|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 SEES ROSEBREAST AND FINDS REDCOAT
 "WHO'S that?" Peter Rabbit pricked up his long ears and stared up
at the tops of the trees of the Old Orchard.
Instantly Jenny Wren popped her head out of her doorway. She
cocked her head on one side to listen, then looked down at Peter,
and her sharp little eyes snapped.
"I don't hear any strange voice," said she. "The way you are
staring, Peter Rabbit, one would think that you had really heard
something new and worth while."
Just then there were two or three rather sharp, squeaky notes
from the top of one of the trees. "There!" cried Peter. "There!
Didn't you hear that, Jenny Wren?"
"For goodness' sake, Peter Rabbit, you don't mean to say you
don't know whose voice that is," she cried. "That's Rosebreast.
He and Mrs. Rosebreast have been here for quite a little while.
I didn't suppose there was any one who didn't know those sharp,
squeaky voices. They rather get on my nerves. What anybody wants
to squeak like
 that for when they can sing as Rosebreast can, is
more than I can understand."
At that very instant Mr. Wren began to scold as only he and Jenny
can. Peter looked up at Jenny and winked slyly. "And what anybody
wants to scold like that for when they can sing as Mr. Wren can,
is too much for me," retorted Peter. "But you haven't told me who
"The Grosbeak, of course, stupid," sputtered Jenny. "If you don't
know Rosebreast the Grosbeak, Peter Rabbit, you certainly must
have been blind and deaf ever since you were born. Listen to
that! Just listen to that song!"
Peter listened. There were many songs, for it was a very
beautiful morning and all the singers of the Old Orchard were
pouring out the joy that was within them. One song was a little
louder and clearer than the others because it came from a tree
very close at hand, the very tree from which those squeaky notes
had come just a few minutes before. Peter suspected that that
must be the song Jenny Wren meant. He looked puzzled. He was
puzzled. "Do you mean Welcome Robin's song?" he asked rather
sheepishly, for he had a feeling that he would be the victim of
Jenny Wren's sharp tongue.
"No, I don't mean Welcome Robin's song," snapped Jenny. "What
good are a pair of long ears if they can't tell one song from
 song may sound something like Welcome Robin's, but
if your ears were good for anything at all you'd know right away
that that isn't Welcome Robin singing. That's a better song than
Welcome Robin's. Welcome Robin's song is one of good cheer, but
this one is of pure happiness. I wouldn't have a pair of ears
like yours for anything in the world, Peter Rabbit."
Peter laughed right out as he tried to picture to himself Jenny
Wren with a pair of long ears like his. "What are you laughing
at?" demanded Jenny crossly. "Don't you dare laugh at me! If
there is any one thing I can't stand it is being laughed at."
"I wasn't laughing at you," replied Peter very meekly. "I was
just laughing, at the thought of how funny you would look with a
pair of long ears like mine. Now you speak of it, Jenny, that
song is quite different from Welcome Robin's."
"Of course it is," retorted Jenny. "That is Rosebreast singing up
there, and there he is right in the top of that tree. Isn't he
Peter looked up to see a bird a little smaller than Welcome
Robin. His head, throat and back were black. His wings were black
with patches of white on them. But it was his breast that made
Peter catch his breath with a little gasp of admiration, for that
breast was a beautiful rose-red. The rest
 of him underneath was
white. It was Rosebreast the Grosbeak.
RECOAT THE SCARLET TANAGER. He is
all red save his black wings and tail.
ROSEBREAST THE GROSBEAK. You cannot mistake this black and
white bird with the rose-colored breast for any one else. It is
the Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
"Isn't he lovely!"' cried Peter, and added in the next breath,
"Who is that with him?"
"Mrs. Grosbeak, of course. Who else would it be?" sputtered Jenny
rather crossly, for she was still a little put out because she
had been laughed at.
"I would never have guessed it," said Peter. "She doesn't look
the least bit like him."
This was quite true. There was no beautiful rose color about Mrs.
Grosbeak. She was dressed chiefly in brown and grayish colors
with a little buff here and there and with dark streaks on her
breast. Over each eye was a whitish line. Altogether she looked
more as if she might be a big member of the Sparrow family than
the wife of handsome Rosebreast. While Rosebreast sang, Mrs.
Grosbeak was very busily picking buds and blossoms from the tree.
"What is she doing that for?" inquired Peter.
"For the same reason that you bite off sweet clover blossoms and
leaves," replied Jenny Wren tartly.
"Do you mean to say that they live on buds and blossoms?" cried
Peter. "I never heard of such a thing."
"Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut! You can ask more silly
 questions than
anybody of my acquaintance," retorted Jenny Wren. "Of course they
don't live on buds and blossoms. If they did they would soon
starve to death, for buds and blossoms don't last long. They eat
a few just for variety, but they live mostly on bugs and insects.
You ask Farmer Brown's boy who helps him most in his potato
patch, and he'll tell you it's the Grosbeaks. They certainly do
love potato bugs. They eat some fruit, but on the whole they are
about as useful around a garden as any one I know. Now run along,
Peter Rabbit, and don't bother me any more.
