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Cornell University 

The original of tiiis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 









The Children's Book of Birds combines 
under a single cover the First and Second Books 
of Birds, originally published in 1899 and 1901 
respectively and still popular with children in 
and out of school and with other beginners in 
the study of birds. 

The book is intended to interest young peo- 
ple in the ways and habits of birds and to stim- 
ulate them to further study. It has grown out 
of my experience in talking to schools. From 
the youngest kindergarten scholar to boys and 
girls of sixteen and eighteen, I have never failed 
to find young people intensely interested so long 
as I would tell them about how the birds live. 

Some of the results of these talks that have 
come to my knowledge have been astonishing 
and far-reaching, such as that of one boy of 
seven or eight, who persuaded the village boys 
around his summer home to give up taking eggs 


and killing birds, and watch them instead, and 
who was dubbed "Professor" by his eager fol- 
lowers. The effect has always been to make 
children love and respect the living bird. 

It has therefore seemed to me that what is 
needed at first is not the science of ornithology, 
— however diluted, — but some account of the 
life and habits, to arouse sympathy and interest 
in the living bird, neither as a target nor as a 
producer of eggs, but as a fellow-creature whose 
acquaintance it would be pleasant to make. 

Naturally I have drawn on my own observa- 
tions for much of the matter contained in this 
book, but these have been supplemented by con- 
sultation of recognized authorities in the various 
fields of ornithology. 

In each bird family treated of in the Second 
Book I have given accounts of species to be 
found in the South and West as well as in the 
Eastern States, and I have selected the most 
common or typical species of each family. In 
cases where it was possible, I have chosen species 
represented in the different sections of the coun- 
try, not only because the family traits are better 
shown, but because it is more encouraging to a 


beginner to become acquainted with birds he can 
see almost anywhere. When familiar with these, 
he will be able to identify and study the rarer 




I. What tou want to know 1 

II. When they come in the Speino ... 3 


III. The Bikd's Home 9 

IV. The Baby Bibd 13 

V. How HE IS FED 17 

VI. His Fibst Suit 21 

VII. How HE changes his Clothes . . . .25 

VIII. His First Flight 29 

IX. His Education 33 

X. Some of his Lessons .... 37 

XI. The Bird's Language ... . . 43 

XII. What he eats ....... 48 

XIII. More about his Food 52 

XIV. Where he sleeps 57 

XV. His Travels .61 

XVI. His Winter Home 66 

XVII. His Family and Friends 70 

XVIII. His Kindness to others 74 

XIX. His Affections 78 

XX. His Intelligence 83 


XXI. His Body ... 91 

XXII. His Beak and Tongue 95 

XXIII. His Eyes and Ears ... . . 100 

XXIV. His Feet and Legs 105 

XXV. Hia Wings and Tail 109 


XXVI. His Dress " 114 

XXVII Different colored Suits . . . .118 






I. What is a Bird Family ? 1 

II. The Thrush Family 5 

American Robin ....... 6 

Hermit Thrush ... ... 11 

III. The Kinglet and Gnatcatcher Family . . .14 

Ruby-crowned Kinglet ...... 14 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher ...... 16 

IV. The Nuthatch and Chickadee Family . . 18 

White-breasted Nuthatch 18 

Red-breasted Nuthatch 20 

Chickadee 22 

Tufted Titmouse 24 

V. The Creeper Family 27 

Brown Creeper ...... 27 

VI. The Cave-dwelling Family (First Branch) . . 30 

House Wren ........ 31 

VII. The Cave-dwelling Family (Second Branch) . . 34 

Mockingbird 34 

Catbird 37 

Thrasher ........ 40 

VIII. The Dipper Family 42 

American Dipper ....... 42 

IX. The Wagtail Family 46 

Sprague's Pipit ....... 46 

X. The Warblee Family ...... 49 

Yellow Warbler 50 

Oven-bird ........ 52 

Yellow-breasted Chat 53 

XI. The Vireo Family 55 


Yellow-throated Vireo 
Warbling Vireo 
XII. The Shbikb Famllt 
Loggerhead Shrike . 

XIII. The Waxwing Family . 

Cedar-bird .... 

XIV. The S-wallow Family 

Barn Swallow 

Cliff Swallow, or Eave Swallow 
Purple Martin 
, XV. The Tanageb Family 
Scarlet Tanager . 
Summer Tanager . 
Louisiana Tanager 
XVI. The Spaekow and Finch Family 

Song Sparrow 

Goldfinch .... 
Towhee, or Chewink 
XVII. The Grosbeak Branch . 
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 
Black-headed Grosbeak . 
Cardinal Grosbeak, or Cardinal 
XVIII. The Crossbill Branch . 
American Crossbill 
White-winged Crossbill . 
XIX. The Blackbird Family 
Marsh Blackbirds 
Red-winged Blackbird 
XX. The Meadow Starlings . 
Meadowlark . 
Western Meadowlark . 
XXI. The Oriole Branch 
Baltimore Oriole 
Orchard Oriole 
Arizona Hooded Oriole 
XXII. The Crow-Blackeied Branch 
Purple Grackle . 






Bronzed Grackle 

Brewer's Blackbird 
XXIII. The Ckow Family 

American Crow . 

Blue Jay . 

Steller's Jay 

American Magpie 
XXIV. The Lahk Family 

Horned Lark . 

Prairie Horned Lark 
XXV. The Flycatchinq Family 

Kingbird .... 

Arkansas Kingbird . 

Wood Pewee 

Western Wood Pewee 
XXVI. The Humming Family . 

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 

Anna's Hummingbird . 
XXVII. The Swift Family . 

Chimney Swift 
XXVIII. The Goatsucker Family . 


Chuck-will's-widow . 

Poor-will .... 

XXIX. The WoodPeckeb Family 

Northern Flicker 

Red-shafted Flicker 

Red-headed Woodpecker . 

Californian Woodpecker 
XXX. The Kingfisher Family . 

Belted Kingfisher . 
XXXI. The Cuckoo Family 

Yellow-billed Cuckoo . 
XXXII. The Owl Family 

Screech Owl 

Burrowing Owl 

XXXIII. The Barn Owl Family . 

American Barn Owl 

XXXIV. The Hawk and Eagle Family 

American Sparrow Hawk 


. 113 

. 117 

. 126 

. 131 

, 131 

, 136 

, 140 

. 143 

, 149 

, 150 


American Osprey, or Fish Hawk . . . 190 

Bald Eagle 192 

XXXV. The Scavengek Family 194 

Turkey Vulture 194 


Characters of the North American Representatives of the 
Families mentioned in this Book ..... 197 

Index , . . 205 


Bahn Swallow (colored) Frontispiece 



Baltimore Ohiole and Nest (colored) . . . .10 
Redstarts (Female on Nest) (colored) .... 14 


WITH Young 18 

Young Wood Thhush 22 

American Goldfinch (colored) 26 

Bluebird (colored) 38 

Indigo-bird .......... 46 

American Robin (colored) 60 

Chewink . . 76 

House Ween ... 80 

Flicker . . 86 

White-breasted Nuthatch ...... 96 

Lesser Yellowlegs ........ 106 

Brown Thrasher 112 

Black and White Warbler ... . . 120 

Cedar-bird (colored) 126 

Scarlet Tanager — Male and Female .... 142 


Hermit Thrush 10 

Ruby-crowned Kinglet . 14 

Chickadee .......... 22 

Brown Creeper (colored) 28 

Catbird ........... 36 

American Dipper 42 

Sprague's Pipit 46 

Yellow-breasted Chat (colored) ..... 52 


Yellow-theoated Vireo and Nest 

. 56 



ScAELET Tanagek (colored) 

. 76 

Rose-beeasted Geosbeak (colored) 


Caedinal ... ... 

. 90 

Red-winged Blackbied . ... 


Meadowlark (colored) . ... 

. 100 

Blue Jay . 


American Magpie (colored) 

. 126 

Deseet Horned Lark 


Kingbird (colored) 

. 136 



Downy Woodpecker 

. 166 

Belted Kingfisher (colored) .... 


Yellow-billed Cuckoo 

. 174 

Screech Owl 


Sparrow Hawk ... . . 

. 188 

American Ospeby, or Fish Hawk (colored) . 


Eight of the sixteen colored plates are from drawings by Louis 
Agassiz Fuertes, and these are signed with his name. The other 
colored plates and the twenty-eight plain halt-tones are from 
photographs of mounted specimens, many of which are in the 
collection of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, in Cambridge, 
Massachusetts, and are reproduced by permission. 

The First Book also contains twenty outs in the text. 




Birds seem to be the happiest creatures on 
earth, yet they have none of what we call the 
comforts of life. 

They have no houses to live in, no beds to 
sleep on, no breakfast and dinner provided for 

This book is to tell something about them ; 
where they live and what they eat, where they 
sleep, how they get their beautiful dress, and 
many other things. But no one can tell all 
about their lives and habits, for no one knows 
all their ways. 

Men who study dead birds can tell how they 
are made, how their bones are put together, and 
how many feathers there are in the wings and tail. 
Of course it is well to know these things. But 


to see how birds live is much more interesting 
than to look at dead ones. 

It is pleasant to see how mother birds build 
their nests, and how they take care of their 
nestlings. It is charming to see the young ones 
when they begin to fly, and to know how they 
are taught to find their food, and to keep out 
of danger, and to sing, and everything young 
birds need to know. 

Then when they are grown up, it is interest 
ing to find out where they go in winter, and 
why they do not stay with us all the year round. 

One who goes into the field to watch and 
study their ways will be surprised to find how 
much like people they act. And after studying 
living birds, he will never want to kill them. 
It will seem to him almost like murder. 



In the long, cold winter of the New England 
and Middle States, not many birds are usually 
seen. In the cities there is always the EngHsh 
sparrow, and in the country, now and then a 
chickadee, or a woodpecker, or a small flock of 

But very early in the spring, long before grass 
is green, even while snow is on the ground, the 
birds begin to come. 

Some morning a robin will appear, standing 
up very straight on a fence or tree, showing his 
bright red breast and black cap, flirting his tail, 
and looking as if he were glad to be back in his 
old home. 

Then perhaps the same day will come the 
hoarse chack of a blackbird, and two or three will 
fly over and alight in a big bare tree, looking, it 
may be, for a good place to build a bird city. 

Soon will be heard the sweet little song of the 
song sparrow or the bluebird, and then we shall 


know that summer is coming, for these are the 
■first birds of spring. 

Day after day, as the snow melts away and 
the sunshine grows hotter, more birds will come. 
One day a catbird or two, another day an oriole 
in black and gold, and another day a pert little 
wren. So it will go on, till by the time June 
comes in, all our birds will be back with us, very 
busy, hopping around in our bushes and trees, 
making their nests all about, and singing the 
whole day long. 

Almost the first thing every bird thinks of, 
when he comes to us, is making the nest. Eor 
summer is the only time in his life that a bird 
has a home. 

He does not need a house to live in. He 
cares nothing for a roof to cover him, because 
when the sun is hot, he has the broad green 
leaves on the trees to shade him. And when it 
rains his neat feather coat is like a waterproof 
that lets the drops run off, leaving him warm 
and dry under it. 

He does not need a dining-room, because he 
eats wherever he finds his food, and he wants no 
kitchen, because he prefers his food raw. 

He has no use for a bedroom, because he can 
sleep on any twig ; the whole world is his bed- 


He cares nothing for closets and bureaus, 
because he has only one suit of clothes at a 
time, and he washes and dries that without tak- 
ing it off. 

He wants no fire to keep him warm, for when 
it is too cold he spreads his wings and flies to a 
warmer place. A bird has really no need of 
a house, — excepting when he is a baby, be- 
fore his eyes are open, or his feathers have 
come, or his wings have grown. While he is 
blind, naked, and hungry, he must have a warm, 
snug cradle. 

So when the bird fathers and mothers come 
in the spring the first thing they do is to find 
good places and build nice cradles, for they are 
very fond of their little ones. They spend the 
spring and summer in working for them, keep- 
ing them warm, feeding them till they are 
grown up, and then teaching them to fly and to 
take care of themselves, so that when summer is 
gone they will be ready to go with the other 
birds to their winter home. 



THE bird's home 

Each bird mother has her own way of mak- 
ing the nest, but there is one thing almost all of 
them try to do, and that is to hide it. 

They cannot put their little homes out in 
plain sight, as we do our houses, because so 
many creatures want to rob them. Squirrels 
and snakes and rats, and some big birds, and 
cats and many others, like to eat eggs and young 

So most birds try, first of all, to find good 
hiding-places. Some tiny warblers go to the 
tops of the tallest trees, and hide the nest among 
the leaves. Orioles hang the swinging cradle at 
the end of a branch, where cats and snakes an(3 
naughty boys cannot come. Song sparrows 
tuck the little home in a tuft of weeds, on the 
ground, and bobolinks hide it in the deep grass. 

After a safe place is found, they have to get 
something to build of. They hunt all about 
and gather small twigs, or grass stems, or fine 


rootlets, and pull narrow strips of bark off the 
grapevines and the birch-trees, or they pick up 
strings and horsehairs, and many other things. 
Robins and swallows use mud. 

As they go on building, the mother bird gets 
inside and turns around and around to make it 
fit her form, and be smooth and comfortable for 
her to sit in. 

When a nest is made, it must be lined. Then 
some birds go to the chicken yard, and pick up 
feathers, and others find horsehairs. Some of 
them pull off the soft down that grows on 
plants, or get bits of wool from the sheep pas- 
ture, or old leaves from the woods, and make it 
soft and warm inside. 

Some bird homes are only platforms, where 
it seems as if the eggs must roll off, and others 
are deep burrows, or holes in the ground, where 
no one can get in. Some are dainty baskets 
hung between two twigs, and others are tiny 
cups of felt with lichens outside. 

Each species of bird builds in its own way. 
There are as many different ways to make nests 
as there are kinds of birds to make them. 

Then after all the trouble birds have taken to 
build a nest, they seldom use it a second time. 
If a pair have two broods in a season, they 
almost always build a new one for each family. 




A few birds, such as eagles, owls, and some- 
times orioles, and others, repair the home and 
use it again, and woodpeckers sometimes nest in 
the old holes. But generally, after the young 
birds have flown, we may be sure the nest will 
not be wanted again. 

When the nest is finished, the eggs are laid 
in it, one by one. We all know how pretty 
birdk* eggs are. Some are snowy white, some 
are dehcate pink, and some blue. Many have 
tiny dots and specks on them, and a few are 
covered with queer -looking streaks and lines. 
But pretty as they are, I think no one would be 
so cruel as to take them away from the poor 
little mother, if he remembered that her young 
ones are inside them, and that she loves them as 
his own mother loves him. 

I have heard people say that birds do not 
care for their eggs. Let me tell you what a 
little chickadee mother did when a man tried to 
steal the eggs out of her nest. 

The nest was in a hole in an old stump, and 
the man could not get his hand in, so he had to 
take them out one at a time with a little scoop. 

At first the mother flew at him and tried to 
drive him away. Then chickadees and other 
birds who lived near came to help her. All 
flew about his face with cries, so that he had to 


use one hand to keep them away from his eyes. 
But still he went on taking out the eggs. 

At last the little mother was so wild with 
grief that she dashed into the hole and sat there 
in the doorway, right before his face. He could 
not get another egg without hurting her, and he 
was ashamed to do that. 

This was as brave in the tiny creature as it 
would be for a human mother to throw herself 
before a fierce, hungry tiger. Do you think 
she did not care for her eggs ? 



A BABY bird, as you know, always comes out 
of an egg. And beautiful as these eggs are, 
they are most interesting when you think that 
each one holds a tiny bird. 

Eggs are not all alike, of course. One the 
size of a bean is large enough to hold a hum- 
mingbird baby, till it is old enough to come 
out. But the young ostrich needs a shell nearly 
as big as your head. So there are all sizes of 
eggs to fit the different sizes of birds. 

If you should break a fresh egg you would 
not see a bird, for it would not be formed at 
that time. After the egg is laid in its soft bed, 
it has to be kept warm for many days, and tha,t 
is why the mother bird sits on her nejst so 
quietly. She is keeping the eggs warm, so that 
the little ones will form and grow, till they are 
as big as the shells can hold. 

While the mother is sitting her mate does aU 
he can to help, though each species has its owq 


way. The blue jay brings food to his mate, so 
that she need not leave the nest at all, and many 
others do so. But the kingbird father simply 
■watches the nest to protect it while the mother 
goes for food. A redstart gets into the nest 
himself, to keep the eggs warm while his mate is 
gone, and a goldfinch coaxes his mate to go o£B 
with him for a lunch, leaving nest and eggs to 
take care of themselves. 

Another thing the father birds do is to sing. 
This is the time when we hear so much bird 
song. The singers have little to do but to wait, 
and so they please themselves, and their mates, 
and us too, by singing a great deal. 

When the little birds begin to be cramped, 
and find their cradle too tight, they peck at the 
shell with a sort of tooth that grows on the end 
of the beak, and is called the " egg tooth." 
This soon breaks the shell, and they come out. 
Then the mother or father carefully picks up 
the pieces of shell, carries them off, and throws 
them away, leaving only the little ones in the 
nest. Perhaps you have found these broken 
shells on the ground sometimes, and could not 
guess how they came there. When the bird- 
lings break out of their prison they do not all 
look the same. Ducks and geese and chickens 
and quails, and other birds who live on the 



ground, as well as hawks and owls, are dressed 
in pretty suits of down. They have their eyes 
open, and the ground birds are ready to run 
about at once. 

A man who studied, birds, once saw a young 
duck get its first suit of down. He picked up 
the egg just as the little bird inside was trying 
to get out. In a few minutes the shell fell 
apart, and out stepped the duckHng on his hand. 
It seemed to be covered with coarse black hairs, 
which in a moment began to burst open, one by 
one, and out of each came a soft fluff of down. 
So in a few minutes, while the man stood there 
and held him, the little duck was all covered 
with his pretty dress. 

But most birds hatched in nests in trees and 
bushes, like robins and bluebirds, are very dif- 
ferent. When they come out of their shells 
they are naked, have their eyes shut, and look 
as if they were nearly all mouth. A young 
hummingbird looks about as big as a honey 
bee, and a robin baby not much bigger than the 
eggshell he came out of. 

They lie flat down in the nest, seeming to be 
asleep most of the time. All they want is to be 
warm and to be fed. 

To keep them warm, the mother sits on them 
a great part of the time, and for the first few 


days o£ their lives, the father often brings most 
of the food. Sometimes he gives it to the 
mother, and she feeds the little ones. But 
sometimes she gets off the nest, and flies away 
to rest, and get something to eat for herself, 
while he feeds the nestlings. 

There is one bird father who — it is thought 
— never comes to the nest, either to watch the 
eggs or to help feed the nestlings. That is our 
hummingbird, the ruby throat. 

We do not know the reason for this, and it 
is not fair to say hard things about him until 
we do. It may be that he thinks his shining 
ruby would show the hiding-place of the nest, 
or it may be that the little mother is not willing 
to have any help. I think this last is the real 
reason, for she has a great deal of spirit, and 
always drives away others from her feeding- 

Young birds grow very fast, and soon feathers 
begin to come out all over them. They are not 
very pretty at this time. 


Soon after the young bird comes out of the 
egg, he begins to be hungry. All day long, 
whenever the father or mother comes near, he 
opens his great mouth as wide as he can, to have 
it filled, and the moment he gets his voice he 
cries for food. 

Then the old birds have to work hard. Three 
or four hungry nestlings can keep both father 
and mother busy from morning till night, hunting 
for caterpillars and beetles and grubs and other 
things to feed them. It seems as if the little 
fellows never could get enough to eat. Each 
swallow baby wants seven or eight hundred small 
flies every day, and a baby robin needs more 
earthworms in a day than you can hold in your 
hand at once. 

At this time you will see robins hunting over 
the lawn, and carrying great beakfuls of worms 
up to the nest. Bluebirds you wiU find looking 
in the grass, and sparrows hopping about on the 


ground, all seeking soft worms and grubs and 
insects for the nestlings ; and they are so busy 
they do not get much time for singing. 

At this time the orioles go all over the or- 
chard trees looking for tiny worms, and little 
warblers seek them under every leaf. 

Woodpeckers find the insects hidden behind 
the bark of trees, by cutting holes through it. 
Chickadees and nuthatches pick the tiniest insect 
eggs out of the crevices, and flickers hunt every- 
where for ants. 

As soon as one of the old birds has his mouth 
full, he flies to the nest to feed the young. 

But not all birds feed in the same way. A 
robin just drops a big earthworm, or a part of 
one, into the gaping baby mouth. Many other 
birds do so also. Sometimes, when an insect is 
too big or too hard, they beat it till it is soft, 
or break it up, before giving it to a little one. 

But hummingbird mothers and flicker mo- 
thers have a different way. When they collect 
the food they swallow it, as if they wanted it for 
themselves. Then they go to the nest, and jerk 
it up again in mouthfuls, and feed the nestlings. 
This is called feeding by "regurgitation," or 
" throwing up." 

The way they give the food is very curious. 
They push their long beaks into the nestling's 










throat, and poke the food far down; so the 
young one does not even have the trouble of 

This looks as if it must hurt, but the nestHng 
seems to like it, and is always ready for more. 
The pigeon mother lets the young one poke his 
beak down her throat, and get the food for 

If the food is hard, like corn, birds who feed 
in this way let it stay in the crop till it is soft 
and better fitted for tender throats, before they 
give it out. 

It is comical to see a nest full of little birds 
when the father or mother comes with food. 
All stretch up and open their big mouths as 
wide as they can, and if they are old enough, 
they cry as if they were starving. 

Some birds bring food enough for all in the 
nest, every time they come. A cedar-bird, feed- 
ing wild cherries, brought five of them every 
time, one for each of the five nestlings. One 
cherrj'^ was held in his mouth, but the other 
four were down his throat, and had to be jerked 
up one by one. 

Other birds bring only one mouthful at a 
time, and when there are five or six in the 
nest, they have to make as many journeys before 
all are fed. 


Some persons who have studied birds thin"k 
that each nestling is fed in its turn ; but they 
look so much alike, and are so close together, 
that it is hard to tell, and I am not sure that 
it is so. 

I will tell you a story I have heard about 
feeding little birds. A child picked up a young 
goldfinch who had fallen out of the nest. He 
took him home and put him into the canary's 
cage, which was hanging on the front porch. 

Soon the family heard a great noise among 
the birds, and went out to see what was the 
matter. The baby goldfinch had hopped on to 
a perch in the cage, and seemed to be afraid to 
come down, though the old birds had brought 
food for him, and were calling him to take it. 

The canary looked on a while, and then all at 
once he flew to the wires and took the food from 
the birds outside ; then he went back to the 
perch beside the little one and gave it to him. 
This he did many times. 

The next day another young goldfinch was 
picked up and put in the cage, and the canary 
took food from the parents and fed both. 

After a few days the old birds came with a 
third little one, and as all were now old enough 
to fly, the cage door was opened, and they all 
flew away. 



Some birds that live on the ground — as I 
told you — have dresses of down to begin with. 
These little fellows have no warm nest to stay 
m, but run around almost as soon as they come 
out of the egg. Young ducks and geese wear 
this baby suit for weeks, before they begin to put 
on their feather coats. 

Young birds that spend most of their time in 
the water, like grebes, and others that live in a 
cold country, have the down very thick and fine, 
like heavy underclothes, to keep them dry and 

Birds whose home is underground, like the 
kingfisher, or in the trunk of a tree, like the 
woodpecker, have hardly any down at all. They 
need no baby clothes in their warm cradles. 

Robins and most other song birds have only 
a little down on them, and very soon the feathers 
begin to grow. 

When the tiny quills push themselves up, they 


look like little white pins sticking out all over. 
Each bit of down grows out of a little raised 
place on the skin that looks like a pimple, and 
■^;he feather comes out of the same. 

As tbe feather grows, the bit of down clings 
to it till it is broken off. Sometimes it holds 
on till the feather is well out. We can often 
see down sticking to a young bird's feathers. 

The little feathers grow very fast, and before 
he is ready to fly a young bird is well covered. 
Birds hatched with their eyes open, and already 
dressed, who have to run and fly very soon, get 
their wing feathers early ; but birds who live 
many days in the nest, like robins and bluebirds, 
do not get theirs till they are nearly grown. 

The tail feathers are the last to come to full 
length, and you will notice that most birds just 
out of the nest have very dumpy tails. 

A bird's first suit of feathers is called his nest- 
ling plumage. In some families it is just like 
the dress of the grown-up birds, but in others it 
is not at all Hke that. It is usually worn only 
a few weeks, for the young one outgrows it, 
and needs a new and bigger one before winter. 

When a bird is fully dressed, his body is en- 
tirely covered, and it looks as if the feathers 
grew close to each other all over him. But it is 
not so. The feathers grow in patterns, called 



*' feather tracts," with spaces o£ bare skin be- 
tween them. These bare places do not show, 
because the feathers lap over each other and 
cover them. 

The pattern of the fet.iher tracts is not the 
same in all birds. A few birds of the Ostrich 
family have feathers all over the body. 

There is another curious thing about the nest- 
ling plumage. You would expect a young bird 
to look like his father or mother ; and some of 
them do. Many nestlings are dressed exactly 
like their mothers ; and not until they are a 
year old do the young males get a coat like their 
father's. Some of them, indeed, do not have 
their grown-up suits for two or three years. 

Then, again, many young birds have dresses 
different from both parents. Young robins have 
speckled breasts, and spots on the shoulders, 
which the old birds have not. 

When the father and mother are dressed alike, 
as the song sparrows are, the young birds gen- 
erally differ from both of them. When the father 
and mother are different, like orioles or blue- 
birds, the young are usually like the mother the 
first season. In some cases the father, mother, 
and young are almost exactly alike. 

Birds who live on the ground need dresses of 
dull colors, or they would not be very safe. The 


ostrich mother, who makes her nest in plain sight 
on the sand, is dressed in grayish brown. When 
she sits on the eggs, she lays her long neck flat 
on the ground before her ; then she looks like 
one of the ant-hills that are common on the 
plains of Africa, where she lives. 

The South American ostrich, or rhea, fluffs 
out her feathers and looks like a heap of dry 
grass. The male ostrich is dressed in showy 
black and white, and he stays away all day, but 
takes care of the nest at night, when his striking 
colors cannot be seen. 



It takes a bird weeks to put on a new suit of 
clothes. He has nothing but his feathers to 
protect him from cold and wet, and as feathers 
cannot grow out in a minute, he would be left 
naked, and suffer, if he lost them all at once. So 
he changes his dress one or two feathers at a 

Some day a feather will drop from each wing. 
If you could look, you would see that new ones 
had started out in the same place, and pushed 
the old ones off. When the new ones are pretty 
well grown another pair will fall out. 

If all dropped out at once, besides suffering 
with cold he would not be able to fly, and he 
could not get his living, and anybody covld 
catch him. But losing only one from each side 
at a time, he always has enough to fly with. 

It is the same way with his tail feathers. He 
loses them in pairs, one from each side at the 
same time. 


The soft feathers that cover his body drop 
out one by one. Thus all the time he is putting 
on a new suit he still wears part of the old one. 
In this way he is never left without clothes for a 

Most birds put on their new suits just after 
the young ones are grown up, and before they 
all start for the South to spend the winter, — that 
is, with many of our common birds, in August. 
At that time they are rather shy, and stop sing- 
ing. If you did not see one now and then, you 
might think they were all gone. 

Sometimes the new fall suit is not at all like 
the old one. There is the goldfinch, all summer 
in bright yellow. When he comes out in his 
new suit in August, it is dull-colored, much like 
the one his mate wears all the year, and in win- 
ter, when goldfinches fly around in little flocks, 
they look nearly all alike. 

In the spring, the male goldfinch comes out 
again in yellow. He has two suits a year, — a 
bright yellow one in the spring, and a dull olive- 
green for the winter. But his new spring dress 
is not a full suit. The yellow of the body is all 
fresh, but the black wings are the same the year 

Some birds have two, different colored dresses 
in a year J one they get without changing a 



feather. Suppose they have feathers of black, 
with gray on the outside edges. All winter the 
gray shows and the birds seem to have gray 
coats. But in spring the gray edges wear or fall 
off, and the black shows, and then they look as 
if they had come out in new black suits. It is 
as if you should take off a gray overcoat and 
show a black coat under it. 

There is another interesting thing about birds' 
dress. Some of them look like their mates, the 
father and mother birds so nearly alike that it is 
hard, sometimes impossible, to tell them apart. 
But when that is the case, you will notice that 
the color is not very gay. If the father wears a 
bright-colored suit, the mother does not look like 

For this reason the little mother is not too easily 
seen when she is on her nest. If the goldfinch 
mother were as bright as her mate, everybody 
who came near would see her on the nest, and 
some animal might take her, and leave the young 
birds to starve to death. That is probably why 
mother birds dress in such dull colors. 

When birds live on the ground, or very near 
it, in most cases both of the pair wear the dull 
colors, so they will not easily be seen. Wrens 
and sparrows and many others are so. But birds 
who make their nests in holes, or under ground, 


are often as bright as their mates, because they 
cannot be seen while sitting, and do not need to 
wear dull colors. 

A curious thing about a bird's color is that 
the same species, or kind of bird, is darker in 
one place than another. Where there is much 
dampness or wet weather, the colors are darker. 
For instance, a bob-white who lives in Florida, 
or one who lives in Oregon, will be much darker 
than his cousin living in New England. 



When young birds are in the nest they are 
not very pretty. But when they are nearly 
feathered, and sit up on the edge, exercising 
their wings, and getting ready to fly, they are 
lovely to look at. Their feathers are more fluffy 
and fresh than those of the old birds. 

At that time they have not learned to be afraid 
of us, and if we do not frighten them by rough- 
ness, loud talking, or quick movements, we can 
often get near enough to see them well. They 
will sit up and look at us without fear. 

Then some day, all at once, a young bird will 
begin to flap his wings, and off he will go, flut- 
tering very hard, beating his wings, and trying 
to reach the next tree. 

Sometimes he will reach it, and perch on a 
twig, and sit quite still a long time, tired with 
his first flight. Then the parents will come and 
feed him, and after a while he will fly again. 
This time he will go farther. 


So he will go on, till in a few days he can fly 
"very well, and follow his parents about, and begin 
to learn where to get food. 

Sometimes when a young bird leaves the nest 
he does not reach the tree he starts for, but falls 
to the ground. Then there is trouble among 
the birds. He is in danger of being picked up 
by a cat or a boy, or of getting tangled in the 
grass or weeds. 

