Mabel Osgood Wright and Elliott Coues
Part 5 out of 7
"In early March the Meadowlark comes to the places that he was obliged
to leave in the winter, and cries, 'Spring o' the year! Spring o' the
y-e-a-r!' to the brown fields and icy brooks. They hear the call and
immediately begin to stir themselves.
"Then the Meadowlark begins to earn his living, and pay his taxes at the
same time, by searching the fields and pastures first for weed seeds and
then, as the ground softens, for the various grubs and beetles that
meant to do mischief as soon as they could get a chance. By the middle
of May, when the grass has grown high enough to protect him, this gentle
bird thinks he has earned a right to a home in one of the meadows he has
freed from their insect enemies, and sets about to make it. A little
colony may settle in this same field, or a single pair have a corner all
"A loose grass nest is arranged in a suitable spot, usually where the
grass is long enough to be drawn together over the nest like a sort of
tent. Here the mother tends the eggs and nestlings, the father always
keeping near to help her, and continually singing at his daily toil of
providing for his family as charmingly as if he were still a gay
bachelor; for Meadowlarks are very affectionate both toward each other
and their young. It is really distressing to hear the sadness of the
song of one who has lost his mate. He seems to be crying, 'Where are
you, dear?' and beseeching her to come.
"Though we frequently hear their song in the marsh meadows in autumn,
they are shyer then, and keep in flocks. At that season they grow fat,
and gunners continually worry them; but I do not think that sportsmen
often shoot these song birds. They are chiefly the victims of
thoughtless boys or greedy pot-hunters. The true sportsman is one of the
first to preserve all song birds, and give even game birds a fair chance
for life; he is thus very different from the cruel man who, simply
because he owns a gun, shoots everything, from a Robin to a Quail, and
even in the nesting season."
"Please, what is a pot-hunter?" asked Dodo.
"A pot-hunter is one who kills birds and other game at any time,
regardless of the law, merely for the sake of money-making."
"Is there a law about killing birds?" asked Nat.
"Certainly. All really civilized States have their game-laws, and I hope
the time is near when all our States will unite in this matter. Where
there is a good law no wild bird or beast, even those which are suitable
and intended for food, may be killed in its nesting or breeding season,
or for some time afterward. Also, these creatures must only be killed by
fair hunting, not with snares or traps or by any foul means; and even
fishes are thus protected against wanton or excessive destruction."
"But if there is a law is some places and not in others, why don't the
birds that travel get shot when they go about?" asked Rap.
"They do, my boy, and that is the pity of it. Some people seem to think
there are so many birds in this great country that they cannot be killed
out; and others are brutal, or do not think at all, but kill for the
sake of killing. The worst of it is that little or no protection is
given the poor birds in the warm countries where they spend the winter.
Thrushes are shot for pot-pie, all the gayly colored birds are killed
for their feathers, and flocks of doves are slain to see how many a man
can hit in a day!
"Olaf says the Meadowlarks are raising their second brood now and he can
find you some empty nests, if you go with him, so you can see how they
are made; he will show you the Redwings' nests, too. You boys may take
off your shoes and stockings; and Miss Dodo, being a girl, shall ride on
Olaf's shoulder." "Please, can't I have my shoes off too?" begged Dodo.
"I love to wade like the boys!"
"By and by, on the beach; but what if a frog or an eel should touch your
foot, or a sharp straw stick in it--are you enough of a boy not to
Dodo was not sure, and thought she would begin by riding.
Length ten to eleven inches.
Upper parts marked with brown, bay, gray, and black; head striped, with
a yellow spot in front of the eye; wing-feathers nearest the body, and
most of the tail-feathers, scalloped with black and gray, but the
outside tail-feathers white.
Under parts nearly all yellow, with a black crescent on the breast, but
further back flaxen-brown, with dark stripes.
Bill stout where it runs up on the forehead, but tapering to the point.
A Citizen of the United States and Canada.
A good and useful neighbor. A famous member of the guild of Ground
Gleaners, its chief work being to kill bad insects which eat the
grass-roots in pastures and hay-fields.
A beautiful bird and charming songster.
CROWS AND THEIR COUSINS
In half an hour the children were back again, all talking eagerly
"The Redwings scolded us like everything!" said Dodo, "and Rap stepped
right into an empty Meadow-lark's nest, without seeing it. A little way
back there are lots of Bobolinks, too, singing and singing, but we
couldn't find a single nest."
"It was pretty warm out there," said Nat, fanning himself with a wide
haymaker's hat, such as both he and Dodo had worn since they came to the
"Come under the shelter and rest until Olaf has dinner ready. Where is
"She is down by the water looking for seaweeds, for her album."
"Have we used up all the Blackbird family?" asked Dodo, as they sat on
the sand and began to dig holes with their hands.
"Oh, no; there is the biggest of all--the Crow," said Nat.
"Strange as it is," replied the Doctor, "though the Crow is the blackest
of all our birds he does not belong to the Blackbird family, but to a
separate one of his own--the family of Crows, Jays, and Magpies."
"How is that, Uncle Roy? You said that beautiful blue and gray bird we
saw in the woods was a Jay," said Nat.
"Yes, but that is no stranger, as far as looks go, than to find a
flaming Oriole in the Blackbird family, is it? You remember that I told
you the relationship of birds depends upon their likeness in the bones
and the rest of their inwards, not upon the color of their feathers."
"See! there are a great many Crows on that sandbar! They are picking up
mussels! Some are bigger than others!" said Rap, who had been taking a
look through the field-glass. "Are the small ones the females, or are
there two kinds of Crows?"
"There are several kinds of Crows in the United States, besides Ravens
and Magpies, who are cousins to the Crow. About here we usually only see
two of them--the two that are now down on the bar--the American Crow and
the Fish Crow. The Fish Crow is the smaller of the two, lives along the
coast, and does not often go further north than Connecticut. It takes
its name from its habit of catching fish in shallow pools and bays.
"The larger Crow is the bird that every one knows and most people
dislike, because it has always been called a corn thief, though the Wise
Men say it is rather a useful bird after all.
"The Crow is certainly a black, gloomy-looking bird, with a disagreeable
voice. If several pairs make up their minds to build in the cedars or
tall pines in one's grounds, anywhere near the house, the noise they
make early in the morning is very tiresome. 'Ka--Ka--Ka-a-a-ah!' they
call and quaver, at the first peep of day. Then they begin to look about
for breakfast. If there is a Robin's or Dove's nest at hand, they think
it is foolish to look further, and help themselves to fresh eggs or
squabs. This makes us very angry, and we have the great Crow's nest--a
peck or two of sticks, lined with the bark of cedars and grape
vines--pulled from the tree-top where the crafty bird had hidden it.
[Illustration: American Crow.]
"It is perfectly right to do so, from our point of view. I, for one, do
not wish Crows in my garden or about the Farm, where I see only the bad
side of their characters. So we chase them away, and put scarecrows in
the corn-fields. Do the Crows care? Not a bit! They laugh and talk about
us behind our backs, and before our faces too. They pretend to be
afraid, and fly away if a man appears a quarter of a mile off; but
merely to settle down in another part of the field until their watcher
tells them to move away again.
"There is a watcher for every flock, who gives the order to fly, and
warns the troop at every approach of danger.
"Of course we must remember that for many months of the year the Crow
eats grasshoppers, grubs, and even mice; but it is easy to forget this
when one discovers that half a dozen Crows have eaten all the young
Robins in the orchard, in a single morning."
"Did they ever do that in our Orchard?" asked Dodo.
"Yes--not once, but many times; and that is the reason why I do not
allow Crows to nest anywhere on the Farm. In great open farming
districts, where other birds are few, they may do much more good than
evil; but not in well-settled places or about gardens and pleasure
The American Crow
Length from eighteen to twenty inches.
Glossy black from the tip of its beak to the end of its toes.
A Citizen of North America from the Fur Countries to Mexico.
A dismal and noisy neighbor for three mouths in the year, making itself
hateful by destroying grain, and the eggs and young of song birds; but
for the other nine a good citizen, working in the guilds of Ground
Gleaners and Wise Watchers.
THE BLUE JAY
"This Jay is accused of the same bad tricks as the Crow--pulling up
sprouting corn, eating ripe corn, and going birds'-nesting, to suck the
eggs and eat the helpless young. But we must not judge the whole tribe
by what we have seen a pair or two do in the Orchard or home woods in
the mating season.
"The Blue Jay is the third of our really familiar blue birds and is
certainly very handsome. Do you remember who the other two are?"
"The Bluebird!" said Dodo quickly. "And the Blue Sparrow!" cried Nat.
"You mean the Indigo Bird," laughed Rap. "The Blue Jay is a queer bird,
who can twist himself into all sorts of shapes. He sits one way when he
sings, another when he is watching out for danger, and when he calls he
is too funny for anything--he humps himself up and drops his tail as if
he was falling apart, and then squawks!"
[Illustration: Blue Jay.]
"I see that you know this bird very well," said the Doctor. "Have you
seen his nest?"
"Once. It was in the miller's woods, half-way up in a chestnut tree, and
built just like a Crow's, only much smaller. That season one of the Jays
whistled and carried on till I thought there were ever so many birds
together, and then laughed at me! They come round the mill for sweepings
in winter, but they are almost as shy as Crows."
When Olaf came with a basket and some short-handled hoes, the Doctor
told Dodo she might take off her shoes and stockings and go down on the
sandbar with Nat and Olaf, to dig clams for the chowder for dinner.
"More niceness!" screamed Dodo. "Olaf! Olaf! do clams grow in hills like
potatoes? I thought they swam like fish! Aren't you coming, uncle, and
Rap too, to tell us about clams?"
