out. Just a few feet above the ground was a good sized hole in the tree, and poking his head out of it was a funny little fellow with big eyes and a hooked beak.

“You certainly did fool me that time, Spooky,” cried Peter. “I ought to have recognized your voice, and I didn’t.”

Spooky the Screech Owl, for that is who it was, came out of the hole in the tree and without a sound from his wings flew over and perched just above Peter’s head. He was a little fellow, not over eight inches high, and there was no mistaking the family to which he belonged. In fact he looked very much like a small copy of Hooty the Great Horned Owl, so much so that Peter felt a little cold shiver run over him, although he had nothing in the world to fear from Spooky.

His head seemed to be almost as big around as his body, and he seemed to leave no neck at all. He was dressed in bright reddish-brown, with little streaks and bars of black. Underneath he was whitish, with little streaks and bars of black and brown. On each side of his head was a tuft of feathers. They looked like ears and some people think they are ears although they are not. His eyes were round and yellow with a fierce hungry look in them. His bill was small and almost hidden among the feathers of his face, it was hooked just like the bill of Hooty. As he settled himself he turned his head around until he could look squarely behind him, then brought it back again so quickly that to Peter it looked as if it had gone clear around. You see Spooky’s eyes are fixed in their sockets and he cannot move them from side to side. He has to turn his whole head in order to see to one side or the other.

“You haven’t told me yet why you look so unhappy, Peter,” said Spooky.

“Isn’t an empty stomach enough to make any fellow unhappy?” replied Peter.

Spooky chuckled. “I’ve got an empty stomach myself, Peter,” he said, “and it isn’t making me unhappy. I have a feeling that somewhere there is a fat mouse waiting for me.”


Snow edged hole in a tree – perhaps a perch for an owl? Maybe!


Just then Peter remembered what Jenny Wren had told him early in the spring of how Spooky the Screech Owl lives all the year around in a hollow tree, and curiosity made him forget for the time being that he was hungry. “Did you live in that hole all summer, Spooky?” he asked.

Spooky nodded solemnly. “I’ve lived in that hollow summer and winter for three years,” said he.

Peter’s eyes opened very wide. “And till now I never even guessed it,” he exclaimed. “Did you raise a family there?”

“I certainly did,” replied Spooky. “Mrs. Screech Owl and I raised a family of four as fine looking youngsters as you ever have seen. They’ve gone out into the Great World to make their own living now. Two were dressed just like me and two were gray.”

“That’s funny,” Peter exclaimed.

“What’s funny?” Spooky said with suspicion.

“Why that all four were not dressed alike,” said Peter.

“Oh, there’s nothing funny about it,” replied Spooky, and snapped his bill sharply with a little cracking sound. “We Screech Owls believe in variety. Some of us are gray and some of us are reddish-brown.”

Peter nodded as if he quite understood, although he couldn’t understand at all. “I’m ever so pleased to find you living here,” he said politely. “You see, in winter the Old Orchard is rather a lonely place. I don’t see how you get enough to eat when there are so few birds about.”

“Birds!” snapped Spooky. “What have birds to do with it?”

“Why, don’t you live on birds?” asked Peter innocently.

“I should say not. I guess I would starve if I depended on birds for my daily food,” responded Spooky. “I catch a Sparrow now and then, to be sure, usually it is a House Sparrow. However, I live mostly on mice and shrews in winter and in summer I eat a lot of grasshoppers and other insects. If it wasn’t for me and my relatives I guess mice would soon over run the Great World. Farmer Brown ought to be glad I’ve come to live in the Old Orchard and I guess he is, for Farmer Brown’s boy knows all about this house of mine and never disturbs me. Now if you’ll excuse me I think I’ll fly over to Farmer Brown’s young orchard. I ought to find a fat mouse or two trying to get some of the bark from those young trees.”

“Hah!” exclaimed Peter. “They can try all they want to, and they still won’t get any; I can tell you that.”

Spooky’s round yellow eyes twinkled. “It must be you have been trying to get some of that bark yourself,” he said.

Spooky once more chuckled as he spread his wings and flew away so soundlessly that he seemed more like a drifting shadow than a bird. Then Peter started for a certain swamp he knew of where he would be sure to find enough bark to stay his appetite.


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 Screech Owl
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Eastern Screech Owl Camouflage
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – K-12 Education – Dissecting an Owl Pellet
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for Screech Owl (p. 100-104) 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 41 – Snow Bunting + Horned Lark


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



 CHAPTER 41 – More Friends Come With the Snow


Slaty the Junco had been quite right in thinking it was going to snow some more. Rough Brother North Find hurried up one big cloud after another, and late that afternoon the white feathery flakes came drifting down out of the sky.

Peter Rabbit sat tight in the dear Old Briar-patch. In fact Peter did no moving about that night, rather he remained squatting just inside the entrance to an old hole Johnny Chuck’s grandfather had dug long ago in the middle of the clear Old Briar-patch. Some time before morning the snow stopped falling and then rough Brother North Wind worked as hard to blow away the clouds as he had done to bring them.

When jolly, round, bright Mr. Sun began his daily climb up in the blue, blue sky he looked down on a world of white. It seemed as if every little snowflake twinkled back at every little sunbeam. It was all very lovely, and Peter Rabbit rejoiced as he scampered forth in quest of his breakfast.


Mr. Sun shining on the frosty snow.


He started first for the weedy field where the day before he had found Dotty the Tree Sparrow and Slaty the Junco. They were there before him, having the very best time as they picked seeds from the tops of the weeds which showed above the snow. Almost at once Peter discovered that they were not the only seekers for seeds. Walking about on the snow, and quite as busy seeking seeds as were Dotty and Slaty, was a bird very near their size the top of whose head, neck and back were a soft rusty-brown. There was some black on his wings, and the latter were mostly white and the outer tail feathers were white. His breast and under parts were white. It was Snowflake the Snow Bunting in his winter suit. Peter knew him instantly. There was no mistaking him, for, as Peter well knew, there is no other bird of his size and shape who is so largely white.

He had appeared so unexpectedly that it almost seemed as if he must have come out of the snow clouds just as had the snow itself. Peter had his usual question ready.

“Are you going to spend the winter here, Snowflake?” he asked.


Snow Bunting (top left) and Horned Lark (center/right) by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Snowflake was so busy getting his breakfast that he did not reply at once. Peter noticed that he did not hop, rather he walked or ran. Presently he paused long enough to reply to Peter’s question. “If the snow has come to stay all winter, perhaps I’ll stay,” he said.

“What has the snow to do with it?” questioned Peter.

“Only that I like the snow and I like cold weather. When the snow begins to disappear, I just naturally fly back farther north,” replied Snowflake. “It isn’t that I don’t like bare ground, because I do, and I’m always glad when the snow is blown off in places so that I can hunt for seeds on the ground. When the snow begins to melt everywhere I feel uneasy. I can’t understand how folks can be contented where there is no snow and ice. You don’t catch me going way down south. Why, when the nesting season comes around, I chase Jack Frost clear way up to where he spends the summer. I nest way up on the shore of the Polar Sea.”

“If you are so fond of the cold in the Far North, the snow and the ice, what did you come south at all for? Why don’t you stay up there all the year around?” asked Peter.

