|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 |
A FISHING PARTY
 PETER RABBIT sat on the edge of the Old Briar-patch trying to
make up his mind whether to stay at home, which was the wise and
proper thing to do, or to go call on some of the friends he had
not yet visited. A sharp, harsh rattle caused him to look up to
see a bird about a third larger than Welcome Robin, and with a
head out of all proportion to the size of his body. He was
flying straight towards the Smiling Pool, rattling harshly as he
flew. The mere sound of his voice settled the matter for Peter.
"It's Rattles the Kingfisher," he cried. "I think I'll run over
to the Smiling Pool and pay him my respects."
So Peter started for the Smiling Pool as fast as his long legs
could take him, lipperty-lipperty-lip. He had lost sight of
Rattles the Kingfisher, and when he reached the bank of the
Smiling Pool he was in doubt which way to turn. It was very early
in the morning and there was not so much as a ripple on the
surface of the Smiling Pool. As Peter sat there trying to make up
 mind which way to go, he saw coming from the direction of the
Big River a great, broad-winged bird, flying slowly. He seemed to
have no neck at all, but carried straight out behind him were
two long legs.
"Longlegs the Great Blue Heron! I wonder if he is coming here,"
exclaimed Peter. "I do hope so."
Peter stayed right where he was and waited. Nearer and nearer
came Longlegs. When he was right opposite Peter he suddenly
dropped his long legs, folded his great wings, and alighted right
on the edge of the Smiling Pool across from where Peter was
sitting. If he seemed to have no neck at all when he was flying,
now he seemed to be all neck as he stretched it to its full
length. The fact is, his neck was so long that when he was flying
he carried it folded back on his shoulders. Never before had
Peter had such an opportunity to see Longlegs.
He stood quite four feet high. The top of his head and throat
were white. From the base of his great bill and over his eye was
a black stripe which ended in two long, slender, black feathers
hanging from the back of his head. His bill was longer than his
head, stout and sharp like a spear and yellow in color. His long
neck was a light brownish-gray. His back and wings were of a
 bluish color. The bend of each wing and the feathered parts of
his legs were a rusty-red. The remainder of his legs and his feet
were black. Hanging down over his breast were beautiful long
pearly-gray feathers quite unlike any Peter had seen on any of
his other feathered friends. In spite of the length of his legs
and the length of his neck he was both graceful and handsome.
"I wonder what has brought him over to the Smiling Pool," thought
He didn't have to wait long to find out. After standing perfectly
still with his neck stretched to its full height until he was
sure that no danger was near, Longlegs waded into the water a few
steps, folded his neck back on his shoulders until his long bill
seemed to rest on his breast, and then remained as motionless as
if there were no life in him. Peter also sat perfectly still. By
and by he began to wonder if Longlegs had gone to sleep. His own
patience was reaching an end and he was just about to go on in
search of Rattles the Kingfisher when like a flash the
dagger-like bill of Longlegs shot out and down into the water.
When he withdrew it Peter saw that Longlegs had caught a little
fish which he at once proceeded to swallow head-first. Peter
almost laughed right out as he watched the funny efforts of
Longlegs to gulp that fish down his long throat. Then
resumed his old position as motionless as before.
RATTLES THE KINGFISHER. His voice
sounds like a watchman's rattle.
TEETER THE SPOTTER SANDPIPER. You can tell him by the way he
bobs or teeters.
LONGLEGS THE GREAT BLUE HERON. He stands nearly four feet high.
It was no trouble now for Peter to sit still, for he was too
interested in watching this lone fisherman to think of leaving.
It wasn't long before Longlegs made another catch and this time
it was a fat Pollywog. Peter thought of how he had watched
Plunger the Osprey fishing in the Big River and the difference in
the ways of the two fishermen.
"Plunger hunts for his fish while Longlegs waits for his fish to
come to him," thought Peter. "I wonder if Longlegs never goes
As if in answer to Peter's thought Longlegs seemed to conclude
that no more fish were coming his way. He stretched himself up to
his full height, looked sharply this way and that way to make
sure that all was safe, then began to walk along the edge of the
Smiling Pool. He put each foot down slowly and carefully so as
to make no noise. He had gone but a few steps when that great
bill darted down like a flash, and Peter saw that he had caught a
careless young Frog. A few steps farther on he caught another
Pollywog. Then coming to a spot that suited him, he once more
waded in and began to watch for fish.
