|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 |
JENNY WREN'S COUSINS
 PETER RABBIT never will forget his surprise when Jenny Wren asked
him one spring morning if he had seen anything of her big cousin.
Peter hesitated. As a matter of fact, he couldn't think of any
big cousin of Jenny Wren. All the cousins he knew anything about
were very nearly Jenny's own size.
Now Jenny Wren is one of the most impatient small persons in the
world. "Well, well, well, Peter, have you lost your tongue?" she
chattered. "Can't you answer a simple question without talking
all day about it? Have you seen anything of my big cousin? It is
high time for him to be here."
"You needn't be so cross about it if I am slow," replied Peter.
"I'm just trying to think who your big cousin is. I guess, to be
quite honest, I don't know him."
"Don't know him! Don't know him!" Sputtered Jenny. "Of course you
know him. You can't help but know him. I mean Brownie the
In his surprise Peter fairly jumped right off the
 ground. "What's
that?" he exclaimed. "Since when was Brownie the Thrasher related
to the Wren family?"
"Ever since there have been any Wrens and Thrashers," retorted
Jenny. "Brownie belongs to one branch of the family and I belong
to another, and that makes him my second cousin. It certainly is
surprising how little some folks know."
"But I have always supposed he belonged to the Thrush family,"
protested Peter. "He certainly looks like a Thrush."
"Looking like one doesn't make him one," snapped Jenny. "By this
time you ought to leave learned that you never can judge anybody
just by looks. It always makes me provoked to hear Brownie called
the Brown Thrush. There isn't a drop of Thrush blood in him. But
you haven't answered my question yet, Peter Rabbit. I want to
know if he has got here yet."
"Yes," said Peter. "I saw him only yesterday on the edge of the
Old Pasture. He was fussing around in the bushes and on the
ground and jerking that long tail of his up and down and sidewise
as if he couldn't decide what to do with it. I've never seen
anybody twitch their tail around the way he does."
Jenny Wren giggled. "That's just like him," said she. "It is
because he thrashes his tail around
 so much that he is called a
Thrasher. I suppose he was wearing his new spring suit."
"I don't know whether it was a new suit or not, but it was mighty
good looking," replied Peter. "I just love that beautiful
reddish-brown of his back, wings and tail, and it certainly does
set off his white and buff waistcoat with those dark streaks and
spots. You must admit, Jenny Wren, that any one seeing him
dressed so much like the Thrushes is to be excused for thinking
him a Thrush."
"I suppose so," admitted Jenny rather grudgingly. "But none of
the Thrushes have such a bright brown coat. Brownie is handsome,
if I do say so. Did you notice what a long bill he has?"
Peter nodded. "And I noticed that he had two white bars on each
wing," said he.
BROWNIE THE THRASHER. You cannot
mistake him because of his bright reddish-brown coat, long tail
and spotted breast.
CHEWINK THE TOWHEE. He is black and white with reddish-brown
sides, usually on the ground in a thicket.
"I'm glad you're so observing," replied Jenny dryly. "Did you
hear him sing?"
"Did I hear him sing!" cried Peter, his eyes shining at the
memory. "He sang especially for me. He flew up to the top of a
tree, tipped his head back and sang as few birds I know of can
sing. He has a wonderful voice, has Brownie. I don't know of
anybody I enjoy listening to more. And when he's singing he acts
as if he enjoyed it himself and knows what a good singer he is. I
noticed that long tail of his hung straight down the same way Mr.
Wren's does when he sings."
 "Of course it did," replied Jenny promptly. "That's a family
trait. The tails of both my other big cousins do the same thing."
"Wha-wha-what's that? Have you got more big cousins?" cried
Peter, staring up at Jenny as if she were some strange person he
never had seen before.
"Certainly," retorted Jenny. "Mocker the Mockingbird and Kitty
the Catbird belong to Brownie's family, and that makes them
second cousins to me."
