|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 MERRY SEED-EATERS
 HAVING been reminded of Dotty the Tree Sparrow, Peter Rabbit
became possessed of a great desire to find this little friend of
the cold months and learn how he had fared through the summer.
He was at a loss just where to look for Dotty until he remembered
a certain weedy field along the edge of which the bushes had been
left growing. "Perhaps I'll find him there," thought Peter, for
he remembered that Dotty lives almost wholly on seeds, chiefly
weed seeds, and that he dearly loves a weedy field with bushes
not far distant in which he can hide.
So Peter hurried over to the weedy field and there, sure enough,
he found Dotty with a lot of his friends. They were very busy
getting their breakfast. Some were clinging to the weed-stalks
picking the seeds out of the tops, while others were picking up
the seeds from the ground. It was cold. Rough Brother North Wind
was doing his best to blow up another snow-cloud. It wasn't at
all the kind of day in which one would expect to find anybody in
high spirits. But Dotty was.
 He was even singing as Peter came
up, and all about Dotty's friends and relatives were twittering
as happily and merrily as if it were the beginning of spring
instead of winter.
Dotty was very nearly the size of Little Friend the Song Sparrow
and looked somewhat like him, save that his breast was clear
ashy-gray, all but a little dark spot in the middle, the little
dot from which he gets his name. He wore a chestnut cap, almost
exactly like that of Chippy the Chipping Sparrow. It reminded
Peter that Dotty is often called the Winter Chippy.
"Welcome back, Dotty!" cried Peter. "It does my heart good to see
"Thank you, Peter," twittered Dotty happily. "In a way it is
good to be back. Certainly, it is good to know that an old friend
is glad to see me."
"Are you going to stay all winter, Dotty?" asked Peter.
"I hope so," replied Dotty. "I certainly shall if the snow does
not get so deep that I cannot get enough to eat. Some of these
weeds are so tall that it will take a lot of snow to cover them,
and as long as the tops are above the snow I will have nothing to
worry about. You know a lot of seeds remain in these tops all
winter. But if the snow gets deep enough to cover these I shall
have to move along farther south."
 "Then I hope there won't be much snow," declared Peter very
emphatically. "There are few enough folks about in winter at
best, goodness knows, and I don't know of any one I enjoy having
for a neighbor more than I do you."
"Thank you again, Peter," cried Dotty, "and please let me return
the compliment. I like cold weather. I like winter when there
isn't too much ice and bad weather. I always feel good in cold
weather. That is one reason I go north to nest."
"Speaking of nests, do you build in a tree?" inquired Peter.
"Usually on or near the ground," replied Dotty. "You know I am
really a ground bird although I am called a Tree Sparrow. Most of
us Sparrows spend our time on or near the ground."
"I know," replied Peter. "Do you know I'm very fond of the
Sparrow family. I just love your cousin Chippy, who nests in the
Old Orchard every spring. I wish he would stay all winter. I
really don't see why he doesn't. I should think he could if you
Dotty laughed. It was a tinkling little laugh, good to hear.
"Cousin Chippy would starve to death," he declared. "It is all a
matter of food. You ought to know that by this time, Peter.
Cousin Chippy lives chiefly on worms and bugs and I live almost
wholly on seeds, and that is what
 makes the difference. Cousin
Chippy must go where he can get plenty to eat. I can get plenty
here and so I stay."
"Did you and your relatives come down from the Far North alone?"
"No," replied Dotty promptly. "Slaty the Junco and his relatives
came along with us and we had a very merry party."
Peter pricked up his ears. "Is Slaty here now?" he asked
"Very much here," replied a voice right behind Peter's back. It
was so unexpected that it made Peter jump. He turned to find
Slaty himself chuckling merrily as he picked up seeds. He was
very nearly the same size as Dotty but trimmer. In fact he was
one of the trimmest, neatest appearing of all of Peter's
friends. There was no mistaking Slaty the Junco for any other
bird. His head, throat and breast were clear slate color.
Underneath he was white. His sides were grayish. His outer tail
feathers were white. His bill was flesh color. It looked almost
"Welcome! Welcome!" cried Peter. "Are you here to stay all
I certainly am," was Slaty's prompt response. "It will take
pretty bad weather to drive me away from here. If the snow gets
too deep I'll just go up to Farmer Brown's barnyard. I can always
 pick up a meal there, for Farmer Brown's boy is a very good
friend of mine. I know he won't let me starve, no matter what the
weather is. I think it is going to snow some more. I like the
snow. You know I am sometimes called the Snowbird."
Peter nodded. "So I have heard," said he, "though I think that
name really belongs to Snowflake the Snow Bunting."
"Quite right, Peter, quite right," replied Slaty. "I much prefer
my own name of Junco. My, these seeds are good!" All the time he
was busily picking up seeds so tiny that Peter didn't even see
"If you like here so much why don't you stay all the year?"
"It gets too warm," replied Slaty promptly,
"I hate hot weather. Give me cold weather every time."
"Do you mean to tell me that it is cold all summer where you
nest in the Far North?" demanded Peter.
"Not exactly cold," replied Slaty, "but a lot cooler than it is
down here. I don't go as far north to nest as Snowflake does, but
I go far enough to be fairly comfortable. I don't see how some
folks can stand hot weather."
"It is a good thing they can," interrupted Dotty. "If everybody
liked the same things it
 wouldn't do at all. Just suppose all the
birds ate nothing but seeds. There wouldn't be seeds enough to go
around, and a lot of us would starve. Then, too, the worms and
the bugs would eat up everything. So, take it all together, it is
a mighty good thing that some birds live almost wholly on worms
and bugs and such things, leaving the seeds to the rest of us. I
guess Old Mother Nature knew what she was about when she gave us
Peter nodded his head in approval. "You can always trust Old
Mother Nature to know what is best," said he sagely. "By the
way, Slaty, what do you make your nest of and where do you put
"My nest is usually made of grasses, moss and rootlets. Sometimes
it is lined with fine grasses, and when I am lucky enough to find
them I use long hairs. Often I put my nest on the ground, and
never very far above it. I am like my friend Dotty in this
respect. It always seems to me easier to hide a nest on the
ground than anywhere else. There is nothing like having a nest
well hidden. It takes sharp eyes to find my nest, I can tell you
that, Peter Rabbit."
Just then Dotty, who had been picking seeds out of the top of a
weed, gave a cry of alarm and instantly there was a flit of many
wings as Dotty and his relatives and Slaty sought the shelter of
the bushes along the edge of the field. Peter sat up
straight and looked this way and looked that way. At first
he saw nothing suspicious. Then, crouching flat among the weeds,
he got a glimpse of Black Pussy, the cat from Farmer Brown's
house. She had been creeping up in the hope of catching one of
those happy little seedeaters. Peter stamped angrily. Then with
long jumps he started for the dear Old Briar-patch,
lipperty-lipperty-lip, for truth to tell, big as he was, he was a
little afraid of Black Pussy.
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