Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 18 – Crow + Ovenbird + Redtail Hawk


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 18 – Some Homes in the Green Forest


Reddy Fox wasted very little time waiting for Peter Rabbit to come out from under that pile of brush where he had hidden at Sammy Jay’s warning. After trying to frighten Peter, Reddy trotted away to look for some mice. Peter didn’t mind all of this as he was used to it. He knew that he was safe where he was, and all he had to do was to stay there until Reddy should be so far away that it would be safe to come out.

Just to pass away the time Peter took a little nap. When he awoke he sat for a few minutes trying to make up his mind where to go and what to do next. From way over in the direction of the Old Pasture the voice of Clever the Crow reached him. Peter pricked up his ears, then chuckled.

“Reddy Fox has gone back to the Old Pasture and Clever has discovered him there,” he thought happily. You see, he understood what Clever was saying. To you or me Clever the Crow would have been saying simply, “Caw! Caw!” And yet to all the little people of the Green Forest and Green Meadows within hearing he was shouting, “Fox! Fox!”

“I wonder,” thought Peter, “where Clever is nesting this year. Last year his nest was in a tall pine tree not far from the edge of the Green Forest. I believe I’ll run over there and see if he has a new nest near the old one.”

So Peter scampered over to the tall pine in which was Clever’s old nest. As he sat with his head tipped back, staring up at it, it struck him that that nest didn’t look so old, after all. In fact, it looked as if it had recently been fixed up quite like new. He was wondering about this and trying to guess what it meant, when Clever himself alighted close to the edge of it.


Edge of the forest with many pine trees to pick from for nesting crows.


There was something in his beak, though what it was Peter couldn’t see. Almost at once a black head appeared above the edge of the nest and a black beak seized the thing which Clever had brought. Then the head disappeared and Clever silently flew away.

“As sure as I live,” thought Peter, “that was Mrs. Crow, and Clever brought her some food so that she would not have to leave those eggs that she must have up there. He may be the robber every one says he is, however he certainly is a good partner. Clever can also be as noisy as anyone I know, and yet he came and went without making a sound. Now I think of it, I haven’t once heard his voice near here this spring. I guess if Farmer Brown’s boy could find this nest he would get even with Clever for pulling up his corn. I know a lot of clever folk, although no one quite so as Clever the Crow.”

Twice, while Peter watched, Clever returned with food for Mrs. Crow. Then, tired of keeping still so long, Peter decided to run over to a certain place farther in the Green Forest which was seldom visited by anyone. It was a place Peter usually kept away from. It was pure curiosity which led him to go there now. The discovery that Clever the Crow was using his old nest had reminded Peter that Redtail the Hawk uses his old nest year after year, and he wanted to find out if Redtail had come back to it this year.

Halfway over to that lonesome place in the Green Forest a trim little bird flew up from the ground, hopped from branch to branch of a tree, walked along a limb, then from pure happiness threw back his head and cried, “Teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher!” each time a little louder than before. It was Teacher the Ovenbird.

In his delight at seeing this old friend, Peter quite forgot Redtail the Hawk. “Oh, Teacher!” cried Peter. “I’m so glad to see you again! I have been visiting the Old Orchard so much and learning so many things that this is the first chance I’ve had to come way over here in the Green Forest.”


Ovenbird by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


“You see,” said Peter, “I have been learning a lot of things about you feathered folks, things I hadn’t even guessed. There is something I wish you’d tell me, Teacher; will you?”

“That depends on what it is,” replied Teacher, eyeing Peter a little suspiciously.

“Why are you called an Oven Bird?” asked Peter.

“Is that all?” asked Teacher. Then without waiting for a reply he added, “It is because of the way Mrs. Ovenbird and I build our nest. Some people think it is like an oven and so they call us Ovenbirds. I think that is a silly name myself, quite as silly as Golden Crowned Thrush, which is what some people call me. I’m not a Thrush. I’m not even related to the Thrush family.”

