Part 3 out of 7
mos'ly a quarter foh free he-birds. Now Sambo he was a-courtin' an'
wanted a banjo powerful bad, an' he didn't want no common truck, so he
'lowed to get one up from N'Orleans. So he 'greed to pay for it in
Mockers, an' he to'ht he know'd where he'd get 'em foh sure. Mockers
don' nes' in de woods and wild places, dey allus keeps roun' de
plantations near where folks libs.
"He know'd he war doin' wrong and he felt mighty uncomfoh'ble; but he
done took de youn' Mockers on our plantation right under massa's nose.
He war crafty like and on'y took one outen each nes' and at night de ole
birds never miss 'em. When he got de banjo 'bout paid foh, dat time he
took a whole nes'ful to onc't an' de birds what it b'longed to saw what
he war a-doin' an' gib him a piece o' dere mind, an' folled him 'round
all day an' sat on de roof ob his quarters an' talked all night, 'an
tole him to bring back dem Mockers or dey'd tell; an' Sambo war skeered
an' wanted to put de birds back an' den he didn't like to. Nex' day, he
'lowed de he-Mocker wen' to de big house, an' tole massa 'bout it, an'
he an' Miss Jessamine--dat was your ma--dey come down to de quarters an'
tole Sambo he done took Mockers an' ask him what had he done wid all on
'em. An' he mos' turn' white an' he say, 'I sol' 'em down de ribber';
an' massa say, 'I'se a great mind to sell you down de ribber, too'--but
he nebber sol' nuffin'--gib us all our freedom. Now, no nigger want' to
be sol' down de ribber, an' Sambo say, 'Oh, Miss Jessamine, dere's f'ree
I didn' sell, an' I'll gib 'em back to dat he-bird, an' ax his pardin.'
Massa he laff and say, 'If dat he-bird will 'scuse you, I will.' So
Sambo put 'em back an' de he-bird act' s'if he know'd an' talk' a lot o'
good advice to Sambo, but I'se shore 't war anoder nigger w'at tole on
"Dey uster have a song 'bout de Mockers roun' de cabins, an' a dance
went wid it, 'cause it was a berry long song; but aftah dat Sambo done
change it some when he uster sing it."
Mammy then chanted a verse, keeping time by beating her hands on her
"De sugar-cane hits pushin' in de bottoms,
De rice hits a-sproutin' now fo' shore!
De cotton hits a-greenin' in de furrer,
An' honey I'se a-waitin' at de door!
"Did I tole you dat I know'd whar dere's a possum?
Did I tole you dat I know'd whar dere's a coon?
Oh, mah lady, come out soon!
Oh, mah honey, come out soon!
While de Mocker, while de Mocker
Am a-singin' to de moon!"
Suddenly mammy jumped up, and waving the children off, started for the
house as fast as she could trot, muttering to herself.
"What _is_ the matter?" called Olive; "has a bee stung you?"
"No, nope chile, but t'inkin' 'bout dem times I done forgit I lef' a big
pan o' buns a-risin' foh yoh lunch. Like's not dey's rised till dey's
bust an' popped over!" And mammy disappeared amid a chorus of laughter.
"What mammy has said about the Mockingbird in his summer home is true.
As a visitor who sometimes stays and builds, he strays east and north as
far as Massachusetts, and westward to Colorado and California. If he
were not a hardy bird who sometimes raises three broods a year, I'm
afraid the race would come to an end, because so many nestlings are
taken each year and sold for cage birds."
Length about ten inches.
Upper parts gray, but dusky-brownish on the wings, which have a large
white spot. Three white feathers on each side of the tail, which is
blackish. The males, who sing, have more white on the wings and tail
than the females, who are songless.
Under parts whitish.
Sings his own true song, a rapid, sweet melody, heard best after
twilight; but has many comic songs of whatever nonsense comes into his
A Citizen of the southern United States, often straying northward to New
A Ground Gleaner, Tree Trapper, and Seed Sower.
When the Doctor said "Catbird" the children began to imitate the various
calls this famous garden bird utters, for by this time they were
familiar with all his tricks and manners. Some of the imitations were
very good indeed, if not musical. "Miou! Zeay! Zeay!"
"That is all very well in its way," said the Doctor, "but which one of
you can imitate his song?"
"I've often tried," said Rap, "but somehow he always gets ahead of me,
and I lose the place."
"Listen! There is one singing now in the grape arbor, and he has a nest
somewhere in the syringa bushes," said Olive.
The Catbird was not alarmed when he saw that five pairs of eyes were
turned upon him. He seemed to know that the secret of his nest was in
safe keeping, flew out to the pointed top of a clothes-pole, and
continued his song, jerking his tail up and down and showing the rusty
feathers beneath, as if this motion had something to do with the force
of his music. "I can hear the words as plain as anything," said Nat;
"if I only understood his language!"
"That is the difficulty," said the Doctor; "if some kind bird would
write a dictionary for us we should soon learn a great many strange
"Roger, the gardener, says that Catbirds are bad things and if he had
his way he would shoot them. He says they bite the strawberries and
grapes and things, even when he is looking at them," said Dodo.
"There is some truth in what Roger says," replied the Doctor, "but on
the other hand, the Catbird, besides being a merry garden neighbor and
musician, which in itself is enough to pay his rent, belongs as a
citizen to the Tree Trappers and Ground Gleaners, and is also a great
sower of wild fruits. Though he does provoke us at times by taking a
bite from the largest berries in the bed, yet he really prefers wild
fruits if he can find them. So it is better for us to protect our grape
arbors and strawberry beds with nets and bits of bright tin strung on
twine to frighten him away from them, than to lose him as a friend and
"Surely his song is worth a few handfuls of cherries. Then he is such a
quick-witted, sympathetic bird, always willing to help his neighbors
when they have trouble with Crows or squirrels. And when half a dozen
pairs of Catbirds choose the garden for their home, you may be sure that
they will furnish fun as well as music."
"Why does he jerk his tail so?" asked Dodo.
"It is a trick that all the family have," said the Doctor, "from which
some of them are supposed to have taken the name of Thrasher, but that
is doubtful. The Mockingbird thrashes about in his cage; the Brown
Thrasher on the ground under the bushes; the House Wren does the same,
and the tiny Winter Wren gives his tail a jerk instead, for it is not
long enough to really thrash."
"There is a bright-brown bird beating with his tail, down under the
quince bushes now," said Dodo. "Is that some kind of a cousin?"
"It's a Song Thrush," said Rap.
"Or rather what the Wise Men call a Brown Thrasher," said the Doctor;
"the very bird of which I was speaking."
"Who are the Wise Men?" asked Rap.
"A society of House People who study American birds and decide by what
name it is best to call each species, so that each may be known
everywhere by the same name. This Brown Thrasher is sometimes called
Song Thrush, Brown Thrush, Brown Mockingbird, and Mavis--though the
first and the last of these four names belong only to a kind of European
Thrush that is never found in this country. You see how confusing this
is, and how much better it is for the Wise Men, who know him intimately,
to give him one name you can be sure is right."
Length between eight and nine inches.
Upper parts slate color.
Crown, bill, feet, and tail black.
Under parts lighter grayish-slate color, except a chestnut-red patch
under the tail.
A Summer Citizen of the United States.
A Ground Gleaner, Tree Trapper, and Seed Sower.
THE BROWN THRASHER
"As I told you a moment ago, this handsome clean-built bird with keen
eyes, curved bill, and long graceful tail that opens and shuts like a
fan, has several names besides that of Brown Thrasher, which seems the
most suitable for him."
"He looks redder than brown, for we called the Wood Thrush 'brown,'"
"Yes, his back is a much brighter brown than that of any Thrush, and
this will show you the need in studying birds of being able to
distinguish between several shades of the same color. There are words to
represent these different grades of color, such as 'rufous' for
reddish-brown and 'fuscous' for dusky-brown; these you must learn later
on, for some of them are pretty hard ones. Now it is better for you to
use words whose meaning is perfectly familiar to you.
"The brown of this Thrasher, you see, is brighter than that of the Wood
Thrush; it is a ruddy brown, with a faint brassy glint, something like a
polished doorknob, particularly when the sun strikes his back."
"How he scratches round upon the ground," said Dodo; "just like a hen.
Why doesn't he belong to the Birds that Scratch?"
"Because, for one reason, his feet have the three toes in front and the
one behind, all on the same level; this makes him a perching bird."
"Don't all birds sit on a perch when they go to sleep?" asked Dodo.
"By no means. The perching birds grasp a twig firmly with their very
limber toes and sharp claws, and put their head under their wing; but
many others, like tame Geese and Ducks, sleep standing on the ground on
one foot or sometimes floating on the water.
"The Thrasher is a Ground Gleaner, who spends most of his time in the
underbrush, having a great appetite for the wicked May beetle; but he
does not live near the ground only, mounting high in a tree when he
wishes to sing, as if he needed the pure high air in order to breathe
well, and he never sings from the heart of a thick bush, as the Catbird
does so frequently.
"But I am wrong in saying that he _only_ goes up into trees to sing, for
there is no denying that he visits cherry trees to pick cherries, in
spite of the fact that he is neither invited nor welcome. Yet we must
remember that if he does like fruit for dessert he has also first eaten
caterpillar-soup and beetle-stew, and so has certainly earned some
"Hush!" whispered Olive; "our Thrasher is singing now in the birch tree,
where you can both see and hear him."
