Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 2 – House Sparrow


Missed Chapter 1? Begin HERE



Chapter 2 – Billy in the Old Orchard


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


An apple tree in the Old Orchard beginning to blossom.


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


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


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

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

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

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


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these activities to extend your bird story adventures:

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

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


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

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

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

P.L.A.Y. Time – Pass it on!

Bird BOOK LOOK – Chapter 1 – House Wren



Chapter 1 – Jenny Wren Arrives

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Still what?” prompted Peter.


House Wren by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What things?” asked Peter.

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

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


Blossoms in an Old Orchard Apple Tree


P.L.A.Y. in Place Projects


Try these fun activities to extend your bird story adventures:

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

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


Source: Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess

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

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

Feathered Friend BONUS!


House Wren

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

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


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