Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 33 – Purple Finch + Goldfinch


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



CHAPTER 33 – A Royal Dresser and a Late Nester


Jenny and Mr. Wren were busy. If there were any busier little folks anywhere Peter Rabbit couldn’t imagine who they could be. You see, everyone of those seven eggs in the Wren nest had hatched, and seven mouths are a lot to feed, especially when every morsel of food must be hunted for and carried from a distance. There was little time for chatting now. Just as soon as it was light enough to see Jenny and Mr. Wren began feeding those always hungry babies, and they kept at it with hardly time for an occasional mouthful themselves, until the Dark Shadows came creeping out from the Purple Hills. Wren babies, like all other bird babies, grow very fast, and that means that each one of them must have a great deal of food every day. Each one of them often ate its own weight in food in a day and all their food had to be hunted for and when found carried back and put into the gaping little mouths. Hardly would Jenny Wren disappear in the little round doorway of her home with a caterpillar in her bill than she would hop out again, and Mr. Wren would take her place with a spider or a fly and then hurry away for something more.

Peter tried to keep count of the number of times they came and went and soon gave it up. He began to wonder where all the worms and bugs and spiders came from, and gradually he came to have a great deal of respect for eyes sharp enough to find them so quickly. So at last Peter gave up the idea of trying to find out from Jenny certain things he wanted to know, and hopped off to look for some one who was less busy. He had gone only a short distance when his attention was caught by a song so sweet and so full of little trills that he first stopped to listen, then went to look for the singer.


Tiny caterpillar camouflaged on the forest floor is dinner for a baby wren.


It didn’t take long to find him, for he was sitting on the very tip top of a fir tree in Farmer Brown’s yard. Peter didn’t dare go over there, for already it was broad daylight, and he had about made up his mind that he would have to content himself with just listening to that sweet singer when the latter flew over in the Old Orchard and alighted just over Peter’s head. “Hello, Peter!” he cried.

“Hello, Linnet!” cried Peter. “I was wondering who it could be who was singing like that. I ought to have known, you see though it has been so long since I’ve heard you sing that I couldn’t just remember your song. I’m so glad you came over here for I’m eager to talk to somebody.”

Linnet the Purple Finch, for this is who it was, laughed right out. “I see you’re still the same old Peter,” said he. “I suppose you’re just as full of curiosity as ever and just as full of questions. Well, here I am, so what shall we talk about?”

“You,” replied Peter. “Lately I’ve found out so many surprising things about my feathered friends that I want to know more. I’m trying to get it straight in my head who is related to who, and I’ve found out some things which have begun to make me feel that I know very little about my feathered neighbors. It’s getting so that I don’t dare to even guess who a person’s relatives are. And what family do you belong to Linnet?”

Linnet flew down a little nearer to Peter. “Look me over, Peter,” he said with twinkling eyes. “See if you can tell for yourself.”

Peter stared solemnly at Linnet. He saw a bird of Sparrow size most of whose body was a rose-red, brightest on the head, darkest on the back, and palest on the breast. Underneath he was whitish. His wings and tail were brownish, the outer parts of the feathers edged with rose-red. His bill was short and stout.

Before Peter could reply, Mrs. Finch appeared. There wasn’t so much as a touch of that beautiful rose-red about her. Her grayish-brown back was streaked with black, and her white breast and sides were spotted and streaked with brown. If Peter hadn’t seen her with Linnet he certainly would have taken her for a Sparrow. She looked so much like one that he ventured to say, “I guess you belong to the Sparrow family.”


Goldfinch by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“That’s pretty close, Peter.” declared Linnet. “We belong to the Finch branch of the family, which makes the Sparrows own cousins to us. Folks may get Mrs. Finch mixed with some of our Sparrow cousins, however they never can mistake me. There isn’t anybody else my size with a rose-red coat like mine. If you can’t remember my song, you can always tell me by the color of my coat. Hello! Here comes Cousin Chicoree. Did you ever see a happier fellow than he is? I’ll venture to say that he has been having such a good time that he hasn’t even yet thought of building a nest, and here half the people of the Old Orchard have grown families. I’ve a nest and eggs myself, however that fellow is just roaming about having a good time. Isn’t that so, Chicoree?”

“Isn’t what so?” asked Chicoree the Goldfinch, perching very near to where Linnet was sitting.

“Isn’t it true that you haven’t even begun thinking about a nest?” repeated Linnet. Chicoree flew down in the grass almost under Peter’s nose and began to pull apart a dandelion which had gone to seed. He snipped the seeds from the soft down to which they were attached and didn’t say a word till he was quite through. Then he flew up in the tree near Linnet, and while he dressed his feathers, answered Linnet’s question.


Curious Capkin watching a flower go to seed – just right for a goldfinch? maybe!