“Like everybody else,” replied Snowflake, twittering merrily, “I have to eat in order to live. When you see me down here you may know that the snows up north are so deep that they have covered all the seeds. I always keep a weather eye out, as the saying is, and the minute it looks as if there would be too much snow for me to get a living, I move along. I hope I will not have to go any farther than this, however if some morning you wake up and find the snow so deep that all the heads of the weeds are buried, don’t expect to find me.”

“That’s what I call good, sound common sense,” said another voice, and a bird a little bigger than Snowflake, and who at first glance seemed to be dressed almost all in soft chocolate brown, alighted in the snow close by and at once began to run about in search of seeds. It was Wanderer the Horned Lark. Peter hailed him joyously, for there was something of mystery about Wanderer, and Peter, as you know, loves mystery.


Bird tracks two-by-two around the tree in the snow.


Peter had known him ever since his first winter, yet did not feel really acquainted, for Wanderer seldom stayed long enough for a real acquaintance. Every winter he would come, sometimes two or three times, seldom staying more than a few days at a time. Quite often he and his relatives appeared with the Snowflakes, for they are the best of friends and travel much together.

Now as Wanderer reached up to pick seeds from a weed top, Peter had a good look at him. The first things he noticed were the two little horn like tufts of black feathers above and behind the eyes. It is from these that Wanderer gets the name of Horned Lark. No other bird has anything quite like them. His forehead, a line over each eye, and his throat were yellow. There was a black mark from each corner of the bill curving downward just below the eye and almost joining a black crescent shaped band across the breast. Beneath this he was soiled white with dusky spots showing here and there. His back was brown, in places having almost a pinkish tinge. His tail was black, showing a little white on the edges when he flew.

“Do all of your family have those funny little horns?” asked Peter.

“No,” was Wanderer’s prompt reply. “Mrs. Lark does not have them.”

“I think they are very becoming,” said Peter politely.

“Thank you,” replied Wanderer. “I am inclined to agree with you. You should see me when I have my summer suit.”

“I quite like this suit. Is it so very different from this?” asked Peter.


Feeding feathered friends leave plenty of prints in the snow.


“Well said, Peter,” interrupted Snowflake. “I quite agree with you. I think Wanderer’s present suit is pretty enough for any one, and it is true that his summer suit is even prettier. It isn’t so very different, it is just brighter, and those black markings are much stronger and show up better. You see, Wanderer is one of my neighbors in the Far North, and I know a lot about him.”

Snowflake nodded and said “I couldn’t ask for a better neighbor. You should hear him sing, Peter. He sings up in the air, and it really is a very pretty song.”

“I’d just love to hear him,” replied Peter. “Why don’t you sing here, Wanderer?”

“This isn’t the singing season,” replied Wanderer promptly. “Besides, there isn’t time to sing when one has to keep busy every minute in order to get enough to eat.”

“I don’t see,” said Peter, “why, when you get here, you don’t stay in one place.”

“Because it is easier to get a good living by moving about,” answered Wanderer. “Besides, I like to visit new places.”

Just then Peter discovered something that he hadn’t known before. “My goodness,” he exclaimed, “what a long claw you have on each hind toe!”

It was true. Each hind claw was about twice as long as any other claw. Peter couldn’t see any special use for it and he was just about to ask more about it when Wanderer suddenly spied a flock of his relatives some distance away and flew to join them.


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 –  Snow Bunting
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Horned Lark
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS – Snow Bunting as Songbirds
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE (page W65 Snow Bunting).
  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a coloring page of a Horned Lark (p24).
  • 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 40 – Tree Sparrow + Junco


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



CHAPTER 40 – Some Merry Seed-Eaters


Having been reminded of Dotty the Tree Sparrow, Peter Rabbit became possessed of a great desire to find this little friend of the cold months and learn how he had fared through the summer.

He was at a loss just where to look for Dotty until he remembered a certain weedy field along the edge of which the bushes had been left growing. “Perhaps I’ll find him there,” thought Peter, for he remembered that Dotty lives almost all on seeds, chiefly weed seeds, and that he dearly loves a weedy field with bushes not far distant in which he can hide.


Tree Sparrow by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


So Peter hurried over to the weedy field and there, sure enough, he found Dotty with a lot of his friends. They were very busy getting their breakfast. Some were clinging to the weed stalks picking the seeds out of the tops, while others were picking up the seeds from the ground. It was cold. Rough Brother North Wind was doing his best to blow up another snow cloud. It wasn’t at all the kind of day in which one would expect to find anybody in high spirits. And yet Dotty was. He was even singing as Peter came up, and all about Dotty’s friends and relatives were twittering as happily and merrily as if it were the beginning of spring instead of winter.

Dotty was very nearly the size of Little Friend the Song Sparrow and looked somewhat like him, save that his breast was clear ashy-gray, and only a little dark spot in the middle, the little dot from which he gets his name. He wore a chestnut cap, almost exactly like that of Chippy the Chipping Sparrow. It reminded Peter that Dotty is often called the Winter Chippy.

“Welcome back, Dotty!” called out Peter. “It does my heart good to see you.”

“Thank you, Peter,” twittered Dotty happily. “In a way it is good to be back. Certainly, it is good to know that an old friend is glad to see me.”

“Are you going to stay all winter?” asked Peter.


Freshly fallen snow coating the branches of an orchard tree.


“I hope so,” replied Dotty. “I certainly shall if the snow does not get so deep that I cannot get enough to eat. Some of these weeds are so tall that it will take a lot of snow to cover them, and as long as the tops are above the snow I will have nothing to worry about. You know a lot of seeds remain in these tops all winter. And if the snow gets deep enough to cover these I shall have to move along farther south.”

“Then I hope there won’t be much snow,” declared Peter very emphatically. “There are few enough folks about in winter at best and I don’t know of any one I enjoy having for a neighbor more than I do you.”

“Thank you again, Peter,” said Dotty, “and please let me return the compliment. I like cold weather. I like winter when there isn’t too much ice and bad weather. I always feel good in cold weather. That is one reason I go north to nest.”

“Speaking of nests, do you build in a tree?” inquired Peter.

“Usually on or near the ground,” replied Dotty. “You know I am really a ground bird although I am called a Tree Sparrow. Most of us Sparrows spend our time on or near the ground.”

“Do you know I’m very fond of the Sparrow family,” said Peter. “I just love your cousin Chippy, who nests in the Old Orchard every spring. I wish he would stay all winter. I really don’t see why he doesn’t. I should think he could if you can.”

Dotty laughed. It was a tinkling little laugh, and good to hear. “Cousin Chippy would starve to death,” he declared.

“It is all a matter of food. Cousin Chippy lives chiefly on worms and bugs and I live almost all on seeds, and that is what makes the difference. Cousin Chippy must go where he can get plenty to eat. I can get plenty here and so I stay.”

“Did you and your relatives come down from the Far North alone?” asked Peter.

“No,” replied Dotty promptly. “Slaty the Junco and his relatives came along with us and we had a very merry party.”

Peter pricked up his ears. “Is Slaty here now?” he asked eagerly.


Junco by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“Very much here,” replied a voice right behind Peter’s back. It was so unexpected that it made Peter jump. He turned to find Slaty himself chuckling merrily as he picked up seeds. He was very nearly the same size as Dotty just trimmer. There was no mistaking Slaty the Junco for any other bird. His head, throat and breast were clear slate color. Underneath he was white. His sides were grayish. His outer tail feathers were white. His bill was flesh color. It looked almost white.

