Mabel Osgood Wright and Elliott Coues
Part 6 out of 7
found nesting everywhere in temperate North America.
"Here are the two birds"--and the Doctor set them upon the table. "At
first glance you may think them much alike, and if you should see them
on the wing you would surely be confused.
"Rap, you may describe the Passenger Pigeon, and Nat shall take the
Dove; let me see if you can do it clearly enough for your written
[Illustration: Passenger Pigeon.]
Rap looked at the Pigeon for some time. "It isn't an easy bird to
describe--all the colors run together so. It has bluish-gray upper
parts, and underneath it is a sort of pinky brown with white under the
tail. The sides of the neck are shiny with soap-bubble colors. The
outside tail-feathers are bluish and fade off white at the tips, but the
middle ones are all dark; the beak is black, and the feet are red. But
see here," he added, as he looked sharply at the bird's tail again,
"there are some chestnut and black spots at the roots of the side
"Very good, my boy. How long do you think it is?"
Rap measured with his finger and said he thought about fourteen inches.
"You are almost right, though these Pigeons vary in length, because some
have longer tails than others. I think this one measured about sixteen
inches when it was stretched out straight; but it looks shorter now,
because it is set up in a natural position.
"The life history of this beautiful Pigeon should teach every one the
necessity of protecting birds by law. Up to fifty years ago the
Passenger Pigeon was extremely plentiful everywhere east of the great
plains--there were many millions in a single flock sometimes. It was a
most valuable bird, its flesh being particularly well-flavored and
tender. It nested in large colonies that often stretched unbroken for
many miles in the woods, and was both hardy and prolific. If it had been
protected in the breeding season and hunted fairly as an article of food
at other times, we should still be enjoying Pigeon pie as freely as we
did in my boyhood. But as the population of the country increased, these
great flocks were cruelly slaughtered, for the mere greed of killing
them; thousands were often left to decay upon the ground, and now I do
not believe that any one of you has ever seen a wild Pigeon before
"We have Pigeon pie at home in the winter," said Dodo.
"Yes, tame Pigeon pie," said the Doctor.
"It might have been tame pie and it was very good! But, Uncle Roy, why
did people want to kill these good, food birds when they didn't care to
"It is difficult to say exactly, little girl. People living in what we
call a state of nature, like African savages, or as our American Indians
once did, seem to follow Heart of Nature's law; 'Kill _only_ what ye
need for food.' But many people that are called civilized never think of
natural law at all, and having a coarse streak in their natures desire
to kill wild things merely for the sake of killing. It is against such
people that laws must be made by those who have more intelligence.
[Illustration: Mourning Dove]
"Now for your Dove, Nat--called the Mourning Dove from his mournful
"At first," said Nat, "when I saw it in the glass case it looked sort of
bluish-brown. But near by it is greenish-brown and gray on top, and its
head and neck have bright colors, like what you see on silver that has
not been cleaned for some time or the spoon with which you have been
eating boiled eggs."
"We call those colors metallic tints," interrupted the Doctor, to help
"Thank you; that is what I was trying to say. It is just like what Rap
called soap-bubble colors on the Pigeon's neck, but this Dove has got
black specks like velvet on the neck too, and a black band on the tail
with white tips to the feathers; underneath it is dull purple and sort
of buff, and its feet are red, and it's about a foot long."
"That is a fairly good description of a bird whose colors it is almost
impossible to put into words. Do you know anything about this Dove,
"I only know it builds such a poor nest that you would think the eggs
would drop through the bottom, only they don't seem to. There was a
nest in the miller's woods last year, with two white eggs like tame
Pigeons', only smaller, and when they hatched I took one of the squabs
home for a pet. It became very tame, but I had to let it fly because it
grew too big and dirty,--it was like keeping a Chicken in the house.
"The miller said they were mischievous birds, and ate so many oats that
he had to sow his field twice over. Is that true, Doctor, or do they
belong to some good guild?"
"They do not eat insects, though they may do a little work as Weed
Warriors, and as they are fond of grain they may have helped themselves
to some of the miller's oats; but usually when they feed on the ground
they are Gleaners, and they never disturb grain in the ear. They have
many pretty ways, and even though their love-song is sad they are
cheerful and happy. Their 'coo-oo' sounds very gentle in the morning
chorus, and though the Dove often nests in open woods and gardens, it
seems most at home in a quiet place near water; for it is very fond of
drinking and bathing."
THREE FAMOUS GAME BIRDS
"If any one should ask you which are the most famous American game
birds, you may answer without hesitation, 'Bob White, Ruffed Grouse, and
Woodcock'--the whistler, the drummer, and the sky dancer--all three good
Citizens and handsome, interesting birds.
"Bob White is the most familiar, because in spring, when he feels quite
sure that the law will protect his pretty head, he comes out of the
thick bushes to the rail fence by the roadside and calls his own
name--'Bob--white, bob--white!'--so that the shy mate he desires shall
know where to find him. Then if she is hard-hearted and a long time
coming he will say--'Bob-white, _poor_ bob-white!' as if craving for
"The last of May the nesting begins, and from then until autumn Bob
White tells his name and whereabouts to no one; for it is a very busy
season with him. The nest of leaves on the ground may yield during the
summer twenty or thirty little Bobs, whom he must help supply with food
and teach to walk about and care for themselves.
"In autumn each one of these Quail families--for Mr. Bob White is a kind
of Quail--is called a 'covey.' They take to thick brush for winter food
and shelter, being very clever at hiding from the sportsman, and only
flying from shelter when nosed out by his dog.
[Illustration: Bob White.]
"The Ruffed Grouse is also a bird of woods and brushy places, but at all
seasons is more fond of trees than Bob White. It is much larger than
Bob, and if seen among the underbrush looks like a small, brown,
speckled Hen. Watch one in the spring-time, when he is roaming the woods
in search of a mate, and you will see that he is every inch a game
bird--a king of game birds too. In early May this Grouse mounts a fallen
tree, or the rail of an old fence, and swells his breast proudly till
the long feathers on each side of his neck rise into a beautiful shining
black ruffle or tippet, such as you can see in some old-fashioned
portraits of the times when Elizabeth was queen of England. He droops
his wings and spreads his tail to a brown and gray banded fan, which he
holds straight up as a Turkey does his when he is strutting and
gobbling. Next he raises his wings and begins to beat the air--slowly at
first, and then faster and faster. 'Boom--boom--boom'--the hollow sound
comes rolling with a noise like beating a bass drum.
"Thus does the Ruffed Grouse drum up his mate, as the Woodpecker hammers
or the Thrush sings. You remember the booming sound made by the wings of
the Nighthawk, when the air whizzed through them? When Bob White and his
Grouse brother fly, their wings make a whirring noise that is equally
"And does his mate understand that the drumming is meant to call her?"
"Yes, surely; and soon there is a nest of dry leaves somewhere about the
roots of a tree, or under a fallen log. Father Grouse then becomes
selfish and takes himself off with some men friends, leaving mamma alone
to hatch the eggs and feed the babies. But this is not so dreadful as it
seems, because the young ones are fully covered with down like Chickens
when they first leave the egg, and able to follow their mother; besides,
they are the most obedient little things imaginable.
"If she but gives one cluck of alarm, they vanish, under the leaves or
twigs, and do not stir again until they hear her say the danger is
over. And that patient watchful Mother Grouse has as many ways of
leading an enemy away from her nest as any House Mother could devise if
her children were in danger.
"This Grouse is a Ground Gleaner, a Seed Sower, and a Weed Warrior also
in autumn. When snow covers all other food, he nips buds from low
[Illustration: Ruffed Grouse.]
"Sometimes he burrows in deep snow for shelter from the cold, and then is
liable to be caught by a sleet storm and frozen in his hiding-place. So
you see his life is not altogether an easy one.
"The young Grouse stay with their parents until they are old enough to
choose mates for themselves; but the flocks are never as large as the
covey Bob White musters about him.
"The American Woodcock, the last of the trio, and the most wary of all,
belongs to a family of shore birds who patter about the water's edge;
but he does not often go in wading, and prefers seclusion in the woods
that border swamps. He is a worm and grub eater who, by the aid of his
long straight bill, which has a sensitive tip like your finger, can feel
his food when it is out of sight, and is able to probe the soft mud for
things to eat that other birds cannot find. The strangest thing about
his bill is, that the upper half of it can be bent at the end, almost as
much as you can crook the last joint of your fingers. Such a bill is of
the greatest assistance to him, as his eyes are set so far in the back
of his head that he cannot see what he eats."
"How queer!" said Nat; "what is the reason for that? I suppose there
must be a reason!"
"This is it. By being placed far back in his head his eyes become like
two watch-towers, from which he can scan the country behind as well as
in front, and be on the alert for enemies. Woodcocks are very cautious
birds, keeping well hidden by day and feeding only during the twilight
hours or at night.
"They do not pass the winter in the colder parts of the country, and so
escape the suffering that often overtakes Bob White and the Ruffed
Grouse. They must be able to brave snowstorms, however, at the latter
end of the cold season; for sometimes, when they begin to lay in early
April, winter changes its mind and comes back to give them a snow
"You said that they are dancing birds," said Dodo. "When do they dance?"
"They dance in the sky in spring and summer!" cried Rap, unable to keep
still any longer. "I saw a pair of them doing it this year, when I was
out with the miller, looking for his colt that had strayed into the big
woods beyond the pond. He said he knew there must be a Woodcock about,
because he saw the little round holes in the mud, where they had been
boring for earthworms, and that is the way he knows where to find them
in the fall when he wants to go hunting."
"Yes, but how did they dance?" persisted Dodo.
[Illustration: American Woodcock.]