“It’s quite true,” he said. “For me there’s time enough to think about nest building and household cares later. Mrs. Goldfinch and I will begin to think about them about the first of July. Meanwhile we are making the most of this beautiful season to roam about and have a good time. For one thing we like thistledown to line our nest, and there isn’t any thistledown yet. Then, there is no sense in raising a family until there is plenty of the right kind of food, and you know we Goldfinches live  mostly on seeds. I’ll venture to say that we are the greatest seed eaters anywhere around. Of course when the babies are small they have to have soft food, and one can find plenty of worms and bugs any time during the summer. Just as soon as the children are big enough to look for their own food they need seeds, so there is no sense in trying to raise a family until there are plenty of seeds for them when needed. How do you like my summer suit, Peter?”

“It’s beautiful,” declared Peter. “I wouldn’t know you for the same bird I see so often in the late fall and sometimes in the winter. I don’t know of anybody who makes a more complete change. That black cap certainly is very smart and becoming.”

Chicoree cocked his head on one side, the better to show off that black cap. The rest of his head and his whole body were bright yellow. His wings were black with two white bars on each. His tail also was black, with some white on it. In size he was a little smaller than Linnet. If Peter had known anything about Canaries, which of course he didn’t, because Canaries are always kept in cages, he would have understood why Chicoree the Goldfinch is often called the Wild Canary.

Mrs. Goldfinch now joined her mate and it was plain to see that she admired him quite as much as did Peter. Her wings and tail were much like his but were more brownish than black. She wore no cap at all and her back and head were a grayish-brown with an olive tinge. Underneath she was lighter, with a tinge of yellow. As Peter recalled Chicoree’s winter suit, it was very much like that now worn by Mrs. Goldfinch, save that his wings and tail were as they now appeared.

Chicoree kept up a continual happy twittering, breaking out every few moments into song. It was clear that he was fairly bubbling over with joy.

“Are you a member of the same family as Linnet the Purple Finch?” asked Peter.

“Yes, we do belong to the same family,” answered Chicoree, “and now I must go over to the Old Pasture to see how the thistles are coming on.”

Away he flew calling, “Chic-o-ree, per-chic-o-ree, chic-o-ree!” and Mrs. Goldfinch followed. As they flew, they rose and fell in the air in very much the same way that Yellow Wing the Flicker does.

“I’d know them just by that, even if Chicoree didn’t keep calling his own name,” thought Peter out loud. “It’s funny how they often stay around all winter yet are among the last of all the birds to set up housekeeping. As I once said to Jenny Wren, birds certainly are funny creatures.”

“Tut, tut, tut! It’s no such thing, Peter Rabbit. It’s no such thing,” said Jenny Wren as she flew past Peter on her way to hunt for another worm for her hungry babies.


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 –  Purple Finch
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Goldfinch
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS – Goldfinches at bird feeder – molting
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE (page W70 Purple Finch).
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for both Goldfinch (p. 53-57)  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 Goldfinch (p19).

  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Purple Finch on page 12 and an American Goldfinch on page 16.

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


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

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

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

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 32 – Eastern Towhee + Indigo Bunting


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



CHAPTER 32 – Peter Saves a Friend and Learns Something


Peter Rabbit sat in a thicket of young trees on the edge of the Green Forest. It was warm and Peter was taking it easy. He had nothing in particular to do, and since he could not think of a cooler place he had squatted there to doze a bit and dream a bit. As far as he knew, Peter was all alone. He hadn’t seen anybody when he entered that little thicket, and though he had listened he hadn’t heard a sound to indicate that he didn’t have that thicket to himself. It was very quiet there, and though when he first entered he hadn’t the least intention in the world of going to sleep, it wasn’t long before he was dozing.

Now Peter is a light sleeper, as all little people who never know when they may have to run for their lives must be. By and by he awoke with a start, and he was very wide awake indeed. Something had wakened him, though just what it was he couldn’t say. His long ears stood straight up as he listened with all his might for some little sound which might mean danger. His wobbly little nose wobbled very fast indeed as it tested the air for the scent of a possible enemy. Very alert was Peter as he waited.

For a few minutes he heard nothing and saw nothing. Then, near the outer edge of the thicket, he heard a great rustling of dry leaves. It must have been this that had wakened him. For just an instant Peter was startled. Then his long ears told him at once that that noise was made by some one scratching among the leaves, and he knew that no one who did not wear feathers could scratch like that.

“Now who can that be?” thought Peter, and crept forward very softly towards the place from which the sound came. Presently, as he peeped between the stems of the young trees, he saw the brown leaves which carpeted the ground flying this way and that, and in the midst of them was an exceedingly busy person, a little smaller than Welcome Robin, scratching away for dear life.


Thicket of trees on the edge of the Green Forest near to a green meadow and mossy area.


Every now and then he picked up something. His head, throat, back, and breast were black. Beneath he was white. His sides were reddish-brown. His tail was black and white, and the longer feathers of his wings were edged with white. It was Chewink the Towhee, sometimes called a Ground Robin.