“Hello! Welcome!” greeted Peter. “Are you here to stay all winter?”

“I certainly am,” was Slaty’s prompt response. “It will take pretty bad weather to drive me away from here. If the snow gets too deep I’ll just go up to Farmer Brown’s barnyard. I can always pick up a meal there, for Farmer Brown’s boy is a very good friend of mine. I know he won’t let me starve, no matter what the weather is. I think it is going to snow some more. I like the snow. You know I am sometimes called the Snowbird.”

Peter nodded. “So I have heard,” he said, “though I think that name really belongs to Snowflake the Snow Bunting.”

“Quite right, Peter, quite right,” replied Slaty. “I much prefer my own name of Junco. My, these seeds are good!” All the time he was busily picking up seeds so tiny that Peter didn’t even see them.

“If you like here so much why don’t you stay all the year?” inquired Peter.

“It gets too warm,” replied Slaty. “I can’t stand hot weather. Give me cold weather every time.”

“Do you mean to tell me that it is cold all summer where you nest in the Far North?” inquired Peter.

“Not exactly cold,” said Slaty, “just a lot cooler than it is down here. I don’t go as far north to nest as Snowflake does, I go far enough to be fairly comfortable. I don’t see how some folks can stand hot weather.”

“It is a good thing they can,” interjected Dotty. “If everybody liked the same things it wouldn’t do at all. Just suppose all the birds ate only seeds. There wouldn’t be seeds enough to go around, and a lot of us would starve. Then, too, the worms and the bugs would eat up everything. So, take it all together, it is a mighty good thing that some birds live almost all on worms and bugs and such things, leaving the seeds to the rest of us. I guess Old Mother Nature knew what she was about when she gave us different tastes.”

Peter nodded his head in approval. “You can always trust Old Mother Nature to know what is best,” he said sagely. “By the way, Slaty, what do you make your nest of and where do you put it?” asked Peter.


Feathered friends make foot traffic in the snow.


“My nest is usually made of grasses, moss, and rootlets. Sometimes it is lined with fine grasses, and when I am lucky enough to find them I use long hairs. Often I put my nest on the ground, and never very far above it. I am like my friend Dotty in this respect. It always seems to me easier to hide a nest on the ground than anywhere else. There is nothing like having a nest well hidden. It takes sharp eyes to find my nest, I can tell you that, Peter Rabbit.”

Just then Dotty, who had been picking seeds out of the top of a weed, gave a cry of alarm and instantly there was a flit of many wings as Dotty and his relatives and Slaty sought the shelter of the bushes along the edge of the field. Peter sat up very straight and looked this way and looked that way. At first he saw nothing suspicious. Then, crouching flat among the weeds, he got a glimpse of Black Shadow, the cat from Farmer Brown’s house. She had been creeping up in the hope of catching one of those happy little seed eaters. Peter stamped angrily. Then with long jumps he started for the dear Old Briar-patch, lipperty-lipperty-lip, for truth to tell, big as he was, he was a little afraid of Black Shadow the cat.


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 –  Tree Sparrow
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Dark-eyed Junco
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE (page W58 American Tree Sparrow + W64 Dark-eyed Junco ).
  • 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 Dark-eyed Junco (p23).

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 39 – White-breasted Nuthatch + Brown Creeper


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



CHAPTER 39 – Peter Discovers Two Old Friends


Rough Brother North Wind and Jack Frost were not far behind Honker the Goose. In a night Peter Rabbit’s world was transformed. It had become a new world, a world of pure white. The last among Peter’s feathered friends who spend the winter in the far away South had hurried away. Still Peter was not lonely. DeeDee’s cheery voice greeted Peter the very first thing that morning after the storm. DeeDee seemed to be in just as good spirits as ever he had been in summer.

Now Peter rather likes the snow. He likes to run about in it, and so he followed DeeDee up to the Old Orchard. He felt sure that he would find company there besides DeeDee, and he was not disappointed. Downy and Hairy the Woodpeckers were getting their breakfast from a piece of suet Farmer Brown’s boy had thoughtfully fastened in one of the apple trees for them. Sammy Jay was there also, and his blue coat never had looked better than it did against the pure white of the snow.

These were the only ones Peter really had expected to find in the Old Orchard, and so you can guess how pleased he was as he hopped over the old stone wall to hear the voice of one whom he had almost forgotten. It was the voice of Yank-Yank the Nuthatch, and there was something in it of good cheer and contentment. At once Peter hurried in the direction from which it came.


Winter’s magic has arrived in the Old Orchard, Green Meadow, and Green Forest turning everything a silent white.


On the trunk of an apple tree he caught sight of a gray and black and white bird about the size of Downy the Woodpecker. The top of his head and upper part of his back were shining black. The rest of his back was bluish-gray. The sides of his head and his breast were white. The outer feathers of his tail were black with white patches near their tips.

Peter didn’t need to see how Yank-Yank was dressed in order to recognize him. Peter would have known him if he had been so far away that the colors of his coat did not show at all. You see, Yank-Yank was doing a most surprising thing, something no other bird can do. He was walking head first down the trunk of that tree, picking tiny eggs of insects from the bark and seemingly quite as much at home and quite as unconcerned in that odd position as if he were right side up.

As Peter approached, Yank-Yank lifted his head and called a greeting which sounded very much like the repetition of his own name. Then he turned around and began to climb the tree as easily as he had come down it.

“Welcome home, Yank-Yank!” cried Peter, hurrying up quite out of breath.

Yank-Yank turned around so that he was once more head down, and his eyes twinkled as he looked down at Peter. “You’re mistaken Peter,” he said. “This isn’t home. I’ve simply come down here for the winter. You know home is where you raise your children, and my home is in the Great Woods farther north. There is too much ice and snow up there, so I have come down here to spend the winter.”

“Well anyway, it’s a kind of home; it’s your winter home,” replied Peter, “and I certainly am glad to see you back. The Old Orchard wouldn’t be quite the same without you. Did you have a pleasant summer? And if you please, Yank-Yank, tell me where you built your home and what it was like.”

“Yes, Mr. Curiosity, I had a very pleasant summer,” replied Yank-Yank. “Mrs. Nuthatch and I raised a family of six. As to our nest, it was made of leaves and feathers and it was in a hole in a certain old stump that not a soul knows of except for Mrs. Nuthatch and myself. Now is there anything else you would like to know?”


White-breasted Nuthatch by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“Yes,” added Peter promptly. “I want to know how it is that you can walk head first down the trunk of a tree without losing your balance and tumbling off?”

Yank-Yank chuckled happily. “I discovered a long time ago, Peter,” he said, “that the people who get on best in this world are those who make the most of what they have and waste no time wishing they could have what other people have. I suppose you have noticed that all the Woodpecker family have stiff tail feathers and use them to brace themselves when they are climbing a tree. They have become so dependent on them that they don’t dare move about on the trunk of a tree without using them. If they want to come down a tree they have to back down.”

“Now Old Mother Nature didn’t give me stiff tail feathers, she gave me a very good pair of feet with three toes in front and one behind and when I was a very little fellow I learned to make the most of those feet. Each toe has a sharp claw. When I go up a tree the three front claws on each foot hook into the bark. When I come down a tree I simply twist one foot around so that I can use the claws of this foot to keep me from falling. It is just as easy for me to go down a tree as it is to go up, and I can go right around the trunk just as easily and comfortably.” Suiting action to the word, Yank-Yank ran around the trunk of the apple tree just above Peter’s head. When he reappeared Peter had another question ready.

