STORIES OF BIRDS
Lenore Elizabeth Mulets
"When our babe he goeth walking in his garden
Around his tinkling feet the sunbeams play;
The posies they are good to him
And bow them as they should to him
As he fareth upon his kingly way:
The birdlings of the wood to him
Make music, gentle music, all the day
When our babe he goeth walking in his garden."
Boston: L. C. Page and Company
By L. C. PAGE & COMPANY
All rights reserved
Made in U.S.A.
New Edition, April, 1925
THE COLONIAL PRESS
C. H. SIMONDS CO., BOSTON, U. S. A.
Where can you find a lad who does not treasure among his secrets the
nesting-place of some pair of birds? Where can you find a child who
does not watch for the first robin of spring-time? Where can you find
one who does not know when the wild ducks in the wedge-shaped flocks
This little book of "Bird Stories" is written both for the children who
already know our common birds, and for those who may know them if they
For those children who know, the book is a verification of their own
facts, with an addition of stories, poems, and songs to make facts
beautiful; for the children who do not know, the book is a simple set
of facts placed before them for verification and entertainment.
To all, may the knowledge obtained be a pleasure and a delight.
LENORE ELIZABETH MULETS.
In the Snow
Twenty Little Chickadees
The Snowbird's Song
How the Birds Got Their Feathers
Chilly Little Chickadees
All About the Chickadee
Merry Robin Redbreast
The Robin's Red Breast
Which Was the Wiser?
All About the Robin
Under the Eaves
All About the Barn Swallow
The Hawk and the Raven
From the Barnyard Fence
The First Hawk
Origin of the Raven and the Macaw
All About the Chicken-Hawk
All About the Raven
With the Water Watchman
The Halcyon Birds
All About the Kingfisher
The Red-Headed Woodpecker
In Cap of Red
A Legend of the Northland
All About the Woodpecker
In the Meadow
The Song of the Merry Lark
Saved by a Lark
All About the Meadow Lark
The Owl (Tennyson)
The Owl Girl
The Owl and the Raven
The Owl (Shakespeare)
All About the Barred or Hoot Owl
A Summer Song
Robert of Lincoln
All About the Bobolink or Rice-Bird
The Sea-Doves and the Great Blue Heron
Beside the Sea
The Circling of Cranes
All About the Great Blue Heron or Blue Crane
All About the Sea-Dove
IN THE SNOW
It was a bright, wintry day. The frost jewels sparkled on the snow.
The winds blew cutting cold from the north.
Phyllis, in her scarlet coat and cap, and long, warm leggings, waded in
the deepest drifts she could find.
Out by the garden fence was the greatest drift. After floundering
through it, Phyllis climbed up and perched on the top rail of the fence.
She sat quite still, for she was almost breathless after her struggle
in the snow.
Suddenly, just over her head, Phyllis heard a whistle. She started so
that she almost fell from the fence.
Again came the whistle, clear, sweet, and long drawn out. Phyllis
looked up, and there on the branch of the elm-tree sat a cheery little
With a third whistle he flew down to the fence and perched beside
He came quite close and stared at the little girl in a gay, curious
manner, as though he might be looking for a playfellow.
"Who are you?" asked Phyllis, looking like a great red bird as she
perched on the fence.
"Chick-a-dee! Chick-a-dee! Chick-a-dee-dee-dee!" twittered the little
fellow. It seemed to Phyllis that he laughed because she did not know
"Oh, to be sure," said she. "How stupid of me not to remember. I have
met you a hundred times.
"I should have remembered your black head and throat. The sides of
your head and neck are white. Your breasts and sides are light yellow.
Your tail and wings are of a much darker shade, and how daintily they
are edged with white!"
The chickadee fluttered about for a moment, and noticing the
friendliness in Phyllis's tones he perched a little closer to her side.
"I do not believe you noticed the large white feathers in my
shoulders," he said. "You may always know a chickadee by the white
"I did not notice your white shoulders at first," said Phyllis, "but I
saw at once what fine downy feathers you have. They are beautifully
soft. Do they make a warm winter dress? How do you chance to be here
in the winter-time?
"I think it is time you were in the South, Mr. Chickadee! Did your
family leave you behind?"
"No, indeed," replied Mr. Chickadee. "No, indeed, Phyllis! My entire
family are wintering here in the North. We never go South for the
"We are quite happy to remain here at home, and to come out on sunshiny
days and whistle and sing and be happy.
"Only half an hour ago some boys went coasting down that hill. I
whistled at them but they did not hear me.
"Soon they came up the hill, drawing their sleds behind them. I
whistled again and called my name.
"'Why, hello,' cried a boy in a blue reefer and a blue stocking cap.
'Hello, chickadee, you're a jolly little fellow! We call you our fair
weather friend because you sing so cheerily on these clear frosty days.'
"'Oho!' laughed another boy, who had a big scratch on his nose, 'I saw
a chickadee flying about among the fir-trees on that very stormy day
last week. He sang just as cheerily through the storm.' Then the boy
whistled back to me and called my name."
"That was my brother Jack," laughed Phyllis. "He got that scratch
while out coasting. He told me that he saw you on that stormy day. He
loves the winter quite as well as you do. You should hear him sing and
whistle when the snow falls for coasting. You should hear him shout
when the cold skating days come. He says that Jack Frost is a fellow's
"Indeed," said the jolly little chickadee, blinking his eyes in a funny
way, "my brothers say the very same thing!"
"But how do you find anything to eat in the winter-time?" Phyllis
asked. "The insects and worms have long been dead. What did you have
for breakfast this morning?"
"We had eggs and—"
"Eggs?" cried Phyllis, not waiting for the bird to finish. "You had
"Yes, moth's eggs," said the bird. "The moths leave their eggs about
in all sorts of places. We chickadees know where to find them!"
"Are they—good?" asked Phyllis.
"Delicious!" replied the chickadee. "I think I have eaten more than a
million insects' eggs in my life. I shall never tire of them."
"Where do you sleep?" Phyllis asked.
"In the fir-trees, to be sure," was the reply. "It is quite warm in
there, among the many branches, and as soon as we waken we can get our
breakfasts. There are all sorts of eggs and sleeping insects among the
Phyllis looked from her own thick red leggings to the chickadee's light
"Don't your feet get very cold?" she asked. "You surely need some
The chickadee chirruped and twittered and fluttered until Phyllis
suddenly saw that he was laughing at her.
"I don't know what cold feet are!" he said. "I'm glad no one gave me
red leggings for Christmas."
"What did you get for Christmas?"
"A wonderfully fine dinner spread on a white snow table-cloth under the
cherry-tree!" replied the bird.
"Oh, did you come to my bird feast?" cried the little girl. "I spread
crumbs and bird seed for you. Jack wanted to hang a meat bone in the
cedar-tree. He said that you would like it better. Indeed, I believe
he did hang one there. Did you ever see it?"
"Oh, yes, Phyllis, many a day have we pecked away at that meat bone.
It was really very good."
"Jack read in a book that you were fond of pecking at meat bones. He
will be glad to know that it is true!"
"Thank him for us," said the chickadee. "You were kind to remember us!"
"Ah," said Phyllis, "but it was kind of you to remain behind to cheer
us when all the other birds have gone to warmer lands.
"But, chickadee, though you are so cheery and gay in winter, are you
not really happier in the summer-time?"
"Oh, we are so busy in summer," the chickadee replied. "Last May I
travelled miles and miles looking for a vacant house."
"Looking for a vacant house?" cried Phyllis, with wide brown eyes.
"For housekeeping," said the chickadee. "You see my mate and I had
never kept house before. She was very anxious to find a most suitable
"My wife said a woodpecker's nest was the very place, but I rather
preferred a squirrel's hole.
"For a long time we could find neither to suit us. But at length I
heard Mrs. Chickadee calling loudly. I flew to her side at once.
"'What is it?' I cried.
"'Look!' cried Mrs. Chickadee, pointing with her bill and flapping her
wings with joy.
"Through the thick of the woods ran a gray old rail fence. Woodbine
and wild hop vines wellnigh covered it. The posts were gray where they
were not moss-covered.
"In one of these gray-green posts was a hole where a pair of
woodpeckers had once built their nest.
"'This is the very place for us!' cried Mrs. Chickadee. 'It could not
be better though we hollowed it out for ourselves.'"
"Could you?" asked Phyllis, looking at the bird's little short black
"If need be, we could, indeed," replied the chickadee. "But we would
far rather find a knot-hole, or a squirrel's or woodpecker's deserted
"When we had decided on the spot," the bird went on, "we at once began
lining the nest. We carried fine grasses and soft feathers. We found
mosses and rabbits' fur to make it soft.
"Those were indeed happy days for us. They were also exciting days.
We were very careful to let no one know what we were about.
"Once, as I flew home with a bit of moss, I saw a boy lying on the
grass not far from our fence-post. It would never do to let him know
our secret. Boys are not to be trusted.
"I perched upon the fence and pretended that I had never a thought of
"In a moment Mrs. Chickadee came flying home with a soft, downy
feather. When I called out warningly she at once flew to me.
"Then the boy called softly to his little sister.
"'Come quick,' he said, 'if you want to watch these birds build their
"A little dark-eyed girl crept up beside the boy. We scarcely knew
what to do. Soon a bright idea occurred to me. I began to sing my
very best. I also performed my most wonderful tricks. I whirled round
and round. I darted between the rails. I spun about.
"The children became so interested in my performance that they forgot
to watch Mrs. Chickadee. When they were not looking her way, she flew
to the nest and arranged the feather.
"When she returned she took my place on the fence. Now my wife and I
look very much alike, and though she cannot perform quite as nimbly as
I, the children did not know when we changed places.
"While the children watched her I flew to the nest with my bit of moss.
"'What a pity!' said the little girl, as we flew away laughing to
ourselves. 'They stopped to play and they lost the bits of moss and
feathers with which they meant to make their nest!'
"'Chick-a-dee! Chick-a-dee! Chick-a-dee!' called back my wife
All this time Phyllis's eyes were growing rounder and bigger.
"Why," said she, "I never knew there was but one bird performing on the
fence. I thought the other flew away!"
"That was because Mrs. Chickadee and I look so much alike," replied Mr.
"But we did find your nest a few days later," said Phyllis. "In it
were six small white eggs covered with tiny red specks. We went to
look at the nest every day until the eggs hatched. Then we went
several times a day until the baby birds learned to fly and left the
"But you did not disturb us," said the chickadee, "though we were
dreadfully frightened at first."
At that moment a great soft snowball went plump! against Phyllis's red
"Jack!" she cried, scrambling off the fence and running after the boy
with the scratch on his nose. "Jack, take me for a ride on your sled!"
Then she looked back. The chickadee now sat in the tree-top.
"Tell Mrs. Chickadee," called Phyllis, "that I shall spread some more
crumbs and seeds on the white table-cloth this afternoon. We'll hang
another bone in the cedar-tree, too!"
"Chick-a-dee-dee-dee!" cried the little bird in a flutter of delight.
TWENTY LITTLE CHICKADEES
Twenty little chickadees,
Sitting in a row;
Twenty pairs of naked feet
Buried in the snow.
I should think you'd fly away
Where the weather's warm,
Then you wouldn't have to be
Out there in the storm.
Sorry little chickadees,
Don't you know the way?
Can't you find the road to go
Where 'tis always May?
Robins all have found it out,
Wrens and bluebirds too,
Don't you wish you'd thought to ask
Ere away they flew?
THE SNOWBIRD'S SONG
The ground was all covered with snow, one day,
And two little sisters were busy at play—
A snowbird was sitting close by on a tree,
And merrily singing his chick-a-de-dee!
He had not been singing that tune very long,
When Emily heard him, so loud was his song.
"Oh, sister, look out of the window!" said she,
"Here's a dear little bird, singing chick-a-de-dee!
"Poor fellow! he walks in the snow and the sleet
And has neither stockings nor shoes on his feet,
I wonder what makes him so full of his glee,
And why he keeps singing, his chick-a-de-dee.
"If I were a barefooted snowbird, I know,
I would not stay out in the cold and the snow.
I pity him so! Oh, how cold he must be,
And yet he keeps singing his chick-a-de-dee.
"Oh, mother, do get him some stockings and shoes,
And a nice little frock, and a hat, let him choose.
I wish he'd come into the parlour, and see
How warm we would make him, poor chick-a-de-dee!"
The bird had flown down for some sweet crumbs of bread,
And heard every word little Emily said.
"How funny I'd look in that costume!" thought he,
And he laughed, as he warbled his chick-a-de-dee.
"I am grateful," said he, "for the wish you express,
But I have no occasion for such a fine dress.
I'd rather remain with my little limbs free,
Than to hobble about singing chick-a-de-dee.
"There is One, my dear child, though I cannot tell who,
Has clothed me already, and warm enough, too.
Good morning! Oh, who are so happy as we?"
And away he flew, singing his chick-a-de-dee.
HOW THE BIRDS GOT THEIR FEATHERS
That evening, as the family sat beside the hearth, Phyllis thought of
the brave little chickadees out in the fir-trees.
"I wonder if they are really warm enough," she said. "Do feathers make
a warm dress, mother? Why do birds have feathers instead of fur?"
"I have heard the story that the Indians tell of how the birds got
their feathers," said mother. "Bring your chairs closer and I will
tell the story to you."
So the children drew their chairs up into the firelight, and listened
to this little Indian story:
"Once some little Indian children," began the mother, "gathered about
the fire inside their deerskin wigwam and begged their mother for a
"Each little Indian was wrapped in a bright coloured blanket. Each
little Indian wore long turkey buzzard feathers in his hair.
"The Indian mother looked at her baby braves proudly. She thought of
the time when each of the children was a tiny papoose and swung in a
deerskin cradle like a bird in its nest.
