|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 |
LONGBILL AND TEETER
 FROM the decided way in which Jenny Wren had popped into the
little round doorway of her home, Peter knew that to wait in the
hope of more gossip with her would be a waste of time. He wasn't
ready to go back home to the dear Old Briar-patch, yet there
seemed nothing else to do, for everybody in the Old Orchard was
too busy for idle gossip. Peter scratched a long ear with a long
hind foot, trying to think of some place to go. Just then he
heard the clear "peep, peep, peep" of the Hylas, the sweet
singers of the Smiling Pool.
"That's where I'll go!" exclaimed Peter. "I haven't been to the
Smiling Pool for some time. I'll just run over and pay my
respects to Grandfather Frog, and to Redwing the Blackbird.
Redwing was one of the first birds to arrive, and I've neglected
When Peter thinks of something to do he wastes no time. Off he
started, lipperty-lipperty-lip, for the Smiling Pool. He kept
close to the edge of the Green Forest until he reached the place
 the Laughing Brook comes out of the Green Forest on its way
to the Smiling Pool in the Green Meadows. Bushes and young trees
grow along the banks of the Laughing Brook at this point. The
ground was soft in places, quite muddy. Peter doesn't mind
getting his feet damp, so he hopped along carelessly. From
right under his very nose something shot up into the air with a
whistling sound. It startled Peter so that he stopped short with
his eyes popping out of his head. He had just a glimpse of a
brown form disappearing over the tops of some tall bushes. Then
Peter chuckled. "I declare," said he, "I had forgotten all about
my old friend, Longbill the Woodcock. He scared me for a second."
"Then you are even," said a voice close at hand. "You scared him.
I saw you coming, but Longbill didn't."
Peter turned quickly. There was Mrs. Woodcock peeping at him from
behind a tussock of grass.
"I didn't mean to scare him," apologized Peter. "I really didn't
mean to. Do you think he was really very much scared?"
"Not too scared to come back, anyway," said Longbill himself,
dropping down just in front of Peter. "I recognized you just as I
was disappearing over the tops of the bushes, so I came right
 back. I learned when I was very young that when startled it is
best to fly first and find out afterwards whether or not there is
real danger. I am glad it is no one but you, Peter, for I was
having a splendid meal here, and I should have hated to leave it.
You'll excuse me while I go on eating, I hope. We can talk
"Certainly I'll excuse you," replied Peter, staring around very
hard to see what it could be Longbill was making such a good meal
of. But Peter couldn't se a thing that looked good to eat. There
wasn't even a bug or a worm crawling on the ground. Longbill took
two or three steps in rather a stately fashion. Peter had to hide
a smile, for Longbill had such an air of importance, yet at the
same time was such an odd looking fellow. He was quite a little
bigger than Welcome Robin, his tail was short, his legs were
short, and his neck was short. But his bill was long enough
to make up. His back was a mixture of gray, brown, black and
buff, while his breast and under parts were a beautiful
reddish-buff. It was his head that made him look queer. His eyes
were very big and they were set so far back that Peter wondered
if it wasn't easier for him to look behind him than in front of
LONGBILL THE WOODCOCK. Look for him in damp,
Suddenly Longbill plunged his bill into the ground. He plunged it
in for the whole length.
 Then he pulled it out and Peter caught a
glimpse of the tail end of a worm disappearing down Longbill's
throat. Where that long bill had gone into the ground was a neat
little round hole. For the first time Peter noticed that there
were many such little round holes all about. "Did you make all
those little round holes?" exclaimed Peter.
"Not at all," replied Longbill. "Mrs. Woodcock made some of
"And was there a worm in every one?" asked Peter, his eyes very
wide with interest.
Longbill nodded. "Of course," said he. "You don't suppose we
would take the trouble to bore one of them if we didn't know that
we would get a worm at the end of it, do you?"