“Do you live altogether on grubs and worms and insects and their eggs?” he asked.

“I should say not!” exclaimed Yank-Yank. “I like acorns and beechnuts and certain kinds of seeds.”

“I don’t see how such a little fellow as you can eat such hard things as acorns and beechnuts,” answered Peter a little doubtfully .


Who made these prints in the snow?


Yank-Yank laughed right out. “Sometime when I see you over in the Green Forest I’ll show you,” he said. “When I find a fat beechnut I take it to a little crack in a tree that will just hold it; then with this stout bill of mine I crack the shell. It really is quite easy when you know how. Cracking a nut open that way is sometimes called hatching, and that is how I come by the name of Nuthatch. Hello! There’s Seep-Seep. I haven’t seen him since we were together up North. His home was not far from mine.”

As Yank-Yank spoke, a little brown bird alighted at the very foot of the next tree. He was just a trifle bigger than Jenny Wren and yet not at all like Jenny, for while Jenny’s tail usually is cocked up in the sauciest way, Seep-Seep’s tail is never cocked up at all. In fact, it bends down, for Seep-Seep uses his tail just as the members of the Woodpecker family use theirs. He was dressed in grayish-brown above and grayish-white beneath. Across each wing was a little band of buffy-white, and his bill was curved just a little.

Seep-Seep didn’t stop an instant, rather he started up the trunk of that tree, going round and round it as he climbed, and picking out things to eat from under the bark. His way of climbing that tree was very like creeping, and Peter thought to himself that Seep-Seep was well named the Brown Creeper. He knew it was quite useless to try to get Seep-Seep to talk. He knew that Seep-Seep wouldn’t use his time that way as he had work to do.

Round and round up the trunk of the tree he went, and when he reached the top at once flew down to the bottom of the next tree and without a pause started up that. He wasted no time exploring the branches, and stuck to the trunk. Once in a while he would cry in a thin little voice, “Seep! Seep!”
without pausing to rest or look around. If he had felt that on him alone depended the job of getting all the insect eggs and grubs on those trees he could not have been more industrious.


Bird prints in the snow – feet and wings!


“Does he build his nest in a hole in a tree?” asked Peter of Yank-Yank. “No,” he replied. “He hunts for a tree or stub with a piece of loose bark hanging to it. In behind this he tucks his nest made of twigs, strips of bark and moss. He’s a funny little fellow and I don’t know of any one in all the great world who more strictly attends to his own business than does Seep-Seep the Brown Creeper. By the way, Peter, have you seen anything of Dotty the Tree Sparrow?”

“Not yet,” replied Peter, “I do think he must be here though. I’m glad you reminded me of him. I’ll go look for him.”


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 –  White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Brown Creeper
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE (page W47 White-breasted Nuthatch + W48 Brown Creeper).
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for White-breasted Nuthatch (p. 65-68) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.
  • Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte offers pages for both the White-breasted Nuthatch AND Brown Creeper (7). Colored pencil use recommended.

*This coloring book is inexpensive, easy to find, and an excellent companion to 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.

Feathered Friend BONUS!


White-breasted Nuthatch

“When it comes to acrobatic performances in the trees the little bluish gray nuthatches have no rival. Indeed, any circus might be glad to secure their expert services. Hanging fearlessly from the topmost branches of the tallest pine, running along the under side of horizontal limbs as comfortably as along the top of them, or descending the trunk head foremost, these wonderful little gymnasts keep their nerves as cool as the thermometer in January. From the way they travel over any part of the tree they wish, from top and tip to the bottom of it, no wonder they are sometimes called Tree Mice. Only the fly that walks across the ceiling, however, can compete with them in clinging to the under side of boughs.

Why don’t they fall off? If you ever have a chance, examine their claws. These, you will see, are very much curved and have sharp little hooks that catch in any crack or rough place in the bark and easily support the bird’s weight. As a general rule the nuthatches can climb to more inaccessible places than other birds. With the help of the hooks on their toes it does not matter to them whether they run upward, downward, or sideways; and they can stretch their bodies away from their feet at some very odd angles. Their long bills penetrate into deep holes in the thick bark of the tree trunks and older limbs and bring forth from their hiding places insects that would escape almost every other bird except the brown creeper and the woodpecker.” ~Birds Every Child Should Know by Neltje Blanchan Copyright 1907


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

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 38 – Canada Goose + Common Loon


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



 CHAPTER 38 – Honker and Dippy Arrive


The leaves of the trees turned yellow and red and brown and then began to drop, a few at first, then more and more every day until all except the spruce , pine, hemlock, fir, and cedar trees were bare. By this time most of Peter’s feathered friends of the summer had departed, and there were days when Peter had such a lonely feeling. The fur of his coat was growing thicker. The grass of the Green Meadows had turned brown. All these things were signs which Peter knew well. He knew that rough Brother North Wind and Jack Frost were on their way down from the Far North.

Peter had few friends to visit now. Johnny Chuck had gone to sleep for the winter way down in his little bedroom under ground. Grandfather Frog had also gone to sleep. So had Old Mr. Toad. Peter spent a great deal of time in the dear Old Briar-patch just sitting still and listening. What he was listening for he didn’t know. It just seemed to him that there was something he ought to hear at this time of year, and so he sat listening and wondering what he was listening for. Then, late one afternoon, there came floating down to him from high up in the sky, faintly at first then growing louder, a sound unlike any Peter had heard all the long summer through. The sound was a voice. Rather it was many voices mingled “Honk, honk, honk, honk, honk!” Peter gave a little jump.

“That’s what I’ve been listening for!” he cried. “Honker the Goose and his friends are coming. I do hope they will stop where I can pay them a call.”

He hopped out to the edge of the dear Old Briar-patch that he might see better, and looked up in the sky. High up, flying in the shape of a letter V, he saw a flock of great birds flying steadily from the direction of the Far North. By the sound of their voices he knew that they had flown far that day and were tired. One bird was in the lead and this he knew to be his old friend, Honker. Straight over his head they passed and as Peter listened to their voices he felt within him the very spirit of the Far North, that great, wild, lonely land which he had never seen and yet he had so often heard.


Autumn has arrived and leaves carpet the ground in many colors.


As Peter watched, Honker suddenly turned and headed in the direction of the Big River. Then he began to slant down, his flock following him. And presently they disappeared behind the trees along the bank of the Great River. Peter gave a happy little sigh. “They are going to spend the night there,” he thought. “When the moon comes up, I will run over there, for they will come ashore and I know just where. Now that they have arrived I know that winter is not far away. Honker’s voice is as sure a sign of the coming of winter as is Winsome Bluebird’s that spring will soon be here.”

Peter could hardly wait for the coming of the Dark Shadows, and just as soon as they had crept out over the Green Meadows he started for the Big River. He knew just where to go, because he knew that Honker and his friends would rest and spend the night in the same place they had stopped at the year before. He knew that they would remain out in the middle of the Big River until the Dark Shadows had made it quite safe for them to swim in. He reached the bank of the Big River just as sweet Mistress Moon was beginning to throw her silvery light over the Great World. There was a sandy bar in the Great River at this point, and Peter squatted on the bank just where this sandy bar began.