"'There was a time,' said the Indian squaw, 'when the birds had no
"'Being naked, they remained hidden among the leaves. Being ashamed
they were silent, and no bird-note sweetened the stillness of the
"'At last with faint chirpings the mother birds prayed the Great Spirit
for blankets in which to wrap their little ones.
"'Then the Great Spirit, seeing their sorry plight, sent a messenger to
the birds, who told them that even now coverings were ready for every
"'The messenger said that hereafter each family of birds should dress
in uniform, so that the forest people, seeing a bird, might know at
once, by its dress, to what bird family it belonged.
"'But alas! the messenger also said that the uniforms were a great way
off. He himself could not bring them to the forest. The birds must
choose one who was strong of wing and able to endure great hardships,
to go back with him and bring the uniforms home.
"'The poor featherless birds looked about for one who was brave and
fearless and untiring. A council was held to induce some bird to go on
this long journey.
"'But one and all pleaded some excuse. Some must remain to care for
the babes still in the nest. Some were too old to undertake the
journey. Some were too young to find the way.
"'Some had been ill and were still too weak to travel. Indeed, the
birds seemed to be in as sad a plight as before.
"'At last there stepped forth a bird, who, truth to tell, was not a
general favourite among his fellows. His name was turkey buzzard.
"'The bird agreed to undertake the long journey and bring back the
feathery uniforms, if he could choose the most beautiful coat of
feathers for himself and his family for ever.
"'To this the other birds consented, and the featherless turkey buzzard
"'It was indeed a long and a dangerous journey. Sometimes the poor
bird nearly dropped from weariness and hunger. Sometimes, so hungry
was he, that he was forced to make a meal off from some dead animal
which lay in the way. Indeed so often did he do this that in time he
came to like this food.
"'It came to pass, after many days, that the turkey buzzard, being
directed by the Great Spirit, found the feathery uniforms.
"'He at once began to look them over. He intended to choose the most
beautiful coat of feathers for himself and his family.
"'Soon he found a suit of most gorgeous colours. He tried it on, and
looked at his own reflection in the water. The dress was very
beautiful. Well pleased with himself and his dress the turkey buzzard
gathered up the remaining uniforms and started for home.
"'But alas! the new dress, although so beautiful, did not fit
comfortably. The poor bird found that he could not fly well in his new
dress. He tried another and still another bright coloured dress, but
in none of them was he comfortable.
"'At length, quite discouraged, he slipped into a quiet, dark uniform.
Although this suit was the least beautiful it fitted comfortably and
gracefully. In it the turkey buzzard flew away home, and in such
uniform have his family ever since been content to dress.
"'The turkey buzzards are quite willing to leave the more gorgeous
dresses for those birds who cannot fly so far nor so gracefully as
CHILLY LITTLE CHICKADEES
Chilly little chickadees,
Sitting in a row,
Chilly little chickadees,
Buried in the snow,
Don't you find it very cold
For your little feet?
Don't you find it hard to get
Anything to eat?
Hungry little chickadees,
Would you like some bread?
I will give you all you want,
Or some seed, instead,
Anything you like to eat
I will give you free,
Every morning, every night,
If you come to me.
Jolly little chickadees,
Have you had enough?
Don't forget to come again
When the weather's rough.
Bye, bye, happy little birds!
Off the wee things swarm,
Plying through the driving snow,
Singing in the storm.
ALL ABOUT THE CHICKADEE
SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS.
Does not go south in winter.
Song—two or three clear long whistles and the chirping of his own
A gay, curious little bird.
Black head and throat—sides of head and neck white—breast grayish
buff—wings and tail darker shade edged with white—larger feathers of
Food—seeds and dormant insects or larval eggs.—Valuable as an insect
Builds in hollow places—usually deserted woodpeckers' or squirrels'
nests—sometimes hollows place for itself.
Six white eggs speckled with red—young birds, male and female much
alike in colouring.
MERRY ROBIN REDBREAST
"Robin, robin redbreast,
Singing on the bough,
Come and get your breakfast,
We will feed you now.
Robin likes the golden grain,
Nods his head and sings again:
'Chirping, chirping cheerily,
Here I come so merrily,
Thank you, children dear!'"
Thus sang Phyllis one morning during the second week in March.
In the topmost bough of the old apple-tree sat Robin Redbreast, looking
altogether doubtful as to whether he liked the little girl's song.
But when he saw the grains of wheat which the child was scattering on
the ground for his breakfast, he thought better of his doubt.
He hopped lower on the branches. He turned his little head on one side
and looked at Phyllis in a very friendly fashion.
"Come on down!" Phyllis begged. "I am so glad that you have returned.
I am so glad that you came to this very apple-tree and sang so strong
and loud and clear!"
"Chirp! Chirp!" and the robin hopped again nearer.
"You see," Phyllis went on, in her coaxing little voice, "my brother
Jack, being a boy, said he would be the one to see the first robin this
"But I made up my mind that if watchful eyes and careful ears could
help a little girl, I would get ahead of Jack.
"Sure enough, the first thing I heard this morning was your sweet song.
When did you arrive? Aren't you rather early?"
By this time the robin was on the ground, pecking away at the grain.
As he ate his breakfast he told his story.
[Illustration: "By this time the robin was on the ground"
(missing from book)]
"I have been south all winter long," he said. "It is very lovely in
the southland. Food is plenty, the days are long, and the sunshine is
golden, bright, and warm.
"But as soon as the spring days came I grew restless. I knew the snow
was beginning to melt and the grass to grow green in my old home
country. I wanted to start north at once.
"I spoke to my little mate about it, and found her to be as homesick as
I. So we flew north a little earlier than usual this year, and arrived
ahead of the others. We are now quite anxious to get to housekeeping,
and are already looking for a suitable place for a nest."
"If you will build near us," said Phyllis, "I will help you care for
your little ones. I will give you all the crumbs that you can eat."
"Oh! oh!" chirped the robin; "you are very kind, Phyllis, but I hardly
think you would know how to feed bird babies.
"You see our babies are so fond of bugs and worms and all sorts of
insects, that they do not care for crumbs when they can have nice fat
"We sometimes feed berries and cherries to our babies. We older birds
often eat fruit, but really we like worms and bugs better."
"The robins ate all the cherries from the top of our cherry-tree last
year," said Phyllis.
"Yes, we did eat some of your cherries," admitted the robin. "They
were very sweet and juicy.
"There are people who say that we robins are a nuisance, and that we
destroy so much fruit that they wish we would never come near them.
The fact is, we do more good than harm to your orchards and berry
patches. Just think how many insects we destroy! If it were not for
us I think much more fruit would be destroyed by insects. And worms
and caterpillars would be crawling everywhere.
"A robin is a very greedy fellow. He eats nearly all the time. I
could not begin to tell you how many insects I have eaten during my
"There are cutworms, too, which live underground. During the night
they come out for food. We robins are early risers, and often catch
the slow worms before they can get back to their underground homes."
"Ah," laughed Phyllis, "that must be the reason that we say that the
early bird catches the worm."
"When our babies come," said the robin, "we are very busy, indeed.
Those young mouths seem always to be open, begging for more food.
"My mother says that when I was a baby robin she was kept busy all day
"There were four baby birds in the nest. I myself ate about seventy
worms in a day. My brother and sisters had as good appetites as I."
"Will you build here in the apple-tree?" asked Phyllis. "I should so
like to watch you. Besides, there is a garden just beneath with
millions of bugs and insects there."
"Oh, yes," replied the robin. "We shall surely build there. You will
find that robins like to build near your home. We have a very friendly
feeling towards people. That is the reason that we hop about your lawn
so much and that we waken you by singing near your window in the early
"I have heard that robins are not very good nest-builders," said
Phyllis. "I was told that a great number of robins' nests were blown
down by every hard storm."
"More are destroyed than I like to think about," said the robin. "But
my father and mother raised three families of birds in their nest last
"Early in the spring they were very busy about their nest-building.
First they brought sticks, straw, weeds, and roots. With these they
laid the foundation in what seemed a very careless fashion, among the
"Then here on this foundation they wove the round nest of straws and
weeds. They plastered it with mud. They lined it with soft grasses
"In this nest my mother laid four beautiful greenish-blue eggs. From
the first egg that cracked open I crept out. From the three other eggs
came my brother and sisters.
"We were not handsome babies. I don't believe bird babies ever are
beautiful at first. We had no feathers, and our mouths were so big and
"We were always hungry, for we were growing very fast. Our mouths flew
open at every little noise. We thought every sound was the flutter of
our parents' wings. They always brought such fine food for us."
The robin pecked away at his breakfast for some time before he spoke
again. Then he again took up the story of his life.
"How well I remember being taught to fly," he said. "How our mother
coaxed us to try our wings. How timid and feeble we were One of my
sisters fell to the ground and a great gray cat caught her.
"Our wings were very weak then and our feathers were still short. I
then had no beautiful red breast. It was just a rusty looking white
spotted with black.
"My mother's breast was not so red as my father's. She was of a paler
colour and she sang much less than he. She was a very happy little
mother, however, and she chirped very sweetly to her babies.
"After we flew from the nest, and were able to look out for ourselves,
my mother laid four more greenish-blue eggs in the same nest. By and
bye four more young robins were chirping about in the garden.
"Quite late in the season my parents were again nesting. But it was
rather unfortunate that they did so. A great storm came up and a
branch broke from the tree and destroyed the four blue eggs.
"It was shortly after this mishap that the robins flew south for the
"My brother, who was always a brave, cheery fellow, thought he would
rather stay here. I wonder how he fared. I have not yet seen him."
"I have not seen him lately, but he was here during the winter," said
Phyllis. "I dare say you will find him soon."
"Well," said the robin, picking up the last grain of wheat, "I thank
you, Phyllis, for this fine breakfast.
"I will only say 'good morning.' I think you will see me again.
Perhaps I will show you where we build our nest."
"I am grateful to you," replied Phyllis. "You see the cherry-tree
grows beside Jack's window. You might have sung your morning song
THE ROBIN'S RED BREAST
It was very cold in the north country. The ice was thick and the snow
The seal and the white bear were happy. They liked the ice, the snow,
and the cutting north wind, for their fur was thick and warm.
One night the great white bear climbed to the top of an immense
iceberg. He looked far across the country. The fields of snow and the
beautiful northern lights made the night almost as light as day.
The white bear saw no living thing save a few fur-clad animals and a
little gray robin chirping cheerily as it picked away at an old bone.
Again the white bear looked down. Almost at the foot of the iceberg
crouched a hunter and his little son. Between the two a tiny fire was
When the white bear saw the hunter and the boy guarding the fire he
growled terribly. He leaped across from one iceberg to another. He
went into his icy cave still growling.
"It is the only fire in the whole north country," growled the white
bear to himself. "If I could only put out that fire the land of ice
and snow would be mine.
"Neither the hunter nor the hunter's son could live, without fire. I
will watch my chance. Perhaps some day I shall be so lucky as to put
the fire out."
Now the Eskimo night is weeks long. All through the long night the
hunter kept the fire. All through the long night the white bear
crouched near and growled deeply.
At length the hunter fell ill. The brave little boy kept the fire
burning. He also cared for his sick father.
The white bear crept closer now, and growled more loudly.
He longed to jump on the fire with his wet feet and tramp it out. But
he dared not. The boy's bright eyes watched faithfully. The hunter's
arrows were deadly, and the boy's aim was true.
But by and bye the boy could endure the long watch no longer. His head
drooped. His eyes closed. He slept.
The white bear's growl sounded like a hideous laugh. The little gray
robin twittered loudly in warning. But the poor tired little fellow
heard neither the white bear's growl nor the gray robin's twitter.
Then the white bear ran swiftly to the fire. He tramped upon it with
his cold wet feet. He rolled upon it with his cold wet fur. The
cheerful blaze died out.
When he arose the white bear saw only a little pile of gray ashes. He
laughed so loudly that the boy awoke and snatched up his bow and arrows.
But the white bear ran away to his cave, still growling laughingly. He
knew that no human being could live in that cruelly cold north country
Now when the white bear was gone, the little gray robin hopped near.
Her chirp was quite sad. She, too, saw nothing but a little heap of
ashes as gray as her own feathers.
She hopped nearer. She scratched among the ashes with her cold little
claws. She looked eagerly at each cinder with her sharp little eyes.
She found—a tiny live coal.
It was only the tiniest spark! The least flake of the fast-falling
snow would put it out!
The little gray robin hovered over it that the cold wind might not
reach the spark. She fanned it softly with her wings for a long, long
The gray robin hovered so close that the coal touched her gray breast.
As she fanned it glowed larger and redder. Her breast was scorched
quite red, as the coal grew.
But the robin did not leave until a fine red flame blazed up.
Then the robin with her poor scorched red breast flew away. She flew
wearily, for she was very tired. Now and again she touched the ground.
And wherever the robin's red breast touched the earth a fire was
kindled. Soon the whole north country was blazing with tiny fires over
which the Eskimos might cook their food and dry their clothes.
The white bear crept far, far back into his cave. He growled fiercely.
He knew now that he could never have the north country to himself.
WHICH WAS THE WISER?
One morning in the early spring a raven was sitting on one of the
branches of an old oak. He felt very ugly and cross, and could only
say, "Croak! Croak!"
Soon a little robin, who was looking for a place to build her nest,
came, with a merry song, into the same tree. "Good morning to you,"
she said to the raven.
But the raven made no answer; he only looked at the clouds and croaked
something about the cold wind. "I said good morning to you," said the
robin, hopping from branch to branch.
"You seem very merry this morning about nothing," croaked the raven.
"Why should I not be merry?" asked the robin. "Spring has come, and
everybody should be glad and happy."
"I am not happy," said the raven. "Don't you see those black clouds
above us? It is going to snow."
"Very well," answered the robin, "I shall keep on singing till it
comes, at any rate. A merry song will not make it any colder."
"You are very silly," croaked the raven.
The robin flew to another tree and kept on singing; but the raven sat
still and made himself very unhappy.
"The wind is so cold," he said. "It always blows the wrong way for me."