Peter remembered how he had watched Welcome Robin listen and then
suddenly plunge his bill into the ground and pull out a worm. But
the worms Welcome Robin got were always close to the surface,
while these worms were so deep in the earth that Peter couldn't
understand how it was possible for any one to know that they were
there. Welcome Robin could see when he got hold of a worm, but
Longbill couldn't. "Even if you know there is a worm down there
in the ground, how do you know when you've reached him? And how
is it possible for you to open your bill down there to take him
in?" asked Peter.
 Longbill chuckled. "That's easy," said he. "I've got the handiest
bill that ever was. See here!" Longbill suddenly thrust his bill
straight out in front of him and to Peter's astonishment he
lifted the end of the upper half without opening the rest of his
bill at all. "That's the way I get them," said he. "I can feel
them when I reach them, and then I just open the tip of my bill
and grab them. I think there is one right under my feet now;
watch me get him." Longbill bored into the ground until his head
was almost against it. When he pulled his bill out, sure enough,
there was a worm. "Of course," explained Longbill, "it is only in
soft ground that I can do this. That is why I have to fly away
south as soon as the ground freezes at all."
"It's wonderful," sighed Peter. "I don't suppose any one else can
find hidden worms that way."
"My cousin, Jack Snipe, can," replied Longbill promptly. "He
feeds the same way I do, only he likes marshy meadows instead of
brushy swamps. Perhaps you know him."
Peter nodded. "I do," said he. "Now you speak of it, there is a
strong family resemblance, although I hadn't thought of him as a
relative of yours before. Now I must be running along. I'm ever
so glad to have seen you, and I'm coming over to call again the
first chance I get."
 So Peter said good-by and kept on down the Laughing Brook to the
Smiling Pool. Right where the Laughing Brook entered the Smiling
Pool there was a little pebbly beach. Running along the very edge
of the water was a slim, trim little bird with fairly long legs,
a long slender bill, brownish-gray back with black spots and
markings, and a white waistcoat neatly spotted with black. Every
few steps he would stop to pick up something, then stand for a
second bobbing up and down in the funniest way, as if his body
was so nicely balanced on his legs that it teetered back and
forth like a seesaw. It was Teeter the Spotted Sandpiper, an old
friend of Peter's. Peter greeted him joyously.
"Peet-weet! Peet-weet!" cried Teeter, turning towards Peter and
bobbing and bowing as only Teeter can. Before Peter could say
another word Teeter came running towards him, and it was plain to
see that Teeter was very anxious about something. "Don't move,
Peter Rabbit! Don't move!" he cried.
"Why not?" demanded Peter, for he could see no danger and could
think of no reason why he shouldn't move. Just then Mrs. Teeter
came hurrying up and squatted down in the sand right in front of
"Thank goodness!" exclaimed Teeter, still
 bobbing and bowing. "If
you had taken another step, Peter Rabbit, you would have stepped
right on our eggs. You gave me a dreadful start."
Peter was puzzled. He showed it as he stared down at Mrs. Teeter
just in front of him. "I don't see any nest or eggs or anything,"
said he rather testily.
Mrs. Teeter stood up and stepped aside. Then Peter saw right in a
little hollow in the sand, with just a few bits of grass for a
lining, four white eggs with big dark blotches on them. They
looked so much like the surrounding pebbles that he never would
have seen them in the world but for Mrs. Teeter. Peter hastily
backed away a few steps. Mrs. Teeter slipped back on the eggs and
settled herself comfortably. It suddenly struck Peter that if he
hadn't seen her do it, he wouldn't have known she was there. You
see she looked so much like her surroundings that he never would
have noticed her at all.
"My!" he exclaimed. "I certainly would have stepped on those eggs
if you hadn't warned me," said he. "I'm so thankful I didn't. I
don't see how you dare lay them in the open like this."
Mrs. Teeter chuckled softly. "It's the safest place in the world,
Peter," said she. "They look
 so much like these pebbles around
here that no one sees them. The only time they are in danger is
when somebody comes along, as you did, and is likely to step on
them without seeing them. But that doesn't happen often."
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