|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 |
 BY the sounds of rejoicing among the feathered folks of the Old
Orchard Johnny Chuck knew that it was quite safe for him to come
out. He was eager to tell Skimmer the Tree Swallow how glad he
was that Mr. Blacksnake had been driven away before he could get
Skimmer's eggs. As he poked his head out of his doorway he became
aware that something was still wrong in the Old Orchard. Into the
glad chorus there broke a note of distress and sorrow. Johnny
instantly recognized the voices of Welcome Robin and Mrs. Robin.
There is not one among his feathered neighbors who can so express
worry and sorrow as can the Robins.
Johnny was just in time to see all the birds hurrying over to
that part of the Old Orchard where the Robins had built their
home. The rejoicing suddenly gave way to cries of indignation and
anger, and Johnny caught the words, "Robber! Thief! Wretch!" It
appeared that there was just as much excitement over there as
there had been when Mr. Blacksnake had been
 discovered trying to
rob Skimmer and Mrs. Skimmer. It couldn't be Mr. Blacksnake
again, because Farmer Brown's boy had chased him in quite another
"What is it now?" asked Johnny of Skimmer, who was still
excitedly discussing with Mrs. Skimmer their recent fright.
"I don't know, but I'm going to find out," replied Skimmer and
Johnny Chuck waited patiently. The excitement among the birds
seemed to increase, and the chattering and angry cries grew
louder. Only the voices of Welcome and Mrs. Robin were not angry.
They were mournful, as if Welcome and Mrs. Robin were
heartbroken. Presently Skimmer came back to tell Mrs. Skimmer the
"The Robins have lost their eggs!" he cried excitedly. "All four
have been broken and eaten. Mrs. Robin left them to come over
here to help drive away Mr. Blacksnake, and while she was here
some one ate those eggs. Nobody knows who it could have been,
because all the birds of the Old Orchard were over here at that
time. It might have been Chatterer the Red Squirrel, or it might
have been Sammy Jay, or it might have been Creaker the Grackle,
or it might have been Blacky the Crow. Whoever it was just took
 that chance to sneak over there and rob that nest when there was
no one to see him."
Just then from over towards the Green Forest sounded a mocking
"Caw, caw, caw!" Instantly the noise in the Old Orchard ceased
for a moment. Then it broke out afresh. There wasn't a doubt now
in any one's mind. Blacky the Crow was the robber. How those
tongues did go! There was nothing too bad to say about Blacky.
And such dreadful things as those birds promised to do to Blacky
the Crow if ever they should catch him in the Old Orchard.
"Caw, caw, caw!" shouted Blacky from the distance, and his voice
sounded very much as if he thought he had done something very
smart. It was quite clear that at least he was not sorry for what
he had done.
All the birds were so excited and so angry, as they gathered
around Welcome and Mrs. Robin trying to comfort them, that it was
some time before their indignation meeting broke up and they
returned to their own homes and duties. Almost at once there was
another cry of distress. Mr. and Mrs. Chebec had been robbed of
their eggs! While they had been attending the indignation meeting
at the home of the Robins, a thief had taken the chance to steal
their eggs and get away.
 Of course right away all the birds hurried over to sympathize
with the Chebecs and to repeat against the unknown thief all the
threats they had made against Blacky the Crow. They knew it
couldn't have been Blacky this time because they had heard Blacky
cawing over on the edge of the Green Forest. In the midst of the
excited discussion as to who the thief was, Weaver the Orchard
Oriole spied a blue and white feather on the ground just below
"It was Sammy Jay! There is no doubt about it, it was Sammy Jay!"
At the sight of that telltale feather all the birds knew that
Weaver was right, and led by Scrapper the Kingbird they began a
noisy search of the Old Orchard for the sly robber. But Sammy
wasn't to be found, and they soon gave up the search, none daring
to stay longer away from his own home lest something should
happen there. Welcome and Mrs. Robin continued to cry mournfully,
but little Mr. and Mrs. Chebec bore their trouble almost
"There is one thing about it," said Mr. Chebec to his sorrowful
little wife, "that egg of Sally Sly's went with the rest, and we
won't have to raise that bothersome orphan."