Very soon the sun came out warm and bright, and the clouds went away.
But the raven was as sad as ever.
The grass began to spring up in the meadows. Green leaves and flowers
were seen in the woods. Birds and bees flew here and there in the glad
sunshine. The raven sat alone on the branch of the old oak.
"It is always too warm or too cold," said he. "To be sure it is quite
pleasant just now; but I know that the sun will soon shine hot enough
to burn one up. Then to-morrow it will be colder than ever before. I
do not see how any one can be so silly as to sing at such a time as
Just then the robin came back to the tree, carrying a straw in her
"Well, my friend," asked she, "where is your snow?"
"Don't say anything," croaked the raven. "It will snow all the harder
for this sunshine."
"And snow or shine," said the robin, "you will keep on croaking. For
my part, I shall look on the bright side of everything, and have a song
for every day in the year."
Which was the wiser, the raven or the robin?
ALL ABOUT THE ROBIN
SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS
One of the first birds to return in the spring—migrates north early in
March—sometimes remains during winter—stays north as late as October
Domestic—generally preferring to live near the home of man.
Song—though short and always the same is in tone wonderfully
expressive of happiness, love, anger, or fear, as the case may be.
Black head—wings and tail brown—touches of white on throat—entire
breast a rusty red.—Female duller and paler in colouring, growing
almost as bright as the male in the autumn.
Food—principally insects and worms—does not disdain fruit, berries,
cherries, etc., but prefers insect food—a ravenous eater.
Nest—outer layer composed of sticks, coarse grasses, etc., seemingly
rather carelessly arranged—on this the rather large round nest is
woven with grasses—plastered with mud—lined with softer grasses.
Eggs—greenish blue—four in number—young have black spots on
breast—generally two broods reared in a season—sometimes three.
UNDER THE EAVES
It was the tenth day of April. Phyllis knew the date because it
chanced to be her birthday. She was just eight years old.
The sun shone very warm and bright, and the buds were growing big and
red on the horse-chestnut-trees.
"I shall go down to the brook to look for pussy-willows this
afternoon," said the little girl.
Phyllis was sitting in the window of the barn loft with the sun shining
full upon her. All was very quiet and the little girl was half asleep.
Suddenly, with a flash of blue wings and a funny little twitter, a bird
darted right across her face. Phyllis sat up straight, and, leaning
out of the window, looked up at the eaves.
There she saw the merry twitterer, with several of his companions, who
seemed very busy and very talkative.
They darted here and there, they skimmed through the air so swiftly
that Phyllis could only catch a gleam of blue. They wheeled and
circled and darted. All the time they twittered, twittered, twittered.
"What are they up to?" said Phyllis, leaning farther out and looking
For an instant one of the birds clung to the eaves and seemed to be
pecking away at a bit of mud which was stuck to the eaves.
Phyllis noticed the deeply forked tail of the bird. Its back and wings
and tail were steel blue. Its throat and chest were bright chestnut,
becoming paler near the back of the body.
"Oh, I know you," laughed Phyllis. "I have no fear of frightening you,
for you are a swallow.
"How does it happen that you are so fearless? You are scarcely more
afraid of us than our chickens. Why do you build so near our homes?
You are even more tame than the robin!"
The swallow twittered in a way which made Phyllis feel that he was
laughing at her. He darted so near that had she been quick enough she
might have caught him.
"We are not afraid of you!" laughed the swallow, darting close again
and then whirling away.
"What a funny bird!" said Phyllis.
In a moment the bird was back with a bit of mud in his mouth. He
plastered it up against the rest of the mud under the eaves. Then he
flew again near Phyllis.
"I suppose there was a time," said the bird, "when all swallows built
their nests on the sides and ledges of caves or cliffs. But that was
hundreds of years ago, before men came and made barns with such
comfortable places for building.
"To be sure there are swallows to this day who prefer the bank of a
brook or the side of a cave for their nesting-place. But we barn
swallows like the eaves best."
"You, too, are an early bird," said Phyllis. "Where did you spend the
There was a great twittering among the returning swallows just then and
Phyllis was obliged to wait for a reply. Back came the bird after a
"We went south last October," he said. "Late in September we gathered
in great flocks in the marshes.
"For days we stayed there waiting for the entire company to gather. At
length on one of the blue October days we flew southward.
"There were hundreds of birds in the flock. We looked like a small
cloud, as we skimmed and darted through the air. As we flew, the flock
was a half mile long.
"We spent the winter in South America. There are delicious insects
there. But for all that we love the north country best.
"By and bye Mother Nature whispered to us. She said that it was
nest-building time in the northland. Such a twittering and fluttering
there was when this news came.
"That very afternoon we started north. Day after day we flew. We met
other great flocks as we travelled, who joined us.
"Day after day we flew northward. We did not stop to eat, but caught
our food on the wing.
"Now we lunched on moths and flies. Again we dined on grasshoppers.
Any insect foolish enough to trust itself in the air at the time we
passed served as food.
"We arrived here only a few days ago. It is not yet very warm, but
here under the eaves on the sunny side of the barn it is quite
"We are so busy with this nest-building and settling for the summer.
You see we swallows do not live alone. There are always flocks of us
"We should be lonely if we lived only in pairs. That is the reason
that we build a whole little village of nests under your eaves."
"You build very queer nests," said Phyllis. "They are neither like the
robin's nor the chickadee's nests."
"No, indeed, no robin or chickadee could build such nests as the
swallow. You see we make the soft mud from the brookside into little
balls and carry it in our bills. With it we mix straws and grasses.
This holds the clay together. When the outer clay wall is finished we
line the nest with soft grasses and feathers."
"'No robin or chickadee could build such nests as the swallow'"
"I notice there are a great many chicken feathers in the barnyard. I
shall line my nest with the softest, fluffiest feathers that I can find
"By and bye my little mate will sit in the dear clay nest and over four
or five or possibly six little eggs."
"I shall never be able to see them," sighed Phyllis. "They are up so
high. Tell me about them."
"Oh, my eggs are beautiful," said the swallow. "They are white with
just a little rose tint. They are spotted with fine dots of brown and
purple, and are about three-quarters of an inch long.
"We shall probably have three broods of birdlings this summer. What a
happy, happy time we shall have!"
All this time the swallow was darting and wheeling and circling about
Phyllis in a most graceful manner.
"Are you never still?" asked Phyllis, at last. "I do not believe you
even stop to eat."
"I do not," said the swallow, darting after a big blue fly. "I eat on
the fly." And then he burst into a giggling twitter.
"I catch nearly all my food on the wing. No one can complain—as they
do of the robin—of our destroying fruit.
"We do not care for fruit at all. I would rather have a dozen nice fat
flies than all the cherries in the world!"
"Well," laughed Phyllis, "I'd rather have a dozen ripe cherries than
all the flies in the world!"
"Tastes differ," twittered the swallow.
Once upon a time some Eskimo children were playing in the wet clay by
the seashore. They were making tiny toy houses of the clay. These
houses they fastened high on the face of the cliff.
The children chattered and laughed. They ran gaily to and fro in their
The people of the village heard their merry voices. Their busy mother
paused with her long bone needle between her fingers. She looked up
and smiled at her little ones.
"How happy my children are to-day!" she said, and she hummed a little
tune to herself.
"They are very wise children!" said a neighbour. "They say so many
wonderful things. Indeed, they seem to know more of some things than
even the wise men of the village!"
"Yes, they are quite wonderful," said the mother. "I sometimes listen
to their chatter and watch their nimble little fingers, and I wonder
who taught them all they know."
"Oh," said another woman, "they do not seem so extraordinary to me. In
fact, they look to me like little birds, flitting about in their dark
"They do look like birds!" said the mother, gazing at the children.
"I do believe they are birds," said the neighbour.
"But the voices are my children's voices," said the mother, looking
again in wonder.
"And they are still building tiny clay houses on the cliffs!" said the
"But those toy clay houses are birds' nests," said the neighbour, "and
those little figures darting back and forth are no longer children.
They have changed to birds!"
"Yes," said the mother, peering from under her hand. "Yes, those are
birds building their funny clay nests on the cliffs yonder.
"But the birds have the happy twittering voices of my children. You
were right. They were wonderful children!
"Ah, well, my only wish is that they may remain near us. They will
cheer us and keep us from becoming lonely!"
"Surely that is a reasonable wish—since they are your own little
ones," said the neighbour. "I, too, hope that the little birds will
remain near our village!"
And indeed the mother's wish was granted. Even to this day the little
swallows do not fear man.
In fact, they still choose to build their nests near the camps of the
people. They still fix their tiny toy houses on the faces of the sea
ALL ABOUT THE BARN SWALLOW
SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS
Comes north about first or second week in April. Remains until late
September or October—builds and travels in flocks or companies—winters
in South or Central America.
Song—a constant twitter.
Head and upper parts except forehead steel blue—tail feathers marked
with white—forehead and throat clear chestnut colour—chest and lower
body paler chestnut.
Food—chiefly insects caught while on the wing.
Nest—built chiefly of mud—chooses under eaves or cavelike places for
building—mud mixed with grasses and (one authority also asserts) a
sticky saliva from the bird's mouth.
Eggs—white, tinted a delicate rose, and speckled finely with brown and
purple.—Two or three broods in a season.
THE HAWK AND THE RAVEN
FROM THE BARNYARD FENCE
Had not the old hen been such a watchful mother she would never have
been able to care for such a big, fluffy family.
Had not Phyllis been such a wide-awake little girl, she would have
never heard and seen all that I am about to tell you.
Mother Speckle was scratching patiently in the barnyard. Now and again
she gave a loud call and her ten little ones ran wildly for the bug or
worm which their mother had found for them.
Phyllis was just coming into the barnyard with a cup of meal for Mother
Speckle's family, when a strange cry from the old hen startled her.
Phyllis looked and saw every chick running as fast as its little legs
could carry it to the hovering mother wings. Soon every chicken baby
was hidden from sight and the chicken mother was clucking less loudly.
"What can be the matter?" cried Phyllis, and then looking up she saw a
hawk circling in the air above.
She snatched off her hat and waved it wildly at the hawk. At the same
time she shouted as fiercely as she could.
The hawk soared calmly in the air, rising ever higher and higher. The
mother hen, calling softly to her babies, led the little ones to the
protecting shelter of some low bushes. Then Phyllis sprinkled the meal
and soon the chicken hawk was quite forgotten by Mother Speckle and her
But Phyllis still watched eagerly for the hawk. She feared that he
would return. But she could now see nothing of him.
On the fence post, not far away, sat a big black raven croaking gravely
"You are not a lovely bird either," said the little girl, but the raven
did not hear her.
When she had crept up very close to the post on which the raven sat,
Phyllis again saw the hawk sailing in wide circles nearer and nearer.
"Caw! Caw!" cried the raven, rising in the air, high above the barn.
"I, too, can sail about in circles! Caw! Caw! Caw!"
The hawk said nothing, but quietly settled on the fence post. The
raven still circled in the air, but ever nearer.
The hawk looked up. The raven wagged his head solemnly and uttered his
sad, harsh cry. He shook out his black feathers and sat down again on
"I am called the bird of ill omen," said the raven. "Some people think
that I bring bad luck. Others think I eat too much of their corn. No
one likes me. No one thinks me beautiful.
"Yet if you will look at my black coat you will see how glossy it is.
My back fairly gleams in the sunlight. Sometimes I catch gleams of
purple and green on my wings. See how soft and loose are the feathers
about my throat. They make a fringe about my neck of which I am
"I do not harm people, and I surely should not be blamed for my
appetite. To be sure, I do eat corn and grain. I also eat grubs,
worms, field mice, in fact anything which comes in my way.
"I have a home up in the top of the cedar-tree. My nest is round and
firm. It is woven of sticks and grasses and lined with wool which I
myself pick from the sheep's back.
"We reline the old nest and repair it beautifully every housecleaning
"My babies are good children, but they do not in fact look much like
me. Perhaps you might think them better looking than their parents.
They are black and white.
"Their mother says that the raven babies will outgrow the white
feathers soon. She declares that she and I had once as many white
feathers as our babies. It seems hard to believe, but perhaps she is
"At any rate, they are my children and I do the best I can for them.
To me they are very dear, but I fear they will go through life as
unloved as I! Caw! Caw! Caw!"
The chicken-hawk ruffled his brown feathers carelessly. He drew in his
breath, making a whistling noise which to Phyllis, hiding so quietly
below, sounded quite like escaping steam.
"People do not like me either," said the hawk, shrugging his shoulders.
"But for all that I shall not sit and mourn.
"I know that my feathers are handsome. I know that I am a good husband
and father. I know that I can sail about in the air as gracefully as
any bird in the world.
"I sometimes eat insects, but I wonder, Mr. Raven, at your fondness for
corn and grain. You should try some of these small birds which are
"I fear—" began the raven.
"Fear?" cried the hawk, striking out with his strong curved claws. "I
do not know what fear is! Look at my short curved bill! Look at my
sharp claws! Look at my long wings, which can carry me so swiftly and
"There is scarcely a bird of the air which does not fear me. They skim
out of sight at my approach.
"You should see me pounce upon young ducks. It is great fun.
Yesterday I was soaring above the pond, when I saw a whole family of
young ducks out for their first swim. Without a sound I dropped down,
seized one, and bore it off in my claws. I sat in the tree-top to eat
it. It was very tender, but also very small. I decided to have
another. This time the young ducks saw me. They dived head first into
"I laughed to myself. I knew that they would soon come up. When in
half a minute one appeared, I was quick enough to catch him.
"Later I carried a small chicken home to my nest in the big oak on the
hill yonder. My nest is a very simple affair,—just a few crooked
sticks. The lining is of leaves and a few pieces of loose bark which
we picked up.
"Come and see me sometime, Mr. Raven. I will show my babies to you.
They are wonderful birdlings with bright yellow eyes and bluish bills.
