The Burgess Bird Book for Children
Thornton W. Burgess
Part 5 out of 5
"It really is very wonderful," confessed Peter. "Do you mind
telling me, Snipper, why I never have seen you here in summer?"
"For the same reason that in summer you never see Snowflake and
Wanderer the Horned Lark and some others I might name," replied
Snipper. "Give me the Far North every time. I would stay there
the year through but that sometimes food gets scarce up there.
That is why I am down here now. If you'll excuse me, I'll go
finish my breakfast."
Snipper flew up in the tree where the other Crossbills were at
work and Peter and Jumper watched them.
"I suppose you know," said Jumper, "that Snipper has a cousin who
looks almost exactly like him with the exception of two white
bars on each wing. He is called the White-winged Crossbill."
"I didn't know it," replied Peter, "but I'm glad you've told me.
I certainly shall watch out for him. I can't get over those
funny bills. No one could ever mistake it for any other bird.
Is there anyone else now from the Far North whom I haven't seen?"
CHAPTER XLIV More Folks in Red.
Jumper the Hare didn't have time to reply to Peter Rabbit's
question when Peter asked if there was any one else besides the
Crossbills who had come down from the Far North.
"I have," said a voice from a tree just back of them.
It was so unexpected that it made both Peter and Jumper hop in
startled surprise. Then they turned to see who had spoken. There
sat a bird just a little smaller than Welcome Robin, who at first
glance seemed to be dressed in strawberry-red. However, a closer
look showed that there were slate-gray markings about his head,
under his wings and on his legs. His tail was brown. His wings
were brown, marked with black and white and slate. His bill was
thick and rather short.
"Who are you?" demanded Peter very bluntly and impolitely.
"I'm Piny the Pine Grosbeak," replied the stranger, seemingly not
at all put out by Peter's bluntness.
"Oh," said Peter. "Are you related to Rosebreast the Grosbeak who
nested last summer in the Old Orchard?"
"I certainly am," replied Piny. "He is my very own cousin. I've
never seen him because he never ventures up where I live and I
don't go down where he spends the winter, but all members of the
Grosbeak family are cousins."
"Rosebreast is very lovely and I'm very fond of him," said
Peter. "We are very good friends."
"Then I know we are going to be good friends," replied Piny. As
he said this he turned and Peter noticed that his tail was
distinctly forked instead of being square across like that of
Welcome Robin. Piny whistled, and almost at once he was joined by
another bird who in shape was just like him, but who was dressed
in slaty-gray and olive-yellow, instead of the bright red that he
himself wore. Piny introduced the newcomer as Mrs. Grosbeak.
"Lovely weather, isn't it?" said she. "I love the snow. I
wouldn't feel at home with no snow about. Why, last spring I
even built my nest before the snow was gone in the Far North.
We certainly hated to leave up there, but food was getting so
scarce that we had to. We have just arrived. Can you tell me if
there are any cedar-trees or ash-trees or sumacs near here?"
Peter hastened to tell her just where she would find these trees
and then rather timidly asked why she wanted to find them.
"Because they hold their berries all winter," replied Mrs.
Grosbeak promptly, "and those berries make very good eating.
I rather thought there must be some around here. If there are
enough of them we certainly shall stay a while."
"I hope you will," replied Peter. "I want to get better
acquainted with you. You know, if it were not for you folks who
come down from the Far North the Green Forest would be rather a
lonely place in winter. There are times when I like to be alone,
but I like to feel that there is someone I can call on when I
feel lonesome. Did you and Piny come down alone?"
"No, indeed," replied Mrs. Grosbeak. "There is a flock of our
relatives not far away. We came down with the Crossbills. A11
together we made quite a party."
Peter and Jumper stayed a while to gossip with the Grosbeaks.
Then Peter bethought him that it was high time for him to return
to the dear Old Briar-patch, and bidding his new friends good-by,
he started off through the Green Forest, lipperty-lipperty-lip.
When he reached the edge of the Green Forest he decided to run
over to the weedy field to see if the Snowflakes and the Tree
Sparrows and the Horned Larks were there. They were, but almost
at once Peter discovered that they had company. Twittering
cheerfully as he busily picked seeds out of the top of a weed
which stood above the snow, was a bird very little bigger than
Chicoree the Goldfinch. But when Peter looked at him he just
had to rub his eyes.
"Gracious goodness!" he muttered, "it must be something is
wrong with my eyes so that I am seeing red. I've already seen two
birds dressed in red and now there's another. It certainly must
be my eyes. There's Dotty the Tree Sparrow over there; I hear his
voice. I wonder if he will look red."