The poor parents are half wild with fear. They 
coax him to try again, and they follow him about 
in the grass, in great distress. I have many 
times picked up a little bird, and set him on a 
branch of a tree, or stood guard over him, driv- 
ing away cats and keeping off people, till he 
reached a place where he would be safe. 

When young birds are out, but cannot yet 
fly very well, there is much anxiety about them. 
Then, if any one comes around to disturb them, 
what can the poor little mother do ? Sometimes 
she makes her young ones hide. Some of the 
birds who live on the ground will give a certain 
cry, when in a second every Uttle one will crouch 
on the ground, or creep under a leaf, and be per- 
fectly still. And their dark colors look so like 
the earth one can hardly see them. 

Then the mother tries to make one look at 
her by queer antics. She pretends to be hurt. 


and tumbles about as if she could not fly. If it 
is a man or an animal who has frightened her, 
he will usually think he can easily catch her ; 
so he will forget about the young ones, and fol- 
low her as she goes fluttering over the ground. 
She will go on playing that she is hurt, and 
moving away, till she leads him far from her 
brood. Then she will start up and fly away, 
and he cannot find his way back to where the 
little ones are still crouching. 

Sometimes when a mother is frightened, she 
wiU snatch up her young one between her feet, 
and fly away with it. Sometimes a mother will 
fight, actually fly into the face of the one she 
fears. Often, too, other birds come to her aid ; 
birds of many kinds, — catbirds, robins, thrash- 
ers, and others, — all come to help her drive 
away the enemy, for birds are almost always 
ready to help each other. 

I once found a young blue jay who had come 
to the ground while trying his first flight. I 
thought I would pick him up and put him on a 
branch. But the old birds did not know what I 
meant to do, and perhaps they were afraid T 
would carry him ofE. 

They flew at me with loud cries to drive me 
away, and I thought it best to go, for I did not 
want to make them any more unhappy than they 
were already. 


I did not go far, because I wanted to see 
that no one caught' the little one. He hopped 
about in the grass a long time, while his parents 
flew around him in great distress. Many times 
he tried to fly, but he eould not rise more than 
two feet from the ground. 

At last he seemed to make up his mind to 
climb a tree, for when he came to one M'ith a 
rough bark he began to go up. He would fly 
up a few inches, then hold on with his claws to 
rest. And so, half flying and half climbing, he 
went on till he reached the lowest limb. On 
that he perched and was quiet, glad to rest after 
iiis hard work. The old birds were happy, too, 
and brought food to him, and so I left them. 



The young bird has to be educated, or trained 
for his life, just as we do, though not exactly 
in the same way. 

He does not have to know arithmetic and 
history ; and what he needs of geography is 
only the road to the South, where he spends his 

I suppose the first thing he learns is to fly. 
You have heard, perhaps, that the old birds 
drive their young out of the nest. But do not 
believe any such thing, for it is not true. I 
have seen many little birds leave the nest, and 
almost every one flew when the parents were 
away after food. 

The parents sometimes try to coax a nestling 
who is afraid to try his wings, like an oriole I 
knew of. All the young orioles had flown 
except this one, and he seemed to be too timid 
to try. He stood on the edge of the nest, and 
called and cried, but did not use his wings. 


The father came to see him now and then, and 
at last he made him fly in this way. He caught 
a fine, large moth, and brought it to the nest in 
his beak. The young bird was veiy hungry, 
and when he saw the food, he opened his mouth 
and fluttered his wings, so eager to get it he 
iBOuld hardly wait. 

But the parent did not feed him. He let him 
see the moth, and then, with a loud call, he 
flew to the next tree. When the little oriole 
saw the food going away, he forgot he was 
afraid, and with a cry of horror he sprang after 
it ; and so, before he knew it, he had flown. 

After the young bird can fly, he needs to be 
taught to get his own living, or to find his own 
food, and also where to sleep. Then he must 
learn what to be afraid of, and how to protect 
himself from his enemies. 

He needs to know the different calls and cries 
of his family, and what they all mean. He has 
to learn to fly in a flock with other birds, and 
he must learn to sing. No doubt there are many 
more lessons for him that we do not know 

If you watch little birds just out of the nest, 
you may see them being taught the most useful 
and important lesson, how to find their food. 

The robin mother takes her little one to the 


ground, and shows him where the worms liv® 
and how to get them. The owl mother finds a 
mouse creeping about in the grass, and teaches 
the owlets how to pounce upon it, by doing it 
herself before them. 

The old swallow takes her youngsters into the 
air, and shows them how to catch little flies on 
the wing ; while mother phrjebe teaches hers to 
sit still and watch till a fly comes near, and then 
fly out and catch it. 

If you watch long enough, after a while you 
may see the old bird, who is training a young 
one, fly away. She may leave the young one 
alone on a tree or the ground, and be gone a 
long time. 

Before many minutes the little one will get 
hungry, and begin to call for food. But by 
and by, if nobody comes to feed him, he will 
think to look around for something to eat. 
Thus he will get his lesson in helping himself. 

Once I saw a woodpecker father bring his 
little one to a fence, close by some raspberry 
bushes that were full of berries. He fed him 
two or three berries, to teach him what they 
were and where they grew, and then quietly 
slipped away. 

When the young bird began to feel hungry 
be cried out ; but nobody came. Then he looked 


over at the raspberries, and reached out and 
tried to get hold of one. After trying three or 
four times, and nearly pitching off his perch, he 
did reach one. Then how proud he Avas ! 

The father stayed away an hour or more, and 
before he came back that young woodpecker 
had learned to help himself very well ; though 
the minute his father came, he began to flutter 
his wings and beg to be fed, as if he were half 

A lady, who fed the wild birds on her window 
sill for many years, and watched their ways, says 
she often saw the old birds teaching their little 
ones. They showed them where the food was 
to be found, and, she says, regularly taught 
them the art of eating. 

Then she saw them taught to be afraid of 
people, not to come too near her. And once she 
saw an old bird showing a young one how to 
gather twigs for nest-building. The young one 
looked on a while, and then tried hard to do it 
himself, but could not get off a single twig. 

Best of all, the same lady heard an old robin 
giving a music lesson. The teacher would sing 
a few notes and then stop, while the pupil tried 
to copy them. He had a weak, babyish sort of 
voice, and did not succeed very well at first. 

I have heard several birds at their music les' 


It is very easy to catch the birds teaching 
their little ones to exercise their wings and to 
fly together. You will see the young birds 
sitting quietly on fences or trees, when all at 
once the parents begin to fly around, with 
strange loud calls. In a minute every young- 
ster will fly out and join them. Around and 
around they all go, hard as they can, tiU their 
little wings are tired, and then they come down 
and alight again. 

Once I saw a young bird who did not go 
when his parents called. All the others flew 
around many times, and I suppose that young 
one thought he would not be noticed. 

But mothers' eyes are sharp, and his mother 
saw him. So when she came back, she flew 
right at her naughty son, and knocked him off 
his perch. The next time she called, he flew 
with the rest. This was a crow mother. 

I have seen a bluebird just out of the nest, 


taught to follow his father in this way. He 
stood on a small tree, crying for something to 
eat, when his father came in sight with a beak- 
ful of food. He did not feed him, but flew 
past him, so close that he almost touched him, 
and alighted on the next tree, a httle beyond 

The httle bluebird saw the food, and at once 
flew after it, perched beside his father, and was 
fed. Then the old bird left him, and in a few 
minutes he felt hungry, and began to call 

I kept close watch, and soon the father came 
and did the same thing over. He flew past the 
young one with an insect in plain sight in his 
beak, and perched on another tree still farther 
along in the way he wanted the little one to go. 

The hungry baby followed, and was fed as 
before. In this way he was led to a big tree 
the other side of the yard, where the rest of 
the family were, and where they all spent the 

An old robin wanted to teach her young one 
to bathe. She brought him to a dish of water 
kept for their use by some people who were 
fond of birds. The little one stood on the edge 
• and watched his mother go in, and splash and 
scatter the water. He fluttered his wings, and 


was eager to try it for himself, but seemed afraid 
to plunge in. 

At last the mother flew away and left him 
standing there, and in a moment came back 
with a worm in her mouth. The young robin 
was hungry, as young birds always are, and 
when he saw the worm, he began to flutter his 
wings, and cry for it. 

But the mother jumped into the middle of 
the water dish, and stood there, holding the 
worm in his sight. The youngster wanted the 
worm so much that he seemed to forgfet his fear 
of the water, and hopped right in beside her. 
She fed him, and then began to splash about, 
and he liked it so well that he stayed and took 
a good bath. 

Birds, as these stories show, teach their little 
ones by coaxing, and not by driving them. 

An Englishman, Mr. Lloyd Morgan, once 
had some ducks and chickens hatched away from 
their mother, to see how much their parents had 
to teach them. 

He found that these . little orphans had to be 
taught to pick up their food, and to know what 
is good to eat. He had to show the young 
ducks how to dive, and teach all of them that 
water is good to drink. 

To see if chickens had to be taught the heu 


language, he put them out by their mother 
when they were a few days old. 

The hen was going about with her brood, all 
brothers and sisters of Mr. Morgan's chicks, 
and she was quite ready to adopt the new ones. 
She clucked and called to them with all her 
might, but they did not come. They acted as 
if they did not hear her. When the others ran 
and crept under her wings to be brooded, the 
strangers looked on, but did not think of going 
too. , 

They did not understand the calls or the 
ways of their own mother. They had not been 

A careful watcher will see the birds teach 
these things, and many others as interesting. 
But no one will see anything unless he is quiet, 
and does not frighten them. 



THE bird's language 

When the bird is grown up, there are many 
other interesting things to know about him, — 
one is, whether he can talk. 

It is plain to those who have studied the ways 
of birds, that they are able to tell things to each 
other, and many writers have said plainly that 
birds have a language. 

If you notice birds in cages, you will find that 
when two or more of a kind are in the same 
room, you will hear little chirps and twitters 
and other notes, not at all like their song. But 
if one is alone in a room, he hardly makes a 
sound except when singing. 

Then see a robin out of doors. He is less 
afraid of us than most birds, and easiest to 
watch. If something comes up on him sud- 
denly, he gives a sharp note of surprise. If a 
cat appears, he has another cry which every one 
can understand, a word of warning to all. If 
everything is quiet and his mate is hear, he will 
greet her with some low, sweet notes. 


When a partridge mother sees danger, she 
gives one call, which all her brood know, and at 
once run and hide. When the hen speaks to 
her chicks, they know well whether it means to 
come to her, or to run away. 

Of course birds do not use our words. When 
it is said that the quail says " Bob White," it is 
meant that his call sounds like those words. 
To some the notes sound like " more wet." One 
may call it almost anything, like " all right " or 
" too hot." 

You will read in books about birds, that a 
certain warbler says " Witches here," or that 
the white-throated sparrow says " Old Sam Pea- 
body," and other birds say still different things. 
The writer means that the words remind one o£ 
the bird's notes, and so it is useful to know 
them, because it helps you to know the bird 
when you hear him. 

I have many times seen birds act as if they 
were talking to each other. You can often see 
the city sparrows do so. 

There is nothing in a bird's ways that we hke 
so well as his singing. And in all the many 
species of birds in the world, no two sing exactly 
alike, so far as I can find out. You may always 
know a bird by his song. A robin does not 
sing like a thrush or a catbird. And what is 


more, not one of the sounds he utters is like 
those made by any other bird. If you know 
him well, whatever noise he makes, you will 
know at once that it is a robin. 

But there is something still more curious 
about it. No robin sings exactly like another 
robin. When you come to know one bird well, 
you can tell his song from any other bird's. Of 
course, all robins sing enough alike for one to 
know that it is a robin song, but if you listen 
closely, you will see that it is really different 
from all others. 

Persons who have kept birds in cages have 
noticed the same thing. 

There is still another point to know. One 
bird does not always sing the same song. I 
have heard a song sparrow sing five or six differ- 
ent songs, standing all the time in plain sight on 
a fence. In the same way I have known a mea- 
dowlark to make six changes in his few notes. 

Besides their own natural songs, many birds 
like to copy the notes of others. Our mocking- 
bird is very fond of learning new things, and he 
does not always choose songs either. 

He will imitate the noise of filing a saw, or the 
pop of a cork, as readily as the sweetest song. 
I have heard one sing the canary's song better 
than the canary himself. 


Other birds can do the same. A common 
English sparrow picked up in the streets of a 
big city, hurt, and not able to fly, was put into 
a room with a canary. 

No doubt the wild bird found his life in a 
cage rather dull, after having been used to the 
streets, and he soon began to amuse himself try- 
ing to do as the canary did, to sing. In a few 
weeks he learned the whole song, and he could 
sing it even better than his roommate, for his 
voice was full and rich, and not so shrill as the 

Most people think that birds sing all summer. 
They think so because they have not taken 
notice. We who are very fond of bird song 
know it is not so. 

Singing begins when the birds first come in 
the spring. It goes on while the nest is being 
built, and the mother bird is sitting. The 
father has little to do at that time, and so he 
sings. And besides, he seems to be so happy 
that he cannot help it. 

But when little ones begin to call for food, 
he has to be very busy, and does not have so 
much time for music. Some birds stop singing 
as soon as they go to feeding. 

But not aU do so. Many go on singing till 
they begin to change their clothes, or to moult. 



as it is called. This happens in August or 
September, and when it begins, a bird seems to 
lose his voice. 

One of the first to stop singing is the bobo- 
link. He is rarely heard after June is past. 
The veery is another whose singing days are 
over early. You may hear his call in the woods, 
if you know it, but not a song will you hear 
after the middle of July. 

By the time August comes in, almost every 
bird is silent, except for his calls or "talk." 
The birds to be heard then are the red-eyed 
vireo, who seems never to tire, and now and 
then the indigo-bird, or the wood pewee, and 
best of all, the dear little song sparrow, who 
keeps up his cheery songs till the very last. 

Then you will know that all the birds are 
busy putting on their new suits for their long 



What the bird eats and where he gets his 
food are useful things for us to know. It has 
only lately been found out that birds are the 
most valuable of helpers to us. 

What we cannot eat ourselves, they are happy 
to live on, and things that make us a great deal 
of trouble are their daily food. 

Some of the things they are fond of are 
little animals, like mice and ground squirrels, 
that eat our crops. Others are insects which 
spoil our fruit and eat up our vegetables, canker- 
worms and cutworms, and a hundred more. 

Besides these, many birds eat the seeds of cer- 
tain weeds that farmers have to fight all the 

One reason this helps us so greatly is that 
birds eat much more for their size than we do. 
A boy of six or eight years could not possibly 
eat a whole sheep in one day, but a young bird 
can easily eat more than his own weight every 


They want more than three meals too. They 
need to eat very often. One catbird will take 
thirty grasshoppers for his breakfast, and in a 
few hours he will want thirty more. So he de- 
stroys a great many in a day. 

Birds begin eating long before we are out of 
bed, and keep it up till night comes again, or as 
long as they can see. 

You must not think the birds are greedy, as 
a person would be if he ate every few minutes 
all day. They are made to do so. It is their 
business to destroy insects, small animals, and 
weeds that trouble us so much, and the more 
they eat the better for us. 

Let us see where they go for food. Each 
bird has his own place to work. 

The catbird watches the fruit-trees, and all 
day long eats insects that are spoiling our fruit 
or kilHng the trees. When the cherries are 
ripe, we should not forget that he has saved the 
fruit from insects, and has well earned a share 
for himself. 

If you spent days and weeks picking ofE in- 
sects, would you not think you had earned part 
of the fruit ? " For every cherry he eats " (says 
a man who has watched him), " he has eaten at 
Iteast one thousand insects." 

The robin eats great numbers of canker* 


worms, which destroy our apples, and cutworms, 
which kill the corn. 

The bluebird sits on the fence keeping sharp 
watch, and every few minutes flies down and 
picks up a grasshopper or a cricket, or some 
such grass-eating insect. 

Woodpeckers hunt over the trunks and limbs 
of trees. They tap on the bark and listen, and 
if they hear a grub stir inside, they cut a hole 
in the bark and drag it out. The downy is 
fond of insects that infest our apple-trees, and 
he makes many holes in the trunks. But it 
does not hurt the trees. It is good for them, 
for it takes away the creatures that were eating 

Orioles go over the fruit-trees, and pick out 
tiny insects under the leaves, and when they 
find great nests on the branches, they tear them 
open and kill the caterpillars that made them. 

Little warblers, such as the pretty summer 
yellow-bird, help to keep our trees clear, doing 
most of their work in the tops, where we can 
hardly see them. 

Swallows fly about in the air, catching mos- 
quitoes and tiny flies that trouble us. 

Very useful to us are the birds who feed 
upon dead animals, such as the turkey buzzards, 
who may be seen any day in our Southern 


States, soaring about high in the air, looking 
for their food. 

What they eat is so very unpleasant to us 
that we are apt to despise the birds. But we 
should cherish and feel grateful to them in- 
stead. For they are doing us the greatest kind- 
ness. In many of the hot countries people 
could not live, r£ these most useful birds were 

Some persons think buzzards find their food 
by seeing it, and others are just as sure that 
they smell it. Perhaps they use both senses. 



Some of the big birds work all the time for 
us. When you see a hawk sitting very still on 
a dead limb, what do you suppose he is doing ? 

A good deal of the time he is looking on the 
ground for a mouse, or a ground squirrel, or a 
rat, or some creature that he likes to eat. 

When he sees one of them move in the grass, 
he flies down and pounces upon it. Thus he 
helps the farmer greatly, for all of these little 
animals destroy crops. 

When it grows dark, hawks stop work and go 
to sleep. Then the owls, who can see better in 
the dusk, come out of the holes where they have 
been half sleeping all day. They hunt the same 
little creatures, most of all rats and mice, which 
like best to run about in the night. 

Perhaps you have heard that hawks and owls 
carry off chickens. Many people who keep 
chickens shoot every hawk and owl they see. 
But if they knew more about them they would 


not do so. Only two of the common hawks 
and one owl ^ disturb chickens. All the others 
kill thousands of the little animals that give the 
farmers so much trouble. 

Owls have a curious way of eating mice. 
They swallow them whole, and after a while 
they throw up a queer-looking little ball made 
of the bones and fur of the mouse. 

You may some time have seen a long-legged 
heron walking about on the seashore or in the 
salt marsh. Now and then he would thrust his 
long, sharp bill into something, and lift up his 
head and swallow. Or you have noticed a 
little sandpiper running along on the beach or 
the bank of a river. 

The heron was probably eating frogs or fish, 
and the sandpiper some of the small sea crea- 
tures thrown up by the waves. If these were 
not taken away they would be very bad for us, 
and perhaps make us sick. 

Not less useful to us than these birds are the 
whole family of finches. The goldfinch in 
bright yellow coat, the purple finch in red, and 
the sparrows in plain brown. All of these are 
fond of seeds as well as insects, and most ot all 
they like the seeds of some weeds that are hard 
to get rid of. 

' Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks, and great horned oi 
hoot owl. 


The goldfinch is called the thistle -bird, be- 
cause he likes best the seeds of thistles, though 
he eats the beggar's-ticks too. 

The chipping sparrow, the little red-headed 
bird who comes about our doors, eats the seeds 
of fox-tail and crab grasses, that spoil our lawns. 

The white-throated sparrow, a large and very 
pretty bird, eats the seeds of smartweed and 
ragweed. Other finches like bittersweet, sorrel, 
and amaranth, all of which we are glad to have 
them eat. 

The seed-eating birds can find their food in 
winter, even when snow covers the ground, be- 
cause the dead weeds hold on to their seeds, and 
the snow is not often deep enough to cover 

Some birds gather their food in the fall, and 
hide it away where they can find it in winter. 
Blue jays collect acorns and beech-nuts, and 
store them in a hole in a tree, or some other 
safe place, to eat when food is scarce. A wood- 
pecker who lives in the West picks holes in the 
bark of a tree, and puts an acorn into each one. 

The oddest store I know of was made by a 
woodpecker. He found a long crack in a post, 
and stuffed it full of live grasshoppers. He did 
not like dead grasshoppers. He wedged them 
into the crack so tightly that they could not get 


out, and I do not know that they wanted to. 
"When grasshoppers were scarce in the fields, he 
came day after day to his queer storehouse, till 
he had eaten every one. 

One of the woodpecker family who lives in 
Mexico stores nuts and acorns in the stems of 
plants. These stems are hollow and made in 
joints like bamboo. The bird cuts a hole at the 
upper end of a joint, and stufEs it full. When 
he wants his nuts, he cuts a hole at the lower 
end of the joint and pulls them out. 

I once had a tame blue jay, who was fond of 
saving what he could not eat, and putting it 
safely away. The place he seemed to think 
most secure was somewhere about me, and he 
would come slyly around me as I sat at work, 
and try to hide his treasure about my clothes. 

When it was a dried currant or bit of bread, 
I did not care ; but when he came on to my 
shoulder, and tried to tuck a dead meal worm 
into my hair or between my lips, or a piece of 
raw beef under a ruffle or in my ear, I had to 
decline to be used as a storehouse, much to his 

He liked to put away other things as well as 
jpood. Matches he seemed to think were made 
for him to hide. His chosen place for them was 
between the breadths of matting on the floor. 


Once he found a parlor match, hunted up a 
good opening, and put it in. Then he went on, 
as he always did, to hammer it down so tightly 
that it would stay. One of the blows of his 
hard beak struck the lighting end of the match, 
and it went off with a sharp crack. The noise 
and the flame which burst out made the bird 
jump three feet, and scared him nearly out of 
his senses. 

After that I took care to keep the matches 
out of the way of a bird so fond of hiding 



Most birds sleep on their feet. 

You know how a canary goes to sleep, all 
puffed out like a ball, with his head buried in 
the feathers of his shoulder. He may stick his 
bill over behind the top of the wing, but he 
never "puts his head under his wing," as you 
have heard. 

Sometimes he stands straight up on one leg, 
with the other drawn up out of sight in his fea- 
thers, but more often he sits down on the perch, 
still resting on his feet. Most wild birds of the 
perching kind sleep in the same way. 

It is only lately that we have begun to find 
out where birds sleep, because it is dark when 
they go to bed, and they get up before it is 
light enough for us to see them. 

The only way to catch them in bed is to go 
out in the evening, and start them up after they 
have gone to sleep. And this is not very kind 
to the poor little birds. Some men who are try 


ing to learn about the habits of birds have tried 
this way, and so have found out some of their 

One thing they have learned is that the nest 
is not often used for a bed, except for the 
mother, while she is sitting and keeping her 
little ones warm. 

Eobins and orioles, and others, creep into the 
thick branches of an evergreen tree, close up to 
the trunk. Some crawl under the edge of a 
haystack, others into thick vines or thorny 
bushes. All these are meant for hiding-places, 
so that beasts which prowl about at night, and 
like to eat birds, will not find them. 

Tree sparrows like to sleep in holes in the 
ground like little caves. The men who found 
these cosy little bedrooms think they are places 
dug out by field mice, and other small animals, 
for their own use. And when they are left, the 
birds are glad to take them. 

When the weather is cold, some birds sleep 
under the snow. You may think that would 
not be very warm, and it is not so warm as a 
bed in the house with plenty of blankets. But 
it is much warmer than a perch in a tree, with 
nothing but leaves to keep ofE the wind. 

While the snow is falling, some birds find it 
as good as blankets for their use. Grouse, who 


live on the ground, dive into a snow-bank, and 
snuggle down quietly, while the snow falls and 
covers them all over, and keeps the cold wind off. 
Air comes through the snow, so they do not 

Some birds creep into a pile of brush that is 
covered with snow, and find under the twigs 
little places like tents, where the snow has been 
kept out by the twigs, and they sleep there, 
away from the wind and storm outside. 

Water birds find the best sleeping-places on 
the water, where they float all night like tiny 
boats. Some of them leave one foot hangfinsr 
down and paddling a little, while they sleep, to 
keep from being washed to the shore. 

Bob-white and his family sleep in a close 
circle on the ground, all with their heads turned 
outward, so that they can see or hear an enemy, 
whichever way he comes. 

Hawks and eagles are said to sleep standing, 
never sitting on the feet like a canary. Some 
ducks and geese do even more : they sleep stand- 
ing on one foot. Woodpeckers and chimney 
swifts hang themselves up by their claws, using 
their stiff tail for a brace, as if it were a third 

Some birds, like the crows, sleep in great 
flocks. They agree upon a piece of woods, and 


all the crows for miles around come there every 
night. Sometimes thousands sleep in this one 
bedroom, called a crow roost. Robins do the 
same, after the young are big enough to fly so 

Audubon, who has told us so much about 
birds, once found a hollow tree which was the 
sleeping - room of chimney swifts. The noise 
they made going out in the morning was like the 
roar of a great mill-wheel. 

He wanted to see the birds asleep. So in the 
daytime, Avhen they were away, he had a piece 
cut out at the foot of the tree, big enough to let 
him in, and then put back, so the birds would 
not notice anything unusual. 

At night, after the swifts were abed, he took 
a dark lantern and went in. He turned the 
light upon them little by little, so as not to startle 
them. Then he saw the whole inside of the 
tree full of birds. They were hanging by their 
claws, side by side, as thick as they could hang. 
He thought there were as many as twelve thoif 
sand in that one bedroom. 



Most of our birds take two long journeys 
every year, one in the fall to the south, and the 
other in the spring back to the north. These 
journeys are called " migrations." 

The birds do not go all at once, but in many 
cases those of a kind who live near each other 
collect in a flock and travel together. Each 
species or kind has its own time to go. 

It might be thought that it is because of the 
cold that so many birds move to a warmer cli- 
mate. But it is not so ; they are very well 
dressed to endure cold. Their feather suits are 
so warm that some of our smallest and weakest 
birds are able to stay with us, like the chickadee 
and the golden-crowned kinglet. It is simply 
because they cannot get food in winter, that they 
have to go. 

The fall travel begins soon after the first of 
July. The bobolink is one of the first to leave 
us, though he does not start at once on his long 


journey. By that time his little folk are full 
grown, and can take care of themselves, and he 
is getting on his winter suit, or moulting. 

Then some morning all the bobolinks in the 
country are turned out of their homes in the 
meadows, by men and horses and mowing-ma^ 
chines, for at that time the long grass is ready 
to cut. 

Then he begins to think about the wild rice 
which is getting just right to eat. Besides, he 
likes to take his long journey to South America 
in an easy way, stopping here and there as he 
goes. So some morning we miss his cheerful 
call, and if we go to the meadow we shall not be 
able to see a single bobolink. 

There, too, are the swallows, who eat only 
small flying insects. As the weather grows 
cooler, these tiny flies are no longer to be found. 
So the swallows begin to flock, as it is called. 
For a few days they will be seen on fences and 
telegraph wires, chattering and making a great 
noise, and then some morning they will all be 

They spend some time in marshes, and other 
lonely places, before they at last set out for the 

As the days grow shorter and cooler, the war- 
blers go. These are the bright-colored little 


fellows, who live mostly in the tops of trees. 
Then the orioles and the thrushes and the cuckoos 
leave us, and most birds who live on insects. 

By the time that November comes in, few of 
them will be left. Birds who can live on seeds 
and winter berries, such as cedar -berries and 
partridge-berries, and others, often stay with us, 
— bluebirds, finches, and sometimes robins. 

Many birds take their journey by night. 
Think of it ! Tiny creatures, that all summer 
go to bed at dark, start ofE some night, when it 
seems as if they ought to be asleep, and fly all 
night in the dark. 

When it grows light, they stop in some place 
where they can feed and rest. And the next 
night, or two or three nights later, they go on 
again. So they do till they reach their winter 
home, hundreds or thousands of miles away. 

These night flyers are the timid birds, and 
those who live in the woods, and do not like to 
be seen, — thrushes, wrens, vireos, and others. 
Birds with strong wings, who are used to fly- 
ing hours every day, and bolder birds, who do 
not mind being seen, take their journey by day- 

Most of them stop now and then, a day or 
two at a time, to feed and rest. They fly very 
high, and faster than our railroad trains can go. 


In the spring the hirds take their second long 
journey, back to their last year's home. 

How they know their way on these journeys, 
men have been for many years trying to find out. 
They have found that birds travel on regular 
roads, or routes, that follow the rivers and the 
shore of the ocean. They can see much better 
than we can, and even in the night they can see 

One such road, or highway, is over the har- 
bor of New York. When the statue of Liberty 
was set up on an island in the harbor a few 
years ago, it was put in the birds' path. 

Usually they fly too high to mind it ; but when 
there is a rain or fog they come much lower, 
and, sad to say, many of them fly against it and 
are killed. 

We often see strange birds in our city streets 
and parks, while they are passing through on 
their migrations, for they sometimes spend sev- 
eral days with us. 

A sparrow, who was hurt and unable to fly, 
was picked up one fall and kept in a house all 
winter. He was not caged, and he chose for 
his headquarters and sleeping-place a vase that 
stood on a shelf. 

He went with the family to the table, and 
made himself very much at home there. He 


picked out what he wanted to eat and drink, and 
scolded well if he did not have it. 

The thing he liked best was butter, and when 
he was ready to wipe his bill after eating, as 
birds do, he found the coat-sleeve of the master 
soft and nice for the purpose. This pleased the 
bird better than it did the owner of the sleeve, 
but he tried in vain to keep the saucy fellow 
off. If he forgot for an instant to watch the 
bird, he would dash up, wipe ofE the butter, and 
fly away out of the reach of everybody. 

In the spring the sparrow left the family, and 
lived out of doors. But, with the first cold 
weather of fall, he came back, went to his old 
vase, and settled himself for the winter again. 
This he did for several years. 



Nearly every bird has two homes, one foi 
winter and one for summer. 

We can see why birds leave us and go to a 
warmer and better place for the winter ; but why 
they do not stay in that country where there is 
always plenty of food, but choose to come back 
in the spring to their old home, we do not 

It may be because they want more room to 
build nests, and bring up their little ones. Or 
it may be that they want to come back because 
they love their old home. 

Whatever may be the reason, it is well for us 
that they do so, for if we had no more birds in 
the summer than we have in the winter, we 
should suffer very much from insects. We 
could not raise fruit, or vegetables, or grain, for 
insects would eat it all. That is one reason we 
are so glad that birds come back to us in the 


Though so many birds leave us in the fall, 
they do not all go. A few come to us who have 
nested farther north, and some who have been 
with us all summer stay over winter too. These 
last are called " permanent residents," that is, 
they stay all the year round. 