"Oh! like crazy things with wings! First one ran around a little and
whistled; then one jumped right off into the air, making a whirring with
his wings until he was way up out of sight, and then after a little
while he came pitching down zig-zag, like a kite that has lost its tail,
whistling something like the way a Swallow twitters, and making a queer
twanging noise. The other one stayed on the ground and jigged about all
the time. I would have liked to watch longer, but we had to find the
colt, you know."
"Now write your tables," said the Doctor, "for it is nearly
Length ten inches.
Upper parts mixed reddish-brown, buff, gray, and black, with a white
line over the eye and a row of buff streaks on the inside wing-feathers.
Under parts white, black, and chestnut, the breast quite black and the
throat pure white in the male, but buff in the female, and other
markings much mixed up.
A Citizen of the greater part of temperate North America, and a very
valuable one, the prince of the game birds of its family. The bill is
stout for crushing seeds, the head has a slight crest, and the feet have
no feathers on the scaly part that goes from the drumstick down to the
roots of the toes.
The Ruffed Grouse
Length about seventeen inches.
Upper parts mottled with reddish-brown, black, gray, buff, and whitish,
in different blended patterns; on each side of the neck a tuft of long
glossy greenish-black feathers in the male, much shorter and not so dark
in the female; the tail in both sexes gray or brownish with black bars
or mottling, especially one broad bar near the end, and gray tip of the
Lower parts light buff or whitish with many dark-brown or blackish bars,
best marked on the sides.
A Citizen of eastern North America, and a valuable game bird. It lives
on the ground and looks like a small Hen, but has a longer and handsomer
tail that spreads round like a fan. The bill is stout and the head
crested, like the Bob White's; but the feet have little feathers part
way down from the drumstick to the toes.
The Ruffed Grouse, like the Bob White, belongs to the Birds that
The American Woodcock
Length ten to twelve inches--female larger than male.
Upper parts variegated with brown, tawny, and black.
Under parts plain warm brown.
A Summer Citizen of eastern North America, wintering in southern parts
of its range, and a famous game bird. A ground bird of marshy woods and
near-by fields, though he belongs to the same family as the Snipe, and
is therefore classed among the Birds that Wade. He has a plump body,
with short, legs, neck, tail, and wings, a big head with the eyes set in
its back upper corners, a very long bill which is soft, sensitive, and
can be bent a little; and the three outside feathers in each wing are
very much narrower than the rest.
The dinner bell rang as the children wrote the last words.
"You see," said the Doctor, "that though it is still raining and
blowing, the morning has gone in a twinkling, and I now suspect the
birthday cake is waiting to be cut."
"Yes," said Dodo, "I've been smelling the flowers and candles that go
with a birthday cake for ever so long! And after dinner we can accept
Olive's invitation and make candy--can't we, Uncle Roy?"
"I suppose so; and as nothing is too good for a rainy birthday, I will
add something more to the feast. I will tell you a birthday secret--or,
rather, what has been a secret until now.
"Next mouth we are all going to the sea-shore to spend a few weeks in
Olaf's little cabin, to bathe in the salt water, and sail in his
sharpie. Then you can ask all the questions you please about the marsh
and water birds. You will learn how the tides ebb and flow, and see the
moon come up out of the water.
"There! Don't all talk at once! Yes, Rap is coming with us--and his
mother also, to help take care of you children, for Mammy Bun must stay
here. She does not like to camp out--says she is afraid of getting
"Come, dinner first, and then talking, or the candles will burn out all
ON THE SHORE
By the first of August, bird housekeeping was over at Orchard Farm. The
Barn Swallow had guided her last brood through the hayloft window,
without having it closed upon her as she had feared. The friendly Robins
had left the Orchard and lawn, to moult in the quiet of the woods. The
Thrashers, and Catbirds too, were quite silent and invisible; of all the
voices that had made the last three months so musical, the Red-eyed
Vireo and the Song Sparrow alone persisted in singing, aided by a few
"Rap says that August is a poor month for birds about here," said Nat to
his uncle; "do you think there will be more of them down at the shore?"
"That we cannot tell until we go there, but we are likely to meet some
of the Wading and Swimming Birds who have nested in the far North, and
are on their southward journey. If the weather is pleasant, they often
pass by far out at sea; but if it is foggy or stormy, they may stop
awhile to rest and feed."
"Do many of these birds nest near our beach?"
"A few, but the greater number breed further north. Olaf will show us
Herons in the island woods, and where the Rails nest in the reeds, near
the Marsh Wrens, a mile or two up the river. Some day when it is calm,
we will sail over to Great Gull Island, where many water birds lay their
eggs on the bare sand. There will be enough for you to see and do, I
The next day they all went to the shore. Mr. Wolf looked after them very
sadly from the door of his kennel, where he was chained, and barked a
gruff goodbye; but Quick informed them that he intended going also, took
matters into his own hands, and started to run down the road ahead of
After much arranging, talking, and laughing, two wagon-loads of people,
rubber boots, fishing tackle, and other things, started toward the
shore, a farm hand going with each team to drive the horses back.
"Miss Olive, honey!" called Mammy Bun as they were starting, "don' you
let de chillen eat too many o' dem clams what has de long necks; dey is
powerful full o' cramps." And Olive promised that she would be very
When they reached the shore, they found everything ready for them.
Olaf's little home, which contained four tiny rooms, was as clean and
compact as a ship's cabin. There was a kitchen, one room for Olive and
Dodo, one for the Doctor, and another for Rap's mother; while Olaf, Nat,
and Rap were to sleep close by in a tent made of poles, canvas, and pine
boughs. Several boats were drawn up on the beach, by a creel of nets and
some lobster pots, while Olaf's sharpie was anchored in deep water a
little way offshore.
It was late when the horses turned homeward after leaving their loads;
it had been a beautiful afternoon, neither too warm nor too cool. "Oh!"
exclaimed Dodo, "now that the horses have gone, the good time will
begin; for we can't go back even if we want to."
The children amused themselves for some time in looking at their new
quarters, and then in watching Olaf row out to light the beacon lamps.
When it grew dusk they had supper, wondering at the strange stillness of
the evening; for, though it was usually very quiet at the Farm, they had
never before known the silence that falls with the twilight on a shore
where the water does not rush and beat as on the ocean beaches, but
simply laps lazily to and fro, like the swinging of a hammock.
Presently the stars began to give good-evening winks at the
beacons--first one, then another and another, until the whole sky
twinkled; while one evening star, the brightest of them all, hurried
along the west as if it were trying to overtake the sun, and knew that
it was fully half an hour behind the jolly god of day.
"See how the tide is coming in," said Rap, when they returned to the
beach. "When Olaf went out, he had to push his boat ever so far, and now
the water is almost up to the line of seaweeds and shells."
"I wonder what makes the water go in and out?" questioned Dodo, half to
"I don't exactly know," said Rap; "but I think it is because the earth
goes round every day, making the water tip from one side to the other
and then back again."
"Then why doesn't it all tip off into the sky?" persisted Dodo.
"I guess--because--that is, I don't know," stammered Rap. "I must ask
Uncle Roy to tell us, and why the earth down here on the shore stays
sharp and gritty when it is wet; for when the earth up at the Farm is
wet, it makes sticky mud," said Dodo.
"Yes," said Nat, "and why the stars are of such different sizes, and
seem to stay quite still, except some that go along like that big bright
one over there."
"Quok! Quok!" cried a strange voice from the marshes back of the beach.
"Quok, quok, quok, quok!" answered other voices.
"What can that be?" said Nat; "it isn't a Whip-poor-will, or a
Nighthawk--it must be one of the cannibal birds. Uncle Roy, what kind of
birds are those calling away over in the marshes?" But the Doctor was
not within hearing, and it was some time before they found him, sitting
by the cabin door smoking his pet outdoor pipe, which was made of a
"Did you hear the Night Herons calling as you came up?" he asked.
"We heard a very queer squawky sound, and came to ask you what it was,
for we couldn't guess," said Nat. "What is a Night Heron--a cousin of
the Nighthawk, who lives near the water?"
"I don't think it's a water bird," said Rap, "because I have heard that
same squawking up by the mill."
"But is not the mill close to the pond?" said the Doctor, smiling.
"Why, yes, to be sure--but I was thinking of salt water."
"That is a distinction that applies to few of our water birds; when we
speak of the birds that wade, paddle, swim, and dive, we must remember
that they may do so in lakes, rivers, bays, or the ocean, according to
their individual habits. In fact, some members of a single family prefer
fresh water, while their brothers are more fond of the salt sea. This is
the case in the family of the Night Heron."
"Where does he belong?" asked Rap, "with the paddling birds or the
"With the paddlers and waders."
"See, here comes the moon up out of the water and it makes a shiny path
up to our feet and Olaf is rowing back right down it and the stars have
stopped winking and are getting dim," said eager little Dodo, with an
"and" wherever she ought to have stopped to breathe, as usual. "Hark!
the Herons are squawking again--won't you tell us about them now, Uncle
A LONG-NECKED FAMILY
[Illustration: Black-Crowned Night Heron.]
"The long-necked, long-legged, long-billed Heron family, to which these
squawkers belong, contains many marsh-loving birds. They are not exactly
what we call shore birds, but live contentedly near any water, where
they can wade and splash about pools and shallows for their food. For
they eat meat, though they never kill birds, like the cannibals. Their
taste is for frogs, lizards, snakes, snails, crabs, fish, and other
small fry; they very seldom eat any warm-blooded animals. Herons are
all rather large birds, the smallest of them being over a foot in
length, while the largest stand fully four feet high."
"Quok! Quok!" came the cry again, this time just over the cabin. Looking
up, the children saw a dark body flying toward the wood belt; something
like a long beak stuck out from its breast in front, and its long legs
were stretched out stiff behind, but these were the only details that
they could distinguish.
"I thought Herons had long necks," said Nat; "but this one doesn't seem
to have any neck at all."