Peter was suddenly reminded of Rattles the Kingfisher, whom he
had quite forgotten. From
 the Big Hickory-tree on the bank,
Rattles flew out over the Smiling Pool, hovered for an instant,
then plunged down head-first. There was a splash, and a second
later Rattles was in the air again, shaking the water from him in
a silver spray. In his long, stout, black bill was a little fish.
He flew back to a branch of the Big Hickory-tree that hung out
over the water and thumped the fish against the branch until it
was dead. Then he turned it about so he could swallow it
head-first. It was a big fish for the size of the fisherman and
he had a dreadful time getting it down. But at last it was down,
and Rattles set himself to watch for another. The sun shone full
on him, and Peter gave a little gasp of surprise.
"I never knew before how handsome Rattles is," thought Peter. He
was about the size of Yellow Wing the Flicker, but his head made
him look bigger than he really was. You see, the feathers on top
of his head stood up in a crest, as if they had been brushed the
wrong way. His head, back, wings and tail were a bluish-gray. His
throat was white and he wore a white collar. In front of each eye
was a little white spot. Across his breast was a belt of
bluish-gray, and underneath he was white. There were tiny spots
of white on his wings, and his tail was spotted with white. His
bill was black and, like that of
Long-  legs, was long, and
stout, and sharp. It looked almost too big for his size.
Presently Rattles flew out and plunged into the Smiling Pool
again, this time, very near to where Longlegs was patiently
waiting. He caught a fish, for it is not often that Rattles
misses. It was smaller than the first one Peter had seen him
catch, and this time as soon as he got back to the Big
Hickory-tree, he swallowed it without thumping it against the
branch. As for Longlegs, he looked thoroughly put out. For a
moment or two he stood glaring angrily up at Rattles. You see,
when Rattles had plunged so close to Longlegs he had frightened
all the fish. Finally Longlegs seemed to make up his mind that
there was room for but one fisherman at a time at the Smiling
Pool. Spreading his great wings, folding his long neck back on
his shoulders, and dragging his long legs out behind him, he flew
heavily away in the direction of the Big River.
Rattles remained long enough to catch another little fish, and
then with a harsh rattle flew off down the Laughing Brook. "I
would know him anywhere by that rattle," thought Peter. "There
isn't any one who can make a noise anything like it. I wonder
where he has gone to now. He must have a nest, but I haven't the
least idea what kind of a nest he builds. Hello! There's
 Grandfather Frog over on his green lily pad. Perhaps he can tell
So Peter hopped along until he was near enough to talk to
Grandfather Frog. "What kind of a nest does Rattles the
Kingfisher build?" repeated Grandfather Frog. "Chug-arum, Peter
Rabbit! I thought everybody knew that Rattles doesn't build a
nest. At least I wouldn't call it a nest. He lives in a hole in
"What!" cried Peter, and looked as if he couldn't believe his own
Grandfather Frog grinned and his goggly eyes twinkled. "Yes,"
said he, "Rattles lives in a hole in the ground."
"But—but—but what kind of a hole?" stammered Peter.
"Just plain hole," retorted Grandfather Frog, grinning more
broadly than ever. Then seeing how perplexed and puzzled Peter
looked, he went on to explain. "He usually picks out a high
gravelly bank close to the water and digs a hole straight in just
a little way from the top. He makes it just big enough for
himself and Mrs. Rattles to go in and out of comfortably, and he
digs it straight in for several feet. I'm told that at the end of
it he makes a sort of bedroom, because he usually has a
 "Do you mean to say that he digs it himself?" asked Peter.
Grandfather Frog nodded. "If he doesn't, Mrs. Kingfisher does,"
he replied. "Those big bills of theirs are picks as well as fish
spears. They loosen the sand with those and scoop it out with
their feet. I've never seen the inside of their home myself, but
I'm told that their bedroom is lined with fish bones. Perhaps you
may call that a nest, but I don't."
"I'm going straight down the Laughing Brook to look for that
hole," declared Peter, and left in such a hurry that he forgot to
be polite enough to say thank you to Grandfather Frog.
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