Peter chuckled to himself. He kept perfectly still, for it was fun to watch someone who hadn’t the least idea that he was being watched. It was quite clear that Chewink was hungry and that under those dry leaves he was finding a good meal. His feet were made for scratching and he certainly knew how to use them. For some time Peter sat there watching. He had just about made up his mind that he would make his presence known and have a bit of a morning chat when, happening to look out beyond the edge of the little thicket, he saw something red. It was something moving very slowly and cautiously towards the place where Chewink was so busy and focused on his breakfast that he forgot about everything else around him. Peter knew that there was only one person with a coat of that color. It was Reddy Fox, and quite plainly Reddy was hoping to catch Chewink.

For a second or two Peter was quite undecided what to do. He couldn’t warn Chewink without making his own presence known to Reddy Fox. Of course he could sit perfectly still and let Chewink be caught, and that was such a dreadful thought that Peter didn’t consider it for more than a second or two. He suddenly thumped the ground with his feet. It was his danger signal which all his friends know. Then he turned and scampered lipperty-lipperty-lip to a thick bramble tangle not far behind him.

At the sound of that thump Chewink instantly flew up in a little tree. Then he saw Reddy Fox and began to scold. As for Reddy, he looked over towards the bramble tangle and snarled. “I’ll get you one of these days, Peter Rabbit,” he said. “I’ll get you one of these days and pay you up for cheating me out of a breakfast.” Without so much as a glance at Chewink, Reddy turned and trotted off, trying his best to look dignified and as if he had never entertained such a thought as trying to catch Chewink.

From his perch Chewink watched until he was sure that Reddy Fox had gone away for good. Then he called softly, “Towhee! Towhee! Chewink! Chewink! All is safe now, Peter Rabbit. Come out and talk with me and let me tell you how grateful to you I am for saving my life.”

Chewink flew down to the ground and Peter crept out of the bramble tangle. “Oh, it wasn’t anything,” declared Peter. “I saw Reddy and I knew you didn’t, so I gave the alarm. You would have done the same thing for me. Do you know, Chewink, I’ve wondered a great deal about you.”

“What have you wondered about me?” asked Chewink.

“I’ve wondered what family you belong to,” admitted Peter.


Towhee by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Chewink chuckled. “I belong to a big family,” he said. “I belong to the biggest family among the birds. It is the Finch and Sparrow family. There are a lot of us and a good many of us don’t look much alike, still we belong to the same family. I suppose you know that Rosebreast the Grosbeak and Glory the Cardinal are members of my family.”

“I did not know it,” replied Peter. “It is easier to believe than it is to believe that you are related to the Sparrows.”

“Nevertheless I am,” remarked Chewink.

“What were you scratching for when I first saw you?” asked Peter.

“Oh, worms and bugs that hide under the leaves,” replied Chewink. “You have no idea how many of them hide under dead leaves.”

“Do you eat anything else?” asked Peter.

“I am very fond of berries and wild fruits in season,” replied Chewink, “as they make a nice variety in the bill of fare.”

“I’ve noticed that I seldom see you up in the tree tops,” mused Peter.

“I like the ground better,” said Chewink. “I spend more of my time on the ground than anywhere else.”

“I suppose that means that you nest on the ground,” ventured Peter.

Chewink nodded. “Of course,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I’ve got a nest in this very thicket. Mrs. Towhee is on it right now, and I suspect she’s worrying and anxious to know what happened over here when you warned me about Reddy Fox. I think I must go set her mind at rest.”

Peter was just about to ask if he might go along and see that nest when a new voice broke in.


Towhees like bugs and worms found in leaf litter.


“What are you fellows talking about?” it inquired, and there flitted just in front of Peter a little bird the size of a Sparrow. At first glance he seemed to be all blue, and such a lovely bright blue. Then as he paused for an instant Peter saw that his wings and tail were mostly black and that the lovely blue was brightest on his head and back. It was Indigo the Bunting.

“We were talking about our family,” replied Chewink. “I was telling Peter that we belong to the largest family among the birds.”

“You didn’t say anything about Indigo,” interrupted Peter. “Do you mean to say that he belongs to the same family?”

“I surely do,” replied Indigo. “I’m rather closely related to the Sparrow branch. Don’t I look like a Sparrow?”

Peter looked at Indigo closely. “In size and shape you do,” he confessed, “just the same I did not connect you with the Sparrows.”

“How about me?” asked another voice, and a little brown bird flew up beside Indigo, twitching her tail nervously. She looked very Sparrow-like indeed, so much so, that if Peter had not seen her with her handsome mate, for she was Mrs. Indigo Bunting, he certainly would have taken her for a Sparrow. Only on her wings and tail was there any of the blue which made Indigo’s coat so beautiful, and this was only a faint tinge.

“I’ll have to confess that so far as you are concerned it isn’t hard to think of you as related to the Sparrows,” declared Peter. “Don’t you sometimes wish you were dressed as Indigo in bright blue?”

Mrs. Indigo Bunting shook her head in a most decided way. “Never!” she declared. “I have worries enough raising a family as it is, if I had a coat like his I wouldn’t have a moment of peace. You have no idea how I worry about him sometimes. You ought to be thankful, Peter Rabbit, that you haven’t a coat like his. It attracts altogether too much attention.”