"Ah, but when it flies it folds its long neck, and thus draws its head
down between its shoulders, while some of the Stork and Crane cousins
poke out their heads in flying."
"Are Storks and Cranes cousins of the Herons?" asked Dodo. "I know about
Storks--they are in my fairy book. They live in the north country where
little Tuk came from, and build their nests on roofs between chimneys,
and stand a great deal on one leg in the water looking for frogs. Do
Herons nest on roofs and stand on one leg, Uncle Roy?"
"They do not nest on roofs, but they often stand on one leg when
watching for food, and when sleeping--in fact, they stand so much in
this way that one leg is often stronger than the other, and they most
certainly belong to the guild of Wise Watchers. The Black-crowned Night
Heron who has just flown over is the most familiar member of his family
hereabouts, and quite a sociable bird. He prefers to live the hotel life
of a colony, instead of having a quiet home of his own, and so do almost
all other members of the Heron family. These Night Herons flock back
from warm countries in April, and by early May have built their rough
nests of sticks in trees near the water, or over a marshy place. There
is a colony of twenty or thirty nests on Marsh Island, Olaf tells me; in
my boyhood days there used to be hundreds of them.
"In nesting-time a heronry, as such a colony is called, is a very noisy,
dirty place; for they do not keep their homes neat and nice, like the
tidy land birds. Mr. and Mrs. Night Heron call hoarsely enough to each
other, but imagine three or four baby Herons crying from every
nest--truly the parents can have but little rest, for day and night they
must go frogging or fishing, to fill the stomachs of their red-eyed
"When the nesting season is over, however, this Heron again becomes the
night watchman of the marshes. The tinkling of the bell on the
home-going cow is his breakfast bell, and sunset the signal for him to
leave his roost. Then beware! little fishes and lizards--those red eyes
are glowing for you! That long spear-shaped beak is ready to stab you to
death! Froggy 'who would a-wooing go,' return quickly to your mother,
without making any impertinent remarks about 'gammon and spinach' on the
way, or something much more savage than the 'lily-while duck' will
surely gobble you up! Stay in doors patiently, until sunrise sends the
rough-clawed prowler back to his heronry again."
"May we go to see the Herons some day? It would be so funny to go to a
bird hotel and find everybody asleep, like the beauty in the wood," said
Dodo. "You shall certainly pay them a visit, but I doubt that you will
find them as sound asleep as you imagine."
The very next morning Olaf piloted the party across the meadows to the
wood that was made an island by a little creek that threaded in and out
among the reeds.
"I know somebody whose feet are wet already!" said Nat, pointing to
Olive, who was slipping about uncertainly.
"I know it was very foolish to come without my rubber boots, but they
are so uncomfortable to wear in summer. Oh! please give me your
hand--quick, father!" The Doctor caught her as she was sinking in what
looked like a bit of good ground, but was really a bog tuft.
It took some time to work their way to the centre of the island. There
the ground was drier in spots, between the little pools, and there were
some high trees.
"Stop here," said Olaf cautiously, "and look well before."
They did so just as the crackling twigs startled some dusky shapes that
flapped among the trees.
"The Herons!" exclaimed Rap, settling his crutch more firmly and
preparing to watch closely.
As soon as their eyes became accustomed to the dim light, the party saw
many large birds, some in the trees, some in the decaying underbrush,
and others on the ground. Here and there among the trees were nests,
looking like flat heaps of sticks. They were empty; but their sides, the
trees, and the ground were all spattered and befouled with the
chalky-white droppings of the careless colony. "Ugh!" shivered Dodo,
who had a very keen nose, "what an ugly place to live in, and such a
horrid smell! Please, uncle, don't these birds have dreadful headaches
"I think House People would have wretched headaches if they lived
here--in fact, we must not stay very long; but it agrees with Herons,
who are built to be the wardens of just such places."
"There are two kinds of Herons here," said Rap. "Some black and white,
with a topknot, and some striped brown ones. Aren't the brown ones
Bitterns? They look like one I saw in the miller's woods, and he called
it a Bittern."
"The striped ones are the young birds, now wearing their first plumage.
Bitterns prefer to live in freshwater meadows, or near ponds. They are
solitary birds, keeping house in single pairs, and after nesting-time
wander about entirely alone."
"Isn't it very hard to tell young Night Herons from Bitterns?" asked
"It would be easy for you to mistake them, but the habits of the two
species are quite different. The Bittern nests on the ground, in a reedy
bog, not in the woods, and may be seen flying in broad daylight, with
his long legs trailing behind him. But in spite of this, he is a
difficult bird to find; for if anything is 'remote, unfriendly,
solitary, slow,' it is the American Bittern, who often stands motionless
among the reeds for hours."
"That is just what the Bittern did that the miller and I saw," said Rap.
"We were hunting for a calf--the miller's things are always straying
away, because he never mends his fences--and this Bittern was among
some very tall grasses and dry flags; for it was along in the fall,
when things were turning brown. I don't know how I ever came to see him;
but when I did, he looked so queer that he almost scared me, and I said
to the miller, 'Whatever is that?'
[Illustration: American Bittern.]
"For a minute he couldn't see anything, and then he said, 'Pshaw! that's
only a Bittern; but I do wish I had my gun.'
"'Why doesn't he move?' said I. 'Look at the way he holds his head
straight up, like a stick. I'm going round behind him to see what his
back looks like.'
"'He's a stupid thing, and thinks we don't see him,' said the miller. I
walked round and round until I began to get dizzy, but that bird was all
front, and all I could see was his striped breast and neck. Then I saw
the miller was laughing.
"'That bird isn't as stupid as he looks,' said he. 'He turns around just
as fast as you walk, so you won't have a chance to get behind him.' Then
we heard the calf low, and we went away."
"That was a sight worth seeing, my boy," said the Doctor; "for it is one
of the best proofs that birds understand the value of protection of
color. The Bittern and the old reeds blended their colors together, and
by stretching up its neck the bird adapted his shape as much as possible
to the straight, stiff lines of the reeds, while by keeping his front
parts toward you, the curves of his back were concealed. You might have
passed his hiding-place a hundred times without seeing him. But
come--let us leave this Heron hotel, and find a way to the lane road."
The open air seemed doubly sweet and fresh, after the fishy smell of the
Heronry. Dodo stopped under the first shade tree, and begged for her
The Black-crowned Night Heron
(The Night Watchman)
Length about two feet.
Upper parts glossy greenish black in front, but ashy-gray behind and on
the neck, wings, and tail; the forehead white, and two slender white
plumes sticking out six or eight inches behind the head.
Under parts whitish, including the long throat or front of the whole
Bill black, with greenish bare skin between it and the red eyes; legs
Sexes alike, but young very different, being grayish-brown above with
many white or buff spots, and white below with black streaks.
A Summer Citizen of North America, useful in keeping down frogs and
small reptiles, but too untidy to be a pleasant neighbor.
A member of the guild of Wise Watchers.
The American Bittern
(The Stake-Driver Or Thunder-Pumper)
Length from twenty-three to thirty-four inches, which is a very unusual
difference in birds of the same species. Upper parts all freckled with
brown, black, and tan color of various shades, as if sun-burnt, with a
velvety black patch on each side of the neck, and the longest
wing-feathers plain blackish with brown tips; top of head plain brown.
Under parts tawny whitish or pale buff, every feather with a dark
streak, and the middle line of feathers along the whole throat white
with brown streaks.
Bill blackish and yellowish; legs greenish; claws brown; eyes yellow.
A Citizen of temperate North America, but a very shy and solitary bird,
who will not be neighborly and is oftener heard than seen in the bogs
where he likes to live alone. He makes a loud noise that sounds like
chopping wood with an axe or driving a stake in the ground with a
mallet; so he is called the Stake-driver by some people, while others
name him Thunder-pumper and Bog-bull. His body is about as big as a
Hen's, and he is sometimes known as Indian Hen, though his very long
beak, neck, and legs are not at all like those of a Hen.
A member of the guild of Wise Watchers, who keeps a sharp lookout for
the reptiles and little fishes he spears with his strong pointed bill,
and places his nest on the ground; the eggs are drab-colored, not pale
green like those of most members of the Heron family.
A BONNET MARTYR AND A BLUE GIANT
"You promised to tell us about four Herons--please, who are the other
two?" asked Dodo, when she had finished writing these tables, and had
buttoned her book into the pocket of the long gray linen apron which the
Doctor had taught both Olive and herself to wear on those excursions,
whether they hunted birds, flowers, or butterflies.
"Boys have pockets--how I wish I was a boy!" Dodo had said, after she
had been at Orchard Farm a couple of days. "So do I," had echoed Olive;
"there is always something to carry, and everything seems either to fall
out of girls' pockets, or to be smashed flat."
"If you will only promise not to turn into boys, I will furnish you with
pockets," the Doctor had said, and he had kept his word as usual.
[Illustration: Snowy Egret Or Bonnet Martyr.]
"Did I say four Herons?" he now asked. "Yes, to be sure; there are two
more that will interest you--the Snowy Egret or Bonnet Martyr, and the
Great Blue Heron or Blue Giant."
"Bonnet Martyr? What a strange name for a bird! Why do you call him
that? Do they live about here?" asked Nat.
"They do not live so far north as this, though they sometimes stray
through the Middle and Northern States. But in the Southern States, and
Florida in particular, they used to live in vast colonies. Now they are
being surely and quickly put out of the world by the cruelty and
thoughtlessness of House People--the particular kind of House People who
wear women's hats and bonnets.
"Once these Egrets covered the southern lowlands like drifting snow--for
they are beautifully white. In the nesting season, when many birds are
allowed some special attraction in the way of plumage, bunches of long,
slender, graceful plumes grow on their backs between the shoulders and
curl up over the tail.