"No; you must talk to Olaf. We are going to help Olive with her
The Blue Jay
Length nearly twelve inches.
A fine blue and black crest on the head, very tall and pointed.
Upper parts blue, brighter on the wings and tail, which have many black
bars and some white tips.
Under parts grayish-white, with a black collar.
A Citizen of eastern North America from the Fur Countries to Florida.
Belonging to the guild of Ground Gleaners, his special work being to
kill grasshoppers and caterpillars; but often eats young birds and sucks
eggs, like a cannibal bird.
A FEATHERED FISHERMAN
Before the day was over the children were so in love with Olaf--with the
beach where crabs were living, with the sea over which water birds were
soaring--and wished to know so many things, that the Doctor told them
the only way to satisfy them would be to camp on the shore in August,
when the water would be warm enough for bathing; for to answer all the
questions they asked would take a month.
"And then you can tell us another bookful about water and fish, and
crabs and sky," said Dodo. "So we shall have a bird book, and a
butterfly book, and Olive's flower book!"
"Yes, and a beast book, too!" said Nat, "about coons and bears, and
squirrels and foxes, you know! Rap has seen foxes right on our Farm!"
"I wish I knew something about the stars--and the rocks too," said Rap
very earnestly. "Was this earth ever young, Doctor?"
"Yes, my boy, everything that Heart of Nature guides had a beginning and
was once young."
"What is that? An Eagle?" cried Dodo suddenly, pointing up to a very
large bird, with a white breast and brown-barred tail, who flew over
the bay and dived into the water.
"It's the Fisherman Bird," said Olaf. "Some call it the Fish Hawk and
others the Osprey. They say it lives all over North America, but it goes
far south in winter, and when it conies back in spring we know the fish
are running again; for it lives on the fish it catches, and won't come
until they are plenty."
"How does it catch fish?" asked Dodo.
"It hovers overhead until it sees, with its sharp eye, a fish ripple the
water; then it pounces down like a flash, and grabs the fish with, its
long claws, that are made like grappling-irons. If the fish is small the
Osprey carries it home easily; but if it is a big one there may be a
fight. Sometimes, if the Osprey's claws get caught in a fish too large
to fly away with, the Fisherman Bird is dragged under water and
"Do they still nest on Round Island?" asked the Doctor. "There were a
dozen pairs of them there when I was a boy."
"Yes, sir! But there is only one pair now. It's a great rack of sticks,
half as big as a haystack; for they mend it every season, and so it
keeps growing until now it is almost ready to fall out of the old tree
that holds it. And, do you know, sir, that Purple Grackles have stuck
their own nests into the sides of it, until it is as full of birds as a
great summer hotel is of people."
"Oh, we must see it!" said Olive, who had finished putting her seaweeds
to press; "for as yet I have only read about such a nest."
"What does the Osprey look like near to?" asked Rap.
"Like a large Hawk," answered the Doctor. "You would know him to be a
Hawk by his hooked beak and claws. He walks in the procession of bird
families along with the cannibal birds among whom he belongs, and who
come after the Birds that only Croak and Call. But he is not a real
cannibal, because he lives on fish, and never eats birds. So I will give
you a description of him now."
Length about two feet.
Upper parts dark brown with some white on the head and neck.
Under parts white with some dark spots.
Feet very large and scaly, with long sharp claws, to hold the slippery
fishes he catches.
A Citizen of North America.
A very industrious fisherman who minds his own business and does nobody
SOME SKY SWEEPERS
About four o'clock, after a long rest, the party started for home,
because they wanted to have plenty of time to stop in the wood lane on
The first bird that Nat spied after they left the meadows was perching
on the topmost wire of a fence by the roadside. Every once in a while he
darted into the air, snapped up an insect, and returned to the same
perch on the wire whence he had started. He was a very smart-looking
bird, with a flaming crest that he raised and lowered to suit himself;
and every time he flew into the air he cried "Kyrie--kyrie!"
"That is a Kingbird," said the Doctor; "it is very kind of him to show
himself, for he is the bird I most wished to see. We have finished with
the true song birds now, and the next order is that of the Songless
Perching Birds--birds that have call-notes, some of them quite musical,
but no true song. So we will name them the Birds that only Croak and
"The crowing of a Rooster, the screech of a Night Owl, the Hawk's harsh
scream, the laughing and hammering of a Woodpecker, all answer the same
good purpose as a song.
"The first family of Songless Perching Birds is that of the Tyrant
Flycatchers, and the first of these birds with which we have to do is
the one you have just seen. He belongs to the guild of Sky Sweepers.
"But do not try to write anything down while we are driving over this
rough road; the surrey jolts too much. You need only listen now, and
Olive will help you with your note-books to-morrow."
"How the winged insects must hate a Kingbird, who is a real tyrant over
them, and must seem very cruel!" continued the Doctor. "He sits on a
rail or wire, and suddenly--flip, snap! a fly is caught--flip, snap! a
wasp dies. All day long he is waging war, and helping us in our
never-ending battle with the bugs.
"If he happens to fancy a rose-bug or juicy ant, he dashes to the leaf
or grass-blade on which the insect is crawling, hovers a moment in the
air to take aim, and then snatches the bug off. So clever is he that
when he eats bees, as he sometimes does, he seldom takes the
honey-makers, but mainly the drones; perhaps he is afraid of being
"What is a drone, Uncle Roy?" asked Dodo.
"A bee which does not work for its living and cannot sting."
"The Kingbird is proud of his nest, which he often confides to a maple
on the edge of a garden, or to your pet pear tree. But let Hawks and
Crows beware even of thinking about a Kingbird's nest! For he loves his
home, and hates those who would injure it; and what is more, he is not
one bit afraid of them. If they come in sight he attacks them bravely,
and drives them far away, even if they are so big and fierce that he
has to call his friends to help him; so that the robber Crow or cannibal
bird is lucky if he does not lose an eye before he escapes.
"But the Kingbird is not quarrelsome--simply very lively; he is the very
picture of dash and daring in defending his home, and when he is
teaching his youngsters how to fly.
"Like other insect-eaters, he leaves the northerly States before cold
weather and journeys beyond the United States for the winter. We always
miss him when he has swooped along the fence rail for the last time and
joined his brethren in the tree-tops, where the flocks form for their
Length eight inches--about the size of a Wood Thrush.
Upper parts slate-colored, with black head, wings, and tail; a white
band at the end of the tail, and a flaming orange spot on the crown.
Under parts pure white, a little grayish on the breast.
A Summer Citizen of the United States and Canada, travelling to Central
and South America for the winter.
One of the best neighbors, and a brave soldier. An officer of the guild
of Sky Sweepers, also a Ground Gleaner and Tree Trapper, killing
robber-flies, ants, beetles, and rose-bugs. A good friend to horses and
cattle, because he kills the terrible gadflies. Eats a little fruit, but
chiefly wild varieties, and only now and then a bee.
(THE WATER PEWEE)
"Smaller, but not a whit less active than the Kingbird is the Phoebe or
Water Pewee--the small Flycatcher who is almost as familiar about the
farm and roadside as the Robin himself. Look about the woodshed or
cow-shed. Is there a beam or little nook of any sort that will hold a
nest? If so, in early May you will see a pair of nervous brown birds,
heaping up a mound of moss and mud. When they have made it large enough
to suit them, they line it with soft grass and horsehairs; the nest is
then ready for the white eggs, which once in a while are varied with a
few brown spots.
"Sometimes Phoebes build under a bridge, or in a rocky pocket above a
stream; for they love water and are great bathers. Then they make the
outside of the nest to match the rock by covering it with lichens.
"The Phoebe, like all other Flycatchers, sits motionless upon a dead
twig, fence rail, or often the clothesline, waiting for insects to come
by. Then he darts out, seizes one, and returns to the same perch,
flipping the tail, raising the little crest, and calling
'Phoebe--p-h-o-e-b-e,' in a very anxious voice.
"Phoebe is a hardy Flycatcher, who journeys north in March to tell us
spring is coming, and it takes a hard frost to send him away again.
Even then he does not hurry off toward the tropics like the ardent
Kingbird, but lingers all winter in the Southern States."
Length seven inches. Wings hardly any longer than the tail.
Upper parts deep olive-brown, darkest on the head; bill and feet black.
Under parts dull white, with a grayish or yellowish tinge.
A Citizen of North America east of the plains and north to Canada,
nesting from South Carolina northward, and wintering in the Southern
A useful and pleasant neighbor, who likes our society, often nesting in
sheds and under porches.
A member of the guild of Sky Sweepers, who also works with the Tree
THE WOOD PEWEE
"Among all the other Flycatchers, big, little, and least, I can only
tell you of one more, and will choose the Wood Pewee as being the one
most likely to interest you.
"This morning in the wood lane I saw a pair that were surely
nest-building, and I wondered if they were not the great-great-
grandchildren of those who lived there when I was a boy. The Pewee's
nest is very pretty--almost as dainty as the Hummingbird's. I will
try to find it for you as we go back this afternoon."
"Then the Wood Pewee builds late, like the Cedar Waxwing and Goldfinch?"
said Rap. "Yes, rather late; about the first or second week in June. He
is a lazy traveller; and then, perhaps, he thinks his nest is so frail
that he needs to have the trees in full leaf to protect it. The Wood
Pewee takes his name from his liking for the woods and his call-note;
yet he is quite as fond of our Orchard and the lower side of the garden.
"When you have once met him face to face and heard his sad
cry--'pewee--pewee--pee-eer--weer!'--you will probably find half a dozen
pairs about home.
[Illustration: Wood Pewee.]
