|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 BIG MOUTHS
 BOOM! Peter Rabbit jumped as if he had been shot. It was all so
sudden and unexpected that Peter jumped before he had time to
think. Then he looked foolish. He felt foolish. He had been
scared when there was nothing to be afraid of.
"Ha, ha, ha, ha!" tittered Jenny Wren. "What are you jumping for,
Peter Rabbit? That was only Boomer the Nighthawk."
"I know it just as well as you do, Jenny Wren," retorted Peter
rather crossly. "You know being suddenly startled is apt to make
people feel cross. If I had seen him anywhere about he wouldn't
have made me jump. It was the unexpectedness of it. I don't see
what he is out now for, anyway, It isn't even dusk yet, and I
thought him a night bird."
"So he is," retorted Jenny Wren. "Anyway, he is a bird of the
evening, and that amounts to the same thing. But just because he
likes the evening best isn't any reason why he shouldn't come out
in the daylight, is it?"
 "No-o," replied Peter rather slowly. "I don't suppose it is."
"Of course it isn't," declared Jenny Wren. "I see Boomer late in
the afternoon nearly every day. On cloudy days I often see him
early in the afternoon. He's a queer fellow, is Boomer. Such a
mouth as he has! I suppose it is very handy to have a big mouth
if one must catch all one's food in the air, but it certainly
isn't pretty when it is wide open."
"I never saw a mouth yet that was pretty when it was wide open,"
retorted Peter, who was still feeling a little put out. "I've
never noticed that Boomer has a particularly big mouth."
"Well he has, whether you've noticed it or not," retorted Jenny
Wren sharply. "He's got a little bit of a bill, but a great big
mouth. I don't see what folks call him a Hawk for when he isn't a
Hawk at all. He is no more of a Hawk than I am, and goodness
knows I'm not even related to the Hawk family."
"I believe you told me the other day that Boomer is related to
Sooty the Chimney Swift," said Peter.
Jenny nodded vigorously. "So I did, Peter," she replied. "I'm
glad you have such a good memory. Boomer and Sooty are sort of
second cousins. There is Boomer now, way up in the
 sky. I do wish he'd dive and scare some one else."
Peter tipped his head 'way back. High up in the blue, blue sky
was a bird which at that distance looked something like a much
overgrown Swallow. He was circling and darting about this way and
that. Even while Peter watched he half closed his wings and shot
down with such speed that Peter actually held his breath. It
looked very, very much as if Boomer would dash himself to pieces.
Just before he reached the earth he suddenly opened those wings
and turned upward. At the instant he turned, the booming sound
which had so startled Peter was heard. It was made by the rushing
of the wind through the larger feathers of his wings as he
In this dive Boomer had come near enough for Peter to get a good
look at him. His coat seemed to be a mixture of brown and gray,
very soft looking. His wings were brown with a patch of white on
each. There was a white patch on his throat and a band of white
near the end of his tail.
"He's rather handsome, don't you think?" asked Jenny Wren.
"He certainly is," replied Peter. "Do you happen to know what
kind of a nest the Nighthawks build, Jenny?"
 "They don't build any." Jenny Wren was a picture of scorn as she
said this. "They don't built any nests at all. It can't be
because they are lazy for I don't know of any birds that hunt
harder for their living than do Boomer and Mrs. Boomer."
"But if there isn't any nest where does Mrs. Boomer lay her
eggs?" cried Peter. "I think you must be mistaken, Jenny Wren.
They must have some kind of a nest. Of course they must."
"Didn't I say they don't have a nest?" sputtered Jenny. "Mrs.
Nighthawk doesn't lay but two eggs, anyway. Perhaps she thinks it
isn't worth while building a nest for just two eggs. Anyway, she
lays them on the ground or on a flat rock and lets it go at that.
She isn't quite as bad as Sally Sly the Cowbird, for she does sit
on those eggs and she is a good mother. But just think of those
Nighthawk children never having any home! It doesn't seem to me
right and it never will. Did you ever see Boomer in a tree?"
BOOMER THE NIGHTHAWK. Look
for him in the air late in the afternoon.
Peter shook his head. "I've seen him on the ground," said he,
"but I never have seen him in a tree. Why did you ask, Jenny
"To find out how well you have used your eyes," snapped Jenny. "I
just wanted to see if you had noticed anything peculiar about the
way he sits in a tree. But as long as you haven't seen
 him in a
tree I may as well tell you that he doesn't sit as most birds do.
He sits lengthwise of a branch. He never sits across it as the
rest of us do."
"How funny!" exclaimed Peter. "I suppose that is Boomer making
that queer noise we hear."
"Yes," replied Jenny. "He certainly does like to use his voice.
They tell me that some folks call him Bullbat, though why they
should call him either Bat or Hawk is beyond me. I suppose you
know his cousin, Whip-poor-will."
"I should say I do," replied Peter. "He's enough to drive one
crazy when he begins to shout 'Whip poor Will' close at hand.
That voice of his goes through me so that I want to stop both
ears. There isn't a person of my acquaintance who can say a thing
over and over, over and over, so many times without stopping for
breath. Do I understand that he is cousin to Boomer?"
"He is a sort of second cousin, the same as Sooty the Chimney
Swift," explained Jenny Wren. "They look enough alike to be own
cousins. Whip-poor-will has just the same kind of a big mouth and
he is dressed very much like Boomer, save that there are no white
patches on his wings."
"I've noticed that," said Peter. "That is one way I can tell them
"So you noticed that much, did you?" cried
 Jenny. "It does you
credit, Peter. It does you credit. I wonder if you also noticed
"Whiskers!" cried Peter. "Who ever heard of a bird having
whiskers? You can stuff a lot down me, Jenny Wren, but there are
some things I cannot swallow, and bird whiskers is one of them."
"Nobody asked you to swallow them. Nobody wants you to swallow
them," snapped Jenny. "I don't know why a bird shouldn't have
whiskers just as well as you, Peter Rabbit. Anyway,
Whip-poor-will has them and that is all there is to it. It doesn't
make any difference whether you believe in them or not, they are
there. And I guess Whip-poor-will finds them just as useful as you
find yours, and a little more so. I know this much, that if I had
to catch all my food in the air I'd want whiskers and lots of them
so that the insects would get tangled in them. I suppose that's
what Whip-poor-will's are for."
"I beg your pardon, Jenny Wren," said Peter very humbly. "Of
course Whip-poor-will has whiskers if you say so. By the way, do
the Whip-poor-wills do any better in the matter of a nest than
"Not a bit," replied Jenny Wren. "Mrs. Whip-poor-will lays her
eggs right on the ground,
 but usually in the Green Forest where
it is dark and lonesome. Like Mrs. Nighthawk, she lays only two.
It's the same way with another second cousin, Chuck-will's-widow."
"Who?" cried Peter, wrinkling his brows.
"Chuck-will's-widow," Jenny Wren fairly shouted it. "Don't you
Peter shook his head. "I never heard of such a bird," he
"That's what comes of never having traveled," retorted Jenny
Wren. "If you'd ever been in the South the way I have you would
know Chuck-will's-widow. He looks a whole lot like the other two
we've been talking about, but has even a bigger mouth. What's
more, he has whiskers with branches. Now you needn't look as if
you doubted that, Peter Rabbit; it's so. In his habits he's just
like his cousins, no nest and only two eggs. I never saw people
so afraid to raise a real family. If the Wrens didn't do better
than that, I don't know what would become of us." You know Jenny
usually has a family of six or eight.
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