In the Middle States of the East — New York, 
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Ohio — there are 
twenty or twenty-five who stay all the year. 
There are several hawks and owls and wood- 
peckers, the crow, bob-white, the blue jay, and 
the meadowlark, and, of the little ones, the gold- 
finch, in his sober winter coat, his cousin the 
purple finch, the song sparrow, the nuthatch, 
and the chickadee. 

Besides these " permanent residents," there 
are ten or twelve who come from the north. 
The funny little saw-whet owl is one, and the 
snowflake, who loves to frolic in the snow, is 

Many of our summer birds stay in the South- 
ern States all winter. Those who can eat seeds 
and winter berries — for instance, robins and 
bluebirds, catbirds and sparrows — need not go 
very far south ; and some of them even stay 
in the State of New York. 

Most of our birds who do not eat berries, but 
must have insects, go farther, some to Florida 


or the West Indies, others to Central America, 
and a few even into South America, — except 
the woodpecker, who gets his insects under the 
bark of trees. 

The summer birds of the Western States nearly 
all go to Mexico for the winter. 

The little birds who stay with us are only 
those who can eat seeds, as I said, or the eggs 
and insects to be found in the crevices of the 
bark on trees. These birds do a great deal of 
good, for each one destroys thousands of insects 
before they have come out of the egg. One 
small chickadee will eat several hundred insect 
eggs in a day. 

These little fellows can almost always find 
their food, for the snow seldom covers the trunks 
of the trees ; but now and then in the winter 
we have an ice storm ; then the trunks and 
branches are buried under ice, so that the birds 
suffer, and perhaps will starve to death. 

In such a time it will be kind of you who 
live in the country to put out food for them. 
You can give them any table scraps of meat or 
vegetables, or bread, chopped fine for their tinji 
mouths, with corn or grain for bigger birds. 

What they all like best to eat is suet, — which 
the butcher will give you, — chopped fine, or, 
better still, nailed or tied to a branch or a fence, 


SO that they can pick off morsels for them- 
selves. This will make them all very happy ; 
but you must see that the English sparrow does 
not drive them away, or eat it all himself. 

Some persons who live in the country or 
small towns spread a table every day through 
the winter for the birds. Many come for food, 
and they have great pleasure in watching them 
and studying their ways. 

One lady I know who is an invalid, and her 
greatest happiness in the long cold months, when 
she cannot go out, is to set her breakfast-table, 
and watch the guests who come to it. 

She lives in the southern part of Ohio, and 
she has all winter cardinal grosbeaks, or red- 
birds as she calls them, blue jays, tufted titmice, 
and others. The cardinals are fine singers, and 
they sing to her every month in the year. 



Many people think that as soon as the young 
birds of a nest are full grown, and know how to 
take care of themselves, the family separate, and 
have no more to do with each other. Some have 
even said that the old birds push the little ones 
out of the nest to get rid of them. 

All this is a great mistake, and any one who 
has watched them carefully will say so. 

In many cases, when the brood is grown and 
all have left the nest, the whole family keep to- 
gether. One who has eyes sharp to see will find 
everywhere little groups of parents with their 
young. If the old birds rear more than one 
brood in a summer, the young ones of the first 
nest keep together. 

I have often seen little parties of young blue- 
birds or sparrows going about after food on the 
grass, or on the newly cut hay. Now and then 
one of the parents would come around as if to 
see that all was well, and then leave them alone 


again. When the second brood is ready to go 
-out, the whole family often unite in a small flock. 
In some cases, where they could be watched, they 
have been known to stay so all winter. All 
through July and August, in the New England 
and Middle States, one may see these pretty little 
family groups. 

Some birds who live and nest by themselves, 
each pair in its own tree, or bush, or field, come 
together in larger parties after the young are 
grown, in a social way. A few do this only at 
night, in what are called roosts, which I spoke 
of in a former chapter. 

Other birds, when nestlings are out, unite in 
flocks, and stay so all the time, or through the 
winter. Our pretty little goldfinch does this. 

Most of the birds we see about our homes like 
to have a tree or bush to themselves for their 
nest. But there are many birds that live close 
together all the time. Some, you may say, in 
small villages, — swallows, for instance. We 
generally see several swallows flying about to- 
gether. They make their nests near each other. 
The barn swallow chooses the beams inside the 
barn, and there are often three or four or more 
nests in the same barn. 

The eave swallows put their mud cottages in 
a row, under the eaves outside the barn. One 


would think they needed to have numbers on 
their doors, to know which was their own. 

There, too, are the common crow blackbirds. 
They come in the spring in crowds, and when it 
is time to make nests, they find some grove or 
clump of trees that suits them, and all of them 
build their nests close together. Often there are 
two or three on one tree, like a bird city. There 
they live and rear their little ones, and it is said 
they never quarrel. 

Then there are the birds who get their food 
from the sea, such as penguins. These birds live 
in big cities, of many thousand nests. They go 
to an island where no people live, and build on 
the ground, or on rocks, or anywhere. 

Sometimes they are so near together one can 
hardly walk without stepping on them. How 
each mother can tell her own, it is hard to see. 
They live very happily together, and if a mother 
is killed, so that her little ones are left orphans, 
one of the neighbors will adopt them all, and 
feed and bring them up with her own. 

Some of these birds do not even take the 
trouble to make a nest. They put the eggs any- 
where on the sand or earth. 

Some one, Mr. Brehm, I think, tells a pretty 
story about a certain kind of duck who rears two 
broods every season. After the ducklings of the 


first brood have learned to take care of them- 
selves, they go about together, getting their food 
and sailing on the water in a little party, while 
their parents are hatching the second brood. 
But when the younger ones are big enough, 
they are led to the water, and at once their elder 
brothers and sisters join them. They all swim 
around together, the youngest in the middle of 
the group, where they are protected and fed by 
the elder brood as well as by the parents, a lovely 
and united little family. 



Birds are helpful to each other when in 
trouble. If a robin is in distress, other robins 
will come to see what is the matter, and to help 
if they can. And not only robins, but catbirds, 
and orioles, and chickadees, and others, wHl 
come, too. 

Sometimes when a person tries to rob a nest, 
all the birds near will come in a crowd, to drive 
away the thief. They will cry and scream at 
him, and sometimes fly at his face, and try to 
peck his eyes. 

Birds are so little they cannot fight a man, 
but if they can peck at his face, they can hurt 
him, and if they really get at his eyes, they can 
put them out. We cannot blame the birds for 
trying to protect themselves and their yoiing, 
and it is well for boys to be careful how they 
disturb a nest. 

One proof that birds really do help each 
other is the fact that when a man wants to know 


what birds live in a place, he can bring them all 
around him by making a sound like a young 
bird in distress. All who hear it will come to 
see what is the matter. 

Let me tell you a story of some young swal- 
lows. They were able to fly a little, and were 
sitting together on a roof, when a lady who 
was watching them noticed that one of them 
seemed to be weak, and not able to stand up. 

When the parents came with food, the others 
stood up and opened their mouths, and so were 
fed, but this little one hardly ever got a morsel. 

If birds had no love for each other, as many 
people think, these strong little ones would not 
have cared if their brother did starve; but what 
did the lady see? She says that two of the 
strong young swallows came close up to their 
weak brother, one on each side. They put their 
beaks under his breast and lifted him up on to 
his legs, and then crowded so close against him 
that their little bodies propped him up, and held 
him there; so that he had his chance of being 
fed as well as they. 

Many times birds have been seen who were 
blind or old, or who had a wing or a leg broken, 
or were in some way hurt so that they could not 
take care of themselves, and who were being 
waited upon by other birds, fed, and led to the 
water to drink and bathe. 


Birds have been found caught in the lining of 
a nest, so that they were held there and could 
not go for food. They had been there for 
weeks, and would have starved to death if they 
had not been fed. Yet they were so well taken 
care of by other birds that they were strong and 
able to fly. 

In one case, where the nest was in a tree trunk, 
the hole in the trunk had grown up, so that 
when big enough to fly, they could not get out, 
and they had been there for months. Yet when 
a man cut open the trunk and let them out, they 
were well and lively, proving that they had been 
fed by friends outside all that time. 

I could tell you many true stories of the kind 
care of birds for each other, and for baby birds 
who had lost their parents, or been stolen away 
from them. 

A gentleman in Massachusetts told me that 
when he was a boy he saw a small flock of che- 
winks who came about a house where food was 
put out for birds. They came every day, and he 
soon saw that one was bigger than the rest, and 
that he never tried to pick up anything for him- 
self, but all the others fed him. 

One day he was cruel enough to throw a stone 
at the bird who was so well taken care of, and 
when he took up his victim, he found that the 



upper and lower parts of his bill were crossed, 
so that he could not pick up anything from the 
ground, where chewinks find their food. He 
had been born thus deformed, and if he had not 
been fed every day by his friends he must have 
starved to death. Yet so well had he been cared 
for that he was better grown than any of the 



I AM sure I need not say that father and 
mother birds love their little ones. , 

So much does the mother love her nestlings 
that she is often willing to die for them. Orioles 
and chickadees will let themselves be caught in 
the hand of one who has taken their young, 
rather than desert them. 

Some birds live in our chimneys, generally in 
a flue that is not in use, and are called chimney 
swifts. If a chimney takes fire the mother swift 
tries hard to get her little ones out, but if they 
cannot fly, she has been seen to fly into the fire 
herself, and die with them. 

Kobins have been found frozen to death on 
their nest. They could easily have saved them- 
selves, but they would not leave their young ones 
to perish. A ground bird has been known to sit 
on her nest during a freezing storm, till she died, 
rather than go and leave her little ones to suffer. 

Once when a young cedar-bird was caught 


and carried off, the father followed it for miles, 
crying and showing so much distress that the 
man who had stolen it was sorry for him, and 
let the httle one go. 

Every one who has watched them knows that 
birds love their mates. A man once shot a sea 
bird, when her mate came about him, crying 
and showing his grief as well as if he could 

I could easily fill a book with stories to prove 
that birds are loving to their mates and young, 
and all of them true. 

It does nbt seem strange that birds are fond 
of their own, but they love others also. And 
not only other birds, but even animals like cats, 
dogs, and horses sometimes. 

I once had an English goldfinch in the house. 
He was ^ little fellow, not so big as a canary, 
and he was very fond of another bird in the 
room. This was a scarlet tanager, who was 
much larger than himself. 

The small bird showed his love for his red 
friend, just as people show love, by staying 
close to him, singing to him, and driving away 
any bird who came too near. 

A lady once told me this story showing the 
love of a pigeon for a cat. The cat was fond 
of lying on the broad window sill. When the 


pigeon saw her there, he would fly down, and 
alight beside her. Then he would press up 
close to her, and rub against her fur, as if glad 
to see her, and the cat seemed to enjoy it as 
much as the bird. 

Often a bird who is tamed loves his human 
friends. A man had a crow who was very. fond 
of him. He had reared the bird from the nest 
and never shut him up, but let him fly about 
wherever he chose. 

One day he was out in a sudden rain, and his 
feathers got wet, so that he could not fly well. 
Then a boy caught him, and carried him seven 
miles away. He clipped one wing, so that the 
crow could not fly, and kept him shut in the 
house all winter. In the spring, the first time he 
could get out, the bird started for his old home. 

He could not fly, but he walked the seven 
miles, through mud and wet, and came home so 
tired that he was almost dead. When his mas- 
ter saw him coming he went to meet him, tools 
him up and petted him, and talked to him. 

The poor fellow was so happy it seemed as il 
he could not live. But he was taken care of, 
and got well, and lived many years. But never 
after that would he leave the place, though 
when his new feathers came in he could fly as 
well as ever. 



Canary birds often love their mistresses. I 
have heard of one who was so grieved by a harsh 
word, that in a few minutes he fell ofE his perch 

These true stories show us how tender and 
loving these little creatures are, and how careful 
we should be to treat them gently and kindly. 

An interesting and true story is told by a 
clergyman in Ohio. It is a habit of wrens to 
find a good nesting-place, and then look for a 
mate to occupy it. One spring a wren chose a 
nice bird-box on his place, and held it ready for 
the expected bride. But she did not come, and 
a pair of English sparrows took a fancy to the 
same house. 

Sparrows expect to get what they want, and 
are always ready to fight for it, so they gave 
battle to the wren. But wrens also will fight 
for their own, and this wren held his house 
against the enemy for two weeks. Still the 
mate did not appear, and finally the lonely bird 
lost heart, and let the sparrows set up house- 
keeping in his box, though he did not go away. 

When the young sparrows were hatched, and 
feeding began, the wren suddenly became 
friendly. He hunted up small green worms, 
probably such as are good for wrenlings, and 
offered them to the young sparrows. 


Nestlings are never known to refuse anything 
to eat, and wren food seemed to suit the sparrows, 
for they soon outgrew the nursery. 

All summer this queer thing went on. The 
sparrows reared three or four broods, and the 
wren did his full share of the work, — and not 
only of feeding the young, but of repairing and 
rebuilding the nest for each fresh brood. 



Bbfokb people knew very much about the 
ways of birds, it was thought that they did not 
have to be taught anything, but that they knew 
everything they needed to know, as soon as they 
were born. That is, they were said to act from 
instinct alone, and not at all from reason, as we 

Another notion that people had was that birds 
of a hind were just alike ; that they looked ex- 
actly like each other, all acted in the same way, 
and all sang the same song. 

But since we have begun to study birds more 
closely, we find these things are not true. We 
find that birds learn things by being taught, as 
we do. Also, they find out how to do things 
themselves, and they are not all alike, as so many 

More than this, we see that they do not look 
nor act exactly like each other. For when we 
know one robin or one oriole well, we can tell 


him from any other robin or oriole. And, as 1 
said before, no two of a kind sing precisely the 
same song. 

A bird shows his intelligence in many ways. 
One is by the way he acts when he cannot do as 
he is used to doing. A robin I know of wished 
to build a nest, but could not find mud to put 
into it, for it was a very dry time, and there 
were no streams near. Now a robin's nest must 
have mud, and the bird seemed puzzled for 
a while. But at last she thought of a way to 
get it. 

She went to a bathing-dish that the people of 
the house kept filled with water for the birds, 
jumped into it, and got her legs very wet. 
Then she flew to the road, and tramped around 
in the dust and dirt. 

In a short time her legs had a good coating 
of mud, which she carefully picked off with her 
bill, and took to the nest she was building. 

This she did a great many times, and the 
lady who told me of it watched her till she had 
as much mud as she needed. 

A bird often shows sense by the way she 
repairs a nest that has been thrown out of place. 
Sometimes she will add a new stay, tying the 
nest to a stronger limb. One sparrow, whose 
nest broke loose, put so many stays to the 


branch above that they made a little roof like a 
tent over it. 

Another way a bird shows reason is in seeing 
the advantage of a new place. A pair of swal- 
lows lived far out in the West, hundreds of 
miles from any house. They had no doubt 
always nested in a cave, or a hole in a tree. But 
one day they found a house put up. It was a 
mere shed, to be used as a blacksmith shop, by a 
party of men who were looking over the country. 

At once the birds saw how nice it would be 
to have a roof over their heads. And although 
there was a big fire, and the noise of men at 
work, they built the nest over the anvil, and 
reared the family in safety. 

Woodpeckers have shown that they can learn. 
Some of them have found an easier way to get 
food than to dig through the bark of trees 
for it. 

The flicker, or golden-winged woodpecker, 
has learned that ants and other insects are good 
to eat, and now he does not think of digging 
into bark any more. 

The red-headed woodpecker has learned to 
catch flies like a common flycatcher. The yellow- 
bellied, or sapsucker, cuts holes in the trees, and 
eats the insects that come to feed on the sweet 
Bap that drips from them. 


Woodpeckers have also learned to cut a hole 
through a board and nest inside a building, in- 
stead of drilling a deep hole in the trunk of a 
tree for a nest. 

Birds show intelligence when they draw us 
away from their young ones, by acting as if 
they were hurt and not able to fly. I have al- 
ready spoken about that. 

Sometimes when a bird is caught he will lie 
quiet and pretend to be dead. But all the time 
he is looking out for a chance to fly away. 

A man who watched birds very closely once 
saw an interesting instance of their intelligence. 
They were two of the birds who get their food 
on the seashore by turning over stones and eat- 
ing the creatures hidden under them. They 
had found a big dead fish thrown up on the 
beach and half buried in sand. Under such a 
fish they were sure they should find food, so 
they went to work to turn it over. The fish 
was three and a half feet long, and the birds 
were about as big as our sandpipers. So it was 
a hard thing to do. 

First they pushed against it with their beaks 
and breast, but it did not move. Then they 
went around the other side and scratched away 
a. good deal of sand from under the fish, and 
went back and tried again to turn it over. Still 
it was too heavy to stir. 




Again they ran around the other side, scraped 
away more sand, and tried it once more. They 
kept up this work for half an hour, but did not 
succeed in stirring the great fish. 

At this time the man, who had hidden himself 
to watch them, saw another bird coming. The 
two little workers greeted him with joyful cries, 
to which he replied in the same tones. Then 
all three set to work on the heavy fish. They 
dug more sand out from- the lower side, and 
then pushed against the upper side with all their 
strength. They lifted it a few inches, but it 
fell back. 

At last, after resting a few minutes, without 
moving from their places, they worked it in this 
way. They rested their breasts on the sand, 
put their beaks under, and lifted. When the 
fish was raised several inches, they held it with 
their beaks and pushed their breasts against it, 
when over it went, down the little pitch they 
had made. 

They could not stop, and they went with it, 
but at once came back and found enough to pay 
them for their hard work. 

One who really watches birds to see what 
they are doing will see many actions that show 
intelligence and reason. 




Did you ever think how well the bird is made 
to suit his life ? Look at him. 

To fit him to move through the air \n flying, 
his shape is the same that men make their boats 
to move through water. It is sharp in front to 
cut his way as he goes through, for even the air 
needs to be cut. 

It is narrower toward the back, and as he 
flies, the feet are drawn up or trail behind, and 
even the feathers lie backward. All this is so he 
can go swiftly through the air, and nothing, not 
even a feather, will hold him back. 

To keep his body upright, so that he will not 
be top-heavy and tip over as he flies, his weight 
is mostly below the wings. 

If we should try to go through the air as fast 
as a bird goes, we should find it very hard to 
breathe. But the bird is made for it. When 
you come to study his anatomy, you wiU see 
what a wonderful- little creature he is. 


He can sing while he is working very hard to 
fly upward. If you will try to sing while run- 
ning up a hill, you will see how hard it is to do 

A bird's head is joined to his neck at one place, 
something like a hinge. Other animals, like dogs 
and cats, have two hinges, or places of joining. 
That is why a bird is able to turn his head 
around so far that he can look down his own 
back. No other creature can do so. 

Because of this, he is able to dress every 
feather on his body, and to sleep with his head 
laid back on his shoulder. 

Nearly all birds have some of their bones hol- 
low, and air - sacs, or pockets, under the skin 
These sacs they can fill with air and make them- 
selves light, so that those who live in the water 
cannot sink, but float like a cork. 

Men who study the way birds are made dc 
not yet know all the uses of the hollow bones 
and air-sacs. That is one of the things left for 
you young folk to find out. 

Birds who get their food in marshes, or the 
edge of the water, have long legs • for wading. 
They have also long necks, so they can pick up 
food from the ground. 

Birds who swim have webs between the toes, 
that turn their feet into paddles. 


Birds have very large gullets. In many cases 
the gullet leads into a place called the crop, where 
food is kept before it goes into the stomach. 
Sometimes the food is made soft in the crop, and' 
then fed to the young ones, as I told you. 

Birds have no teeth, yet they eat hard seeds, 
like acorns and grains of corn. To break these 
up, and get them ready for the stomach, they 
have a gizzard, which is a sort of grinding-mill. 
And to help in the work of grinding they swal- 
low small stones. 

One of the wonderful things about birds is the 
height at which they can live, and not only live, 
but fly. A man cannot go higher than twenty- 
two or twenty-three thousand feet, while moving 
about or exercising, because the air is so rare he 
cannot breathe. The highest a man was ever 
known to go and live, it is said, was less than 
thirty thousand feet, and that was in a balloon, 
where he did not move. 

But birds go a good deal higher than this, 
and can fly — which is violent exercise — at 
that height. It is thought by some that the 
thinness of the air may be the cause of the great 
speed with which birds fly in that region. But 
there is still much to be found out about this. 

Besides the marvels of flight, birds have other 
powers almost as strange. Many of them can fly 


under water with perfect ease, and, more than 
that, they can, when they wish, sink slowly till 
nothing is left above water but their beaks, to 
breathe. And they can stay so as long as they 
choose, keeping stiU in one spot, without moving. 

A cormorant in a zoological garden, who 
wanted to catch some of the swallows skim- 
ming over the pond, sank his body tiU only his 
head was out, and held himself there perfectly 

Birds who are hunted, as geese, have been 
known to save their lives in that way, by sink- 
ing their body .under water, leaving in sight only 
the tip of the bill, which is so small it is not 
readily seen. 

To do such things, birds must be able to make 
their bodies heavy when they choose, as well as 
light, which we know they are able to do by fill- 
ing their air-sacs with air. 

There are many things still to be found out 
about the powers of birds. 



How does a bird get along without a hand? 
He has to prepare food ; to keep his feathers in 
order ; to build the nest ; to 
feed and take care of the young; 
and sometimes to fight other 
birds. How can all this be 
done without a hand ? ^^°" ^' 

The beak is the only thing 
most birds have in place of a hand, and it is 
wonderful to see how many things they can do 
with it. 

Orioles use it as a needle, in making the nest. 
With it they weave strips of soft bark or strings, 
back and forth, in and out, to make the firm 
pocket they hang on the 
elm-tree (see Fig. 1). 

A woodpecker's beak is 

a chisel or pick, to cut a 

Pjq 2. deep hole in a tree trunk 

Bill of Woodpecker. for a nest (Fig. 2). With 




a nuthatch it is a hammer, to crack the nut he 

has wedged into a crevice in the bark so tightly 

it cannot slip. 

Some birds use the beak to dig in the ground, 
as the bank swallows, while the barn 
swallows make it a trowel, to carry 
and plaster mud (Fig. 3). All of 
them use it as a hand to feed them- 
selves, and a brush and comb to dress 
their feathers. 

Birds need to use the beak a sood 

deal, because in most cases it grows like our 

finger-nails. If they did not keep it worn off, 

it would grow so long as to trouble them. 

Sometimes when a bird lives in a caofe and does 

not use his bill, it grows so long that he can 

hardly pick up his 


The woodcock's 

long beak is sensitive, 

so that he can feel the 

worms, deep in the 

mud where they live. 

Many waders and 

swimmers have beaks 

soft like leather. 

You can tell by the shape of the beak how a 

bird lives, and what he eats. The strong, hooked 

Fio. 4. 
BUI of Hawk. 





Fig. 5. 
Bill of Sparrow. 

beak of a hawk shows that he catches live ani« 
mals to eat (Fig. 4). The long, narrow, sharp 
bill of a heron shows that he spears his prey, 
often under water. 

The sharp-pointed bill of a warbler is to pick 
tiny insects and eggs out of blos- 
soms, and from under leaves. The 
sharp-edged bill of a sparrow (Fig. 
5) is to break open the hard shells 
of seeds. 

The curious beak of a crossbill 
(Fig. 6) is to pick seeds out of pine 

A duck's wide beak, with a 
strainer at the edge, is to let water 
out while keeping food in. A 
spoon-shaped bill is to scoop up food, and a thin, 
flat one is to poke into narrow cracks. 

Both parts of the beak, which take the place 
of our jaws, are called mandibles, upper and 
lower. Both of them can be moved, while we 
can move only our lower jaw. 

Birds' tongues are as curious as their beaks. 
To all birds they take the place of a finger, as 
the beak takes the place of a hand, and they 
differ as much as the beaks from each other. 

Insect eggs are very small, and often packed 
snugly into cracks and corners, and the birds 

Fig. 6. 
Bill of Crosstill. 


who eat them have a brush on the tip of the 
tongue, which brushes an egg out of its hiding- 
place very easily. 

The nuthatch picks his small grubs out of 
crevices in bark with the four-tined fork at the 
end of his tongue. 

A hummingbird's tongue can be used as a 
tube, to draw up the honey of flowers, 
or perhaps as a pair of tweezers, to pick 
out the tiny spiders that live there. 

A woodpecker has barbs on his 
tongue, to spear insects hidden under 
the bark, as shown by Mr. Lucas (Fig. 
7). It is said to be sticky also, to hold 
small ones, like ants. 

The tongues of birds are of many 

shapes, but each one is fitted to its 

owner's way of getting a living. 

Fig. 7. Because the tongue is often horny, 

rp '** °* and they eat strange things, it is some- 

of Downy timcs thought that birds have little sense 

■f " of taste. But we cannot be sure of this, 

pecker. ' 

and we know they all have notions 
about their food. 

Dr. Ward tells a story of some geese, which 
shows that they do not lack that sense. While 
sailing upon a river he noticed on the bank 
some geese, feeding on the rinds of watermelon, 


which they picked out of the garbage dumped 

The rind, when taken out of the mass, was 
none too clean, being covered with mud and 
other dirt. When a goose found a piece to suit 
him, he took it up, carried it to the edge, and 
dropped it into the shallow water. Then he 
stood and watched it tiU the running stream 
washed it clean, when he stepped into the water 
and quickly ate off the part he wanted. 



Birds' eyes are very different from ours. To 
begin with, they are round. Then they are 
placed one on each side of the head, so that 
they can look two ways at once. Owls are the 
only birds who have eyes turned forward like 

Birds' eyes also are of many colors. Besides 
our common black, brown, blue, and gray, birds 
have light and dark green, bright red, pale and 
deep yellow and orange, even white. 

They have, like us, two eyelids. But while 
we use the upper one to close our eyes, most 
birds use the lower one. They have also a third 
eyelid, inside the others, a thin, white sort of 
skin, that moves across the eye from side to side, 
and is called the " nictitating membrane." 

There are other ways in which birds' eyes 
differ from ours. The men who try to know 
exactly how birds are made have found out that 
birds' eyes make everything look much larger 


than it is, in other words, they are like magni- 
fying glasses, or microscopes, so that a tiny in- 
sect egg, that we can hardly see, looks very big 
to a warbler. 

Stranger still, when a bird is far off, his eyes 
are like telescopes. That is, when a hawk is 
soaring about far above the earth, he can see a 
mouse on the ground as well as if he had a tele- 
scope to look through. And the gulls who sail 
about over the shore, and follow steamers on sea 
voyages, can see small fish and tiny bits of 
bread thrown out by the passengers, even when 
they are lost to us in the foam made by the 

Mr. Frank BoUes had a pet barred owl, and 
used to take him out with him. He says that 
the bird's sight was wonderful, better than hia 
own aided by a strong glass. Many times the 
bird would see and watch a hawk so far off that 
Mr. BoUes with his glass could not see him until 
he came nearer, and then he looked no bigger 
than a dot against the sky. 

There is a story told of some small birds mi- 
grating over the island of Heligoland, suddenly 
coming down in a flock on to a man's garden, 
and beginning at once to work among the 
leaves as if they were feeding. 

The owner of the garden knew they did not 


eat leaves, so he shot a few and found them 
stuffed with small caterpillars. Then he looked 
at the plants and found many more caterpillars, 
each in the curled-up end of a leaf. The in- 
sects could not be seen, yet the birds, while fly- 
ing over, no doubt saw the curled leaves and 
knew they were there. 

Such eyes must be of great use in helping 
birds to find their food, and to avoid their ene- 
mies. But think what giants we must look to 
them ! It is no wonder they are afraid of us. 

Perhaps even more useful to a bird than his 
eyes are his ears, thoiigh they are so nicely cov- 
ered up by the feathers that we cannot see 
them. The tufts of feathers that stand up on 
some owls' heads, and are called ears, are not 
ears at all, but merely decorations, like the 
crests of some birds and the long tail feathers of 

But because they cannot be seen, we must not 
think birds have no ears ; they have very good 
ones indeed. They can hear much better thau 
we can. 

Every one has seen a robin run over the grass 
and turn his head one side to listen. It is sup- 
posed that he hears the earthworm move under 
the sod, and if he is watched, he will often be 
seen to pull the worm from that very spot. 


When a woodpecker taps on a tree trunk and 
turns his head to listen, it is thought that he 
hears the grub stir under the bark, for when he 
begins to cut the bark away, he is pretty sure to 
find and draw it out. 

Birds that are much hunted by men, like 
ducks and geese, get to be very knowing, and 
show how wonderful is their hearing. They 
can tell the difference between a noise made by 
an animal and that made by a man. A deer or 
any animal may crash through the bushes, and 
they pay no attention to it, but if a man makes 
the least sound they are off in an instant. 

A bird's ears are behind the eyes, and a little 
below them. They are covered by delicate fea- 
thers that hide them from sight. When the 
bird raises these feathers — perhaps to hear bet- 
ter — they look like tiny ear muffs. 

Owls have little flaps of skin with which they 
can shut up their ears when they wish to be 
quiet. This must be very useful to birds who 
prefer to sleep during the day, when nearly 
everybody else is awake and making a noise. 
Many of us who Uve in cities would like to be 
able to close our ears sometimes. 

Mr. BoUes tells a story about the sharp hear- 
ing of a heron. The bird was on a tree dress- 
ing his plumage, and he was hidden in some 
bushes and could not be seen. 


Mr. Bolles made all sorts of noises to start up 
the heron and make him fly. First he imitated 
animal sounds. He quacked, and barked, and 
mewed, and brayed, and the bird looked inter- 
ested, but not at all alarmed. Then he whistled 
and sang, and at last talked plainly, but the 
bird only looked over his way, as if to see what 
new sort of beast was hidden there. 

No noise that he could make startled the 
heron in the least, until a twig snapped under 
his foot, when the bird was off like a shot. 
That sound he well knew was made by hi?, most 
feared enemy, man. 



A BIRD always stands on his toes, not on his 
whole foot, as we do. The long slim part that 
we call the leg is really the foot, and the joint 
we see nearly up to the bird's body is the bird's 
heel. But in this book we will 
speak of it in the common way, 
calling the toes the foot, and the 
part up to the joint the leg. 

People all over the world have 
the same kind of feet 
and the same number 
of toes ; but with birds 
it is not so. Most of 
them have four toes 
(Fig. 8), but some 
have only three, and a few have no more than 

In the use of the feet there is still more 
variety. There are, as Dr. Coues divides them, 
three kinds of feet among birds : — 

Fig. 8. 
Foot of Blackbird. 