"It is usual to call the notes of this bird sad; but it only seems so
from our point of view; for he is a happy, fussy little bird, and I dare
say that when he calls he is only saying 'peek-a-boo!' to his mate on
the other side of the tree."
"Wouldn't it be nice if we knew all that the animals and birds do, and
could see what they see, besides being ourselves?" said Nat.
"I think we should be too wise and proud," said Rap. "No, my lads,"
said the Doctor, "we should probably be more humble than we are now, and
realize how very little House People really know about the wonderful
lives of those creatures we commonly call 'dumb animals.'"
"You haven't given us any table for the Wood Pewee," said Dodo, who
always took great pleasure in writing in her little book. "I like to
hear it, though I can't write it now."
The Wood Pewee
Length six and a half inches. Wings much longer than the tail, and feet
Upper parts dark brown with an olive shade, and light bars on the wings;
top of the head not darker than the back, and under side of the beak not
Under parts yellowish-white with a tinge of dark gray along the sides
and across the breast.
Looks very much like the Phoebe, but you can tell them apart if you
attend carefully to the tables.
A Citizen of North America from Florida to Canada and west to the
plains. Travels beyond the United States for the winter.
A good Citizen and shy neighbor. A member of the guild of Sky Sweepers.
HUMMERS AND CHIMNEY SWEEPS
THE RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD
[Illustration: Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.]
"It won't be dark for a long time yet," said Dodo, after they had driven
silently for a couple of miles, watching the clouds against the
tree-tops and the Swallows that were out in full force, sky-sweeping for
their evening meal.
"Are you growing sleepy?" asked Olive.
"No, only _terribly hungry_" whispered Dodo, as if rather ashamed of the
fact; "and do you know, Olive, after dinner to-day I told Olaf I never
should be hungry again, because I ate so much chowder. After we had
driven awhile I thought to myself, 'I shan't want supper to-night
anyway.' Then pretty soon I thought, 'I _shall_ want supper,' and now I
want it _right away_!" The Doctor laughed and looked at the cows that
were pasturing in the roadside fields, for they were passing a farming
"I don't see any Cowbirds this afternoon," said Nat, thinking the Doctor
was looking for them.
"This time I am looking at the cows themselves! Those over there are
beautiful creatures, and there is a clear spring of water in the corner
of the pasture. When we come to the farmhouse where they belong, we will
stop to buy some milk, and Miss Dodo shall have supper; for even Mammy's
buns, when they have been travelling about all day in a basket, would,
be rather dry without milk."
"But wouldn't the milk be good if the cows were not pretty, and there
was no spring in the pasture?" asked Nat, who must have a reason for
"It is not a question of pretty cows; it is whether they are clean and
healthy or not, that makes the milk good or bad. And good pure water to
drink, from a spring that is not near any barnyard or outbuilding, is
one of the best things for keeping cows in good health."
Meanwhile they had driven up to a farmhouse, almost as large as their
own, and the mistress, who was arranging her pans for the evening
milking, said they might have cold milk then, or fresh warm milk if they
would wait a little while until the cows came home.
Under the back porch was a cage with a little Owl in it, and the woman
said it belonged to her boy. Joe, for that was his name, was about Rap's
age, and soon made friends with them. They told him where they had been
spending the day, and about their uncle's wonder room, and the birds at
Orchard Farm. "Have you got a Hummingbird's nest on your farm, and a
Swallow chimney?" Joe asked anxiously.
"No, not exactly," said Nat, hesitating. "There are some birds in Uncle
Roy's chimney, but we haven't found a Hummingbird's nest yet, though
there are lots of the birds about the garden."
"Well, there's a Hummingbird's nest in our crab-apple tree, and we own
the biggest Swallow chimney there is in the county! Pa says so, and he
knows," said Joe proudly. "If you'll come with me and not grab the nest,
I'll show it to you. It's a widow Hummingbird, too. I've never seen her
mate since she began to set, but before that he was always flyin' round
the honeysuckles and laylocks, so I'm sure he is dead."
"May I come too?" asked the Doctor.
"Pleased to have you, sir," said Joe, making a stiff little bow. "I'd
have asked you, only most men folks don't set much store by birds 'nless
they are the kind they go gunnin' for. Only pa does. He likes any kind
o' bird, whether it sings or not, and he's powerful fond of the Swallows
in our chimney. He says they eat the flies and things that tease the
cows down in the pasture, and since those Swallows came to our chimney
we haven't had to put fly-sheets on the oxen when they are in the
"Now, children, you see what good the Sky Sweepers do," said the Doctor.
"Sky Sweepers! We don't call 'em that! We call 'em Chimney Swallows!"
Then the children told Joe about the Bird Brotherhoods.
"Stand on this box," said Joe to Dodo, "and look hard at that small
slantways branch, with the little bunch on it!"
"The little round bunch that looks like soft green moss?"
"Yes. Well, that's the Hummer's nest!"
"Oh! oh!" cried Dodo, forgetting to whisper, "I see a mite of a tail and
a sharp needle beak sticking over the edge!"
This was too much for Mrs. Hummer, who flew off with a whirr like an
angry little spinning-wheel--if such a proper Puritan thing is ever
angry; and there in the nest were two tiny eggs, like white beans.
"Come back by the fence and watch," said Joe. "She doesn't like to leave
the nest much when it is toward night."
"It's a pity her mate is dead. How lonely she must be!" said Dodo, who
had a tender little heart.
"I do not think her mate is dead," said the Doctor; "he is merely
staying away, after a custom of his family. The bird whose nest we see
there is called the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, because he has a patch of
glittering ruby-red feathers under his chin, at the top of his
buttoned-up vest that hardly shows any while shirt-front. He wears a
beautiful golden-green dress-coat, with its dark purplish tails deeply
forked. His wife looks very much like him, only she has no ruby jewels
"Bold as this bird is in darting about and chasing larger ones, he is
less than four inches long--only about the size of one of the hawk-moths
that come out to feed, just as this valiant pygmy lancer leaves the
flowers for the night.
"These Hummingbirds live on honey and very small insects, and dread the
cold so that they spend the winter southward from Florida. But as soon
as real spring warmth comes, they spread over the United States, east of
the plains, and north even to the Fur Countries. They are the only kind
found in the eastern half of North America, though there are more than a
dozen other species in the West, most of them near the Mexican borders
of the United States.
"When the Hummers arrive here, early in May, we see the brilliant males
darting about--sometimes, I am sorry to say, quarrelling with their
rivals and giving shrill cries like the squeaking of young mice. The
last of May the dainty nest is made of plant-down and lichen scales.
Then the male goes off by himself and sulks. You may see him feeding,
but he keeps away from the nest--selfish bird that he is--until the
little ones are ready to fly.
"Meanwhile the mother takes all the care and trouble herself, feeding
her little Hummers in a peculiar way. She swallows tiny insects, and
when they have remained a little while in her crop she opens her beak,
into which the young bird puts its own and sucks the softened food, as a
baby does milk from its bottle."
"I was wondering this very morning," said Joe, "how the old bird was
going to feed her young ones when those two eggs hatched, without any
mate to help her. I'm real glad you came along to explain it, sir.
Somehow the reasons lots of folk give for things aren't reasonable at
"Now, children," said the Doctor, "write the Hummingbird table before
the twilight comes on."
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
Length less than four inches.
Male: shining golden-green above, with dark purplish wings and tail, the
latter forked; glittering ruby-red throat; other under parts grayish,
with some white on the breast and greenish on the sides.
Female: lacks the ruby throat, and has the tail not forked, but some of
its feathers white-tipped.
A Summer Citizen of the eastern United States from Florida to Canada.
Though songless, a jewel of a bird, belonging to the guild of Tree
Trappers. Nest a tiny round cup of moss and plant-down stuccoed with
lichens; eggs only two, white.
THE CHIMNEY SWIFT
"Now, wouldn't you like to see the big chimney?" asked Joe. "The birds
go in and out a good deal this time o' day. It's across the road there,
where the old house used to be. The house is all gone, but the chimney
is as strong as ever--I can climb up top and look down at the nests
inside. See! there it is now!" Looking over the fence, they saw a tall
stack of worn gray stones, that looked more like a tower than a chimney.
Small blackish birds kept streaming from the top, circling high in the
air and darting down again, all twittering as they dropped one after
another out of sight, inside the weather-beaten pile.
"Look, children!" said the Doctor. "These are Chimney Swifts, usually
called Chimney Swallows: and their color is like soot, to match the
places they live in."
"Aren't they any relations of Swallows?" asked Rap.
"No, my boy; they look like Swallows, but as I think Olive told you
once, the Swifts are a family all by themselves. This one lives in the
eastern half of the country in summer, and goes far south for the
winter. When he lives in a wild region, he chooses a hollow tree for his
nesting place, as his ancestors always did before there were any houses
[Illustration: Chimney Swift.]
"The flight of the Swift is so rapid that at times it is almost
impossible for the quickest eye to follow him; his wings are very
strong, and almost as long as all the rest of his body. Short and blunt
as his tail looks when he flies, each feather ends in a hard sharp point
which sticks out beyond the soft part. They feed on insects which they
catch as they dash through the air, and can also break off dry twigs for
nest-building without stopping--sometimes seizing the little sticks in
their bills and sometimes in their claws, which are much stronger than
those of Swallows."
"How do they make the sticks stay in the chimney? What do they set them
on, and how do they perch while they are building?" asked Nat, all in
"Do you remember how the little Brown Creeper propped himself against
the tree when he looked for insects?"
"Yes," said Rap; "he stuck his sharp tail-feathers into the bark and
made a bracket of himself."
"The Swift does this also when he fastens twigs together for a nest.