"Just now I must be off. I see Mrs. Speckle has ventured out from the
bushes again and that little girl with the flapping hat—"
The little girl and the "flapping hat" sprang up from the fence-corner
with such a shout that the chicken-hawk circled away into the air and
did not return that day.
The raven flew away, crying sadly, "Caw! Caw! Caw!" Mother Speckle
went on quietly catching bugs for her downy babies.
THE FIRST HAWK
During the short Greenland summer the Eskimos live along the seacoast.
They put up their strange skin huts and hunt and fish and make merry
through the season when the sun shines at midnight.
Now in places along the Greenland coast there are steep high cliffs.
Here the birds which fly farther north in summer make their nests.
Often, as the Eskimo sits by his campfire, he hears the half-angry,
half-sad cry of "Kea! Kea! Kea!" Looking up then, he often sees a
lonely hawk sitting on the highest, most desolate cliff.
The Eskimo father laughs when he hears this cry and sees the lonely
bird on the cliff top. Then the little Eskimo children creep nearer to
their father with certainty that a new story is in store for them.
"Tell us the story of the hawk!" the Eskimo children cry eagerly.
This then is the story which the Eskimo father tells to his little ones
"in their funny furry clothes."
"Long, long ago in a tiny Eskimo village, there lived a strange-looking
old woman. Her neck was so short that she really looked as though she
had no neck at all and as though her head was set upon her shoulders.
"People laughed when they saw the funny-looking old woman. Some were
so unkind as to make fun of her strange appearance.
"This unkindness made the old woman very unhappy.
"By and bye the children of the village went every day to the hut of
the old woman to play.
"They teased and tormented her. If she raised the bearskin curtain at
the doorway and spoke to them they did not heed her.
"'Short neck! Short neck!' the rude children shouted. Then they stood
and laughed at her.
"So it came that the poor old woman grew more and more unhappy. To
escape her tormentors she often climbed to the cliff tops and sat on
the edges of high rocks where it was difficult to follow.
"Here, safe and quiet, she would sit for hours. Sometimes in her
loneliness she raised her arms above her head and cried aloud.
"The people of the tiny Eskimo village often saw the lonely figure on
the cliffs. They noticed that the old woman stayed less and less in
her little snow hut in the village.
"Then one morning an Eskimo child, looking up, thought she saw the old
woman sitting as usual on the rocks. But the child's brother said that
he saw only a strange bird with a very short neck.
"At that moment the bird raised its wings and flapped them above its
"'Kea! Kea! Kea!' cried the strange new bird. 'Kea! Kea! Kea! who
was it called me short neck?'
"'Ah,' said the children's father, looking up from his fishing-nets, 'I
think you both were right.'"
ORIGIN OF THE RAVEN AND THE MACAW
(ZUNI CREATION MYTH)
Long, long ago there were but few Indians on the earth. The world was
not as it is now. The earth people did not understand things as they
now understand them.
It therefore happened that a beautiful Indian prince came to live with
the earth people.
In his hand he carried a plume stick. It was a magic wand and was
covered with feathers of beautiful colours.
There were yellow feathers. There were red feathers. There were
blue-green feathers. There were black and white and gray feathers.
Fastened to this magic wand were also many strange shells and charms
which the earth children did not understand and which the strange
prince did not explain fully.
"What is this strange plume stick?" asked the earth children.
"It is the magic wand which tests the hearts of earth children," was
The earth children wondered, but they did not understand.
"Ah, but show us what you mean!" they cried, eagerly.
"Look!" replied the strange prince.
Then amid the plumes and charms of the magic wand there appeared four
"They are eggs!" cried the earth children. "Two are blue like the sky.
Two are red-brown like the dust of our own pleasant earth!"
Then the earth children asked many questions which the strange prince
tried patiently to explain.
"Now," said the strange prince, "choose whichever eggs you will. By
and bye they will hatch. From them will come birds such as you never
before have seen. From each pair of eggs will come a pair of birds."
"You who choose the blue eggs shall follow the birds which come from
the blue shells. You and your children and your children's children
shall dwell in the land in which these birds nest.
"You who choose the red-brown eggs shall follow the birds which come
from the red-brown shells. You and your children and your children's
children shall dwell in the land in which these birds nest!"
"But which shall we choose?" cried the eager earth children.
"Nay," said the strange prince, "that I may not tell. But this much
you may know:
"From one pair of eggs shall come forth beautiful birds. Their
feathers shall be coloured, like the leaves and fruits of summer. They
shall nest in the land of everlasting summer-time and plenty.
"They who choose those eggs will follow these birds to the beautiful
country of summer-time. The fruits will ripen daily and fall into the
hands of the lucky earth children. Their food will come to them
without labour and they shall know neither hunger nor cold."
"And what will happen if we choose the other pair of eggs?"
The strange prince shook his head half sadly and smiled on the earth
"From the other pair of eggs," he said, "shall come forth birds with
black feathers, piebald with white. This pair will nest in a land
where you may gain food by labour only.
"Those who follow this pair of birds shall struggle summer and winter.
By long days of toil they shall provide food. By long nights of
watchfulness they shall keep warmth within their homes."
Then the strange prince ceased speaking. The earth children looked at
each other and forgot to speak. Each looked into the eyes of the other
and asked a question. Each wished to follow the birds which would lead
them to the land of everlasting summer-time and idleness and plenty.
"Which eggs do you choose?" asked the strange prince.
"The blue—the blue!" cried the earth children. Then those who were
strongest and quickest pushed forward.
They fought for the blue eggs, and getting them hurried away with
They buried the blue eggs in the soft loam on the sunny side of the
cliff. They sat down to watch when the young birds should hatch.
Now there remained those weaker earth children who had been pushed
aside. For them there was no choice. The strange prince gave into
their hand the red-brown eggs.
The red-brown eggs were placed amid the soft green grasses by the
riverside. The earth children into whose care they were given sat also
by the riverside and waited.
Sometimes, as they waited for the hatching of the red-brown eggs, they
looked up to the place in the cliff where the stronger ones watched the
beautiful blue eggs.
Then the weaker ones sighed and turned to the ugly red-brown eggs amid
By and bye, as those on the cliff waited, they heard faint tappings
inside the blue shells.
"Ah," they said, "the birds will come soon now. They will lead us to
the land of summer-time."
When at length the shells burst and the young birds came out, they
looked much as other birds look. They had large mouths and panting
sides and tiny featherless bodies. Soon the pin-feathers appeared.
"See!" cried the watchers, "now the beautiful plumage is starting!"
And those by the riverside, hearing the cry, looked up, and looking up
they sighed. The red-brown eggs also were cracking open and the young
birds coming out of the shells. Soon the earth children must follow
their bird leaders. They fed and tended the young birds for still a
Then one morning there were sighs and discontent on the cliff. For the
birds which came from the blue shells were feathered and ready for
flight. Their colours were black and white! So also is all the bare
earth and the new-fallen snow!
It was a pair of ravens, which the stronger earth children followed to
the country where winter follows summer and where men work for food.
As the earth children laboured, the ravens taunted them with hoarse,
Now those other earth children who watched the red-brown eggs stood up
by the riverside and smiled.
From the red-brown eggs had come birds of gorgeous plumage. On the
breath of a sweet-scented breeze they were wafted far to southward—to
the summer land. And those earth children who followed the beautiful
birds still live easily in the land of everlasting summer-time.
ALL ABOUT THE CHICKEN-HAWK
SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS
Voice—sharp, harsh, discordant cries—queer "whistling" noises.
Upper parts brownish black mixed with white—throat and under tail
coverts white—other under parts having darker markings.
Bill—short, curved, and very sharp.
Claws—strong, curved, and very sharp,—middle toe longest.
Wings—long and pointed—made for rapid flight and long journeys.
Female larger than male.
Food—other smaller birds of the air—small ducks and
chickens—occasionally larger insects, snakes, etc.
Nest in the fork of a tree—made of crooked sticks and lined with
leaves, bark, etc.
Eggs—two to four in number, bluish white, thickly speckled with brown.
Iris in young bird's eyes yellow—turning to reddish brown with
ALL ABOUT THE RAVEN
SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS
Three times the size of robin.
Does not migrate, but is usually resident in the place where it can
best provide for itself and family.
Is glossy black in colour, with gleams of purple and green
Flies in wide circles high above the tree-tops, and utters a weird,
uncanny cry, which has given it the name of being a bird of ill omen,
and to many people the cry of the raven is deemed a sign of approaching
Nest very compactly built of sticks and grasses and lined with wool
from sheep's back. Nest is used year after year, being often relined
and made habitable.
Young when first hatched are black and white—they however change to
entire black in a very short time.
Food of the raven is varied, apparently anything edible which comes in
his way—grain, seeds, grubs, worms, field-mice, fruit, are found on
OR HALCYON BIRD
WITH THE WATER WATCHMAN
"Please, Jack," begged Phyllis.
"Girls always talk," replied Jack.
"I will not say a word to you—indeed I will not."
"Well, if you spoil my fishing—" began Jack.
"And I'll pick thimbleberries for our lunch," said Phyllis, eagerly.
So it happened that a small girl in a great sunbonnet followed a small
boy with a still larger straw hat and a fishing-pole and line, out of
the back gate and down the lane.
True to her promise, Phyllis said nothing, but trudged along behind
Jack with wide open, watchful brown eyes.
By and bye the children came to a pond of shining, clear water. How
still everything seemed, how brightly the sun shone!
"Now if you talk you'll scare the fish," said Jack, with an air of
"I will not talk," Phyllis whispered back, shutting her lips very
tightly and sitting down beside her brother with a little sigh.
Jack threw his line—Phyllis watched with awe. They sat for a moment
waiting for a "bite."
Then Jack jerked the line up sharply, not so much because he thought he
had caught something, as because he hoped he would catch something.
"I don't believe there are any fish here," he grumbled at last.
But Phyllis's bright eyes had caught sight of something and she forgot
all about the fishing and her resolve not to speak.
"Look!" she cried, pointing to a fallen tree-trunk which hung over the
On a branch sat a bird. He was considerably larger than a robin.
"On a branch sat a bird. He was considerably larger than a robin"
On the top of his head was a tall crest, which reached to the nape of
His back and the entire upper part of his body was blue. His wings and
short tail bore spots and bars of white.
The lower part of his body was white and across his breast ran two
bands of blue.
"His bill is longer than his head!" laughed Phyllis. "What a funny big
head and what funny little feet! Who is he, Jackie?"
"A kingfisher!" Jack replied.
"What is he doing?" asked Phyllis.
"Fishing," said Jack, shortly.
In a moment Jack spoke again.
"There must be fish here if Mr. Kingfisher is on the lookout. He is a
famous old fisherman. He could not live without fish to eat. Did you
notice the white spot above each eye?"
Encouraged by the sight of the other fisherman, Jack again cast his
line and waited for a bite.
Phyllis watched the bird. Suddenly it seemed to drop from the branch.
It dived into the water.
There was a great flutter and splash—a struggle. Then the bird in the
blue and white uniform perched again on the old branch.
The children watched eagerly.
In the bird's strong bill was a scaly, glittering fish. It wriggled
and flopped helplessly, but could not escape.
The bird held the fish firmly in its strong grasp, raised his head and
struck the fish three or four sharp knocks against the branch. Then
the fish wriggled no longer.
"He can never swallow that big fellow!" cried Jack, forgetting his own
fishing. "I have seen kingfishers swallow minnows alive and whole, but
that fish is too large for him to manage!"
The bird, however, seemed to think that he could "manage" it. He
started to swallow the fish. When it was half-way down his throat it
With much sputtering and gagging the bird brought the fish up again.
But he must have his dinner, and not in the least discouraged, tried
He gagged and writhed. The scales and fins stuck in his throat. Up
came the fish again.
Four—five times he struggled to swallow the fish. Five times he
failed to succeed. Five times the fish-scales glittered again in the
sunlight. Such strange wrigglings and twistings the bird made.
"The poor fellow is having an unhappy time with his lunch," laughed the
At the sixth effort the fish was safely landed in the bird's stomach.
With a flash of blue wings he circled through the air. He gave a noisy
rattling cry as he alighted on a branch nearer to the children.
Again the bird watched the water intently. Again he dived like a
flash. Again he bore a fish to the surface and killed it by striking
it against the tree.
But this time the kingfisher did not swallow the fish. He rose with it
in his bill and flew gracefully away.
The children watched for some time, but the strange blue bird did not
return. Then Jack turned again to his fishing.
"I thought you were to furnish the thimbleberries for lunch," he said.
"So I shall," Phyllis replied, snatching up her basket and starting off
in the direction of some bushes which she could see.
So Jack was left to his fishing and Phyllis went berrying.
Sure enough the bushes proved to be loaded with beautiful ripe berries.
Soon the little fingers were stained quite purple and the little basket
was half filled with berries.
As she started to return to her brother, Phyllis passed along the foot
of a high bank. She was singing softly to herself when she heard the
rattling cry of the kingfisher quite near.
He gracefully swung into sight on wide-spread wings. He bore another
fish in his strong bill.
When he saw Phyllis he stopped short and held himself perfectly still
in the air while he looked at her.
At length, deciding that she was harmless, he circled past the little
girl and entered a small hole on the face of the bank.
"Why!" said Phyllis. "I wonder why he has gone in there. I shall wait
for him to return."
So Phyllis waited until the bird came out. Then she held out her
basket of berries.
"Will you have some of my berries?" she said. "I'm sure that your
throat must be sore from the scratching of those fish-scales. You had
to try so many times before you got it down. Tell me, did this last
fish also stick in your throat?"
The kingfisher "chuckled" deep down in his throat.
"I do not eat berries," he said. "I usually eat fish. I sometimes eat
large insects or shrimps, but I love to fish."
"So does my brother," said Phyllis, politely, glancing at Jack sitting
motionless on a rock in the sunshine.
"Why did you go into that hole to eat?"