First, a foot that can be used like a hand to 
clasp a perch, a " perching foot." 

Second, one that is good to use as a foot, but 
not at all like a hand, called a "scratching 

Third, one that is like neither hand nor foot, 
but a ^saddle, called a " swimming foot." 

The birds who have the first kind, the " perch- 
ing foot," have usually three toes 
turned forward and one turned 
back. They can grasp a branch 
or a twig as tightly as if with a 
hand, as all our common little 
birds do. And the large birds 
of prey, such as hawks and owls 
(Fig. 9), hold in them live mice 
and squirrels and the other little 
animals they eat. 

Some birds with perching feet have the toes 
placed another way. Woodpeckers 
have two turned forward and two' 
turned back, so that they can hold bet- 
ter to a tree trunk (Fig. 10). 

A strange thing about the perching 
toes is the way they are made to hold 
on, so that the birds can sleep on a 
perch, and not fall. Inside the toes are tendons, 
something like cords, which act like elastic rub* 

Fig. 9. 
Foot of Hawk. 




ber. When a bird bends his leg, the toes are 
drawn up and held so. When he is sitting on a 
perch, he could not fall off if he wanted to. 

Birds who have the ''scratching foot," the 
second kind, mostly go about on the ground, or 
wade in the water. They do not usually sleep 
on perches, but sleep standing, or crouch on the 
ground. In the arctic regions, where there is a 
great deal of snow, some birds with scratching 
feet, who have to go about in it, have in winter 
what has been called " snowshoes," because it 
enables them to walk on the snow with ease. 
It is a web-like growth on the side of each toe, 
which serves the same purpose with birds that 
snowshoes do with men, keeps them from sink" 
ing into the snow. 

Birds who have the " swimming foot," the 
third kind, have the toes made into a paddle 
by webs stretched between them. They are the 
water birds, — ducks, geese, gulls, and others. 

The toes of all birds have long, sharp claws, 
not at all like our toe-nails. In the whip-poor- 
will and the nighthawk, one edge of the middle 
claw has teeth like a comb. 

The long slim part above the toes, what we 
call the leg, is named in the books the " tarsus." 
The tarsus is generally bare, with a leathery 
skin ; but in some hawks and owls it is covered 


with feathers. Birds who live away up in the 
cold have feathers down on to the toes. 

On looking carefully at one of these bare 
legs, it will be seen that it is not smooth like a 
lead pencil. It is marked in a sort of pattern. 
Different species of birds show different patterns. 
Some look like the shingles on a roof ; others 
Uke little squares or plates ; and some are finer, 
hke scales on a tiny fish. 

These marks help in arranging birds in the 
books. That is, all who have the same pattern 
are said to be related. 

The legs of birds are not all of the same 
length for their size. Some who never go about 
on the ground, like hummingbirds, swallows, 
and swifts, have very short legs. Birds who 
walk and hop on the ground have them longer, 
and birds who wade in the water have the long- 
est of all. 



A bird's wing does not look much like our 
arm and hand, yet the bones show that they are 
the same. The bird has a shoulder, elbow, and 
wrist, as we have. He even has fingers, though 
they are so covered up by feathers that one would 
never know it. He has not so many fingers as 
we have, and they are not movable like ours. 

A bird's wing is a wonderful flying-machine, 
which men have been trying to imitate these 
many years. It is made of long stiff feathers, 
which fold down smoothly over one another at 
his side when he is resting, but can spread in an 
instant into a broad fan, to beat the air and 
carry him away. 

One would not think that feathers could have 
so much power ; but when the wing is spread, the 
barbs of the feathers hook together with tiny 
hooks, so small a microscope is needed to see 
them ; and that, together with the edges lapping 
over each other, makes them almost like one 
Bolid surface. 



Wings are not alike in shape. The wing of 
a swallow is long and narrow, while that of a 



hen or grouse is short and round. We 
by the shape of a wing how a bird flies. 

A long, narrow, pointed wing shows that the 

Fig. 11. 
Wing of Swift. 

bird has an easy, skimming flight, — either he 

flies great distances, or spends hours at a time 

on wing (Kg. 11). 

The short round wing (Fig. 12) shows that 

a bird has a strong flight for short distances. 

These wings are 
found mostly on 
rather heavy birds, 
like grouse. 

The longest wings 
are seen on water 
birds, such as thr 

petrel and the frigate-bird. The shortest, also. 

are found among water birds, those who swim 

more than they fly, as the auks. 

All the feathers of the wing are named, and 

Fig. 12. 
Wing of Sparrow. 



it "vvill be well to remember that the long stiff 
quills are called rem.iges or "rowers." These are 
firmly rooted in the flesh, and are the hardest 
to pull out. They are the most important to 
the safety of the bird. 

Birds have also another use for their wings. 
They are a strong weapon to defend themselves, 
or to fight others. A 
large bird can give a 
severe blow with his 
wing, and when pi- 
geons fight, it is said 
they hold up one wing 
to protect themselves 
while they strike at the 
enemy with the other. 

Sometimes wings 
serve as musical instru- 
ments. Woodcocks 
make whistling sounds 
with their wings as they 
fly, and mourning doves 
softly murmuring ones. Ruffed grouse produce 
with theirs a rolling drum-like effect, and other? 
rattle theirs like castanets. 

If wings are not used, they slowly get to be 
smaller and weaker, each generation having them 
more and more useless, till after a while they are 

Fig. 13. 
Tail of Ruffed Grouse. 



of no use whatever, and the birds cannot fly 
at all. This has happened, it is supposed, to 
the ostrich family and to some 
birds living in the sea. 

The tail of a bird is formed of 
an equal number of feathers in 
pairs, most often twelve. When 
spread they are the shape of a 
fan (Fig. 13), and when closed they lie over 
each other with the middle pair on top. 

The tail feathers are not always of the same 
length, and that makes a difference in the shape 
of the end. Sometimes they are even (like Fig. 

Fig. 14. 
TaU of Vireo. 

Fig. 15. 
Tail of Swallow-tailed Kite. 

" square." 

14), when the tail is said to be 
Sometimes the middle feathers are a little longer 
than the outside ones, and then it is " rounded " 



or " pointed." If the outside feathers are long- 
est, the tail is " forked " (Fig. 15). 

The feathers of the tail are called rectrices, 
or " rudders," because they are supposed to be 
used to steer, or direct the bird's course in fly- 
ing. But the tail is used also as a brake to 
check the speed in alighting. 

The tail is used more than any other organ 
to express the emotions. 
Some birds, like the cat- 
bird and thrasher, keep it 
movinsr nearly all the time, 

"Prr* 1 fi 

ierkinff it this way and that, ^ ., „ „ , 

■''='. . •' ' Tail of Sapsucker. 

and tossing it upward. 

In woodpeckers and swifts the tail feathers 

are not soft at the end like others, but the stems 

or shafts project beyond the feathery part, and 

are stiff like the tail of a sapsucker (Fig. 16) 

or sharp like this of the chimney swift (Fig. 

17). These birds use the tail as 

a prop to hold them against the 

tree trunk or chimney wall, and 

„ _ to help them in climbing. 

Swift Tail. '^^^ feathers are not so 

strongly rooted as wing feathers, 

and are easily pulled out. Sometimes, when a 

man or boy tries to catch a bird by the tail, the 

bird will escape, leaving the tail in his hand. 



A bird's whole dress is made of feathers, but 
the feathers are not all alike. There are, indeed, 
several kinds of feathers, and four of them are 
found on every bird. There are flight feathers, 
clothing feathers, downy feathers, thread feathers, 
and powder-down feathers. 

Feathers of all kinds are made in the same 
way. All have, first, a quill, the horny part next 
to the body ; second, a shaft, the white part on 
which the barbs grow ; third, the barbs, which 
grow out on each side of the shaft, and together 
are called the vane ; fourth, the barbules, or little 
barbs, growing out of the barbs ; and last, the 
barbicels, which grow on the barbules, and on 
the wings have the tiny hooks which hold them 

But though feathers are made on the same 
pattern, they look very different. The wing and 
tail feathers are stiff and strong, and are called 
flight feathers, but those on the breast and body 


ate called soft, and cling closely to keep the bird 
warm and dry. These are called the clothing 
feathers, because they clothe the bird. 

Down feathers, which are almost always hid- 
den under the clothing feathers, are, like their 
name, downy, and answer to our under-clothes. 

Thread feathers grow among the clothing 
feathers, and are almost like hairs. It is these 
that the cook singes ofE the fowls. 

Kingfishers who dive, and ducks who spend 
much time on the water, have very thick down 
under the feathers — like suits of very warm 
under-clothes — which keeps the water away 
from their bodies. Thus they can dive, or sit on 
the water hours at a time, and not feel wet at all. 

Powder-down feathers grow on some herons 
and cockatoos. They are called by that name 
because the tip ends are continually breaking off 
like white dust. Nobody knows their use. 

Different from all these are the feathers called 
plumes, like the long, soft ostrich plumes we all 
know ; the dainty little ones that stand straight 
up, and look as if the wind would blow them 
away ; the long, showy feathers that the peacock 
spreads with so much pride, or even the pretty, 
drooping ones in the cock's tail. 

These feathers are of no use for flight or for 
warmth, they rather hinder than help. They are 


for ornament, and there are many kinds among 
birds, all exquisitely beautiful. Nature has given 
to birds a more wonderful dress than to any 
other living creature. 

It is with his feathers that a bird expresses his 
feelings. In anger he fluffs them out till he 
looks twice as big as usual ; we have all seen a 
hen bristle up when a dog comes near her brood. 

Nervousness or excitement is shown by jerk- 
ing the wings and tail, and if a bird wishes to 
escape notice, he can make his plumage a perfect 
disguise. Mr. BoUes's pet owl would stretch 
himself up long and slim, with feathers hugging 
his body, when he looked so much like a broken 
branch of a tree that Mr. BoUes could hardly 
see him. And another owl that I heard of, when 
he was on the ground, would flatten himself and 
spread his plumage around, so that the eye could 
scarcely separate him from the dead leaves about 

No one takes better care of his dress than a 
bird, and that is why it looks well for a year. 
Every day, with most birds, it is washed and care- 
fully dried, each feather being passed through 
the bill, and the whole thoroughly shaken out. 
At night one may often see robins and catbirds 
before going to bed, dressing their plumage 
and shaking off the day's dust. 


Besides washing and drying the feathers, birds 
need oil to keep them in best condition. For 
this purpose they have a Httle " oil jug," a small 
gland over the tail, out of which, with the bill, 
they can squeeze a drop of oil. We often see 
ducks and geese oiling their feathers before a 

Water birds, who need a great deal of oil to 
keep out the wet, have the oil jug very large. 

Birds seem to know perfectly well the beauty 
of their plumage. Not only do they try to show 
it off, as the peacock when he spreads his tail, 
but they seem to feel shame when their feathers 
are injured or soiled. One white feather coming 
in where it does not belong will make a bird 
very unhappy. He will work and tug at it to 
pull it out, and often make himself actually ill 
over the trouble. I had a captive bird who 
died, I think, from worry and work over a wing 
feather which persisted in coming in white, and 
which he insisted on pulling out every time. 



A BIRD does not always wear the same colored 
dress, as I said in the chapter on moulting. A 
goldfinch, who through the summer wears a gay 
yellow coat, comes out in the fall in plain olive 
and black; and the scarlet tanager, who flour- 
ishes in the most brilliant red, changes to a quiet 
green in winter. Besides these, some birds wear 
at one season a spotted coat, and come out after- 
wards in one of plain colors. 

Most of them change by moulting, as I ex- 
plained, the old feathers dropping out and new 
ones of another color coming in ; or, to speak 
exactly, the new ones growing out and pushing 
the old ones off on their tips. But some change 
color without moulting. All birds moult com- 
pletely in the autumn, many moult partially in 
the spring, and some, as I said, change without 

This last change of color is made partly by 
fading, and partly by breaking off the tips of the 


feathers, or what is called " abrasion." This is a 
curious process. I told you something about it 
in chapter vii. Certain feathers have edges dif- 
ferent in color from the rest ; as, for example, 
a black feather with tips of yellow. While the 
feathers are new and perfect, as they lie over 
each other like shingles on a roof, only the edges 
show, and these being yellow, the bird appears 
to be dressed in yellow. But the yellow tips are 
not so strong as the rest, and they break or wear 
off, or are pulled off in the spring. What is 
strange, they break exactly where the black 
begins. So as soon as the yellow is off, the black 
shows, and behold, the yellow bird suddenly 
becomes a black bird. 

That is the way some birds manage to put on 
their spring dress in the fall. The solid color is 
the color of the spring, but it is hidden or veiled 
by tips of another color for winter. 

The meadowlark changes in this way. In the 
winter his coat is brownish, or buff. In the 
spring these tips are worn or broken off, and he 
comes out in yellow and black. 

Another change, even more curious, is made 
by some birds, who all winter wear white spots, 
or light scolloped edges to their feathers, and 
in spring the spots are gone. 

In these, the white or light parts only break 


off, as sharply as if cut with scissors. They leave 
the edges of the feathers notched in queer ways, 
but as they lie over each other that does not 

Birds in this way can change color without 
changing their feathers. While moulting but 
once a year, they can show two suits, and 'by 
partially moulting twice, can show three suits. 

Another tiling about the color of feathers is 
interesting. Some colors, such as black, and red, 
and brown, are caused by coloring matter in the 
feather. But other colors are only an effect of 
the way the feather is made, whether it has 
ridges on it, or certain minute specks under the 
surface, which seem to act as prisms (says Dr. 
Newton), and reflect the light in different colors. 

For instance, green is always due to some 
shade of yellow coloring matter under a surface 
full of lengthwise ridges, and other colors are 
made in similar ways. 

These curious facts have been found out by 
that tell-tale little instrument the microscope, and 
no doubt it will reveal many more secrets in time. 

Color is useful to birds, as well as beautiful. 
Its great use is to conceal them from their ene- 
^ mies, and they show that they know this by their 

When a bird is of the color of dead leaves, or 



the sand, he has only to flatten himself and keep 
still, and he is hidden. Such a bird on the nest 
will often let one come close, and even stroke 
her, while relying on her color to be unseen. A 
sitting ruffed grouse will do so. But if snow 
falls, the same bird is very wild, for she knows 
she can be seen in the snow. 

I have seen a striped bird, — black and white 
warbler, — when frightened, flatten himself on a 
branch, where he looked so much like the bark 
that he could not be seen. 

Ground birds are mostly in mottled colors of 
the ground. The whip-poor-will, whose habit it 
is to rest on a log all day, wears colors that hide 
him as well as if he were under the log. 

The striking colors on a bird are often hidden 
when he is at rest, but show plainly when he 
flies. When a flicker stands quietly on a fence 
he is all in rather dull colors, but when he flies 
he shows a large snow-white spot on his back, so 
that as far as one can see him he may be known. 

A meadowlark on the ground looks not unlike 
a flicker, but when he flies he shows that the 
outside feathers of his tail are white. This is as 
striking a mark as the white spot on the flicker. 

Many birds have such markings, and it is 
thought by men who study birds and look for 
a use in everything, that such marks serve the 


purpose of " danger signals "or " recognition 
marks." That by these birds can know each 
other in the dusk, or that the flash of color will 
catch the eye, when the bird does not wish to 
give a call, but to slip away quietly to avoid 
danger, and at the same time to give notice to 
other birds to do the same. 




Many times in this book I have spoken of the 
great value of the services of birds, in helping us 
destroy insects and weeds that injure our crops. 
But there is more to be said about it. 

Prom morning till night, almost the whole of 
his life, nearly every bird is working for us. He 
does not know he is working for us, of course. 
He is simply hunting for the food he Hkes, and 
what is good for young birds to eat. 

But what he chooses to eat himself, and to 
feed the young, consists mostly of creatures that 
destroy our fruit and vegetables, caterpillars that 
eat the leaves off our trees, worms that get into 
our apples and berries, beetles that spoil our 
roses and our potatoes, mice that eat our crops, 
and all the worms and grubs that gardeners and 
farmers are all the time fighting. 

As I have already said, some of the birds like 
cherries and green peas, and other things we 
prefer to keep for ourselves. But we should 


never forget that they have earned, by their 
work among the worms, all they can take. 

I say this, not merely because I love the birds, 
and want to have them live and be happy, but 
because it is true. It has been proved true by 
scientific men in the service of the United States 

These men have had thousands of birds killed 
to see what they were eating, and have found 
out that nearly aU the birds they have exam- 
ined — blackbirds, cedar-birds, blue jays, hawks, 
owls, even crows — do us more good by the in- 
jurious creatures they destroy, than harm by the 
fruits and vegetables they eat. To this there, 
is, among the small birds, but one exception, the 
English sparrow, and, of the large ones, only the 
two hawks and one owl, mentioned on page 53. 

Chickadees like to eat the eggs of canker- 
worms ; and for a single meal, one of these tiny 
birds will eat two hundred and fifty eggs, and 
he will take several meals a day. Now canker- 
worms destroy our apples. When they get into 
an orchard in force, it looks, as Miss Merriam 
says, as if it had been burned over. 

Robins, catbirds, and shrikes, and several oth- 
ers, like to eat cutworms, which destroy grass 
and other plants. As many as three hundred of 
them have been found in the stomach of one 



robin, of course for one meal. Ants are very 
troublesome in many ways, and three thousand 
of them have been taken from the stomach of 
one flicker. 

Rats and mice, ground squirrels and gophers, 
make great havoc in our crops, and farmers 
spend much time and labor trying to get rid of 
them ; but these creatures are the favorite food 
of most hawks and owls. 

If the farmer would stop shooting the birds, 
and protect them instead, they would do this 
work for him, and much better than he can. 
But because (as I said in a former chapter) one 
or two hawks and owls have a taste for chickens, 
he generally kills every hawk and owl he sees, 
and for this folly has to spend half his time try- 
ing to kill the little animals they would gladly 
have eaten. 

A great deal of refuse, dead sea creatures, 
and other matter, is thrown up on the seashore, 
or floats on the water. On this feed the water 
birds, — herons, gulls, terns, and others. If this 
were not disposed of, it would make us sick. 
Indeed, on the shores where so many herons have 
been killed, to get their plumes for ladies' hats, 
the result has been sickness and death among 
the people, as Dr. Gaumer, of Yucatan, told Mr, 


Besides the work they do for us in destroying 
animal life, their seed-eating is almost as useful. 
As I said, they eat the seeds of weeds that 
farmers and gardeners are all the time laboring 
to keep down, so that useful plants may have 
a chance to grow. 

The whole family of finches, sparrows, bunt- 
ings, grosbeaks, and all birds with the high, 
thick bill, though they eat largely of insects 
through the summer, and feed their nestlings on 
them, when insects get scarce and weed seeds 
are ripe, turn to the latter for food. They eat 
the seeds of all kinds of troublesome weeds ; and 
as each single seed might produce a plant, we 
cannot guess how much they destroy. 

Professor Beal, who is at the head of this gov- 
ernment inquiry into the food of birds, and who 
knows what he is talking about, says that one 
species of little bird — the tree sparrow — de- 
stroys every year in one of the Western States, 
many tons of the seeds of weeds. 

There is a curious and interesting fact about 
this seed-earting. The regular seed-eaters, the 
finches, prefer the seeds of certain weeds, most 
of them harmful ; these they break up, taking 
ofE the shells, and of course destroying the germ, 
making it impossible for them to grow. 

But there are many birds who eat berries hav- 


ing in them seeds, such as raspberries, blackber- 
ries, and all kinds of wild fruit. These birds do 
not crack the seeds ; and, as they are hard, they 
do not digest in the stomach, but are dropped 
whole, and are ready to grow wherever they 

Thus, while seed-eating birds destroy the weeds 
which are hurtful, the fruit-eaters plant the seeds 
of berries and fruit which we like. That is why 
we find wild berry bushes all over the country. 
We have to thank the birds for it. 

A great deal more could be said about the 
birds' work for us, not only of the robins and 
those I have spoken of, but cedar-birds, who 
are shot because they take part of our cherries, 
blackbirds, because they eat some grain, ori- 
oles, because they occasionally take green peas, 
and kingbirds, because they have the name of 
eating bees, though it has been proved that they 
eat only drones, which have no sting and make 
no honey. 

Let me impress upon you two facts. First, 
the stories of the harm done by birds are often 
mere guesswork, from careless observation. For 
instance, a man seeing a bird going over his 
blossoming fruit-trees, at once concludes he is 
destroying the fruit, probably shoots him, and 
then writes to his favorite paper that a certain 


bird eats fruit buds. Other papers copy it, and 
a war against that bird begins in every orchard. 

Whereas, the truth is, the bird was preserving 
the fruit by picking out the insects that would 
have spoiled it. This is no fancy picture ; this 
very thing has happened more than once. 

And again, whatever is said about the harm 
this or that bird does, never forget this second 
fact, which I repeat, and which may be relied 
upon as perfectly trustworthy. The officers of 
the government of the United States, who have 
carefully studied the matter and found out posi- 
tively, without guesswork, what birds eat, have 
declared emphatically that every bird they have 
examined does more good by destroying pests, 
than harm to our crops, excepting only the bird 
we have imported, — the English or house spar 



Because birds are so useful to us, as well as 
because they are so interesting and so beautiful, 
it is delightful to have them come about our 
homes. And it is not at all difficult, for they 
are easily taught to like us. 

In countries where people are gentle, and try 
to make birds happy, instead of shooting them 
or throwing stones at them, they become very 
tame. Mr. Hearn, who has written about Japan, 
says that the fearlessness of wild creatures is one 
of the most charming things about the remote 
parts of Japan, " where tourists with shotguns 
have not yet come." 

Travelers who visit Norway tell us that birds 
are never disturbed there, and they come freely 
about the houses. When it is very cold they 
even come into the houses for food and warmth, 
and no one thinks of frightening them or trying 
to catch them. 

Even in our own country. Dr. Ridgway told 


me of a bird-lover in Florida who would not let 
birds be annoyed on his place. As a result he 
had a great many there, and they became very 
tame. Cardinal grosbeaks, who are rather shy, 
were so tame they would take food from his 

A person living in the country, wishing to 
draw the birds about his place, should begin by 
protecting it. Cats should not be allowed to 
come near, English sparrows should be kept 
down, and boys who shoot or throw stones should 
be banished from the vicinity. 

Next, trees and shrubs that birds like, for 
nesting and for food, should be set out. For 
nesting, a very attractive place for the smaller 
species is a thick hedge of bushes, the thicker 
and closer the better. 

Nesting-boxes nailed up in trees please many, 
and evergreen trees will draw some that would 
not come otherwise. For food, various berry- 
bearing shrubs and trees should be provided, 
such as chokecherry, shadberry, mulberry, and 

In a town or city, besides shrubs that birds 
like, a high fence, with a top that cats cannot 
walk on, is desirable, and a readiness to go to 
their assistance is soon appreciated. 

A friend told me a few days ago of a family 


of wood thrushes who nested last summer in the 
yard of her house in the city of Orange, N. J. 
The birds soon found out that some of the fam- 
ily would come to drive away strange cats which 
came in. After they learned that, when a cat 
appeared they would give a peculiar cry, unlike 
any other heard from them. On hearing this, 
one of the family always hurried out and drove 
the enemy away. 

If the birds could not get any response from 
a call at the kitchen door, they would fly to the 
front of the house, perch on the piazza rail, and 
call till some one came out. All through nesting- 
time they thus called on their friends for protec- 
tion, and the delight the family had over the 
nest and the friendly birds amply repaid them 
for their trouble. 

The one great necessity, in both city and 
country, is water for drinking and bathing. It 
should be in a shallow dish. The rough saucer 
of a flower-pot is best, because the bird's feet 
do not slip on it, and the edge is broad and round 
and easy to perch on. 

Next best is an earthen dish, with cleai 
pebbles in the bottom, to prevent sHpping, whicL 
friffhtens them. Water should never be more 
than two inches deep, but should always be clean, 
and fresh two or three times a day. 


No food should be offered in summer, be* 
cause we want them to get their natural food of 
worms and seeds. 

In the winter it is different. They should 
have food regularly. But once used to having 
their wants supplied, they will depend upon it, 
and suffer and probably starve, if they are neg- 
lected or forgotten. So one should be very 
sure he will not get tired of it, before he teaches 
them to expect food. 

To feed them safely, a shelf must be placed 
out of the reach of cats and bad boys. On the 
sill of a window is a good place, or the roof of 
a piazza, or a little balcony. Breakfast should 
be served to them at the same hour every day, 
and they will soon know when to come for it. 

For food, they will eat any table scraps of 
meat, and vegetables, and bread, chopped fine, 
and most kinds of grain, broken up, or crushed, 
for the smaller birds. 

But the thing they all like best of everything 
is raw suet, as it comes from the butcher. A 
large piece may be wired or nailed in place, so 
that it may be picked at and not displaced, or it 
may be chopped fine and scattered on the shelf, 
like other food. All birds are fond of this. 

In winter they need water, and it should then, 
also, be fresh. 


A lady living in southern Ohio, who has for 
several years given a breakfast to the birds 
every day in winter, told me that her daily 
guests last season were hairy and downy wood- 
peckers, nuthatches, white and red-breasted, one 
young kinglet, a pair o£ chickadees, tufted tit- 
mice, blue jays, j uncos, cardinal grosbeaks, Caro- 
lina wrens, and sparrows. 

This delightful company came regularly for 
breakfast, and to pay her, sang nearly through 
the season. 

In the latitude of New York there are about 
forty birds who spend the winter, and of course 
there are more as one goes south. In the 
Southern States, many of our northern birds 
may be studied in the winter. 



An attractive thing about bird study is the 
fact that there is still so much to be found out. 

Men have been studying the dead bird for 
many years. All about the body is well known. 
The way he is made, the arrangement of his 
bones and his organs, are plainly set forth in 
the books, in words and pictures. 

The shape and colors of his plumage, how 
many feathers belong to his wing and tail, his 
length, his extent, the shape of his beak and 
his foot, — all these facts are to be found in 
every Ornithology. 

Some of his most easily noted habits, too, are 
familiar; where and when he nests, where he 
spends his time, and where he goes in the winter, 
what lie eats, and when he changes his dress. 

But really to know the living bird, to make 
acquaintance with the individual, to see his fam' 
ily life, his manners, his intelligence, his powers, 
— this kind of study has hardly begun. 


This almost new and most attractive field is 
open to us to-day. It offers a charming study, 
with the added interest of discoveries to be 
made. Nor is it so hard as most persons think. 

In the beginning there are two things to 
learn : first, how to study from life ; and second, 
how to identify without killing. To study is 
simply to observe closely and carefully, and to 
report accurately. 

Take a little lesson in observing : When you 
see a bird do not merely gaze idly at him, but 
take note of everything about him. What he 
is doing, how he is doing it, and all his points, 
his size and shape, his colors and markings. 

If he is getting food, as he most often is, 
see whether he picks it from the tree trunk or 
gathers it from grass tops ; whether he hunts it 
among leaves, bores the bark, drops to the 
ground, or sails out into the air for it. 

Then try to discover what it is — insect or 
seed, beetle, grub, or worm — and what he does 
with it, — swallow it at once, beat it to death, or 
hold it in his mouth uneaten. 

Then notice his manners, — if he stands still, 
or jerks his tail or body ; if he flits about the 
branches, hovers before a flower, or hammers at 
the door of an unlucky grub behind the bark. 
Next, does he walk or hop ? does he chatter of 


keep silent? fly straight, or go bounding in 
great waves through the air ? All these things 
you must learn to see, and to note down the mo- 
ment you do so, so that you will not he uncer- 
tain or confused when you take your books to 
see who he is. 

Then you must take note of his size, and to 
do this — as it is hard to judge of inches — it is 
well to have in mind a sort of index of size 
to which you can compare him. Take the most 
common and best-known birds for standards, the 
robin, the English sparrow, and one smaller, — 
the wren, or the " chebec " (least flycatcher). 
When you see a bird, if he is as big as a robin, 
enter in your note : " Size, robin." Should he 
be a little smaller, yet still larger than your 
measure, — the English sparrow, — you can 
note it, " Size, robin — ," the minus sign mean- 
ing that it is less. If he were larger, you would 
put the plus sign : "Size, robin +." 

Observe the shape, whether it is slim like an 
oriole, or chunky like a chickadee ; also any 
peculiarity of plumage, as a crest, specially long 
or strangely formed tail feathers ; the end of 
the tail, whether square, rounded, pointed, or 

Then notice the beak ; its length compared to 
the head, its shape and color. If it is high and 



Fig. 18. 
Canadian Warbler. 

thick, like a canary's or spar- 
row's, the bird is a seed- 
eater ; if long and straight, 
like a robin's, he is an in- 
sect-eater ; if sharp and flat, 
opening very wide like a 
swallow's, he is a flycatcher. 

Lastly, note the plumage, 
the general color, then spe- 
cial markings, such as bars 
on wings or tail, a ring 
around the eye (Fig. 18), or 
a line over or through the 
eye (Fig. 19), white or black 
throat (Fig. 20 or 19), 
speckled or striped breast 
(Fig. 18), or any conspicu- 
ous blotch. Every point 
must be set down the mo- 
ment you notice it. You 
cannot trust your memory. 

With these full notes, re- 
turn to your study and take 
your manual to find out his 
name, or to identify. 

Many persons think that 
in order to know a bird, and especially to find 
out his name, one must have him in the hand, 

Fig. 19. 

Black-throated Green 

Fig. 20. 
White-throated Sparrow. 


count his wing and tail feathers, and measure 
his length. Excepting for exact scientific pur- 
poses, this is not at all necessary. Almost any 
bird in America may be perfectly identified with- 
out touching him, indeed, while he is in the 
enjoyment of his liberty in a tree. For birds 
have marked external differences, which are 
carefully set down in the books. 

The modern manuals, too, are usually fur- 
nished with a color key, the use of which is fully 
explained in them. With the help of this you 
will have little trouble in naming your bird- 
Above all, be exact in your knowledge and 
do not jump at conclusions. If you see a bird 
on a fruit-tree picking about the blossoms, do 
not decide ofEhand that he is spoiling the fruit ; 
look closely to see if he is not, instead, clearing 
it of worms that would destroy it all. When 
you notice a bird in a strawberry bed, do not 
instantly conclude that he is after strawberries ; 
he does n't care half so much for berries as he 
does for insects, and very often he is engaged in 
ridding the plants of pests, at the moment that 
he is scared off or shot by a careless person, who 
does not wait to see whether he is friend or foe. 
Although patience and clear eyes alone will 
open many delightful secrets of bird life, a good 
ppera glass will do still more. It will bring you 


nearer to the bird without frightening him. 
You can see thus much better, not only his 
markings, but what he is doing. In a word, 
you can be more sure of your facts. 