Such a funny expression as there was on Peter's face. He felt
that Jenny Wren was telling the truth, but it was surprising news
to him and so hard to believe that for a few minutes he couldn't
find his tongue to ask another question. Finally he ventured to
ask very timidly, "Does Brownie imitate the songs of other birds
the way Mocker and Kitty do?"
Jenny Wren shook her head very decidedly. "No," said she. "He's
perfectly satisfied with his own song." Before she could add
anything further the clear whistle of Glory the Cardinal sounded
from a tree just a little way off. Instantly Peter forgot all
about Jenny Wren's relatives and scampered over to that tree. You
see Glory is so beautiful that Peter never loses a chance to see
As Peter sat staring up into the tree, trying to
 get a glimpse of
Glory's beautiful red coat, the clear, sweet whistle sounded once
more. It drew Peter's eyes to one of the upper branches, but
instead of the beautiful, brilliant coat of Glory the Cardinal he
saw a bird about the size of Welcome Robin dressed in sober
ashy-gray with two white bars on his wings, and white feathers on
the outer edges of his tail. He was very trim and neat and his
tail hung straight down after the manner of Brownie's when he
was singing. It was a long tail, but not as long as Brownie's.
Even as Peter blinked and stared in surprise the stranger opened
his mouth and from it came Glory's own beautiful whistle. Then
the stranger looked down at Peter, and his eyes twinkled with
"Fooled you that time, didn't I, Peter?" he chuckled. "You
thought you were going to see Glory the Cardinal, didn't you?"
Then without waiting for Peter to reply, this sober-looking
stranger gave such a concert as no one else in the world could
give. From that wonderful throat poured out song after song and
note after note of Peter's familiar friends of the Old Orchard,
and the performance wound up with a lovely song which was all the
stranger's own. Peter didn't have to be told who the stranger
was. It was Mocker the Mockingbird.
"Oh!" gasped Peter. "Oh, Mocker, how under
 the sun do you do it?
I was sure that it was Glory whom I heard whistling. Never again
will I be able to believe my own ears."
Mocker chuckled. "You're not the only one I've fooled, Peter,"
said he. "I flatter myself that I can fool almost anybody if I
set out to. It's lots of fun. I may not be much to look at, but
when it comes to singing there's no one I envy.
"I think you are very nice looking indeed," replied Peter
politely. "I've just been finding out this morning that you can't
tell much about folks just by their looks."
"And now you've learned that you can't always recognize folks by
their voices, haven't you?" chuckled Mocker.
"Yes," replied Peter. "Hereafter I shall never be sure about any
feathered folks unless I can both see and hear them. Won't you
sing for me again, Mocker?"
Mocker did. He sang and sang, for he clearly loves to sing. When
he finished Peter had another question ready. "Somebody told me
once that down in the South you are the best loved of all the
birds. Is that so?"
"That's not for me to say," replied Mocker modestly. "But I can
tell you this, Peter, they do think a lot of me down there. There
are many birds down there who are very beautifully dressed,
who don't come up here at all. But not one of them is loved as I
am, and it is all on account of my voice. I would rather have a
beautiful voice than a fine coat."
Peter nodded as if he quite agreed, which, when you think of it,
is rather funny, for Peter has neither a fine coat nor a fine
voice. A glint of mischief sparkled in Mocker's eyes. "There's
Mrs. Goldy the Oriole over there," said he. "Watch me fool her."
He began to call in exact imitation of Goldy's voice when he is
anxious about something. At once Mrs. Goldy came hurrying over to
find out what the trouble was. When she discovered Mocker she
lost her temper and scolded him roundly; then she flew away a
perfect picture of indignation. Mocker and Peter laughed, for
they thought it a good joke.
Suddenly Peter remembered what Jenny Wren had told him. "Was
Jenny Wren telling you the truth when she said that you are a
second cousin of hers?" he asked.
Mocker nodded. "Yes," said he, "we are relatives. We each belong
to a branch of the same family." Then he burst into Mr. Wren's
own song, after which he excused himself and went to look for
Mrs. Mocker. For, as he explained, it was time for them to he
thinking of a nest.
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