The kingfisher chuckled again.
"That is my nest," he said. "My wife is in there. I took the fish to
her. She can fish quite as well as I, but our eggs are just hatching
and she dare not leave them."
"That a bird's nest?" cried Phyllis. "Who made it?"
"Mrs. Kingfisher and I did," was the reply. "We found this fine steep
bank when we came from the south in March.
"I began the nest myself. I held myself still in the air before the
bank just as I did when I first noticed you. Then I drove my beak into
the soft bank with quick plunges. How the clay rattled and rolled and
splashed into the water below!
"It was but a very short time before I had a foothold on the bank.
Mrs. Kingfisher and I worked very quickly. Soon we dug ourselves out
"But how do you dig—"
"Oh, just look at my bill, Phyllis. With it I loosen the earth. With
my feet I scratch the dirt out in a perfect shower behind me. Our
tunnel is so narrow that we could not turn around in it."
"How deep is it?" asked the little girl, pushing back her big hat and
The kingfisher did not seem to hear her. He just went on with his
"Perhaps a little less than two feet from the outside we made a turn to
the right. After that we were obliged to bring the earth out in our
"Two could not work at once. While I worked at the tunnel Mrs.
Kingfisher fished. While she worked, I fished. At last the tunnel was
eight feet long.
"'That is a very safe distance,' said Mrs. Kingfisher to me. 'Let us
dig no more, but make our nest here at the end of the tunnel.'
"We built a wonderful nest," the bird went on, "a fine prickly nest for
our little ones. We did not line it with feathers and moss. We
carefully arranged a pile of fish-bones and scales at the farthest end
of the tunnel. On these bones and scales my wife laid six white eggs.
Already four little baby kingfishers have pecked their way out of the
white shells. The others will be out soon.
"I must be off about my fishing. Mrs. Kingfisher and I will both be
very busy now catching minnows for those blue babies of ours."
With another chuckle and rattle the kingfisher flew away to his fishing
station over the pond.
Phyllis picked up her basket of berries and returned to the spot where
Jack still sat patiently holding his pole.
"Oh, Jack—" Phyllis began.
"Sh-h-h-h!" whispered Jack. "You promised not to talk. You'll scare
the fish away. Girls always talk."
"I'm sorry," said Phyllis. "How many have you now?"
"None—but I've had a nibble several times. I think they'd bite better
if the sun would go under a cloud."
"Let's eat our lunch now," begged Phyllis. "Perhaps there'll be some
clouds by the time we finish."
As they ate Phyllis told her brother about the kingfisher's nest and
babies. When they finished the sky was as blue as ever.
"These are halcyon days," said Jack, looking very wise.
"Wh-a-a-t—?" said Phyllis, wholly puzzled and half frightened at the
"Well, you see father told me about them the other day when we were
fishing in this same place.
"It seems that long ago when people were not very wise, they believed
all sorts of queer things. They told strange stories about the things
which they did not understand.
"In those days kingfishers were called halcyons. Some said these birds
made nests which floated on the sea.
"As long as these eggs or birdlings were in the nest, the people said,
the sea would remain smooth and the weather fair.
"Ever since then, when we hear any one speak of 'halcyon days,' we know
that they mean pleasant happy days."
"Then," laughed Phyllis, "this has been one of the 'halcyon days' even
though you failed to catch any fish."
Then two tired little people trudged home through the river reeds and
down the lane.
On their way the blue kingfisher flashed by, chuckling harshly deep
down in his throat.
THE HALCYON BIRDS
That evening Phyllis opened a new book and on almost the first page she
saw something about the halcyon birds.
"Perhaps it is Jack's story," she said. Then she curled herself up on
the soft sofa and this is the story she read.
In the beautiful long ago, in the wonderful country of Greece there
lived a king, wise and just and peaceful. His people loved him.
The king lived in a marble palace on the top of a low hill. With him
lived his wife, the lovely Queen Halcyone.
But though the king was wise and just and good, his heart was sad.
There was unrest in the land. Troubles were rife in Greece.
At length one day the king came to the room where Queen Halcyone sat
with her maids. They were spinning carefully and happily together.
"My Halcyone—my queen," said the king, "as you know, I am greatly
troubled and disturbed. I do not know what is the best thing for me to
do. I must seek wise advice from the gods."
Queen Halcyone dropped her distaff and looked in fear at the king.
"I must go," said the king to Halcyone, "on a long journey across the
seas. As you know, in the Temple of Apollo there is a wise oracle. To
this oracle must I go in search of counsel."
Then the lovely Queen Halcyone's heart was filled with sorrow. She
feared that harm might come to the king, whom she loved for his
goodness and his kindness.
Halcyone fell on her knees before the king. She begged him to postpone
this terrible journey across the seas.
"Indeed," cried she, "there are cruel dangers, O my king! The journey
is long and wearisome. Remain at home with me!"
The king smiled pityingly upon his lovely queen. He kissed her gently
before he answered.
"It seems to me," he said, sadly, "that there is no other way. I must
"Ah, then, I pray, take me also. Let me share the dangers and the
"You could not—" the king began.
"In truth it would be easier far than to bear the loneliness and dread
when you are gone. It would be weary waiting for your return!"
Now the king loved Halcyone. He longed to remain at home with her.
But already the boat lay ready for departure—and there was no place
Already the oarsmen sat at their benches ready to row away. So the
king bade Halcyone farewell and stepped on board and quickly pushed off.
With bitter tears Halcyone stood on the bank and watched the king's
boat push out from shore.
When it looked but a speck she shaded her eyes with her hand and still
watched. But when in the purple distance the tiny speck could no
longer be seen, Halcyone turned with a sigh to the marble palace and
On and on across the waters the little boat sped. For a time all went
well. At night the stars shone. In the morning the sun arose from the
blue waters and travelled across a cloudless sky. Gentle winds blew,
filling the sails and pushing the little boat quietly on its way.
But one day a change came over the sea. The moaning of the wind was
heard. Dark clouds scurried across the sky.
The waves rose high and broke in white crests of foam. The rain poured
down. The wind crept up and sprang upon the little boat with fury.
For a time the boat rose and fell with the waves. It pitched and
rolled and reeled. Great waves splashed over it, washing the oarsmen
The masts were torn away. At last the little boat, buried in the
trough of the wave, sank beneath the water.
The king and all his crew lay buried deep beneath the deep blue sea.
Weeks passed. Months passed. A year went by.
Queen Halcyone wandered restlessly up and down the shore. With weary
eyes she watched the purple distance. But the king did not return.
She prayed to the gods that they would guard and protect the king whom
she loved so dearly. She went to the sacred altars of her country, and
burned incense there.
When the goddess Juno heard the prayers and saw the tears of the lovely
Queen Halcyone, she was sad for her. Juno called to her side the
beautiful rainbow messenger, Iris.
"Iris," said Juno, "this night I wish you to go down on your rainbow
bridge to the god of dreams.
"Ask him to send to Halcyone a dream which shall tell her of the fate
of her husband, the king. It is better that she should know what has
befallen him whom she loved than to wander thus in uncertainty."
So Iris, the beautiful messenger, swept down to the god of dreams—and
that night Halcyone dreamed that the king came to her and told her his
story. He told her how the boat and all therein had long since been
buried under the sea.
"Be brave, my Halcyone," said the shade of the dead king. "Be brave
and patient, and soon perchance, if the gods will, thou shalt come to
me in the land of shades."
When the dream left her, Halcyone sprang from her couch and ran again
to the seashore. She stretched out her arms and called aloud to
Aeolus, the father of the winds.
"O great father Aeolus," she prayed, "give me wings so large and strong
that they will carry me to the spot where the king now lies.
"Hear me, Aeolus! Hear Halcyone, thy child!"
And as she prayed, lo, she rose slowly into the air. The folds of her
blue robe enwrapped her.
Halcyone floated out across the sea. Again and again her breast
touched the white crest of the waves and left its foam on her throat
and on the bosom of her dress.
On and on she sped across the billowy waters. Her wings were firm,
At last, floating upon the water she spied the form of the king. With
a hoarse rattling in her throat she called to him.
With her strong wings outspread, Halcyone hung motionless above the
king. Those broken cries came again and again from her throat.
And Juno, looking down from her cloudland home, saw Halcyone kneeling
on the waves beside the dead king. She leaned down from her place in
the heavens and touched the king's forehead.
Lo! there rose from the water two strong-winged birds in dresses of
blue and white.
"Ah," sighed Aeolus, "let us call them the halcyon birds, for the
lovely Halcyone, whose love did not fail her.
"Let these birds live ever beside the waters and rear their young in
peace and quiet.
"Behold, when Halcyone broods over her little ones I will hold my winds
in check. The waters shall be quiet and the sun shall shine merrily.
"And these days of peace and quiet and happiness shall be called
'halcyon days,' for ever."
ALL ABOUT THE KINGFISHER
SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS
Comes north in early March—remains until December, often throughout
Song—harsh, discordant, laughing chuckle or rattle—never musical.
Upper parts blue—wings and tail with white markings—lower parts white
with two blue bands across breast—bluish tinge on sides—a white spot
in front of each eye.—Head large and crested—bill longer than
Food—principally fish which it obtains by diving and kills by striking
against a tree if large, or swallows alive if small.—This food
supplemented by larger insects, shrimps, etc.
Nest—tunnelled out of bank—six to eight feet deep—at the extreme end
of tunnel is the nest made of fish-bones and scales.
Eggs—pure white—four to six in one brood.
THE RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
IN CAP OF RED
Phyllis sat in her own room, rocking her doll to sleep. The window was
open and the curtain flapped idly in the breeze.
Presently into the room darted a bird. He was beautifully dressed.
His soft gray uniform was spotted and barred with white.
He did not seem in the least alarmed when he found himself in the room
with Phyllis. He perched on the window-ledge and did not even glance
at the little girl.
In a moment he flew to the ledge above her door. With his strong
little bill he began to rap, rap, rap at the wood.
"You act like a woodpecker, but you do not look like one," said Phyllis.
"That shows that you do not know all about woodpeckers," said the gray,
downy bird. "I belong to the family of red-headed woodpeckers."
"You?" cried Phyllis, amazed. "But where is your red cap, and where is
your white vest, and where is your black coat? You are trying to fool
me, my friend."
"My father and mother have crimson heads and necks and throats. They
have white breasts. They have black backs and wings and tails. When
they fly, the broad white bands on the wings are quite plain to be seen.
"My home nest is that in the trunk of the old oak by the gate."
"It is very queer," said Phyllis. "Perhaps some other bird laid an egg
in the woodpeckers' nest by mistake."
The small bird fluttered quite helplessly with laughter.
"Oh, no, Phyllis, I see I have to tell you all about it. I am a
woodpecker, surely. But I am quite young yet. It is not a week since
I had my first lesson in flying."
"You fly very well for a young bird," said Phyllis.
"Well, my mother is very wise," said the bird.
"She does not think it well for her babies to get out of the nest until
they have grown quite large. She says that if we wait until our wings
are strong we will not be so apt to fall into danger.
"So I remained inside the nest until I was quite a large, strong bird.
Then my parents called me out and taught me to fly.
"Only yesterday I asked my mother why I did not wear a dress and cap
like her own.
"She said, 'Wait a little longer, my child. When you are quite grown
your cap will be as red as my own. You will look so much like your
father and me that those children down there will be unable to tell us
"It is little wonder that you did not know me for a woodpecker in this
simple gray dress. All woodpecker children, however, dress in this
quiet fashion at first. I shall be happy when I get my gorgeous red
"Well," said Phyllis, "I am very glad you came to see me. I knew there
was a nest in the old oak-tree. I watched your father and mother one
whole morning a few weeks ago. I think they chose the oak because of
those old dead branches.
"I saw your mother brace herself against the tree with her stiff tail.
Then how her wedge-shaped bill rapped and rapped against the wood. For
fully twenty minutes she rapped away at the rotten wood. Then she grew
tired and your father took her place at the tree-trunk.
"Soon they pecked a hole deep enough to hide them from sight, but their
constant rap, rap, rap could still be heard.
"I wondered how deep they made the hole, but it was too high for me to
climb to find out."
"Having just come from the nest I can tell you all about it," replied
the young woodpecker. "My parents dug down into the soft trunk to a
depth of perhaps eighteen inches. At the bottom they hollowed out a
large roomy place for the nest. They did not line it with feathers or
grasses. Instead of a bed of moss was a little sawdust and the smooth
white sides of the oak.
"In this nest my mother laid six pure white eggs. She sat on them and
kept them warm until at last six downy birds came out of the shells.
"We were hungry little things. Both our mother and father were kept
busy filling our greedy, ever-open mouths.
"And whatever they brought was sure to be very nice. Sometimes it was
a cherry or a berry, sometimes a bit of pear or apple.
"But, best of all, were the fat, juicy little grubs which they often
"I asked my father where he got the grubs. He made fun of me and
called out to my mother in his shrill, lively way.
"She said that that was a thing which every young woodpecker should
find out for himself.
"After that, every time a fat grub was brought to me, I wondered if I
should ever be able to find them when I began to shift for myself.
"At last my wings were strong enough and my parents called me out of
the nest. I very soon found that the fat grubs lived beneath the bark
of my own oak-tree. All I had to do was to strike my bill into the
bark and bear off the prize."
"Were you sorry to leave your safe high nest?" asked Phyllis.
"Indeed it was not so safe," said the young woodpecker. "On the day
that I left the nest a great black snake crept in. He swallowed my
little brothers and sisters.
"My parents were wild with grief. They said that was the thing they
always dreaded, that such things often happened in woodpeckers' nests."
"How sad!" said Phyllis. "I should never have thought of snakes!"
"They are our greatest danger," was the reply. "Squirrels sometimes
come in and steal the nuts and corn we have stored away, but the snake
is the most to be feared."
"So you store away food?" Phyllis asked. "Do you stay here in the
"Oh, yes, we often stay all winter. Have you not seen us flying about
among the trees in the winter-time?"
