|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 LEARNS SOMETHING HE HADN'T GUESSED
 RUNNING over to the Old Orchard very early in the morning for a
little gossip with Jenny Wren and his other friends there had
become a regular thing with Peter Rabbit. He was learning a great
many things, and some of them were most surprising.
Now two of Peter's oldest and best friends in the Old Orchard
were Winsome Bluebird and Welcome Robin. Every spring they arrived
pretty nearly together, though Winsome Bluebird usually was a few
days ahead of Welcome Robin. This year Winsome had arrived while
the snow still lingered in patches. He was, as he always is, the
herald of sweet Mistress Spring. And when Peter had heard for the
first time Winsome's soft, sweet whistle, which seemed to come
from nowhere in particular and from everywhere in general, he had
kicked up his long hind legs from pure joy. Then, when a few days
later he had heard Welcome Robin's joyous message of "Cheer-up!
Cheer-up! Cheer-up! Cheer-up! Cheer!"
 from the tiptop of a tall
tree, he had known that Mistress Spring really had arrived.
Peter loves Winsome Bluebird and Welcome Robin, just as everybody
else does, and he had known them so long and so well that he
thought he knew all there was to know about them. He would have
been very indignant had anybody told him he didn't.
"Those cousins don't look much alike, do they?" remarked Jenny
Wren, as she poked her head out of her house to gossip with
"What cousins?" demanded Peter, staring very hard in the
direction in which Jenny Wren was looking.
"Those two sitting on the fence over there. Where are your eyes,
Peter?" replied Jenny rather sharply.
Peter stared harder than ever. On one post sat Winsome Bluebird,
and on another post sat Welcome Robin. "I don't see anybody but
Winsome and Welcome, and they are not even related," replied
Peter with a little puzzled frown.
"Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut, Peter!" exclaimed Jenny Wren. "Tut,
tut, tut, tut, tut! Who told you any such nonsense as that? Of
course they are related. They are cousins. I thought everybody
knew that. They belong to the same family that Melody the Thrush
and all the other
 Thrushes belong to. That makes them all
"What?" exclaimed Peter, looking as if he didn't believe a word
of what Jenny Wren had said. Jenny repeated, and still Peter
Then Jenny lost her temper, a thing she does very easily. "If you
don't believe me, go ask one of them," she snapped, and
disappeared inside her house, where Peter could hear her scolding
away to herself.
The more he thought of it, the more this struck Peter as good
advice. So he hopped over to the foot of the fence post on which
Winsome Bluebird was sitting. "Jenny Wren says that you and
Welcome Robin are cousins. She doesn't know what she is talking
about, does she?" asked Peter.
Winsome chuckled. It was a soft, gentle chuckle. "Yes," said he,
nodding his head, "we are. You can trust that little busybody to
know what she is talking about, every time. I sometimes think she
knows more about other people's affairs than about her own.
Welcome and I may not look much alike, but we are cousins just
the same. Don't you think Welcome is looking unusually fine this
"Not a bit finer than you are yourself,
Win-  some," replied Peter
politely. "I just love that sky-blue coat of yours. What is the
reason that Mrs. Bluebird doesn't wear as bright a coat as you
"Go ask Jenny Wren," chuckled Winsome Bluebird, and before Peter
could say another word he flew over to the roof of Farmer Brown's
Back scampered Peter to tell Jenny Wren that he was sorry he had
doubted her and that he never would again. Then he begged Jenny
to tell him why it was that Mrs. Bluebird was not as brightly
dressed as was Winsome.
"Mrs. Bluebird, like most mothers, is altogether too busy to
spend much time taking care of her clothes; and fine clothes need
a lot of care," replied Jenny. "Besides, when Winsome is about he
attracts all the attention and that gives her a chance to slip in
and out of her nest without being noticed. I don't believe you
know, Peter Rabbit, where Winsome's nest is."