They are glued together into a little openwork basket, and gummed to the
wall of the chimney, with a sticky fluid which comes from his own
"I've got a lot of old nests that fell down the chimney after a storm
last winter that wet the glue and made them come unstuck," said Joe;
"and I'll give you each one. If you look up the hole where the kitchen
fireplace was, you can see the new nests quite plain; for the birds
don't build them very near the top."
"Be careful of loose stones!" called the Doctor; but in a flash four
young heads had disappeared in the ruins of the great fireplace, where
three pairs of trousers and a short brown linen skirt alone were
In a little while they had some milk and strawberries; and before they
drove on Joe's father promised to take him up to Orchard Farm to see
the birds in the Doctor's wonder room, as soon as haying should be over.
To the children's astonishment they found it was half-past six o'clock;
they had been at the farm an hour and a half, and could not stop again
until they reached the wood lane where their uncle had promised to look
for the Pewee's nest.
"Stay here, little people, and ask all the questions you like of Olive,"
said the Doctor, when they had reached the lane; "for I shall be able to
find the nest more easily if you do not frighten the birds by talking."
"Pewee, pewee, pe-e-er!" cried a little voice.
"There he is, crying 'peek-a-boo' again," said Dodo. "Please, Olive,
won't you tell us the table for the Chimney Swift now?"
"Certainly; and there is plenty of light yet if you wish to write it
The Chimney Swift
Length five and a half inches.
Sooty brown. Sharply pointed tail-feathers.
A Summer Citizen of eastern North America from Florida to the Fur
An excellent neighbor--a friend of the farmer and his cattle. An officer
in the guild of Sky Sweepers, who shoots through the air in the shape of
a bow and arrow.
"Come softly," said the Doctor, returning to the roadside; "I have found
the Pewee's nest; it is quite new, and has no eggs in it as yet. This
way--up along this ledge of rocks, and you can almost look into it."
They moved quietly over the rocks until they reached a pepperidge tree,
when the Doctor motioned them to stop and pointed to one of its branches
which stretched over the rock. There was a flat nest with an evenly
rounded edge, all covered with lichen scales outside.
"It is just like a Hummingbird's nest," whispered Nat.
"Only flatter, more like a saucer than a cup," said Rap. "Is it made of
"No--of fine grasses, rootlets, and bits of bark," said the Doctor; "and
in a few days it will hold three or four creamy-white eggs, prettily
wreathed around one end with dark-brown spots."
"Pewee, pewee, pe-e-er!" cried the nest owner very sadly.
"We are going home, so you needn't worry, dear," said Dodo.
TWO WINGED MYSTERIES
The sun was quite low when the party drove out of the lane; the birds
were singing their very best, and Olive stopped the horses on top of the
next hill, that they might all look at the beautiful twilight picture
"How quickly the sun slides when it once begins to go!" said Nat. "It
looks as if it were going into a cage with the striped clouds for bars."
"Shirk--shirk--boom!" A large bird that had been sailing about overhead
dropped through the air till it was almost over the surrey, then turned
suddenly and darted upward again.
"What is that?" cried Nat and Dodo.
"That's a Nighthawk--don't you remember the bird we heard early one
morning in the river woods? He's looking for small birds to eat,"
"He is called the Nighthawk, but never eats anything except beetles,
flies, and other insects," said the Doctor, "for he is not a real Hawk.
He takes his name from the fact that he dashes about at twilight and in
cloudy weather like a Hawk; but his broad, shallow mouth is only
suitable for insect-eating, like his cousin's, the Chimney Swift's, and
the beak is equally small and feeble, not at all like the strong hooked
one of a cannibal bird. Look overhead!"
"There are two light spots like holes through his wings," said Rap. "Ah
yes! now I remember about him--we can always tell him from a real Hawk."
"How does he make that queer noise?" asked Nat. "It sounds like when I
hit the telegraph wires with stones, or blow in the bunghole of a
"Watch him when he drops," said the Doctor; "do you not see that he
does so with open wings? The air rushes between the long wing-quills and
makes the vibrating noise. Now he is up and away again, but you see he
keeps circling in the sky."
"Does he build in chimneys?" asked Dodo.
"The Nighthawk does not build any nest; the eggs are laid on bare ground
or rock in an open field--occasionally on a house-top. Strange as this
seems, the parent birds are so near the color of earth and rock that it
is very difficult to find them when they are sitting, the young when
hatched are equally invisible, and the eggs themselves look like two
little stones--for there are never more than two. I will show you a
Nighthawk in my cabinet, and you will see for yourselves how nicely the
colors match ground and rocks."
"He looks like a pretty big bird," said Dodo. "How long is he? Is there
only one in his family?"
"He has a brother called the Whip-poor-will, that we should meet very
Length ten inches.
Mottled black and rusty above. Barred on the under parts with black and
white or buff. A white collar on the throat, a white spot going entirely
through the wing, and a white band across the tail.
A Summer Citizen of eastern North America, from the Gulf of Mexico to
Canada, travelling far south for the winter.
A shy neighbor but a valuable Citizen, belonging to the Ground Gleaners
as well as Sky Sweepers.
"This mysterious bird is also a dweller in lonely places, feeding at
night in the woods, having no nest, and laying the eggs in a hollow in
the ground or on a stump or log. He is so nearly of the color of wood,
earth, and rock, that you may pass near him a hundred times and never
see him. Then too, when he perches in the day-time, he does not sit
across a branch like other birds, but lengthwise, so that House People
and cats cannot see him from below or cannibal birds from above. He is
an insect-eater and so goes southward before hard frosts."
"Does this bird make any noise, and why is he called the
Whip-poor-will?" asked Nat; "that is such a funny name."
Rap was about to answer when the Doctor signed to him and he stopped.
"Whip-poor-wills call their own name after dark, and I think you will
hear them when we pass the miller's woods in a few minutes; for some
reason they seldom come about the Farm."
"I believe I--am--growing--sleepy," murmured Dodo, trying to be polite
and swallow a little yawn, but not wholly succeeding.
"I am very sure that _I_ am," said Olive. "I don't think any of us will
sit up much later than the birds to-night!"
"I hear a Veery," said Rap, "and a Phoebe too."
"Whip-poor-will! Whip-poor-will! Church!" cried a loud voice close by,
and something like a long-winged Owl almost struck Olive with its wing
as it flitted past.
"Oh, my!" cried Dodo, waking suddenly, "that must be a Whip-poor-will,
for he called his own name as plain as the Chickadee does; and listen!
there are more of them all up the hill."
Soon they passed Rap's house and left him at the gate. When the good old
white horses trotted in the gate at Orchard Farm, Quick ran out, barking
joyfully to tell them all that had happened during the day, and how he
had guarded everything safely; but Dodo was fast asleep with her head on
her uncle's arm.
"De death lamb," said Mammy Bun, who came out to help them unload; "don'
you go to wake her up, Massa Nat--ole amyl tote her up to bed. Dese
am powerful healthy days for you chillness! And Massa Doctor and Miss
Olive--if they ain' mare's half gone, too! 'Scorpions am terrible sleepy
things--least when dere all over!"
Length nearly ten inches.
A very large mouth, fringed with long bristles, useful as an insect
Plumage all mottled with gray, buff, and black, but the end half of
three outside tail-feathers white, and a white breast-band.
A Summer Citizen of the United States and Canada east of the plains; in
winter from Florida southward.
A member of the guilds of Sky Sweepers and Ground Gleaners.
A LAUGHING FAMILY
When the children had their uncle with them, and could listen to his
stories, it seemed very easy to name the birds. But when they were alone
it was quite a different matter. The birds had a way of moving on, at
exactly the wrong moment. Of course they made some very funny mistakes,
and at times grew quite discouraged.
"I thought we could learn a hundred birds in no time," said Nat to
Olive, one morning; "but I'm only pop sure of ten when they fly in a
hurry, and about ten more when they sit still and let me take a good
look at them."
"I think that is doing very well, indeed, for watching live birds is not
a bit like learning rules and figures by heart. Though your tables give
you some facts about birds' colors and habits, every bird has some
little ways and tricks of his very own that are always a surprise; and
then, you see, a bird in the hand looks very different from a bird in
"I suppose that is why uncle wants us to go out to see for ourselves,
instead of telling us stories every day. This morning, when I was over
in the miller's woods, where we heard the Whip-poor-will, I saw the
queerest bird, running up a tree; he let me come close to, without being
[Illustration: Downy Woodpecker.]
"At first I thought he was a Black-and-white Creeper, for he was all
black and white. Then I saw he was much bigger, and the beak was square
at the end, as if it was cut off instead of being sharp-pointed. He had
the strangest feet, two toes behind and two in front, and when he came
down near where I stood, I saw a bright-red spot on the head. When I
went a step nearer, he didn't like it, and then laughed out loud at
me--'Quip! Cher, cher, cher, cher! Ha! ha! ha! ha!' I thought he might
be some kind of a Woodpecker, but those in uncle's room are a great deal
"A very good description of the Downy Woodpecker," said the Doctor,
coming up under the porch where they were sitting. "This bird belongs
not only to a different family from any you have heard about, but to a
different order also.
"You have seen that Perching Birds all have three toes in front, and one
behind on the same level, so that they may easily grasp a perch and keep
their balance. But Woodpeckers do not perch in the true sense--they rest
either against a tree-trunk or on a limb, and even sleep in these
positions. They almost all have four toes, two in front and two behind,
and the strong pair of hind toes prop them up when they climb the
trunks of trees, or when they stop to bore for their food. They also
have stiff, pointed tail-feathers that they press against the upright
trunks of trees to keep themselves in place, the same as Swifts do
inside chimneys, or Brown Creepers scrambling about trees. So they make
brackets of themselves, as Rap says. Their bills are strong and
straight, like chisels, so that they may cut and gouge hard wood without
breaking them. Besides all this, they have curious long fleshy tongues,
with horny barbed tips, which they can thrust far out of their mouths,
to spear their insect food from holes and crannies."
