| Birds of the Air|
|by Arabella Buckley|
|Fourth volume in the Eyes and No Eyes series, introduces the youthful reader to bird life, beginning with birds of home and garden and ending with water birds and birds of prey. Children learn how to identify birds, why birds sing songs, how they build nests, lay eggs, and raise their young, where they sleep, and how they feed in summer, migrate in autumn, and survive the winter. Eight color illustrations and numerous black and white drawings complement the text. 5.5 x 8.5 inches. Ages 8-10 |
FEEDING IN SUMMER
 SPRING and summer are happy times for birds. Then there is
plenty of food for them and their little ones. Let us
go out some fine summer morning, and watch the
different birds as they feed. You will not see them
all in one day. But you ought to find each one some
time during the summer.
Close to the house you are sure to see a House Sparrow
picking up scraps in the yard and eating the
caterpillars and red spiders on the gooseberry bushes
in the kitchen garden. For the sparrow is not dainty.
He will eat most things, from a grain of wheat to a
scrap of meat.
In the kitchen garden, too, you may see the Chaffinch
breaking the husks of seeds with his sharp little beak.
He is not particular whether he takes them from the
weeks, or from the beds of radishes or turnips which we
have sown. But he does us more good than harm, for he
destroys a great deal of groundsel and chickweed.
Out in the fields the little brown Lark, which has been
singing in the sky, drops down to hunt for seeds in the
furrows turned up by the plough. In the rickyard I can
see several little Finches, the greenfinch and the
yellowhammer, picking up the grains of corn.
All these birds feed usually on grain, and have short
sharp beaks which will split the husks,
 though they sometimes eat insects and feed their young
ones on them. We have to drive them away from our
wheat and oats for a few weeks in the year, but they
are very useful in keeping down the weeks, for they eat
every seed they can find.
The Swallows, Swifts, and Martins have very different
beaks. If you watch them as they skim along in the
air, you will see they can open their mouths very wide
to catch the flies and gnats. But the hard beak itself
is very small. They have weak legs and strong wings,
for they catch all their food as they fly. Notice how
near the ground they keep in dull weather. Then the
insects are flying low, and the swallows follow them.
But on a bright day
 the gnats and midges fly higher, so swallows fly higher
1.BULLFINCH (GRAIN-FEEDER) 2.SWALLOW (FLY-FEEDER) 3.LINNET 4.LARK (BOTH GRAIN- AND INSECT-FEEDERS).
That big Thrush which is hopping about on the grass is
very different from the swallows. He has strong feet
and legs, and a long, narrow, round beak. He feeds on
worms and snails in the summer, and on berries in the
autumn. Look at him now. He has his feet firmly
planted on the grass, and he is
 pulling away at a worm with all his might. He will get
it out of the ground soon, and carry it away to feed his
Many of the smaller perching birds feed only on
insects. I am sure you will love them. They are such
pretty little things. First, there is the Wagtail with
his black and white wings, and his long tail bobbing up
and down as he hunts for insects in the grass. Not far
off is a little Wren hopping on a rose-tree and picking
off the green-fly, which does so much harm.
On a bush near, sits a small brown bird with a grey
speckled breast. He only came back to England from
warm countries at the end of May. He is the common
spotted Fly-catcher. Look how still he sits. Then all
at once he darts into the air with wide open mouth,
snaps his beak, and goes back to his place. He has
caught a fly and will now sit and wait for another.
Next I want you to look at a little bird which I love
because he is so bright and gay. He is a Blue Tit or
Tomtit (see picture, p. 36), a small
bird with a bright blue head and wings, and a yellow
breast. He is hanging upside down on the branch of a
tree watching for spiders. When he has caught one he
will flutter off to another tree and get a good
breakfast in a very little while. He is a very bold
little bird, and in the winter you may learn to know
him well, if you will give him some food.
These birds, the thrush, the wagtail, the flycatcher,
the wren and the tomtit are very useful to us. They
kill the snails and slugs, the caterpillars,
 maggots, and grubs. So do the nightingale and the
blackbird, and another little bird, which I want you to
know. This is the Hedge-sparrow, a small brown bird
with a blue-grey breast, which flutters along the
lanes. I am sure you must have seen him. He picks up
a tiny insect, flits a little way and picks up another,
and then flits away again just in front of you as you
walk along the lane. You must not confuse him with the
house-sparrow. He is quite another kind of bird, he is
one of the warblers and sings very sweetly. He is
sometimes called the "hedge-warbler," and this is a
much better and truer name for him.
We have not much time to watch other birds, But we must
look at the rooks hunting for worms and slugs in the
ploughed fields; and as we come near the wood I see a
partridge feeding on ants under the trees. He flies
away with a loud whirr long before we get near him, and
as he cries "cluck, cluck" I expect the mother bird and
her nest are not far off.
If you go into the wood you may see the little
Tree-creeper running up the trees looking for insects,
and the woodpecker darting out his sticky tongue and
tapping at the trunks of the trees, and the wood-pigeon
flying home with her crop full of oats or peas to feed
her little ones.
Or if you stroll by the river there may be the tiny
kingfisher darting down to seize tiny fish; or the
grave heron sitting quite still, with his neck
stretched out, till in a moment his head shoots
forward, and he brings up a big eel in his beak.
 You can notice many of these things for yourselves.
The great secret is to look at every bird you see and
try to learn something about it.
Notice the hard beaks of birds which eat
seeds—Chaffinch. The hooked beaks of birds which
eat flesh—Hawk. The wide gape of birds which
catch insects on the wing—Swallow. The long,
slender beaks of birds which feel underground for
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