In deciding upon the actions of a bird, never 
guess at anything. If you see a pair very busy 
about a shrub, you may be sure they have a 
nest there, but do not so record it till you have 
actually seen the nest. Even then you should 
not conclude at once that it belongs to them ; 
I have seen birds sit a few moments in nests 
which did not belong to them — as if to try 
them. You may feel very sure what a bird 
means by an action, but you should set down 
only what he does. Without this care, your 
records will be worthless. 

Do not discourage yourself by trying to find 
the name of every tiny atom in feathers that you 
see ; indeed, little birds flitting about the tree- 
tops — mostly warblers — will be hard for you 
to identify, and almost impossible to watch. I 
advise you to confine your study at first to the 
larger and less lively birds, — kingbirds, robins, 
thrushes, phcebes, bluebirds, orioles, goldfinches, 
and others, all of which you will find near to 
houses and easy to study. Do not expect too 
much at once, nor give up in despair if you can- 
not identify the first bird you see. 


You may be sure that every hour you hon- 
estly give to the study will make it more inter- 
esting; every bird you learn to know will be 
like a new and delightful companion. 

You will lose your desire to take life or even 
to steal eggs from them ; the country will have 
new charms for you ; in fact, a person blessed 
with a love of the study of birds or beasts or 
insects possesses a lifelong and inexhaustible 
source of interest and happiness. 

In regard to a manual, there are now so many 
to be had, one hardly knows how to select. I 
will mention only two or three, which have par- 
ticular points of value. 

A good book to begin with, for residents of 
New England, New York, and the Eastern 
Middle States, is Professor Willcox's " Land 
Birds of New England" (Lothrop Lee & Shepard, 
Boston. Price 60 cts., by mail). 

Although this little book treats of only 
ninety birds, they are the most common, and its 
value is its simplicity, and the ease with which 
its color key enables one to identify the birds it 
treats. It introduces a beginner to the larger 
works in a most pleasing way. 

A good general work for Eastern North 
America, thoroughly trustworthy and not too 
technical in its use of terms, treating all the 




birds of the locality, is Chapman's " Handbook 
of the Birds of Eastern North America " (Ap- 
pleton, New York. Price |3.00), It has a 
color key and a color chart, by which one may 
see what is meant by colors named. 

Especially attractive to ladies and amateurs, 
for its charming accounts of bird life, is Mrs. 
Wright's " Birdcraft " (Macmillan, New York. 
Price, $2.00). It treats but two hundred spe- 
cies, but that includes the birds usually seen in 
the New England and Northern Middle States. 
It has a color key. 

The whole United States is covered by Dr. 
Coues's "Key to North American Birds," 2 vol- 
umes (The Page Company, Boston. Price $12.50). 
It is not quite so easy for the beginner, but it 
is untechnical in style, and fully illustrated. 

One book deserving mention because of its 
value as an aid to teachers is Miss Merriam's 
" Birds of Village and Field " (Houghton Mif- 
flin Co., Boston. Price $2.00). It is exception- 
ally rich in facts and statistics relating to the 
economic value of birds. It treats nearly two 
hundred of the most common birds. 

A book intended for identification only is 
Professor Apgar's " Birds of the United States " 
(American Book Company, New York. Price 
$2.00). It is the result of his experience as 


teacher, and has several new features very help> 
ful to beginners, such as small cuts at the bot- 
tom of pages to explain terms, thus showing 
exactly what is meant, for example, by " wing 
bars " or " rounded tail." It also gives hints 
about the usual locality of a bird, whether creep- 
ing over a tree trunk, on the wing, or elsewhere. 
It takes particular note of size, having one sec- 
tion for birds about the size of an English spar- 
row, and so on. The pronunciation of the Latin 
names is carefully indicated. There are several 
chapters giving descriptions of the external parts 
of a bird, and there is a glossary of scientific 

The following list of points to observe in 
watching birds has been used to advantage by 
classes in bird study. A little familiarity with 
this will help one to remember what to look for. 

A similar, but fuller and more elaborate, list 
has been prepared, and bound up in tablets, to 
use in the field. It is for sale by Miss J. A. 
Clark, 1322 Twelfth Street, N. W., Washing- 
ton, D. C. 


1. Locality — tree : bush : ground. 

2. Size — compared to robin : English sparrow. 

3. Form — long : short : slender : plump. 

4. Beak — high : stout : wide : hooked : long : lobes ; 

drawn down. 

5. Tail — length : shape at end. 

6. Legs — long : short : scales. 

7. Toes — webbed : how turned : hind claw long. 

8. Color — bright : striking : dull : plain. 

9. Markings — on head : breast : wing : tail : back. 

10. Manners — walk : hop : quiet : active : noisy : silent. 

11. Habits — eating seeds : berries : insects : from 

ground : tree trunk : leaves. 

12. Song — long : short : continuous : broken. 

13. Flight — direct : undulating : fluttering : labored. 

14. Nest — where placed : shape : materials : eggs, 

15. Young — plumage : behavior. 




In the " First Book of Birds " I told you about 
the common H£e o£ a bird ; what sort of a home 
he has, and how he is taken care of when httle ; 
then how he lives when grown up ; what he eats ; 
where he sleeps ; and something about how he is 

In this book, I want to help you a step further 
on in your study of birds. I shall tell you some- 
thing about particular birds, about the families 
they belong to, and the different ways in which 
they live. 

To begin with : What is a bird family ? In 
life, a bird family is exactly like a human family. 
It consists of father, mother, and children. But 
in the books, a family means quite another thing. 

Men who study the Science of Birds, or Orni- 


thology, have placed the birds in groups which 
they call families, to make it easier to find out 
about them, and write about them. This way of 
arranging them in books is called classification 
— or forming them into classes. 

Birds are classified, not by the way they look, 
but by the way they are made, or their structure, 
and this is found out by the study of Scientific 
Ornithology. Birds may look a good deal alike, 
and act alike, and yet be difEerently made. 

There is first the grand class Aves, which 
includes all creatures who wear feathers. This 
class is divided into orders. 

Orders are made by putting together a large 
number of birds who are alike in one thing. For 
instance, all birds who have feet made to clasp a 
perch, and so are perchers, are put in an order 

But many birds have feet for perching who 
are very difi:erent in other ways. So orders are 
divided into families, which I shall tell you about 
in this book. 

In each family I shall tell you about one or 
more of the best known, or the ones you are most 
likely to see, and that will help you to know the 
rest of the family when you begin to study birds 
out of doors, and use the manual to learn the 


I shall often speak of what has been found out 
about the food of birds, and I want to tell you 
here, once for all, how it was done, so that you 
may understand just what I mean when I speak 
of the work of the Department of Agriculture. 
The Government of the United States has in 
Washington a department with a head and many 
men under him, whose business it is to take 
charge of everything concerning agriculture, 
that is, farming, fruit-growing, etc. This is 
called the Department of Agriculture. 

Farmers and fruit-growers made so much com- 
plaint of the damage done to crops by birds, 
that this department determined to find out just 
what birds do eat. The only way it could be 
done was by having the birds killed and seeing 
what food was in their stomachs, for it is almost 
impossible to tell by watching them. To know 
positively which birds do harm by eating more 
grain or fruit than insects, and which do good 
by eating more insects, would save the lives of 
many thousands. So the killing of those they 
studied was useful to the whole race. 

When they wanted to find out what crows eat, 
they had crows killed all over the country — 
hundreds of them — and the stomachs, with the 
food in, sent to them in Washington. Then they 
went to work and examined every one. They 


could tell by the shells of seeds and the hard 
parts of insects, and bones and hair of mice, etc., 
just what had been eaten. And the contents of 
every stomach was written down and preserved 
in a book. Thus, you see, they could tell what 
crows were in the habit of feeding upon. 

They did this with many other birds who are 
said to do harm, — hawks, owls, blackbirds, king- 
birds, and others. That is how we come to know 
what birds eat, and can tell whether they do harm 
or good. There can be no mistake in this way 
of knowing, and so what comes from this depart- 
ment may be relied upon as true. 

I want this little book to help the bird-lovers 
in the South and West of our big country, as 
well as in the East ; and so, in each Family, I 
shall try to tell about a bird who may be seen 
in each part. A good many of our birds are 
found both East and West, with slight differ- 
ences, but some that are in one part are not 
in the other. 



(Turdidce) * 

This family is named after the thrushes, but 
our familiar robin belongs to it, and also the 
sweet-voiced bluebird. The birds of this family 
are all rather good sized, and excepting the blue- 
bird show no bright colors. Nearly all of them 
have spotted breasts when young, and many of 
them keep the spots all their lives. Young rob- 
ins and bluebirds have spots on breasts and shoul- 
ders, but when they get their grown-up plumage 
there are none to be seen. 

The thrush family get around by hopping, and 
do not walk, though some of them run, as you 
have seen the robin do on the lawn. Most of 
them live in the woods, and feed on the ground, 
and all of them eat insects. Because their feed- 
ing grounds freeze up in winter, most of these 
birds go to a warmer climate, or migrate. They 
are all good singers, and some of them among 
the best in America. 

1 See Appendix, 1. 


The best known of this family is the robin, 
Ameeioan Robin, to give him his whole name. 
He is found all over the United States. In the 
summer he lives in the Eastern and Middle 
States, in the winter he lives in the Southern 
States, and he lives all the year round in Cali- 

The California robin is called the Western 
Eobin, and is a little lighter in color than his 
Eastern brother ; but he is the same jolly fellow 
under his feathers, and robin song is about the 
same from the Atlantic to the Pacific. 

I 'm sure you all know how he looks, with 
black head, slate-colored back and wings, streaked 
throat, and dull red or chestnut breast. His 
mate is not quite so dark in color. 

Robins start for their nesting-place, which is 
their real home, very early, almost the first of 
the birds. They make a nest, not very high, in 
a tree or about our houses, with a good deal of 
mud in it. Not all nests are alike. Sometimes 
a bird will show a fancy for a pretty-looking 
nest. I have seen one made of the white flowers 
of life-everlasting. The stems were woven to- 
gether for the framework, and the little clusters 
of blossoms left outside for ornament. 

The young robin just out of the nest is a 
pretty fellow, with spots all over his breast and 


shoulders. He spends most of his time calling 
for food, for he is always hungry. He is rather 
clumsy in getting about, and often falls to the 
ground. But if you pick him up and put him 
on a low branch out of the reach of cats, he will 
fly as soon as your hand leaves him, and gener- 
ally come to the ground again. So it is of no 
use to try to help him that way. The only thing 
you can do is to keep cats and bad boys away 
from him, until he flies up into a tree. 

The robin gets his food on the ground, or 
just under the surface. He eats many caterpil- 
lars and grubs that are harmful to us. One that 
he specially likes is the cutworm, which has a 
bad way of biting off young plants. In the East 
he eats many earthworms, which we see him pull 
out of the ground on the lawn, but in the West, 
where there are not so many earthworms, he picks 
up insects of various kinds. 

All through spring, when insects are hard at 
work destroying our fruit and vegetables and 
young grains, the robin spends almost his whole 
time catching them ; first for his own eating, but 
many more when his little ones get out of the 
shell, for young birds eat a great amount of food. 
Then, when he has spent months in our service 
killing insects, so that our fruit and vegetables 
can grow, do you not think he has earned part 
of the cherries he has saved? 


Robins are very easily made tame, and, when 
■well treated and not shut up in a cage, they be- 
come fond of people and like to live in our 
houses. I know of a robin who was picked up 
from the ground by a lady. He could not fly, 
and she took him into a house and brought him 
up. He was never wild or afraid of people, and 
he never wanted to be free. His mistress would 
sometimes put him on her hat, without fastening 
him in any way, and go out to walk with him 
there. He liked his ride, and never thought of 
leaving her. She often took him with her into 
a piece of woods where she went. He would 
play around on the ground and in the trees, but 
the moment she started for home he flew down, 
ready to go. 

She thought perhaps he would like to be free, 
and she tried once or twice to leave him in this 
pleasant grove, but he always flew to her and re- 
fused to be left. He was so fond of his mistress 
that when she went away for a day or two he 
was very unhappy, hid himself in a closet, and 
would not eat till she came back. 

This robin, too, liked the food of the family, 
and did not care for earthworms. In fact, he 
could hardly be coaxed to eat one of them, 
though he liked some kinds of grubs which he 
found on the ground. But he ate them in a di£- 


ferent way from his wild brothers. He did not 
swallow them whole, but beat them to a jelly 
before trying to eat. 

This pet had a sweet, low song of his own. 
He never sang like his wild brothers until his 
second year, when he had been out and heard 
them sing. 

A pair of robins that were blown from a nest 
in a high wind were reared and kept in a large 
cage by Mrs. GrinneU in California. The first 
year the singer did not sing, but in the second 
year a wild mockingbird came to teach him. He 
would alight on the cage, which hung out of 
doors, and sing softly a long time, till the robin 
began to do the same. When he could sing, it 
was more like a mockingbird than like a robin. 
The mocker was very fond of his pupil, and used 
to bring him berries and other wild dainties. 

These robins made a nest of things the mis- 
tress gave them, and eggs began to appear in it. 
But as soon as one was laid, one of the birds 
would jump into the nest and kick and scratch 
till it was thrown out and broken. They seemed 
to think the pretty blue eggs were playthings. 
When the weather grew hot, Bobby, the singer, 
showed his sense by spending most of his time 
lying in his bathing-dish, covered with water 
up to his ears. He would lie there an hour 


at a time, too comfortable to get out even to 

Birds who are not brought into the house 
often become tame when well treated. One 
family in Michigan had a pair of robins who 
nested close to the house for fourteen years. 
It was plain that the birds were the same pair, 
for they became so friendly that they let any of 
the family pick up a nestling, and showed no 
fear. But with other people they were as wild 
as any robins. 

One day a man passing by picked up one of 
the young birds, who was scrambling about on 
the ground. At once the parents began loud 
cries of distress, and all the robins in the neigh- 
borhood came to help. They scolded and cried, 
and flew at the thief who wanted to carry off 
the baby. One of the family heard the row, 
and went out and claimed the robin, and the 
man gave it up. The moment the little one was 
in the hands of a person they knew, the cries 
ceased. Not only the parents but the neigh- 
bors seemed to understand that the nestling was 

The way birds act when brought up by us and 
not by their parents shows that young birds are 
taught many things before they are grown up. 
When living in a house, they are not afraid of 



cats or people, as wild ones are. They do not 
usually sing the robin song, nor care for the 
robin food, and they do not seem to know how 
to manage a nest. I could tell you many things 
to prove this. 

Another charming member of the Thrush 
Family is the Hermit Thkush. He is a beauti- 
ful bird, smaller than the robin. He is reddish 
brown on the back, with a white breast spotted 
with dark brown or black. He has large, full, 
dark eyes, which look straight at you. 

The hermit thrush spends his winters in the 
Southern States, and his summers in the North- 
ern. But in the far West, where are no cold 
winters, the hermit does not have to move back 
and forth. In that part of the country the bird 
is the Western Hermit Thrush. 

This bird is one of our finest singers, and a 
very shy bird. His home is in the woods, and 
from there we hear his loud, clear song, morning 
and evening. Many people think his song is the 
finest bird-song we have. His ordinary call as 
he goes about is a kind of " chuck." The West- 
ern hermit differs hardly at all. He may be a 
little smaller, but he is the same delightful singer 
and lovely character. 

The mother hermit makes her nest on the 


ground, and hides it so well that it is hard t^ 
find, — though I 'm afraid snakes, and squirrels^ 
and other woods creatures who like eggs to eat 
find it more often than we do. 

Shy as the hermit is, he is an intelHgent bird. 
A mother hermit a few years ago strayed into 
the grounds of a gentleman in Massachusetts 
and built a nest under a pine-tree. When she 
was found, she was at first very much frightened, 
But the owner of the place was a bird-lover, and 
gentle and quiet in his ways, and she got so used 
to him that she let him photograph her many 

A gentleman, Mr. Owen, once captured a 
young hermit thrush so lately, out of the nest 
that he could not fly much. He kept him in the 
house several weeks, and found out many inter- 
esting things about young thrushes. One thing 
he discovered was that the bird has his own 
notions about food. He ate raw meat and earth- 
worms. But when worms were fed to him that 
came from a dirty place, he threw them out of 
his mouth, wiped his beak, and showed great 
disgust. The worms brought from clean garden 
earth he ate greedily. 

The , little captive had his own way of eating 
a worm. He began by worrying it awhile, and 
then swallowed it tail first. 


He showed his instinct for sleeping high by 
being very restless at night, till let out of his 
cage. Then he ilew to the highest perch he 
could find in the room, and roosted for the 

The bird showed himself friendly and not at 
all afraid of people. Mr. Owen got so attached 
to him that when he let him go in the woods he 
felt as if he had parted with a dear friend. 

In the picture you see two hermit thrushes. 
The upper one is singing, and the lower one 
looking calmly at you, in the way of these beau- 
tiful birds. 



(Sylviidoe) ^ 

This family is small in our country. There 
are only three members of it that we are likely 
to see. But they are most dainty and lovely 
birds. They are the two kinglets or little kings, 
not much bigger than hummingbirds, and the 
blue-gray gnatcatcher, about as small. They are 
all fond of living in the tops of tall trees, and 
they generally get their food and make their 
pretty nests away out of our reach. So we 
have to look sharp to see them. It is easier to 
hear them, for they are fine singers. 

The RuBY-CBOWNED Kinglet is a plump little 
bird in olive-green feathers. Below he is yellow- 
ish white, and he has two whitish wing bars. 
On top of his head is a narrow stripe of bright 
ruby color. But we see him usually from below, 
so that is not often noticed. He flits about the 

* See Appendix, 2. 



upper branches, picking out the smallest insects 
and insect eggs, and eating them. So he is very 
useful to us. 

Although this bird is found all over our coun- 
try, he does not nest with us, except sometimes 
in the mountains. He goes farther north, be- 
yond the United States. The nests that have 
been found in the mountains of Colorado and 
Montana were partly hanging, and very large 
for such a tiny bird. They were made of soft, 
fine bark strips, and green moss, and hung to 
the end of a spruce or pine branch. 

But the ruby-crown passes his winters in the 
Southern States and Mexico, and when he starts 
for his nesting-home, he begins to sing. As he 
goes north, he stops a few days or a week in a 
place, and then is the time to hear his sweet 
voice. When he sings, you would hardly know 
him. He raises the red feathers on top of his 
head so that they stand up like a crown, and 
change his looks very much. In the picture you 
can see a little of the ruby stripe. 

Not much is known of the habits of these 
little birds, they are so hard to study. They are 
found all over the United States, in the South- 
ern States and California in winter, and in the 
Northern States in spring and fall, when migrat- 


The Blue-gbay Gnatcatcher is a slim little 
bird, with a rather long tail. He is bluish gray, 
with some white and black on head, wings, and 
tail, and he is grayish white below. 

He has a sweet song, but it is so low you have 
to be very near and very quiet to hear it. He 
is such a talkative, restless fellow, however, that 
you often see him when you might not hear the 

The gnatcatcher is one of the most lively of 
birds. He bustles about in an eager way that 
shows everybody where to look for the nest. 
And when there is no nest, he flits over the tree- 
tops, catching tiny flying insects, and uttering a 
queer call that sounds something like the mew 
of a cat. He does not need to be so quiet as 
birds who build on the ground or near it, be- 
cause few can get at the nest. It is too high 
for snakes and boys, and on branches too light 
for squirrels or big birds. So he can afford to 
be as chatty as he pleases. 

The nest of this bird is one of the prettiest 
that is made. It is a little cup, upright on a 
branch, usually near the end so that it is tossed 
by the wind. Miss Merriam found a pair of 
gnatcatchers in California, and watched them 
through many troubles. Their way of building 
was by felting. That is, they took fine, soft 


materials like plant down, and packed it all 
closely together by poking with the beak and 
prodding it with the feet. 

A gnatcatcher's nest is large for the size of 
the bird. It must be deep for safety, so that 
eggs and nestlings will not be thrown out by the 
wind. Three times, Miss Merriam thinks, the 
little family she watched had to build their nest. 
Each time it took more than ten days of hard 

This pretty little fellow has a long tail, and 
he keeps it in motion all the time. He jerks it 
up or down, or twitches it to one side, or the 
other ; or he flirts it open and shut like a fan, 
which shows the white edges and looks very 

Dogs and cats, as you know, show how they 

feel by the way they move the tail. Birds do 

the same, some much more than others. If you 

watch the way in which they move their tails, 

you can learn to tell how a bird feels almost as 

well as if he could speak to you. 



(Paridce) ^ 

This is another family of small birds. The 
nuthatches are lively, restless little creatures. 
You generally see them scrambling over the 
trunks of trees, head up or head down, as it hap- 
pens. They are dressed in sober colors, and 
spend their lives picking tiny insects out of the 
crevices of the bark. 

The White-breasted Nuthatch is the best 
known in the East. In California the slender- 
billed takes his place, being about the same in 
dress and manners. Both of them, East and 
West, go about calHng " quank, quank." The 
dress is slate-blue and white, with a white breast, 
a black cap, and black on wings and tail. 

Nuthatches nest in holes, either deserted wood- 
pecker nests or natural holes in trees. If such 
a place is not to be found, the pair will some- 

^ See Appendix, 3. 


times dig out a home in a decayed stump for 

It is wonderful to see how easily and quickly 
a nuthatch will run over the trunk and large 
branches of a tree. Woodpeckers usually go 
upward, and brace themselves with their stiff 
tails. If they want to go down, they back down 
rather awkwardly. Creepers, who also go over 
tree trunks, go up only, and they also use their 
stiff tails for a brace. But the nuthatch goes 
head up, or down, or sideways, and never uses 
the short, square tail in the business. He can 
do this because his claws are very curving, al- 
most like hooks, and they grasp tight hold of 
the httle rough places in the bark. 

It is a funny sight to see a mother nuthatch 
going about with four or five hungry little ones 
after her, like chickens after a hen, all calling 
their droll little " quanks." 

The nuthatch gets his name, it is said, from 
the habit of fixing a nut into a crack and ham- 
mering or " hacking " it till it breaks. In sum- 
mer, when insects are to be had, this bird, like 
many others, eats nothing else, and he eats 
thousands of them. But he can live on other 
food, so he is not forced to migrate. 

To provide for winter, when insects will be 
gone and snow cover the seeds, he lays up a 


store of food. He takes kernels of corn, if he 
can get them, or sunflower seeds, or nuts of 
various kinds. This keeps him very busy all the 
fall, and he has often been seen at the work. 
He will carry a nut to a tree and find a crack in 
the bark just big enough to hold it. He tries 
one after another till he finds one to fit. Then 
he hammers it in till it is secure, and leaves it 
there. Then in winter the same bird has been 
seen, when everything was covered with snow, 
to dig the hidden nuts out of their hiding-places 
and eat them. 

Many birds who do not migrate, but live in the 
same place the year round, provide for winter in 
the same way. So do squirrels and other ani- 
mals. It is pleasant to think that rough-barked 
trees, and knotholes, and hollows, are filled with 
food for the hungry birds. And if they had 
not that supply, they might starve, or be obliged 
to leave us. 

The Red-beeasted Nuthatch is a little 
smaller than the white-breasted, and has a red- 
dish breast. His home is more toward the north, 
both East and West. He nests in Maine and 
other Northern States. His call note is different 
too. It sounds like the squawk of a toy trumpet. 
His habits are much like those of his biggei 


The nuthatch is fond of his mate, and takes 
good care of her in nesting time. He feeds her 
and the young till they leave the nest. 

Mr. Fowler tells a story of an English nut- 
hatch who is almost the same as one of ours. 
Some bird-lovers were in the habit of putting 
nuts on a window-sill for these birds to carry 
away. One day, to see what they would do, 
somebody put one in a glass tumbler. The birds 
saw the nut and tried to get it through the glass, 
pecking and hammering at it a long time. 
Finally, one got tired or discouraged and flew 
xip to a perch over the tumbler. Then he hap- 
pened to look down, and saw the nut inside the 
glass. Instantly he came down. He alighted 
on the edge of the tumbler and held on tightly, 
while he leaned far over inside, almost standing 
on his head, till he picked up the nut and carried 
it off. 

These birds are easily made tame in winter 
by feeding them every day when food is hard to 
get ; and at a time when they are forced to live 
on seeds and nuts, they greatly enjoy scraps of 
meat, and most of all, suet. Many people put 
out food for the birds every day in winter, in 
some safe place where cats cannot come. They 
have great pleasure in watching their little 


Chickadees, or Titmice, as they are named in 
the books, belong to another branch of this Fam- 
ily. There are a good many titmice in the world, 
seventy-five kinds or species, but we in America 
have only thirteen. Best known in the Eastern 
and Middle States is the common chickadee. In 
California, the mountain chickadee has habits 
about the same, and the Southern States have 
the tufted titmouse. 

All these little fellows are pretty birds in gray, 
set ofE with black and white, with lovely soft and 
fluffy plumage. 

The common Chickadee and his brother of 
the West have black on top of the head and 
on the throat, and white at the side of the head. 
They nest in holes in a tree or stump. If they 
can find the old home of a woodpecker, they are 
glad to get it, but if they cannot find one, they 
are able to cut one out for themselves, though it 
is a hard, long job for them. 

These birds have very large families, sometimes 
as many as eight or nine little chickadees in one 
of those dark nurseries. How so many can live 
there it is hard to see. They must be all in a 

Everybody knows the common call of the 
chickadee, — " chick-a-dee-dee ; " but he has a 



song, too. It is slow, sad-sounding, and of two 
notes, almost like the common cry of the phcebe. 
But you must not think they have no more than 
these few notes. They have odd little songs, 
and they make queer sounds that seem much like 
talking. Almost all birds have many notes and. 
calls and little chatty noises of different sorts, 
besides their regular song and the common call 
note. To hear these, and learn to know a bird 
whatever he says, is one of the delights of bird 
study. I hope you will some day enjoy it. The 
Chippewa Indians named the chickadee " kitch- 
kitch-ga-ne-shi. ' ' 

A chickadee is a friendly little fellow. Many 
times one has come down on to a man's hand 
or knee. Mr. Torrey once found a pair making 
their nest, and he climbed up on to a branch of 
the tree, close by where they were working, so as 
to watch them. Many birds would have been 
frightened to have a man so near, but not the 
brave little chickadees. They stared at him a 
little, but went right on with their building. 

These birds, though so tiny, are among the 
most useful to us, because they spy out and de- 
stroy the insect eggs hidden in crevices of bark, 
or under leaves. Bigger birds might not care to 
pick up such small things, or their beaks might 
be too clumsy to get at them. 


When you see a chickadee scrambling over a 
tree, hanging head down with all sorts of antics, 
he is no doubt hunting out the eggs. These 
eggs, if left, would hatch out into hungry in- 
sects, to eat the leaves or fruit, or to injure and 
perhaps kill the tree. The nuthatch clears up 
the trunk and large limbs, and the chickadee 
does the same for the small branches and around 
the leaves. 

It has been found out that one pair of chicka- 
dees with their young will destroy five hundred 
pests, such as caterpillars, flies, and grubs, every 
day. No man could do so much, if he gave his 
whole time to it. Besides, he could not go over 
the whole tree as a bird does, without doing harm 
to it. A chickadee hops along the small branches 
and twigs, looking under every leaf, sometimes 
hanging head down to see the under side, and 
picks up every insect or egg. Among his dain- 
ties are the eggs of the leaf-rolling caterpillar, 
the canker-worm, and the apple-tree moth, — all 
very troublesome creatures. 

The Tufted Titmouse is more common in the 
South and West than his cousin, the chickadee, 
and he is one of the prettiest of the family. He 
is dressed in soft gray, with a fine, showy, pointed 
crest. His ways are something like the chicka- 


dee's, but he is, perhaps, even bolder and more 
pert, and he is easily tamed. All his notes are 
loud and clear, and he is never for a moment 

In winter, this bird is found in little flocks of 
a dozen or more. These are probably all of one 
family, the parents and their two broods of the 
year. He is one of the birds who stores up food 
for a time when food is scarce. In summer, he 
eats only insects. 

The tufted titmouse, like others of his race, 
has a great deal of curiosity. I have heard of 
one who came into a house through an open win- 
dow. It was a female titmouse in search of a 
good place for a nest. After she had been in 
all the rooms, and helped herself to whatever she 
found that was good to eat, she seemed to de- 
cide that it wap a land of plenty and she would 

The stranger settled upon a hanging basket as 
nice to build in. The family did not disturb her, 
and she brought in her materials and made her 
nest. She had even laid two or three eggs, when 
the people began to take too much interest in her 
afPairs, and the bird thought it best to move to 
a safer place. 

Another of these birds in Ohio, looking about 
for something nice and soft to line her nest, 


pitched upon a gentleman's hair. Unfortunately, 
he had need of the hair himself ; but the saucy 
Uttle titmouse did n't mind that. She alighted 
on his head, seized a beakful, and then bracing 
herself on her stout little legs, she actually jerked 
out the lock, and flew away with it. So well did 
she like it that she came back for more. The 
gentleman was a bird-lover, and was pleased to 
give some of his hair to such a brave little crea- 




This is a family of birds who creep ; that is, 
they appear not to hop up a tree trunk hke a 
■woodpecker, or walk up like a nuthatch, but 
they hug close to the bark with claws and tail, 
and seem really to creep. 

The one member of the family in this country 
is called the Brown Creeper. He is a little 
fellow in streaks and stripes of brown, and he 
looks so much like the tree trunks that one can 
hardly see him. He has a slender, curved bill, 
just the thing to poke into cracks in the bark, 
and pull out the insects and eggs hidden there. 
His tail feathers are curious. They have sharp 
points on the ends, so that he can press them 
against the bark, and help support himself. 

The creeper's way of getting up a trunk is to 
begin near the ground, and go round and round 

1 See Appendix, 4. 


the trunk till he reaches the lowest branch. 
Then he flings himself off, and flies to the roots 
of another tree, and goes up that in the same 
way. A brown creeper once came into a house, 
and found it so comfortable, and food so plenti- 
ful, and people so kind, that he stayed. He was 
very tame, and his great pleasure was to climb 
up a man's leg or a woman's skirt, exactly as he 
climbs a tree trunk, going round and round. 