"That's a sure sign his nest is not very near," said Rap; "for they
never sing close by their nests." This Thrasher was clinging to the end
of a slender branch, one claw above the other, so that his head, which
was thrown back, looked straight up to the sky. He seemed to be half
talking and half singing, as if giving directions to some unseen
performer, then following these by two or three clear notes.
"What is he saying?" said Dodo.
"He is telling you who he is, and what he sees from the tree-top," said
the Doctor. "Olive, dear, I am going to repeat to the children the
jingle you made about the Thrasher." Though Olive then blushed and said
it was only nonsense, the children were delighted with it.
"My creamy breast is speckled
(Perhaps you'd call it freckled)
Black and brown.
"My pliant russet tail
Beats like a frantic flail,
Up and down.
"In the top branch of a tree
You may chance to glance at me,
When I sing.
"But I'm very, _very_ shy,
When I silently float by,
On the wing.
"_Whew_ there! _Hi_ there! Such a clatter!
What's the matter--what's the matter?
"Digging, delving, raking, sowing,
Corn is sprouting, corn is growing!
Plant it, plant it!
Gather it, gather it!
Thresh it, thresh it!
Hide it, hide it, do!
(I see it--and you.)
Oh!--I'm that famous scratcher,
Cloaked in brown."
[Illustration: The Brown Thrasher]
The Brown Thrasher
Length eleven inches.
Above bright reddish-brown, with two light bands on each wing.
Beneath yellowish-white, spotted with very dark brown on the breast and
Very long tail--about five inches--fan-shaped.
A Summer Citizen of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.
A famous Ground Gleaner and Seed Sower.
THE ROCK WREN
When the children had finished applauding Olive's poetry--or was it
really the Thrasher's own performance?--the Doctor went on:
"We have seen that the West has one sort of a Thrasher in the
sage-brush, and the East another, in our own gardens. I also told you
that these birds were a kind of overgrown Wren; and before we call upon
Mrs. Jenny Wren, I want to tell you about a bigger relative of hers that
Olive and I knew when we were in the Rocky Mountains. He is called the
"Oh! I know--because he lives in the Rocky Mountains," said Dodo,
clapping her hands at this discovery.
"Yes, that is partly the reason," resumed the Doctor, after this
interruption, "but those mountains are very many, and varied in
appearance, like most others: covered in most places with pine trees,
but including in their recesses grassy meadows and silvery lakes. Some
parts of those mountains are the home of the Rock Wren, but the little
fellow is quite as well satisfied anywhere else in the western parts of
the United States, if he can find heaps of stones to play hide-and-seek
in with his mate, or great smooth boulders to skip up to the top of and
sing. So you see the mountains and the Wrens are both named for the
"Do these Wrens look like our kind and act that way?" asked Nat. "Ours
always make me think of mice."
"All kinds of Wrens are much alike," answered the Doctor. "They are
small brownish birds with cocked up tails, not at all shy about showing
themselves off, when they choose, but they must have some hiding-place
to duck into the moment anything frightens them, and some odd,
out-of-the-way nook or cranny for their big rubbishy nests. Some prefer
to hide in marshes among the thickest reeds, some live in dry brush
heaps, and some, like the Rock Wren, choose piles of stones. Their wings
are not very strong, and they seldom venture far from their favorite
retreats, except when they are migrating.
"When your cousin Olive and I were in Colorado we climbed a mountain one
day above the timber-line"--
"Do _all_ the trees out there grow in straight lines?" asked Dodo
[Illustration: Rock Wren.]
"No, my dear little girl, trees don't grow in straight lines anywhere,"
said the Doctor, laughing--"except when they are planted so. The
'timber-line' of a mountain is the edge of the woods, above which no
trees grow, and we see nothing but bare rocks, and the few low plants
that cling to the cracks among them. Well, we had hardly rested long
enough to get our breath after such a climb, when we heard a rich
ringing song, something like a House Wren's, but louder and stronger,
and very quick, as if the bird were in a great hurry to get through. But
he wasn't, for he kept saying the same thing over and over again.
Presently we spied him, on the tiptop of a pile of stones, standing
quite still, with his head thrown back and his bill pointing straight
up. He looked gray, dusted over with pepper-and-salt dots on the back,
and his bill was very straight and sharp--almost an inch long, it
looked. This was a Rock Wren."
"He must have had a nest somewhere in those rocks," said Rap. "Wrens
most always have nests near where they sing."
"No doubt he had, as it was the nesting season--June," answered the
Doctor; "but it was growing late in the day, we had a long scramble down
the mountain before us, and could not wait to hunt for it. Most likely,
too, if we had found the very place where it was, we should not have
been able to see it, for probably it was tucked away too far in a
crooked passage under a shelving rock.
"When we were half-way down the mountain we passed a miner's cabin. He
was at home, and we sat down on a bench by the door to rest. Thinking he
might know about the nest of the Rock Wren,--for an old miner knows a
great many things he never thinks of making a book about,--I asked him
if there were any Wrens around there.
"'Wall, I should smile, stranger! Lots on 'em--more'n one kind,
too--but mostly not the reg'lar kind they have where you tenderfoots
live--bigger, and pickeder in front, and make more fuss. When they fust
come, 'long about May, or nigh onter June, they act kinder shy like, but
they get uster to yer, soon's they find nobody ain't goin' to bother
with 'em, and stay around altogether, mostly in the rocks. Last y'ar
there was two on 'em come nigh chinking up this shebang with trash they
hauled in for a nest, afore they got it fixed to suit 'em, and had it
chuck full o' speckled eggs. Then one of these yere blamed pack-rats
tore it all up, and they had to start in to hauling more trash.'
"So you see, children, this miner knew a Rock Wren--do you know a Jenny
The Rock Wren
Length nearly six inches.
Back gray, with fine black-and-white dots.
Under parts no particular color.
Some of the tail-feathers with black bars and cinnamon-brown tips.
A Citizen of the United States from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific
A Ground Gleaner
THE HOUSE WREN
"We all know Jenny Wren!" cried the children. "The Farm is full of
Jennies and Johnnies!"
"They build in bird-boxes," said Dodo.
"And in old tin cans, and water pots, and anything they find," said Rap.
"And Jenny does most of the work; if the can is very large she fills it
full of sticks until there is only a cosy little corner left for the
nest, for she is a very neat bird," said the Doctor, when he could be
heard. "She keeps her house nice and clean, and is very industrious
too, making a fresh nest for every new brood, which means a great deal
of work, for Wrens often raise three families a season."
"But Johnny Wren works too, doesn't he?" asked Nat; "he is always taking
home bugs and things, and he sings as if he would split."
"Wrens live in woodpiles in winter," said Rap.
The Doctor laughed heartily at the hurry with which the children told
"Everybody has a bowing acquaintance with the House Wren," he said, "for
they are seen everywhere through the United States, those that are
citizens of the West being a trifle paler in color and more sharply
barred than their easterly brothers, but all having the same habits;
even the Rock Wren is as jolly and sociable as his house-loving cousins.
"But the Wren that Rap says lives in the woodpile in the winter is not
our House Wren, but another member of the same family--the smallest of
all, called the Winter Wren.
"He is a citizen of the far North, whence he follows the mountains down
to Carolina, and he is chiefly seen when he visits the Eastern States in
the winter--hence his name. But few who see him then have heard his
ripple-song--one of the sweetest bits of our bird music."
"Hear Johnny Wren singing on the trellis, and his wife scolding at him
all the time, too. I wonder why she does it?" said Nat.
"She is only making believe scold," said the Doctor, "because she has a
quick temper and wants to say something, and cannot exactly sing.
Johnny and Jenny make a great fuss, but they are really very fond of
each other and make the very best of citizens, eating no fruits and
being officers in the guilds of Ground Gleaners and Tree Trappers."
"Look!" said Dodo, "Jenny is scolding and dancing about, and Johnny is
singing away again. What is the matter with them, Uncle Roy?"
[Illustration: House Wren.]
"Did you never hear the 'Wrens' duet'? That is what they are singing
now. Listen, and I will tell you what they say in House Peoples
"_Johnny_ (keeping time with his wings):
I'm jolly Johnny Wren,
The busiest of men;
For I sing and I clean house, too.
Though wife is such a bustler,
'Tis I that am the hustler,
For _I work_ when there's _nothing to do_!
"And _I_ don't care to talk,
And _I_ daren't take a walk,
For Jenny's such a jealous, j-e-a-l-o-u-s She!
"_Jenny_ (keeping time with her head):
I'm thrifty Jenny Wren.
The foolish, lazy men
Think they work if they sing all day.
If husband is a martyr,
I'm a great deal, great deal smarter,
For I _talk_ when I've _nothing to say_!
"And though I mind my work,
I also prink and perk,
For Johnny's such a _f-a-s-cin-a-ting_ He!
"_Both_ (beating time with all four wings):
_(She)_ Though you don't care to talk--
_(He)_ We might both take a walk--
_(Both)_ For we are such a captivating WE!
_Exeunt,_ dancing on tiptoe along the trellis."
The House Wren
Length five inches.
Upper parts dark brown finely barred with black.
Under parts gray, washed with brown and very faintly banded.