It seemed to Peter that he had sat there half the night, when really it was only a short time, before he heard a low signal out in the Dark Shadows which covered the middle of the Big River. It was the voice of Honker. Then Peter saw little silvery lines moving on the water and presently a dozen great shapes appeared in the moonlight. Honker and his friends were swimming in. The long neck of each of those great birds was stretched to its full height, and Peter knew that each bird was listening for the slightest suspicious sound. Slowly they drew near, Honker in the lead. They were a picture of perfect caution. When they reached the sandy bar they remained quiet, looking and listening for some time. Then, sure that all was safe, Honker gave a low signal and at once a low gabbling began as the big birds relaxed their watchfulness and came out on the sandy bar, all save one. That one was the guard, and he remained with neck erect on watch. Some swam in among the rushes growing in the water very near to where Peter was sitting and began to feed. Others sat on the sandy bar and dressed their feathers. Honker himself came ashore close to where Peter was sitting.

“Oh Honker,” cried Peter, “I’m so glad you’re back here safe and sound.”


Fall landscape is a carpet of colors.


Honker gave a little start, and then instantly recognizing Peter he came over close to him. As he stood there in the moonlight he was truly handsome. His throat and a large patch on each side of his head were white. The rest of his head and long, slim neck were black. His short tail was also black. His back, wings, breast and sides were a soft grayish-brown. He was white around the base of his tail and he wore a white collar.

“Hello, Peter,” he said. “It is good to have an old friend greet me. I certainly am glad to be back safe and sound, for the hunters with guns have been at almost every one of our resting places, and it has been hard work to get enough to eat. It is a relief to find one place where there are no hunters.”

“Have you come far?” asked Peter.

“Yes, very far, Peter,” replied Honker. “And we still have very far to go. I shall be thankful when the journey is over, for on me depends the safety of all those with me, and it is a great responsibility.”

“Will winter soon be here?” asked Peter eagerly.

“Rough Brother North Wind and Jack Frost were right behind us,” replied Honker. “You know we stay in the Far North just as long as we can. Already the place where we nested is frozen and covered with snow. For the first part of the journey we kept only just ahead of the snow and ice, and as we drew near to where men make their homes we were forced to make longer journeys each day, for the places where it is safe to feed and rest are few and far between. Now we shall hurry on until we reach the place in the far away South where we will make our winter home.”

Just then Honker was interrupted by wild, strange sounds from the middle of the Great River. It sounded like crazy laughter. Peter jumped at the sound, although Honker merely chuckled. “It’s Dippy the Loon, he spent the summer in the Far North not far from us,” said Honker. “He started south just before we did.”

“I wish he would come in here so that I can get a good look at him and make his acquaintance,” said Peter.


Fall foliage sends a signal that winter is just around the corner.


“He may, although I doubt it,” replied Honker. “He and his mate are great ones to keep to themselves. Then, too, they don’t have to come ashore for food. You know Dippy feeds altogether on fish. He really has an easier time on the long journey than we do, because he can get his food without running so much risk of being shot by the hunters. He practically lives on the water. He’s the most awkward fellow on land of any one I know.”

“Why should he be any more awkward on land then you?” asked Peter, his curiosity aroused at once.

“Because,” replied Honker, “Old Mother Nature has given him very short legs and has placed them so far back on his body that he can’t keep his balance to walk, and has to use his wings and bill to help him over the ground. On shore he is about the most helpless thing you can imagine. On water he is another fellow altogether. He’s just as much at home under water as on top. My, how that fellow can dive! That’s where he has the advantage of us geese. You know we can’t dive. He could swim clear across this river under water if he wanted to, and he can go so fast under water that he can catch a fish. It is because his legs have been placed so far back that he can swim so fast. You know his feet are just simply big paddles. Another funny thing is that he can sink right down in the water when he wants to, with nothing other than his head out. I envy him that. It would be a lot easier for us geese to escape the hunters if we could sink down that way.”

“Has he a bill like yours?” asked Peter.

“No, his bill is stout, straight, and sharp pointed to hold onto slippery fish,” replied Honker. “He is pretty nearly as big as I am, and his back, wings, tail and neck are black with bluish or greenish appearance in the sun. His back and wings are spotted with white, and there are streaks of white on his throat and the sides of his neck. On his breast and below he is all white. You certainly ought to get acquainted with Dippy, Peter, for there isn’t anybody quite like him.”

“I’d like to,” replied Peter. “However, if he never comes to shore I guess I will have to be content to know him just by his voice. I certainly never will forget that. It’s about as crazy sounding as the voice of Old Man Coyote, and that is saying a great deal.”


Curious Capkins connect to the colors of the fallen fall foliage.


“There’s one thing I forgot to tell you,” said Honker. “Dippy can’t fly from the land; he must be on the water in order to get up in the air.”

“You can, can’t you?” asked Peter.

“Yes, I can,” replied Honker. “Why, we geese get a lot of our food on land. When it is safe to do so we visit the grain fields and pick up the grain that has been shaken out during harvest. We can rise from either land or water equally well. Now if you’ll excuse me, Peter, I’ll take a nap. My, I am tired! And I’ve got a long journey tomorrow.”

So Peter politely bade Honker and his relatives goodnight and left them in peace to rest on the sandy bar in the Big River.


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 –  Canada Goose
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Common Loon
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – BIRD ACADEMY –  Loon Communication
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for Wild Geese (p. 130-136)  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 drawing of a Canada Goose (p9).

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 37 – Black-capped Chickadee


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



 CHAPTER 37 – Farewells and Welcomes


All through the long summer Peter Rabbit watched his feathered friends and learned things in regard to their ways he never had suspected. As he saw them keeping the trees of the Old Orchard free of insect pests and working in Farmer Brown’s garden, and picking up the countless seeds of weeds everywhere, he began to understand something of the wonderful part these feathered folks have in keeping the Great World beautiful and in balance.

He had many a hearty laugh as he watched the bird babies learn to fly and to find their own food. All summer long they were going to school all about him, learning how to watch out for danger, to use their eyes and ears, and all the things a bird must know who would live to grow up.

As autumn drew near Peter discovered that his friends were gathering in flocks, roaming here and there. It was one of the first signs that summer was nearly over, and it gave him just a little feeling of sadness. He heard few songs now, for the singing season was over. Also he discovered that many of the most beautifully dressed of his feathered friends had changed their finery for traveling suits in preparation for the long journey to the far South where they would spend the winter. In fact he actually failed to recognize some of them at first.

September came, and as the days grew shorter, some of Peter’s friends bade him goodbye. They were starting on the long journey, planning to take it in easy stages for the most part. Each day saw some slip away. As Peter thought of the dangers of the long trip before them he wondered if he would ever see them again. Some who were there lingered even after Jack Frost’s first visit. Welcome and Mrs. Robin, Winsome and Mrs. Bluebird, Little Friend the Song Sparrow and his wife were among these. By and by even they were required to leave.

Sad indeed and lonely would these days have been for Peter had it not been that with the departure of the friends he had spent so many happy hours with came the arrival of certain other friends from the Far North where they had made their summer homes. Some of these stopped for a few days in passing. Others came to stay, and Peter was kept busy looking for and welcoming them.

There were a few old friends who would stay the year through. Sammy Jay, Downy and Hairy the Woodpeckers were a few amongst others. And there was one whom Peter loved dearly. It was DeeDee the Chickadee.


Blue sky highlighting a birch tree home similar to DeeDee the Chickadees.