Seeing Farmer Brown's boy coming through the Old Orchard Peter
decided that it was high time for him to depart. So he scampered
for the Green Forest, lipperty-lipperty-lip. Just within the edge
of the Green Forest he caught sight of something which for the
time being put all thought of Farmer Brown's boy out of his head.
Fluttering on the ground was a bird than whom not even Glory the
Cardinal was more beautiful. It was about the size of Redwing the
Blackbird. Wings and tail were pure black and all the rest was a
beautiful scarlet. It was Redcoat the Tanager. At first Peter had
eyes only for the wonderful beauty of Redcoat. Never before had
he seen Redcoat so close at hand. Then quite suddenly it came
 Peter that something was wrong with Redcoat, and he hurried
forward to see what the trouble might be.
Redcoat heard the rustle of Peter's feet among the dry leaves and
at once began to flap and flutter in an effort to fly away, but
he could not get off the ground. "What is it, Redcoat? Has
something happened to you? It is just Peter Rabbit. You don't
have anything to fear from me," cried Peter.
The look of terror which had been in the eyes of Redcoat died
out, and he stopped fluttering and simply lay panting.
"Oh, Peter," he gasped, "you don't know how glad I am that it is
only you. I've had a terrible accident, and I don't know what I
am to do. I can't fly, and if I have to stay on the ground some
enemy will be sure to get me. What shall I do, Peter? What shall
Right away Peter was full of sympathy. "What kind of an accident
was it, Redcoat, and how did it happen?" he asked.
"Broadwing the Hawk tried to catch me," sobbed Redcoat. "In
dodging him among the trees I was heedless for a moment and did
not see just where I was going. I struck a sharp-pointed dead
twig and drove it right through my right wing."
Redcoat held up his right wing and sure enough
 there was a little
stick projecting from both sides close up to the shoulder. The
wing was bleeding a little.
"Oh, dear, whatever shall I do, Peter Rabbit? Whatever shall I
do?" sobbed Redcoat.
"Does it pain you dreadfully?" asked Peter.
Redcoat nodded. "But I don't mind the pain," he hastened to say.
"It is the thought of what MAY happen to me."
Meanwhile Mrs. Tanager was flying about in the tree tops near at
hand and calling anxiously. She was dressed almost wholly in
light olive-green and greenish-yellow. She looked no more like
beautiful Redcoat than did Mrs. Grosbeak like Rosebreast.
"Can't you fly up just a little way so as to get off the ground?"
she cried anxiously. "Isn't it dreadful, Peter Rabbit, to have
such an accident? We've just got our nest half built, and I don't
know what I shall do if anything happens to Redcoat. Oh, dear,
here comes somebody! Hide, Redcoat! Hide!" Mrs. Tanager flew off
a short distance to one side and began to cry as if in the
greatest distress. Peter knew instantly that she was crying to
get the attention of whoever was coming.
Poor Redcoat, with the old look of terror in his eyes, fluttered
along, trying to find something under
 which to hide. But there
was nothing under which he could crawl, and there was no hiding
that wonderful red coat. Peter heard the sound of heavy
footsteps, and looking back, saw that Farmer Brown's boy was
coming. "Don't be afraid, Redcoat," he whispered. "It's Farmer
Brown's boy and I'm sure he won't hurt you. Perhaps he can help
you." Then Peter scampered off for a short distance and sat up to
watch what would happen.
Of coarse Farmer Brown's boy saw Redcoat. No one with any eyes at
all could have helped seeing him, because of that wonderful
scarlet coat. He saw, too, by the way Redcoat was acting, that he
was in great trouble. As Farmer Brown's boy drew near and Redcoat
saw that he was discovered, he tried his hardest to flutter away.
Farmer Brown's boy understood instantly that something was wrong
with one wing, and running forward, he caught Redcoat.
"You poor little thing. You poor, beautiful little creature,"
said Farmer Brown's boy softly as he saw the cruel twig sticking
through Redcoats' shoulder. "We'll have to get that out right
away," continued Farmer Brown's boy, stroking Redcoat ever so
Somehow at that gentle touch Redcoat lost much of his fear, and a
little hope sprang in his heart.
 This was no enemy,
but a friend. Farmer Brown's boy took out his knife and carefully
cut off the twig on the upper side of the wing. Then, doing his
best to be careful and to hurt as little as possible, he worked
the other part of the twig out from the under side. Carefully he
examined the wing to see if any bones were broken. None were, and
after holding Redcoat a few minutes he carefully set him up in a
tree and withdrew a short distance. Redcoat hopped from branch to
branch until he was halfway up the tree. Then he sat there for
some time as if fearful of trying that injured wing. Meanwhile
Mrs. Tanager came and fussed about him and talked to him and
coaxed him and made as much of him as if he were a baby.
Peter remained right where he was until at last he saw Redcoat
spread his black wings and fly to another tree. From tree to tree
he flew, resting a bit in each until he and Mrs. Tanager
disappeared in the Green Forest.
"I knew Farmer Brown's boy would help him, and I'm so glad he
found him," cried Peter happily and started for the dear Old
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