“I suppose,” said Peter, looking at Teacher thoughtfully, “they’ve given you that name because you are dressed something like the Thrushes. That olive-green coat, and white waistcoat all streaked and spotted with black, certainly does remind me of the Thrush family. If you were not so much smaller than any of the Thrushes I should almost think you were one myself. Why, you are not very much bigger than Chippy the Chipping Sparrow, only you’ve got longer legs. I suppose that’s because you spend so much time on the ground. I think that just Teacher is the best name for you. No one who has once heard you could ever mistake you for any one else. By the way, where did you say your nest is?”

“I didn’t say,” replied Teacher. “What’s more, I’m not going to say.”

“Won’t you at least tell me if it is in a tree?” begged Peter.

Teacher’s eyes twinkled. “I guess it won’t do any harm to tell you that much,” he said. “No, it isn’t in a tree. It is on the ground and, if I do say it, it is as well hidden a nest as anybody can build. Oh, Peter watch your step! Watch your step!” Teacher fairly shrieked this warning.

Peter, who had just started to hop off to his right, stopped short in sheer astonishment. Just in front of him was a tiny mound of dead leaves, and a few feet beyond Mrs. Ovenbird was fluttering about on the ground as if badly hurt. Peter simply didn’t know what to make of it. Once more he made a movement as if to hop. Teacher flew right down in front of him. “You’ll step on my nest!”

Peter stared, for he didn’t see any nest and he said as much.

“It’s under that little mound of leaves right in front of your feet!” cried Teacher. “I wasn’t going to tell you, and now I just had to or you certainly would have stepped on it.”

Very carefully Peter walked around the little bunch of leaves and peered under them from the other side. There, sure enough, was a nest beneath them, and in it four speckled eggs. “I won’t tell a soul, Teacher. I promise you I won’t tell a soul,” declared Peter very earnestly. “I understand now why you are called Ovenbird, although I still like the name Teacher best.”


Red-tailed Hawk by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Feeling that Mr. and Mrs. Teacher would feel easier in their minds if he left them, Peter said goodbye and started on for the lonesome place in the Green Forest where he knew the old nest of Redtail the Hawk had been. As he drew near the place he kept sharp watch through the treetops for a glimpse of Redtail. Presently he saw him high in the blue sky, sailing lazily in big circles. Then Peter became very, very cautious. He tiptoed forward, keeping under cover as much as possible. At last, peeping out from beneath a little hemlock tree, he could see Redtail’s old nest. He saw right away that it was bigger than it had been when he saw it last. Suddenly there was a chorus of hungry cries and Peter saw Mrs. Redtail approaching with a mouse in her claws. From where he sat he could see four funny heads stretched above the edge of the nest.

“Redtail is using his old nest again and has got a family already,” exclaimed Peter. “I guess this is no place for me. The sooner I get away from here the better.”

Just then Redtail himself dropped down out of the blue, blue sky and alighted on a tree close at hand. Peter decided that the best thing he could do was to sit perfectly still where he was. He had a splendid view of Redtail, and he couldn’t help admire this big member of the Hawk family. The upper parts of his coat were a dark grayish-brown mixed with touches of chestnut color. The upper part of his breast was streaked with grayish-brown and buff, the lower part having but few streaks. Below this were black spots and bars ending in white. Peter noticed the tail most of all. It was a rich reddish-brown with a narrow black band near its end and a white tip. Peter understood at once why this big Hawk is called Redtail.

It was not until Mr. and Mrs. Redtail Hawk had gone in quest of more food for their hungry youngsters that Peter dared steal away. As soon as he felt it safe to do so, he headed for home as fast as he could go, lipperty-lipperty-lip. He knew that he wouldn’t feel safe until that place in the Green Forest was far behind 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 –  American Crow
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  Ovenbird
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS – Red-tailed Hawk
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE (page W40 American Crow).
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for Hawks (p. 104-109) and American Crow (p. 124-127) 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 Common Crow (p16).