"In an evil moment some woman, imitating the savages, used a bunch of
these feathers to make a tuft upon her headgear. From that day the
spotless bird was doomed to martyrdom. Egrets, as the plumes are called
like the birds themselves, became a fashionable trimming for bonnets and
have continued so to this day, in spite of law and argument; for many
women seem to be savages still, notwithstanding their fine clothes and
other signs of civilization.
"These Herons only wear their beautiful plumes in the nesting season,
when it is the height of cruelty to kill birds of any kind, and this is
what happens: When the nests, which are built of sticks in bushes and
trees above the lagoons, are filled with young, as yet too feeble to
take care of themselves, and the beautiful parents are busy flying to
and fro, attending to the wants of their helpless nestlings, the
plume-hunters glide among them noiselessly, threading the watercourses
in an Indian dug-out or canoe, and when once within the peaceful
colony, show themselves with bold brutality. For well they know that the
devoted parents will suffer death rather than leave their young in such
"Shot upon shot rings out in repeated volleys, each followed in turn by
the piteous cries of wounded birds, till the ground is strewn with
hundreds of the dead and dying. Then the cruel hunters tear off the
plume-tuft from the back of each victim, as the savage does a human
scalp, and move on in search of another heronry, to repeat this inhuman
slaughter of the innocents.
"But this is not all--what becomes of the young birds? They must either
perish slowly of hunger, or be swallowed by the snakes that infest such
places and are attracted to the nests by the clamoring of the starving
orphans. Now do you wonder that I call this beautiful Snowy Egret the
"I never, never will wear any kind of bird's feathers again," said Dodo;
"and when I go back to school I am going to make a guild for people who
will promise not to either. Are Ostriches killed for their feathers,
Uncle Roy? Because my best winter hat has a curly row all round the
"No. Ostrich plumes are a perfectly harmless decoration, for the bird
earns his own and his master's living by growing them, without losing
his life. They are the only kind of feathers that should ever be worn
"Has the Great Blue Heron pretty feathers like a Bluebird?" asked Nat,
who felt sorry for the fate of the Egrets, but did not like to show it
and so tried to turn the subject.
"He is of a slate-gray color, which you might not think blue at all,
and he too wears fine plumes, on his head, breast, and back. He is the
largest bird of our hundred, being quite as tall as you are, Miss Dodo.
If you ever see one of these birds standing on the edge of the mill
pond, you will never forget it; for it does not seem like an American
bird, but rather like a visitor from strange lands. You may imagine it
to be an Egyptian princess in disguise, waiting for a barge to come down
the river, rowed by black slaves and conveying a prince all glittering
with jewels, who is bringing a ring cut with mystic letters to break the
spell--as such things are managed in fairy tales.
[Illustration: Blue Heron.]
"This Blue Heron, you will find, has no sweeter voice than his
night-flying cousin, and, like the latter, nests in colonies in the
trees; but afterward he travels about alone, as the Bittern does."
The Snowy Egret
(The Bonnet Martyr.)
Length about two feet.
Pure white all over, with a bunch of many long slender plumes growing
between the shoulders, and shorter ones on the head and neck, in the
nesting season. Feet and legs black. Toes yellow. Bill black and yellow.
A Citizen of temperate and tropical America.
A member of the guild of Wise Watchers, whose food and habits are the
same as those of most other Herons, and who, if he does us no special
good service, is perfectly innocent, and should never be butchered to
make a woman's Easter holiday bonnet.
He has a larger brother called the American White Egret, as pure white
as himself, but three feet or more instead of only two feet long, with
the plumes hanging down over his tail instead of curled up, and none
growing on his head.
The Great Blue Heron
(Or Blue Giant)
Length about four feet.
Plumage mostly slate-gray or bluish-ash, but black and white on the head
and each side of the breast, and chestnut on the bend of the wing. A
crest on the back of the head, a fringe of long feathers at the root of
the neck in front, and another on the back in the breeding season.
Feathers on upper part of the legs reddish-brown, the bare scaly part
black; bill yellow and greenish, with black on top; bare skin between it
and the eyes blue.
A Citizen of North America.
A member of the guild of Wise Watchers who is wise enough to mind his
own business and do nobody any harm, though he is not inclined to be
sociable with House People. "I think we had best be going toward the
house," said Olaf, glancing at the sky; "there's thunder-heads racing
up." So the children, always ready for something new, started eagerly,
and bewildered Olaf with questions about clouds and weather signs all
the way home.
UP THE RIVER
The thunder-clouds thickened until the whole sky was black; the tide
rose in great waves, and the children were glad to be in the house. But
the storm played so many strange pranks that they could not keep away
from the windows, asking a hundred questions about things that cannot be
put in a bird book.
"If the water keeps up on end, as it is doing now," said Olaf, "it will
be a week before I dare take you over to Gull Island; but I was talking
to a man from up the river yesterday, and he says the reed shallows are
full of Rails--maybe you'd like to see them."
"Rails, what are they?" asked Nat. "I thought rails were the steel
things that cars run on, or else some kind of fence bars."
"The Rails that Olaf speaks of are marsh birds," said the Doctor. "Some
are about as big as Robins, and some are bigger still, shaped like
long-legged, long-necked, bob-tailed Hens, with long curved beaks. In
fact, some members of the family are called Marsh Hens from this
resemblance. Olaf often guides gunners through the waterways to find
these birds; he shall take you also, and perhaps you may find some old
Marsh Wrens' nests at the same time."
The next morning was clear and warm, and the children tumbled out in
their flannel bathing-suits to have a dip before breakfast. Rap, by
rolling over and over on the sand, was in the water as soon as Nat; but
they did not venture out far, even though the tide was low, contenting
themselves by splashing about in shallow places.
Presently Nat spied something on the stony end of the bar that stretched
out at the right of the beach, and pointed it out to Rap, who said:
"They are some sort of birds: you had better get the glass, for even if
we could go nearer to them, they would be sure to see us and skip." Then
Nat brought the glass and they each took a peep.
"The bodies are like speckled Pullets', but the heads are like Pigeons'
and the legs are very thin," said Rap. "See! there is a different one,
ever so much nearer over on this side, but I can't make him out very
well. Here comes the Doctor, all ready to go in swimming; of course he
can tell us."
"Those mottled birds with red legs are Turnstones," said the Doctor,
after looking a moment. "They are wading shore birds, who run about the
rock bars and sandy beaches, turning over small stones for the food that
is hidden underneath. They very seldom come into bays like this, but
keep more on the outer beaches. The other one, with black under parts
and dark back finely speckled with yellow, is the Golden Plover, who
often visits our beaches and marshy meadows."
"Do either of them ever nest up the river?" asked Dodo.
"No, indeed--you would have to travel many hundreds of miles to find the
lonely Arctic beaches they both call home. They only come this way
before they take the long fall journey to South America, where they
winter; and in the spring-time they are usually in too great a hurry to
"What do they look like very near by?" asked Dodo, who always wanted
details, while the boys took a more general sportsmanlike interest.
[Illustration: American Golden Plover.]
"The Turnstone is very trim and pretty when seen close at hand, and from
the pattern of the feathers is often called Calico-bird. The Golden
Plover is darker and not so conspicuously marked, especially at this
Length nine and a half inches.
In summer: Upper parts boldly variegated with black, white, and
reddish-brown; tail black, with white base and tip. Under parts white,
with large black marks on the breast. Bill and eyes black; feet orange,
with a very small hind toe. In winter: Without the bright,
reddish-brown markings, which are gray; and with not so much black,
which is also duller.
A Citizen of North America, making its summer home only in the Arctic
regions, but at other seasons travelling almost all over the world; we
see it mostly when it is migrating, in spring and fall, along the
A member of the guild of Ground Gleaners, who gleans its food
industriously on beaches, and is very fond of the eggs of
The American Golden Plover
Length ten and a half inches.
In summer: Upper parts blackish, all spangled with yellow of the tint of
old gold, white forehead and a line over the eye. Under parts nearly all
jet black, but sides of the breast pure white, and lining of the wings
gray. Tail barred with white and gray. Bill and feet black. Only three
toes, there being no sign of a hind toe, which almost all Plovers also
lack. Bill shaped like a Pigeon's.
In winter: Without any pure black on the under parts, which are muddy
whitish mixed and marbled with gray.
A Citizen of North America, whose summer home is with the Turnstone in
the far North, and who travels to South America every fall and back
again in the spring. We mostly see it in flocks on these journeys.
A member of the guild of Ground Gleaners, and a fine game bird, whose
delicately flavored meat is a great luxury for invalids; it is therefore
right for sportsmen to shoot Golden Plovers in the fall.
"Do tell us some more about paddling and wading birds," said Dodo,
forgetting that she was in her sopping-wet bathing-dress.
"Break--fast! Break--fast! Come in--come in--come in!" called the big
bell that Rap's mother was ringing at the cabin door. And the morning
itself was hardly brighter than the smile on her face at the sight of
her lame boy's happiness. "Hurry along and dress, you little
Sandpipers, for by and by we are going up the river," said the Doctor.
"Why do you call us Sandpipers, Uncle Roy?" asked Nat.
"Because Sandpipers are long-legged little birds that run along the
water's edge, where they patter about and whistle, but can't swim." And
they all raced laughing up to the cabin, Rap saying cheerfully, "Then
I'm not a Sandpiper, for I hop like a Robin instead of running."
In the afternoon, Olaf had the sharpie (which is a flat sharp-nosed boat
with two masts) ready with a little dingey tied on behind, and when the
tide rose the party went aboard. First he headed well out into the bay,
and then tacked to enter the river where the channel was deepest. The
river, which was the same that ran through the woods above the Farm, was
caught in a corner to make the mill-pond, and finally escaping, ran
along for many miles until the bay opened its wide arms to receive it.