Peter had to admit that he didn't, although he had tried his best
to find out by watching Winsome. "I think it's over in that
little house put up by Farmer Brown's boy," he ventured. "I saw
both Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird go in it when they first came, and
I've seen Winsome around it a great deal since, so I guess it is
 "So you guess it is there!" mimicked Jenny Wren. "Well, your
guess is quite wrong, Peter; quite wrong. As a matter of fact, it
is in one of those old fence posts. But just which one I am not
going to tell you. I will leave that for you to find out. Mrs.
Bluebird certainly shows good sense. She knows a good house when
she sees it. The hole in that post is one of the best holes
anywhere around here. If I had arrived here early enough I would
have taken it myself. But Mrs. Bluebird already had her nest
built in it and four eggs there, so there was nothing for me to
do but come here. Just between you and me, Peter, I think the
Bluebirds show more sense in nest building than do their cousins
the Robins. There is nothing like a house with stout walls and a
doorway just big enough to get in and out of comfortably."
Peter nodded quite as if he understood all about the advantages
of a house with walls. "That reminds me," said he. "The other day
I saw Welcome Robin getting mud and carrying it away. Pretty soon
he was joined by Mrs. Robin, and she did the same thing. They
kept it up till I got tired of watching them. What were they
doing with that mud?"
"Building their nest, of course, stupid," retorted Jenny.
"Welcome Robin, with that black
 head, beautiful russet breast,
black and white throat and yellow bill, not to mention the proud
way in which he carries himself, certainly is a handsome fellow,
and Mrs. Robin is only a little less handsome. How they can be
content to build the kind of a home they do is more than I can
understand. People think that Mr. Wren and I use a lot of trash
in our nest. Perhaps we do, but I can tell you one thing, and
that is it is clean trash. It is just sticks and clean straws,
and before I lay my eggs I see to it that my nest is lined with
feathers. More than this, there isn't any cleaner housekeeper
than I am, if I do say it.
WELCOME ROBIN. No other bird
has a russet breast like his.
WINSOME BLUEBIRD. His blue back, wings and tail leave no
doubt as to who he is.
"Welcome Robin is a fine looker and a fine singer, and everybody
loves him. But when it comes to housekeeping, he and Mrs. Robin
are just plain dirty. They make the foundation of their nest of
mud,—plain, common, ordinary mud. They cover this with dead
grass, and sometimes there is mighty little of this over the
inside walls of mud. I know because I've seen the inside of their
nest often. Anybody with any eyes at all can find their nest.
More than once I've known them to have their nest washed away in
a heavy rain, or have it blown down in a high wind. Nothing like
that ever happens to Winsome Bluebird or to me."
Jenny disappeared inside her house, and Peter
 waited for her to
come out again. Welcome Robin flew down on the ground, ran a few
steps, and then stood still with his head on one side as if
listening. Then he reached down and tugged at something, and
presently out of the ground came a long, wriggling angleworm.
Welcome gulped it down and ran on a few steps, then once more
paused to listen. This time he turned and ran three or four steps
to the right, where he pulled another worm out of the ground.
"He acts as if he heard those worms in the ground," said Peter,
speaking aloud without thinking.
"He does," said Jenny Wren, poking her head out of her doorway
just as Peter spoke. "How do you suppose he would find them when
they are in the ground if he didn't hear them?"
"Can you hear them?" asked Peter.
"I've never tried, and I don't intend to waste my time trying,"
retorted Jenny. "Welcome Robin may enjoy eating them, but for my
part I want something smaller and daintier, young grasshoppers,
tender young beetles, small caterpillars, bugs and spiders."
Peter had to turn his head aside to hide the wry face he just had
to make at the mention of such things as food. "Is that all
Welcome Robin eats?" he asked innocently.
 "I should say not," laughed Jenny. "He eats a lot of other kinds
of worms, and he just dearly loves fruit like strawberries and
cherries and all sorts of small berries. Well, I can't stop here
talking any longer. I'm going to tell you a secret, Peter, if
you'll promise not to tell."
Of course Peter promised, and Jenny leaned so far down that Peter
wondered how she could keep from falling as she whispered, "I've
got seven eggs in my nest, so if you don't see much of me for the
next week or more, you'll know why. I've just got to sit on those
eggs and keep them warm."
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