Tail rather long (for a Wren's), full of light and dark bars, mostly
held cocked up.
A fidgety little bird with a very merry song.
A Summer Citizen east of Indiana, and a Citizen south from the
A Ground Gleaner and Tree Trapper.
THE LONG-BILLED MARSH WREN
"You must always wear your rubber boots when you go to look for the
Marsh Wren," said the Doctor; "and you must be careful where you step,
for this Wren knows where to put his nest safely out of the way of both
House People and cats. He chooses a bunch of reeds, or a bush that is
surrounded either by water or the treacherous green grass of bogs, and
there weaves an oblong or globular nest from coarse grass and leaves,
with a little hole on one side for a door. This done, he goes to a short
distance and appoints himself day watchman to his home. If a footstep
touches the grass ever so lightly, he tells his mate of it and they flit
off; and if any one thinks that by following the birds they will find
the nest, they will be very much disappointed. Mr. and Mrs. Long-bill
will lead them a will-o'-the-wisp dance; and when the House People are
tired, bewildered, and very wet in the shoes, the clever birds will
return home by a secret way, chuckling to themselves. You will know this
little bird by his nervous Wren-like ways and jerking tail, even if you
are not near enough to see his markings and long curving bill."
[Illustration: Long-Billed Marsh Wren.]
"But there are no marshy places near the Farm, so I'm afraid we shall
never see him, except in the wonder room," said Nat.
"By and by when we go to the beach, where our river meets the sea, I
will show you some nests. I speak of this Marsh Wren now so that you
may remember it with the rest of this family of Mockers and Scolders."
The Long-billed Marsh Wren
Length about five inches.
Upper parts clear brown, with a long light line over the eye, and a
patch of black-and-white streaks on the back; light and dark brown bars
on tail and wings.
Under parts white, tinged with brown on the sides.
A long slender bill, with more of a curve than a House Wren's.
Song something like a House Wren's, but move bubbling and gurgling.
A Citizen of the eastern United States.
A Ground Gleaner.
"Now you may be introduced to a family of American birds, many of them
brightly colored and none of them large, who have no cousins or
relations in any other country. You must not expect them to come and
peep in the window like the Catbird, or feed on the lawn like the Thrush
and Robin; for they are birds of woodland and brushland. Yet the often
come for a time in their journeys to gardens and orchards, for they are
among the greatest travellers."
"Why do they travel so much, if they are only American birds?" asked
Nat. "I shouldn't think they would have to go far if they always live in
"America is a very large country, my boy, and you must not forget it
includes South as well as North America--the Western Hemisphere of the
whole globe. Warblers are insect-eating Citizens and cannot live long on
anything else. Now, as many of them nest far North, when the early
frosts lock the country they must often make long journeys at short
notice, until they find their insect food again."
"Why don't we see swarms and swarms of them flying by?" asked Dodo.
"You mean flocks," said Olive; "we only say 'swarms' when we mean bees
or other insects." "They make their journeys mostly by night,"
continued the Doctor, "for darkness protects their bright colors from
the cannibal birds and various other enemies. One day there will not be
a single Warbler in the river woods, and the next the trees will be
bright with them.
"Another reason that we do not commonly see these Warblers is, that the
greatest number do not come from the South until the trees are in leaf,
and they pass back again through the middle portions of the States
before the trees are bare in autumn, so that they easily hide from us."
"Are there no bright-colored birds that live all winter where the trees
are bare?" asked Rap.
"Yes, three--the Cardinal, the Crossbill, and the Pine Grosbeak. They
are seed-eating birds, and all belong to the Sparrow family. Most of the
very showy birds belong to tropical countries, where the trees are
always in leaf and there are quantities of orchids and other conspicuous
flowers to attract the eye from the birds themselves.
"This habit of travelling by night has caused a great many of these
beautiful Warblers to lose their lives, for they often fly against
telegraph wires, high steeples, and lighthouse towers, and are killed.
Another danger also besets them--they may come from the South with a bit
of early mild weather, and nearing the Great Lakes meet a storm from the
North, and the food-supply being very scanty, the icy winds overcome
"A friend of mine who lives in Wisconsin," continued the Doctor, "has a
garden that slopes down to Geneva Lake. Late one April there came a
windstorm from the northwest, and the next morning the lawn was strewn
with the bodies of hundreds of little Warblers who had become confused
in the darkness and unable to reach shelter.
"You see how many troubles and risks Citizen Bird has to endure at best,
so that we House People should do everything we can to protect him and
make his life among us happy.
"You will have more use for your eyes than your ears, in naming the
Warblers. Their plumage is almost always striking, but their voices are
rather lisping than musical, though they sing pretty little snatches in
the woods; but many of their call-notes sound more like the squeaks and
buzzings of insects and tree-toads than like the voices of birds, and it
will take time and practice before you can distinguish them apart. I
have chosen only half a dozen species to tell you of, from the
half-hundred that rove about the United States. The first, and one that
you are the most likely to see, is the Black-and-white Warbler."
THE BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER
"There are exceptions to everything," said the Doctor, as he pointed to
an old willow tree on the edge of the river woods, where he had taken
the children to look for Warblers. "And the exception among the shy
Warblers of these woods is that sociable little black-and-white fellow
over there, who is creeping and swinging about the branches as if he was
own brother to the Brown Creeper himself. This Black-and-white Warbler
hides his nest in an overturned stump, or on the ground, and you may try
for days in vain, to find one. But at the same time he spends his time
running merrily through the orchard trees, even whispering his husky
'weachy-weachy-twee-twee, tweet' to the old queen apple by the study
"Is that bird a Warbler?" asked Nat. "I thought he was some kind of a
Nuthatch or a Woodpecker--he was with a whole lot of them up by the
house last week."
"I used to think so too," said Rap; "but now I see a difference. The
body and bill of the Nuthatch is stouter, and not such a pretty shape,
and his bill almost turns up. This Warbler is thinner, with a slender
bill that curves a little down, like the Brown Creeper's. Then too, he
has smaller and finer stripes than any Woodpecker."
[Illustration: Black-And-White Warbler.]
"What guild does he belong to?" asked Dodo.
"To the Tree Trappers; most of the Warblers belong to this, while some
have joined the Sky Sweepers, and a few the Ground Gleaners and Seed
"Look!" said Nat. "He has spent a long time on one twig and he doesn't
seem to have cleaned off all the insects yet; he must have pretty good
"Yes, and more than that," said the Doctor, "his eyes magnify much more
than ours do, so that all objects appear far larger to a bird than they
do to us, and they can see insects that we never notice."
"I wonder if that little Warbler thinks spiders are crabs and flies
chickens," said Dodo, so soberly that all the others laughed heartily.
The Black-and-white Warbler
Length five inches.
Upper parts striped everywhere with black and white.
Under parts white in the middle, with many black stripes on the sides.
Has a weak and wheezy voice.
From its habit of scrambling about tree-trunks and branches, it may be
mistaken for a real Creeper, or a Nuthatch, or even a little Woodpecker.
A Summer Citizen of the United States, east of the plains; in winter
from Florida southward.
A Tree Trapper.
THE YELLOW WARBLER
(Or SUMMER YELLOWBIRD)
"I know this Warbler by sight already," said Dodo; "there is one in the
low case in the wonder room--the pretty bird sitting on a fuzzy nest; it
looks like a Canary."
"You may think that he looks like a Canary at a little distance, but not
when you are near by," said the Doctor. "The Canary has a short, thick,
cone-shaped bill suited to cracking seeds, while the Yellow Warbler has
the slender bill necessary for prying into small cracks and crannies for
insects. This Warbler also has light rusty streaks on his yellow
breast. Do you remember having ever seen, a Canary with such markings?"
Nat and Dodo thought for a moment, and then said they never had.
"It really may not be like a Canary," said Rap, "and it hasn't much of a
song, but it has so many cute little ways that it seems like one. I know
a boy who always says it's a wild Canary, but it can't be that, I see. A
pair of these Warblers have a nest in one of the elder bushes by our
fence, and they wouldn't mind a bit if we went to look at them. Would it
be too far for you to come, sir?" he inquired timidly of the Doctor,
evidently proud of having something to show.
[Illustration: Yellow Warbler]
"We shall be glad to see the nest, my boy. How is it that you have so
many birds about your house?"
"I think it's partly for the same reason that you have birds here--for
we don't keep cats either--and it's partly because we have four big old
"What have mulberry trees to do with birds?" asked Nat, without
stopping to think.
"Everything," said the Doctor. "The mulberry is one of the most
attractive fruits to our familiar birds, and at least twenty-five
species feed upon it greedily.
"Whoever plants a mulberry tree in his garden sends a public invitation
through Birdland for its people to come and live with him. The
invitation is always accepted, and the birds appreciate the kindness so
much that when they find mulberries they leave the cherries and
strawberries in that garden in peace. This should teach us to plant wild
fruits and berries for the birds, who prefer them to garden fruits."
As the children turned from the road into Rap's garden they saw that it
held a great many birds. The bushes and trees were all untrimmed, and
the old house with its shingled sides and coast-backed roof was covered
with a trumpet-creeper and some grape vines.
"What a lovely place for Hummingbirds!" cried Olive.
"And Martins," added the Doctor, pointing to a bird-box with ten or
twelve divisions in it, that was fastened under the eaves.