"What are those birds over there?" cried Nat, pointing toward the outer
beacon. "Some look like white Crows, and the others go zigzag like big
Barn Swallows. Are there any such things as water Swallows, Uncle Roy?"
"Not exactly--both the birds you see belong to the Swimmers. The larger
ones are Herring Gulls, and the smaller ones are Terns. But your guess
is not a bad one, for all Terns are also called Sea Swallows, because of
their dashing flight. Both Gulls and Terns nest on Gull Island, where
Olaf is going to take us some day when the water is smooth. The storm
has driven some of them into the bay, where they do not usually come
until later in the year; but in winter great flocks of Gulls live about
our beach, clamming on the bar at every low tide."
"I guess we had better tie up yonder," said Olaf, when they had gone a
couple of miles up the river. "And then I can put the children in the
little boat and pole them in among the reeds."
So the Doctor and Olive went ashore, where the sharpie was tied to the
end of what had once been a small wharf, while Dodo, Nat, and Rap
crouched down in the dingey, obeying Olaf's order to keep very still and
not make the boat tip.
The little reed-bordered creek that they entered was quite narrow, and
soon grew to be only a thread of water, where they could touch the reeds
on both sides. They heard many rustling sounds, but for some time could
see nothing. Olaf, who was watching, suddenly laid down his pole, and
seizing an oar gave the water two or three sharp slaps. Instantly half a
dozen strange-looking birds started out, flapping and sprawling, with
their legs dangling, one or two seeming to slide across the water, till
they all disappeared among the flags again.
"Oh! how funny they are!" cried Nat. "They have such foolish-looking
faces, little perky tails like a Wren's, and such long, loose feet! Why
didn't they fly instead of dodging about so--are their nests in the
"They do nest here; but now that the season is over, they stay about
picking up food from the mud until they shift southward a piece for the
winter. These Rails fly well enough when they once get started, and go
a long way without stopping. But they are lazy about it in their summer
homes, where they only flap up and then dodge down again to hide; so
they are easy shooting--too easy to be any sport. It's what I call
killing, not hunting."
[Illustration: Virginia Rail.]
"What a strange note they have," said Rap. "Something like a
"Yes, but you should hear the noise they make in spring, when there are
crowds of birds along the river and back in the meadows. The Redwings
and Meadowlarks sing all day long, the Marsh Wrens come along to join
in, the Snipe begin to call, the Spotted Sandpipers whistle up, and we
get a visit from the Wild Geese as they fly north. I tell you it is fine
to be down here then. But in fall I'd rather be up at the lake by the
lumber camp when the snow brings the foxes and other wild animals out."
"Do stop a minute, please, Olaf, and don't tell quite so fast," pleaded
Dodo. "Uncle Roy never does. You have said the names of ever so many
birds that we don't know, and when he does that he always stops and
explains. Snipe and Spotted Sandpipers--please begin with those."
Olaf thought for a minute. He knew all the game and water birds--in
fact, they were intimate friends of his; but it was not so easy for him
to describe them.
"Did you ever see a Woodcock?" he began.
"Yes, oh yes!" cried Nat. "Uncle Roy showed us a stuffed one in the
wonder room, and told us all about its long beak with a point like a
finger to feel for its food in the mud because its eyes are too far back
to see well in front, and all about its sky dance; and Rap has seen one
sitting on its nest in a spring snowstorm."
"Well, the Snipe that comes about here belongs to the same family, and
also pokes in the mud for its food; that is why it likes to live near
fresh water like the Woodcock, where the mud is soft, rather than on the
sea-shore, where the sand is gritty. It's a mighty shy bird and doesn't
tell any one what it means to do. I've heard them come calling over the
beach at night sometimes though, and I suspect they go to the muddy
side of the bar to feed, but I've never seen them there. They mostly do
their coming and going at night--and fly high too, even then.
"Sandpipers don't bore in the ground for their food, but just pick it
up; so they keep along the shore of either fresh or salt water, some
kinds choosing one place and some another. The Spotted Sandpiper is
another of the little fellows who sometimes nests back in those meadows.
He is not a bit shy, but runs about as tame as a Robin, and he isn't as
big as a Robin either. Sometimes they lay their eggs in the meadow and
sometimes among the tuft-grass back of the beach. They lay four eggs,
very big at one end and peaked at the other, and put them in the nest
with the pointed ends together in the middle, to take up less room; and
they're sandy-colored, spotted all over. They hang about here all
summer. We call them 'teeters' because they always tip up their tails
and bob so when they run. They whistle like this, 'tweet-weet--tweet-weet!'
[Illustration: Wilson's Snipe.]
"There's another mite of a Sandpiper that comes around here late every
summer, though it nests way up north. It is the very littlest of all,
not bigger than a Sparrow, so pretty and innocent-looking that it ought
to go with Singing Birds and never be shot for food. I've often had
them run along in front of me on the beach, piping as sad as if they
were telling me how little and helpless they were, and begging me to ask
folks not to shoot them."
Then Olaf pushed up the creek a little further, hoping to be able to
land or else reach some Marsh Wrens' nests from the boat. But one nest
was all they could find--a ball of grasses fastened between two cat-tail
flags. Olaf cut the stalks carefully and presented it to Dodo, much to
her delight. Then he paddled back to the river, where they found Olive
waiting with some beautiful pitcher-plants in her hands, while their
uncle said that he had in his handkerchief a strange plant, that ate
insects. But Dodo thought that he was joking, and as soon as they were
in the sharpie she whispered: "Uncle Roy, you must tell me four
tables--Olaf knows the birds by sight, but he doesn't make them sound as
distinct as you do in the telling."
[Illustration: Least Sandpiper.]
"So missy is flattering her old bird man! Well, tell me the names, for I
suppose you can remember them."
"Oh yes--but come to think of it, I don't think Olaf said what the Wise
Men call these birds. One was a bob-tailed Rail--one was a Snipe with
far-back eyes and a finger-beak like a Woodcock's--one was a Spotted
Sandpiper that teeters and whistles 'tweet-weet'--and the other was a
tiny little Sandpiper with a very sad cry. Now do you know them?"
"Famous!" laughed the Doctor; "of course I know them after that."
"Do they all belong to the same family?" persisted Dodo, whose little
head was beginning to swim with all this new knowledge it had to hold.
"Not all of them. The Snipe and both the Sandpipers belong to one
family, the same as that of the Woodcock; but the Rail belongs to a
different family. So also does the Plover you learned this morning. The
three families of Snipes, Plovers, and Rails are the largest ones of all
the tribe of Birds that Paddle and Wade by the sea-shore. The Rails from
their size and shape are sometimes called Marsh Hens. The Turnstone
belongs to a fourth family, but it is a very small one. Now I will give
you the tables of the four kinds of birds you have learned this
[Illustration: Spotted Sandpiper.]
Length about eleven inches, of which the very long and straight bill
makes more than two inches.
Upper parts all mixed with black, brown, gray, buff, and white in very
intricate patterns; long wing-feathers plain dusky with a white edge on
the outside one; tail-feathers beautifully barred with black, white, and
Under parts white, but mottled with dusky on the breast, where it also
tinged with buff, and barred very distinctly on each side further back;
under tail-coverts barred with buff and black.
Eyes brown; feet and bill greenish-gray, the latter very soft and
sensitive, the former with a very small hind toe.
A Citizen of temperate North America, found at different seasons in
marshy and boggy places throughout the United States.
A member of the guild of Ground Gleaners, and, like the Woodcock and
Golden Plover, a fine game bird, which it is right to shoot for food at
the proper season.
The Spotted Sandpiper
Length seven and a half inches.
Upper parts a pretty Quaker color, like the Cuckoo's, but with many fine
curved black lines; tail regularly barred with black and white.
Under parts pure white, with many round black spots all over them; but
young birds do not have any spots.
Bill and feet flesh-colored, the former with a black tip, the latter
with a very small hind toe, and a little web at the roots of the front
A Summer Citizen of most parts of the United States and Canada, also
found in winter in some of the Southern States and far beyond.
A member of the guild of Ground Gleaners, and a very gentle, confiding
little bird who likes to be neighborly, and should never be shot, but
encouraged to nest in our fields.
The Least Sandpiper
Length only five and a half to six inches--the very least in size of all
the Snipe family. Upper parts black or blackish, in summer with
rusty-red edgings and white tips of many feathers, in winter these
edgings gray, a light line over the eye and a dark line from the bill to
Under parts white, tinged in summer with buff on the breast and at all
seasons mottled there with dusky.
Middle tail feathers blackish, the other ones plain gray with white
edgings, but without any black cross-bars. Bill black; feet
greenish-gray, with a small hind toe like other Sandpipers', but no sign
of any web at the roots of the front toes.
A Citizen of North America, nesting far north, beyond the United States,
and travelling in large flocks in the fall to the West Indies and South
A member of the guild of Ground Gleaners. It belongs to a family of game
birds, but it is a shame to shoot such a mite of a bird for the morsel
of meat its tiny body affords--hardly one mouthful.
There is a brother of the Least Sandpiper, hardly any bigger, and so
much like it that you can hardly tell them apart, unless you notice that
this one has two little webs between the roots of the front toes. This
is the Semipalmated Sandpiper, for _semipalmated_ means "half-webbed,"
as its toes are. Both kinds are called "Peeps" by people who do not know
the difference between them.
The Virginia Rail
Length nine and half inches, of which the long, slender, curved bill
makes an inch and a half.
Upper parts mixed blackish and blown, growing brighter reddish-brown on
the wings, a light line over the eye and a dark one through the eye.
Under parts mostly cinnamon color, but distinctly barred with black and
white on the sides behind and under the tail and wings, the chin
Feet big and clumsy, with very long toes in front--about as long as the
A Citizen of temperate North America, nesting in the Northern States and
wintering in some of the Southern States.