"Can any of them sing?" asked Nat.
"They belong to an entirely songless group, but have several ways of
calling and signalling to each other. One of these is to beat rapidly on
a tree with the beak, which makes a rolling noise, each different
species doing his drumming in his own way. Besides this, they all have
jolly laughing notes, in spite of the fact that most of them are rather
shy birds. Hence they are often called the Laughing Family!"
"Are there many kinds of Woodpeckers in North America?"
"More than twenty, but you are likely to notice only a few of them. I am
sure, however, that you will be good friends with, four kinds before
snowfall--the Downy Woodpecker that you saw this morning; the beautiful
golden-winged Flicker; the gay Red-headed Woodpecker, so glossy
blue-black and white; and the mischievous spotted Sapsucker who visits
us in autumn. You will find them very different in looks and habits, in
spite of their being cousins." "Uncle! Uncle Roy!" cried Dodo, running
through the Orchard in a great state of excitement. "There is a very
handsome, rare, wonderful kind of a Meadowlark walking on the lawn by
the front steps. It's brown speckled with black and has a black patch on
the breast and red on the head and when he flies you can see a white
spot over the tail. Do you think he has come out of a cage?"
"No, missy, that is not a Meadowlark, is not rare or wonderful, and has
not been in a cage; that is an every-day sort of a Woodpecker, having
many names. Some think he is called the Flicker because he has a way of
flicking his wings, and the Yellow Hammer because he hammers on trees
with the beak and has fine golden wing-linings. The nest of the one you
saw is in a hole, high up in the old sassafras by the side fence, and
some say that this is why another of his names is High-hole. But it
received all three of those names for other reasons you need not bother
your head about just now.
"There are young birds in the nest now, and if you tap on the trunk with
a stick you will hear them making a noise. This seems to be Woodpecker
day, for Nat has seen the little Downy in the woods, you have seen the
Flicker on the lawn, and I was telling him about two others; so you are
just in time _not_ to be too late. Now write the table for Nat's Downy,
first, and then we will have the rest of the Woodpeckers."
The Downy Woodpecker
The smallest North American Woodpecker--hardly seven inches long.
Upper parts black, with a long white patch on middle of back; wings
spotted with black and white. Some black and white bars on the outside
tail-feathers. Red band on back of head of the male, but not of the
Under parts all white.
A Citizen of the eastern half of North America, where he stays all the
A good and useful neighbor--one of the best. Does not bore holes in
trees to injure them or eat the sap, but to get at the hurtful grubs
which live under the bark, and the sharp, barbed tongue is especially
fitted to pick thorn out of the holes which are dug with the stout
Eats a little fruit, chiefly-wild berries, and is a hard-working member
of the guilds of Tree Trappers and Ground Gleaners, as he eats not only
grubs, but ants, beetles, bugs, caterpillars, and spiders. He is also a
Seed Sower, though in being so he and his brothers, without intentional
mischief, scatter the seeds from the watery white berries of the poison
ivy. He always digs for himself a nest in some partly decayed tree, and
never takes long journeys, but moves about only in search of food.
THE RED-HEADED WOODPECKER
"There, that will do for the Downy," continued the Doctor, as the
children finished the table; "only I ought to tell you that I have a
friend who calls him the Flying Checker-board, because he looks when he
flies as if he were checkered all over in squares of two colors--black
and white. The Red-head is a much gayer bird, with three colors--ha!
there goes one now! This is Woodpecker day indeed, and we are in luck."
A very handsome bird, glittering in the sun, had come looping swiftly
past, and swung himself up to the broken-off top of a tall tree, where
he rattled a loud rataplan, as much as to say, "Am I not a fine fellow?"
"Yes, I know him," said Rap eagerly; "there's a pair that have a nest in
our orchard, the same I guess that were there last year, when they
raised a brood, only when the young ones came out they had gray heads
instead of red ones, and their wings were not clear white like this
one's, nor their backs so shiny black--is that right, Doctor?"
[Illustration: RED-HEADED WOODPECKER.]
"Yes, my boy, and it shows you know how to use your eyes, for young
Red-heads look very different from their parents till they get a new
suit. You remember that we called the Bluebird the Flag Bird, on account
of his three colors. But this Woodpecker has the red of the head much
brighter than a Bluebird's breast, and shows purer white as he flies, in
large spaces on his back and wings; though his blue is not so bright--it
is what we call blue-black, very dark and glossy, like polished steel."
"Do they stay around all the year?" asked Nat.
"Some of them do, but not many. They are very common in summer, but not
as hardy as the Downies, and most of them go off south for the winter.
They are very merry, frolicsome birds, with all sorts of tricks and
manners--even Dodo's Flickers are no jollier members of the Laughing
"Do they work when they are through playing?" asked Nat; "and do any
"Yes, indeed," answered the Doctor; "all kinds of Woodpeckers are
industrious workers, and all of them except the Sapsuckers are very
useful to us in destroying hurtful insects."
"What kind of eggs do they lay?" asked Dodo; "it must be hard to get a
look at them in such deep holes so high up."
"Very pretty ones indeed," replied the Doctor. "They are not very easy
to reach, though you can readily see the rounded hole that leads into
the nest, for it is almost always bored in a bare, dead part of the
tree. I can show you some Woodpecker's eggs in my cabinet. They are all
alike, except in size--more round than most birds' eggs are, very smooth
and glossy, like porcelain, and pure white. But now write your table
while that Red-head is still in sight. It is a very easy one; his colors
are plain, and you can guess pretty nearly how long he is."
The Red-headed Woodpecker
Length about nine inches.
Head and neck crimson-red all around; back and most of wings and tail
glossy blue-black; all the rest snow-white, except a little red tinge on
Young ones gray whore the old ones are red, and not so pure black and
white in other places.
A Citizen of the eastern half of the United States and some parts of
Canada, but mostly going to the Southern States for the winter.
A good neighbor and useful member of the guilds of Tree Trappers and
Ground Gleaners; he takes some of our fruits now and then, but is
welcome to them for the good he does in destroying insects which would
injure and perhaps kill our fruit trees if he did not eat his full share
of them; and he has to work very hard to dig them out of the places
where they lurk under the bark.
"The Flicker's beak is more slender and curving than those of his
brethren, and he has an extremely long, barbed tongue, which, he uses to
probe ant-hills. The sticky substance in the bird's mouth covers the
little barbs on its tongue, and thus he is able to catch a great many
ants at a time. He is one of our best ant-eaters."
"Are ants very bad things if they don't get into the sugar?" asked Dodo.
"There are a great many kinds of ants; though all may not be harmful,
some of them do great damage by destroying timber or ripe fruit, and
helping to spread lice about the roots of all sorts of plants.
"The Flicker has a jolly laughing call that sounds like
'Wick-wick-wick-wick!' repeated very quickly, and he also hammers away
on a tree in fine style when he wishes to call his mate or let her know
his whereabouts. Like other Woodpeckers, he hollows out a soft spot in a
tree until he has made quite a deep hole, which, with a few chips in the
bottom for bedding, serves as his nest. Most little Woodpeckers climb up
to the hole-edge to be fed; but young Flickers are fed in the same way
as little Hummingbirds, the parent swallowing food and when it is
softened bringing it back from the crop by pressing on it with the
"What is the crop?" asked Dodo.
"It is an elastic pouch in the gullet of a bird, where food that has
been swallowed is kept for a while before it goes further down into the
stomach. You have seen this crop in the necks of Chickens and Pigeons."
"Oh, yes, a round swelled-up place; but what is the good of it?"
"It is a resting-place for food, where it may swell, soften, and be
partly ground up. All birds are fond of eating sand and gravel."
"Oh, yes! My Canary picks up lots of little bits every time I put fresh
sand in his cage."
"This gravel mixes with the food and helps to grind it up. You ran
understand how necessary this is when you remember that some birds, like
Pigeons, swallow hard grains of corn entirely whole."
"Yes, and I saw Mammy Bun clean a Chicken yesterday," said Nat; "there
was a lot of sand and corn in a lump in its throat--and so that's called
"To return to the Flickers: they live in flocks in autumn, and when a
number are feeding on the ground at a little distance they might be
taken for Meadowlarks--so you see that you did not make such a dreadful
mistake after all, little girl."
"Won't you come over to the miller's woods with us, uncle, and perhaps
we can find the Downy's nest hole," said Nat.
"Yes, I will come and tell you about the fourth Woodpecker on the
way--the one called the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Though very handsome,
this is not a bird that you would care to have come in great numbers to
your garden or orchard. For this bird makes holes in the tree bark and
eats the sap that leaks out, from this habit gaining the name of
Sapsucker. Of course you see that this is a very bad thing for the
trees; for when a great many holes have been bored near together the
bark loosens and peels off, so that the tree is likely to die. The
Sap-sucker also does harm by eating the soft inner bark which is between
the rough outside bark and the hard heart-wood of the tree; for this
soft bark is where the sap flows to nourish the tree.
[Illustration: Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker.]
"When the bird bores the holes and the sap oozes out, a great many
insects gather to feed on it--hornets, wasps, spiders, beetles, flies,
and other kinds. These the Sapsucker also eats, sweeping them up in the
sap with his tongue, which is not barbed like that of other Woodpeckers,
but has a little brush on the end of it, shaped something like those we
use for cleaning lamp chimneys. In this way he can easily lick up great
quantities of both sap and insects. You will not probably see him before
autumn, for he nests northward from Massachusetts; but you can write
down his table now, and then be on the watch for him."