"The Warbler's nest is here," said Rap, leading the way to a back fence
and feeling very proud at the admiration his home was receiving.
The children tiptoed up and each took a peep into the cup-shaped nest.
The little gold and olive mother, trusting Rap from past experience,
gave a quick flip of her wings, and perched on a wild blackberry bush
near by. The outside of the nest looked as if it were made of
silvery-gray linen floss. There were some horsehairs woven in the
lining, and here and there something that looked like sponge peeped out
between the strands which held the nest firmly in the crotch of the
"What is that soft stuff?" whispered Dodo.
"It is wool scraped from the stalks of young ferns," said the Doctor;
"the soft brown wool that is wrapped round the leaves to keep them warm
in their winter sleep until they stretch out of the ground and feel the
warmth of the sun. The little Warblers gather it in their beaks and mat
it into a sort of felt."
"There is something else in the nest-lining that looks like feathers,"
"That is dandelion down."
"Don't you think, Doctor, that this nest is very thick underneath?"
asked Rap. "It is twice as high as the one they built here last summer."
The Doctor felt of the bottom of the nest very gently with one finger
and said, "I thought so! You have sharp eyes, Rap; it is very thick, and
for a good reason--it is a two-storied nest!"
"A two-storied nest! Are there such things?" clamored the children
"The mother-bird is worrying; come over under the mulberry tree and I
will tell you about this wonderful nest.
"There are some very ill-mannered shiftless Citizens in Birdland, called
Cowbirds," began the Doctor; "you will learn about them when we come to
the family to which they belong. They build no nests, but have the habit
of laying their eggs in the nests of other birds, just as the equally
bad-behaved Cuckoos do in Europe. Some birds do not seem to know the
difference between these strange eggs and their own, and so let them
remain until they are hatched. Others are wise enough to know their own
eggs, and chief among such sharp-eyed ones is this little Yellow
"Coming home some morning after taking exercise for the good of her
health, Mrs. Warbler finds a great white egg spotted with brown, crowded
in among her own small pale blue eggs, that have their brown spots
mostly arranged like a wreath around the larger end.
"Being disgusted and very angry to find her house invaded, she and her
mate have a talk about the matter. Why they do not simply push the
strange egg out, we do not know, but instead of that they often fly off
for milkweed fibres and silk to make a new nest right on top of the
first one, shutting the hateful egg out of sight underneath. Then they
begin housekeeping anew, in a two-storied nest like this one, living in
the upper story, and keeping the Cowbird's egg locked up in the
basement, where no warmth from their bodies can reach it; and so it
never hatches. If a second Cowbird's egg is laid, in the new upper story
of the nest, the Warblers generally abandon their home in despair, and
choose a new nesting place; but sometimes they build a third story over
the other two, and thus defeat the evil designs of both their enemies
without giving up their home.
"This nest of Rap's is a two-storied one, and when I touched the bottom
I could feel that there was an egg in the lower story. By and by, when
the birds have flown, we will take the nest apart and you can see for
yourselves how ingeniously it is made."
"To think of all the ways birds have," said Rap; "going to such a heap
of trouble for something they could fix with one good push."
"What happens when the Cowbird's egg stays in the nest and hatches out?
Aren't the other little birds squeezed and uncomfortable?" asked Dodo.
"Yes, they are very uncomfortable indeed, and often starve to death; but
you must wait to hear about that until we come to the Cowbird himself."
"What family does he train with?" asked Nat.
"With the Blackbirds and Orioles," said the Doctor.
Then the male Yellow Warbler flew out along a branch above their heads,
gave his lisping song, that sounded like "sweet, sweet, sweet, sweeter,"
seized an insect, and went across the garden toward his nest.
"I'm going to watch that nest," said Rap, "and if a Cowbird lays in it
any more I'll take the wicked old egg away."
"Sweet, sweet, sweet," called the Warbler from the bushes.
"Maybe he understood you," said Dodo. "I'd believe most anything about
The Yellow Warbler
(Or SUMMER YELLOWBIRD)
Length about five inches.
Upper parts rich olive-yellow, brightest on the rump and crown, but dark
brown on wings and tail, with the inside half of each tail-feather
yellow, and some yellow edgings on the wing-feathers.
Under parts bright yellow, in the male streaked with rich brownish-red.
A Summer Citizen of the greater part of North America, nesting in
orchards and bushes, and going to the tropics in winter.
Belongs to the guilds of Tree Trappers and Sky Sweepers.
THE YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER
"This Warbler does not sing much of a song, even in nesting-time; but
you will know him on the wing by the bright yellow spot on the rump, and
if he perches near by perhaps you will also see the crown of gold on the
head and a spot of yellow on each side of the breast. They say there was
once a great king named Midas, whose touch turned everything to gold, he
was such an avaricious old miser. If that be true he must have put his
finger on the Myrtlebird in four different places. Unlike most of his
family the Yellow-rump is fond of seeds and berries; and so he is able
to live further north in winter than any of his brothers. Unless you are
spending the summer near the Canadian border you will not see him in his
own home. But when they are on their journeys in spring and autumn you
will meet them almost everywhere, travelling in sociable flocks."
[Illustration: Yellow-Rumped Warbler.]
"It must be that dark-backed bird with a yellow spot on his tail, that
gobbles all the bayberries--and eats the poison-ivy berries too," said
Rap. "Yes, I see that you know him; 'that dark-backed bird with a
yellow spot on his tail' is not a bad description of the Myrtle
Warbler," said the Doctor; "at least, as you generally see it, in autumn
or winter, when that particular spot is the only one of the four which
shows off well."
"But why is he called _Myrtle_ Warbler?" asked Nat. "Does he build his
nest in myrtle? I thought myrtle was that shiny-leaved plant down on the
ground, that doesn't have berries."
"No, my boy, the bird is not named from that sort of creeping flowering
myrtle; his name comes from a Latin word for 'bayberry,' because the
bird feeds upon its fruit, as Rap told you."
"And bayberry is that low sweet-smelling shrub that we gather in the
rocky pasture, to fill the great jar in the fireplace," said Olive.
"Some call it candle-berry, and others wax-myrtle."
"Yes," said Rap, "and these Warblers stay round that pasture in winter
as long as there is a berry left."
The Yellow-rumped Warbler
Length about five and a half inches
Upper parts dark gray, streaked with black; two white bars on each wing;
large white spots on some of the tail-feathers. _A yellow patch on the
rump and crown_.
Under parts white, streaked with black on the breast and sides. A yellow
patch on each side of the breast.
A Summer Citizen of the northern United States and northward. Much less
common in the West than the East. Travels south, and spends the winter
everywhere from southern New England to Panama.
A great Seed Sower and a Tree Trapper.
[Illustration: The Ovenbird.]
"I will show you a 'skin' of the Ovenbird, because it may be some time
before you will see this Ground Warbler at home in the deep woods."
"'_Skin!_' What is that?" asked Rap, as the Doctor took from his pocket
what looked merely like a dead bird.
"A 'bird-skin,' so called, is the bird preserved and prepared for
stuffing, with all its feathers on, but without glass eyes and not
mounted in a natural position. You see that it takes up much less room
than the birds that are set up in my cases, and is more easily carried
"He looks like a little Thrush," said Olive, "except that he is too
green on the back, and the stripe on his head is of a dingy gold color.
That is why he is often called the 'Golden-crowned Thrush,' though he is
not a Thrush at all, but one of the American Warblers, and the crown is
more the color of copper, than like the gold on the Golden-crowned
Kinglet's head. Perhaps the Kinglet is called after new, clean gold,
and this 'Thrush' after old dusty gold."
All this time Rap had been looking intently at the Warbler without
saying a word; then he said suddenly: "Why, it's the bird that builds
the little house-nest on the ground in the river woods! The nest that is
roofed all over and has a round hole in one side for a door! I'm so glad
I know his name, for it isn't in my part of the Nuttall book and the
miller doesn't know what he is called. Is he named Ovenbird because he
has a door in one side of his nest like an oven?"
"Yes, Rap, the nest is shaped like the kind of oven that Indians used.
Tell us about the one you found."
"I was sitting on the bank where it goes down a little to the river, and
the ground there was humpy with bunches of grass. A little bird like
this Warbler ran from between two of the grass humps and picked about on
the ground for a minute and then ran back. I thought he had gone into a
hole, but pretty soon he came out again and flew up through the bushes
to a tall tree a little way off. He went out to the end of a long branch
and began to call--soft at first and then very loud, as if his throat
would split before he ended. It was a very big noise for such a little
"Did he seem to say '_Teacher_, TEACHER, TEACHER'?" asked the Doctor,
who knew John Burroughs very well.
"Yes, he kept calling exactly that way. Then when he stopped, I looked
for the hole in the ground where he came from. I felt round a little,
and then I lay down on the bank and looked up hill at the place to try
if I could find it that way. Then I saw a place where the grass and
leaves were made into a sort of roof between the grass humps, and in
the middle of this was a smooth round hole. I put my finger in and
another bird, just like the first, flew out, and I saw that there were
eggs there; so I drove a stick in the ground to mark the place, and went
"The miller said it must be a field-mouse's nest that some birds had
stolen. But in the fall I took the nest home and I saw it was a real
bird's nest, all woven round of strong grass with finer kinds for a
lining; and there were dead leaves on the outside, so that the top
looked like all the rest of the ground. I had often heard that loud
singing before, but this was the first time I had a good look at the
bird and his nest, and the miller won't believe now that it's a bird's
"What trade does the Ovenbird belong to?" asked Dodo. "He ought to be a
baker if he lives in an oven."