A member of the guild of Ground Gleaners, who does us no harm and not
much good, though it is a sort of game bird whose flesh is palatable,
and it may be shot in the fall. It is not neighborly and is seldom seen,
as it lives only in the thickest reeds or herbage of marshy places,
where it can run over the softest mud, or even floating plants, by means
of its long spreading toes, which keep it from slumping in.
"To-morrow, when the tide begins to come in, we are going to fish for
bluefish!" interrupted Nat joyfully. "Olaf says they are beginning to
run, and there are lots of crabs to catch up in the creek too--only I'm
afraid that there won't be half time enough for everything."
"How can fish run when they have no legs?" objected Dodo, who had not
quite finished writing her tables and did not like to be hurried. And
then, too, she was a little lady who took things literally, and liked to
have them exactly right.
DUCKS AND DRAKES
It was the last week of the children's stay at the shore before
everything combined to make possible the sail to Gull Island. They had
spent three glorious weeks, and were as ruddy brown as any of the little
Indians who had once gathered wampum shells from the same beach in the
long ago. They were wiser also in many ways, for they had found out many
things for themselves--which is the very best sort of wisdom. Now even
Dodo could tell by the footprints on the sand whether a three-toed
Plover or a four-toed Sandpiper had been pattering there.
[Illustration: Hooded Merganser.]
When the right day came, without a sign of ugly squalls or of an
equally unfortunate calm, Olaf borrowed a largo cat-boat, and after
stowing away the lunch hamper, that was always a 'must be' for an
all-day trip, the boat almost flew out of the little bay and up the
sound before the breeze that came with the morning tide.
"There are some more of your white Crows, Nat," said the Doctor, as they
headed straight out after getting on the right tack. "The island where
we are going is one of their famous nesting places."
"Their wings are very different from Crows' wings," said Rap, as he
watched them overhead, now winnowing the air with steady wing-beats, or
circling on motionless pinions--now poising in one spot for a minute by
merely flapping the wings, and then dropping gracefully to float on the
water. "Gulls' wings bend out more at the tip and are smooth-edged;
Crows' look flatter and are saw-edged."
"Are there any other birds besides Gulls that nest on the island, Uncle
Roy?" asked Nat.
"Yes, the Terns or Sea Swallows that you have seen about the reef nest
there also; and this island, as well as the mainland near by, is a
favorite stopping-place for all the shore and water birds in their
journeys,--from Sandpipers to great flocks of Sea Ducks."
"I should think it would be a long swim for Ducks," said Nat; "it is as
much as fifteen miles from shore."
"They don't swim--they fly there," said Olaf.
"Can Ducks fly?" exclaimed Dodo in amazement. "I'm sure the white Ducks
at the Farm can only waddle on the ground, or swim and spatter along the
water when Wolf or Quick chases them for fun. And anyway their legs are
very stiff and queer and grow very far back, as if their bodies were too
heavy and going to fall down front, and they had to hold up their heads
very high to keep going."
"Our tame Ducks are very fat and lazy, for they have lived in captivity
for many generations; yet they could fly very well with a little
practice. The Mallard, which is a wild River Duck and a swift enduring
flyer, is the one which has been domesticated and for hundreds of years
kept as a barnyard Duck."
"River Ducks?" questioned Rap; "then are there different kinds of Ducks
for rivers and lakes, and for salt water?"
"There are indeed many kinds of Ducks," said the Doctor, "all of which
have easy marks of identification in the beauty-spot on the wings, and
many other points about the plumage, as well as the different shapes of
their heads, bills, and feet. Though all Wild Ducks, and Geese too,
belong to one general family, they are divided into separate groups like
cousins, instead of living in one household like brothers.
"Almost all Wild Ducks nest in the northern tier of States, or
altogether north of them; the hardier species stay with us as winter
visitors, but the others only stop to feed, as they follow the rivers
and coasts in their migrations.
"There was a beautiful Duck that had a nest last year in a tree up near
the logging camp; its feathers were as bright as if they had been
painted. That is the Wood Duck--one of the exceptions to the rule that
Wild Ducks nest on the ground like tame ones. Another kind, the Black
Duck, nests as usual on the ground, on a wooded island not far from the
one to which we are sailing."
"Will you please tell us why Ducks have such waddling legs?" begged Nat.
"Because the best legs to swim with are not the easiest to walk with."
At that moment the wind died down. The sails flapped once or twice, and
then hung loose; and the boat, instead of dashing along, began to drift
lazily, with an uncomfortable rolling motion, as the swell, borne in
from the ocean many miles away, crept under it.
"If the water does that much more, I shall soon be hungry," said Dodo,
looking a trifle sad and pressing her hands together over her waist.
"I quite agree with you," said Olive; "I know from having had the same
feeling before, that unless we eat some of these little salt biscuits,
and talk about something interesting, in a very few minutes you and I
will be sea-sick--which is the hungriest, emptiest sickness possible."
"I thought the feeling was a little more puffy than real hungriness,"
said Dodo, chewing her biscuit in great haste and having some trouble in
"May not we men have some too?" asked the Doctor, looking drolly at the
boys, who were glancing longingly at the biscuits, but were too proud to
confess their feelings. "Not that we feel ill--oh, no! Merely for
company, you know.
"Now while you munch away, I will talk Duck to amuse you; eating and
Duck talk go very well together, for the Duck is chiefly to be
considered as food. You all know what a well-rounded, compact body a
Duck has; do you remember having seen one carved, and how very hard it
was to cut off its legs?"
"Yes, I do," said Nat. "Sometimes the Duck almost bounces off the dish,
and then, father says things--at least, I mean, he says he wishes that
people who go shooting and send him presents of Wild Ducks would send a
carving map and a good sharp knife with them; but I never understood
what he wanted the map for."
"To find the joints, my boy," laughed the Doctor, as if he had a
sympathetic feeling for carvers who find themselves in front of a tough
Duck or Goose, no matter how well they know where the joints ought to be
found. "A Duck's legs are very short, and not only set far back on the
body, but sunk into the skin quite up to the knees; so that the joints
are very hard to find. This is planned to give the Duck more strength
and ease in swimming, when the legs act like paddles. All Ducks' feet
have three long toes in front and a short one behind, the front toes
being loosely joined by two skin flaps which stretch between them when
spread apart, making what we call web-feet."
"Something the way frogs' feet are?" asked Nat.
"Very much upon the same plan. Then Ducks have wide flat beaks of
various shapes, with a sort of nail bent over like a hook at the end,
and all along each side is a double row of little teeth, to help them
take their food. Their stiff, pointed wings are quite strong enough to
lift their heavy bodies off the ground or water into the air, and keep
up an even flight, often more rapid than the swiftest express train."
"What do Wild Ducks eat?" asked Dodo, "seeds or bugs or fish?"
"They eat all those things and many others too, according to their
various habits, which are as different as the expression of their faces
or the color of their features. If you look at a case full of Wild Ducks
in a museum, you will find that no two have the same-shaped head, or
expression. Some look silly, some sly, while others seem either proud or
"How strange!" said Rap. "I never thought about Ducks' faces, except
that they all looked foolish, with little pig-eyes and big beaks like
shovels. And please, do they chew their food with the teeth you said
"Those are not true teeth, like ours, to chew with. You know a good many
very different things are called teeth--those on a rake, for example, or
a comb, or a cog-wheel. A Duck's teeth are horny like the skin that
covers its whole beak, and act like strainers. When a Duck dabbles in
the water, as you have all seen tame ones do, the water that gets into
its mouth runs out at the sides between the teeth, but whatever food
there is in the mouthful of water gets caught in the teeth, and can then
"Please tell us," continued Rap, "how many different kinds of Ducks
there are in our country?"
"About forty," answered the Doctor; "but I shall not trouble you to
learn more than a few of the common ones. They all belong to one family,
which also contains the Geese and Swans. They are divided into three
groups--Fishing Ducks, River or Fresh-water Ducks, and Sea Ducks.
"The Fishing Ducks are great swimmers and divers, living chiefly on the
fish they catch by chasing them under water. Their beaks are narrow,
hooked, and sharply toothed, which makes it easy for them to hold their
slippery prey. But this oily food makes their flesh so rank that none of
them is fit food for House People. They are all called Mergansers, and
we have in this country four different species.
"The River Ducks are those that we see mostly in the spring and fall
migrations; they have the handsomest plumage and the most delicate
flesh. They feed along shallow rivers, ponds, and lakes, after the
manner of barnyard Ducks--for the Mallard is one of them, and tame Ducks
are domesticated Mallards, as I told you. In feeding, they bob head
downward in the water with their tails straight up in the air, to find
the roots, seeds, insects, small shell-fish, and other things they like
to eat. They build very good nests, usually on the ground, and warmly
lined with their own down, which the parent plucks from her breast to
cover the eggs. The color of the eggs is always greenish, gray, drab, or
buff, never with any spots. Most River Ducks nest in the far North, but
there are some exceptions. The Wood Duck that Rap saw by the lake is one
of these exceptions, and has the most beautiful plumage of all our
Ducks. It does not build its nest on the ground, like most others of its
family, but in a tree hole, like an Owl or a Woodpecker."
"How can the little Ducks get down to the ground--do their wings grow
strong very soon?" asked Nat.
"You have seen that most birds come from the egg quite naked, and stay
in the nest till their feathers grow, like Canaries and all other song
birds, while others are hatched all covered with down, the same as
Chickens are. The young of those living in open exposed places, such as
sea and shore birds, are thickly clothed with down when hatched. Such
downy plumage is not exactly like the feathers that sprout after a
while, but it answers the same purpose; for the little things could not
run about or swim if they were naked, you know."
"Yes, Ducklings are all downy; for I remember those that came out in
June up at the Farm were, and their tiny little wings were as cunning
and cute as could be," said Dodo.