Now DeeDee had not gone north in the spring. In fact, he had made his home not very far from the Old Orchard. It just happened that Peter hadn’t found that home, and had caught only one or two glimpses of DeeDee. Now, with household cares ended and his good size family properly started in life, DeeDee was no longer interested in the snug little home he had built in a hollow birch stub, and he and Mrs. Chickadee spent their time flitting about hither, thither, and yon, spreading good cheer. Every time Peter visited the Old Orchard he found him there, and as DeeDee was always ready for a bit of merry chatting, Peter soon had a winter friend to fill in for Jenny Wren’s spring and summer conversations.

“Don’t you dread the winter, DeeDee?” asked Peter one day, as he watched DeeDee clinging head down to a twig as he picked some tiny insect eggs from the under side.

“Not a bit,” replied DeeDee. “I like winter. I like cold weather. It makes a fellow feel good from the tips of his claws to the tip of his bill. I’m thankful I don’t have to take that long journey most of the birds have to. I discovered a secret a long time ago, Peter; shall I tell it to you?”

“Please do,” responded Peter. “You know how I love secrets.”

“Well,” replied DeeDee, “this is it: If a fellow keeps his stomach filled he will keep his toes warm.”

Peter looked a little puzzled. “I don’t just see what your stomach has to do with your toes,” he said.

DeeDee chuckled. It was a lovely throaty little chuckle. “Dee, dee, dee!” he said. “What I mean is, if a fellow has plenty to eat he will keep the cold out, and I’ve found that if a fellow uses his eyes and isn’t afraid of a little work, he can find plenty to eat. At least I can. The only time I ever get really worried is when the trees are covered with ice. If it were not that Farmer Brown’s boy is thoughtful enough to hang a piece of suet in a tree for me, I should dread those ice storms more than I do. As I said before, plenty of food keeps a fellow warm.”

“I thought it was your coat of feathers that kept you warm,” said Peter.

“Oh, the feathers help,” replied DeeDee. “Food makes heat and a warm coat keeps the heat in the body. And so the heat has got to be there first, or the feathers will do no good. It’s just the same way with your own self, Peter. You know you are never really warm in winter unless you have plenty to eat.”

“That is so,” replied Peter thoughtfully. “I never happened to think of it before. Just the same, I don’t see how you find food enough on the trees when they are all bare in winter.”

“Dee, Dee, Dee, Chickadee! Leave that matter just to me,” chuckled DeeDee. “You know that a lot of different kinds of bugs lay eggs on the twigs and trunks of trees. Those eggs would stay there all winter and in the spring hatch out into lice and worms if it were not for me. Why, sometimes in a single day I find and eat almost five hundred eggs of those little green plant lice that do so much damage in the spring and summer. Then there are little worms that bore in just under the bark, and there are other creatures who sleep the winter away in little cracks in the bark. Oh, there is plenty for me to do in the winter. I am one of the policemen of the trees. Downy and Hairy the Woodpeckers, Seep-Seep the Brown Creeper and Yank-Yank the Nuthatch are others. If we didn’t stay right here on the job all winter, I don’t know what would become of the Old Orchard.”


Black-capped Chickadee by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


DeeDee hung his head downward from a twig while he picked some tiny insect eggs from the under side of it. It didn’t seem to make the least difference to DeeDee whether he was right side up or upside down. He was a little animated bunch of black and white feathers, not much bigger than Jenny Wren. The top of his head, back of his neck and coat were shining black. The sides of his head and neck were white. His back was ashy. His sides were a soft cream-buff, and his wing and tail feathers were edged with white. His tiny bill was black, and his little black eyes snapped and twinkled in a way good to see. Not one among all Peter’s friends is such a merry hearted little fellow as DeeDee the Chickadee. Merriment and happiness bubble out of him all the time, no matter what the weather is.

“I’ve noticed,” said Peter, “that birds who do not sing at any other time of year sing in the spring. Do you have a spring song, DeeDee?”

“Well, I don’t know as you would call it a song, Peter,” chuckled Tommy. “No, I hardly think you would call it a song. I do have a little love call which goes like this: Phoe-be! Phoe-be!”

It was the softest, sweetest little whistle, and DeeDee had rightly called it a love call. “Why, I’ve often heard that in the spring and didn’t know it was your voice at all,” cried Peter. “You say Phoebe plainer than does the bird who is named Phoebe, and it is ever so much softer and sweeter. I guess that is because you whistle it.”

“I guess you guess right,” replied DeeDee. “Now I can’t stop to talk any longer. These trees need my attention. I want Farmer Brown’s boy to feel that I have earned that suet I am sure he will put out for me as soon as the snow and ice come. I’m not the least bit afraid of Farmer Brown’s boy. I had just as soon take food from his hand as from anywhere else. He knows I like chopped nuts, and last winter I used to feed from his hand every day.”


Autumn has arrived and the woodland creatures know it is time to prepare for the cold winter ahead.


Peter’s eyes opened very wide with surprise. “Do you mean to say,” he said, “that you and Farmer Brown’s boy are such friends that you dare sit on his hand?”

DeeDee nodded his little black-capped head vigorously. “Certainly,” said DeeDee. “Why not? What’s the good of having friends if you can’t trust them? The more you trust them the better friends they’ll be.”

“Just the same, I don’t see how you dare to do it,” Peter replied. “I know Farmer Brown’s boy is the friend of all the little people, and I’m not much afraid of him myself, however just the same I wouldn’t dare go near enough for him to touch me.”

“Pooh!” retorted DeeDee. “That’s no way of showing true friendship. You’ve no idea, Peter, what a comfortable feeling it is to know that you can trust a friend, and I feel that Farmer Brown’s boy is one of the best friends I’ve got.”


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 –  Black-capped Chickadee
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – PROJECT FEEDER WATCH –  Chickadee ID
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – NEST WATCH – Build a Chickadee Birdhouse
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE (page W41 Black-capped Chickadee).
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for Chickadee (p. 68-70) in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock offered FREE online HERE.
  • Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte offers a page for the Black-capped Chickadee (3). Colored pencil use recommended.

*This is an inexpensive, easy to find, and excellent companion to 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.

Feathered Friend BONUS!


Black-capped Chickadee

“Bitterly cold and dreary though the day may be, that “little scrap of valour,” the Chickadee, keeps his spirits high until ours cannot but be cheered by the oft-repeated, clear, tinkling silvery notes that spell his name. Chicka-dee-dee: chicka-dee-dee: he introduces himself. How easy it would be for every child to know the birds if all would but sing out their names so clearly! Oh, don’t you wish they would?

None will respond more promptly to your whistle in imitation of his three very high, clear call notes, and come nearer and nearer to make quite sure you are only a harmless mimic than the Chickadee. He is very inquisitive. Although not a bird may be in sight when you first whistle his call, nine chances out of ten there will be a faint echo from some far distant throat before very long; and by repeating the notes at short intervals you will have, probably, not one but several echoes from as many different chickadees whose curiosity to see you soon gets the better of their appetites and brings them flying, by easy stages, to the tree above your head. Where there is one chickadee there are apt to be more in the neighborhood; for these sociable, active, cheerful little black-capped fellows in gray like to hunt for their living in loose scattered flocks throughout the fall and winter. When they come near enough, notice the pale rusty wash on the sides of their under parts which are more truly dirty white than gray.