Quiet and demure as he looks, this little bird 
sometimes plays rather funny pranks. He has 
been seen to whirl around like a top, and' again 
to fly up and down close to a tree trunk, appar- 
ently just for fun. He has a sweet little song, 
which we do not often hear, for his voice is not 

The brown creeper mother takes a droll place 
for a nest. It is behind the loose bark of an old 
tree. She makes a snug little home under the 
bark roof, and lines it with feathers, and there 
she brings up her three or four little creepers. 
She is as well protected from sun and rain as if 
she had an umbrella, and it is such an odd place 
that it was not for a long time known where her 
cunning little nest was made. 

This bird nests in the Eastern States, in 
northern New York and New England, and in 
California he nests in the mountains, but he goes 



South in winter. When he wants to hide, he 
makes use of a clever trick, which shows that he 
knows how much he looks like the trunk of a 
tree. He simply flattens himself against the 
bark, and keeps perfectly still. Then you can 
hardly see him, though you look right at him. 
•You can see in the picture how he looks. 



(Troglodytidce) ^ 
First Brakch 

This is a family of singers, who dress in plain 
colors. There is not a red or blue stripe, and 
not a yellow or purple feather, among them. 

The family has two branches, or subfamilies 
as the books call them. The first branch, 
which gives the name to the family, is made of 
birds who are really a sort of cave-dwellers, — 
the wrens. 

Wrens are lively little birds, excitable and 
afraid of nothing. They are in plain browns, 
barred off with another shade of the same color. 
They are so near the color of the ground, where 
they spend most of their time, that they are not 
easily seen. They have a way of holding their 
tails up, some of them much more than others, 
by which one may know a wren wherever he 
sees it. 

1 See Appendix, 5. 


The most common one o£ the family is the 
House Wren. He is found all over the Eastern 
States. In the Western States the same bird, 
except in the shade of his coat, is called the 
Western House Wren. 

The house wren is fond of a snug place for a 
nest. If a wren box is to be had, he will take 
that ; but if not, he will seek some cozy nook, 
which he will furnish, mostly with fine twigs, 
and then wait for his mate to appear. 

Sometimes the bird takes queer places to live 
in. I once found a wren family inside a hollow 
iron hitching-post in a city street. The birds 
went in through the hole for the hitching-strap. 
I wondered how the wrenlings would get out 
through the long, dark passage. Another nest 
was made in an oriole's hanging cradle, after the 
young orioles had flown. It was filled up with 
sticks to make it suitable for baby wrens. One 
that I found last summer was in a hole in a gate- 

The place is usually chosen by the male, who 
stuffs it full of fine twigs, and then sings and 
calls for his mate to come. He will sing hour 
after hour his sweet little song, stopping every 
few minutes to bring another stick to add to his 

The wren is a droll fellow about one thing, — 


he never knows when he has enough furniture 
for his house. He will bring twigs and stuff 
them into the box or hole, till he can't get 
another one in. Sometimes even till his mate 
can't get in herself. A pair began to build in 
a shed room, and apparently set out to fill the 
whole room with twigs. They brought in so 
much stuff that the owner had to stop up the hole 
they used for a door and make them go some- 
where else. He was willing to share the room 
with them, but he could n't spare the whole. 

The house wren is a plucky little fellow, and 
as he likes the same kind of places the English 
sparrow wants, they often quarrel over a box or 
a nice snug hole. Small as he is, the wren often 
succeeds in keeping the place he wants, and 
driving the sparrow away. 

English sparrows can be kept out of wren 
houses by making the opening too small for the 
bigger bird. An auger hole one. inch in diame- 
ter will be large enough for wrens, but too small 
for sparrows. A sparrow has sometimes been 
seen trying to get into one of these wren boxes, 
and very droll he looks, when he sticks his head 
in, and struggles and kicks violently to push 
himself in. 

I found a pair of house wrens in Colorado one 
summer. The singer spent most of his time 


scrambling about a pile of brush, apparently try- 
ing to make me think that was where he lived. 
But I was sure he had a mate and a nest some- 
where else, and I kept watch for them. 

One day I happened to see a little brown bird 
fly up under the eaves of a summer cottage not 
much bigger than a tent. On looking closely, I 
found that there were openings under the eaves. 
The birds had taken one of these for a door, 
and built a nest inside, in the box frame over a 
window. After that I looked at them through 
another window. Everything went well till the 
wrenlings left the nest and began to fly around. 
Then they seemed to lose their wits, or not to 
mind their parents. They flew wildly about in 
the cottage, bumping against the glass, and seem- 
ing not able to find the door to get out. 

I had not the key to open the big door, so I 
could not help them in their trouble. And the 
old birds were so frantic when I looked in at the 
window, while they were trying to get their 
family out, that I went away and left them. In 
an hour or two I went back, and found every- 
thing quiet, and the wren babies all out on the 


Second Branch 

The second branch of this family is very dif- 
ferent from the first ; it is composed of mock- 
ingbirds, catbirds, and thrashers. These birds 
were once placed with the thrushes, and by hab- 
its and manners they seem to belong there. 
But, as I told you, families in the bird world are 
made by structure, — by the way the bird is 
made. These birds have scales on the leg, and 
some other things like the wrens, so now they 
belong to the cave-dwelling family, though they 
never dwell in caves. They live in shrubbery 
and low trees. They are larger than any wren, 
but they are like those birds in being good 
singers and dressed in plain colors. Wherever 
they are placed in the books, they are interesting 
and delightful birds to know. 

The most famous of this branch is the Mock- 
ingbird, found in the Southern States and Cali- 


fornia. He is a beautiful and graceful fellow in 
gray, with large white patches in his wings. 

The nest of the mockingbird is a rather rough 
afPair, built in a low tree or a bush. One that I 
saw was in a tree about as high as an apple-tree. 
The bird gets his food on the ground, and has a 
curious habit of lifting his wings as he is about 
to attack a beetle. 

The mockingbird is a celebrated singer. Many- 
persons think him the finest in America. He 
is especially famous for repeating the notes of 
other birds ; but he can imitate other sounds, 
such as a policeman's rattle, a postman's whistle, 
and almost anything else. Sometimes a caged 
one makes mischief by this accomplishment. He 
has no need to borrow, for he has a fine song of 
his own. 

Besides being famous in this way, he is a very 
knowing bird, and a most interesting one to 
study. The young mocker is a spirited fellow, 
who can't endure to stay in the nest till his wings 
are strong enough to bear him. He usually tries 
to fly too soon, and so comes to the ground. 
Coming to the ground is a great misfortune to 
the bird, for he is easily caught and put in a 

Being fine singers, mockingbirds are often 
kept in cages. In the late summer, the bird 


stores in New York have hundreds o£ them for 
sale, birds so young that they still wear the 
speckled bibs of baby-days. Many of them die, 
and so every year they are growing more rare. 

A lady wrote me the story of a young mock- 
ingbird, whose mother saved it from a cage. The 
little fellow was just out of the nest, and could 
not fly far, and a young man thought he would 
catch him and take him to his sister ; but the 
mother bird wished to save him from such a 

When the man went toward the youngster on 
the ground, the mother flew down, seized him, 
lifted him up, and flew away with him. She 
carried him a little way and then let go. He 
flew as far as he could, but soon came to the 
ground again. Then the man started for him. 
Again the anxious mother flew down and lifted 
him into the air, and again he flew a little and fell 
to the ground. So it went on for some time, till 
the young man began to feel ashamed of himself. 
Then he took up the cage and went away, leav- 
ing the little one to his mother's care. 

The mockingbird is one of our most knowing 
birds, and when one is tamed and free in a house, 
he is very amusing. He is as full of fun as a 
catbird, and as funny to watch. A true story 
was told in one of the papers, of a captive who 



had some queer tricks. One was hunting in a 
■workbox for a paper of needles, taking it down 
to the floor, and working it open, then suddenly 
giving it a jerk that sent the needles in a shower 
all over the floor. 

This bird was once shut up in a room alone, 
while the family were at table. He did not like 
it, for he wanted to be with them ; so he amused 
himself unwinding all the spools of thread in the 
workbox. He took one end of the thread and 
carried it all about the room, around everything 
and over everything — vases on the shelf, pic- 
tures on the wall, chair-legs, sofas, and lamps. 
Everything in the room was tied together, so 
that no one could go in lest something should 
be thrown down. The naughty bird was de- 
lighted with his mischief. He sat there singing 
at the top of his voice. The only way the 
family could get into the room was to get scis- 
sors and cut their way in. They found empty 
spools all over the floor, and hundreds of yards 
of thread used. 

The Catbird is dressed in plain slate-color. 
He is a near relative of the mockingbird, and 
better known in the Eastern States. He is also 
a fine singer, though he is not so famous. This 
is partly because he sings usually from the mid- 


die of a thick bush and so is not seen, and partly 
because he does not sing so loud. There is a 
great charm in the catbird's song. 

The catbird is a charming fellow aside from 
his music. He is as knowing as the mocking- 
bird, and not much afraid of people. He will 
come near to houses to nest, and if not fright- 
ened or disturbed, he will be very familiar. 

Like many other birds, the catbird is kind to 
others in trouble. A pair had a nest near that 
of a pair of robins. One day the robins disap- 
peared — killed, no doubt — and the young in the 
nest began to cry. When one of the catbirds 
came with food for its own nestUngs, the robin 
babies would cry to be fed too. Pretty soon the 
catbirds began to feed them. And at night, 
when bird babies need to be covered up by the 
warm feather-bed of their mother's breast, one 
of tbe friendly catbirds filled her place, and 
kept them warm all night. So it went on till 
both families were grown up and could fly. 

One writer says : " All day long the catbird 
watches over the fruit-trees, and kills the insects 
that would destroy them or the fruit. Of course 
he takes his share, especially of cherries, but for 
every one he takes, he eats thousands of insects. 
Where there are no small birds, there will be no 
fruit." Thirty grasshoppers have been found in 


one small catbird's stomach by the Department 
of Agriculture. 

A story showing how much the catbird knows 
and understands is of one in Iowa who had a 
nest in some vines over a porch. A tornado tore 
the vines so as to uncover the nest, and the lady 
of the house feared some one would disturb it. 
So she began to draw the vines together around it 
to hide it. While she was doing this, one of the 
old birds came and began to shriek, and cry, and 
fly round her head, threatening to dash at her eyes. 
The mate came too, and acted in the same way, 
supposing, no doubt, that she was doing some 
harm to their nest. She shielded her head and 
finished the work, and went into the house. 

The next morning she was sitting on the bal- 
cony the other side of the house. All at once 
a catbird flew down and perched on the railing 
within six feet of her, which no catbird had ever 
done before. She kept still, and he began jerk- 
ing his body and uttering sweet little calls and 
twitters, turning his head this side and that, with 
eyes fixed on her. He acted exactly as if he were 
talking to her, and after a while he broke out 
with a song, low and very sweet. She sat still, 
and after the song he began his twittering again, 
then sang once more. She had never heard 
anything so beautiful, and she was sure that he 


was trying to express his thanks to her, and his 
regrets at the way he had treated her the day 
before. At least, that was the way it seemed to 

A catbird is as full of fun and pranks as a 
mockingbird. He may sometimes be seen to do 
what looks like playing jokes on others. A lady 
told me she saw a catbird drive a crow nearly 
wild by mocking his " caw." He cawed as well 
as the crow himself, and the crow was furious, 
dashing down at his small tormentor, and in 
every way showing anger at what no doubt 
seemed a great insult. 

The Thrasher, or Brown Thrush, is also of 
this family. He is reddish brown on the back, 
and heavily spotted on the breast, and he has a 
long tail which he jerks about a good deal. 

He is known all over the Eastern and Southern 
States, and his California brother is almost ex- 
actly like him. He is a fine singer, and has been 
called the French mockingbird. Sometimes it is 
hard to tell his song from the mockingbird's. 

The thrasher's nest is usually made in a bush, 
the thickest and thorniest that can be found, 
and the brave little parents will make a great 
fight to keep their nestlings from harm. At 
one time, when a boy went to carry ofE some 


young thrashers, the old hirds called together 
quite an army of birds to help defend them. 
There were at least fifty birds of many kinds, 
all flying around his head, screaming at him 
and trying to pick at his eyes. The boy was 
ashamed, and put back the little ones, glad to 
get away with his eyes safe. 

A Western bird, the Arizona thrasher, builds 
a nest in the middle of' a cactus so full of sharp 
thorns like fine needles that it is a wonder how 
the birds can get into it. They pull off the 
thorns to make a passage, but the nestlings do 
sometimes get caught and die there. They must, 
however, be safe from most enemies. One pair 
that Mr. Palmer tells about built a regular hall- 
way of sticks six or eight inches long. 

All the birds of this family have great indi- 
viduality ; that is, no two are alike. The better 
you know birds, the more you will see that they 
do not act, or sing, or even look exactly alike. 
That is one reason why they are so interesting 
to study. 



(Cinclidm) * 

There is only one member of this family in 
the United States, and that one Uves in the 
Rocky Mountains and the mountains of Califor- 
nia. It is the Americajst Dipper, or Water 

The body of the ouzel is about as big as a 
robin's, but looks much smaller, because his very 
short tail gives him a " chunky " look. His 
wings are short and rounded, and his plumage is 
very soft and so thick that he can go under 
water without getting wet. He is slate-color all 
over, a little paler on the breast, and his mate is 
exactly like him, but the young ouzel has all 
the under feathers tipped with white, and usually 
a white throat. Both old and young have shin- 
ing white eyelids which show very plainly among 
their dark feathers. 

The dipper is a water lover. The nest is 

' See Appendix, 6. 

* ^,IfD m AM TlTPPF/R 


placed close to it, generally near a waterfall, 
sometimes even behind a waterfall, where he has 
to go through a curtain of falling water to reach 
it. It is on a shelf of rock, and shaped like a 
little hut, with a hole on one side for a door. It 
is made of soft green moss, which is kept alive 
and growing by constant sprinkling. Sometimes 
the waterfall itself keeps it wet, but the birds 
have been seen to sprinkle it themselves. They 
do it by diving into the water, then going to the 
top of the nest and shaking themselves vio- 

This bird is a curious fellow. His food is the 
small insects which live under water, and he is 
as much at home there as other birds are in the 
air. He can walk on the bottom with swift run- 
ning water over his head, and he can really fly 
under water, using his wings as he does in the 
air. I have seen him do it. 

The water ouzel cares nothing for the cold. 
On cold mornings when all other birds sit 
humped up with feathers puffed out over their 
feet to keep warm, he is as jolly and lively as 
ever. He flies about in the snow, dives under 
the ice, and comes out at an airhole, and sings 
as if it were summer weather. 

Mr. John Muir, who knows so well the West- 
ern mountains and the creatures who live there, 


has told us most of what we know about this 
bird. He says the ouzel sings all winter, and 
never minds the weather ; also that he never 
goes far from the stream. If he flies away, he 
flies close over the brook, and follows all its 
windings and never goes " across lots." 

When the young ouzel is out of the nest and 
wants to be fed, he stands on a rock and " dips," 
that is, bends his knees and drops, then stands 
up straight again. He looks very droll. 

Dr. Merriam tells a story which shows how 
fond the dipper is of water, especially of a 
sprinkle, and explains why he always chooses 
to live by a waterfall. The doctor was camping 
out on the bank of a stream where one of these 
birds lived, and one morning he threw some 
water out of a cup. Instantly the bird flew into 
the little shower as if he liked it. To see if he 
really wanted to get into the water, the doctor 
threw out some more. Again the bird flew into 
it, and as long as he would throw out water, 
the ouzel would dash in for his sprinkle. 

Besides showing that the water ouzel likes 
water, this little story shows another thing, — 
that birds are not naturally afraid of us. On 
far-off islands where men have seldom been, 
birds do not run away from people. They have 
not learned to fear them. They will come up to 


men, perch on their shoulders, and ride with 
them on their boats. I have read that in Nor- 
way, where everybody is kind to birds, they are 
not at all afraid. They will come into a barn or 
a house when the weather is cold, or they are 
hungry, and no man or boy thinks of frighten- 
«ing or hurting them. 

Mr. C. Lloyd Morgan has reared many birds 
by hatching the eggs in an incubator, so that 
they cannot be taught by their parents. He 
says that the birds of the wildest parents 
hatched in that way are never afraid of people 
who move quietly, or of a cat, or a quiet dog. 
Any sudden movement startles a young bird, but 
they are as much afraid of a dead leaf blown 
by the wind as they are of a hawk. It is the 
suddenness that alarms them. Some of them 
stop instantly on a sudden noise, like a sneeze or 
a cough. If one foot happens to be raised to 
step, they will hold it so, and if the head is one 
side, it will stay so, exactly as if they were all 
turned to stone. 



{Motacillidm) ^ 

It does not seem very polite to call a family 
of birds wagtails, just because they have the 
habit of jerking their tails as they go about. 
But that is the name they go by in the books, 
and we have two of them in the United States. 
We call them pipits or titlarks. 

The best known is SPBAGtJE's Pipit, called 
the Missouri skylark, or sometimes the prairie 
skylark. This bird gets the name of skylark 
because he sings while soaring about in the air 
far over our heads. He could not sing on a 
tree if he wanted to, for he lives on the plains 
between the Mississippi River and the Rocky 
Mountains, where are few or no trees. 

The pipits live on the ground, and walk and 
run, not hop. As they go, they bob their heads, 
and jerk their tails. They are a little larger 

^ See Appeadix, 7. 




than an English sparrow, and they go in flocks. 
They are never seen in the woods, but in open 
pastures or plains, or beside a road. 

Sprague's Pipit is all in streaks of brown and 
gray, and lighter below. He has a large foot, 
which shows that he lives on the ground, and 
a very long claw on the hind toe. 

The nest of the pipit is made by hollowing 
out a little place in the ground and lining it with 
fine grasses. Though on the ground, it is one 
of the hardest to find, because it is lightly cov- 
ered with the dry grasses, and when the bird 
is sitting, she matches the grasses so well that 
one can hardly see her, even when looking right 
at her. 

The birds eat insects and weed seeds, and go 
about in flocks. Even then they are hard to 
see, because when they are startled they do not 
flutter or fly, but crouch or squat at once, and 
stay perfectly still. 

This bird is noted, as I said, for his song. It 
is said to be as fine as that of the English sky- 
lark of which we hear so much. Perhaps his 
way of singing makes it still more interesting. 
He starts up on wing, flies a little one way, then 
the other, all the time going higher and higher. 
So he climbs on up, up, up, in a zigzag way, till 
he is fairly out of sight, all the time giving a 


wonderfully sweet song. It is not very loud, 
but of such a kind that it is heard when the bird 
is far out of sight. When he can no longer be 
seen, one may still follow him with a good field- 
glass. He will sing without stopping for fifteen 
or twenty minutes. 

Then suddenly he stops, closes his wings, and 
comes head first towards the ground. It seems 
as if he would dash his brains out against the 
earth, but just before he touches, he opens his 
wings and alights like a feather, almost where 
he started from. He should be as famous as the 
English bird, and will be, no doubt, when he is 
better known. 

One of the things which make bird-study so 
interesting to us is that there is so much to be 
found out about our birds. European birds 
have been studied much longer, but we have still 
many beautiful ones whose manners and ways 
of living are almost unknown. These things are 
left for you young folk to find out when you are 
grown up. 



(Mniotiltidce) ^ 

The gayest, the liveliest, and almost the small- 
est of our birds are the warblers. Some of 
them are not over five inches long from the tip 
of the beak to the end of the tail. Almost all 
wear bright colors, and the pair are never alike, 
while the youngsters are different from both. 

But few of them warble. Then why are they 
named so ? Well, I have n't found out ; but we 
must call them warblers because that iz their 
name in the books. Most of them have funny 
little songs of a few notes, which they jerk out 
every minute as they scramble about on the trees. 

We have seventy species of these little birds 
in the United States, and every one is working 
as hard as he can from morning till night, for our 
benefit. For every one eats insects, and enor- 
mous numbers of them. Some scramble over 
trees and pick them out from bud and blossom 
1 See Appendix, 8. 


and under leaves, others go over the bark, and 
others fly out like flycatchers. 

Some of them work in the tops of tall trees, 
others work in the orchards, some in bushes, and 
some on the ground. But wherever they live, 
they are beautiful to look at, and bewitching to 

Though they are little, they have plenty of 
spirit. I know of one kept in a room with sev- 
eral other birds, all bigger than himself. You 
might think he would be treated as big boys 
would treat a little one. But no, indeed ! the 
tiny fellow made himself ruler of the whole 
party. He took the biggest bathing-dish, the 
best seed-cup, and the most* desirable perch, and 
drove away any big bird who dared to claim 

The Yellow Warblbe, found all over the 
country, is often called the wild canary, for, as 
you see him fly, he appears to be entirely yellow, 
but when you get nearer, you will see that on 
his breast are fine stripes of reddish brown. His 
mate is all in yellow-olive color. 

They are very sweet little creatures, and make 
one of the prettiest nests in America. It is 
usually in an upright fork of a tree, or bush. 
It is made of fine material, among the rest a 


good deal of a gray silky stuff which gives it a 
beautiful look. 

This bird is one of the few who will not bring 
up a cowbird baby. When the tiny mother finds 
a cowbird's egg in her nest, she builds another 
story on top of the nest, leaving the egg to spoil. 
Sometimes a cowbird finds the second nest, and 
then the warbler adds a third story. Nests have 
been found three stories high, with a dried-up 
cowbird egg in each of the two lower stories. 

A strange thing happened once to a pair of 
yellow warblers. When the nest was done and 
the eggs laid, a storm threw it out of place, and 
tipped it over to one side, so that the little 
mother did not dare trust it for a cradle. So she 
built another nest in the same bush, and went to 
sitting on that. 

One day a bird-lover chanced to see the two 
nests, one with the bird sitting, the other tipped 
partly over and left with the eggs still in it. 
To see what the birds would do, he put the 
fallen nest back in place, and made it firm, and 
then went away. The little pair looked at the 
nest, and had a great deal of chatter over it. 
It was their own nest and their own eggs, but 
the mother could not sit in two places. 

Finally, the singer took his place on the re- 
stored nest. After that it was watched, and the 


two birds sat on the two nests till all the young 
were hatched, and then fed and reared them. 
When they were ready to fly, the happy 'birds 
had a big family to take care of. 

Besides these tiny fellows that we call war- 
blers, there are four bigger birds classed with the 
family, who do not look or act like warblers. 
They are the golden-crowned thrush or oven- 
bird, the water-thrush, the Louisiana water- 
thrush, and the yellow-breasted chat. 

The Oven-bird gets his name from the nest, 
which is shaped like an old-fashioned oven. It 
is on the ground in the woods, often on the side 
of a httle slope. It has a roof over it covered 
with sticks and leaves like the ground around it, 
so that it is hard to see. 

If you were to see this bird walking about on 
the ground, as he does, you would think him a 
thrush. He is something the same color, and he 
has a speckled breast like a thrush. His mate is 
dressed in the same way, and they have a dull 
yellowish stripe over the crown. 

He is the fellow you hear in the woods, calling 
" Teacher ! teacher ! teacher ! " He is found all 
over the United States east of the Rocky Moun- 


The Yellow-breasted Chat is perhaps the 
drollest bird in North America. He is a beauti- 
ful bird, nearly as large as an oriole, olive green 
above and brilliant yellow below, and his mate 
is the same. He is found all over the country 
south of the latitude of Massachusetts. In the 
West and California, the chat is a little more 
gray in color, and has a longer tail. He is called 
the long-tailed chat, but a chat is the same 
funny fellow, wherever he is found. 

He reminds one of a clown, he plays so many 
antics, and makes such queer sounds, hardly in 
the least like a song. He will whistle, bark like 
a puppy, mew like a cat, or laugh like an old 
man, all in a loud, strange voice. 

Besides this, the chat is a ventriloquist, that 
is, can make his voice appear to come from some 
place far ofB, when he is near, and so fool us. 
The chat has a way of flying up into the air with 
wings fluttering and legs dangling as if they 
were not well fastened on, and looking as if he 
would fall to pieces himself. He does not like 
to be seen, either. He prefers to hide in a thick 
bush, and make all sorts of strange noises to 
deceive one. 

The one thing a chat hates more than any- 
thing else is to have his nest found. I have 
known a chat to desert a nest with three lovely 


eggs in it, just because it was looked at, though 
neither nest nor eggs were touched. 

I found that nest myself, and I wanted very 
much to see how the birds live and bring up the 
little ones, so I was careful not to disturb any- 
thing. I hid myself a long way ofE, where I 
could see the nest with a field-glass, and where 
I thought the birds would not notice me. I sat 
there perfectly still for hours, till the eggs had 
time to get cold, and I saw another bird carry 
them off. No doubt they saw me, however, for 
they never came back to the nest. 



(VireonidoB) ^ 

The vireos are a small family, fifty species, 
found only in America. They are very quietly 
dressed in greenish olive hues, with hardly a 
bright color among them. They were once 
called greenlets. 

They all live in trees and catch insects, going 
about over the twigs. They sing as they go, 
like the warblers, combining work and play. 
Some of them sing almost without stopping, and 
it gets to be rather tiresome after a while. One 
or two of them even sing on the nest, which 
hardly another bird does. 

The vireos make the prettiest nests. They 
are swinging baskets, hung between the forks 
of a twig, and usually near the end, where they 
rock in every breeze. They are not often very 
high. The birds are easily tamed by one who is 
quiet, and careful not to frighten them. 
1 See Appendix, 9. 


Mr. Torrey found a vireo on her nest, and by 
gentle ways got her to let him stroke her. Next 
day he took some rose leaves with aphides on 
them, and holding one of the insects on his finger, 
he offered it to the bird on the nest. She took 
it, and then another and another, till finally she 
began to be very eager for them, and he could 
hardly feed her fast enough. Then he took a 
teaspoon full of water up to her, and she drank. 

Another gentleman — Mr. Hoffmann — did 
still more. He coaxed a Yellow-theoatbd 
ViEEO till she took food out of his lips. Black 
ants and cankerworms were the things he fed 
her. She preferred the ants, and would scold 
him a little at first when he offered the worms, 
though she took them at last. This bird was so 
tame she would let a man lift her off her nest 
and put her on his shoulder while he looked at 
the eggs. She would stay there till he put her 

The yellow-throat, besides making a pretty 
hanging basket, covers the outside with lichens 
of different colors, green, dark and light, yellow, 
and almost black. It is said that these pretty 
things are put on by the male while his mate is 

A pair was once watched at their building. 



The female was lining and shaping the inside, 
and her mate working silky-looking strips from 
plants into the framework, and then covering 
the whole with lichens. He was so happy, he 
sang as he worked. 

The one of this family most widely spread over 
the country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, is 
the Warbling Virbo. His song is the most 
agreeable of the vireo songs, being truly a war- 
ble of six or eight notes, of which one does not 
get tired. The dress of the Western warbling 
vireo is a little paler, but the habits and man- 
ners are about the same as those of his Eastern 

Vireos were once common in the shade-trees 
of our city streets, and are still in some places 
where English sparrows have not taken every- 
thing, and boys are not allowed to throw stones 
or shoot. I know one city in Massachusetts 
where trees are very lovely and musical with yel- 

We can still have these and other birds in our 
yards — we who do not live in the middle of a 
big city — by protecting them from cats and bad 
boys, and furnishing good places to nest. Mr. 
Lloyd Morgan tells of a garden near his own 
where there were fifty-three nests, besides swal- 


lows'. The owner planted thick bushes, and 
some cone-bearing trees. He put bird-boxes and 
old flower-pots and other things suitable to build 
in, in convenient places in the trees. The birds 
appreciated all this and came and stayed with 



(Laniidce) ^ 

A SHRIKE is a pretty gray bird with white and 
black trimmings. He is nearly as large as a 
robin, and has a bill shghtly hooked on the end. 
This is to help catch living prey, for he eats mice 
and other little mammals, besides grasshoppers, 
crickets, and sometimes small birds. 

This family have a curious habit of sticking 
dead grasshoppers, or mice, or other food, on a 
thorn, to keep till they are wanted. Because of 
this habit they have been called butcher-birds. 

The Loggerhead Shrike, who is perhaps the 
most widely known, builds a bulky nest in a tree, 
and is very attentive to his mate whUe she is 
sitting. She looks exactly like him. 

He is a very quiet bird, and three or four or 
more of them may often be seen in a little party 
together, flying and hopping about in a tree, or 

' See Appendix, 10. 


on the ground, in the most amiable way. This 
shrike is a sweet singer, too. The song is not 
loud, but very pleasing. 

A great deal that is not true has been said 
about this bird. Some people seem to think he 
is in the habit of tormenting and killing' little 
birds for fun, and he is called many hard names. 
But he does not deserve them. His way of keep- 
ing his food has been spoken of as if it were a 
crime. He lives generally on crickets, grasshop- 
pers, meadow mice, and small snakes, besides 
cut-worms, cankerworms, and many others. He 
is extremely useful to farmers and cultivators on 
that account. 

Sometimes, when other food is scarce, he eats 
small birds, but they are by no means his usual 
food. I have watched a family of shrikes sev- 
eral times, and always looked very sharply to 
see if they touched birds. I have seen them eat 
many sorts of insects and grubs, and meadow 
mice, but never saw one disturb a bird. Other 
people who have watched them closely have 
told that their experience was the same. And 
writers about birds who study for themselveSj 
and do not merely repeat what others have said, 
generally agree that the bird kills his prey be- 
fore he impales it. More than that, the number 
of birds he kills is very small compared to the 




hosts of troublesome insects and small animals 
he eats. 

The conclusion of the Agricultural Depart- 
meijt as to the food of shrikes all over the coun- 
try is that it consists mainly of grasshoppers, and 
that the good they do is much greater than the 
harm, and therefore they should be protected. 

Mr. Keyser once saw a shrike catch a meadow 
mouse, and carry it up into a tree. First he 
killed it, and then tried to wedge it into a crotch 
so that he could eat it. But finally he found 
the sharp end of a broken snag, on which he 
fastened it. 

There is no doubt that the shrike impales his 
prey so that he can pull it to pieces to eat, for 
his feet are too small to hold it. I have seen a 
shrike throw a dead meadow mouse over a fence 
wire that had sagged to the ground, in order to 
get bits oflE to eat. 

A lady in New Hampshire who had a captive 
shrike tells in " Bird-Lore " that he was unable 
to eat a piece of meat until he could find a place to 
fasten it. He hopped around the room, looking 
for something, till she guessed what he wanted. 
Then she brought a kitchen fork with two tines. 
The moment he saw it he ran to her, hopped up 
on her hand, jerked his meat over the tines, and 
at once began to eat. 