Peter hopped near enough to get a good look at Dotty and found
him dressed just as he should be. That relieved Peter's mind. His
eyes were quite as they should be. Then he returned to look at
the happy little stranger still busily picking seeds from that
The top of his head was bright red. There was no doubt about it.
His back was toward Peter at the time and but for that bright red
cap Peter certainly would have taken him for one of his friends
among the Sparrow family. You see his back was grayish-brown.
Peter could think of several Sparrows with backs very much like
it. But when he looked closely he saw that just above his tail
this little stranger wore a pinkish patch, and that was something
no Sparrow of Peter's acquaintance possesses.
Then the lively little stranger turned to face Peter and a pair
of bright eyes twinkled mischievously. "Well," said he, "how do
you like my appearance? Anything wrong with me? I was taught that
it is very impolite to stare at any one. I guess your mother
forgot to teach you manners."
Peter paid no attention to what was said but continued to stare.
"My, how pretty you are!" he exclaimed.
The little stranger WAS pretty. His breast was PINK. Below this
he was white. The middle of his throat was black and his sides
were streaked with reddish-brown. He looked pleased at Peter's
"I'm glad you think I'm pretty," said he. "I like pink myself. I
like it very much indeed. I suppose you've already seen my
friends, Snipper the Crossbill and Piny the Grosbeak."
Peter promptly bobbed his head. "I've just come from making their
acquaintance," said he. "By the way you speak, I presume you also
are from the Far North. I am just beginning to learn that there
are more folks who make their homes in the Far North than I
had dreamed of. If you please, I don't believe I know you at
"I'm Redpoll," was the prompt response. "I am called that because
of my red cap. Yes, indeed, I make my home in the Far North.
There is no place like it. You really ought to run up there and
get acquainted with the folks who make their homes there and love
Redpoll laughed at his own joke, but Peter didn't see the joke at
all. "Is it so very far?" he asked innocently; then added, "I'd
dearly love to go."
Redpoll laughed harder than ever. "Yes," said he, "it is. I am
afraid you would be a very old and very gray Rabbit by the time
you got there. I guess the next thing is for you to make the
acquaintance of some of us who get down here once in awhile."
Redpoll called softly and almost at once was joined by another
red-capped bird but without the pink breast, and with sides more
heavily streaked. "This is Mrs. Redpoll," announced her lively
little mate. Then he turned to her and added, "I've just been
telling Peter Rabbit that as long as he cannot visit our
beautiful Far North he must become acquainted with those of us
who come down here in the winter. I'm sure he'll find us very
"I'm sure I shall," said Peter. "If you please, do you live
altogether on these weed seeds?"
Redpoll laughed his usual happy laugh. "Hardly, Peter," replied
he. "We like the seeds of the birches and the alders, and we eat
the seeds of the evergreen trees when we get them. Sometimes we
find them in cones Snipper the Crossbill has opened but hasn't
picked all the seeds out of. Sometimes he drops some for us. Oh,
we always manage to get plenty to eat. There are some of our
relatives over there and we must join them. We'll see you again,
Peter said he hoped they would and then watched them fly over to
join their friends. Suddenly, as if a signal had been given, all
spread their wings at the same instant and flew up in a
birch-tree not far away. All seemed to take wing at precisely the
same instant. Up in the birch-tree they sat for a minute or so and
then, just as if another signal had been given, all began to pick
out the tiny seeds from the birch tassels. No one bird seemed to
be first. It was quite like a drill, or as if each had thought of
the same thing at the same instant. Peter chuckled over it all
the way home. And somehow he felt better for having made the
acquaintance of the Redpolls. It was the feeling that everybody
so fortunate as to meet them on a gold winter's day is sure to
CHAPTER XLV Peter Sees Two Terrible Feathered Hunters.
While it is true that Peter Rabbit likes winter, it is also true
that life is anything but easy for him that season. In the
first place he has to travel about a great deal to get sufficient
food, and that means that he must run more risks. There isn't a
minute of day or night that he is outside of the dear Old
Briar-patch when he can afford not to watch and listen for
danger. You see, at this season of the year, Reddy Fox often finds
it difficult to get a good meal. He is hungry most of the time,
and he is forever hunting for Peter Rabbit. With snow on the
ground and no leaves on the bushes and young trees, it is not
easy for Peter to hide. So, as he travels about, the thought of
Reddy Fox is always in his mind.