"He is a Ground Gleaner and a Tree Trapper," said the Doctor, while the
children laughed merrily at Dodo's idea of a baker bird.
Length about six inches.
Upper parts frog green, with a rusty-yellow streak between two black
lines on the crown.
Lower parts white, with black streaks on the breast and sides.
A Summer Citizen as far west as Kansas and north to Alaska, wintering
THE MARYLAND YELLOW-THROAT
"Now we come to three very jolly Warblers with bright feathers and
perfectly distinct ways of their own. They are the Maryland
Yellow-throat, the Yellow-breasted Chat, and the American Redstart. The
Maryland Yellow-throat is the merry little bird who puts his head on one
side to peep at you through his black mask, and then flits further along
to a thicket or clump of bushes, calling persuasively--'Follow me-e,
follow me-e, follow!' He is trying to coax you into a game of
hide-and-seek; but if you play with him you will soon find that you must
do all the seeking, for he intends to do the hiding himself.
[Illustration: Maryland Yellow-Throat. 1 Male. 2. Female.]
"Does he wish to show you his deep narrow nest, made of grape-vine bark,
old leaves, and grass? Not he; being crammed full of good spirits he
simply wants you to share them and have a race. Sometimes he will stop a
moment quite near and call--'I-spy-it, I-spy-it,' and then fly off and
challenge you to a new chase. Or sometimes, if two or three call at
once, you will stray away from your path without knowing it.
"They are very gentle, lovable little birds too, and sing all through
the summer when many of the better singers have grown silent."
"The Yellow-throat must be what I've called the Black-faced Yellowbird,"
said Rap. "Please, Doctor, does he sometimes fly right up in the air to
sing a little bit and then go back into the bushes as if he had changed
"Yes, Rap, that is one of the Yellow-throat's habits in late summer, but
one that very few people notice."
The Maryland Yellow-throat
Length about five and a half inches.
Upper parts olive-green, in the male with a black mask reaching along
each side of the head, and behind this an ashy-white border; but the
female wears no mask.
Under parts bright yellow, growing white on belly.
A Summer Citizen of the United States from Georgia to Canada.
When he lives west of the Mississippi River he is called the Western
A Tree Trapper and occasionally a Sky Sweeper; a beautiful and familiar
bird of the brush and tangles.
THE YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT
"The Chat, besides being a very handsome bird, is a ventriloquist and a
"Please, Uncle Roy, what is a ventroquist?" asked Dodo.
"I should have remembered not to use such a long word," laughed the
Doctor. "A ven-tril-o-quist is a person who can not only imitate sounds,
but makes it seem as if they came from his stomach, or even in a
different direction from where he is himself. The Mockingbird can
imitate many sounds, but all these come directly from the bird; while
the Chat can perch on a twig above your head and give a whistle that
seems to come from a bush across the road.
"This is what enables him to play tricks on birds, House People, and
various other animals. He will whistle until he has set a dog tearing
through the bushes to find his supposed master. Another time he will
give such a soft strange series of notes that a bird-lover will
immediately begin to search through a tangle of briers, after what he
imagines to be a strange bird. Then he indulges in a fit of merriment at
his own jokes--'chatter-chatter-chat-chat-chat-chat-chat' he says,
calling his own name as he slips away to the security of a catbrier or
barberry bush. Large and vigorous and strong of beak as he is, this
practical joker is wise, and does not often show his conspicuous yellow
breast in open places.
[Illustration: Yellow-Breasted Chat.]
"Some day in the nesting season you may see the Chat fly up in the air
and hear him sing his courting song, which is very sweet, different from
all his jests and jeers. You will say, if you are near enough to take a
long look--'Why, that Chat has forgotten to fold up his legs, they are
hanging straight down.' He has not forgotten, however; it is merely one
of his odd habits at this season to cut all sorts of capers in the air,
with his legs and wings and tail let loose, while his mate is quietly
house-keeping in some thick bush near by. The nest is something like a
Catbird's, not very tidy outside, but snug inside, and easy to find if
you look in the right place. If you find it at the right time you will
see that it holds four or five well-rounded eggs of a crystal-white
color, with plenty of bright reddish-brown spots all over them."
The Yellow-breasted Chat
Length seven and a half inches--much more than any other Warbler
Upper parts bright olive-green, even all over.
Lower parts very bright yellow on the throat, breast, and wing-linings,
but the belly pure white.
A strong dark-colored beak, with some dark and light marks between it
and the eyes.
A Summer Citizen of the United States east of the plains and south of
Ontario and Minnesota; travels far south in winter. When he is found
west of the plains his tail is somewhat longer, and he is called the
Chiefly a Tree Trapper, but also a Seed Sower.
THE AMERICAN REDSTART
"The Redstart is the dancing Warbler, just as the Chat is the joker. He
never flies along in a sober, earnest fashion, as if his business was of
real importance. When on the ground he skips and hops, then takes a few
short steps and a little dance backward. In the trees, where he also
feeds and where in some crotch he lashes his pretty nest of leaf-stalks,
moss, and horse-hair, he moves about as suddenly as can be imagined, and
he has a way of flying up and backward at the same time that makes him
a very confusing bird to watch. In flitting among the branches, or
darting into the air for gnats, his colors make him look like a tiny
"Oh, uncle! Uncle Roy!" cried Dodo, who had been looking along the path,
"there are two of the dearest little birds down there, and one of them
is red and black as you say the Redstart is, and the other is shaped
like it but has brown and yellow feathers, and they move along as if the
wind was blowing them!"
[Illustration: American Redstart. 1. Male. 2. Female.]
Before Dodo stopped speaking the whole party were looking where she
pointed, Olive using the field-glass.
"Those are a pair of Redstarts," she said, "and they are picking up
ants. I saw a number of little anthills there yesterday."
"A pair?" queried Nat. "They aren't the same color--one has yellow spots
where the other is red."
"I guess the one with the brown and yellow feathers must be the female,"
said Rap; "you know the Doctor told us, way back, that when the male
bird wore very bright feathers, the female was oftenest plain, so that
House People and cannibal birds shouldn't see her so easily when she sat
on the nest."
"You are right, my boy," said the Doctor, who always let the children
answer each other's questions, if they could. "Madam Redstart, you see,
wears an olive-brown cloak trimmed with yellow, and even her boys wear
clothes like their mother's for a couple of seasons; for Heart of Nature
does not allow them to come out in their red and black uniforms until
they are three years old, and know the ways of the world."
"Learning to name birds is harder than I thought it would be," said Nat.
"Some wear different feathers in spring and fall, a lot more pairs are
different to begin with, and the young ones are mixed up at first. It's
worse than arithmetic"--and poor Nat looked quite discouraged.
"You certainly have to remember the laws of Birdland, as well as their
exceptions," answered the Doctor; "but when you have once recognized and
named a bird you will carry its picture always in your mind, for the
Redstarts that you will see when you are very old men and women, will be
like the one that is dancing along the walk now."
"Why do they call this Warbler a 'Redstart'?" asked Dodo.
"Because it has a lot of red on it, and it's always starting up in a
hurry," ventured Rap.
"That is not the real reason," said the Doctor. "The name comes from a
German word that means 'red tail,' and rightly belongs to a bird of
Europe that is never found in this country. Our bird has some red on
the tail, but I really think that Rap's answer is the better one."
The American Redstart
Length about five and a half inches.
Upper parts shining black, marked on the wings and tail with rich
Under parts shining black on the neck and breast, bright salmon-red on
the sides, and pinkish-white on the belly.
In the _female_ all the parts which are black in her mate are light
greenish-gray, and she is clear yellow where he is red.
A useful Summer Citizen of eastern North America, from Kansas to
Labrador. Winters in the tropics.
A Ground Gleaner, Tree Trapper, and Sky Sweeper.
AROUND THE OLD BARN
This day the bird lovers from Orchard Farm were having a picnic in the
hickory and oak woods back of the fields. It was a charming place for
such a day's outing, for on the edge of the woods stood an old
two-storied hay barn, which was empty in early June and a capital place
in which to play "I spy" and "feet above water." On the other side of
the wood was an old swampy meadow full of saplings and tangled bushes,
such as birds love for nesting places.
The Doctor had set Rap, Nat, and Dodo roaming about to look for birds,
and promised to tell them something of their habits when each child had
written down the description of two birds.
The children divided their hunting ground, so that they might not
interfere with each other. Dodo chose the woods, because she wanted to
stay near Olive, who was making a sketch of some ferns; Rap took the old
barn and a bit of bushy pasture near it, and Nat went down to the swampy
meadow with its border of cedar trees. While they tramped about the
Doctor sat with his back against the side of the barn, looking over the
beautiful scene and thinking.
The children did not return until after Mammy Bun had spread out a
delicious luncheon in the barn, and then they were divided between
hunger and the wish to tell about their birds.
"I have two nice birds all written down," said Dodo, between mouthfuls.