An interesting little action of one of these 
birds was seen by a gentleman traveling in 
Florida last winter. Wishing to have one of 
the birds to add to a collection, he shot one (I 'm 
sorry to say). The bird was not killed, but 
wounded so that he could not fly. As the man 
came near to pick it up, the poor fellow gave a 
cry of distress, and fluttered away on his broken 
wing with great difficulty. 

His call for help was heard. Another shrike 
at once flew down from a tree, and went to his 
aid. He flew close around him and under him, 
in some way holding him up as he was about to 
fall. He helped him so well that the two began 
to rise in the air, and before the eyes of the 
surprised hunter, at last got safely into the top 
of a tall tree, where he left them. 

If you ever happen to find a shrike nesting, I 
hope you will watch the birds for yourself, and 
see how they act, and not take the word of any 
one about them. Then you will really know 
them. The picture shows a shrike as I have 
often seen one, sitting on the top twig of the 
tree that holds his nest, watching to see that no 
harm comes to it. 



{Am/pelidce) ^ 

The waxwings are a family of beautiful birds, 
with elegant pointed crests, and wonderfully 
silky plumage. Excepting one species they are in 
soft grayish or reddish brown colors, with yellow 
tips to their tails and black lines on the head 
that look like spectacles, and give them a wise 

Best known is the Cedar Waxwing, or Cedar- 
bird. He is a citizen at large, you may say, for 
he is known from sea to sea, and from Canada 
i:o Mexico. He nests all over the northern parts, 
and winters in the southern parts. 

This bird gets his name of cedar-bird from 
the fact that he is fond of cedar berries. He is 
often called cherry-bird also, because he likes 
cherries. His name waxwing comes from the 
little tips like red sealing-wax which are on some 

1 See Appendix, 11. 


of his wing feathers. In Maine he is called the 
bonnet-bird because of his crest, and in some 
places he is called silk-tail from his silky plum- 
age. You see he has plenty of names. 

Among the strange things about him is that 
he has almost no voice. The loudest sound he 
is known to make is a sort of whistle, so low it 
is like a whisper. 

The cedar-bird builds a very neat nest in a 
tree, and feeds his mate while she is sitting, as 
well as helps her feed the little folk. The young 
cedar-bird is a winsome youngster, gentle in his 
ways, and pretty in his soft gray suit and spotted 

One day last summer, a man walking down a 
quiet road was surprised by a young bird alight- 
ing on his shoulder. He walked on home with 
it, and when he took it off found it was a baby 
cedar-bird. No doubt he had tried to fly too 
far and got tired. 

The family kept the bird a day or two, and 
then brought him to me. He was not afraid of 
anybody, and was perfectly happy so long as 
some one would keep him warm between two 

It was hard to get him to eat, and there were 
plenty of his grown-up relatives about, probably 
his own family among them. So I thought it 


would be safe to put him. out. I took him to 
the woods where I had seen a little family of 
young cedar-birds, and placed him on a low 
tree. He brightened up at once, and began to 
call, and flew to another tree. Fearing that my 
being there might prevent his mother coming 
to him, I left him. When I went out again I 
could not find him, so I hope he was safe with 
his friends. 

I was more certain of it, because I know that 
these birds are kind to all birds in distress. A 
lady was once watching a nest of robins when 
the parents disappeared, no doubt killed. She 
was much troubled to know how she should get 
at the high nest to feed the young ones who 
were calling for their dinner, when she saw a 
cedar-bird go to them and feed them. 

After that she kept close watch, and saw the 
cedar-bird feed them every day, and take care of 
the nestlings till they could fly. He no doubt 
taught them to take care of themselves, but this 
she could not see, for they flew away. 

The ordinary food of this bird is insects that 
are found on trees, especially among fruit. But 
they have taken to fly-catching also. A party of 
them may often be seen busily at work catching 
flies. This is a very good thing for them as 
well as for us. The birds or beasts who can eat 


only one sort of food are called " single-food " 
animals, and they are growing scarcer every day. 
They need a change of diet to flourish. We 
should be sorry to have cedar-birds become 

Cedar-birds are fond of cherries, — as I said, 
— but they eat hundreds of cankerworms to one 
cherry. So they earn aU they have. Besides, if 
they can get wild cherries, they prefer them. 
They have been proved to be among our most 
useful birds. In one hundred and fifty-two 
stomachs that were examined, only nine had cul- 
tivated cherries. 

Cedar-birds eat caterpillars and grubs, and are 
very fond of the elm-leaf beetle. They have 
been known to clear the elm-trees of a whole 
town, where the trees had been stripped for sev- 
eral years before they came. Besides insects, 
they eat the berries of many wild bushes and 
trees, such as wild cherry, dogwood, June-berry, 
elder, and others. They always prefer wild to 
cultivated berries. 

One spring I saw a little flock of cedar-birds 
in an orchard full of blossoming apple-trees. 
They spent nearly all their time going over 
the trees, and working among the blossoms. 
One who was careless about it might have 
thought they were destroying apple buds, for they 


did eat many of the white petals of the flowers. 
But I wanted to be sure, so I watched carefully 
with my glass. Then I stayed by that orchard 
till October, and I never saw trees so loaded with 
apples as they were. Many branches lay on thd 
ground with their weight of fruit, and in the 
whole orchard there was but one insect nest. 
That showed not only that the cedar-birds had 
done no harm, but that probably they had de- 
stroyed thousands of insects that would have 
done harm. 

A bird classed with the waxwings is a Califor- 
nia bird, the Phainopepla, or Shining Crested 
Flycatcher. He is glossy bluish black in 
color, with large white spots in the wings, which 
show only when flying. His mate is brownish 
gray. They are rather slim birds, nearly as big 
as a catbird. 

The phainopepla is a beautiful fellow, with an 
elegant pointed crest, and plumage shining like 
satin. He sits up very straight on his perch, but 
he is a rather shy bird, and so not much is known 
about his ways. He is a real mountain lover, liv- 
ing on mountains, or in cafions, or the borders of 
small streams of California, Arizona, and Texas. 

As you see by one of his names, he is a fly- 
catcher. Sometimes thirty or forty of them may 


be seen in a flock, all engaged in catching flies. 
But like the cedar-bird, he is also fond of berries. 
When berries are ripe on the pepper-trees, he 
comes nearer to houses to feast on the beautiful 
red clusters. 

The song of this bird is said to be fine, and 
like many other birds, he sometimes utters a 
sweet whisper song. 

The nest is placed on a branch, not very high 
up in a tree, and is often, perhaps always, made 
of flower stems with the flowers on, with fine 
strips of bark, grasses, and plant down. 

What is curious, and rare among birds, the male 
phainopepla insists on making the nest himself. 
He generally allows his mate to come and look 
on, and greets her with joyous song, but he will 
not let her touch it till all is done. Sometimes 
he even drives her away. When all is ready for 
sitting, he lets her take her share of the work, 
but even then he appears to sit as much as she. 
Miss Merriam found a party of these birds on 
some pepper-trees, and to her we owe most of 
what we know of their habits. 



(Hirundinidce) ^ 

It is very easy to know this family. They are 
small birds with long pointed wings, always sail- 
ing around in the air as if they could never tire. 
Their beaks are short, but very wide at the head, 
and the mouth opens as far back as the eyes. 
They have small and weak feet, so when they 
alight, it is usually on a small twig or telegraph 
wire, or on the flat top of a fence or roof. 

Swallows wear no gay colors. Nearly all of 
them look black and white as they sail about in 
the air. But when you see them closely, you see 
they are glossy dark blue or green, sometimes 
with changeable colors, but all dark, on the 

The Barn Swallow has a dull reddish breast, 
and his back is rich blue, almost black. He has 
a deeply forked tail, and a row of white spots on 

1 See Appendix, 12. 


the shorter tail feathers. When he spreads his 
tail, it is very beautiful. 

He is called barn swallow because he prefers 
a barn for a nesting-place. Up on the beams, 
close under the roof, the pair build their mud 
cradle. It is interesting to see them at work. 
When they have chosen a place, they go to some 
puddle in the road. They stand around it on 
their tiny feet, holding their wings straight up 
like a butterfly's. Then they take up some of 
the wet earth in their beaks, and work it around 
till it is made into a little pill. With this pill 
they fly to the place they have selected, and 
stick it on to the beam. Then they go back for 
more. So they go on, till they have built up 
the walls of the nest, an inch thick, and three 
or four inches high. Sometimes they put layers 
of fine grass in, but often they use nothing but 
mud. Then they line it with feathers which 
they pick up in the chicken yard. 

Some swallows build a platform beside the 
nest, where one of the pair can rest at night ;- 
and when the little ones get big enough to fill 
up the nest, both parents can sleep there. 

When the swallows are flying about low over 
the grass, looking as if they were at play, they 
are really catching tiny insects as they go. And 
when they have nestlings to feed, they collect a 


mouthful which they make up into a sort of 
little ball. Then they fly to the nest and feed 
it to one of the little ones. 

Thus they keep the air clear and free from 
insects, and they do not a bit of harm, for they 
never touch our fruit or vegetables. 

Barn swallows are social, and always go in 
flocks. They sing, too, — a sweet little song, but 
not very loud. It is charming to hear them in 
a barn when five or six of them sing together. 
But one may often hear the little song from a 
single bird flying over. 

They are friendly among themselves, and they 
like to alight on a roof and chatter away a long 
time. In one place where I was staying, they 
liked to gather on a piazza roof right under my 
window. They often woke me in the morning 
with their sweet little voices. 

One morning the sound was so near, it seemed 
as if they must be in the room, and I opened 
my eyes to see. There on the sill close to the 
screen was one of the pretty fellows. He was 
looking in at the open window, and evidently 
keeping watch of me. When I moved a little, 
he gave the alarm, and the whole party flew 

The chatter of barn swallows always seems to 
me like talk, and men who study bird ways agree 


that birds have some sort of language. The 
swallows have many different notes. One is a 
general warning of danger, but there is another 
note for a man, another for a cat, and a still 
different one when they find something good to 
eat, which they call the others to share. 

" The variety of bird speech," says a man who 
has studied birds a long time, " is very great." 
And of all bird voices, swallows' are the most 
like human speech. If you lie on the hay in the 
barn very quiet, and listen to them when they 
come in and fly about, you will see that this is 
true. It seems sometimes as if you could almost 
make out words. 

Swallows more than any other birds like to 
make use of our buildings for their own homes. 
Barn swallows take the beams inside the barns, 
Eavb Swallows settle under the eaves outside, 
and Purple Mabtins, the largest of the family, 
choose bird-houses which we put up for them. 

It is said that purple martins will not stay 
anywhere that men have not made houses for 
them. But I have seen them living in a place 
not put up for them, though perhaps they 
thought it was. It was under a terra-cotta cover- 
ing to a cornice on a business block in the mid- 
dle of a busy city. The terra-cotta was shaped 


like a large pipe cut in half, the long way. This 
half cylinder was laid on top of the brick cor- 
nice, and that made a little roof, you see. The 
whole length of that cornice was thus made into 
one long room, with a brick floor and terra-cotta 
roof, and an entrance at the end. That room 
must have had a dozen martin nests, for a flock 
was all the time sailing about in the air, above 
the roofs of the houses. 

As these birds eat only flying insects, they 
cannot stay with us when it is too cool for in- 
sects to fly abroad. So they leave us very early. 
When the little ones are out of the nest and can 
fly well, swallows from all the country around 
collect in great flocks, and go to some swamp, 
or lonely place where people do not go much. 
There the young ones are taught and exercised 
every day in flying. And some day we shall go 
out and find them all gone, not a swallow to be 
seen. They have started for their winter home, 
which is far south, in tropical countries, where 
insects never fail ; but it is a comfort to think 
that next summer we shall 'have them back with 
us again. 

The swallows I have mentioned, barn swallow, 
eave swallow, and purple martin, are found all 
over our country. 

Let me tell you a story that shows the purple 


martin has a good deal of sense. One of these 
birds built in a box under a window, fixed so 
that the owner could open it and take out eggs. 
He took out several, one at a time, and at last he 
took out one of the birds. 

The mate of the stolen bird went o£E and in 
a few days came back with another mate. The 
box was too good to give up, so both the birds 
went to work to make it safe against the nest 
robber. They built up a wall of mud before the 
too handy back door. The egg thief could not 
get in without breaking down the wall, and he 
was ashamed to do that. So the birds kept their 
pleasant home, and reared their family there. 



{Tanagridce) ^ 

This is a large family of between three and 
four hundred species, all dressed in gay colors. 
But we have only three of them in our country. 
Their home is in the warmer parts of the world. 
We have the scarlet tanager in the East, the 
Louisiana tanager in the West, and the summer 
tanager in the South. Tanagers are a little 
larger than sparrows, and live in the trees. 
They feed on insects and fruit ; sometimes, it is 
said, on flowers. 

The Scarlet Tanagbk is the brilliant red 
bird with black wings and tail, common all over 
the Eastern and Middle States. His mate is 
dressed in modest oUve green, and the nestlings 
are like her the first year. 

The tanager himself wears his gay dress only 
during the nesting season, that is, spring and 

* See Appendix, 13. 


summer. Towards fall he turQs from scarlet 
to green like his mate, and he is a droll-look- 
ing object while he does it. He seems to break 
out into green patches or streaks. One that I 
watched began by showing a httle green feather 
among the red on each side of his breast. I 
have seen one with a green ring around the 
neck, and all the rest of the plumage scarlet ; 
and another with a green stripe down the back. 
Some show no regularity about it, but are cov- 
ered with green patches all over, and look like 
bunches of colored rags. 

It is no wonder that a bird hides in the woods, 
as many do, when changing his coat, if he looks 
such an object. In spring he gets back his bril- 
liant coat, and comes to our Northern woods 
again, to nest. 

The nest of this bird is not very high in a 
tree. It is a rather shabby affair, that looks as 
if it would fall to pieces, and the birds are madly 
shy about being looked at. 

I once saw in the woods a tanager building 
her nest. I hoped to watch her through nest- 
ing, and see how she brought up her little folk. 
Both of the pair were there, but were too shy to 
come to the nest while my friend and I were 
there. We kept very still, and even hid in some 
bushes, hoping she would not see us. We were 

I ;< 



SO quiet that she was gradually getting over her 
fright, and coming nearer the nest, when sud- 
denly the hig dog we had with us gave a loud 
sneeze. In an instant both birds were off, as 
if shot out of a gun. And I think they never 
came back, for the nest was not finished. 

The song of the tanager is much like the robin 
song, but having once learned it, a sharp ear 
can easily tell them apart, for it is of a differ- 
ent tone. It is rather hoarse, not so smooth as 
a robin's voice. The common call is a hoarse 
and very distinct " chip, chur," given by both of 
the pair. 

Several years ago I saw a scarlet tanager in a 
bird store. It was winter, and I brought him 
home to keep till it was safe to set him free in 
the spring. He was very timid, and did not like 
to have any one look at him, especially when he 
went to eat. 

If I happened to look at him when he was at 
his food-dish, he would instantly fly to his top 
perch, and look as if he would never eat again. 
So I partitioned off one corner of his cage for 
a private dining-room, by a strip of stiff paper 
woven between the wires. After that it was very 
droll to see him retire behind the screen and eat, 
now and then sticking up his head to glance over 
the top, and see if I were looking. 


I found it hard to please him with food. He 
liked living insects, but he wanted to catch them 
for himself. So I got some sticky fly-paper, and 
hung it up outside the kitchen door. When I 
had caught half a dozen flies, I took it up to him. 
He was not in a cage, and the minute he saw the 
flies he flew across the room and hovered before 
me hke a big hummingbird, whfle he daintily 
picked off every fly. He forgot that he did n't 
hke to have me see him eat. After that I was 
fly-catcher every day tiU he learned to hke mock- 
ingbird food. 

In the spring he began to sing — a sweet, low 
song, different from the common tanager song. 
Then I took him out to the country, away from 
the English sparrows, and set him free. 

The Summer Tanager nests in the Southern 
States from New Jersey to Florida. He is all 
red, but otherwise looks like the scarlet tanager, 
and his habits are about the same. 

The Louisiana Takager nests in the Western 
States from the Plains to the Pacific. He is 
brighter, with a variety of colors. He is mostly 
bright yeUow, with brilliant red head, and black 
wings and tail, and his mate — hke other female 
tanagers — is in oHve green. He is a shy bird, 


and lives in the woods, and his habits have been 
very little studied. 

I once saw a pair of these birds in Utah, get- 
ting their breakfast. At least, the gay singer 
himself was at that business, though his sharp- 
eyed mate was too busy watching me to see that 
I did not mean any harm, to care for food. 

They were on a long fence, catching flies. One 
would fly out a Httle way, his bill snapping as he 
seized the fly, and then return to the fence a lit- 
tle farther ofE. Every time he came back he 
alighted farther away, though he did not seem 
even to see me. His mate kept between him and 
me, and never took her eyes from me. I feared 
she would go hungry, so I came away and left 



(Fringillidm) ' 

This is the largest bird family, more than five 
hundred species, and they are found nearly all 
over the world. It is divided into sparrows, 
finches, grosbeaks, and crossbills. All of them 
are smaller than a robin, and have short, high 
beaks, with the back corners turned down. The 
beaks show that they are seed eaters, though all 
of them eat insects too. 

An interesting thing about birds who eat 
seeds is the grinding machine they have inside 
to break up the hard seeds. For of course, hav- 
ing no teeth, they are obhged to swallow them 
nearly whole. What I have called a machine is 
the gizzard, and you have seen it on the table 
from a chicken. It is well fitted to grind up the 
food, and birds often swaUow small stones to 
help in the work. 

The first group of this family, the sparrows, 

1 See Appendix, 14. 


are all small, about the size of an English spar- 
row. They are dressed in dull, brownish colors, 
more or less streaked, and they live and get their 
food very largely on or near the ground. Their 
colors keep them from being easily seen on the- 

All of this group sing, and some of them are 
noted songsters, as the song sparrow, the white- 
throated sparrow, and the fox sparrow. The 
best known is the little song sparrow, who is 
found almost everywhere, and is dear to nearly 
every one. 

The Song Sparrow is streaked all over in 
shades of brown. The breast is white, with 
the dark brown streaks coming together in an 
irregular-shaped spot, or sometimes two spots, in 

The nest of the song sparrow is on the ground 
or very near it. Sometimes it is in a tuft of 
grass, sometimes in a low bush a few inches up. 
One I found at the roots of a little clump of 
golden-rod, before it bloomed, of course. It 
was a slight affair, right among the stems, so 
that it could not be taken up without tearing 
the plant. 

This bird is one of the first to come in the 
spring, and his song and the robin's are the first 


we hear. He also stays very late in the fall, and 
about New York some of them stay aU winter. 
Their food being the seeds of weeds, which are 
always to be found, they do not need to migrate. 
The song sparrow has a sweet and cheery 
voice, and a variety of songs, and he sings a 
great deal. I have heard one bird sing six dif- 
ferent songs, standing on a fence in plain sight 
all the time. Some of the songs are charming, 
and aU are pleasant to hear. One never tires of 
song-sparrow music. 

The second branch of this family — the 
Finches — have some brighter colored members, 
the goldfinch in briUiant lemon-yellow, and the 
purple finch in crimson and white. 

The Goldfinch, called also the thistle-bird, 
lettuce-bird, and wild canary, is a charming fel- 
low, dressed, as I said, in lemon color, with black 
wings and tail and cap. His mate is in olive 
brown. He is the most delightful of singers, 
with a sweet voice, and is a common bird all over 
the country. He flies in great waves, uttering 
a cheery little warble as he goes over each airy 

The nest is one of the prettiest we have, in 
an upright crotch, and furnished with a bed of 
thistledown an inch thick for the baby gold- 


finches to rest upon. It is made late in the 
season, in July and sometimes in August. 

One o£ the most lovely bird-studies I ever had 
was of a pair of these birds nesting in a low plum- 
tree. While his mate was sitting, the gay little 
fellow hung around, doing nothing but watch- 
ing the tree that held his family. Every little 
while the sitting bird would begin to call her 
sweet-voiced " s-w-e-e-t," which sounds so much 
like a canary's call. On hearing this he would 
answer her, and at once fly over to see if she 
was all right, or wanted anything. When he 
thought it time to eat, he would come and call 
her off. Both would then go to a patch of 
weeds, where they cracked and ate the seeds till 
they had had enough, and then go back to the 

These little birds eat mostly the seeds of 
weeds, — thistle, ragweed, and beggar' s-ticks, — 
as well as the larvae of the wheat-midge and 
other pests, and they feed great quantities to 
their young. 

Goldfinches do not leave us in winter. The 
male puts off his bright coat and comes out in 
dull colors like his mate, except that he keeps 
his black wings and tail. All of a neighborhood 
collect in small flocks and stay about all winter, 
looking more like sparrows than goldfinches. 


The Western goldfinch which corresponds to 
this bird is called in California the Willow 
Goldfinch, but in looks and in habits of life 
he seems to be the same as the Eastern bird. 
He is a confiding little creature, and by a person 
of quiet ways may be made very tame. 

Among the finches will be found the Chewink, 
or TowHEB Bunting, a bird nearly of the size of 
a catbird, who is sometimes called ground robin. 
He is black and white, with reddish sides and red 
eyes, and his mate is brown where he is black. 
He is usually found on the ground, where he gets 
his food, and where the nest is placed. 

There are several species in California, and 
the Western variety of the common chewink 
of the East is called the spurred towhee, with 
habits the same, so far as known. 

The chewink has at the best an exquisite song, 
though there is a great difference in singers, as 
there is in all bird families. The finest song is 
like a peal of silver-toned bells. 

A bird-lover whom I know found one day a 
nestling chewink who could not fly much, and 
seemed to be deserted, or lost, in a barren place 
on Long Island. Fearing that some cat would 
get him, he brought the bird home and put 
him in a cage. The little fellow was not at all 


frightened at his new surroundings, and became 
very tame. 

The cage o£ the young bird was near that of 
an ortolan, a European bird noted as a singer, 
and a common cage-bird. The baby chewink 
seemed to take a great liking to the stranger, 
and tried to do everything he did. Perhaps he 
felt the need of some education, since he had 
been deprived of his parents. At any rate, he 
evidently adopted the ortolan as his model. 

When the little one began to sing, he did not 
sing chewink but ortolan, and he did it so well 
that one could hardly tell which bird was sing- 
ing. The gentleman wanted to see if the little 
fellow would recognize the song of his own 
family. So he bought a full-grown chewink who 
was singing, and put him close to his young 
relative. The new bird was full of music, and 
^ng a great deal. But the youngster paid no 
attention to him, and kept up his ortolan notes. 

This story shows that a bird does not always, 
if ever, know his native song by instinct, but has 
to learn it. It is supposed by those who have 
studied bird ways that he learns it from the old 
bird before he leaves the nest. 



(Fringillidce) — Continued 

The third division of this family is of gros- 
beaks. These are the largest of the group, and 
nearly the size of a robin, with very big beaks. 
They live in trees and wear some bright colors. 
They are also fine singers. 

In the Eastern States, and west to Missouri, is 
found the Rose-bkeastbd Grosbeak. He is a 
beautiful bird, black and white, with a gorgeous 
rose-colored patch on his white breast, and the 
same color on the inside of his wings. You can 
see him in the picture. His mate is modest in 
stripes of brown and huffy white. 

A lady whom I know in New England has had 
three of these birds hving tame in her house, 
hardly at all confined to a cage. Each one was 
picked up when just out of the nest and so injured 
that it could not care for itself. It was carefully 
fed and reared in the house, and thus saved from 



One o£ the three was a female, who was as 
tame as a domestic cat, and Hved in the house 
four or five years. She was a fine singer, 
though never a loud one. She kept the family 
cats in their place by pecking at their toes when 
they came near, so they had respect for her. 

Another was a young singer who had his bill 
crossed, so that he could not feed himself. He 
was nearly dead for want of food when he was 
found. She fed him carefully and brought him 
up, though she had always to feed him herself. 
That is a good deal to do, for birds want to be 
fed very often. 

These birds who lived in a house, and were 
not taught by their parents, never gave the com- 
mon song of the species, but made up songs of 
their own. They lived several years with their 
friend, who was very fond of them. 

The rose-breasted grosbeak is one who puts 
on his gay colors only for the nesting season. 
When that is over, and he moults, and gets his 
new winter suit, it is mostly streaked brown like 
his mate's. The rosy patch is very small, and 
mixed with brown, so the effect is dull. In the 
spring he moults the body feathers, and comes 
out again with his brilliant rose colors. 

The bird who takes the place of the rose- 


breast in the West is the Black-headed Gros- 
beak. He is reddish brown and black, with the 
same color and lemon yellow on the under parts, 
and yellow under the wings, instead of rose Uke 
the Eastern bird. He is a loud, enthusiastic 
singer. Miss Merriam says of him that his song 
to his mate is finer than that of any other bird 
she has heard. 

The Cabdinal Grosbeak, cardinal redbird, 
Virginia nightingale, or redbird, as he is called 
in different places, is of the third group of this 
family. He is found all over the Southern States, 
and as far north as Southern New England and 
New York. He is a brilliant red to the tip of 
his beak, with a beautiful crest and black throat 
and face. His mate is in soft dove colors, with 
red beak, and reddish tints on her quiet robe. 

Both of the pair are singers. He is much the 
louder, but she has the sweeter song. He is 
famous as a singer, and is therefore trapped and 
caught in great numbers for cages. In Europe, 
where he is a favorite cage-bird, he is thought 
by many to be equal to the famous nightingale 
as a singer. 

In Ohio, a few years ago, a law was made that 
no cardinal should be caged, and those in cages 
should be set free. In one small village were 


more than forty freed. This shows how many 
are caged. 

While nesting, the cardinal is rather savage, 
ready to fight any one who disturbs the nest. 
If a snake comes about, all the birds within 
hearing, from cardinals to kinglets, will come to 
help defend the nest and punish the enemy. 
They fly at him with loud cries, and even attack 
him if he does not leave. 

The nest of these birds is not very high, in a 
tree or bush, and they are very shy about it. A 
cardinal will desert her nest if it is touched, 
especially if eggs are not yet laid. But they 
have reason to be afraid ; they cannot be blamed 
for that. 

I saw a nest built on a trellis beside a kitchen 
door, and the birds were so used to the people 
that they were not afraid. One who lived in 
that house was a boy fourteen years old. But 
he was so gentle with birds that they did not 
fear him at all. They would feed the nestlings 
freely, while he stood not three feet from them. 
So they can be made tame, if people will be 
gentle and not disturb them. 

The cardinal grosbeak stays as far north as 
New Jersey and Ohio all winter, and a little 
flock have lived in Central Park, New York, for 
several years. That is most delightful for those 


who live near, for they sing all winter, when few 
bird-notes are to be heard. They can stay be- 
cause they are seed eaters, and they find many 
weed seeds, and wild berries like cedar berries, 
that stay on all winter. 

A lady once had a cardinal in a cage with a 
pair of the tiny green parrots called love-birds. 
These little birds, you know, are always putting 
the bills together and caressing each other, as if 
kissing. The cardinal seemed to think this very 
silly ; at any rate, he did not like it. After look- 
ing on awhile, he would lose patience and dash 
right down between them. Of course this drove 
them apart. Then he seemed to feel better, and 
went back to his perch. But when they began 
it again, down he would come between them 
again. He did not disturb them at any other 
time, but that sort of thing he plainly could n't 




{Fringillidce) — Continued 

The fourth branch of this family is of cross- 
bills. Of these we have two. They are smaller 
than grosbeaks, and, as their name shows, have 
the two points of the bill crossed. It looks as 
if they could not feed themselves. But a beak 
like this is just fitted to pick seeds out of cones. 
And crossbills live mostly on cone-seeds. 

These queer beaks are used for another thing, 
too. They help the birds climb around on the 
trees. They are almost as good as a hand. You 
have seen a parrot use his beak in the same way. 

The American, or Red, Crossbill is the 
more common of our two. He travels about all 
over the Northern States and California. But 
he 's very particular about a place to nest, and is 
suited only in the northern parts, or in the 

The red crossbill seems to be a whimsical fel- 


low ; one never knows where to find him. One 
year he will come with all his friends to a place, 
and the next year there will not be one there. 

The male is dull red, more or less streaked all 
over with brown. His mate is olive green, mot- 
tled and mixed with blackish. 

Crossbills go in flocks. They are usually seen 
among the evergreens, where they find their 
food. They are much attached to one another. 

I had a chance one summer to get well ac- 
quainted with a flock of American crossbills. I 
found them very odd in their manners. They 
had the queerest songs and calls of any bird I 
know. These were not musical, but sounded like 
such things as the squeaking of a wagon wheel 
or the sawing of wood. 

The birds were very fond of calling and sing- 
ing, and they kept up a constant chattering, 
as they flew from spruce to spruce. They spent 
most of their time on these trees, eating the 
seeds of the cones. 

The white-winged crossbill lives about as the 
red one does. But he has a really fine song. It 
is full of trills, something like a canary's song. 

One of the odd things about these birds is 
their habit of nesting in winter. A Maine 
hunter was once shooting moose in the middle 
of January, when he came upon the nest of a 


crossbill, with the bird sitting. The weather 
was cold, of course, and there was deep snow on 
the ground. The nest was in the woods, and 
made of twigs, with long gray moss outside. It 
looked so like a bunch of moss that it was hard 
to see. Other nests have been found in winter 

Mr. Nehrling says that if one of these birds 
is caught, the rest of the flock will not leave him. 
They stay around him, crying and showing their 
distress in every way, and if one is put alone 
into a cage, he will die. 



(IcteridcB) ^ 

Thbeb are more than one hundred species of 
the Blackbird Family in America. So we will 
divide them into four^ branches : Marsh Black- 
birds, Meadow Starlings, Orioles, and Crow 

Blackbirds are walkers. They dress mostly in ■ 
black, and they are of medium size. Some of 
them will generally be found on the ground in 
a marsh or a meadow. They are social birds, 
that is, they go in flocks. Fond as they are of 
society, however, there is one time when they 
are willing to be a httle apart from the black- 
bird world. That is when they are nesting and 
rearing a young family. Two interesting birds 
of this family are the red-winged blackbird and 
the cow-blackbird or cowbird. 

The EBD-wuiTGED Blackbird is found all 

' See Appendix, 15. 



over the country. He is not so large as a robin, 
and is black all over, excepting one place on the 
wings. On these are bright stripes of red and 
orange, which seem to be on the shoulders when 
the wings are closed. They make the bird very 
gay, when he spreads them out in flying. 