Blessed with a thick coat of fat under his soft, fluffy gray feathers, a hardy constitution and a sunny disposition, what terrors has the winter for him? When the thermometer goes down, his spirits seem to go up the higher. Dangling like a circus acrobat on the cone of some tall pine tree; standing on an outstretched twig, then turning over and hanging with his black-capped head downward from the high trapeze; carefully inspecting the rough bark on the twigs for a fat grub or a nest of insect eggs, he is constantly hunting for food and singing grace between bites.” ~ Birds Every Child Should Know by Neltje Blanchan Copyright 1907


P.L.A.Y. + Pass it on!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 36 – European Starling + Cedar Waxwing


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



 CHAPTER 36 – A Stranger and a Dandy


Butcher the Shrike was not the only newcomer in the Old Orchard. There was another stranger who, Peter Rabbit soon discovered, was looked on with some suspicion by all the other birds of the Old Orchard. The first time Peter saw him, he was walking about on the ground some distance off. He didn’t hop he rather walked. The way he carried himself and his movements as he walked made Peter think of Creaker the Grackle. In fact, Peter mistook him for Creaker. That was because he didn’t really look at him. If he had he would have seen at once that the stranger was smaller than Creaker.

Presently the stranger flew up in a tree and Peter saw that his tail was little more than half as long as that of Creaker. At once it came over Peter that this was a stranger to him, and of course his curiosity was aroused. He didn’t have any doubt whatever that this was a member of the Blackbird family, although which one it could be he hadn’t the least idea. “Jenny Wren will know,” thought Peter and scampered off to check-in with her.

“Who is that new member of the Blackbird family who has come to live in the Old Orchard?” Peter asked as soon as he found Jenny Wren.

“Tut, tut, tut!” said Jenny. “That fellow isn’t a member of the Blackbird family at all as he isn’t even black. Go over there and take a good look at him; then come back and tell me what you think.”


Beautiful Old Orchard tree in bloom that has grown very tall and is a favored perch for the birds to overlook the Green Meadow.


Jenny turned her back on Peter and went looking for worms. There being nothing else to do, Peter hopped over where he could get a good look at the stranger. The sun was shining full on him and for the most part he was very dark green. At least, that is what Peter thought at first glance. Then, as the stranger moved, he seemed to be a rich purple in places. In short he changed color as he turned. His feathers were iridescent like those of Creaker the Grackle. All over he was speckled with tiny light spots. Underneath he was dark brownish-gray. His wings and tail were of the same color, with little touches of buff. His rather large bill was yellow.

Peter hurried back to Jenny Wren. “You were right, Jenny Wren; he isn’t a member of the Blackbird family,” confessed Peter. “Who is he?”

“He is Speckles the Starling,” replied Jenny. “He comes from across the ocean the same as Billy the House Sparrow. He has taken up house-keeping in one of the old homes of Yellow Wing the Flicker, here in the Old Orchard. Did you notice that yellow bill of his?”

“I certainly did,” Peter confirmed with a nod.

“Well, there’s a funny thing about that bill,” replied Jenny. “In winter it turns almost black. Most of us wear a different colored suit in winter, and our bills remain the same.”

“I’ve seen him picking up worms and grubs and he likes grain,” said Jenny. “If his family becomes very numerous though they will eat more of Farmer Brown’s grain than they will pay for by the worms and bugs they destroy. Well hello! There’s Dandy the Waxwing and his friends.”

A flock of modestly dressed yet rather distinguished looking feathered folks had alighted in a cherry tree and promptly began to help themselves to Farmer Brown’s cherries. They were about the size of Winsome Bluebird, and did not look in the least like him, for they were dressed mostly in a beautiful, rich, soft grayish-brown. Across the end of each tail was a yellow band. On each, the forehead, chin and a line through each eye was velvety-black. Each wore a very stylish pointed cap, and on the wings of most of them were little spots of red which looked like sealing wax, and from which they get the name of Waxwings.


Cedar Waxwing by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


As Peter watched them he began to wonder if Farmer Brown would have any cherries left. Peter himself can do pretty well in the matter of stuffing his stomach, and even he marveled at the way those birds put the cherries out of sight. It was quite clear to him why they are often called Cherrybirds.

“If they stay long, Farmer Brown won’t have any cherries left,” remarked Peter.

“Don’t worry,” replied Jenny Wren. “They won’t stay long. I don’t know anybody equal to them for roaming about. Here are most of us with families to tend to and Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird with a second family and Mr. and Mrs. Robin with a second set of eggs, while those folks haven’t even begun to think about housekeeping yet. They certainly do like those cherries, and I guess Farmer Brown can stand the loss of what they eat. He may have fewer cherries, and he’ll also have more apples because of them.”

“How’s that?” asked Peter.

“Well,” replied Jenny Wren, “they were over here a while ago when those little green cankerworms threatened to eat up the whole orchard, and they stuffed themselves on those worms just the same as they are stuffing themselves on cherries now. They are very fond of small fruits and most of those they eat are the wild kind which are of no use at all to Farmer Brown or anybody else. Now just look at that performance, will you?”

There were five of the Waxwings and they were now seated side by side on a branch of the cherry tree. One of them had a plump cherry which he passed to the next one. This one passed it on to the next, and so it went to the end of the row and halfway back before it was finally eaten. Peter laughed right out. “Never in my life have I seen such politeness,” he said.

“Oh, I don’t believe it was politeness at all,” exclaimed Jenny Wren. “I guess if you got at the truth of the matter you would find that each one was stuffed so full that he thought he didn’t have room for that cherry and so passed it along.”

“Well, I think that was politeness just the same,” pronounced Peter. “The first one might have dropped the cherry if he couldn’t eat it instead of passing it along.” And just then the Waxwings flew away.

It was the very middle of the summer before Peter Rabbit again saw Dandy the Waxwing. Quite by chance he discovered Dandy sitting on the tip top of an evergreen tree, as if on guard. He was on guard, for in that tree was his nest, though Peter didn’t know it at the time. In fact, it was so late in the summer that most of Peter’s friends were through nesting and he had quite lost interest in nests. Presently Dandy flew down to a lower branch and there he was joined by Mrs. Waxwing. Then Peter was treated to one of the prettiest sights he ever had seen. They rubbed their bills together as if kissing. They smoothed each other’s feathers and altogether were a perfect picture of two little lovebirds. Peter couldn’t think of another couple who appeared quite so gentle and loving.

Late in the fall Peter saw Mr. and Mrs. Waxwing and their family all together. They were in a cedar tree and were picking off and eating the cedar berries as busily as the five Waxwings had picked Farmer Brown’s cherries in the early summer. Peter didn’t know that because of their fondness for cedar berries the Waxwings were often called Cedar Waxwings.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:

  • 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 Cedar Waxwing (p12).

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 35 – Loggerhead Shrike + Hummingbird


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



CHAPTER 35 – A Butcher and a Hummer


Not far from the Old Orchard grew a thorn tree which Peter Rabbit often passed. He never had paid particular attention to it. One morning he stopped to rest under it. Happening to look up, he saw a most astonishing thing. Fastened on the sharp thorns of one of the branches were three big grasshoppers, a big moth, two big caterpillars, a lizard, a small mouse and a young House Sparrow. Peter thought he must be seeing things. He couldn’t imagine how those creatures could have become fastened on those long sharp thorns. Somehow it gave him an uncomfortable feeling and he hurried on to the Old Orchard, to tell someone of the strange thing he had seen in the thorn tree.