"One was rather little and sort of green on top and white underneath,
and he kept going up and down all the branches of an oak tree as if he
couldn't keep still a moment, and he talked all the while as if he was
asking me why I watched him and then scolding me for doing it."
"That is the Red-eyed Vireo," said the Doctor.
"Maybe he did have red eyes," said Dodo, "but he moved so quick I
couldn't see them. But my other bird was splendid! Very bright red all
over, except his wings and tail--they were black, and I'm sure he has a
nest high up on an oak branch."
"That is the Scarlet Tanager. What did you see, Nat?"
"I crept in among the cedar trees, and there was a whole lot of rather
big gray birds sitting in a row on a branch; they had black around their
beaks and their head feathers stuck up in front. They didn't seem to be
building nests, but were only whispering to each other."
"Those were Cedar Waxwings."
"Then," continued Nat, "when I was coming back I saw a flock of the
prettiest, jolliest little birds flying round the old grass, and hanging
on to some stalks of weeds. They were mostly yellow with some black, and
they sang something like Canaries, and when they flew they sort of
"Those were American Goldfinches. And now for yours, Rap." "I was
looking at the Barn Swallows most of the time," he answered, "and
thinking there must be a good many different cousins in their family;
then I went down to the pasture and saw a bird I never noticed before,
who flew over from the potato field and went into a thorn bush. He was
bigger than a Robin and had a thick head and beak. He was black and
white on top, but when he went by I saw he had a beautiful spot on the
breast like a shield--sort of pink red, the color of raspberries, you
"That was the Rose-breasted Grosbeak," said the Doctor. "Now, we have
pockets full of material for bird stories,--enough to last a week. By
the time you have heard about these six birds and some of their near
relations, such as the Butcher Bird, you will have been introduced to
the chief of the Birds that Sing and be on the way to those that only
Croak and Call. We will begin with Dodo's 'Talking Bird.'"
THE RED-EYED VIREO
"This bird is the most popular member of his family--and he has twenty
brothers, all living in North America."
"Isn't he a Warbler?" asked Rap. "I always thought he was one, for he
fusses round the trees the same as they do, though of course he has much
more of a song."
"He belongs to a family of his own, but yours was an easy mistake to
make, for the difference is not readily seen except in the beak, and you
have to look at that very closely to see it. The Warblers mostly have
smooth slender beaks, but the Vireos have stouter ones, with a little
hooked point that enables them to pick out and secure a great variety of
insects. The Chat is our only Warbler with a very stout beak, even
stouter than a Vireo's, but it has no hook at the end. The Redstart's
has a hooked point, but the rest of the beak is very broad and flat,
with a row of stiff bristles at each corner of the mouth, to keep
insects from kicking free when they are caught."
[Illustration: Red-Eyed Vireo.]
"You say his eyes are red. But why is his name 'Vireo'--does that mean
"'Vireo' comes from the Latin word meaning 'green,' and because all of
this family have greenish backs one of their common names is 'Greenlet.'
Besides being very pretty to look at, this little red-eyed bird is a
great worker and does whatever he undertakes in a most complete manner.
When he starts his tree trapping in the morning he does not flit
carelessly from one tree to another, but after selecting his feeding
ground, goes all over one branch, never leaving it for another until he
has searched every crack and leaf.
"Meanwhile he carries on a rapid sing-song conversation, sometimes for
his own benefit and sometimes to cheer his mate on the nest, for this
Vireo is one of the few birds who talk too freely about their homes.
These homes of theirs are another proof of industry; they are
beautifully woven of a dozen kinds of stuff--grass, bark-strips,
seed-vessels, fine shavings, and sometimes bits of colored paper and
worsted, and half hang from the crotch of a small branch with a nice
little umbrella of leaves to cover Madam's head. There she sits peeping
out, not a bit shy if she feels that your intentions toward her are
kindly. I have often found these nests in the orchard, on branches only
a few feet from the ground, and I have also found them high up in the
maples by the attic window.
"The Vireo does not stop work at noon when the field hands lie under the
apple trees, with their dinner pails beside them. No, he only works and
talks faster, keeping one eye on the home branch, and this is what he
says, stopping between every sentence: 'I know it--I made it--Would you
think it?--Mustn't touch it--Shouldn't like it--If you do it--I'll know
it--You'll rue it!'"
"He was talking exactly like that this morning," said Dodo. "Will the
nests last after they are empty, Uncle Roy, so we can find some?"
"Yes, surely; these nests are very strong and firm, often lasting a
"I know it--I made it!--Would you think it?" called a musical voice from
"Why, he is at it yet," said Rap; "I think 'The Talker' would be a fine
name for him." "So it would--and more polite than 'The Preacher,' as
some call him who think he is a trifle too prosy in his remarks. One of
his brothers, whose eyes are white instead of red, and who lives in the
bushes instead of high woods, is called 'The Politician' from his
fondness for newspapers--not that he can read them, of course, but he
likes to paper his nest with clippings from them, which is his way of
making a scrap-book."
The Red-eyed Vireo
Length about six inches.
Upper parts olive-green, with a white line over the eye, and gray cap
with a black border.
Under parts white, shaded with greenish on the sides.
A Summer Citizen of North America east of the Pacific States, and a
hard-working member of the guild of Tree Trappers.
THE GREAT NORTHERN SHRIKE
(Or BUTCHER BIRD)
"I thought you would tell about my beautiful red bird next," interrupted
Dodo. "Why do we want to hear about this bird if he lives so far north?"
"Your bird will come later on, little girl. Nat and Rap must each have
their turn before it comes to you again; besides, this Shrike is a sort
of cousin to the Vireos by right of his hooked beak, and you know I am
trying to place our birds somewhat in their regular family order."
Poor Dodo felt ashamed to have seemed selfish and interrupted
"Some winter or early spring day, when the woods are bare and birds are
very scarce, you will look into a small tree and wonder what that gray
and black bird, who is sitting there so motionless, can be. He is too
small for a Hawk, though there is something hawk-like about his head. He
is altogether too large for a Chickadee; not the right shape for a
Woodpecker; and after thus thinking over the most familiar winter birds,
you will find that you only know what he is _not_.
[Illustration: Northern Shrike.]
"Suddenly he spreads his wings and swoops down, seizing something on or
near the ground--a mouse perhaps, or a small bird--let us hope one of
the detestable English Sparrows. Or else you may see this same bird, in
the gray and black uniform, peep cautiously out of a bush and then skim
along close above the ground, to secure the field-mouse he has been
watching; for the guild of Wise Watchers catch their prey in both of
these ways, and most of them are cannibal birds."
"What is a cannibal bird?" asked Dodo. "I forget. I know that real
cannibals are people that eat other people. Do these birds eat people?"
"They eat birds and other small animals," said Rap. "Don't you
"Why, of course I do," said Dodo. "But if Shrikes eat birds, aren't they
very bad Citizens?"
"I do not wonder that you think so, my lassie; and so they would be if
they ate birds only; but the Shrike earns his right to be thought a good
Citizen by devouring mice and many kinds of insects, like beetles, which
injure orchards and gardens. The comparatively few birds that he
destroys are mostly seed-eaters--not the most valuable kinds to the
"In fact, the Shrike is especially useful in helping us to drive out the
greedy, quarrelsome English Sparrow. This disreputable tramp not only
does no work for his taxes--he hates honest work, like all vagrants
--but destroys the buds of trees and plants, devours our grain crops,
and drives away the industrious native birds who are good Citizens; so
the Wise Men, who have tried the Sparrow's case, say that he is a very
bad bird, who ought to suffer the extreme penalty of the law.
"For this reason we must forgive the Shrike if he takes a few other
birds when he is hungry and in a hurry. He has a strange habit which has
earned for him the name of Butcher Bird. If at any time he secures more
food than he needs for his immediate use, he puts it by to keep in 'cold
storage' by hanging it on the frozen twigs of a tree or thorn bush.
Heart of Nature has doubtless taught him this habit through hard
experience. Where the Shrike spends his winters, the food-supply is
variable; it may snow for days and days, when he can find nothing to
eat; so he has learned to store up provisions when the hunting is good,
and of course such a thrifty bird may sometimes save up more than he
"You may know this Shrike on sight without hearing him sing--and perhaps
you do not expect a cannibal bird to be a singer. But in late March and
early April, when he is about to take his homeward journey to the North,
he often warbles beautifully, and even brings in some mocking notes,
until you would think that a Catbird, Thrasher, or Mockingbird must have
wandered from the South too soon; and if you ever happen to see a Shrike
and a Mocker close together, you may mistake one for the other, they
look so much alike at a little distance."
"I never knew that there were nice birds around in winter," said Nat. "I
thought all the country was good for then, was for coasting and skating!
I wish I could stay here a whole year, Uncle Roy."
"Stranger things have happened," said the Doctor, looking at Olive with
a twinkle in his eye that the children did not see.
The Great Northern Shrike
Length about ten inches.
Upper parts bluish-gray, with a broad black stripe along the side of the
head to behind the eye. Black wings with a large white spot on each.
Black tail with white tips to the outside feathers.
Lower parts grayish-white, faintly barred with darker. A great strong
beak, hooked like a Hawk's.
Only a Winter Visitor in the United States--a Summer Citizen of the far
Belongs both to the Ground Gleaners and the Wise Watchers.
