|The Burgess Bird Book for Children|
|by Thornton Burgess|
|Through the eyes of Peter Rabbit we become acquainted with a variety of birds as they return to Peterís neighborhood in the spring. In the context of the story about each bird, we hear about its nesting habits, its feeding preferences, and its interactions with other wildlife. We meet Jenny Wren, Scrapper the King-bird, Redwing the Blackbird, and dozens more. An engaging introduction to birds for young children. Ages 6-9 |
CHIPPY, SWEETVOICE, AND DOTTY.
 FOR a while Jenny Wren was too busy to talk save to scold Mr.
Wren for spending so much time singing instead of working. To
Peter it seemed as if they were trying to fill that tree trunk
with rubbish. "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." Peter wasn't far wrong 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
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
Bully the English 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, so you ought to be able to tell me something I want to
know. Why is it that none of the Sparrow family excepting that
noisy nuisance, Bully, build in the trees of the Old Orchard? Is
it because Bully has driven all the rest out?"
Johnny Chuck shook his head. "Peter," said he, "whatever is the
matter with your ears? And whatever is the matter with your
"Nothing," replied Peter rather shortly. "They are as good as
yours any day, Johnny Chuck."
Johnny grinned. "Listen!" said Johnny. 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 for 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—altogether as trim a little
gentleman as Peter was acquainted with. It was Chippy, as
everybody calls the Chipping Sparrow, the smallest of the family.
Peter looked a little foolish. "I forgot all about Chippy," said
he. "Now I think of it, I have found Chippy here in the Old
 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 trashy nest like his cousin, Bully?"
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 horse-hair."
"What's that?" Peter's voice sounded as if 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, but find it they do. Here
comes Chippy himself; ask him."
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. Haven't you finished building
your nest yet?"
"Nearly," replied Chippy. "It is all done but 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, but 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, but 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 now soon
be ready for the four beautiful little blue eggs with black spots
on one end she meant to lay in it.
"I just love Chippy and Mrs. Chippy," said Peter, as they watched
their two little feathered friends putting the finishing touches
to the little nest far out on a branch of one of the apple-trees.
"Everybody does," replied Johnny. "Everybody loves them as much
as they hate Bully and his wife. Did you know that they are
 called Tree Sparrows? I suppose it is because they so
often build their nests in trees?"
"No," said Peter, "I didn't. Chippy shouldn't be called Tree
Sparrow, because he has a cousin by that name."
Johnny Chuck looked as if he doubted that. "I 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. "Dotty the Tree Sparrow spends the winter here. He
left for his home in the Far North about the time you took it
into your head 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, but I see him much oftener 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
"Gracious, what a mix-up!" exclaimed Johnny Chuck. "With Chippy
being called a Tree
Spar-  row 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, but 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! Good-by, Johnny Chuck."
DOTTY THE TREE SPARROW. The Reddish-brown cap and dark spot in the middle of his breast are all
you need to look for.
SLATY THE JUNCO. The little slate-colored and white ground bird
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," cried
Sweetvoice dropped down into the grass again, and when Peter came
up, was very busy getting a mouthful of dry grass. "Can't,"
mumbled Sweetvoice. "Can't do it 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
"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 hoofprint of Bossy the Cow."
"In a what?" cried Peter.
"In a hoofprint 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. One of
these makes the nicest kind of a place for a nest. I think we
have picked out the very best one on all the Green Meadows. Now
run along, Peter Rabbit, and don't bother me any more. I've got
too much to do to sit here talking. 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. "You don't love to
sing any better than I love to hear you. I think that is the best
time of all
 the day in which to sing. I mean, I think it's the
best time to hear singing," for of course Peter himself does not
sing at all.
That night, sure enough, just as the Black 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. Peter didn't know it, but it is this habit of singing in
the evening which has given Sweetvoice his name of Vesper
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