|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 GETS A LAME NECK
 FOR several days it seemed to Peter Rabbit that everywhere he
went he found members of the Warbler family. Being anxious to
know all of them he did his best to remember how each one looked,
but there were so many and some of them were dressed so nearly
alike that after awhile Peter became so mixed that he gave it up
as a bad job. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, the
Warblers disappeared. That is to say, most of them disappeared.
You see they had only stopped for a visit, being on their way
In his interest in the affairs of others of his feathered
friends, Peter had quite forgotten the Warblers. Then one day
when he was in the Green Forest where the spruce-trees grow, he
stopped to rest. This particular part of the Green Forest was low
and damp, and on many of the trees gray moss grew, hanging down
from the branches and making the trees look much older than they
really were. Peter was staring at a hanging branch of this moss
 anything about it when suddenly a little bird
alighted on it and disappeared in it. At least, that is what
Peter thought. But it was all so unexpected that he couldn't be
sure his eyes hadn't fooled him.
Of course, right away he became very much interested in that
bunch of moss. He stared at it very hard. At first it looked no
different from a dozen other bunches of moss, but presently he
noticed that it was a little thicker than other bunches, as if
somehow it had been woven together. He hopped off to one side so
he could see better. It looked as if in one side of that bunch of
moss was a little round hole. Peter blinked and looked very hard
indeed to make sure. A minute later there was no doubt at all,
for a little feathered head was poked out and a second later a
dainty mite of a bird flew out and alighted very close to Peter.
It was one of the smaller members of the Warbler family.
"Sprite!" cried Peter joyously. "I missed you when your cousins
passed through here, and I thought you had gone to the Far North
with the rest of them."
"Well, I haven't, and what's more I'm not going to go on to the
Far North. I'm going to stay right here," declared Sprite the
Parula Warbler, for that is who it was.
 As Peter looked at Sprite he couldn't help thinking that there
wasn't a daintier member in the whole Warbler family. His coat
was of a soft bluish color with a yellowish patch in the very
center of his back. Across each wing were two bars of white. His
throat was yellow. Just beneath it was a little band of
bluish-black. His breast was yellow and his sides were grayish
"Sprite, you're just beautiful," declared Peter in frank
admiration. "What was the reason I didn't see you up in the Old
Orchard with your cousins?"
"Because I wasn't there," was Sprite's prompt reply as he flitted
about, quite unable to sit still a minute. "I wasn't there
because I like the Green Forest better, so I came straight here."
"What were you doing just now in that bunch of moss?" demanded
Peter, a sudden suspicion of the truth hopping into his head.
"Just looking it over," replied Sprite, trying to look innocent.
At that very instant Peter looked up just in time to see a tail
disappearing in the little round hole in the side of the bunch of
moss. He knew that that tail belonged to Mrs. Sprite, and just
that glimpse told him all he wanted to know.
"You've got a nest in there!" Peter exclaimed
 excitedly. "There's
no use denying it, Sprite; you've got a nest in there! What a
perfectly lovely place for a nest."
Sprite saw at once that it would be quite useless to try to
deceive Peter. "Yes," said he, "Mrs. Sprite and I have a nest in
there. We've just finished it. I think myself it is rather nice.
We always build in moss like this. All we have to do is to find a
nice thick bunch and then weave it together at the bottom and
line the inside with fine grasses. It looks so much like all the
rest of the bunches of moss that it is seldom any one finds it. I
wouldn't trade nests with anybody I know."
"Isn't it rather lonesome over here by yourselves?" asked Peter.
"Not at all," replied Sprite. "You see, we are not as much alone
as you think. My cousin, Fidget the Myrtle Warbler, is nesting
not very far away, and another cousin Weechi the Magnolia Warbler
is also quite near. Both have begun housekeeping already."
Of course Peter was all excitement and interest at once. "Where
are their homes?" he asked eagerly. "Tell me where they are and
I'll go straight over and call."
"Peter," said Sprite severely, "you ought to know better than to
ask me to tell you anything of this kind. You have been around
 know that there is no secret so precious as the secret
of a home. You happened to find mine, and I guess I can trust you
not to tell anybody where it is. If you can find the homes of
Fidget and Weechi, all right, but I certainly don't intend to
tell you where they are."