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 17 – Blue Jay + Crow


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 17 – More Robbers


By the sounds of rejoicing among the feathered folks of the Old Orchard Johnny Woodchuck knew that it was quite safe for him to come out. He was eager to tell Skimmer the Tree Swallow how glad he was that Mr. Blacksnake had been driven away before he could get Skimmer’s eggs. As he poked his head out of his doorway he became aware that something was still wrong in the Old Orchard. Into the glad chorus there broke a note of distress and sorrow. Johnny instantly recognized the voices of Welcome Robin and Mrs. Robin. There is not one among his feathered neighbors who can so express worry and sorrow as can the Robins.

Johnny was just in time to see all the birds hurrying over to that part of the Old Orchard where the Robins had built their home. The rejoicing suddenly gave way to cries of distress. It appeared that there was just as much excitement over there as there had been when Mr. Black Snake had been discovered trying to rob Skimmer and Mrs. Skimmer. It couldn’t be Mr. Black Snake again, because Farmer Brown’s boy had chased him in quite another direction.

“What is it now?” asked Johnny of Skimmer, who was still excitedly discussing with Mrs. Skimmer their recent fright.

“I don’t know. I’ll go find out,” replied Skimmer and darted away.

Johnny Woodchuck waited patiently. The excitement and chattering among the birds seemed to increase and grow louder. The voices of Welcome and Mrs. Robin were mournful, as if they were heartbroken.

Presently Skimmer came back to tell Mrs. Skimmer the news.

“The Robins have lost their eggs!” he cried excitedly. “All four have been broken and eaten. Mrs. Robin left them to come over here to help drive away Mr. Black Snake, and while she was here someone ate those eggs. Nobody knows who it could have been, because all the birds of the Old Orchard were over here at that time. It might have been Chatterer the Red Squirrel, or it might have been Sammy Jay, or it might have been Creaker the Grackle, or it might have been Clever the Crow. Whoever it was just took that chance to sneak over there and rob that nest when there was no one to see him.”


Mr. + Mrs. Robin lost their eggs! (illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes)


Just then from over towards the Green Forest sounded a mocking “Caw, caw, caw!” Instantly the noise in the Old Orchard ceased for a moment. Then it broke out afresh. There wasn’t a doubt now in any one’s mind. Clever the Crow was the robber.

“Caw, caw, caw!” shouted Clever from the distance.

All the birds were busy chattering as they gathered around Welcome and Mrs. Robin trying to comfort them and it was some time before they broke up and returned to their own homes and duties. Almost at once there was another cry of distress. Mr. and Mrs. Chebec had been robbed of their eggs! While they had been tending to the home of the Robins, a thief had taken the chance to steal their eggs and get away.

Of course all the birds hurried over to sympathize with the Chebecs now too. They knew it couldn’t have been Clever this time because they had heard Clever cawing over on the edge of the Green Forest. In the midst of the excited discussion as to who did this, Weaver the Orchard Oriole spied a blue and white feather on the ground just below Chebec’s nest.

“It was Sammy Jay! There is no doubt about it, it was Sammy Jay!” he cried.


Blue Jay feather found in the forest.


At the sight of that telltale feather all the birds knew that Weaver was right, and led by Scrapper the Kingbird they began a noisy search of the Old Orchard for the sneaky robber. However Sammy wasn’t to be found, and they soon gave up the search, none daring to stay longer away from his own home lest something should happen there. Welcome and Mrs. Robin continued to cry mournfully, while little Mr. and Mrs. Chebec bore their trouble almost silently.

“There is one thing about it,” said Mr. Chebec to his sorrowful little wife, “that egg of Sally’s went with the rest, and we won’t have to raise that orphan.”

“That’s true,” she said. “There is no use crying over what can’t be helped. Come on, Chebec, let’s look for a place to build another nest. Next time I won’t leave the eggs for a minute.”

Meanwhile Jenny Wren’s tongue was fairly flying as she chattered to Peter Rabbit, who had come up in the midst of the excitement and of course had to know all about it.