THE CEDAR WAXWING
(THE POLITE BIRD)
"This is the bird, Nat, that you saw in the cedar tree, where you said
it was 'sitting about doing nothing,'" continued the Doctor.
"The reason of this seeming idleness is, that he belongs to the small
group of birds who do not nest until June, and hereabouts rarely begin
their homes before the middle of that month. Waxwings are very gentle,
affectionate birds; before the nesting season, and after their families
are able to take care of themselves, they wander about in flocks of
sometimes thirty or forty, keeping close together, both when they fly
and when they take their seats. They spend most of the time in the trees
where they feed, whispering to one another in their quiet way, and you
will very seldom see them on the ground.
"Your best chance to watch them is either before the leaves are out or
after they have fallen, when a flock will sometimes sit for half an hour
in a bare tree, exchanging civilities, stroking each other's feathers,
and passing food around. This trait has given them the reputation of
being the most polite birds in all Birdland. One will find a dainty
morsel and offer it to his next neighbor, who passes it
on--hunt-the-slipper fashion--until some one makes up his mind to eat
it, or returns it to its original owner. All the while such a pleasant
lunch is going on, the amiable birds make complimentary remarks to one
another about their dress--how very handsome is one's long pointed
topknot, what a becoming yellow border another's tail has, and how
particularly fine are the coral-red bangles on the wings of a
third--which is much better than if they should pick each other to
pieces and talk about 'frumps' under their breath.
"Some people have complained that the Cedar Waxwing eats cherries, and
have given him the name of 'Cherry Bird'; but the Wise Men say that he
really eats very few cherries or other garden fruits, more than half of
his food being wild berries, such as those of the evergreen juniper we
commonly call 'cedar.'
[Illustration: Cedar Waxwing]
"He may be called one of the best of neighbors; for, besides feeding his
young on many different kinds of destructive insects, he eats cutworms
and the wicked beetles which destroy so many grand old elm trees. And
you know it is always nice to have polite neighbors."
The Cedar Waxwing.
Length about seven inches.
Upper parts quiet Quaker brown, very smooth and satiny, with a fine
long, pointed crest on the head.
Rich velvety black about the beak and in a line through the eye.
A yellow band across end of tail, and some little points like red
sealing-wax on the inner wing-feathers, from which it takes the name
A Citizen of North America from the Fur Countries southward, visiting
all but the most southern of the United States.
Belonging both to the Tree Trappers and Fruit Sowers.
"'Rap has been watching the Barn Swallows," continued the Doctor, after
the children had been over to the cedar belt to see if the flock of
polite birds were there still. "He thinks there are a great many cousins
in the Swallow family, but can't tell them apart.
"There are ten species of North American Swallows, four of which are
very familiar birds in all parts of the United States. These are the
Purple Martin; Barn Swallow; Tree Swallow; and Bank Swallow.
"As a family it is easy to name the Swallows from their way of flying.
All are officers who rank high in the guild of Sky Sweepers, being
constantly in the air seizing their insect food on the wing; thus they
kill all sorts of flies, flying ants, small winged beetles, midges, and
mosquitoes. They have lithe and shapely bodies, strong, slender wings,
wide mouths, and flat, broad bills coming to a sharp point, which makes
it easy for them to secure whatever they meet in the air. So swift and
sure is their flight that they can feed their newly flown nestlings in
mid air; but their feet are small and weak, so that in perching they
usually choose something small and easy to grasp, like a telegraph wire.
"Though they nest in all parts of the country, some species going to
the Fur Countries, as far north as any trees grow, yet they all seek a
very warm climate for their winter home, because it is only in such
places that the insects of the air are found. The distance, therefore,
between the summer and winter homes of the Swallow family is very great,
and these brave little birds are wonderful travellers.
"They are so swift on the wing that they do not fear to fly in the
day-time, and so escape a great many of the accidents that overtake
birds who travel by night. They come to the middle parts of the United
States during the month of April, and start on their southward journey
during late September and early October.
"After mating they either choose separate nesting places, or keep
together in colonies. In early autumn they gather in great flocks along
the borders of rivers, ponds, and lakes, often also on sea beaches,
where they fly to and fro, as if strengthening their wings for the long
flight they intend to take. It has been recently discovered by the Wise
Men that these birds, who had been supposed to eat nothing but insects,
feed at this time upon the same bayberries of which the Yellow-rumped
Warbler is so fond; and that is one reason why they stay by the sandy
wastes where these bushes grow. But no doubt Rap could have told us
that, if we had asked him about it. Another reason for lingering near
water is, that winged insects fly about wet places later in the season
than they do in dry ones."
"But you have left out the Chimney Swallow," said Nat; "and there are
plenty of them all about everywhere." "I have not left him out. Have
you forgotten that he does not belong to the Swallow family? Though he
looks like a Swallow and flies like one, the Wise Men know that he is
not a song bird, and have put him where he belongs--with the Birds that
Croak and Call, next to the Hummingbird and Nighthawk. They call him the
Chimney Swift, because he flies so fast, and you must always give him
his right name.
"If you write very carefully in your little books the description of our
four common Swallows, you will not find it difficult to name them when
you see them. We will begin with the largest--the Purple Martin."
"Why is it called 'Martin'?" asked Rap. "Did somebody named Martin find
it, as Mr. Wilson found the Thrush they named after him?"
"No, my boy, the name comes from a Latin word, meaning 'warlike' or
'martial,' because in the Old World certain Swallows there called
Martins were considered good fighters, and very brave in driving away
Hawks and other cannibal birds. Don't you remember that Mars was the God
of War in classic mythology, and haven't you heard soldiers complimented
on their fine _martial_ appearance?"
The Purple Martin
Length seven and a half inches.
Upper parts shining blue-black, not quite so glossy on the wings and
Under parts the same as the upper in the male, but grayish-white in the
female and young ones.
Song rich and musical, of two or three flute-like notes. Nest made of a
few leaves or straws, in a bird-box when it is provided--otherwise in a
hollow tree. Eggs white, without any spots.
A good Summer Citizen and a favorite everywhere; but for many reasons it
is growing scarcer every year. The English Sparrow is one of its
greatest enemies, and not only drives it from its nesting-boxes, but
attacks the young birds.
A member of the guild of Sky Sweepers.
[Illustration: Purple Martin 1. Male 2. Female]
The Barn Swallow
Length six to seven inches.
Upper parts shining steel-blue, but the face buff.
Under parts rich buff, brick-red on the throat, where there is also a
Tail very long and deeply forked, with the side-feathers narrow, and
some white spots on them.
Song a musical laugh, heard when the birds fly low over meadows and
Nest a sort of bracket, made of little mud balls and straw stuck on a
beam in a hayloft. Eggs white, with plenty of reddish-brown spots.
A Summer Citizen in most of the United States.
A Sky Sweeper of the very first rank.
[Illustration: Barn Swallow.]
"Barney is a charming neighbor, who should be welcome in every
home--sociable, musical, and very useful in destroying the flies and
gnats that worry horses and cattle. Though it builds its first nest in
May, it often brings out its last brood in August; thus during its long
nesting season consuming a very large share of insects, and proving
itself a kind friend to the cows at a time when flies are most
The Tree Swallow.
(Or WHITE-BELLIED SWALLOW)
Length six inches.
Upper parts sparkling green, with darker wings and tail, the latter but
Under parts snow-white.
A sweet, twittering song.
Nests in the hollows of dead trees, usually in old Woodpeckers' holes,
but occasionally in bird-boxes. Eggs pure white.
[Illustration: Tree Swallow.]
A good Citizen of the United States, but more shy than the Martin and
Barn Swallow; these two often return, year after year, to some favorite
nesting place, but the Tree Swallow is not so reliable.
A Sky Sweeper.
The Bank Swallow
(Or SAND MARTIN)
The smallest Swallow, only five inches long.
Upper parts dusty brown, darker on the wings, and tail forked a little,
like the Tree Swallow's. Under parts white, with a brown band across
Song a sort of giggle--like some little girl's we know.
Nests many together in holes in a clay or loamy bank, lined with
feathers and straw. Eggs pure white.
A Citizen of most parts of the world--northerly in summer, southerly in
A Sky Sweeper
[Illustration: Bank Swallow.]
"Bankey is a sociable, useful little bird, living usually in great
colonies. I have seen a hundred of their holes in a single bank, all dug
by these industrious little Swallows with no other tools than their
feeble beaks and claws. When the young from these nests are learning to
fly the old birds are darting to and fro all day long to teach them how
to use their wings, and the bank seems like a bustling village; every
bird has something to do and say, and they always try to do both at
once. If any one asks you why House People should love and protect
Swallows, even if you have forgotten the names of many of the insects
they destroy, remember to answer--'Swallows eat mosquitoes!'"
A BRILLIANT PAIR
THE SCARLET TANAGER
"That is my beautiful red bird!" cried Dodo, clapping her hands. "I
never shall forget the looks of his bright red coat with black sleeves
and tails. I saw a sort of green bird in the same tree, but it was so
different I never thought it could be his wife, till I came to
think--for the green one stayed near the nest when I came nearer and
looked up, but the red bird flew away and hid behind some leaves."