Peter tried to picture himself in a bright blue coat and laughed right out at the mere thought, and the others joined with him. Then Indigo flew up to the top of a tall tree not far away and began to sing. It was a lively song and Peter enjoyed it thoroughly. Mrs. Indigo Bunting took this opportunity to slip away unobserved, and when Peter looked around for Chewink, he too had disappeared. He had gone to tell Mrs. Chewink that he was quite safe and that she had nothing to worry about.


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 drawing of a Eastern Towhee (p41).

  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Towhee on page 39.

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


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

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

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

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 29 – Vireo + Another Warbler


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 29 – The Constant Singers


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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is it made of?” asked Peter.


Maple tree leaves dressed in autumn red.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is he a singer, too?” asked Peter.

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

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


Some birds prefer tall trees, especially for their homes.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:

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

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


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

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

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

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

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


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 28 – Peter Sees Rosebreast and Finds Redcoat


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rose-breasted Grosbeak by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


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

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

“Mrs. Grosbeak” replied Jenny.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Buds and blossoms on an apple tree.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Scarlet Tanager by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“Does it pain you dreadfully?” asked Peter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:

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

FYI -This coloring book is an excellent companion for this bird story series.


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

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

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

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 26 – Even More Warblers


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I do as well,” replied Fidget.

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


The Green Forest as winter arrives.


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:

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

Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

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

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

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 25 – More Warblers


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 25 – Three Cousins Quite Unlike


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello, Mummer!” Peter called out.

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

Peter blinked and looked in vain all about.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bramble tangles in the winter clearly seen without their foliage.


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

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

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

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

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


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

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

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

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 11 – Woodpeckers


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 11 – Drummers and Carpenters


Peter Rabbit was so full of questions that he hardly knew which one to ask first. Yellow Wing the Flicker didn’t give him a chance to ask any. From the edge of the Green forest there came a clear, loud call of, “Pe-ok! Pe-ok! Pe-ok!”

“Excuse me, Peter, there’s Mrs. Flicker calling me,” exclaimed Yellow Wing, and away he went. Peter noticed that as he flew he went up and down. It seemed very much as if he bounded through the air just as Peter bounds over the ground. “I would know him by the way he flies just as far as I could see him,” thought Peter, as he started for his home in the dear Old Briar-patch. “Somehow he doesn’t seem like a Woodpecker because he is on the ground so much. I must ask Jenny Wren about him.”

It was two or three days before Peter had a chance to talk a bit with Jenny Wren. When he did the first thing he asked was if Yellow Wing is a true Woodpecker.

“Certainly he is,” replied Jenny Wren. “Why under the sun should you think he isn’t?”

“Because it seems to me he is on the ground more than he’s in the trees,” replied Peter. “I don’t know any other Woodpeckers who come down on the ground at all.”

“Tut, tut, tut!” said Jenny. “Think a minute, Peter. Haven’t you ever seen Redhead on the ground?”

Peter blinked his eyes. “Ye-e-s,” he said slowly. “Come to think of it, I have. I’ve seen him picking up beechnuts in the fall. The Woodpeckers are a funny family. I guess I don’t understand them.”

Just then a long, rolling rat-a-tat-tat rang out just over their heads. “There’s another one of them,” chuckled Jenny. “That’s Downy, the smallest of the whole family. He certainly makes quite a racket for such a little fellow. He is a splendid drummer and he’s just as good a carpenter. He made the very house I am occupying now.”


Downy Woodpecker by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Peter was sitting with his head tipped back trying to see Downy. At first he couldn’t make him out. Then he caught a little movement on top of a dead limb. It was Downy’s head flying back and forth as he beat his long roll. He was dressed all in black and white. On the back of his head was a little scarlet patch. He was making a tremendous racket for such a little chap, only a little bigger than one of the Sparrow family.

“Is he making a hole for a nest up there?” asked Peter eagerly.

“Oh no! If he were cutting a hole for a nest, everybody within hearing would know just where to look for it,” exclaimed Jenny Wren. “Downy has too much sense in that little head of his to do such a thing as that. When he cuts a hole for a nest he doesn’t make any more noise than is absolutely necessary. Do you see any chips flying?”

“No-o,” replied Peter slowly. “Now you speak of it, I don’t. Is he hunting for worms in the wood?”

“No, he’s just drumming, that’s all,” said Jenny. “That hollow limb makes the best kind of a drum and Downy is making the most of it. Just listen to that! There isn’t a better drummer anywhere.”

Peter was curious. Finally he ventured another question. “What is he doing that for?”

“For the very same reasons you run and jump in the spring. For the same reason Mr. Wren sings. Downy is drumming for precisely the same reason–happiness! He can’t run and jump and he can’t sing, but he can drum. By the way, do you know that Downy is one of the most useful birds in the Old Orchard?”

Just then Downy flew away, and hardly had he disappeared when another drummer took his place. At first Peter thought Downy had returned until he noticed that the newcomer was just a bit bigger than Downy. Jenny Wren’s sharp eyes spied him at once.

