|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 |
SOME HOMES IN THE GREEN FOREST
 REDDY FOX wasted very little time waiting for Peter Rabbit to
come out from under that pile of brush where he had hidden at
Sammy Jay's warning. After making some terrible threats just to
try to frighten Peter, he trotted away to look for some Mice.
Peter didn't mind those threats at all. He was used to them. He
knew that he was safe where he was, and all he had to do was to
stay there until Reddy should be so far away that it would be
safe to come out.
Just to pass away the time Peter took a little nap. When he awoke
he sat for a few minutes trying to make up his mind where to go
and what to do next. From 'way over in the direction of the Old
Pasture the voice of Blacky the Crow reached him. Peter pricked
up his ears, then chuckled.
"Reddy Fox has gone back to the Old Pasture and Blacky has
discovered him there," he thought happily. You see, he understood
what Blacky was saying. To you or me Blacky would have been
saying simply, "Caw! Caw!" But to all
 the little people of the
Green Forest and Green Meadows within hearing he was shouting,
"I wonder," thought Peter, "where Blacky is nesting this year.
Last year his nest was in a tall pine-tree not far from the edge
of the Green Forest. I believe I'll run over there and see if he
has a new nest near the old one."
So Peter scampered over to the tall pine in which was Blacky's
old nest. As he sat with his head tipped back, staring up at it,
it struck him that that nest didn't look so old, after all. In
fact, it looked as if it had recently been fixed up quite like
new. He was wondering about this and trying to guess what it
meant, when Blacky himself alighted close to the edge of it.
There was something in his bill, though what it was Peter
couldn't see. Almost at once a black head appeared above the edge
of the nest and a black bill seized the thing which Blacky had
brought. Then the head disappeared and Blacky silently flew away.
"As sure as I live," thought Peter, "that was Mrs. Blacky, and
Blacky brought her some food so that she would not have to leave
those eggs she must have up there. He may be the black-hearted
robber every one says he is, but he certainly is a good husband.
He's a better husband
 than some others I know, of whom nothing
but good is said. It just goes to show that there is some good in
the very worst folks. Blacky is a sly old rascal. Usually he is
as noisy as any one I know, but he came and went without making a
sound. Now I think of it, I haven't once heard his voice near
here this spring. I guess if Farmer Brown's boy could find this
nest he would get even with Blacky for pulling up his corn. I
know a lot of clever people, but no one quite so clever as Blacky
the Crow. With all his badness I can't help liking him."
Twice, while Peter watched, Blacky returned with food for Mrs.
Blacky. Then, tired of keeping still so long, Peter decided to
run over to a certain place farther in the Green Forest which was
seldom visited by any one. It was a place Peter usually kept away
from. It was pure curiosity which led him to go there now. The
discovery that Blacky the Crow was using his old nest had
reminded Peter that Redtail the Hawk uses his old nest year after
year, and he wanted to find out if Redtail had come back to it
Halfway over to that lonesome place in the Green Forest a trim
little bird flew up from the ground, hopped from branch to branch
of a tree, walked along a limb, then from pure happiness
back his head and cried, "Teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher,
teacher! " each time a little louder than before. It was Teacher
the Oven Bird.
In his delight at seeing this old friend, Peter quite forgot
Redtail the Hawk. "Oh, Teacher!" cried Peter. "I'm so glad to see
Teacher stopped singing and looked down at Peter. "If you are so
glad why haven't you been over to see me before?" he demanded.
"I've been here for some time."
Peter looked a little foolish. "The truth is, Teacher," said he
very humbly, "I have been visiting the Old Orchard so much and
learning so many things that this is the first chance I have had
to come 'way over here in the Green Forest. You see, I have been
learning a lot of things about you feathered folks, things I
hadn't even guessed. There is something I wish you'd tell me,
Teacher; will you?"
"That depends on what it is," replied Teacher, eyeing Peter a
"It is why you are called Oven Bird," said Peter.
"Is that all?" asked Teacher. Then without waiting for a reply he
added, "It is because of the way Mrs. Teacher and I build our
nest. Some people think it is like an oven and so they call us
Oven Birds. I think that is a silly name
 myself, quite as silly as
Golden Crowned Thrush, which is what some people call me. I'm not
a Thrush. I'm not even related to the Thrush family. I'm a
Warbler, a Wood Warbler."