[Illustration: Scarlet Tanager]
"You are quite lucky to have seen a Scarlet Tanager in his home woods,"
said the Doctor, "for he is a shy bird who does not often venture to
show his tropical colors in open places. He knows enough not to make
himself a target for cannibal birds or House People either. Except in
his journeys to and from his winter home he lives in the shelter of the
tallest forest trees, where it is very difficult to see him, showy as he
is in his flashing colors, and even if you know by his song that he is
there. He may say, as some people think he does, 'Pshaw!
wait--wait--wait for me, wait!' but he does not wait a moment if he
thinks he is seen.
"He is very fond of water, both for bathing and drinking, and seldom
nests far from it. Whether he uses the quiet ponds and smooth streams
also for a looking-glass to comb his hair and arrange his gay coat by,
we cannot be sure, but he always looks as trig as if he had some such
"The Tanager children are curious things. Sometimes they wear coats of
many colors, like Joseph's."
"Why is that?" asked Nat.
"The reason is this. You remember I told you that young birds usually
wear plain feathers like their mothers?"
"Oh, yes," said Rap; "so that it is hard to see them until they have
sense enough to take care of themselves."
"Precisely! Now, Mother Tanager is greenish and yellow, and Father
Tanager is scarlet and black. The young ones come from the nest looking
like their mother, but as they shed their baby clothes and gain new
feathers, bits of red and black appear here and there on the little
boys, until they look as if they had on a crazy-quilt of red, yellow,
green, and black. You need not wonder that little Tommy Tanager does not
care to be seen in such patched clothes, but prefers to stay in the
deep woods or travel away until his fine red spring jacket is complete.
Father Tanager also changes his scarlet coat after the nesting. About
the time he counts his children and starts on his southward trip, he
puts on a greenish coat like his wife's gown; but he keeps his black
tail and wings, so that the children need not mistake him for their
mother. It is lucky for her that he and the boys have sense enough to
put on their own clothes, or such a very dressy family would keep her
busy looking after their toilets."
"These Tanagers aren't very plenty about here--are they, Doctor?" asked
"Not now, my boy; their scarlet feathers are very handsome, and
thoughtless, greedy people have shot so many in the nesting season, to
sell for bonnet trimmings, that the family is growing small. But I hope
that, by making laws to protect birds and teaching children everywhere
what good neighbors and Citizens they are, these beautifully plumed
families may increase once more.
"The Scarlet Tanager is the brightest red bird that you will find in the
eastern half of the United States, but even he is not as showy as his
western cousin, the Louisiana Tanager."
The Scarlet Tanager
Length about seven inches.
Male: bright scarlet with black wings and tail.
Female: light olive-green above, dull yellow below, with dusky wings and
A good Summer Citizen of North America east of the plains and north of
Belonging to the guilds of Tree Trappers and Seed Sowers.
THE LOUISIANA TANAGER
"Isn't this the one I saw in your glass case, Doctor?" asked Rap with
great eagerness; "I mean that one like a Scarlet Tanager, but not so
red, more of a rose-pink all over, wings and tail too."
[Illustration: LOUISIANA TANAGER.]
"No," said the Doctor pleasantly. "That is a Summer Tanager--the only
one I ever saw in this neighbourhood It is so rare here that I shot it
to make sure there was no mistake, and you probably never saw one alive,
for the Summer Tanager is a tender bird, who seldom strays so far north
as this. But see--what do you think of this--isn't it a beauty?"
So saying, the Doctor took out of his pocket a bird-skin he had provided
for the occasion, and the children could not restrain their glee at the
"Oh! oh!" exclaimed Dodo, clapping her hands as she always did when
excited; "it's all gold and ruby and jet. Where did you get it, Uncle
"A friend of mine sent it to me from Oregon," answered the Doctor; "he
thought I would like to have it for my collection, because it came from
the very region where this kind of Tanager was discovered almost a
hundred years ago."
"I thought you said it was a Louisiana Tanager," said Rap and Nat,
almost in the same breath.
"So it is, boys; but it does not live in the State of Louisiana you are
thinking about, down by the mouth of the Mississippi River. I shall have
to explain how it got its name by giving you a little lesson in the
history and geography of our country. A great many years ago there was a
King of France called Louis the Fourteenth, and during his reign all the
western parts of America that the French had discovered or acquired any
claim to were named Louisiana in his honor by one of the missionaries
who came over to convert the Indians to Christianity. After a good many
years more, about the beginning of this century, President Jefferson
bought all this immense country from Napoleon Bonaparte, and that made
it a part of the United States--every part of them that is now ours from
the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, except some that we
afterward took from Mexico. President Jefferson was a very wise man, and
as soon as he had bought all this land he wanted to know about it. So he
sent an expedition to explore it, under two brave captains named Lewis
and Clark. They were gone almost three years; and one day,--I remember
now, it was the sixth of June, 1806,--when they were camping in what is
now Idaho, near the border of Oregon, they found this lovely bird, and
wrote a description of it in their note-books--just as you did with your
Scarlet Tanager, Dodo, only theirs was the first one anybody ever
wrote. They also saved the specimen and afterward gave it to Alexander
Wilson, who painted the first picture of it, and named it the Louisiana
Tanager in his book."
"Did you ever see one alive, Uncle Roy?" asked Nat; "what does it look
"I can answer that question," said Olive; "don't you remember, father,
when we were in Colorado, the same year we found the Sage Thrasher and
Rock Wren, that I thought the first one we saw was a Scarlet Tanager in
one of its patch-work plumages, till you told me about it--though it did
seem to be too bright yellow, and the middle of the back was black. But
it looked the same size, and flew just the same. How beautiful it
looked, as it flashed its golden feathers through the dark-green pine
trees!" added Olive, her face lighting up at the recollection.
"Yes, I remember," answered the Doctor. "All the Tanagers of our country
have pretty much the same habits. Even if we had found the nest we might
have mistaken it for a Scarlet Tanager's. Those I have seen in the
Museum are quite similar, built of twigs and pliant stems, and lined
with fine rootlets. The position of the nest, saddled as it is on the
horizontal limb of a tree, is very similar, and you could hardly tell
the eggs apart.
"But come, children, you must be tired by this time, and hungry too. Let
us go to supper, and see what Mammy Bun has cooked for us this evening.
You stay too, Rap."
The Louisiana Tanager.
Length about seven inches.
Adult male: rich yellow, with black wings, tail, and middle of the back;
the wings with two white or yellow bars on each; the whole head crimson.
Female: not very different from the female Scarlet Tanager.
A handsome and useful Summer Citizen of nearly all that great part of
the United States which was once called Louisiana.
A member of the same guilds as the Scarlet Tanager.
A TRIBE OF WEED WARRIORS
(Containing both Soldiers and Quakers)
"A new family? Soldiers and Quakers? What does that mean?" asked Nat. "I
thought my jolly yellow bird with the black cap came next."
"His family does come next--the Finch family. You must hear a little
about that first, and let your American Goldfinch take his turn with his
brothers and cousins, for Rap's Rose-breasted Grosbeak belongs also in
"You say my bird is called American Goldfinch. He is such a bright
yellow that gold is a good name for him, but what does 'Finch' mean?"
"Finch, as I said, is the name of the great family to which he belongs.
It is the very largest family in Birdland, and members of it live in
almost all parts of the world. All kinds of Finches and Sparrows belong
to it, and so do Grosbeaks and Buntings, as well as the Canaries that we
keep for pets. There are about five hundred and fifty different kinds of
"The birds that you have been studying thus far, from the Bluebird,
Robin, and Wood Thrush to the Tanagers, belong to several different
families and are chiefly insect-eaters, taking various fruits and
berries in season, it is true, but making insects their regular diet.
Insects are not hard for any bird to eat, and so the bills of these
birds do not have to be very stout or thick--some, indeed, are very thin
and weak, like the Brown Creeper's.
"But the habits of the Finch family are quite different, and their beaks
also. They are true seed-eating birds, and their beaks are short, stout,
and thick--cone-shaped it is called, like that of the White-throated
Sparrow you learned about one day. This enables them to crack the
various seeds upon which they live at all times except in the nesting
season, when few seeds are ripe. During this time they eat a variety of
insects, and feed them to the young birds; for young birds must grow so
rapidly, in order to be strong enough for the autumn journey, that they
require more nourishing food than seeds.
"The Finch family being able to live so well upon seed food do not have
to make such long autumn journeys; for even in very cold places there
are plenty of seeds to be had all through the winter."
"Do you mean berries, please, uncle?" said Dodo; "because if it was very
cold wouldn't berries freeze as hard as pebbles?"
"They eat berries, but only as Weed Warriors,--for the seeds that are in
the berries,--not for the juicy, fruity part, as the Seed Sowers do.
"The Robin, Thrush, and Catbird eat fruits and berries for the juicy,
pulpy part. They swallow this, and the seeds or pits pass out with the
wastage of their bodies; this is what makes them Seed Sowers. But when
one of the Finch family eats berries, it is for the seed or pit inside
the pulp. His strong beak cracks the seed and his stomach digests its
kernel. So these birds do not _sow_ the seeds they eat, but _destroy_
them. This is why I call them Weed Warriors. A warrior is any one who
goes to war, and fights against enemies; we have enemies among plants,
and these birds fight for us against them. There are hundreds of
different kinds of plants, whose flowers have no beauty, and for which
we have not as yet found any use; so we call them weeds. All such seeds
would be blown about, take root, and sprout everywhere, thus filling the
place of useful plants, if they were not held in check by these