But there are others whom Peter fears even more, and these wear
feathers instead of fur coats. One of these is Terror the
Goshawk. Peter is not alone in his fear of Terror. There is not
one among his feathered friends who will not shiver at the
mention of Terror's name. Peter will not soon forget the day he
discovered that Terror had come down from the Far North, and was
likely to stay for the rest of the winter. Peter went hungry all
the rest of that day.
You see it was this way: Peter had gone over to the Green Forest
very early that morning in the hope of getting breakfast in a
certain swamp. He was hopping along, lipperty-lipperty-lip, with
his thoughts chiefly on that breakfast he hoped to get, but at
the same time with ears and eyes alert for possible danger, when
a strange feeling swept over him. It was a feeling that great
danger was very near, though he saw nothing and heard nothing to
indicate it. It was just a feeling, that was all.
Now Peter has learned that the wise thing to do when one has such
a feeling as that is to seek safety first and investigate
afterwards. At the instant he felt that strange feeling of fear
he was passing a certain big, hollow log. Without really knowing
why he did it, because, you know, he didn't stop to do any
thinking, he dived into that hollow log, and even as he did so
there was the sharp swish of great wings. Terror the Goshawk had
missed catching Peter by the fraction of a second.
With his heart thumping as if it were trying to pound its way
through his ribs, Peter peeped out of that hollow log. Terror had
alighted on a tall stump only a few feet away. To Peter in his
fright he seemed the biggest bird he ever had seen. Of course he
wasn't. Actually he was very near the same size as Redtail the
Hawk, whom Peter knew well. He was handsome. There was no denying
the fact that he was handsome.
His back was bluish. His head seemed almost black. Over and
behind each eye was a white line. Underneath he was beautifully
marked with wavy bars of gray and white. On his tail were four
dark bands. Yes, he was handsome. But Peter had no thought for
his beauty. He could see nothing but the fierceness of the eyes
that were fixed on the entrance to that hollow log. Peter
shivered as if with a cold chill. He knew that in Terror was no
pity or gentleness.
"I hope," thought Peter, "that Mr. and Mrs. Grouse are nowhere
about." You see he knew that there is no one that Terror would
rather catch than a member of the Grouse family.
Terror did not sit on that stump long. He knew that Peter was
not likely to come out in a hurry. Presently he flew away, and
Peter suspected from the direction in which he was headed that
Terror was going over to visit Farmer Brown's henyard. Of all the
members of the Hawk family there is none more bold than Terror
the Goshawk. He would not hesitate to seize a hen from almost
beneath Farmer Brown's nose. He is well named, for the mere
suspicion that he is anywhere about strikes terror to the heart
of all the furred and feathered folks. He is so swift of wing
that few can escape him, and he has no pity, but kills for the
mere love of killing. In this respect he is like Shadow the
Weasel. To kill for food is forgiven by the little people of the
Green Forest and the Green Meadows, but to kill needlessly is
unpardonable. This is why Terror the Goshawk is universally hated
and has not a single friend.
All that day Peter remained hidden in that hollow log. He did not
dare put foot outside until the Black Shadows began to creep
through the Green Forest. Then he knew that there was nothing
more to fear from Terror the Goshawk, for he hunts only by day.
Once more Peter's thoughts were chiefly of his stomach, for it
was very, very empty.
But it was not intended that Peter should fill his stomach at
once. He had gone but a little way when from just ahead of
him the silence of the early evening was broken by a terrifying
sound--"Whooo-hoo-hoo, whooo-hoo!" It was so sudden and there was
in it such a note of fierceness that Peter had all he could do to
keep from jumping and running for dear life. But he knew that
voice and he knew, too, that safety lay in keeping perfectly
still. So with his heart thumping madly, as when he had escaped
from Terror that morning, Peter sat as still as if he could not
It was the hunting call of Hooty the Great Horned Owl, and it
had been intended to frighten some one into jumping and running,
or at least into moving ever so little. Peter knew all about that
trick of Hooty's. He knew that in all the Green Forest there are
no ears so wonderful as those of Hooty the Owl, and that the
instant he had uttered that fierce hunting call he had strained
those wonderful ears to catch the faintest sound which some
startled little sleeper of the night might make. The rustle of a
leaf would be enough to bring Hooty to the spot on his great
silent wings, and then his fierce yellow eyes, which are made for
seeing in the dusk, would find the victim.
