|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 |
PETER DISCOVERS TWO OLD FRIENDS
 ROUGH Brother North Wind and Jack Frost were not far behind
Honker the Goose. In a night Peter Rabbit's world was
transformed. It had become a new world, a world of pure white.
The last laggard among Peter's feathered friends who spend the
winter in the far-away South had hurried away. Still Peter was
not lonely. Tommy Tit's cheery voice greeted Peter the very first
thing that morning after the storm. Tommy seemed to be in just as
good spirits as ever he had been in summer.
Now Peter rather likes the snow. He likes to run about in it, and
so he followed Tommy Tit up to the Old Orchard. He felt sure that
he would find company there besides Tommy Tit, and he was not
disappointed. Downy and Hairy the Woodpeckers were getting their
breakfast from a piece of suet Farmer Brown's boy had
thoughtfully fastened in one of the apple-trees for them. Sammy
Jay was there also, and his blue coat never had looked better
than it did against the pure white of the snow.
 These were the only ones Peter really had expected to find in the
Old Orchard, and so you can guess how pleased he was as he hopped
over the old stone wall to hear the voice of one whom he had
almost forgotten. It was the voice of Yank-Yank the Nuthatch, and
while it was far from being sweet there was in it something of
good cheer and contentment. At once Peter hurried in the
direction from which it came.
On the trunk of an apple-tree he caught sight of a gray and black
and white bird about the size of Downy the Woodpecker. The top of
his head and upper part of his back were shining black. The rest
of his back was bluish-gray. The sides of his head and his breast
were white. The outer feathers of his tail were black with white
patches near their tips.
But Peter didn't need to see how Yank-Yank was dressed in order
to recognize him. Peter would have known him if he had been so
far away that the colors of his coat did not show at all. You
see, Yank-Yank was doing a most surprising thing, something no
other bird can do. He was walking head first down the trunk of
that tree, picking tiny eggs of insects from the bark and
seemingly quite as much at home and quite as unconcerned in that
queer position as if he were right side up.
As Peter approached, Yank-Yank lifted his head
 and called a
greeting which sounded very much like the repetition of his own
name. Then he turned around and began to climb the tree as easily
as he had come down it.
"Welcome home, Yank-Yank!" cried Peter, hurrying up quite out of
Yank-Yank turned around so that he was once more head down, and
his eyes twinkled as he looked down at Peter. "You're mistaken
Peter," said he. "This isn't home. I've simply come down here for
the winter. You know home is where you raise your children, and
my home is in the Great Woods farther north. There is too much
ice and snow up there, so I have come down here to spend the
"Well anyway, it's a kind of home; it's your winter home,"
protested Peter, "and I certainly am glad to see you back. The
Old Orchard wouldn't be quite the same without you. Did you have
a pleasant summer? And if you please, Yank-Yank, tell me where
you built your home and what it was like."
"Yes, Mr. Curiosity, I had a very pleasant summer," replied
Yank-Yank. "Mrs. Yank-Yank and I raised a family of six and that
is doing a lot better than some folks I know, if I do say it. As
to our nest, it was made of leaves and feathers and it was in a
hole in a certain old stump that not a
 soul knows of but Mrs.
Yank-Yank and myself. Now is there anything else you want to
"Yes," retorted Peter promptly. "I want to know how it is that
you can walk head first down the trunk of a tree without losing
your balance and tumbling off."
Yank-Yank chuckled happily. "I discovered a long time ago,
Peter," said he, "that the people who get on best in this world
are those who make the most of what they have and waste no time
wishing they could have what other people have. I suppose you
have noticed that all the Woodpecker family have stiff tail
feathers and use them to brace themselves when they are climbing
a tree. They have become so dependent on them that they don't
dare move about on the trunk of a tree without using them. If
they want to come down a tree they have to back down.
"Now Old Mother Nature didn't give me stiff tail feathers, but
she gave me a very good pair of feet with three toes in front and
one behind and when I was a very little fellow I learned to make
the most of those feet. Each toe has a sharp claw. When I go up a
tree the three front claws on each foot hook into the bark. When
I come down a tree I simply twist one foot around so that I can
use the claws of this foot to keep me from falling. It is just as
easy for me to go down a tree as it is to
 go up, and I can go
right around the trunk just as easily and comfortably." Suiting
action to the word, Yank-Yank ran around the trunk of the
apple-tree just above Peter's head. When he reappeared Peter had
another question ready.
"Do you live altogether on grubs and worms and insects and their
eggs?" he asked.
"I should say not!" exclaimed Yank-Yank. "I like acorns and
beechnuts and certain kinds of seeds."
"I don't see how such a little fellow as you can eat such hard
things as acorns and beechnuts," protested Peter a little
Yank-Yank laughed right out. "Sometime when I see you over in the
Green Forest I'll show you," said he. "When I find a fat beechnut
I take it to a little crack in a tree that will just hold it;
then with this stout bill of mine I crack the shell. It really is
quite easy when you know how. Cracking a nut open that way is
sometimes called hatching, and that is how I come by the name of
Nuthatch. Hello! There's Seep-Seep. I haven't seen him since we
were together up North. His home was not far from mine."
As Yank-Yank spoke, a little brown bird alighted at the very foot
of the next tree. He was just a trifle bigger than Jenny Wren but
not at all like Jenny, for while Jenny's tail usually is cocked
 in the sauciest way, Seep-Seep's tail is never cocked up at
all. In fact, it bends down, for Seep-Seep uses his tail just as
the members of the Woodpecker family use theirs. He was dressed
in grayish-brown above and grayish-white beneath. Across each
wing was a little band of buffy-white, and his bill was curved
just a little.
SEEP-SEEP THE BROWN CREEPER.
When in winter you see a little brown-backed bird going round
and round up a tree trunk it is the Brown Creeper.
Seep-Seep didn't stop an instant but started up the trunk of that
tree, going round and round it as he climbed, and picking out
things to eat from under the bark. His way of climbing that tree
was very like creeping, and Peter thought to himself that
Seep-Seep was well named the Brown Creeper. He knew it was quite
useless to try to get Seep-Seep to talk, He knew that Seep-Seep
wouldn't waste any time that way.
Round and round up the trunk of the tree he went, and when he
reached the top at once flew down to the bottom of the next tree
and without a pause started up that. He wasted no time exploring
the branches, but stuck to the trunk. Once in a while he would
cry in a thin little voice, "Seep! Seep!" but never paused to
rest or look around. If he had felt that on him alone depended
the job of getting all the insect eggs and grubs on those trees
he could not have been more industrious.
"Does he build his nest in a hole in a tree?" asked Peter of
 Yank-Yank shook his head. "No," he replied. "He hunts
for a tree or stub with a piece of loose bark hanging to it. In
behind this he tucks his nest made of twigs, strips of bark and
moss. He's a funny little fellow and I don't know of any one in
all the great world who more strictly attends to his own business
than does Seep-Seep the Brown Creeper. By the way, Peter, have
you seen anything of Dotty the Tree Sparrow?"
"Not yet," replied Peter, "but I think he must be here. I'm glad
you reminded me of him. I'll go look for him.
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