|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 |
DRUMMERS AND CARPENTERS
 PETER RABBIT was so full of questions that he hardly knew which
one to ask first. But Yellow Wing the Flicker didn't give him a
chance to ask any. From the edge of the Green forest there came a
clear, loud call of, "Pe-ok! Pe-ok! Pe-ok!"
"Excuse me, Peter, there's Mrs. Yellow Wing calling me,"
exclaimed Yellow Wing, and away he went. Peter noticed that as he
flew he went up and down. It seemed very much as if he bounded
through the air just as Peter bounds over the ground. "I would
know him by the way he flies just as far as I could see him,"
thought Peter, as he started for home in the dear Old
Briar-patch. "Somehow he doesn't seem like a Woodpecker because
he is on the ground so much. I must ask Jenny Wren about him."
It was two or three days before Peter had a chance for a bit of
gossip with Jenny Wren. When he did the first thing he asked was
if Yellow Wing is a true Woodpecker.
 "Certainly he is," replied Jenny Wren. "Of course he is. Why
under the sun should you think he isn't?"
"Because it seems to me he is on the ground more than he's in the
trees," retorted Peter. "I don't know any other Woodpeckers who
come down on the ground at all."
"Tut, tut, tut, tut!" scolded Jenny. "Think a minute, Peter!
Think a minute! Haven't you ever seen Redhead on the ground?"
Peter blinked his eyes. "Ye-e-s," he said slowly. "Come to think
of it, I have. I've seen him picking up beechnuts in the fall.
The Woodpeckers are a funny family. I don't understand them."
Just then a long, rolling rat-a-tat-tat rang out just over their
heads. "There's another one of them," chuckled Jenny. "That's
Downy, the smallest of the whole family. He certainly makes an
awful racket for such a little fellow. He is a splendid drummer
and he's just as good a carpenter. He made the very house I am
Peter was sitting with his head tipped back trying to see Downy.
At first he couldn't make him out. Then he caught a little
movement on top of a dead limb. It was Downy's head flying back
and forth as he beat his long roll. He was
 dressed all in black
and white. On the back of his head was a little scarlet patch. He
was making a tremendous racket for such a little chap, only a
little bigger than one of the Sparrow family.
REDHEAD THE WOODPECKER. You
will know him instantly by his all-red head.
DOWNY THE WOODPECKER. His smaller size and the black bars on the
white outer feathers of his tail distinguish him.
"Is he making a hole for a nest up there?" asked Peter eagerly.
"Gracious, Peter, what a question! What a perfectly silly
question!" exclaimed Jenny Wren scornfully. "Do give us birds
credit for a little common sense. If he were cutting a hole for a
nest, everybody within hearing would know just where to look for
it. Downy has too much sense in that little head of his to do
such a silly thing as that. When he cuts a hole for a nest he
doesn't make any more noise than is absolutely necessary. You
don't see any chips flying, do you?"
"No-o," replied Peter slowly. "Now you speak of it, I don't. Is—is
he hunting for worms in the wood?"
Jenny laughed right out. "Hardly, Peter, hardly," said she. "He's
just drumming, that's all. That hollow limb makes the best kind
of a drum and Downy is making the most of it. Just listen to
that! There isn't a better drummer anywhere."
But Peter wasn't satisfied. Finally he ventured another question.
"What's he doing it for?"
"Good land, Peter!" cried Jenny. "What do
 you run and jump for in
the spring? What is Mr. Wren singing for over there? Downy is
drumming for precisely the same reason—happiness. He can't run
and jump and he can't sing, but he can drum. By the way, do you
know that Downy is one of the most useful birds in the Old
Just then Downy flew away, but hardly had he disappeared when
another drummer took his place. At first Peter thought Downy had
returned until he noticed that the newcomer was just a bit bigger
than Downy. Jenny Wren's sharp eyes spied him at once.
"Hello!" she exclaimed. "There's Hairy. Did you ever see two
cousins look more alike? If it were not that Hairy is bigger than
Downy it would be hard work to tell them apart. Do you see any
other difference, Peter?"
Peter stared and blinked and stared again, then slowly shook his
head. "No," he confessed, "I don't."
"That shows you haven't learned to use your eyes, Peter," said
Jenny rather sharply. "Look at the outside feathers of his tail;
they are all white. Downy's outside tail feathers have little
bars of black. Hairy is just as good a carpenter as is Downy, but
for that matter I don't know of a member of the Woodpecker family
who isn't a
 good carpenter. Where did you say Yellow Wing the
Flicker is making his home this year?"
"Over in the Big Hickory-tree by the Smiling Pool," replied
Peter. "I don't understand yet why Yellow Wing spends so much
time on the ground."
"Ants," replied Jenny Wren. "Just ants. He's as fond of ants as
is Old Mr. Toad, and that is saying a great deal. If Yellow Wing
keeps on he'll become a ground bird instead of a tree bird. He
gets more than half his living on the ground now. Speaking of
drumming, did you ever hear Yellow Wing drum on a tin roof?"
Peter shook his head.
"Well, if there's a tin roof anywhere around, and Yellow Wing can
find it, he will be perfectly happy. He certainly does love to
make a noise, and tin makes the finest kind of a drum."
Just then Jenny was interrupted by the arrival, on the trunk of
the very next tree to the one on which she was sitting, of a bird
about the size of Sammy Jay. His whole head and neck were a
beautiful, deep red. His breast was pure white, and his back was
black to nearly the beginning of his tail, where it was white.
"Hello, Redhead!" exclaimed Jenny Wren. "How did you know we were
talking about your family?"
 "Hello, chatterbox," retorted Redhead with a twinkle in his eyes.
"I didn't know you were talking about my family, but I could have
guessed that you were talking about some one's family. Does your
tongue ever stop, Jenny?"
Jenny Wren started to become indignant and scold, then thought
better of it. "I was talking for Peter's benefit," said she,
trying to look dignified, a thing quite impossible for any member
of the Wren family to do. "Peter has always had the idea that
true Woodpeckers never go down on the ground. I was explaining to
him that Yellow Wing is a true Woodpecker, yet spends half his
time on the ground."
Redhead nodded. "It's all on account of ants," said he. "I don't
know of any one quite so fond of ants unless it is Old Mr. Toad.
I like a few of them myself, but Yellow Wing just about lives on
them when he can. You may have noticed that I go down on the
ground myself once in a while. I am rather fond of beetles, and
an occasional grasshopper tastes very good to me. I like a
variety. Yes, sir, I certainly do like a variety—cherries,
blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes. In fact most
kinds of fruit taste good to me, not to mention beechnuts and
acorns when there is no fruit."
Jenny Wren tossed her head. "You didn't
 mention the eggs of some
of your neighbors," said she sharply.
Redhead did his best to look innocent, but Peter noticed that he
gave a guilty start and very abruptly changed the subject, and a
moment later flew away.
"Is it true," asked Peter, "that Redhead does such a dreadful
Jenny bobbed her head rapidly and jerked her tail. "So I an
told," said she. "I've never seen him do it, but I know others
who have. They say he is no better than Sammy Jay or Blacky the
Crow. But gracious, goodness! I can't sit here gossiping
forever." Jenny twitched her funny little tail, snapped her
bright eyes at Peter, and disappeared in her house.
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