"That's true," said she. "There is no use crying over what can't
be helped. It is a waste
 of time to sit around crying. Come on,
Chebec, let's look for a place to build another nest. Next time I
won't leave the eggs unwatched for a minute."
Meanwhile Jenny Wren's tongue was fairly flying as she chattered
to Peter Rabbit, who had come up in the midst of the excitement
and of course had to know all about it.
"Blacky the Crow has a heart as black as his coat, and his cousin
Sammy Jay isn't much better," declared Jenny. "They belong to a
family of robbers."
"Wait a minute," cried Peter. "Do you mean to say that Blacky the
Crow and Sammy Jay are cousins?"
"For goodness' sake, Peter!" exclaimed Jenny, "do you mean to say
that you don't know that? Of course they're cousins. They don't
look much alike, but they belong to the same family. I would
expect almost anything bad of any one as black as Blacky the
Crow. But how such a handsome fellow as Sammy Jay can do such
dreadful things I don't understand. He isn't as bad as Blacky,
because he does do a lot of good. He destroys a lot of
caterpillars and other pests.
"There are no sharper eyes anywhere than those of Sammy Jay, and
I'll have to say this for him, that whenever he discovers any
danger he always
 gives us warning. He has saved the lives of a
good many of us feathered folks in this way. If it wasn't for
this habit of stealing our eggs I wouldn't have a word to say
against him, but at that, he isn't as bad as Blacky the Crow.
They say Blacky does some good by destroying white grubs and some
other harmful pests, but he's a regular cannibal, for he is just
as fond of young birds as he is of eggs, and the harm he does in
this way is more than the good he does in other ways. He's bold,
black, and bad, if you ask me."
Remembering her household duties, Jenny Wren disappeared inside
her house in her usual abrupt fashion. Peter hung around for a
while but finding no one who would take the time to talk to him
he suddenly decided to go over to the Green Forest to look for
some of his friends there. He had gone but a little way in the
Green Forest when he caught a glimpse of a blue form stealing
away through the trees. He knew it in an instant, for there is no
one with such a coat but Sammy Jay. Peter glanced up in the tree
from which Sammy had flown and there he saw a nest in a crotch
halfway up. "I wonder," thought Peter, "if Sammy was stealing
eggs there, or if that is his own nest." Then he started after
Sammy as fast as he could go,
lipperty-liperty-  lip. As he ran he
happened to look back and was just in time to see Mrs. Jay slip
on to the nest. Then Peter knew that he had discovered Sammy's
home. He chuckled as he ran.
"I've found out your secret, Sammy Jay!" cried Peter when at last
he caught up with Sammy.
"Then I hope you'll be gentleman enough to keep it," grumbled
Sammy, looking not at all pleased.
"Certainly," replied Peter with dignity. "I wouldn't think of
telling any one. My, what a handsome fellow you are, Sammy."
Sammy looked pleased. He is a little bit vain, is Sammy Jay.
There is no denying that he is handsome. He is just a bit bigger
than Welcome Robin. His back is grayish-blue. His tail is a
bright blue crossed with little black bars and edged with white.
His wings are blue with white and black bars. His throat and
breast are a soft grayish-white, and he wears a collar of black.
On his head he wears a pointed cap, a very convenient cap, for at
times he draws it down so that it is not pointed at all.
"Why did you steal Mrs. Chebec's eggs?" demanded Peter abruptly.
Sammy didn't look the least bit put out. "Because I like eggs,"
he replied promptly. "If people will leave their eggs unguarded
 expect to lose them. How did you know I took those
"Never mind, Sammy; never mind. A little bird told me," retorted
Sammy opened his mouth for a sharp reply, but instead he uttered
a cry of warning. "Run, Peter! Run! Here comes Reddy Fox!" he
Peter dived headlong under a great pile of brush. There he was
quite safe. While he waited for Reddy Fox to go away he thought
about Sammy Jay. "It's funny," he mused, "how so much good and so
much bad can be mixed together. Sammy Jay stole Chebec's eggs,
and then he saved my life. I just know he would have done as much
for Mr. and Mrs. Chebec, or for any other feathered neighbor. He
can only steal eggs for a little while in the spring. I guess on
the whole he does more good than harm. I'm going to think so
Peter was quite right. Sammy Jay does do more good than harm.
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