The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker
Length about eight and a half inches.
Upper parts mixed black, while, and dull yellowish; wings and tail
black, with much white on both; crown scarlet in the male.
Under parts light yellow on the belly, scarlet on the throat, black on
the breast, and with black marks on the sides.
A Citizen of eastern North America, roving further north than most
Woodpeckers and wintering as far south as Central America. A useful bird
in wild places, but unwelcome in gardens and orchards, and not a good
A member only of the guild of Tree Trappers.
"I wonder if I shall see the little Downy," said Dodo, as she skipped
down the road to the woods between her uncle and Nat.
"Don't hop so," said Nat; "it doesn't do at all when you are
bird-hunting. Rap says you must go quietly, and not swing your arms
either, for it frightens birds more than even a scarecrow."
"It is very hard to keep still when you are bursting with hurry to get
somewhere," answered Dodo very meekly, but not wholly able to resist an
"I'll show you the way," said Nat. "The little Downy's tree was beside
the footpath on top of the river bank. But the bird has gone!"
Length twelve inches.
Upper parts brown barred with black; the rump snow-white; the head gray
with a scarlet band on the back of it.
Under parts crowded with round black spots; a large black patch on the
breast; throat lilac; the male with a pair of black moustaches, which,
of course, the female does not have.
Under side of wings and tail almost all golden-yellow, even the shafts
of the feathers being of this rich color.
A Citizen of eastern North America, west sometimes to the Pacific Ocean.
Spends the winter in the southern half of his range.
This Woodpecker is not only a beautiful, but a useful, Citizen, doing
almost as much work in the guild of Ground Gleaners as the Meadowlark,
besides being a Tree Trapper and Seed Sower.
TWO ODD FELLOWS
"KUK--kuk--kuk! Crcok--c-r-o-c-k--c-r-o-c-k!" cried a harsh voice from
the wood edge.
"Tr-r-r-at-tat-tat!" rattled another bird from over the river bank.
"Those must both be Woodpeckers," said the children; "for both noises
are like hammering."
"Yes," continued Nat, "and I see the one who made the rattle. It is a
Woodpecker with a very big head and bob tail, and sort of gray with
black straps in front. See, uncle! He is on a branch of that dead tree,
right over the river--there, he has fallen off into the water!"
The Doctor smiled as he said: "Here is another case of mistaken
identity--very much like Dodo with her rare Meadowlark! This bird is a
Kingfisher, who did not fall into the water, but dived in after the fish
for which he sat watching."
"So some wood birds eat fish, as well as the Osprey that we saw at the
beach; but how do they chew them, Uncle Roy?"
"They do not chew them. If the fish is not too large, they swallow it
whole, and very funny faces they make sometimes in doing so. If it is
too large, they beat it against a branch and tear it before eating. As
they live on fish, they make their home near water, and only travel
south when the rivers freeze."
"Do they build nests in trees?" asked Dodo.
"No; they burrow tunnels in the earth of river banks, and put their
nests at the end of them, just as the Bank Swallow does; only the
Kingfisher's tunnel is much larger, and his nest is not nicely lined
with feathers--the young often have no softer bed than a few
[Illustration: Belted Kingfisher.]
The Belted Kingfisher
Length about thirteen inches.
A long, bristling crest; bill longer than head, stout, straight, and
Leaden-blue above, with many white bands and spots on the short, square
tail and long, pointed wings.
Below white, with a blue belt across the breast, and the female with a
brown belt also.
A Citizen of North America.
Belonging to no useful guild, but a rather startling, amusing neighbor,
who always minds Ins own business and is an industrious fisherman.
"What was the other bird, who cried, 'kuk kuk!' on the outside of the
woods? There, it is calling again! I'm sure that it is a Woodpecker!"
"Wrong again--it is a Cuckoo; the Yellow-billed one, I think, for the
voice is louder and harsher than that of his Black-billed brother."
[Illustration: Yellow-Billed Cuckoo.]
"What! a little blue and white bird like the one that bobs out of
mother's carved clock at home? Oh, do let us try to find it! But this
bird didn't say 'cuckoo'; it only cackled something like a Hen when she
is tired of sitting."
"The clock Cuckoo is an imitation of the merry, heedless English bird,
who lays her eggs in the wrong nests, as our Cowbird does. The
Yellow-billed Cuckoo is quite different, being long, slender, and
graceful, and a very patient parent--even though the nest she builds is
rather a poor thing, made of a few twigs piled so loosely in a bush that
the pale-green eggs sometimes drop out.
"Let us go over to the brush hedge where the bird seemed to be. Hush!
there he sits upon the limb of a maple. No--look a little higher up. He
is perfectly still, and acts as if he was half asleep. See what a
powerful bill he has! With that he tears away the ugly webs of
tent-caterpillars from the fruit trees, and sometimes eats more than
forty caterpillars without stopping--he is so fond of them. Look at him
through the glass, and see if the following description fits him."
The Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Length about twelve inches.
Upper parts olive-gray or Quaker color all over, smooth and shiny; wings
tinged with bright cinnamon, and most of the tail-feathers black, with
large white spots at the ends.
Under parts pure white. Under half of bill yellow.
A Summer Citizen of temperate North America west to the plains. Travels
south for the winter to the West Indies and South America.
A very valuable neighbor, and an officer of high rank in the guild of
His brother--the Black-billed Cuckoo--is very much like him, except that
the tail is not black, its spots are smaller, and he has no yellow on
the bill, but a red ring round the eye.
"Kuk-kuk-kuk--couk--co-uk--co-uk!" cried the bird, as he spread his
wings and sailed off, giving the children a fine chance to see his long,
rounded, black tail with the white spots. "Are there any Owls in these
woods, Uncle Roy?" asked Nat. "You know we haven't seen an Owl yet,
though we hear one almost every night."
"Doubtless there are; but the best place to find Owls is in the old
wood, far up by the lake, where the lumbermen have their camp. The Great
Horned Owl nests there, and many Hawks besides. I will take you all
there some day, and, if you do not find the birds themselves, you can
see the wild places where they like to nest."
"Couldn't we go very soon, uncle? Next week, perhaps?" urged Dodo.
"Fourth of July comes next week," said Nat, "and uncle said we could go
down to the shore again, and take our fire-crackers! It will be such fun
to stick them in rows in the sand and make them sizzle--more fun even
than Owls! Don't you think so, Dodo?" he asked anxiously.
"Oh, yes; and then it wouldn't be polite either not to have
fire-crackers on the Fourth of July. I think the American Eagle or the
President or somebody expects children to have fire-crackers. Mammy Bun
says the first American Eagle was hatched on the Fourth of July, you
know," said Dodo earnestly. "Do you think he was, uncle?"
"No; it was the United States that were hatched on the Fourth of July,
seventeen--seventy--six," said Nat, hesitating a little over the date.
"You are both right in a way," laughed the Doctor; "but you need not
give up the Owls in order to celebrate the Eagle's birthday. We will
have an Eagle's birthday party at the beach on the Fourth; and on the
eighth--which is Dodo's birthday, if I am not mistaken--we will have an
Owl party up at the lake!"
"Oh! oh, how lovely!" cried Dodo, giving her uncle such a sudden hug and
kiss that his hat flew off. "And the lake is a long way off, so first we
go in the cars, and then in a big hay wagon with straw in the bottom--at
least, that is the way Olive said she went the last time!"
CANNIBALS IN COURT
Dodo's birthday and a disappointment came together on the eighth, and
the disappointment took the shape of a rainy day. Not an early morning
shower, with promise of warmth and clear weather; for it was one of the
cold, northeasterly storms that are very trying at any time of the year,
but doubly so when they come in July, and seem, for the time, to turn
summer into autumn.
Dodo, Nat, Rap, and Olive stood under the shelter of the porch, the
children vainly hoping that it might clear up before nine o'clock--the
hour the train left--and Olive racking her brain for something that
would soothe their feelings. "We might ask mammy to let us go into the
kitchen and make candy," she said. "The weather is too damp and sticky
for molasses candy, but butter-scotch will harden if we put it in the
dairy." Even this did not seem to be very tempting to little people who
had expected to go to the real Owl woods, and Quick barked and yelped as
if he, too, felt cheated out of an expected excursion.
Presently the Doctor came out and saw the forlorn group, which, being
quite heedless of the sharp slant of the rain, was rather wet and limp.
"Poor little bird-hunters!" he said--rather too cheerfully, they
thought--"you look as unhappy as the party of astronomers who went all
the way to Africa to photograph an eclipse of the sun, and when the time
came were so excited that they forgot to open the camera, and so took no
pictures. Come into the hall and I will tell you about a plan I have.
Catching cold isn't a nice game for a birthday party.
"You expected to hear something about the cannibal birds to-day, and see
the woods where a great many of them live and make their nests, didn't
"Yes," said Dodo; "we wanted to know why they are cannibals, and see
where the wicked things live that eat little Chickens and song birds."
"Very well. Now do you know that though all Hawks and Owls sometimes eat
other birds and help themselves to poultry from the barnyards, yet at
the same time most of them are the farmer's best friends?"
"No," said Rap; "I thought they were all bad, evil birds, and that the
Government often gave money to people for killing them; besides, I am
sure that a Hawk took eleven of our little Chickens this very spring!"
"The Wise Men have been looking up the records of these cannibals--or
Birds of Prey, as they are usually called--and find that very few of
them--only two or three kinds, perhaps--should be condemned to death.