So Peter sat still, fearful that the very thumping of his heart
might reach those wonderful ears. Again that terrible hunting cry
rang out, and again Peter had all he could do to keep from
jumping. But he didn't jump, and a few minutes later, as he sat
staring at a certain tall, dead stub of a tree, wondering just
where Hooty was, the top of that stub seemed to break off, and a
great, broad-winged bird flew away soundlessly like a drifting
shadow. It was Hooty himself. Sitting perfectly straight on the
top of that tall, dead stub he had seemed a part of it. Peter
waited some time before he ventured to move. Finally he heard
Hooty's hunting call in a distant part of the Green Forest, and
knew that it was safe for him to once more think of his empty
Later in the winter while the snow still lay in the Green Forest,
and the ice still bound the Laughing Brook, Peter made a
surprising discovery. He was over in a certain lonely part of
the Green Forest when he happened to remember that near there was
an old nest which had once belonged to Redtail the Hawk. Out of
idle curiosity Peter ran over for a look at that old nest.
Imagine how surprised he was when just as he came within sight of
it, he saw a great bird just settling down on it. Peter's heart
jumped right up in his throat. At least that is the way it
seemed, for he recognized Mrs. Hooty.
Of course Peter stopped right where he was and took the greatest
care not to move or make a sound. Presently Hooty himself
appeared and perched in a tree near at hand. Peter has seen Hooty
many times before, but always as a great, drifting shadow in the
moonlight. Now he could see him clearly. As he sat bolt upright
he seemed to be of the same height as Terror the Goshawk, but
with a very much bigger body. If Peter had but known it, his
appearance of great size was largely due to the fluffy feathers
in which Hooty was clothed. Like his small cousin, Spooky the
Screech Owl, Hooty seemed to have no neck at all. He looked as if
his great head was set directly on his shoulders. From each side
of his head two great tufts of feathers stood out like ears or
horns. His bill was sharply hooked. He was dressed wholly in
reddish-brown with little buff and black markings, and on his
throat was a white patch. His legs were feathered, and so were
his feet clear to the great claws
But it was on the great, round, fierce, yellow eyes that Peter
kept his own eyes. He had always thought of Hooty as being able
to see only in the dusk of evening or on moonlight nights, but
somehow he had a feeling that even now in broad daylight Hooty
could see perfectly well, and he was quite right.
For a long time Peter sat there without moving. He dared not do
anything else. After he had recovered from his first fright he
began to wonder what Hooty and Mrs. Hooty were doing at that old
nest. His curiosity was aroused. He felt that he simply must find
out. By and by Hooty flew away very carefully, so as not to
attract the attention of Mrs. Hooty. Peter stole back the way he
When he was far enough away to feel reasonably safe, he
scampered as fast as ever he could. He wanted to get away from
that place, and he wanted to find some one of whom he could ask
Presently he met his cousin, Jumper the Hare, and at once in a
most excited manner told him all he had seen.
Jumper listened until Peter was through. "If you'll take my
advice," said he, "you'll keep away from that part of the Green
Forest, Cousin Peter. From what you tell me it is quite clear to
me that the Hooties have begun nesting."
"Nesting!" exclaimed Peter. "Nesting! Why, gentle Mistress Spring
will not get here for a month yet!"
"I said NESTING," retorted Jumper, speaking rather crossly, for
you see he did not like to have his word doubted. "Hooty the
Great Horned Owl doesn't wait for Mistress Spring. He and Mrs.
Hooty believe in getting household cares out of the way early.
Along about this time of year they hunt up an old nest of Redtail
the Hawk or Blacky the Crow or Chatterer the Red Squirrel, for
they do not take the trouble to build a nest themselves. Then
Mrs. Hooty lays her eggs while there is still snow and ice. Why
their youngsters don't catch their death from cold when they
hatch out is more than I can say. But they don't. I'm sorry to
hear that the Hooties have a nest here this year. It means a bad
time for a lot of little folks in feathers and fur. I certainly
shall keep away in from that part of the Green Forest, and I advise
Peter said that he certainly should, and then started on for the
dear Old Briar-patch to think things over. The discovery that
already the nesting season of a new year had begun turned Peter's
thoughts towards the coming of sweet Mistress Spring and the
return of his many feathered friends who had left for the far-away
South so long before. A great longing to hear the voices of Welcome
Robin and Winsome Bluebird and Little Friend the Song Sparrow swept
over him, and a still greater longing for a bit of friendly gossip
with Jenny Wren. In the past year he had learned much about his
feathered neighbors, but there were still many things he wanted
to know, things which only Jenny Wren could tell him. He was only
just beginning to find out that no one knows all there is to know,
especially about the birds. And no one ever will.
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