By this time the bird sat on the window-sill.
"Must you go?" asked Phyllis. "Here is a strawberry for you."
"Thanks," said the bird, pecking away at the fruit. "I am just off to
the corn-field. My father showed me this morning how to open the husks
of the green corn to get at the rich, milky kernels inside."
"When you get your red cap, come back," cried Phyllis, and the young
woodpecker's lively cry answered from the corn-field.
A LEGEND OF THE NORTHLAND
Away, away in the Northland,
Where the hours of the day are few,
And the nights are so long in winter
They cannot sleep them through;
Where they harness the swift reindeer
To the sledges, when it snows;
And the children look like bears' cubs
In their funny, furry clothes;
They tell them a curious story—
I don't believe 'tis true;
And yet you may learn a lesson
If I tell the tale to you.
Once, when the good Saint Peter
Lived in the world below,
And walked about it, preaching,
Just as he did, you know,
He came to the door of a cottage,
In travelling round the earth,
Where a little woman was making cakes
And baking them on the hearth;
And being faint with fasting,
For the day was almost done,
He asked her from her store of cakes
To give him a single one.
So she made a very little cake,
But as it baking lay,
She looked at it, and thought it seemed
Too large to give away.
Therefore she kneaded another,
And still a smaller one,
But it looked, when she turned it over,
As large as the first had done.
Then she took a tiny scrap of dough,
And rolled and rolled it flat;
And baked it as thin as a wafer—
But she couldn't part with that.
For she said, "My cakes that seem too small,
When I eat them myself,
Are yet too large to give away."
So she put them on the shelf.
Then the good Saint Peter grew angry,
For he was hungry and faint;
And surely such a woman
Was enough to provoke a saint.
And he said, "You are far too selfish
To dwell in a human form,
To have both food and shelter,
And fire to keep you warm.
"Now, you shall build as the birds do,
And shall get your scanty food
By boring, and boring, and boring,
All day in the hard dry wood."
Then up she went through the chimney,
Never speaking a word,
And out of the top flew a woodpecker,
For she was changed to a bird.
She had a scarlet cap on her head,
And that was left the same,
But all the rest of her clothes were burned
Black as a coal in the flame.
And every country schoolboy
Has seen her in the wood;
Where she lives in the trees till this very day,
Boring and boring for food.
And this is the lesson she teaches:
Live not for yourself alone,
Lest the needs you will not pity
Shall one day be your own.
Give plenty of what is given you,
Listen to pity's call;
Don't think the little you give is great,
And the much you get is small.
Now, my little boy, remember that,
And try to be kind and good,
When you see the woodpecker's sooty dress,
And see her scarlet hood.
You mayn't be changed to a bird, though you live
As selfishly as you can;
But you will be changed to a smaller thing—
A mean and a selfish man.
ALL ABOUT THE WOODPECKER
SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS
Comes north in May—often stays all winter—most commonly seen in the
Song—shrill, lively call resembling the voice of the tree-frog.
Male and female have crimson head and neck—upper parts black with
white marking—white band across wings—most conspicuous when bird is
Lower parts white—bill wedge-shaped, strong, and sharp—tail strong
and stiff, used as a brace when clinging to a tree-trunk and tapping
with bill—toes arranged two in front and two behind for better support
in clinging to tree trunks, etc.
Young birds resemble the parents, except that in colour they are a
Food is largely fruit—green corn, nuts, and larval insects procured
from tree-trunks.—Sometimes stores away nuts, etc.
Place chosen for nest is usually a rotting tree, which is easier to
bore.—Hollow from fifteen to eighteen inches deep.—Eggs pure white,
generally six in number.
IN THE MEADOW
If Jack's big black dog, Nero, had not chanced to snatch Phyllis's rag
doll by the head and run away with it this story would have never been
You see, Nero bounded straight across the meadow and Phyllis, fearing
that she would lose the doll, ran shrieking after him.
Nero was only playing, and soon dropped the doll and ran off. Phyllis
regained her property and started to return, when a bird rose from the
grass at her feet with a queer whirring sound.
Phyllis looked up at the bird and then down to the spot from which it
In another moment she would have stepped in the nest. This meadow
lark's nest was unlike any other Phyllis had found. Indeed, it could
scarcely be called a nest at all.
But when she looked at it Phyllis thought what a wise little bird the
meadow lark must be to choose such a place for the nest.
Had Phyllis not chanced upon it in just the way she did she might have
looked all day long and not discovered it.
The nest was flat upon the ground. Around it and over it arched the
tall meadow grasses. The nest itself was made of grass—it seemed to
Phyllis that it was made in a somewhat careless manner, and that the
eggs might easily roll out upon the ground.
There were four beautiful oval eggs in the nest—the largest birds'
eggs Phyllis had as yet discovered. They were over an inch long, and
were of a beautiful rosy white colour, speckled closely with reddish
As Phyllis sat very still, the mother bird crept softly back to her
home. She carefully settled herself on the grassy nest and with her
bill tenderly tucked the eggs under her soft feathers.
"How careful you are!" exclaimed Phyllis. "No fear of your breaking
The brown bird rose up quickly in fright and looked uncertainly toward
the fence. Phyllis thought to see her whirr off again.
"Oh, don't go," she cried. "I will not harm you! Truly I will not
The meadow lark looked again toward the fence, and then settled herself
once more over her precious eggs.
"Why do you look toward the fence so often?" asked Phyllis.
"Do you not see that bird perched upon the fence?" asked the meadow
"Yes," Phyllis answered, "what is he doing there?"
"He is our sentinel," said the meadow lark. "He is on the lookout for
danger. When he gives the alarm, the rest of the flock know there is
"When we hear the sentinel's alarm we are off in an instant. We fly
high into the air. Did you not notice how I hovered near the
grass-tops for a moment and then rose high into the air?"
"Yes," answered Phyllis, "and I knew that you were a lark because of
that whirring sound you made when flying."
"Ah, but I am not really a lark at all," said the bird. "I am called
the meadow lark, but in truth I belong to the blackbird family. The
red-winged blackbird is an own cousin of mine. So also is the oriole,
who builds a queer hanging nest in the tree-tops.
"The oriole is very proud of her woven nest, but I should consider it a
dangerous place for bird babies. My little ones will never be hurt by
falling from their nest.
"Neither can I imagine how any bird can dare to build in such an open
"My home is hidden here amid the grasses. Sometimes we find places
like this, where the grass blades naturally arch over and hide the nest.
"Sometimes we weave a sort of arch over the nest with the downy, fine
fibres from the grass leaves.
"Did you notice the little lane down which I returned to my tiny home?"
"No," said Phyllis, "I thought you just came through the grasses by the
"If you will look closely," said the meadow lark, pecking away at her
own brown feathers, "if you look very, very closely, you will see the
tiny path which leads directly to my door."
Phyllis leaned down and peered very curiously among the grass stems.
Sure enough, there was a tiny winding path, almost hidden from sight.
It led directly to the meadow lark's nest.
"You are a very wonderful little bird," she cried.
"I shall have some very wonderful babies one of these fine days," said
the meadow lark, proudly.
"How safely they will be hidden from danger," said Phyllis.
"Well," said the mother bird, shaking her head, sadly, "I am very sure
that I build in a safer manner than my cousins. But, alas, even meadow
larks are not free from danger."
"I might have stepped on your nest?" said Phyllis.
"Yes," said the bird, "but what makes me fear most are the field-mice
and the snakes. They make great havoc in our nests when they discover
them. Many a tiny fledgling has been swallowed by a great creeping,
crawling snake. Many a beautiful egg has been eaten by the hungry
"I hope no harm will come to your little home," said Phyllis. "I
notice one thing which you have for a protection from harm."
"What is that?" asked the meadow lark.
"It is your colour."
The meadow lark raised her head in gentle surprise.
"And what has my colour to do with my danger?" she asked.
"Why," said the little girl, feeling wondrous wise, "do you not see
that the browns of your feathery dress are the same colours as the
grass stems and the stubble amid which you brood and feed?"
"Why, so it is," said the meadow lark. "My back is brown, edged with
brownish white. That is like the grass stems. I am streaked with
black and brown and cream colours. That is like the blades of grass.
"My throat and breast are yellow like the stubble amid which I feed.
You are wonderfully wise, Miss Phyllis."
"What a beautiful black crescent you have upon your breast," said
Phyllis. "It was almost the first thing I noticed when I met you."
"Did you observe the dark brown lines on my head? They seem to cross
"I think you are quite beautiful," said Phyllis.
"Ah, but you should see my mate," said the meadow lark. "He is much
more beautiful than I. My feathers seem pale and faded when I walk
beside him. When fall comes, however, my own colours will brighten."
"On what shall you feed your little ones?"
"When I tell you, you will see again that I am wise in choosing this
place for a nest.
"My babies need never grow hungry, for the grass seeds are always
falling. The beetles and worms and ants are always walking by. The
moths and the butterflies are for ever laying their eggs in all sorts
of convenient places. You remember how their eggs do not hatch out
into butterflies and moths at once. They are just ugly little worms
"Yes," said Phyllis, "I remember."
The meadow lark carefully tucked an egg farther under her soft brown
"I am glad," she said, "that my eggs do not hatch out as grubs.
Perhaps if they did, I should care no more for my babies than the
butterfly does for hers. I am told that she does not even know her own
"You are quite right," said Phyllis. "She herself told me so."
The meadow lark gave a low whistle and nervously flitted her tail,
showing the white feathers with which it was edged.
"It has been some time since I have heard your clear, sweet whistle,"
said Phyllis. "I thought you must have left our meadow. You have a
most beautiful voice."
"Oh, no, we shall not soon leave your meadow, Phyllis. In the autumn
we may join a party of larks and take our family to the marshes for
awhile, but we shall return. Meadow larks do sometimes go south for
the winter, but usually they live their lives in their home meadows."
"Then you will sing for me again?" asked the little girl.
"Oh, with pleasure," said the meadow lark.
"You remember how we used to sing in the spring? Just now our thoughts
are so taken up with our nesting that we have little time for song.
But later, when the little ones are able to care for themselves, I
shall gladly whistle to you once more."
"I shall listen for you," said Phyllis. "Just now I must go, for I
hear my mother's voice. Good-bye, meadow lark!"
And the meadow lark from her nest whistled a low good-bye.
THE SONG OF THE MERRY LARK
Once there was an old gray pussy, and she went down into the meadow,
where she saw a merry lark flying among the tall reeds; and pussy said,
"Where are you going, little lark?"
And the merry lark answered, "I am going to the king to sing him a song
this fine May morning."
And pussy said, "Come here, little lark, and I'll let you see a pretty
ring round my neck."
But the lark said, "No, no, gray pussy; no, no! You worried the little
mouse, but you shall not worry me."
Then the lark flew away till he came to a high oak-tree, and there he
saw a gray, greedy hawk sitting. And the gray, greedy hawk said,
"Where are you going, pretty lark?"
And the lark answered, "I am going to the king, to sing him a song this
fine May morning."
And the gray, greedy hawk said, "Come here, little lark, and I'll let
you see a pretty feather in my wing."
But the merry lark said, "No, no, gray, greedy hawk, no, no! You
pecked at the little linnet, but you shall not peck at me."
Then the lark flew away till he came to the side of a rock, and there
he saw a sly fox sitting. And the sly fox said, "Where are you going,
And the lark answered, "I am going to the king, to sing him a song this
fine May morning."
And the sly fox said, "Come, little lark, and I'll let you see a pretty
white spot on the tip of my tail."
But the lark said, "No, no, sly fox; no, no! You worried the little
lamb, but you shall not worry me."
Then the merry lark flew away till he came to the garden of the king;
and there he sat among the red clover blossoms and sang his sweetest
And the king said to the queen, "What shall we do for this little lark
who has sung so sweet a song to us?"
And the queen said to the king, "I think we must have some May-day
games for the little lark, and invite robin redbreast to sing with him."
So the gay robin redbreast came and sang with the lark.
And the king and the queen and all the fine lords and ladies danced and
made merry while the little birds sang.
And after that the lark flew away home to his own green meadow, where
the old gray pussy-cat still lived among the tall reeds.
SAVED BY A LARK
Little Helen was four years old. She lived in the country in a white
house with green window blinds. The house stood in a large yard, and
had pretty flowers in front of it and a row of big maple-trees on each
Behind the house was an orchard, where the birds liked to build their
nests and sing their sweet songs. Helen had a swing between two large
apple-trees which stood a little way from the back door. She could
swing ever so high, and could almost touch the green apples on one of
Back of the orchard and garden stood three big red barns. These barns
were full of wonders for Helen. She was always glad to go into them
with her father, and see the piles of corn and wheat, the plows and
wagons, and the many other things that were there.
One morning in the harvest-time Helen was standing alone upon the
door-step. The sun shone bright; the robins were singing in the
apple-trees; the grasshoppers were chirping in the lane; but Helen
heard only the sound of the far-off reaper, as it came to her through
the soft morning air. She knew that her father was with the reaper.
Don't you know what a reaper is? It is that with which the farmer cuts
his grain when it is ripe. It is drawn by horses, and it cuts down the
grain stalks with many sharp knives, which move back and forth very
"I think I will go out to the field and help father," said Helen to
In another moment the little feet were turned toward the harvest field.
Across the orchard and down the lane she went, carrying her sunbonnet
in her hand and talking to the grasshoppers, which would somehow get in
But when at last she came to the field, she saw the men and the reaper
far away toward the other side.
Helen kept on across the field, for she thought that she would soon
catch up with the men. But it did not take long for the little feet to
grow very tired.
Then she sat down on a sheaf of wheat and looked around her, wishing
that her father would come.
Just in front of her the tall yellow grain was still standing. Helen
wondered why her father had not cut it down.