“Hello!” she exclaimed. “There’s Hairy. Did you ever see two cousins look more alike? If it were not that Hairy is bigger than Downy it would be hard work to tell them apart. Do you see any other difference, Peter?”

Peter stared and blinked and stared again, then slowly shook his head. “No,” he confessed, “I don’t.”

“Look at the outside feathers of his tail,” said Jenny. “The feathers are all white. Downy’s outside tail feathers have little bars of black. Hairy is just as good a carpenter as is Downy, and for that matter I don’t know of a member of the Woodpecker family who isn’t a good carpenter. Where did you say Yellow Wing the Flicker is making his home this year?”

“Over in the Big Hickory tree by the Smiling Pool,” replied Peter. “I don’t understand yet why Yellow Wing spends so much time on the ground.”


Red-headed Woodpecker by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“Ants,” replied Jenny Wren. “Just ants. He’s as fond of ants as is Old Mr. Toad, and that is saying a great deal. If Yellow Wing keeps on he’ll become a ground bird instead of a tree bird. He gets more than half his
living on the ground now. Speaking of drumming, did you ever hear Yellow Wing drum on a tin roof?”

Peter shook his head.

“Well, if there’s a tin roof anywhere around, and Yellow Wing can find it, he will be perfectly happy. He certainly does love to make a noise, and tin makes the finest kind of a drum.”

Just then Jenny was interrupted by the arrival, on the trunk of the very next tree to the one on which she was sitting, of a bird about the size of Sammy Jay. His whole head and neck were a beautiful, deep red. His breast was pure white, and his back was black to nearly the beginning of his tail, where it was white.

“Hello, Redhead!” exclaimed Jenny Wren. “How did you know we were talking about your family?”

“Hello,” replied Redhead with a twinkle in his eyes. “I didn’t know you were talking about my family, although I could have guessed that you were talking about someone’s family.”

“I was talking for Peter’s benefit,” said Jenny. “Peter has always had the idea that true Woodpeckers never go down on the ground. I was explaining to him that Yellow Wing is a true Woodpecker, and yet spends half his time on the ground.”

Redhead nodded. “It’s all on account of ants,” he said. “I don’t know of any one quite so fond of ants unless it is Old Mr. Toad. I like a few of them myself, versus Yellow Wing just about lives on them when he can. You may have noticed that I go down on the ground too once in a while. I am rather fond of beetles, and an occasional grasshopper tastes very good to me. I like a variety. Yes, sir, I certainly do like a variety – cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes. In fact most kinds of fruit taste good to me, not to mention beechnuts and acorns when there is no fruit.”

Jenny Wren tossed her head. “You didn’t mention the eggs of some of your neighbors,” she said.

Redhead then changed the subject and a moment later flew away.

“Is it true,” asked Peter, “that Redhead does such a thing?”

Jenny bobbed her head rapidly and jerked her tail. “So I am told,” she said. “I’ve never seen him do it, though I know others who have. They say he is just like Sammy Jay or Clever the Crow. Good gracious! I can’t sit here chatting forever.” Jenny twitched her funny little tail, snapped her bright eyes at Peter, and disappeared in her house.


Ant hills full of “flicker food”!


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 –  Downy Woodpecker
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Red-headed Woodpecker
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE (page W35 Downy Woodpecker + W36 Hairy Woodpecker).
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for ANTS (p. 369 -377)  Downy Woodpecker (p. 70-74) and Red-headed Woodpecker (p. 76-77) 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 Downy Woodpecker (p17) and a Red-headed Woodpecker(p34).

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 9 – Woodcock + Sandpiper


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 9 – Longbill the Woodcock and Teeter the Spotted Sandpiper


From the decided way in which Jenny Wren had popped into the little round doorway of her home, Peter knew that to wait in the hope to chat more with her could end up being a very long wait. And so he wasn’t ready to go back home to the dear Old Briar-patch, yet there seemed nothing else to do, for everybody in the Old Orchard was too busy to chat. Peter scratched a long ear with a long hind foot, trying to think of some place to go. Just then he heard the clear “peep, peep, peep” of the Hylas, the sweet singers of the Smiling Pool.

“That’s where I’ll go!” exclaimed Peter. “I haven’t been to the Smiling Pool for some time. I’ll just run over and pay my respects to Grandfather Frog, and to Redwing the Blackbird. Redwing was one of the first birds to arrive, and I’ve not had the chance to see him.”

When Peter thinks of something to do he wastes no time. Off he started, lipperty-lipperty-lip, for the Smiling Pool. He kept close to the edge of the Green Forest until he reached the place where the Laughing Brook comes out of the Green Forest on its way to the Smiling Pool in the Green Meadows. Bushes and young trees grow along the banks of the Laughing Brook at this point. The ground was soft in places, quite muddy. Peter doesn’t mind getting his feet damp, so he hopped along without worry. From right under his very nose something shot up into the air with a whistling sound. It startled Peter so that he stopped short with his eyes popping out of his head. He had just a glimpse of a brown form disappearing over the tops of some tall bushes. Then Peter chuckled. “I declare,” he said, “I had forgotten all about my old friend, Longbill the Woodcock. He scared me for a second.”