As he entered the Old Orchard in the far corner he saw Johnny Chuck sitting on his doorstep and hurried over to tell him the strange news. Johnny listened until Peter was through, then told him quite frankly that never had he heard of such a thing.

Meanwhile, Skimmer the Swallow lived in a hole in a tree just above the entrance to Johnny Chuck’s house. He had been sitting where he could hear all that Peter had said.

“Skimmer could you explain this?” asked Johnny Chuck.

“Actually,” replied Skimmer, “Peter just happened to find the storehouse of Butcher the Loggerhead Shrike. It is a very unpleasant sight, however one must give Butcher credit for being smart enough to lay up a store of food when it is plentiful.”

“And who is Butcher the Shrike?” inquired Peter. “He’s a new one to me.”


Loggerhead Shrike by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“He’s new to this location,” replied Skimmer, “and you probably haven’t noticed him. I’ve seen him in the South often. There he is now, on the tip top of that tree over yonder.”

Peter and Johnny looked eagerly. They saw a bird who at first glance appeared not unlike Mocker the Mockingbird. He was dressed all in black, gray and white. When he turned his head they noticed a black stripe across the side of his face and that the tip of his bill was hooked. These are enough to make them forget that otherwise he was like Mocker. While they were watching him he flew down into the grass and picked up a grasshopper. Then he flew with a steady, even flight, only a little above the ground, for some distance, suddenly shooting up and returning to the perch where they had first seen him. There he ate the grasshopper and resumed his watch for something else to catch.

“He certainly has keen eyes,” said Skimmer admiringly. “He must have seen that grasshopper way over there in the grass before he started after it, for he flew straight there. He doesn’t waste time and energy hunting aimlessly. He sits on a high perch and watches until he sees something he wants. Many times I’ve seen him sitting on top of a telephone pole. I understand that Billy the House Sparrow has become terribly nervous since the arrival of Butcher. He is particularly fond
of House Sparrows. I presume it was one of Billy’s children you saw in the thorn tree, Peter. I hope he’ll frighten Billy into leaving the Old Orchard as it would be a good thing for the rest of us.”

“I still don’t understand yet why he fastens his food on those long thorns,” said Peter.

“For two reasons,” replied Skimmer. “When he catches more grasshoppers and other insects than he can eat, he sticks them on those thorns so that later he may be sure of a good meal especially if it happens there are no more to be caught when he is hungry. Mice, sparrows, and things too big for him to swallow he sticks on the thorns so that he can pull them to pieces easier. You see his feet and claws are not big and stout enough to hold his food while he tears them to pieces with his hooked bill. Sometimes, instead of sticking them on thorns, he sticks them on the barbed wire of a fence and sometimes he wedges them into the fork of two branches.”

“Does he eat many birds?” asked Peter.

“Not many,” replied Skimmer, “and most of those he does eat are House Sparrows. The rest of us have learned to keep out of his way. He feeds mostly on insects, worms and caterpillars, and he is very fond of mice and he catches a good many. He is a good deal like Killee the Sparrow
Hawk in this respect. Hey! Now what’s happened?”

A great commotion had broken out not far away in the Old Orchard. Instantly Skimmer flew over to see what it was all about and Peter followed. He got there just in time to see Chatterer the Red Squirrel dodging around the trunk of a tree, first on one side, then on the other, to avoid the sharp bills of the angry feathered folk who had discovered him trying to rob a nest of its young.

Peter chuckled. “Chatterer is getting just what is due him, I guess,” he muttered. “It reminds me of the time I got into a Yellow Jacket’s nest. My,those birds are mad!”


Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Chatterer continued to dodge from side to side of the tree while the birds darted down at him, all shrieking at the top of their voices. Finally Chatterer saw his chance to run for the old stone wall. Only one bird was quick enough to catch up with him and that one was such a tiny fellow that he seemed hardly bigger than a big insect. It was Hummer the Hummingbird. He followed Chatterer clear to the old stone wall. A moment later Peter heard a humming noise just over his head and looked up to see Hummer himself alight on a twig, where he squeaked excitedly for a few minutes.

Often Peter had seen Hummer darting about from flower to flower and holding himself still in mid-air in front of each as he thrust his long bill into the heart of the blossom to get the tiny insects there and the sweet juices he is so fond of. This was the first time Peter had ever seen Hummer sitting still. He was such a mite of a thing that it was hard to realize that he was a bird. His back was a bright, shining green. His wings and tail were brownish with a purplish tinge. Underneath he was whitish. And his throat was a wonderful ruby-red that glistened and shone in the sun like a jewel.

Hummer lifted one wing and with his long needle like bill smoothed the feathers under it. Then he darted out into the air, his wings moving so fast that Peter couldn’t see them at all. Although he couldn’t see them he could hear them. You see they moved so fast that they made a sound very like the humming of Bumble the Bee. It is because of this that he is called the Hummingbird. A few minutes later he was back again and now he was joined by Mrs. Hummingbird. She was dressed very much like Hummer although without the ruby throat. She stopped only a minute or two, then darted over to what looked for all the world like a tiny cup of moss. It was their nest.

Just then Jenny Wren came along, and being quite worn out with the work of feeding her seven babies, she was content to rest for a few moments and chat. Peter told her what he had discovered about Hummer.

“Yes, Peter,” said Jenny in agreement, “that is the daintiest nest in the Old Orchard. It is made of plant down and covered on the outside with bits of that gray moss like stuff that grows on the bark of the trees called lichens. That is what makes that nest look like nothing more than a knot on the branch. Chatterer made a big mistake when he visited this tree. Hummer may be a tiny fellow however he isn’t afraid of anybody under the sun. That bill of his is so sharp and he is so quick that few folks ever bother him more than once. Why, there isn’t a single member of the Hawk family that Hummer won’t attack.”

“Does he go very far south for the winter?” asked Peter. “He is such a tiny fellow I don’t see how he can stand a very long journey.”

“Distance doesn’t bother Hummer any,” said Jenny Wren. “You needn’t worry about those wings of his. He goes clear down to South America. He has ever so many relatives down there. You ought to see his babies when they first hatch out. They are no bigger than bees. And they certainly do grow fast. Why, they are flying three weeks from the time they hatch. I’m glad I don’t have to pump food down the throats of my youngsters the way Mrs. Hummingbird has to down hers.”

Peter looked perplexed. “What do you mean by pumping food down their throats?” he asked.

“Mrs. Hummingbird sticks her bill right down their throats and then pumps up the food she has already swallowed,” assured Jenny. “I guess it is a good thing that the babies have short bills.”

“Do they?” asked Peter, opening his eyes very wide with surprise.

“Yes,” replied Jenny. “When they hatch out they have short bills, it doesn’t take them a great while to grow long.”

“How many babies does Mrs. Hummingbird usually have?” asked Peter.

“Just two,” replied Jenny, “that’s all that nest will hold ”. And with a jerk of her tail off flew Jenny, and Peter hurried back to tell Johnny Chuck all he had found out about Hummer the Hummingbird.


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 –  Loggerhead Shrike
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS – Feeders for Hummingbirds
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE (page W32 Ruby-throated Hummingbird).
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for Hummingbird (p. 115 -117)  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 Ruby-throated Hummingbird (p37).

  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Ruby-throated Hummingbird on page 21.

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!