As she was looking, a lark flew out from among the grain singing a
rich, clear song. The little child clapped her hands for joy. Then
she jumped from her seat and ran toward the place from which the bird
"There is a nest in there, and I am going to find it," said Helen to
herself. She parted the tall yellow wheat-stalks to right and left,
and went forward, looking all about her with her bright, sharp eyes.
She did not have to go very far, for right before her was the nest,
sure enough, and in it were three little birds.
Was there ever anything so cunning as those little heads, with their
tiny bills wide open! It was such a pretty place for a nest, too.
Helen clapped her hands again, she was so happy.
Then she sat down by the nest, but she did not touch the birdies. It
was like being in a golden forest, for the grain was high above her
Soon her eyes began to feel heavy, for she was very tired after her
long walk. She sat down, with her head upon her arm, and in a short
time was fast asleep.
On came the horses, drawing the great reaper with its sharp cutting
knives. Helen's father was driving, and they were coming right toward
the spot where the little child was lying!
Oh, Helen, little does your father think that you are hidden there in
the tall grain!
What was it that made the farmer check his horses all at once? Did
something tell him that his dear baby was in danger?
Oh, no! he thought that she was safe at home with her mother. But he
was a good man with a kind heart, and he saw something that made him
The lark was flying wildly about over the grain that was in front of
the reaper. She seemed to say, "Stop! stop!" The farmer thought that
he knew what she meant, and he was too kind-hearted to harm a bird's
nest. So he said to one of the men, "Here, Tom, come and hold the
horses. There must be a nest somewhere among this grain. I will walk
in and look for it."
What a cry the men heard when he found little Helen fast asleep by the
lark's nest! How his heart almost stood still when he thought of the
danger that she had been in! He caught her up in his arms and covered
her face with kisses. "Oh, my darling!" he said, "it was the lark that
Yes, it was the lark, and his own kind heart, that had saved her.
Helen was carried home in her father's strong arms. She could not
understand what made the tears run down his cheeks.
It was some time before the men could go on with their work. They left
the grain standing around the lark's nest, to thank her, as they said,
for saving little Helen.
As they stood looking at the little birds in the nest, one of the men,
with big tears in his eyes, said, "God bless the birds! Come away,
boys, and let the little mother feed her babies."
ALL ABOUT THE MEADOW LARK
SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS
Usually resident—sometimes goes south in late October, returning in
Song—a very beautiful sweet, clear whistle—heard in the early spring
and in the autumn—usually quite silent during brooding season.
Female much paler in colour than male. General colour brown streaked
with brown and black and cream—breast and throat yellow—conspicuous
black crescent on breast—brown streak on head appearing to run through
the eyes—tail feathers edged with white, which is seen most plainly
when bird is in flight.
Food—seeds, insects, larval insects, also swallows gravel to aid in
Nest made of grasses—built on the ground amid tall grass or
grain—usually quite skilfully hidden and arched or roofed over in a
very ingenious way.
Eggs—four in number—about an inch and an eighth in length, a pure
white, speckled with brown.
Greatest danger from snakes and field-mice.
Meadow lark is not really a lark, but belongs to the blackbird family.
"Haw-haw! Hoo! hoo!"
Phyllis listened again.
"Haw-haw! Hoo! hoo! Hoo! Hoo!"
"Oh, I see you now!" laughed Phyllis.
The owl moved silently as a shadow and perched very near to the little
girl. His great round eyes and his yellow bill gleamed in the
"I heard you calling!" said Phyllis. "But I could not at first tell
just where you were. I looked in a dozen trees before I came to you."
"To-who? To-who-whoo-oo-oo?" questioned the owl.
Phyllis laughed again. The owl blinked wisely.
"I am going home to-morrow," Phyllis said. "I shall start to school
next week. Some day, perhaps, I shall be as wise as you, Mr. Owl."
The owl only blinked his great eyes.
"The owl only blinked his great eyes"
"But I'm sure I can never look so wise," she added, politely.
"Hoo-hoo-hoo-oo!" hooted the owl, blinking sleepily.
"If you will not talk with me I shall say good-night to you at once!"
"To-you! To-you-oo-oo-oo!" called Phyllis, running off laughing.
"Papa," she said, a few moments later. "Papa, the hoot-owl would not
talk with me!"
"Wise, wise owl!" said papa, smiling at her over his newspaper.
When cats run home, and light is come
And dew is cold upon the ground,
And the far-off stream is dumb,
And the whirring sail goes round,
And the whirring sail goes round,
Alone and warming his five wits
The white owl in the belfry sits.
THE OWL GIRL
Once a very queer little girl lived in a village beside the great Yukon
This little girl did not care to play with other children. Indeed, all
day long she would sit inside the stone hut and sleep.
But as soon as evening came the little girl would awaken. She would
run out to the river-bank to play. She would shout and laugh.
She did not mind the dark. In fact she declared that the sun hurt her
eyes and that she could see far better in the dark.
The child's mother said that for all her queerness the little girl was
very wise. She knew many things which grown-up people had never heard.
The people of the village shook their heads. They said there was magic
in it all, and that some day something strange would surely happen.
So, when at sunset the queer little girl ran shouting to the river, the
people of the village watched from the bushes.
And sure enough, something very wonderful did happen!
One evening the little girl with her big shiny eyes ran shouting among
the trees which grew beside the river.
She was chasing a little field-mouse, which at last ran tremblingly up
the low branch of a tree and hid in the dark.
But the queer little girl, who could see quite well in the dark, jumped
to follow the mouse.
Lo, as she jumped, the queer little girl changed into a bird with a
long, long beak and great shining eyes!
Now when she saw what had happened to her she was frightened. In her
fright she flew back to her mother's stone hut.
But now that she was a bird she did not remember about the doors and
windows. She flew wildly against the stone wall of the house.
So rapid was her flight that she struck the wall with great force. Her
long bill and her face were quite flattened by the blow.
She forgot her mother's house, and in pain flew again to the trees by
The next night the mother heard the voice of her queer little girl
among the leaves calling, "Whoo-whoo-whoo!"
But when she looked she saw only a flat-faced, big-eyed bird who was
making a supper of the poor little field-mouse.
THE OWL AND THE RAVEN
Once upon a time the owl and the raven were fast friends.
They lived beside the same stream. They built their nests in a tree
side by side. They sang the same songs. They ate the same food. They
wore dresses of the same pale gray.
There was nothing that these friends would not do for each other. So
great was their friendship that each was always finding ways to
surprise and please the other.
At one time the raven was absent for two whole days.
"What can he be doing?" said the owl to herself. "I know he is
planning some new surprise for me."
When, on the third day, the raven returned, the owl knew from his
contented looks that the present must be unusually fine.
"It is something more than a beetle or a field-mouse this time," she
thought. "Now what can I do for him? He is always so kind to me!"
Then the owl began to look about for something to do for her friend the
On the shore near their home tree a huge whale had once been caught and
cut up by the Eskimo hunters. Some of the bones still lay upon the
"Oh," said the owl, as she chanced upon these whalebones, "I know the
very thing which will please my dear friend the raven!
"I will make for him a pair of beautiful whalebone boots! With them he
can walk over the sharp rocks and the icy cliffs in comfort and safety!"
Thereupon the owl sat down in the sand and went to work. It was not
long until the boots were finished. They were beautifully smooth and
slender and graceful.
"The raven cannot help being pleased," she said, as she carried the
boots toward the home tree. "I wonder if he is in!"
As she drew near the owl heard the raven calling her name. Answering
loudly, she hurried to the place where he waited. But before the raven
saw her she hid the whalebone boots among the grasses, that she might
surprise him later.
She found the raven hopping impatiently about and calling loudly.
"Here—here I am!" she cried. "I have been away for but a short
time—but you were away for days!"
"Oh, owl, dear," replied the raven, "though I have been absent I have
thought only of you!
"See! here is a beautiful new dress which I have made for you!" And
the raven spread before his friend a beautiful dress of dappled black
It was made of the softest, most beautiful feathers, lovely enough to
delight the heart of any bird.
"Oh, how very beautiful!" cried the owl. "How kind you are to me! How
did you ever think of anything so lovely?"
The raven smiled, well pleased with himself.
"Try it on," he said. "I am sure it will become you. I am certain
that when you see how lovely you look, you will never again wish to
wear anything but black and white."
Quickly the owl slipped from her old gray dress into the splendid new
one. Gently she fluttered about and ruffled the soft black and white
"Where did you get them?" she said, circling about and looking at her
tail for the twentieth time.
"Sit down," commanded the raven, "and I will tell you!" So the owl
settled down on the branch beside the raven.
"I found the feathers on that steep, rocky cliff beside the sea," he
said. "The stones were sharp and the winds were wearying, but at last
I finished the dress just as I planned.
"I am glad that you are pleased. I am very tired now, and must sit
still and rest."
So delighted was the owl that for a moment she had forgotten the
whalebone boots. Now as she looked at the raven she saw that in
scratching about for the feathers he had broken one of his pink toes.
With a little cry of pity she flew to the grasses where the boots were
hidden. Quickly she snatched them up and flew back to the poor tired
"Here," she cried, "here!—I thought of you while you were away. Now
you shall put your tired feet into these strong whale-bone boots. The
stones and the ice cannot hurt you again."
"Oh, oh!" croaked the raven. "They are the very things for which I
have been longing!"
"Put them on! Put them on!" cried the owl. "See how they will rest
you! They will make you feel quite young again!"
The raven slipped his tired feet into the whalebone boots. Straight
away the old tired ache left him. He hopped gaily about and croaked
"How graceful!" he said. "How perfectly they fit! How comfortable."
"Now I shall make a coat for you," said the owl. "It shall be pure
white. The feathers shall be the shiniest and the loveliest that I can
By and bye the raven's white coat was ready to be fitted.
"Come," commanded the owl. "Come and stand still while I fit your
The raven came, but so delighted was he with the whalebone boots that
he could not stand still. As the owl worked over him he kept hopping
and dancing about.
"Stand still!" cried the owl. "I can do nothing with you hopping about
so. I shall stick the pin-feathers into you!"
For an instant the raven stood still, looking down at the boots. Then
he jumped so suddenly that the owl dropped a whole clawful of the soft
white feathers with which she was finishing the neck.
Then the owl grew very angry.
"Stand still!" she hooted. "If you jump another time I will throw the
oil from the lamp on you!"'
Now the lamp was filled with whale-oil. In it wicks of moss and
twisted grass had been burned. With time and many wicks the oil had
become as black as soot.
The raven looked at the black, sooty oil and then at his new white
coat. He really stood still for as much as two minutes.
Just as the owl was trying to decide whether or not the coat should be
longer, to cover the tops of the new boots, the raven caught sight of
his own reflection in the clear water below.
So pleased was he with his appearance that he flapped his wings, and
jumped up and down.
The loose white feathers flew in every direction. The pin-feathers
dropped to the ground. The angry owl gasped for breath.
Then in a rage she seized the lamp. She flung it at the raven. Alas,
for the poor fellow! The oil struck him full on the head. It ran down
before. It ran down behind! There was not a dry feather on him!
"Quag! Quag!" croaked he, the oil dripping down on all sides. "Quag!
Quag! I shall never speak to you again!"
"No," cried the owl. "Do not speak to me again. I would not have such
a sooty friend as you!" and she flew far away.
When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail;
When blood is nipped and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
Tu-whit! tu-who!" a merry note,
While greasy Jean doth clean the pot.
—"Love's Labour's Lost," Shakespeare.
ALL ABOUT THE BARRED OR HOOT OWL
SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS
Notes—deep-toned, startling hoot.
Heard most frequently at nesting time.
Upper parts brown, marked with white—face gray, mottled with black,
wings and tail barred with brown, eyes blue black, bill yellow, under
parts buff marked with darker, legs and feet feathered, bill and claws
dark, hooked, strong.
Feeds on chicken, mice, etc.
Usually take an old crow's or woodpecker's nest for their own
use—rarely make nests for themselves. Nest very early in the season,
young being sometimes ready to fly early in March.
A SUMMER SONG
He sat upon the tallest bending grass stalk. He paid not the slightest
attention to Phyllis. He just swung lightly with the June breezes, and
sang his little heart out.
Such a careless, joyous, jingling song Phyllis had never before heard.
It seemed just a bubbling-over of happiness and gladness.
And such a common-looking little fellow to have such a wonderful voice!
He was but a little larger than a sparrow.
His plumage was mostly black. His wings and tail were edged with pale
yellow, and there were splashes of white in places on his body. There
was a light yellow spot on the back of his neck.
"You seem filled with gladness," said Phyllis.
The little bird stared at her for a moment. Then he nodded his head,
and quivered his small wings. He opened his mouth again and warbled
out the jolliest, sweetest tune that bird throat ever sang.
"How very beautiful!" cried Phyllis. "What a world of happiness you
send out in that song!"
"Ah, but I should be happy," warbled the sweet-voiced bobolink. "I
have all that bird heart can wish!"
"Tell me—" said Phyllis.
"I at last have won my wife," sang the bobolink. "At this very moment,
in this very field, she is sitting on a nestful of light blue eggs."
"'She is sitting on a nestful of light blue eggs'"
"Listen, Phyllis, and I will tell you all about it.
"It was about the middle of May when my brothers and I started north.
All winter long we had wandered through the rice-fields of the South.
"We were not happy there. We feared for our lives. There we are not
called bobolinks and the people of the South never listen for our songs.
"In fact we seldom sing when we are in the South. The hunters call us
'rice-birds' or 'reed-birds.' With their terrible guns they hunt us
early and late.
"It was no wonder, then, that we were so glad to return to the North.
It was a long journey, but we did not tire. In fact we travelled
mostly at night. During the day we feasted in the fields or at grain
"For a few days we flew about here, and sang out our names to every
"Just ten days after our arrival something very wonderful happened.
Our sisters and wives and sweethearts came with fluttering wings and
sweet, quiet ways.