“Then you are even,” said a voice close at hand. “You scared him. I saw you coming, however Longbill didn’t.”

Peter turned quickly. There was Mrs. Woodcock peeping at him from behind a tussock of grass.

“I didn’t mean to scare him,” apologized Peter. “I really didn’t mean to. Do you think he was really very much scared?”


Laughing Brook heading towards the Smiling Pool in the Green Forest.


“Not too scared to come back, anyway,” said Longbill himself, dropping down just in front of Peter. “I recognized you just as I was disappearing over the tops of the bushes, so I came right back. I learned when I was very young that when startled it is best to fly first and find out afterwards whether or not there is real danger. I am glad it is you, Peter, for I was having a splendid meal here, and I should have hated to leave it. You’ll excuse me while I go on eating, I hope. We can talk between bites.”

“Certainly I’ll excuse you,” replied Peter, staring around very hard to see what it could be Longbill was making such a good meal of. However, Peter couldn’t see a thing that looked good to eat. There wasn’t even a bug or a worm crawling on the ground. Longbill took two or three steps in rather a stately fashion. Peter had to hide a smile, for Longbill had such an air of importance, yet at the same time was such an odd looking fellow. He was quite bigger than Welcome Robin, his tail was short, his legs were short, and his neck was short. His bill though was long enough to make up. His back was a mixture of gray, brown, black and buff, while his breast and under parts were a beautiful reddish-buff. It was his head that made him look odd. His eyes were very big and they were set so far back that Peter wondered if it wasn’t easier for him to look behind him than in front of him.

Suddenly Longbill plunged his bill into the ground. He plunged it in for the whole length. Then he pulled it out and Peter caught a glimpse of the tail end of a worm disappearing down Longbill’s throat. Where that long bill had gone into the ground was a neat little round hole. For the first time Peter noticed that there were many such little round holes all about. “Did you make all those little round holes?” exclaimed Peter.

“Not at all,” replied Longbill. “Mrs. Woodcock made some of them.”

“And was there a worm in every one?” asked Peter, his eyes very wide with interest.

Longbill nodded. “Yes,” he said. “We make the effort to bore each one of those holes in order to get a worm at the bottom of it.”


American Woodcock by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Peter remembered how he had watched Welcome Robin listen and then suddenly plunge his bill into the ground and pull out a worm. However, the worms Welcome Robin got were always close to the surface, while these worms were so deep in the earth that Peter couldn’t understand how it was possible for any one to know that they were there. Welcome Robin could see when he got hold of a worm and Longbill could not. “Even if you know there is a worm down there in the ground, how do you know when you’ve reached him? And how is it possible for you to open your bill down there to take him in?” asked Peter.

Longbill chuckled. “That’s easy,” said he. “I’ve got the handiest bill that ever was. See here!” Longbill suddenly thrust his bill straight out in front of him and to Peter’s astonishment he lifted the end of the upper half without opening the rest of his bill at all. “That’s the way I get them,” said he. “I can feel them when I reach them, and then I just open the top of my bill and grab them. I think there is one right under my feet now; watch me get him.” Longbill bored into the ground until his head was almost against it. When he pulled his bill out, sure enough, there was a worm. “Of course,” explained Longbill, “it is only in soft ground that I can do this. That is why I have to fly south as soon as the ground freezes.”

“It’s wonderful,” sighed Peter. “I don’t suppose any one else can find hidden worms that way.”

“My cousin, Jack Snipe, can,” replied Longbill promptly. “He feeds the same way I do, only he likes marshy meadows instead of brushy swamps. Perhaps you know him.”

Peter nodded. “I do,” he said. “Now you speak of it, there is a strong family resemblance, although I hadn’t thought of him as a relative of yours before. Now I must be running along. I’m ever so glad to have seen you, and I’ll be coming over to call again the first chance I get.”



So Peter said goodbye and kept on down the Laughing Brook to the Smiling Pool. Right where the Laughing Brook entered the Smiling Pool there was a little pebbly beach. Running along the very edge of the water was a slim, trim little bird with fairly long legs, a long slender bill, brownish-gray back with black spots and markings, and a white waistcoat neatly spotted with black. Every few steps he would stop to pick up something, then stand for a second bobbing up and down in the funniest way, as if his body was so nicely balanced on his legs that it teetered back and forth like a seesaw. It was Teeter the Spotted Sandpiper. Peter greeted his old friend joyously.

“Peet-weet! Peet-weet!” cried Teeter, turning towards Peter and bobbing and bowing as only Teeter can. Before Peter could say another word Teeter came running towards him, and it was plain to see that Teeter was very anxious about something. “Don’t move, Peter Rabbit! Don’t move!” he cried.

“Why not?” asked Peter, for he could see no danger and could think of no reason why he shouldn’t move. Just then Mrs. Sandpiper came hurrying up and squatted down in the sand right in front of Peter.