The others belong to the secret guild of the Wise Watchers who, sitting
silently in the shadows of the woods, or perching in the trees around
the edges of fields, wait for rats, mice, moles, rabbits, gophers,
beetles, cutworms, and many other creatures which destroy vegetable
life. The Wise Watchers kill these hurtful creatures, and so become the
guardians of the fields."
"Oh, do tell us which ones do this and which took Rap's Chickens," said
Dodo, forgetting her disappointment for the time.
"I am going to make a play for you. Some of the Owls and Hawks shall
speak for themselves, and tell you about their own habits and customs.
In fact, the most familiar of these cannibals shall have a hearing this
morning in the wonder room. The American Eagle is to be the judge, and I
think that, as you cannot go to the woods, you will like to come into my
room to hear what they have to say."
"Birds talking about themselves in the wonder room!" said Dodo in a
"What is a hearing?" asked Nat.
"I know what a hearing is," said Rap. "It is where people are accused of
doing something wrong and they go down to the courthouse, and the judge
hears what they have to say about it; and, if he thinks they have done
the things, he binds them over for trial. They often have hearings down
in the town hall in the East Village."
"You are quite right, my boy; and at this hearing of ours, as the birds
are stuffed and cannot speak, I shall speak for them. Even if they could
talk, we could not understand them, unless we borrowed Tommy-Anne's
magic spectacles. Now, if you will come into the study, you will find
them all ready."
The children did not wait to be asked twice; Nat and Dodo rushed along
the hall, followed by Rap.
In the study two tables were put together, making a sort of platform at
the end of the room. On this platform a dozen stuffed birds sat in
solemn silence. The Owls were on one side, with a row of Hawks facing
them on the other. A big Golden Eagle was at the foot, and a
White-headed American Eagle held the place of honor at the head, on a
pile of books. Each bird was mounted on a wooden perch; and, as they
were all set up in very natural positions, the effect was quite
startling to the children.
[Illustration: Golden Eagle.]
"Where did all these big birds come from?" asked Nat. "They were not in
the glass cases."
"No, they were in the attic. You must excuse them if their feathers look
a little shabby, for it is a long time since they flew about in the
woods, and took a bath or plumed themselves."
"The judge ought to wear spectacles! May I cut him a pair out of paper?"
asked Dodo. "See how wise he looks," she said, as she put the
make-believe glasses on the Eagle's nose.
"Order!" called the Doctor, rapping on the table with his knuckles. "The
American Eagle makes the first speech, which I will translate to you."
The Eagle looked very fierce as he sat there. His head, neck, and tail
were white, but the rest of his body was dark brown. The upper part of
his great yellow beak was hooked; his yellow feet were bare and scaly;
and his four sharp claws, or talons as they are often called, were
black. He was nearly three feet tall, and if he had spread his powerful
wings he would have measured seven feet from tip to tip.
The Golden Eagle, who sat at the foot of the table, was about the same
size and an equally handsome bird. He held his golden-brown head proudly
erect, and his black wings folded tightly. He too had some white
feathers in the tail, though none on the head; his hooked beak was
black, and he wore dark leggings almost down to his powerful claws.
These two Eagles, though not exactly friends, are not enemies; for the
Bald-headed one ranges over all of North America, especially in open
places near the water, while his Golden brother keeps more to the
western parts, and loves the loneliness of cold northern mountains.
"We Birds of Prey," said the Eagle, "who bow to no one and even sleep
sitting erect--we, whose females are larger than the males for the
better protection of our nests, are accused of eating not only our
smaller brethren, but also four-footed animals which are of service to
man. I deny that we do this as a tribe, except when we are pressed for
food, and Heart of Nature says to us all, 'Take what ye need to eat!'
"Now, you are all in honor bound to speak the truth at this hearing, and
you shall be heard first, Brothers of the Darkness--you, with strange
voices and feathered eye-circles--you, who have three eyelids and whose
eggs are whiter even than moonlight.
"Brother Screech Owl, whose day is my night, tell us about yourself--how
and where you live."
[Illustration: Screech Owl.]
There were two Screech Owls perched side by side on one stump. They were
not ten inches long, and had feathery ear-tufts standing up like horns
an inch long. One Owl was mottled gray and black; the other was
rusty-red; and the toes of both peeped out of holes in their thin
stockings. The gray one gave a little quavering wail and said:
"I am everywhere a well-known Owl; though I say it myself, I am a good,
hard-working Citizen, and in this the Wise Men agree.
"My family are also distinguished by two other odd habits. Having two
sets of eyelids, an inner and an outer, we can close one or both at
will. The inner one is a thin skin that we blink with, and draw across
our eyes in the day-time when the light annoys us, just as House People
pull down a curtain to shut out the sun. The outer lids we close only in
sleep, when we put up the shutters after a night's work, and at last in
death--for birds alone among all animals are able to close their own
eyes when they die. The other habit is the trick of turning our heads
entirely round from front to back, without wringing our necks or choking
to death. This we do to enable us to see in every direction, as we
cannot roll our eyes about as freely as most birds do.
"Come to think of it, I am very fond of eating one bird that, so the
Wise Men say, is as bad as a mouse for mischief. I eat English Sparrows!
"One thing I wish the Wise Men would tell me. Why am I, without season
or reason, sometimes rusty-red and sometimes mottled gray? It confuses
my brain so that I hardly know my own face in the pond."
"Acquitted!" said Judge Eagle. "Long-eared Owl, what have you to say?"
The Long-eared Owl was about fifteen inches high. He had, as his name
implied, long ear-tufts that stood up very straight over his yellow
eyes, and thick tawny stockings on his feet and legs. He was finely
mottled above with brown, black, and dark orange, had long brown streaks
on his buff breast, and dark-brown bands on his wings and tail. He gave
a hoot and spoke very quickly.
"I'm a good Citizen, too. I do not eat many birds, and those I do eat
are not the useful ones who kill insects; moles, mice, rats, and beetles
are my daily food. But House People do not know this, and limit me until
I am almost discouraged; for though I am a Night Owl I do not live in
such wild places as some of my brethren, and so I am more easily caught.
I live and nest anywhere I like, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. I
rear my young equally well in an old Crow's nest in a high, tree, or one
I build for myself in a bush. I mean well and am a Wise Watcher. I know
my voice frightens House People, but let them pity me and point their
guns at something else."
"Short and to the point! Acquitted!" said the Eagle. "Snowy Owl, it is
your turn." This beautiful white Owl, marked here and there with black
bars and spots, had a smooth round head like a snowball, great yellow
eyes, and thickly feathered feet; his bill and claws were black, but you
could hardly see them for the thickness of the feathers in which they
were muffled up. He winked with each eye, clicked Iris bill once or
twice, and thus began:
[Illustration: Snowy Owl.]
"I'm a very good-looking bird, as you see--fatally beautiful, in fact;
for House People shoot me, not on account of my sins, but because I can
be stuffed and sold for an ornament. I do not stay long enough in the
parts of the country where they live, to do much harm, even were I a
wicked Owl. My home is in Arctic regions, where my feather-lined nest
rests on the ground, and even in winter I come into the United States
only when driven by snowstorms from the North.
"At home I live chiefly on lemmings, which are a sort of clumsy,
short-tailed field-mice, not good for anything but to be eaten. When I
go visiting I may take a little feathered game, but oftener I live on my
favorite mice, or go a-fishing in creeks that are not frozen; for I am a
day Owl, and can see quite well in the sunlight. You never see me except
in winter, for I am a thing of cold and snow, whose acquaintance you can
seldom cultivate; but if you knew me well you would find me gentle,
kind, and willing to be friends with you--if you do not believe me, ask
the Wise Men."
"Acquitted! You see we are proving our innocence," said the Eagle
proudly. But he hesitated a moment before calling upon the Great Horned
Owl, as if he himself doubted the honesty of this savage bird.
He was large, nearly two feet high, with very long ear-tufts and great
staring yellow eyes in the middle of his large flat face. He was mottled
on the back and wings with buff and black, had on a white cravat, and
his vest was barred with black, white, and buff; his sharp black talons
were almost hidden by feathers, but not so much so as the Snowy Owl's.
[Illustration: Great Horned Owl]
"None of you like me because you are afraid of me, and so you would
rather condemn me than not," began the Horned Owl fiercely. "But I am
not afraid of anything or anybody. I am a liberal parent and heap my
nest up with food, like all the Owl and Hawk Brotherhood. If I wish a
Hen or a Goose or a Turkey I take it, though I may only care to eat the
head; for I am very dainty, and any one is welcome to what I leave. I
also like wild game--Ruffed Grouse particularly; but I eat rabbits and
rats enough too, I warrant you. I could give you a long list of the
evil-minded rodents I kill in every one of the States where I live; but
I won't, for you might think I wished to prove myself no cannibal. I
don't care what you think of me; for I am able to take care of myself,
and quite independent.
"I do not even have to build my own nest. In February, when I need a
home, there is always an old Crow's or Hawk's nest ready for me; and as
for my young, they are hardy and need no pampering! Whooo-ooo-hooo--ooo!
Hands off, Bird and House People! The Great Horned Owl knows how to use
both beak and claws!"
"Bound over for trial," said the Eagle, "and you are lucky not to be
committed for contempt of court."
"He is a very cross bird to talk so, even if he does some good,"
whispered Dodo to Rap; for the Doctor had given the Owl's hoot so
cleverly it all seemed real to the children. Then Judge Eagle spoke
"Now for my brothers whose keen eyes can look at the sun himself--you
who strike with the claws and rend with the beak in open daylight--it is
your turn to speak. Marsh Hawk, where and how do you live?"
