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 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!