“Thank goodness!” exclaimed Teeter, still bobbing and bowing. “If you had taken another step, Peter Rabbit, you would have stepped right on our eggs. You gave me a dreadful start.”

Peter was puzzled. He showed it as he stared down at Mrs. Sandpiper just in front of him. “I don’t see any nest or eggs or anything,” said he rather confused.

Mrs. Sandpiper stood up and stepped aside. Then Peter saw right in a little hollow in the sand, with just a few bits of grass for a lining, four white eggs with big dark blotches on them. They looked so much like the surrounding pebbles that he never would have seen them in the world if it was not for Mrs. Sandpiper. Peter hastily backed away a few steps. Mrs. Sandpiper slipped back on the eggs and settled herself comfortably. It suddenly struck Peter that if he hadn’t seen her do it, he wouldn’t have known she was there. You see she looked so much like her surroundings that he never would have noticed her at all.

“My!” he exclaimed. “I certainly would have stepped on those eggs if you hadn’t warned me,” he said. “I’m so thankful I didn’t. I don’t see how you dare lay them in the open like this.”

Mrs. Sandpiper chuckled softly. “It’s the safest place in the world, Peter,” said she. “They look so much like these pebbles around here that no one sees them. The only time they are in danger is when somebody comes along, as you did, and is likely to step on them without seeing them. However, that doesn’t happen often.”


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 4 – Chipping + Vesper Sparrows


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 4 – Chippy + Sweetvoice


For a while Jenny Wren was too busy with Mr. Wren building their nest to stop and chat. To Peter it seemed as if they were trying to fill that entire tree trunk. “I should think they had enough stuff in there for half a dozen nests,” muttered Peter. “I do believe they are carrying it in for the fun of working.” And Peter wasn’t far off in this thought, as he was to discover a little later in the season when he found Mr. Wren building another nest for which he had no use.

Finding that for the time being he could get nothing more from Jenny Wren, Peter hopped over to visit Johnny Chuck, whose home was between the roots of an old apple tree in the far corner of the Old Orchard. Peter was still thinking of the Sparrow family; what a big family it was, yet how seldom any of them, excepting Billy the House Sparrow, were to be found in the Old Orchard.

“Hello, Johnny Chuck!” cried Peter, as he discovered Johnny sitting on his doorstep. “You’ve lived in the Old Orchard a long time, perhaps you could tell me something I want to know. Why is it that none of the Sparrow family, excepting Billy, build in the trees of the Old Orchard?”

Johnny Chuck shook his head. “Peter,” he said, “let’s use your ears to solve this one.”

Peter looked confused.

Johnny grinned. “Listen!” said Johnny. And Peter listened. From a tree just a little way off came a clear “Chip, chip, chip, chip.” Peter didn’t need to be told to look. He knew without looking who was over there. He knew that voice to be that of one of his oldest and best friends in the Old Orchard, a little fellow with a red-brown cap, brown back with feathers streaked with black, brownish wings and tail, a gray waistcoat and black bill, and a little white line over each eye. It was Chippy, as everybody calls the Chipping Sparrow, the smallest of the family.

“I forgot all about Chippy,” said Peter. “Now I think of it, I have found Chippy here in the Old Orchard ever since I can remember. I never have seen his nest because I never happened to think about looking for it. Does he build a nest with trash like his cousin, Billy?”

Johnny Chuck laughed. “I should say not!” he exclaimed. “Twice Chippy and Mrs. Chippy have built their nest in this very old apple tree. There is no trash in their nest, I can tell you! It is just as dainty as they are, and not a bit bigger than it has to be. It is made mostly of little fine, dry roots, and it is lined inside with horsehair.”

“What’s that you say?” Peter’s voice sounded as it he suspected that Johnny
Chuck was trying to fool him.

“It’s a fact,” said Johnny, nodding his head gravely. “Goodness knows where they find it these days, and yet find it they do. Here comes Chippy himself; ask him.”


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


Chippy and Mrs. Chippy came flitting from tree to tree until they were on a branch right over Peter and Johnny. “Hello!” cried Peter. “You folks seem very busy. Have you finished building your nest yet?”

“Nearly,” replied Chippy. “It is all done save the horsehair. We are on our way up to Farmer Brown’s barnyard now to look for some. You haven’t seen any around anywhere, have you?”

Peter and Johnny shook their heads, and Peter confessed that he wouldn’t know horsehair if he saw it. He often had found hair from the coats of Reddy Fox and Old Man Coyote and Digger the Badger and Lightfoot the Deer, however hair from the coat of a horse was altogether another matter.

“It isn’t hair from the coat of a horse that we want,” cried Chippy, as he prepared to fly after Mrs. Chippy. “It is long hair from the tail or mane of a horse that we must have. It makes the very nicest kind of lining for a nest.”

Chippy and Mrs. Chippy were gone a long time, and when they did return each was carrying a long black hair. They had found what they wanted, and Mrs. Chippy was in high spirits because, as she took pains to explain to Peter, that little nest would soon be ready for the four beautiful little blue eggs with black spots on one end that she meant to lay in it.