Peter knew that Sprite was quite right in refusing to tell the
secrets of his cousins, but he couldn't think of going home
without at least looking for those homes. He tried to look very
innocent as he asked if they also were in hanging bunches of
moss. But Sprite was too smart to be fooled and Peter learned
nothing at all.
For some time Peter hopped around this way and that way, thinking
every bunch of moss he saw must surely contain a nest. But though
he looked and looked and looked, not another little round hole
did he find, and there were so many bunches of moss that finally
his neck ached from tipping his head back so much. Now Peter
hasn't much patience as he might have, so after a while he gave
up the search and started on his way home. On higher ground, just
above the low swampy place where grew the moss-covered trees, he
came to a lot of young hemlock-trees. These had no moss on them.
Having given up his search Peter was thinking of other things
when there flitted across in front of him a black and
 gray bird
with a yellow cap, yellow sides, and a yellow patch at the root
of his tail. Those yellow patches were all Peter needed to see to
recognize Fidget the Myrtle Warbler, one of the two friends he
had been so long looking for down among the moss-covered trees.
"Oh, Fidget!" cried Peter, hurrying after the restless little
bird. "Oh, Fidget! I've been looking everywhere for you."
"Well, here I am," retorted Fidget. "You didn't look everywhere
or you would have found me before. What can I do for you?" All
the time Fidget was hopping and flitting about, never still an
"Yon can tell me where your nest is," replied Peter promptly.
"I can, but I won't," retorted Fidget. "Now honestly, Peter, do
yon think you have any business to ask such a question?"
Peter hung his head and then replied quite honestly, "No I don't,
Fidget. But you see Sprite told me that you had a nest not very
far from his and I've looked at bunches of moss until I've got a
crick in the back of my neck."
"Bunches of moss!" exclaimed Fidget. "What under the sun do you
think I have to do with bunches of moss?"
"Why—why—I just thought you probably
 had your nest in one, the same as your cousin Sprite."
Fidget laughed right out. "I'm afraid you would have a worse
crick in the back of your neck than you've got now before ever
you found my nest in a bunch of moss," said he. "Moss may suit my
cousin Sprite, but it doesn't suit me at all. Besides, I don't
like those dark places where the moss grows on the trees. I build
my nest of twigs and grass and weed-stalks and I line it with
hair and rootlets and feathers. Sometimes I bind it together with
spider silk, and if you really want to know, I like a little
hemlock-tree to put it in. It isn't very far from here, but where
it is I'm not going to tell you. Have you seen my cousin, Weechi?"
"No," replied Peter. "Is he anywhere around here?"
"Right here," replied another voice and Weechi the Magnolia
Warbler dropped down on the ground for just a second right in
front of Peter.
The top of his head and the back of his neck were gray. Above his
eye was a white stripe and his cheeks were black. His throat was
clear yellow, just below which was a black band. From this black
streaks ran down across his yellow breast. At the root of his
tail he was yellow. His tail was mostly black on top and white
 His wings were black and gray with two white bars. He was a
little smaller than Fidget the Myrtle Warbler and quite as
Peter fairly itched to ask Weechi where his nest was, but by this
time he had learned a lesson, so wisely kept his tongue still.
"What were you fellows talking about?" asked Weechi.
"Nests," replied Fidget. "I've just been telling Peter that while
Cousin Sprite may like to build in that hanging moss down there,
it wouldn't suit me at all."
"Nor me either," declared Weechi promptly. "I prefer to build a
real nest just as you do. By the way, Fidget, I stopped to look
at your nest this morning. I find we build a good deal alike and
we like the same sort of a place to put it. I suppose you know
that I am a rather near neighbor of yours?"
"Of course I know it," replied Fidget. "In fact I watched you
start your nest. Don't you think you have it rather near the
"Not too near, Fidget; not too near. I am not as high-minded as
some people. I like to be within two or three feet of the
"I do myself," replied Fidget.
Fidget and Weechi became so interested in discussing nests and
the proper way of building them
 they quite forgot Peter Rabbit.
Peter sat around for a while listening, but being more interested
in seeing those nests than hearing about them, he finally stole
away to look for them.
He looked and looked, but there were so many young hemlock-trees
and they looked so much alike that finally Peter lost patience
and gave it up as a bad job.
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