[Illustration: Wood Duck.]
"When little Wood Ducks are hatched and become quite dry, their mother
takes them in her beak, by the wing, one by one, and flies down to the
ground with them. As soon as her brood of ten or a dozen is thus
collected, she leads them off to the nearest water, and the whole lot of
Ducklings go in swimming, bobbing for food as if they were a year old
instead of only a few hours. Then mamma begins to drill them in
danger-signalling, so that at the slightest hint from her they dive and
swim out of harm's way.
"Sea Ducks do not always live on the ocean, as the name would lead you
to expect, but prefer large open waters, either fresh like those of
lakes, or salt, as in bays and sounds. They eat both animal and
vegetable food, oftentimes diving deeply, and swimming far under water
to find it. Of course they, in common with all other Ducks, must take a
vast amount of mud and water into their mouths with their food; but
instead of having to swallow this, it drains off through the little
grooves on the inside edges of the bill, as a ship's deck is drained of
water by means of the scuppers. But that I have explained to you
already. Some Sea Ducks are more plentiful than their river brethren;
and as they spend both their days and nights offshore, they run less
danger of extermination. Most of them nest also in the far North, in
much the same fashion as River Ducks do.
"Two celebrated members of this group are the Redhead and the
Canvasback, who are always welcome guests at dinner, and are so much
alike in the crisp brown company dress they wear on the table, with
plenty of stuffing and gravy, that very few persons can tell them apart.
But the most famous one of all is the Eider Duck--the one which yields
such an abundance of exquisitely soft, warm down that we use it for
making the best sort of bedquilts."
"Can you always tell a Sea Duck from a River Duck by the feathers--or
how?" asked Rap.
"You can always tell them by their feet," answered the Doctor; "for
every Sea Duck has a little flap of skin hanging like an apron from the
hind toe, while the hind toe of every River Duck is round and slim, like
"I should think there would always be plenty of Sea Ducks," said Rap;
"for if they live so far out they ought to be able to take care of
themselves and swim or fly away from everybody."
"You would think so, my boy, but when man with his many inventions sets
out to kill, there is little chance of escape for bird or beast. Sea
Ducks are hunted in their nesting homes, not only for their flesh and
eggs, but for the downy feathers with which the nest is lined. In their
migrations overland, every hand is set against them if they pause to
rest or feed."
"But when they reach deep water, they must be safe; for they can fly
faster than any boat can sail after them," said Rap.
"Sail--yes; but men go in gunning-punts, sneak-boats, and even
steam-launches, to surround the flocks of Wild Ducks that are lying low,
trusting perhaps to a covering of fog, and when it lifts these water
pot-hunters commit slaughter which it would be slander to call sport."
"Oh, look!" cried Rap, "there are hundreds of Gulls over there, and Sea
Swallows too. There is the island, for the breeze has come up and we
have sailed ever so far without noticing it. There is a great flock of
Gulls going off together--are they beginning their fall journey?"
"No, they are only going to some harbor to feed. They belong to a guild
of water birds that I think we might call Sea Sweepers; for they clear
from the surface of the water the refuse that the tide would otherwise
throw upon the beaches. They also follow in the wake of ships for the
same purpose. Neither Gulls nor Terns can dive far under water like
Ducks, for their bodies are too light; but they all pounce down on wing
and contrive to catch small fish swimming just below the surface.
"Look at the difference between the flight of the two! The Tern half
folds his long pointed wings, and darts down like lightning; in a second
he is up in the air again dashing off with capricious flight, holding
his beak to his breast as the Woodcock does. But the Gull sails more
slowly, settles deliberately, and often floats quietly on the surface;
then when he rises on wing, with some ceremony, he flaps off with his
beak held straight before him, like a Duck. Terns are the better flyers,
but Gulls are decidedly the more expert swimmers."
"Are Gulls and Terns related?" asked Dodo.
"They both belong to one family of many members. These two that you have
been watching are among the best known of all--the American Herring
Gull, who lives on both lake and ocean; and the Common Tern, who mostly
follows the sea-coast."
"Heads down!" called Olaf. The boom swung round, the sail dropped, and
the boat ran into the shallow water of the beach at Great Gull Island.
"You haven't given us any Duck tables, Uncle Roy," said Dodo.
"You cannot stop on this hot sand to write them out; but I will remember
to give them to you as soon as we get back to the cabin."
"When shall we ever see these Ducks?" sighed Dodo, thinking of the long
list there would be to write; "because I can remember better when I see
things than if I only hear about them."
"Do you realize that when you go back to the Farm, it will be time for
birds to begin their autumn journeys, and that they will be passing by
until the snow is on the ground? Why may you not meet some of these
Ducks by the river, or see them swimming on the pond? Or, if you are not
so lucky, you must look for them in markets and museums. Some of them
are sitting in my wonder room at this very minute."
(These are the Duck tables that Dodo afterward wrote in her book.)
The Wood Duck
Length eighteen or twenty inches.
Male (the Drake, as the male of all Ducks is called): upper parts
velvety black, shining with bronzy, purplish, greenish, and violet
Under parts rich purplish-chestnut on the breast, which is marked with
chains of white spots like polka-dots; belly white; a white band on each
side of the breast in front of the wing; the sides further back tan
color with fine wavy black lines, and still further back distinctly
banded crosswise with black and white.
Head beautifully crested and banded with white and the shining dark
colors of the back; bill prettily tinted with pink, lake-red, and black;
eyes red; feet orange.
Female and young: much more plainly dressed than the male, but enough
like him not to be mistaken. A Citizen of North America, who lives in
the woods, unlike most other Ducks, and nests in a hole in a tree, like
a Woodpecker--but it has to be a much larger, natural hollow. This
beautiful Duck is not very plentiful now, and should not be shot for the
table, though its meat is excellent. It is by far the handsomest of its
tribe, and is sometimes kept in cages for its beauty.
The Black Duck
Length twenty or twenty-two inches.
Male and female (Drake and Duck) alike, which is the exception to the
rule in this family.
Plumage all over mottled and streaky with dusky shades and buff or tan
colors, except the beauty-spot or mirror on the wing, which is shining
purple with a black border--almost all Ducks have such a spot, which is
called a mirror because it reflects many glittering hues in different
lights. There is no white on the outside of the wings of this Duck, and
you can tell it from the female Mallard by this character; but the
lining of the wings is mostly white.
A Citizen of eastern North America, common along the Atlantic coast from
Florida to Labrador. It nests on the ground, like most Ducks, and is one
of the best for the table.
[Illustration: Black Duck.]
Length twenty-two to twenty-four inches.
Male: head and part of neck shining dark green, with a white ring; back
gray and black; tail light gray, with two curly black feathers on top;
mirror rich purple with a black and white border.
Under parts rich chestnut on the breast, gray with wavy black lines on
the belly, and black under the tail.
Bill greenish; eyes brown; feet orange.
Female: like the Black Duck, but not so dark-colored, with more buff and
tan markings, and the beauty-spot just the same as the Drake's.
Bill blotched with black and orange.
A Citizen of North America and many other parts of the world. This is
the Wild Duck that has been domesticated and produced all kinds of tame
ducks except the one called the Muscovy. Most of the domestic varieties
you see in the barnyard look like the wild ones, but some are pure
white. They can all sleep standing on one leg, with the head turned
around so far that the bill points backward as it rests on the bird's
Length up to thirty inches, though the body is not larger than a
Mallard's; but the neck is longer, and the two middle feathers of the
tail are from five to nine inches long; these are slender and sharp,
whence the name Pintail.
Male: head and neck dark-colored, with a long white stripe lengthwise on
each side. Back and sides finely waved with black and gray. Breast and
belly pure white. Feathers under the tail jet-black. Long inner
feathers of the wing striped lengthwise with velvet-black and
silver-gray. Mirror on the wing glittering purple or violet, framed with
black, white, and buff.
Female: not so handsome as the Drake, and the middle tail-feathers so
much shorter that she is not over two feet long; but the neck is longer
and slenderer than usual in this family in proportion to her size.
A Citizen of North America and many other countries, more common in the
interior of the United States than on the Atlantic coast; nesting from
the middle districts far northward, wintering in the Southern States and
far beyond. A fine Duck for the table.
The Green-winged Teal
Length less than fifteen inches--all kinds of Teals are very small
Male: head chestnut with black chin and a shining green patch on each
side, and a little crest behind. Back and sides with fine wavy marks of
black and gray. A curved white bar in front of the wing; mirror half
purple and half green, bordered with black, white, and buff.
Under parts white, tinged with buff, with many round black spots; the
feathers at the root of the tail black with a buff patch on each side.
Female: different from the male on the head and body, but the wings like
his; besides, she is so small you cannot mistake her for any other kind
A Citizen of North America, who nests from the Northern States
northward and winters mostly in the Southern States or beyond. The
flesh is delicious, and this Teal is so small it can be split and
broiled like a spring Chicken.
[Illustration: Green-Winged Teal.]
The Blue-winged Teal
Length fifteen or sixteen inches--a little more than the Green-winged
Teal, but not much.
Male: head dark-colored with a very large white bar on each side in
front of the eye. Body much variegated with black, brown, and gray. Most
of the outside of the wing sky-blue, not bright, but as the sky looks on
a dull day; the beauty-spot shining green, bordered with black, white,
Under parts gray spotted and mottled with black, and quite black under
the tail, where there is a white spot on each side; the lining of the
wings mostly white.
Female: differs from the male on the head and body, but the markings of
the wings are much the same as his.
A Citizen of North America, chiefly its eastern half, with a very
extensive breeding range, but mostly seen in the United States during
the migrations and in winter. The flesh is excellent.
[Illustration: Blue-Winged Teal.]
This Teal has a brother in the West, called the Cinnamon Teal from the
color of his under parts.