The Marsh Hawk was nineteen inches in length, with a long tail, pointed
wings, and Owl-like face. At first glance he seemed to be a bluish-gray
bird, but on close inspection one could see that his under parts were
white, mottled with brown, and there was also a large white patch on his
rump. He spoke very clearly and said:
"I roam all over North America, wherever there is open country and free
flying, and make my nest on the ground wherever I find tufted grass or
reeds to hide it. Marsh lands please me best, and so I am called the
Marsh Hawk. The voices of the Hawk Brotherhood are like the voices of
the winds, far-reaching, but not to be put in words. Mine is one of the
softest of the cries of the Wise Watchers. Some brothers take their
pastime in the skies, but I keep near the ground, in search of the
things I harry--mice and other small gnawing animals, insects, lizards,
and frogs. Sometimes I take a stray Chicken or some other bird, but very
few compared to the countless rodents I destroy. House People do not
realize that those gnawers are the greatest enemies that the Wise
Watchers keep in check. Day and night these vermin gnaw at the grain,
the roots of things, the fruits, the tree bark, even the eggs and young
of useful birds. I am their chief Harrier; by chance only, not choice,
am I a cannibal."
[Illustration: Marsh Hawk.]
"A very honest statement," said the Eagle. "Acquitted! Sharp-shinned
Hawk, it is your turn."
This little Hawk, only a foot long, was bluish-gray above and had a
black tail barred with ashy; his white breast was banded with
reddish-brown, and he had a keen, fierce eye.
"I have very little to say for myself," he began. "Everywhere in North
America I am a cannibal. I know I am small, but I can kill a bird bigger
than myself, and I have a big brother who is a regular Chicken and Hen
Hawk. I hide my nest in the lengths of thick evergreens, or on a rocky
ledge, and all the year round I take my own wherever I find it. I prefer
to prey on birds--Dove or Sparrow, Robin or Thrush, song bird or
Croaker--all are alike to me. I consider myself a true sportsman, and I
do not like such tame game as mice or frogs. I pounce or dart according
to my pleasure; I can fly faster than any one of you, and few small
birds escape my clutches. Sometimes in winter I make my home near a
colony of English Sparrows and eat them all for a change, just to see
how it feels to be of some use to House People; but in spite of this I
am a bold, bad bird, and as every one knows it I may as well say that I
take pride in my reputation, and do not intend to reform!"
[Illustration: Sharp-Shinned Hawk.]
"Guilty!" said the Eagle solemnly. "Red-shouldered Hawk next."
The Red-shouldered Hawk held up his head proudly and returned the
Eagle's gaze without flinching. He was a fine muscular bird, standing a
little under two feet high, with deep rusty-red shoulders and
reddish-brown back, while his head, neck, and under parts were spotted
and cross-barred with rusty and white. He had a black tail crossed by
half a dozen white bars.
[Illustration: Red-Shouldered Hawk.]
"I am a Hawk of eastern North America, living from the great plains to
the Atlantic coast, going northward to the British lands and southward
to the warm-watered Gulf of Mexico. I am often called Hen Hawk by those
who speak without thinking, but in truth I am not much of a bird-thief,
for a good reason. I am a thoughtful bird, with the deliberate flight of
a Night Owl, rather than the dash of my daylight brethren. I clear the
fields of mice and other gnawers, besides spiders, grasshoppers, and
snails; while as a frog-lover, I am a veritable Frenchman.
"I am a faithful Hawk besides, and when I am protected will nest for a
lifetime in the same woodland, if there is a marsh or spring near by to
furnish my daily frogs. I am faithful also to my mate through life. I
help her build the nest and rear our young. If House People are kind to
me, I can be a gentle friend to them, even in the trials of captivity;
but if I suspect a stranger, he must look at me only at long range,
heavy though my flight appears.
"So I say boldly that I am a useful bird and a good Citizen. If you
think a Hawk has stolen a pet Hen, look well before you shoot; and if he
has rusty-red shoulders count yourself mistaken--and let him go."
"A true account," said the Eagle; "you stand acquitted. Sparrow Hawk,
This charming little Hawk, about the size of a Shrike, had all the
beauty of shape and color of a song bird, combined with Hawk-like dash.
His wings were narrow and pointed. His back was reddish-brown with a few
black bars, and there was a broad one on the end of his tail; his wings
were partly bluish. Underneath he was white, shading to cream color and
spotted with black. His head was bluish with black markings on the sides
and a red spot on the top. He was not at all embarrassed at being in
such grand company, for he was used to the best society, having come of
noble ancestry in the Hawk line.
"You all know me," he said in a clear voice. "Since Sparrow-killing is
ordered by the Wise Men, you should think well of me--especially you
House People, who love song birds. I will tell you a secret--I am
thinking of eating no birds but English Sparrows in future!"
[Illustration: Sparrow Hawk.]
"So you _have_ been eating other birds?" said Dodo.
"Y-e-s, I have, but not many more than the Shrike takes, and mostly
seed-eaters--hardly ever an insect-eating song bird. Do you know how
many bad insects I eat?" The little Hawk rattled off a long list,
beginning with grasshoppers and ending with beetles; but he spoke so
fast that the children could not remember half the names he mentioned.
"Where do I live? All over North America, though I leave the colder
parts in winter, for I like to be comfortable. I make my nest in some
snug hole that a Woodpecker has kindly left. Sometimes, for a joke, I
kill Sparrows and take their nest! Or make myself a home in a
dove-cote--only I never seem to stay there long, for the Doves tell
tales about me. I can sing a little, too; I have a high soprano voice
"That will do," interrupted the Eagle. "For a small bird you are a great
talker. But you are acquitted! Who comes next? Brother Osprey?"
The children recognized the Fish Hawk they had seen the first day they
went to the sea-shore.
"The Osprey is a fisherman like myself, so we need not question him
about his habits," continued the Eagle, who had his own private reasons
for not caring to hear all the Osprey might say, remembering that he had
sometimes stolen fish the Osprey had caught; "but I should like to tell
the House Children that he is one of the long-lived birds who mate for
life after the manner of true Eagles, many of whom have lived a hundred
years, and also very industrious. Golden Eagle, what is your bill of
"The food of a wild bird of the mountains, far from the homes of men. I
seize Wild Ducks and other game birds, hares, rabbits, fawns--yes, and
young calves also, if House People make their dwellings near me and
bring cattle into my fortress; but if they keep away from me, I never
"Humph!" said the Bald Eagle; "you and I are somewhat alike, for though
I chiefly fish for a living I also kill the young of large animals, and
even eat carrion when game is scarce. But as it is unusual for a judge
to condemn himself, I think I must go free; and as there are not very
many of either of us, it really doesn't matter much."
"How many did you condemn as really bad cannibals?" asked Nat, speaking
to the Eagle. "The Sharp-shinned Hawk, and the Great Horned Owl are
held over for further trial!" answered Judge Eagle. "These two are the
only ones who have been brought before this court, though accusations
have been made against that big brother of his whom the Sharpshin spoke
of, and also against a still bigger relative he did not mention. The
names of these two offenders are Cooper's Hawk and the Goshawk, who will
both be brought to the bar of justice at our next session. This court is
[Illustration: Bald Eagle]
After the children had spent some time in looking at the Hawks and Owls,
Nat asked, "What are the 'game birds,' uncle, that those cannibals
"That is not an easy question to answer, my boy; but as we are coming to
these birds next, you will learn about them separately. Game birds as a
whole are those chiefly useful as food, and the hunting of them is the
occupation of sportsmen. These birds may belong to the working guilds,
and all have habits interesting to bird-lovers; but as regards their
value to the world, it is mostly in the shape of food for House People."
"Then it isn't wrong for people to kill these birds for food?"
"No, not if it is done fairly, in a true sportsmanlike spirit, and not
with traps or snares, or in the nesting season, when no bird should be
molested. The true sportsman never shoots a bird out of season, or a
song bird at any time, and it is owing to his care that laws are made to
stop the pot-hunters."
"Are the game birds tree birds, or what?" asked Dodo.
"There are many kinds," said the Doctor. "Some of them have cooing notes
and build their nests in trees; these belong to the Pigeon family. Some
scratch about and feed on the ground, where they also nest, like our
barnyard poultry. Others run along the banks of rivers or on the
sea-beaches, where they wade in shallow water to pick up their food,
like Snipes and Plovers; while others swim with their webbed, feet and
take their food from deep water, like Geese and Ducks. There are a few
game birds in this glass case--some Pigeons and Grouse; suppose we
finish the morning in their company?
"We will call Pigeons the Birds that Coo; and Grouse are some of the
Birds that Scratch, so called because they all have much the same habit
as our domestic fowls of scratching the ground for food and to raise a
dust in which they take a sort of bath. See, this Cooer is called the
A COOING PAIR
THE PASSENGER PIGEON AND THE MOURNING DOVE
"You all know the Pigeons that are kept about stables and barnyards. You
have often seen them walking with dainty steps to pick up their food,
and have heard the soft crooning 'coo-oo' they give when talking to each
other. They all belong to the Birds that Coo. Their food is taken into
the crop, which can be plainly seen when it is quite full. These birds
feed their young in the same way Hummingbirds and Flickers do; for they
give the little ones softened food from the crop, mixed with a sort of
milky fluid that also comes from the crop. One habit that Pigeons and
Doves have, all their own, is that in drinking they do not raise the
head to swallow like other birds, but keep the beak in the water until
they are through.
"Our domestic Pigeons have beautiful and varied plumage, but to my mind
many wild species surpass them. The two best-known wild species are the
Passenger Pigeon of the Northwest, and the Mourning Dove, which may be
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