"I suppose," said Peter, looking at Teacher thoughtfully,
"they've given you that name because you are dressed something
like the Thrushes. That olive-green coat, and white waistcoat all
streaked and spotted with black, certainly does remind me of the
Thrush family. If you were not so much smaller than any of the
Thrushes I should almost think you were one myself. Why, you are
not very much bigger than Chippy the Chipping Sparrow, only
you've got longer legs. I suppose that's because you spend so
much time on the ground. I think that just Teacher is the best
name for you. No one who has once heard you could ever mistake
you for any one else. By the way, Teacher, where did you say your
"I didn't say," retorted Teacher. "What's more, I'm not going to
"Won't you at least tell me if it is in a tree?" begged Peter.
Teacher's eyes twinkled. "I guess it won't do any harm to tell
you that much," said he. "No, it isn't in a tree. It is on the
ground and, if I do say it, it is as well hidden a nest as
 can build. Oh, Peter, watch your step! Watch your step!"
Teacher fairly shrieked this warning.
Peter, who had just started to hop off to his right, stopped
short in sheer astonishment. Just in front of him was a tiny
mound of dead leaves, and a few feet beyond Mrs. Teacher was
fluttering about on the ground as if badly hurt. Peter simply
didn't know what to make of it. Once more he made a movement as
if to hop. Teacher flew right down in front of him. "You'll step
on my nest!" he cried.
Peter stared, for he didn't see any nest. He said as much.
"It's under that little mound of leaves right in front of your
feet!" cried Teacher. "I wasn't going to tell you, but I just had
to or you certainly would have stepped on it."
Very carefully Peter walked around the little bunch of leaves and
peered under them from the other side. There, sure enough, was a
nest beneath them, and in it four speckled eggs. "I won't tell a
soul, Teacher. I promise you I won't tell a soul," declared Peter
very earnestly. "I understand now why you are called Oven Bird,
but I still like the name Teacher best."
Feeling that Mr. and Mrs. Teacher would feel easier in their
minds if he left them, Peter said good-by and started on for the
lonesome place in
 the Green Forest where he knew the old nest of
Redtail the Hawk had been. As he drew near the place he kept
sharp watch through the treetops for a glimpse of Redtail.
Presently he saw him high in the blue sky, sailing lazily in big
circles. Then Peter became very, very cautious. He tiptoed
forward, keeping under cover as much as possible. At last,
peeping out from beneath a little hemlock-tree, he could see
Redtail's old nest. He saw right away that it was bigger than it
had been when he saw it last. Suddenly there was a chorus of
hungry cries and Peter saw Mrs. Redtail approaching with a Mouse
in her claws. From where he sat he could see four funny heads
stretched above the edge of the nest.
"Redtail is using his old nest again and has got a family
already," exclaimed Peter. "I guess this is no place for me. The
sooner I get away from here the better."
Just then Redtail himself dropped down out of the blue, blue sky
and alighted on a tree close at hand. Peter decided that the best
thing he could do was to sit perfectly still where he was. He had
a splendid view of Redtail, and he couldn't help but admire this
big member of the Hawk family. The upper parts of his coat were a
dark grayish-brown mixed with touches of chestnut color. The
upper part of his breast was streaked
 with grayish-brown and
buff, the lower part having but few streaks. Below this were
black spots and bars ending in white. But it was the tail which
Peter noticed most of all. It was a rich reddish-brown with a
narrow black band near its end and a white tip. Peter understood
at once why this big Hawk is called Redtail.
REDTAIL THE HAWK. This is one of
our largest hawks and may be recognized by the chestnut red
of his tail.
It was not until Mr. and Mrs. Redtail had gone in quest of more
food for their hungry youngsters that Peter dared steal away. As
soon as he felt it safe to do so, he headed for home as fast as
he could go, lipperty-lipperty-lip. He knew that he wouldn't feel
safe until that lonesome place in the Green Forest was far
Yet if the truth be known, Peter had less cause to worry than
would have been the case had it been some other member of the
Hawk family instead of Redtail. And while Redtail and his wife do
sometimes catch some of their feathered and furred neighbors, and
once in a while a chicken, they do vastly more good than harm.
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