|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 NEW FRIEND AND AN OLD ONE
 PETER RABBIT never will forget the first time he caught a glimpse
of Glory the Cardinal, sometimes called Redbird. He had come up
to the Old Orchard for his usual morning visit and just as he
hopped over the old stone wall he heard a beautiful clear, loud
whistle which drew his eyes to the top of an apple-tree. Peter
stopped short with a little gasp of sheer astonishment and
delight. Then he rubbed his eyes and looked again. He couldn't
quite believe that he saw what he thought he saw. He hadn't
supposed that any one, even among the feathered folks, could be
quite so beautiful.
The stranger was dressed all in red, excepting a little black
around the base of his bill. Even his bill was red. He wore a
beautiful red crest which made him still more distinguished
looking, and how he could sing! Peter had noticed that quite
often the most beautifully dressed birds have the poorest songs.
But this stranger's song was as beautiful as his coat, and that
was one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, that
Peter ever had seen.
GLORY THE CARDINAL. He is often
called Redbird. You cannot mistake him.
KITTY THE CATBIRD. His black crown and slaty-gray coat make him
easy to recognize.
 Of course he lost no time in hunting up
Jenny Wren. "Who is it, Jenny? Who is that beautiful stranger
with such a lovely song?" cried Peter, as soon as he caught sight
"It's Glory the Cardinal," replied Jenny Wren promptly. "Isn't he
the loveliest thing you've ever seen? I do hope he is going to
stay here. As I said before, I don't often envy any one's fine
clothes, but when I see Glory I'm sometimes tempted to be
envious. If I were Mrs. Cardinal I'm afraid I should be jealous.
There she is in the very same tree with him. Did you ever see
such a difference?"
Peter looked eagerly. Instead of the glorious red of Glory, Mrs.
Cardinal wore a very dull dress. Her back was a brownish-gray.
Her throat was a grayish-black. Her breast was a dull buff with a
faint tinge of red. Her wings and tail were tinged with dull red.
Altogether she was very soberly dressed, but a trim, neat looking
little person. But if she wasn't handsomely dressed she could
sing. In fact she was almost as good a singer as her handsome
"I've noticed," said Peter, "that people with fine clothes spend
most of their time thinking about them and are of very little use
when it comes to real work in life."
"Well, you needn't think that of Glory," declared
 Jenny in her
vigorous way. "He's just as fine as he is handsome. He's a model
husband. If they make their home around here you'll find him
doing his full share in the care of their babies. Sometimes they
raise two families. When they do that, Glory takes charge of the
first lot of youngsters as soon as they are able to leave the
nest so that Mrs. Cardinal has nothing to worry about while she
is sitting on the second lot of eggs. He fusses over them as if
they were the only children in the world. Everybody loves Glory.
Excuse me, Peter, I'm going over to find out if they are really
going to stay."
When Jenny returned she was so excited she couldn't keep still a
minute. "They like here, Peter!" she cried. "They like here so
much that if they can find a place to suit them for a nest
they're going to stay. I told them that it is the very best place
in the world. They like an evergreen tree to build in, and I
think they've got their eyes on those evergreens up near Farmer
Brown's house. My, they will add a lot to the quality of this
Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal whistled and sang as if their hearts were
bursting with joy, and Peter sat around listening as if he had
nothing else in the world to do. Probably he would have sat there
the rest of the morning had he not caught sight of an
 old friend
of whom he is very fond, Kitty the Catbird. In contrast with
Glory, Kitty seemed a regular little Quaker, for he was dressed
almost wholly in gray, a rather dark, slaty-gray. The top of his
head and tail were black, and right at the base of his tail was a
patch of chestnut color. He was a little smaller than Welcome
Robin. There was no danger of mistaking him for anybody else, for
there is no one dressed at all like him.
Peter forgot all about Glory in his pleasure at discovering the
returned Kitty and hurried over to welcome him. Kitty had
disappeared among the bushes along the old stone wall, but Peter
had no trouble in finding him by the queer cries he was uttering,
which were very like the meow of Black Pussy the Cat. They were
very harsh and unpleasant and Peter understood perfectly why
their maker is called the Catbird. He did not hurry in among the
bushes at once but waited expectantly. In a few minutes the harsh
cries ceased and then there came from the very same place a song
which seemed to be made up of parts of the songs of all the other
birds of the Old Orchard. It was not loud, but it was charming.
It contained the clear whistle of Glory, and there was even the
tinkle of Little Friend the Song Sparrow. The notes of other
friends were in that song, and with them were notes of southern
birds whose songs Kitty had
 learned while spending the winter in
the South. Then there were notes all his own.
Peter listened until the song ended, then scampered in among the
bushes. At once those harsh cries broke out again. You would have
thought that Kitty was scolding Peter for coming to see him
instead of being glad. But that was just Kitty's way. He is
simply brimming over with fun and mischief, and delights to
When Peter found him, he was sitting with all his feathers puffed
out until he looked almost like a ball with a head and tail. He
looked positively sleepy. Then as he caught sight of Peter he
drew those feathers down tight, cocked his tail up after the
manner of Jenny Wren, and was as slim and trim looking as any
bird of Peter's acquaintance. He didn't look at all like the same
bird of the moment before. Then he dropped his tail as if he
hadn't strength enough to hold it up at all. It hung straight
down. He dropped his wings and all in a second made himself look
fairly disreputable. But all the time his eyes were twinkling and
snapping, and Peter knew that these changes in appearance were
made out of pure fun and mischief.
"I've been wondering if you were coming hack," cried Peter. "I
don't know of any one of my feathered friends I would miss so
much as you."
 "Thank you," responded Kitty. "It's very nice of you to say that,
Peter. If you are glad to see me I am still more glad to get
"Did you pass a pleasant winter down South?" asked Peter.
"Fairly so. Fairly so," replied Kitty. "By the way, Peter, I
picked up some new songs down there. Would you like to hear
"Of course," replied Peter, "but I don't think you need any new
songs. I've never seen such a fellow for picking up other
people's songs excepting Mocker the Mockingbird."
At the mention of Mocker a little cloud crossed Kitty's face for
just an instant. "There's a fellow I really envy," said he. "I'm
pretty good at imitating others, but Mocker is better. I'm hoping
that, if I practice enough, some day I can be as good. I saw a
lot of him in the South and he certainly is clever."
"Huh! You don't need to envy him," retorted Peter. "You are some
imitator yourself. How about those new notes you got when you
were in the South?"
Kitty's face cleared, his throat swelled and he began to sing. It
was a regular medley. It didn't seem as if so many notes could
come from one throat. When it ended Peter had a question all
 "Are you going to build somewhere near here?" he asked.
"I certainly am," replied Kitty. "Mrs. Catbird was delayed a day
or two. I hope she'll get here to-day and then we'll get busy at
once. I think we shall build in these bushes here somewhere. I'm
glad Farmer Brown has sense enough to let them grow. They are
just the kind of a place I like for a nest. They are near enough
to Farmer Brown's garden, and the Old Orchard is right here.
That's just the kind of a combination that suits me."
Peter looked somewhat uncertain. "Why do you want to be near
Farmer Brown's garden?" he asked.
"Because that is where I will get a good part of my living,"
Kitty responded promptly. "He ought to be glad to have me about.
Once in a while I take a little fruit, but I pay for it ten times
over by the number of bugs and worms I get in his garden and the
Old Orchard. I pride myself on being useful. There's nothing like
being useful in this world, Peter."
Peter nodded as if he quite agreed. Though, as you know and I
know, Peter himself does very little except fill his own big
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