Length twenty to twenty-three inches.
Male: head and upper part of neck rich chestnut with a bronze lustre.
Rest of neck, fore back, and fore breast, black. Middle of back and
sides of body finely waved with zigzag lines of black and white. Rump
and tail-coverts black. No shining mirror on the wings, which are mostly
ashy with white lining underneath.
Bill very broad and flat, dull blue with a black belt at the end. Feet
grayish-blue, with dusky webs and claws. Eyes orange. Female: differs a
good deal from the male, and it would make the table too long to tell
all the difference; but she has the same markings on the wings, and the
same shaped bill.
A Citizen of North America who goes far north to find his summer home,
and is chiefly seen in the United States in winter or during the
migrations. He is a twin brother of the Canvasback, and quite as good to
eat. Very few persons can tell a Redhead from a Canvasback at the dinner
table, though many think they can, because if the Redhead is in good
order and well roasted, they say it is Canvasback, and if the Canvasback
is tough and done too much, they say it is only a Redhead. Before the
birds are plucked you can easily tell them apart; for the Canvasback has
the head and beak differently shaped and much darker-colored; while the
back is much whiter, because the black wavy lines are narrower than the
white spaces between them, or even broken up in fine dots.
[Illustration: Old Squaw]
Length from eighteen to twenty-three inches, the difference being due to
the tail of the male, which in summer has the middle feathers eight or
nine inches long.
This Duck differs more in summer and winter plumages than any other. In
winter, the only season it is seen in the United States, the male
varied with black, white, and silvery-gray, the bill orange and black.
In summer he has much more black than white or silver, with some
bright-reddish feathers on the wings. The bill is black and orange; the
eyes are red.
A Citizen of North America and other parts of the northern hemisphere,
never going very far south, and making his summer home in the Arctic
regions. He is a noisy, lively, sociable Duck, who has in spring some
pleasing notes, so mellow and musical that he may almost be said to
sing; but he is not choice or dainty in his food, and the flesh is too
rank for House People to eat. He has many absurd names besides "Old
The Hooded Merganser
Length sixteen and a half to eighteen inches.
Male: a beautiful black and white crest rising up high in a rounded
form, but very thin from side to side, like a hood ironed flat. Head,
neck, and back black; belly and breast white; sides cinnamon-brown with
fine black bars; a white mirror with black edges on the wing. Bill
black, round like a lead-pencil, with a hook at the end, and strong
saw-like teeth along the sides; eyes yellow.
Female: without any such crest as her mate has, and brown where he is
A Citizen of North America, very handsome and stylish when he is in full
dress; but he is a Fishing Duck, and therefore not very good to eat,
though not as rank as other Mergansers. Like the Wood Duck, but unlike
nearly all other members of the Duck tribe, this Merganser builds his
downy nest in a hollow tree or stump.
GULLS AND TERNS AT HOME
[Illustration: Herring Gull.]
Gull Island was only a great sand heap, anchored by rocks and covered
with coarse grass; but the children had hardly taken a few steps along
the beach when they began to exclaim at the number of strange birds.
Some were flying, others walking about on the sand, where there were
many tufts of grass and mats of seaweeds that looked as if they had been
used for nests. Dodo nearly stepped upon a couple of greenish,
dark-spotted eggs, that were nearly as large as a Hen's. "Are the Gulls
still nesting, Uncle Roy? And what are those dark streaky birds over
"These are left-over eggs that did not hatch, for nesting is over in
July at latest, and the dark birds are young Gulls in their first
plumage. They are brownish gray, streaked and spotted as you see, while
the old birds are snow-white with pearl-gray backs, and black and white
wing-markings in the summer, though their winter dress is not quite so
pure, being streaked with gray on the neck."
"Then the very dark Gulls I have seen off our beach in winter are the
young ones?" said Rap; "I never knew that before. I don't believe many
people remember how birds change their colors, and a great many never
heard about it at all, I guess."
"Gulls walk very nicely," said Nat. "Much better than Ducks; and how
they bob up and down like little boats when they float!"
"Wake! wake! wake! wake!" screamed half a dozen, flying up as if to tell
the Brotherhood of the coming of strangers.
"What can be the matter with all those Sea Swallows on the other side of
the island?" asked Nat as they walked across, and a flock of a hundred
or more Terns angled by, crying mournfully. "What a very sad noise they
are making--do you think they are afraid of us?"
"They have reason enough to cry and be sad," answered Olaf, who was
walking on, a little way ahead. "They have been driven from almost all
these islands--shot for their pretty feathers, and had their nests
robbed. There wouldn't be any here now, only that some people pay the
light-keeper at the little island yonder to see that the law is kept and
that no one hunts them here. See! He is coming over now to find out what
we are doing here!"
"Who are the people that pay him, Uncle Roy?"' asked Dodo; "the Wise
[Illustration: Common Tern.]
"Yes, the Wise Men, and some Wise Women too. You can give a part of the
money in your tin bank to help the poor birds if you wish."
"Oh yes--that is--I forgot," and Dodo whispered in her uncle's ear that
she, as well as Nat, was saving money to buy Rap a _whole_ bird book for
"It seems to be a very open place for nests, out here on the sand," said
Rap. "I suppose the little Gulls and Terns must be hatched with
down-feathers on." "Yes--though they are not able to take care of
themselves as quickly as young Ducks. But as soon as they can leave the
nest, they walk down to the water's edge and eat a sort of gluey stuff
that floats in on the water. So you see that unless the law protected
them they might be very easily stolen or destroyed before their wings
were strong enough to fly."
"It must be very cold for them here in the winter."
"It would be if they were obliged to stay; but both Gulls and Terns
scatter all over the country to winter, though the Terns travel much
By this time the lighthouse keeper had made his way over to them.
Finding who they were, he invited them to bring their luncheon and row
over to Little Gull Island with him, to see the lighthouse.
There was a dancing breeze when they turned homeward that afternoon; the
boat canted saucily, and little feathers of spray kept tickling Dodo's
"Are there any more water birds that we are likely to see this fall?"
asked Nat, as the Gull Islands disappeared behind them.
"There will be great flocks of Wild Geese coming down from the North,
and they often rest on the mill pond; or a Loon may chance down the
river, and a Grebe or two."
"Are Geese Ducks?" asked Dodo, and then laughed with the others at the
"Not precisely--no more than rats are mice," said the Doctor; "but both
Ducks and Geese belong to the same family."
"And what are the others--the Loons and Grubs--are they wading or
swimming birds?" "_Grebes,_ not grubs," laughed the Doctor. "Loons and
Grebes are swimming birds, like Ducks or Gulls, but both belong to quite
a different order from any of the others and each of them belongs to a
family of its own. They can barely move at all on land, and spend all
their lives on the water, excepting in the nesting season, when they
make curious floating nests of dead herbage in reedy marshes. Their logs
are placed in such a backward position that they can sit upright in the
water and swim as if they were walking, only keeping the tip of the bill
above the surface."
"How can they get away if any one hunts them?" asked Rap.
"They can dive at the flash of a gun and swim long distances under
water. Our familiar Pied-billed Grebe or Dabchick disappears so
suddenly, that 'Water Witch' is one of its common names."
"What a lot of birds there are to watch for this fall!" said Nat very
anxiously. "I only wish I knew how much more time we shall have before
father and mother come for us."
"Why, there is one of the men from the Farm with a team," said Rap, as
they tacked close to the beach half an hour later. "He is waving a
letter or something, I think."
It did not take the party long to land, or the Doctor to read his
letter, which said that Nat's and Dodo's parents were coming to the Farm
in a couple of days.
"So we must go home to-morrow," said the Doctor.
"I want to see mother awfully much," said Dodo, "and father too; but
don't you think if you told them bird stories, Uncle Roy, you might be
able to coax them to make you a long visit before they take us home?"
"_I_ think father would rather go up to the logging camp, and see the
coons that Rap says they catch there in the fall; there are red foxes,
too, he says, and little fur beasts."
The Doctor did not give them a very satisfactory answer; but if they had
looked they would have seen a merry twinkle in his eye. And Dodo, who
had learned not to tease during her happy summer, nestled up to Olive
and said, "I smell a secret somewhere, but I can wait; for I know that
hereabouts secrets are always nice surprises."
When five more tables had been written--the last ones Uncle Roy gave the
children this summer--they were like this:
The Canada Goose
Length three feet or more.
Body brown above, gray below, with black head, neck, tail, and long
feathers of the wings, the tail white at the roots above and below, the
head with a large white patch like a napkin folded under the chin.
Bill and feet black, the toes webbed like a Duck's or tame Goose's; but
the wild Canada Goose is not the kind that our tame Geese came from.
A Citizen of North America, and a great traveller in spring and fall,
when flocks fly high overhead in a wedge-shaped figure or in a long
line, with one old Gander leading, and all crying "honk, honk, honk!"
The nest is placed on the ground, sometimes on a tree or cliff, in
various parts of the United States and Canada. The flesh is excellent
for the table if the roast Goose is a young tender one, but beware of an
elderly Wild Goose!
[Illustration: Canada Goose]
The American Herring Gull
Length two feet.
Plumage pure white, with a pearly-blue mantle on the back and wings, the
long feathers of the wings marked with black.
Bill yellow, with a red spot, stout and hooked at the end. Feet
flesh-colored, the front toe webbed like a Duck's or Goose's, but the
hind toe very short indeed.
In winter the head and neck streaked with gray. Young birds all patched
with gray and black, the bill black.
A Citizen of North America, and a member of the guild of Sea Sweepers.
He nests in summer in the Northern States, and in the fall travels
south. He can sleep standing on one leg or floating on the water. His
nest is usually built on the ground, but sometimes in a tree. He goes
fishing and clamming for a living.
The Common Tern or Sea Swallow
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