"On that very day I met the lovely bird who now broods so gently over
"She seemed to me the most beautiful bobolink that ever was. Early and
late I sang to her. My most beautiful songs seemed not half good
enough for so lovely a bird.
"I, alas, was not the only bobolink who admired her. My own brother
was quite as delighted with her. He, too, sang to her.
"Sometimes we sat in the same tree, each of us singing our hearts out
to the shy little creature whom we both loved.
"I am sorry to say we did more than sing for the demure little bird.
We fought for her. We quarrelled fiercely. But at last it was I who
won her, and my brother found for himself another wife."
"I wish I could find your nest," said Phyllis.
"It is in this field," said the bobolink. "It is near the brook, and
every morning we both fly down there for a refreshing bath.
"I have told you all this, and yet, Phyllis, I venture to say that you
might hunt all day among the grasses and not find my nest. For the
leaves and the grasses bend over and about the nest where my little
"Should I call to her she would come to me. You perhaps would run to
the spot where she rose from the grass. But you would not find the
"My wife in her quiet brown dress is too wise for that. She never
flies up directly from the nest. She runs a distance among the grass
stems and then starts up from the grasses.
"There are five eggs in the nest, light blue with spots of blackish
"When they are hatched, you will hear very little music from me. I
shall put on a quiet dress, much like the one which my mate now wears,
and will work early and late bringing food to my babies.
"They shall have the very choicest grains and bugs and grasshoppers.
There will soon be no time for singing."
"But when the little ones are grown—" said Phyllis.
"Oh, yes, then I will sing again for you. But listen, Phyllis!"
Phyllis heard a sweet little "Chink! Chink! Chink!"
"My little mate is calling," gurgled the bobolink, flying away and
leaving the grass-top swaying wildly.
ROBERT OF LINCOLN
Merrily swinging on brier and weed,
Near to the nest of his little dame,
Over the mountainside or mead,
Robert of Lincoln is telling his name.
Spink, spank, spink;
Snug and safe is that nest of ours,
Hidden among the summer flowers,
Chee, chee, chee!"
Robert of Lincoln is gaily drest,
Wearing a bright black wedding-coat,
White are his shoulders and white his crest.
Hear him call in his merry note:
Spink, spank, spink;
Look what a nice new coat is mine,
Sure there was never a bird so fine!
Chee, chee, chee!"
Robert of Lincoln's Quaker wife,
Pretty and quiet in plain brown wings,
Passing at home a patient life,
Broods in the grass while her husband sings:
Spink, spank, spink;
Brood, kind creature, you need not fear
Thieves and robbers while I am here!
Chee, chee, chee!"
ALL ABOUT THE BOBOLINK OR RICEBIRD
SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS
Male arrives north middle of May.—Female comes some ten or twelve days
later—travel generally by night and in flocks.—Flies south from
August to October.
Song is most musical and sweet, expressing joy and careless
happiness—the song of the female is but a short, sweet "Chink,
chink."—While the young are being cared for, the male does not sing as
he does earlier in the season, but takes up the plaintive "chink" of
Male in spring is black with pale yellow markings on back and wings and
tail. Yellow spot on back of neck—a patch of white on breast and
other white markings.
Female pale yellow beneath—upper parts generally brown—two dark
stripes on top of the head. In autumn plumage of male resembles female.
Nest of grasses well hidden by thick leaves and stems.—Usually built
in clump of grasses and always on the ground and very shallow.
Eggs are pale blue with dark brown spots.—Four or five in
number.—Young birds when fully feathered are so alike that in a flock
young cannot be distinguished from old.
GREAT BLUE HERON
Great Blue Heron
BESIDE THE SEA
One hot August day Phyllis went to the seashore to live.
"Such fun," she cried, as the train drew up at the seaside station.
"Such fun as I shall have playing in the sand and wading in the water."
It was not half an hour before she was running along the beach beside
the cliffs. Her feet were bare, and she wriggled her toes in the sand
and splashed into the puddles of water.
Presently she saw a number of little birds running along the beach and
flying over the water.
"How swiftly they fly, and how well they dive," she said. "How easily
they swim, and they sometimes settle on the waves and rest. I wish
they would come nearer!"
"I will tell you about them," said a solemn voice near by. Phyllis
stumbled in her surprise and splashed the water into her eyes. When
she could see again, a great blue heron was standing near.
"Oh!" cried Phyllis, a bit frightened. "It is strange that I did not
see you. Yes, do tell me about the little sea-bird—and about yourself
So the blue heron drew his head down between his shoulders, and,
standing on one leg, told Phyllis what he knew of the little sea-doves.
"That little bird with brown back and white breast loves the sea," said
the heron. "He is never tired of the blue waves.
"In stormy weather the little sea-dove is most happy, because it is
then that the waves are laden with small fish and crabs. During stormy
weather the little fisherman grows fat.
"Watch them as they fly. Do you see how they are constantly dipping
their bills into the water? That is their way of fishing.
"The sea-doves' nests are among the cliffs. In them they lay just two
bluish-white little eggs.
"Sometimes, when the winds are very strong, the sea-doves are blown far
inland. Sometimes they find their way back to the sea. But there are
other times when they do not return."
"And where is your own nest, O Great Blue Heron?" asked Phyllis, half
laughing at the queer, long-legged bird.
"It is over yonder on a rock," said the heron. "There are now four
dull blue-green eggs in the nest.
"Soon there will be four ugly, helpless birdlings, who will sit up and
cry for food. It will be at least three weeks after they are hatched
before they will try to wade out into these flat sea-marshes. I shall
have to let no fish escape me, if I do not wish the fledglings to
"You do not think your babies pretty?" asked Phyllis.
"No," said the heron, truthfully, "they are not even so good-looking as
other birds' babies. But that I do not mind, for will they not some
day be as beautiful as I myself?"
"Yes," said Phyllis, "I have seen your picture many a time. In
mother's room is a large screen and on it is your likeness embroidered
in silks. The long green grasses are growing about you in the picture.
One foot is drawn up and your head is drawn down between your shoulders
just as it now is."
"That is the way to rest," said the heron.
"What were you doing here?" Phyllis asked, wading a little closer to
the long-legged bird.
"I was fishing," said the great blue heron. "It is the one thing I
delight in. From morning till night—"
"My brother Jack—" began Phyllis, but the bird paid no attention.
"I sometimes stand here perfectly still for hours. I wait patiently
for the fish or the frogs to appear.
"Then I strike suddenly with my strong, sharp bill. I snap up the fish
or frog and give it a knock or two to kill it.
"Then I eat it. If it is a fish I swallow it, head first, so that the
scales shall not scratch my throat.
"But see, Phyllis, the sun has set, and I have not yet had my supper.
I really must leave you!"
Then the great blue heron rose slowly and silently and circled away
over the flat sea-marshes. Barefooted Phyllis scampered back to the
little seaside cottage, where a fish supper was awaiting her.
It was very early in the spring. The sun rose, stayed for only a
moment above the horizon, and then sank again from the sight of Eskimo
But already huge icebergs broke from the shore and floated out to sea.
Already the icy winds hurried away farther north. Already a few of the
bravest birds were returning for the summer season.
It happened that a whole family of Eskimo children ran shouting and
laughing along the top of a cliff which overhung the sea.
The older ones cared for the little ones. All were as happy and
thoughtless as children could be. In their glee they took off their
boots and ran with bare feet.
Now below the cliff on the ice waited some Eskimo hunters. They
watched the huge cakes of ice farther out break off and float away.
They knew that soon the ice nearer shore would crack and float off in
the same manner.
They knew also that when the shore ice cracked the seals would rise and
push their noses out of the water for air.
The hunters, therefore, sat for hours upon their three-legged stools,
waiting with ever-ready spears.
The children, not seeing the hunters, ran more noisily among the high
rocks of the cliff.
At last with a booming sound the ice cracked and spread apart. The
water gushed up and spread lightly over the ice. The hunters waited
It was but a moment before the brown nose of a seal appeared. The
hunters lifted their spears to strike. But at that instant came a
wilder shout from the children and the brown nose of the seal
"Oh," cried the hunter, angrily, "I wish the cliff would topple over on
those noisy children!"
Hardly were the words spoken when with a great clash the cliff did
topple over. As the falling stones rattled about him the hunter heard
the shrieks of the children.
Neither the hunters nor the children were ever again seen in the
village. But the next day some birds with pink wet feet ran about
among the stones at the foot of the cliffs. As they ran they made
strange cries which sounded half like children's laughter.
"Listen," say the Eskimo people, when they hear the sea-pigeons cry,
"Listen to the voices of the little children who shouted so loud that
they frightened away the seals!"
"Look!" cry the Eskimo children, when they see the pink feet of the
sea-pigeons, "those are the cold, bare little feet of the Eskimo
children who ran and shouted on the cliffs above!"
Across the narrow beach we flit,
One little sandpiper and I;
And fast I gather, bit by bit,
The scattered driftwood bleached and dry.
The wild waves reach their hands for it,
The wild wind raves, the tide runs high,
As up and down the beach we flit,—
One little sandpiper and I.
Above our heads the sullen clouds
Scud black and swift across the sky;
Like silent ghosts in misty shrouds
Stand out the white lighthouses high.
Almost as far as eye can reach
I see the close-reefed vessels fly,
As fast we flit along the beach,—
One little sandpiper and I.
I watch him as he skims along,
Uttering his sweet and mournful cry;
He starts not at my fitful song,
Or flash of fluttering drapery;
He has no thought of any wrong;
He scans me with a fearless eye.
Stanch friends are we, well tried and strong,
The little sandpiper and I.
Comrade, where wilt thou be to-night
When the loosed storm breaks furiously?
My driftwood fire will burn so bright!
To what warm shelter canst thou fly?
I do not fear for thee, though wroth
The tempest rushes through the sky;
For are we not God's children both,
Thou, little sandpiper, and I?
THE CIRCLING OF CRANES
One autumn day ages and ages ago, the cranes were preparing to go
south. Cranes always dreaded the cold and flew away to the summer-land
at the first glitter of the frost.
The crane leader had a loud, hoarse voice, and he called and called to
his flock to hurry. The cranes came from all directions at the call of
their leader. The father and mother cranes came. The old cranes came
and the young cranes came. Even the babies, whose feathers were scarce
grown, came flying at the call of the leader.
All the cranes were happy, for they were going to the summer-land.
They were glad to go, for already the frost jewels sparkled on the
brown grasses and the cold winds were beginning to blow.
"Come! come!" cried the crane leader, and his voice was hoarse with
shouting. "Come! It is full time we were off!"
Young and old spread their wings for flight. They waited a moment for
their leader to take his place. As they waited the cranes glanced down
to the cold, bare country which they were about to leave.
Thus looking down, the cranes saw a beautiful maiden standing alone at
the edge of the village.
"How lovely she is!" said the crane leader. "And how lonely she seems!"
"How thin her dress is!" said another crane.
"See, she is weeping!" cried a third. Just at that moment the maiden
looked up and saw the flock of cranes above her.
"Oh," she cried, "you are going to the summer-land. I wish I had
wings. I would fly away with you!
"Alas! in this cold, cheerless Northland I shall starve and freeze. I
have no home. I have no friends.
"There is no oil in my stone stove! There is no meat in my kettle.
What shall I do when the thick snow flies and the winter winds cut like
The crane leader looked down at the beautiful maiden in pity. The
whole flock, young and old, were filled with a wish to help the girl.
It was very sad, they said, that one so young and lovely should ever be
cold or hungry or unhappy.
"Let us carry the maiden with us to the summer-land!" whispered a young
"Yes, let us take her to the land of ever-lasting summer," begged an
"There she might gather food from the grain-fields. She might pick
berries by the roadside. She might drink from the clear, cool brooks
that run to the sea," said the leader.
Following their leader, the whole flock swept down to the earth. They
gathered about the lovely, lonely maiden.
They lifted her on their widespread wings and bore her up into the air.
The maiden's long dark hair floated out like a cloud. She smiled
happily as the cranes with one voice told her of the summer-land to
which they would carry her.
With wings outspread, that she might not fall, the cranes bore the
maiden away. Day and night, night and day, they carried her and never
seemed to tire.
And the maiden had no fear. She laughed in sheer happiness when they
told her again and again of the beautiful country to which they
For into that land, the cranes told her, neither cold nor hunger came.
They would show her the richest grain-fields. They would tell her
where the sweetest berries grew. They would show her wondrous blossoms
which grew for her in the distant summer-land.
The beautiful maiden was never again seen in the cold, dreary
Northland, for to this day she wanders beside the sweet-voiced streams
in the far-off summer-land.
But season by season the cranes, with wide-spread wings and hoarse
cries, return to the Northland at nesting-time.
There they remain through the short sunny summer, but when the first
snowflakes flutter through the air the cranes prepare to fly away.
And even to this day they circle about on widespread wings as though
they again carried the beautiful maiden.
Even to this day the cranes, young and old, shout so loudly the praises
of the summer-land that their voices are hoarse and harsh.
ALL ABOUT THE GREAT BLUE HERON OR BLUE CRANE
SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS
Usually resident throughout the year. Lives in marshy, swampy places.
Head and throat white, with long black crest.—Very long neck covered
with light gray feathers—darker on chest—back, ashy gray—darker
wings—a touch of red on bend of wings and legs.
Long legs, which are black.
Long bill, which is yellow, sharp, and strong.
Food—mostly fish, frogs, and small reptiles. Feeds near sunset.
Nest very simple—sometimes directly on ground or rocks—at other times
a rickety platform of sticks.
Eggs blue-green—four in number—young helpless for at least three
weeks after hatching.
ALL ABOUT THE SEA-DOVE
SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS
Goes far north in nesting season. Found in Illinois swamps, and as far
north as Greenland.
Small bird with entire upper parts almost black—under parts
white—wings tipped with white, bill black—feet pale red—toes webbed.
Food obtained from the waves—flies swiftly and dives well—walks on
land better than most water-birds.
Lays but two bluish-white eggs.