“Clever the Crow and his cousin Sammy Jay belong to a family of robbers,” declared Jenny.

“Wait a minute,” cried Peter. “Do you mean to say that Clever the Crow and Sammy Jay are cousins?”

“Yes, they are cousins,” exclaimed Jenny. “They don’t look much alike, however they belong to the same family. How Sammy Jay can do such a thing as eating another’s eggs I don’t understand. He does do a lot of good by eating caterpillars and other bugs. Also there are no sharper eyes anywhere than those of Sammy Jay, and I’ll have to say this for him, that whenever he discovers any danger he always gives us warning. He has saved the lives of a good many of us feathered folks in this way. If it wasn’t for this habit of stealing our eggs I wouldn’t have a word to say against him. They say Clever the Crow does some good by eating white grubs and some other bugs, however he is also just as fond of young birds as he is of eggs.”


Blue Jay by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Remembering her household duties, Jenny Wren disappeared inside her house in her usual abrupt fashion. Peter, meanwhile, stayed for a bit and then finding no one who had the time to talk to him he suddenly decided to go over to the Green Forest to look for some of his friends there. He had gone only a little way in the Green Forest when he caught a glimpse of a blue form stealing away through the trees. He knew it in an instant, for there is no one with such a coat as Sammy Jay. Peter glanced up from where Sammy had flown and there he saw a nest in the fork of a tree halfway up. “I wonder,” thought Peter, “if Sammy was stealing eggs there, or if that is his own nest.” Then he started after Sammy as fast as he could go, lipperty-lipperty-lip. As he ran he happened to look back and was just in time to see Mrs. Jay slip on to the nest. Then Peter knew that he had discovered Sammy’s home. He chuckled as he ran.

“I’ve found out your secret, Sammy Jay!” cried Peter when at last he caught up with Sammy.

“Then I hope you’ll be kind enough to keep it to yourself,” said Sammy, looking not at all pleased.

“Certainly,” replied Peter. “I wouldn’t think of telling anyone.”

Peter sat studying Sammy Jay for a moment noticing that he is just a bit bigger than Welcome Robin. His back is grayish-blue. His tail is a bright blue-crossed with little black bars and edged with white. His wings are blue with white and black bars. His throat and breast are a soft grayish-white, and he wears a collar of black. On his head he wears a pointed cap, a very convenient cap, for at times he draws it down so that it is not pointed at all.

“Why did you steal Mrs. Chebec’s eggs?” asked Peter abruptly.

Sammy didn’t look the least bit put out. “Because I like eggs,” he replied promptly. “If people will leave their eggs unguarded they must expect to lose them. How did you know I took those eggs?”

“Never mind, Sammy; never mind. A little bird told me,” Peter said mischievously.

Sammy opened his mouth for a sharp reply and then instead he uttered a cry of warning. “Run, Peter! Run! Here comes Reddy Fox!” he cried.

Peter shot under a great pile of brush. There he was quite safe. While he waited for Reddy Fox to go away he thought about Sammy Jay. “It’s funny,” he mused, “how so much good and so much bad can be mixed together. Sammy Jay stole Chebec’s eggs, and then he saved my life. I just know he would have done as much for Mr. and Mrs. Chebec, or for any other feathered neighbor. He can only steal eggs for a little while in the spring. I guess on the whole he does more good than harm.”


In the Green Forest, where Sammy the Blue Jay lives, there are trees of all sorts, shapes, and sizes.


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 –  Blue Jay
  • Visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – ALL ABOUT BIRDS –  American Crow
  • Nature journal coloring pages at Cornell Common Feeder Birds FREE (page W38 Blue Jay + W40 American Crow).
  • Q/A –Questions with answers to keep this conversation going are available for the American Crow (p. 124-127) ) 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 Blue Jay (p5) and a Common Crow (p16).

  • Also a copy of Audubon’s Birds of America Coloring Book by Paul E. Kennedy with a Blue Jay on page 22.

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!