Tree Sparrow by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


As they watched their two little feathered friends putting the finishing touches to their little nest far out on a branch of one of the apple trees Johnny asked Peter “Did you know that they are sometimes called Tree Sparrows?”

“No,” said Peter, “I didn’t.”

“I suppose it is because they so often build their nests in trees,” replied Johnny.

“Chippy shouldn’t be called Tree Sparrow, because he has a cousin by that name,” said Peter.

Johnny Chuck looked as if he doubted that, “I have never heard of him,” he grunted.

Peter grinned. Here was a chance to tell Johnny Chuck something, and Peter never is happier than when he can tell folks something they don’t know.

“You’d know him if you didn’t sleep all winter,” said Peter with a chuckle. “Dotty the Tree Sparrow spends the winter here. He left for his home in the Far North about the time you were ready to wake up.”

“Why do you call him Dotty?” asked Johnny Chuck.

“Because he has a little round black dot right in the middle of his breast,” replied Peter. “I don’t know why they call him Tree Sparrow; he doesn’t spend his time in the trees the way Chippy does, and I see him much more often in low bushes or on the ground. I think Chippy has much more right to the name of Tree Sparrow than Dotty has. Now I think of it, I’ve heard Dotty called the Winter Chippy.”

“Gracious, what a mix-up!” exclaimed Johnny Chuck. “With Chippy being called a Tree Sparrow and a Tree Sparrow called Chippy, I should think folks would get all tangled up.”

“Perhaps they would,” replied Peter, “if both were here at the same time, however Chippy comes just as Dotty goes, and Dotty comes as Chippy goes. That’s a pretty good arrangement, especially as they look very much alike, excepting that Dotty is quite a little bigger than Chippy and always has that black dot, which Chippy does not have. Goodness gracious, it is time I was back in the dear Old Briar-patch! Goodbye, Johnny Chuck.”


Vesper Sparrow by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


And away went Peter Rabbit, lipperty-lipperty-lip, heading for the dear Old Briar-patch. Out of the grass just ahead of him flew a rather pale, streaked little brown bird, and as he spread his tail Peter saw two white feathers on the outer edges. Those two white feathers were all Peter needed to recognize another little friend of whom he is very fond. It was Sweetvoice the Vesper Sparrow, the only one of the Sparrow family with white feathers in his tail.

“Come over to the dear Old Briar-patch and sing to me, would you Sweetvoice?” cried Peter.

Sweetvoice dropped down into the grass again, and when Peter came up, was very busy getting a mouthful of dry grass. “I can’t,” mumbled Sweetvoice. “Not now, Peter Rabbit. I’m too busy. It is high time our nest was finished, and Mrs. Sweetvoice will lose her patience if I don’t get this grass over there pretty quick.”

“Where is your nest? In a tree?” asked Peter innocently.

“That’s telling,” declared Sweetvoice. “Not a living soul knows where that nest is, excepting Mrs. Sweetvoice and myself. This much I will tell you, Peter: it isn’t in a tree. And I’ll tell you this much more: it is in a hoof print of Bossy the Cow.”

“In a what?” cried Peter.

“In a hoof print of Bossy the Cow,” repeated Sweetvoice, chuckling softly. “You know when the ground was wet and soft early this spring, Bossy left deep footprints wherever she went in the Green Meadows. One of these makes the nicest kind of a place for a nest. Now run along, Peter Rabbit. I’ve got much to do. Perhaps I’ll come over to the edge of the dear Old Briar-patch and sing to you a while just after jolly, round, red Mr. Sun goes to bed behind the Purple Hills. I just love to sing then.”

“I’ll be watching for you,” replied Peter. “I love to hear you sing and that is the best time of all the day in which to hear singing.”

That night, sure enough, just as the Dark Purple Shadows came creeping out over the Green Meadows, Sweetvoice, perched on the top of a bramble bush over Peter’s head, sang over and over again the sweetest little song and kept on singing even after it was quite dark. Something Peter didn’t know was that this habit of singing in the evening is what has given Sweetvoice his name of Vesper Sparrow.


Dark Purple Shadows in the night sky


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 –  Chipping Sparrow
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Tree Sparrow
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS – Vesper Sparrow
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE Chipping Sparrow page W59 + Tree Sparrow page W58.
  • Have you ever wondered if you see so many birds in your yard, or in a nearby park or playground, why you haven’t seen equally as many nests? Keep an eye out, especially this time of year when there are few leaves on the trees, to see if you can spot any bird homes from last year or in the making.
  • What shape is the Chipping Sparrow’s beak? Do all sparrows have this shaped beak? What is it best designed for eating?
  • As a great garden helper what bugs does the Chipping Sparrow like to eat?

Some of these questions have been inspired by the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock. More to learn about the Chipping Sparrow on pages 86-89 of this classic offered FREE online HERE.

  • Another option is to get a copy of Fifty Favorite Birds Coloring Book by Lisa Bonforte and color the Chipping Sparrow on page 14 (colored pencils recommended).

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


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

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

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

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!