The red-wing's mate is a modest-looking bird 
in stripes of brown and black. She is a plodding 
sort of a creature, too. She walks about on the 
ground, looking for grubs or insects so busily 
that she hardly seems to see anything else. 

The nest is usually in a marsh. At any rate, 
it must be near the water, for red-wings are as 
fond of the water as any old sailor. It is hung 
between reeds, or in the branches of a low bush. 
It is a comfortable, bag-like affair, deep enough 
and big enough to hold the restless blackbird 

While the mother red-wing is sitting, her mate 
stays near her and sings a great deal. His song 
is a loud, sweet " hwa-ker-ee," which may be 
heard a long way off. When nestlings are out, 
he is one of the most busy and fussy of birds. 
He helps in the feeding, and seems to be a good 
and careful father. But when the young ones 
are grown up and able to feed themselves, a curi- 
ous thing happens. AU the gay red-wings in a 
neighborhood come together in a flock again. 


And all the young ones and the mothers stay in 
another flock. 

The red-wing is a very nervous and uneasy 
fellow. While his mate is sitting he is always 
on guard to see that no harm comes to her. 
In the picture you can see he looks much con- 
cerned, as if he had discovered something. 
Then he makes a great row if any one comes 
near. He will give such cries of distress that 
one would think he was hurt, or that his nestlings 
were being stolen away. If the enemy is a crow, 
come to feed quietly on the meadow, he will fly 
at him, try to peck his head, and annoy him till 
he goes away. If it is a person who alarms him, 
he will circle about over his head with loud cries, 
and now and then swoop down as if he meant to 
attack him. In fact, he shows so much distress 
that it is not very pleasant to stay near him. 

The young red-wing is just as uneasy and 
fussy as his papa. As soon as he is able to get 
out of the nest, he scrambles about in the bushes. 
He never stays two minutes in one place, and 
every time his mother comes with food she has 
to hunt him up before she can give it to him. 

The red-wing is fond of green corn, and is 
often shot by farmers, but he is also a famous 
insect eater, and earns all the corn he gets. He 
eats numbers of cut-worms, and other insects, 


and in some of the prairie States he does great 
good by eating locusts and their eggs. Besides 
these, he likes variety, and is fond of the seeds 
of weeds. Ragweed and smartweed seeds are 
dainties to him as some nuts are to you, and he 
eats a great many. So unless a large flock comes 
to one place to disturb the crops, you may be 
sure they do more good than harm. So says the 
Department I told you about. 

The young red-winged blackbird is a droll 
fellow, and has decided notions of his own. Mr. 
Keyser tells a story of one he picked up. He 
was put in with some other young birds, — 
meadowlarks and catbirds. They were all babies 
together, and all used to being fed. So when 
the little red-wing got something to eat, they 
would open their mouths and beg for it, in the 
pretty bird-baby way. At first he fed them, 
though he was n't much more than a baby him- 
self ; but they liked it so well that they coaxed 
everything away from him. He soon got tired 
of that, and at last refused to feed them at all. 

This Httle bird liked to play jokes on the 
sober young meadowlarks. His way was to 
seize one by the wing or tail and dance around 
the floor, dragging his victim after him. The 
young larks scolded and held back, and at last 
they learned to stop his pranks. They did it by 


throwing themselves over on their backs, and 
holding up their claws ready to fight. 

In spite of this naughty fun, the young 
blackbird was really fond of them. The larks 
slept on the ground, and at night, when the little 
fellows settled down on the floor, the red-wing 
would often leave his perch and cuddle down by 
them. This must have been for company only, 
for it was his way to sleep on a perch. 

The Cow-Blackbird, or Cowbied, is another 
one of this branch of the Blackbird Family who 
is found all over the United States. He is shin- 
ing blue-black all over, except his head, which is 
brown. His mate is entirely brown. He is not 
quite so large as a red-wing, and he too is a 

This bird is called cowbird because he is fond 
of flying about the cows, — not to trouble them, 
but to eat the insects that torment them, — which 
is very pleasant for the cows, I am sure. 

There is one queer way that cowbirds have, 
which no one is able to explain. The cowbird 
mother does not build a nest for her little 
family. Yet she wants them well cared for. So 
she goes slyly about and lays her eggs in other 
birds' nests. She generally chooses the nest of 
a smaller bird, though she often uses one belong- 
ing to a wood thrush. 


Most little birds — warblers and finches — ac- 
cept the charge. They hatch out the strange 
egg and bring up the young cowbird, who is 
bigger than themselves. He is so big that he 
usually smothers the young ones that belong in 
the nest. So he receives the whole attention of 
the little mother bird. 

Sometimes other birds come to help one who 
has a young cowbird to feed, and he grows big 
and strong. "When he is full grown he joins 
a party of other cowbirds, and they go off in a 
flock by themselves. 

Some small birds will not submit to this. 
When they find a cowbird's egg in their nest, 
they go away and leave it there, and make a new 
nest. Or they make a new story, as I told you 
the yellow warbler does. 

The cowbird has a queer httle song. It is 
something like " cluck-see ! " and he seems to 
squeeze it out as if it were hard work to say it. 



(Icteridce) — Continued 

The meadow starlings are short-tailed birds 
who live on the ground. They have long bills 
and mixed sort of plumage, of browns and 

Our common one, called the Meadowlark or 
Old-Field Lark, though he is not really a lark, 
is a beautiful bird. He is larger than a robin, 
and his mottled feathers are set off by a bright 
yellow breast, with a black crescent under the 

This bird lives in the meadows or pastures, 
and walks about on the ground, where he gets 
his food. When he wants to sing, he flies up on 
to a fence, or stands up very straight on a bit of 
turf, or a stone, and sings away a long time. It 
is a sweet song, or rather several sweet songs, 
for he does not always sing the same one. 

The mother lark looks like her mate. She 
makes her nest on the ground, and a snug and 



cozy home it is. It is none of the open, cup-hke 
nests that anybody can see into. It has a roof, 
if you please, and sometimes a covered way — 
like a hall — leading to it. The roof of the 
nest is made by drawing the grass stems over it 
and weaving them together. So it is very hard 
to find. And it is hidden in the long meadow 
grass besides. 

You might think the little family would get 
hurt when the haymakers came to cut the grass. 
So they would, if they happened to be there. 
But lark babies are out of the egg before that 
time, and they run about as soon as they can 
stand. Sometimes when a nest has been dis- 
turbed, and the birds have had to make a second 
one, the little ones are not out when the mowers 
come on. Then there are apt to be sad times in 
the family. But I have known mowers who 
carefully cut around a nest, and did not hurt 
the nestlings. That is a good thing to do, 
for the birds are so useful and such fine singers 
thatwe want as many as we can have. 

The meadowlark is a shy bird, and so is more 
often heard than seen. His song is charming, 
and he has besides a strange call, a sort of harsh 
sputter, or chatter, sometimes as he flies over. 
No doubt he has many more ways of expressing 


himself, but these are the ones we most often 

The Western Meadowlakk looks like the 
Eastern, except that he is a little paler and grayer 
in color. He has the same general habits, but 
he is a much finer singer.^ The song is wilder 
and has more variety, and sometimes it is very 
brilliant. It is different in every way from the 
quiet, rather sad notes that make the Eastern 
bird so winning. 

The Western bird Is not so timid as his Eastern 
brother. He often comes into the towns and 
sings from the tops of houses. The finest singer 
I ever heard sang every day from the peak of a 
low roof. His song to his mate is most charm- 
ing. It is so low and tender one can hardly 
hear it. 

I once saw a pair of the Western birds nest- 
making. The Httle builder was busy filling her 
beak with dried grasses and such things. For 
these she had to fly across the road where I sat. 
Her mate went with her every time. He perched 
on the fence while she gathered her beakful, 
watching that no harm came to her. When she 
went back, he flew across with her and perched 
on a tree on that side. 


All the time he was singing the sweetest low 
warble, and all the time he was keeping a sharp 
watch on me. In the West this bird eats 
beetles, grasshoppers, and the disgusting big 
black crickets that do so much damage. 



{IcteridoB) — Continued 

It seems odd to put the gay orioles into the 
Blackbird Family, especially as they don't live 
on the ground either ; but that 's where they be- 
long in the books. Orioles live in the trees, and 
are fine singers. They have sharp-pointed bills, 
suitable for picking tiny insects out of fruit 
blossoms. They have some of the family color, 
black, but more orange color, or chestnut red, or 
yellow. They all make beautiful nests. 

The Baltimore oriole is all over the East, the 
orchard oriole in the South, and the Arizona 
hooded oriole in the West. 

The Baltimore Oriole, who has several 
other names, such as fire-bird, golden robin, and 
hang-nest, is a very showy bird, in bright orange 
and black. He has a fine though short song. 
His mate is yellow, and brown instead of black, 
and has a sweet song of her own. Both of them 
can scold as well as any birds I know. 


The nest of this oriole is one of the prettiest 
we have. It is hung high up in a tall tree, 
an elm or willow usually, and near the end of 
a branch, where it swings in the wind. It is 
a deep bag made of plant fibres, bits of string, 
and other things. The whole has a gray tint 
and a silky look, which make it very attractive. 

While the mother bird is sitting, her mate 
stays near and sings a good deal; but when 
feeding time comes, he works as hard as she in 
stuffing the hungry little mouths. 

As soon as the nestlings are off, they go away 
in a little party. Then one who looks sharp 
may often see an oriole papa going quietly about 
on the ground, with two or three little ones after 
him, still calling to be fed. He does n't sing any 
in these busy days. But sometimes, after the 
young have learned to feed themselves, he will 
sing again a little before they all start for their 
warm winter home in Central America. 

It is an anxious time in the bird world when 
the young are leaving the nest. Orioles are so 
nervous and make such an outcry over their 
troubles that we often hear them. The most 
common accident is the falling of a nestling to 
the ground. The old birds make so much fuss 
over it that one would think the baby had fallen 
into the claws of the cat, at the very least. 


They fly around as if they were crazy, shriek- 
ing and calling, for they are very fond of their 
little folk. The youngsters are plucky Httle 
fellows. One will hop along till he comes to a 
tree, and then try to climb the trunk. If he 
happens to hit on a tree with rough bark, he can 
do pretty well. He flutters a little way up, and 
then holds on by the claws till rested. Then he 
flies a little farther, and so he goes till he reaches 
a branch. 

If it is a smooth trunk he tries, his troubles 
are great. Sometimes one will scramble up till 
he comes to a leaf that grows out from the 
trunk, and hang on to that till he is able to go. 
on. But often one is unable to keep his hold, 
and falls back into the grass. I have several 
times picked up a hot and frightened birdling 
and put him on a branch. 

A lady told me an interesting little story, 
showing how helpful birds are to one another. A 
Baltimore oriole was picked up from the ground 
with his wing broken so that he could not fly. 
The kind-hearted people fixed him comfortably 
in an attic. They intended to feed him and care 
for him till he got well and could fly. 

They left him there with a window open, so 
that his wild friends could bring food if they 
wished. A little while afterward one of them 


went up to see about the invalid. Behold, he 
was gone ! 

They looked for him everywhere, for they 
knew he could not fly. Suddenly they noticed 
a great deal of oriole chatter out in the yard. 
Then they looked carefully over a tree near the 
window, and there they saw the broken-winged 
bird in the midst of quite a flock of others. 

Of course the outside birds were called by the 
captive, and they must have carried him out in 
some way. Birds have been seen to carry off 
one who was wounded, in two ways. One way 
was by two birds each taking in his beak a 
wing of the helpless bird and so flying away with 
him. This has been seen, and more than once, 
by men who tell the truth. 

The second way birds have been seen to help 
another was by one getting under the helpless one 
and so holding him up on the back. This also 
has been seen by men whose word can be trusted. 
You remember I told you such a story about the 

So many untrue stories are told about the 
birds that I am very careful not to tell you any- 
thing that is not strictly true. 

If you live in the South, you more often see 
the Obohabd Okiolb. He is not quite so gay 


in his dress as the Baltimore. He has chestnut 
color with his black. His mate is different. She 
is olive on the back, and yellow below, and she 
has bright blue legs and feet, which look as if 
they were covered with kid. 

The nest is a hanging one, of course, but it 
does not usually swing like other oriole nests. It 
is a little supported at the bottom. It is very 
beautiful, for it is made of one kind of fine 
grass. When it is first made, its green color 
makes it hard to see among the leaves. And as 
it dries, it turns a rich yellow, like bright clean 
straw. It is not so high as the Baltimore's, and 
not hung to the end of a branch. It is often in 
an apple-tree, for this bird likes to be near people. 

The song of the orchard oriole is different 
from the Baltimore's. It is longer, and has more 
variety. His mate sings also. Her voice is 
sweeter than his and not so loud. 

If you live in California, the oriole you know 
will be the Arizona Hqoded Oriole. Some- 
times he is called the palm-leaf oriole for a 
reason you will soon see. He is a beautiful, 
slender bird, having bright orange color with his 
black. He wears more black than some of the 
family. His face and throat and tail and wings 
are of that color, though the wings have two 


■white bars. His mate is yellowish below and 
olive brown above. 

This bird makes the regular oriole family 
cradle. Sometimes it swings free like the Balti- 
more's, but not always. It is made of slender, 
wiry grass, which is green, so that it is hard to 
see. Sometimes a sort of thread from the edge 
of palm leaves is used. 

This bird sometimes selects a droll place for 
her nest. She swings it from the under side of a 
palm or banana leaf. You know a banana leaf 
is long and wide, and makes a comfortable shade 
in a hot day ; and it does just as well for an um- 
brella when it rains. It is hard to see how a bird 
can fasten a nest to a smooth leaf. But Mrs. 
Grinnell has seen it done in her own yard, and 
she tells us how the little builder goes to work. 

First she takes a thread in her beak and 
pushes it through the leaf, making a hole, of 
course. Then she flies around to the other side 
of the broad leaf, and standing there a minute 
she pulls the thread through, and pushes it back, 
making another hole. Thus she goes on, flying 
from one side to the other till she has sewed her 
bag to the strong leaf. 

Except in the place they choose for their nest, 
these orioles are about the same as their Eastern 
cousins, and oriole Httle folk are the same the 
world over, I think. 



(Icteridce) — Continued 

The fourth branch of this family is of crow- 
blackbirds and grackles. They have a right to 
the name of blackbird, for they are quite black. 
At least they look so a little way off, but if one 
gets near and sees the sunshine on them, he will 
see that they reflect blue or green or purple, 
from their feathers. 

Then, too, like others of their family, they go 
in flocks, and they have a dignified walk on the 
ground. Some birds who are so social that they 
like to live in a crowd prefer to go a little apart 
to nest. But these birds make their rude, clumsy 
nests all close together. 

Blackbirds are fond of corn ; who can blame 
them for that ? Thousands of them have been 
shot because they eat it. But farmers who shoot 
them forget, or perhaps they do not know, that 
corn is not the only thing they eat. 

Insects as well as birds are fond of corn, and 


it is n't so easy to keep them away. The birds 
eat great numbers of them, such as grasshoppers, 
caterpillars, beetles, and cut-worms, besides mice. 
All these creatures eat the fanners' crops. So 
when birds destroy them, they earn some of the 
corn. They do more than clear the fields of trou- 
blesome insects, they eat great quantities of the 
seeds of weeds that the farmer is always fighting. 

Blackbirds are most often seen on the ground, 
walking around with great dignity. They are 
looking for food in the grass, or in the field in 
ploughing time. When they are closely watched, 
it is often found that they are not in mischief. 

Mr. Warren, State Ornithologist of Pennsyl- 
vania, tells a story which shows how easy it is 
to be mistaken. He was with a friend who had 
thirty acres of corn growing, and was much 
vexed to see blackbirds walking about among the 
young plants. They seemed very busy about 
something, and he was sure they were pulling 
up his crop. So he got out his guns, and Mr. 
Warren went with him to punish the birds. 

They shot thirty-one of them. Then they be- 
gan to see what they had been eating. In all the 
thirty-one, only seven had the least bit of corn, 
and even they were mostly filled with insects. 
The rest were stuffed full of insects which do 
much harm to young corn, mostly cut-worms. 


The farmer had killed thirty-one birds who 
were working for him as hard as they could. No 
money could hire help that would do so much 
good as they were doing. 

In the Eastern States we have the Crow 
Blackbird, or Purple Gracklb, and the 
Bronzed Grackle, whose habits are the same. 

The purple grackle is a handsome bird, larger 
than a robin, with very light eyes. His plumage 
looks black in the shade, but when the sun is 
on it, shows rich green and blue, and it shines 
Uke satin. The bronzed grackle shows purple, 
and blue, and green, with metallic bronze on the 

The purple grackle is said to eat corn, and 
also the eggs and young of other birds. But 
what he eats has been found out by the Agri- 
cultural Department, in the way I told you of. 
It is given out by them that he does not do so 
much harm to nests as has been said, and among 
the crops he does good enough to pay for all the 
corn he eats. 

It is very hard to see just what a bird is eating. 
It is not even safe to believe all we think we see. 

The only time the purple grackle can do more 
harm than good is when he comes with a big 
crowd of his friends, and settles down to spend 


the winter. Then he should be driven away 
from crops. 

I want you to understand me about this. I 
do not say that these birds never eat the eggs 
and young of others. What I do say is, that 
there is plenty of evidence to show that they do 
it not half so much as people say. I have watched 
birds for twenty years, as closely, I believe, as 
any one ever watched them, and I never saw 
any of the bad deeds that are laid to the blue 
jay, or the shrike, or the kingbird, or the purple 
grackle. They may be guilty occasionally, but 
they are not the villains they are often said to be. 

Besides, however bad we may call a few birds, 
we are ourselves worse. Birds kill only to eat. 
Many of them are made to feed upon each other, 
and cannot live in any other way. They kill 
quickly, and do not generally — if they ever do 
— torture their prey. 

How is it with us ? We kill for sport, or for 
useless show, and we kill in a way that often 
wounds and leaves our victim to suffer tortures 
before he dies. Do you think it is fair for us to 
say hard things about the birds ? 

In the Rocky Mountains and west of them 
the common blackbird is Breweb's Blackbird, 
sometimes called blue-headed grackle. He is not 


SO shy as his brother of the East. He is amiabk 
and friendly with people, and as familiar as the 
robin in New England. He is often seen in the 
streets of towns. He will come into yards, and 
even take food from a doorstep. 

Brewer's blackbird is a restless, uneasy fellow, 
Hke most of his family. He is always bustling 
about, and flying hither and thither with rus- 
tling wings. 

In summer, these birds feed mostly upon in- 
sects, which they find on the ground. They 
have an amusing way of being fair in their feed- 
ing. As they walk about in little social parties 
looking for food, those who come last in the 
string find the insects nearly all picked up before 
they get a chance. So they take this clever way 
of getting, their turn at the good things. Every 
few minutes those in the rear rise and fly over 
the heads of their friends and alight just before 
them. So they have the first pick for a while. 
Then, in a few minutes, those left behind fly 
over their heads, and take the lead for a time. 
So, without any quarreling, each one has a fair 
chance with all the rest. Other birds have found 
out this way of playing fair. I have seen great 
blue herons three feet tall do the same thing. 

In winter, when insects are scarce, the black- 
bird turns to grain and the seeds of weeds. But 


it has been found that he does more good by the 
weeds he keeps down than harm by the grain 
he eats. 

Brewer's blackbird usually nests in trees, not 
very high. One time a naturalist going about in 
Arizona, where are few or no trees, found a curi' 
ous thing, — a good many blackbird nests, a little 
settlement one might call it, on the ground, and 
all strung along close to the edge of a steep 
bank. At first he could not see why the birds 
had chosen to be on the edge of a precipice. 
Then he remembered that horses and cattle 
roamed over the country, and these animals are 
careful never to graze close to an edge which 
might crumble and give them a fall. He con- 
cluded that the birds had wit enough to know 
that. If their nests were out on the plains, they 
would be likely to be stepped on, but near the 
edge, they were safe from hoofs. 

The common call of Brewer's blackbird is a 
harsh " chack ; " but in the spring he turns 
musical, and serenades his mate with what we 
must call songs, because songs are what he in- 
tends. They are droll enough to listen to, and 
not very sweet. 

This bird is about the size of a robin, with 
violet-colored head in the sunlight. His mate is 


Birds who live in a crowd learn to be fair in 
their treatment of one another. An interesting 
story is told of the way a flock of blackbirds go 
to bed at night. They come to the roosting- 
place in little parties from all the country around. 
One would suppose the first one to get there 
would choose his place to sleep, and let the last 
one take what was left. 

But no ! as they arrive, they alight in some big 
old tree outside the roosting-place. When all 
are in, they fly up together, circle around for 
a while, then all settle at the same time in the 
plaee where they are to sleep. 



(Corvidce) ■^ 

This is a large family. Some of our most 
intelligent birds belong to it. There are first 
the crows, much larger than a robin and dressed 
in black. They have long, pointed wings, and 
tails square at the end. They live in a crowd, 
and walk on the ground. 

Then there are the jays, about the size of a 
robin, all bright-colored birds. They have short, 
rounded wings, and long tails which come down 
almost to a point in the middle. 

And then the magpies, between the other two 
in size. They have tails longer and more pointed 
than the jays, and are dressed in black with 
showy white markings. 

The common Ameeican Crow is a bird that 
everybody knows. He lives all over our country, 
and seems to like one part as well as another. 

* See Appendix, 16. 


There is enough to be said about this bird to fill 
this whole book. So I shall not try to tell all 
about him. 

The crow is thought by many people to be the 
most knowing bird in America, and he is the 
one who has been most abused. He does some 
mischief, it is true, but he does a great deal more 
good. So say the officers of the Department 
who have looked into his food. They have found 
that he does pull up some corn ; but he stuffs 
himself and his family with thousands, and even 
millions, of grubs, and insects, and mice, and 
other small creatures, that would have done far 
more damage to the crops than he. 

Farmers have often killed or driven away the 
crows, because they thought they were hurting 
their crops. But sometimes they have found 
out their mistake, and have been glad to get 
them back again. 

A story comes from the West which shows 
what I mean. One year the farmers were 
alarmed to see a great many crows around their 
fields. They had never seen so many there. Of 
course they thought they had come to eat the 
corn, so they began to kill them. I won't tell 
you the ugly story of the war against the birds. 
After it had gone on awhile, the farmers began 
to notice that crows were not the only ones who 


had come. A new grub that they had never seen 
before was on hand. There were milUons of 
them, and they were always hungry. Young 
corn plants seemed to suit them, and when corn 
was gone, they began eating the grass. 

It never came into the farmers' heads that the 
birds had anything to do with the grubs. So 
they kept up their war on the crows till few were 

It 's easier to drive away birds than insects, so 
the grubs went on eating. There were no crows 
left to trouble, and yet the crops got smaller 
every year. At last some one had sense enough 
to see that the crows had come on purpose to eat 
the grubs, and that they had driven away their 
best friends, the most useful helpers they could 
possibly have. 

When they saw how stupid they had been, 
they began to coax the birds back. They sent 
out and had crows caught and brought to their 
fields to work for them. The birds took hold of 
the business, and made short work of the corn- 
eating grub, and the farmers learned a good 

You may think it strange that the crows 
should know where the grubs were, but birds 
are very sharp to find their food. It is well 
known that when there gets to be an unusual 


number of insects in one place, more birds will 
come to feed on them. Some time when you are 
in the country when grass is cut, notice how 
many birds will come to eat the grasshoppers and 
other creatures that are uncovered when the hay 
is taken away. 

The crows take the same fair way of going to 
roost that the Brewer's blackbirds do. 

I could tell you stories — true ones, too — all 
day about this bird, and his services to the 
farmer. We all know how wise he is, and how 
hard it is to trap him. 

I will give ypu one little story, to show his 
kindness to his fellows. Then, when you have 
a chance to watch one, I hope you will take pains 
to see for yourself what he does and what he 
eats. Do not believe all you hear or read about 
him, for I 'm sorry to say there are some persons 
who like so well to tell a sensational story that 
they do not take any trouble to find out if it is 

The stoi'y is this. Two crows were caught and 
kept in a large cage out of doors. It happened 
to be a time when food for birds was rather 
scarce. Some one noticed that the birds seemed 
to eat a good deal, and he set himself to watch 
them. He found that the prisoners in the cage 
were giving some of their food through the bars 


to their hungry friends outside. Could men be 
more unselfish ? 

There is no end to the funny pranks that are 
told of crows who have been tamed and lived 
with people. One that I heard of liked to get 
out in the yard when clothes from the wash were 
hung out. He would walk along on the clothes- 
line and pull out every clothespin, carrying each 
one to the roof and laying it safely away. Of 
course this let the wet garments fall in the dirt, 
and he was scolded well for his mischief. Then 
he would fly up to the roof and throw every pin 
down to the ground, as if he said, " Well, take 
your old clothespins ! " 

Another tame crow was very fond of pulling 
over a work-basket, and scattering the spools and 
thimbles and other things in it. One day he got 
hold of a paper of needles. This he opened, and 
then went on to hide them, which crows always 
Uke to do with everything. He took each needle 
and pushed it into the bed, as if it were a cushion, 
and hammered each one in out of sight. 

I hope you know the Blub Jay. He is a 
beautiful bird in different shades of blue, set off 
with white and black, and with a fine crest. His 
mate is the same. This is the jay we know in 
the East and South. 


He is a noisy bird, full of fun and antics. He 
makes himself heard wherever he goes. This has 
given him the name of being quarrelsome. It is 
often said that he is always fighting. But that 
is a mistake, made because people do not look 
closely enough. He is boisterous and jolly, but 
he rarely quarrels. 

There is one time in his life when he is as still 
as a mouse. Then he comes to his tree so quietly 
that you cannot hear him. That is when there 
is a nest to look after. 

The nest of a blue jay is usually not very high, 
in a tree. While his mate is sitting, he takes the 
best care of her. He brings food to her, and 
often sings to her. This song is very low ; one 
can hardly hear it ; but it is one of the sweetest 
of bird songs. 

No bird is more loving to his little folk than 
the blue jay, and not one is more frantic when 
anything happens to them. James Russell Lowell, 
the poet, loved the birds, and has written delight- 
ful things about them. He once found a family 
of young blue jays who seemed to be in trouble. 
He had a ladder brought, and went up to the nest 
to see if he could help them. He found that 
they had got caught in the nest lining, and could 
not get away. They were full grown, and the old 
birds had worked hard from morningf till nigfht to 
keep them fed. 



As soon as Mr. Lowell saw what was the matter, 
he took out his knife to cut the strings that held 
them. At first when he came near, the old birds 
were very much frightened. They flew around 
his head and cried, and were going to fight him. 
But jays are wise birds, and in a moment they 
saw that he did not mean to hurt them. So they 
perched close by him, so near he could put his 
hand on them. Then they watched him while 
he cut the little ones loose. All of them could 
fly, and they did, at once. 

One of the nestlings had been so tightly held 
that one leg was withered and dead, but the next 
day Mr. Lowell saw him hopping about the gar- 
den path, on one leg, while his parents brought 
him food, and took great care of him. 

The blue jay, like most birds, is kind to others. 
One man found a little flock taking care of an 
old, blind jay. They fed him, and led him to 
water to bathe. They warned him of danger, 
and in every way looked out for his comfort as 
if he were a nestling. 

Besides being a singer, this bird is a mimic. 
He can imitate the songs of other birds, as well 
as many other sounds. A lady once had a blue 
•jay who had fallen from the nest. She brought 
him up, and he was very tame. She told me that 
he learned to sing like a mockingbird, and did 


it almost as well. This bird was very fond of 
her. When she tried to give him his freedom, 
he would n't have it. If she slipped away from 
him, he would sit up in a tree and scream like a 
lost child. Then, when she came into his sight, 
he would fly down to her shoulder and rub his 
head against her cheek like a kitten, he was so 
happy to be back with her. 

The blue jay is a useful bird. Dr. Brewer 
says that one pair of jays will feed their young 
in one season five hundred thousand caterpillars ; 
also that one pair of jays will destroy one million 
insect eggs in a winter. 

Many hard things have been said about this 
bird, — for one thing, that he eats eggs and 
young birds. You will notice, however, that 
many who repeat these stories about him say, " I 
have not seen the bird do so, but some one else 
has." Testimony like this is worth nothing. 
Such things are copied from one book to an- 
other because it is much easier to take what is 
set down in the books than to go out and see 
for one's self. Often a story which has no truth 
in it is said over and over till people beheve it 
because they have heard it so often. 

Believe me, the blue jay is not half so bad as 
he is painted, and he has many lovable traits to 
make up for what he does do. 


Mr. Keyser brought up a young blue jay from 
the nest. He put him for a while into a cage 
with two young orioles. Like all young birds, 
all three of the youngsters were hungry, and 
expected everybody to feed them. So the young 
jay opened wide his mouth, and waited for some- 
thing good to drop into it. He was met by the 
two orioles with their mouths wide open. There 
they stood, face to face, all asking to be fed. It 
was a funny sight. 

Then the blue jay baby was put into another 
cage, where were two young catbirds. To these 
he was very loving. He wordd sidle up to them 
and caress them, stroking their backs and wings 
with his bill. He insisted on sleeping between 
the two on the perch. He looked very droll 
with a small bird on each side of him, all snug- 
gled up together. 

After a while the blue jay had a whole cage to 
himself. Then the other cages were moved to 
the front porch, and he was left alone on the 
back porch. This did not please him at all ; he 
was lonely. He called and cried and fretted 
about till he was placed beside the others. Then 
he gave a cry of joy, and really squealed with 

The West is richer than the East in jays, 


There are several in the Rocky Mountains and 
California. Stbllee's Jay is said to represent 
the Eastern bird I have been telling about. He 
is different in looks and larger. He is darker 
blue, with some sooty brown, and he has a fine 
crest. But he is the same noisy, jolly fellow as 
his cousin on the Atlantic side of the country. 

If your home is in the West, beyond the Mis- 
sissippi River, of course you know the Ambeican 
Magpie. He is a large, splendid fellow, who 
looks especially fine when he is flying over your 

The magpie is all in black and white : white 
below and in shoulder patches, and black on the 
breast and above. In the sunlight he shows pur- 
ple and blue and green shades over the black. 
He has a very long tail, which is wide in the mid- 
dle and runs down almost to a point at the end. 
This is very showy, when he spreads it wide in 

In California the magpie shows a curious varia- 
tion. On one side of the mountains the magpie 
has a yellow biU, but the magpie on the other 
side has a black one, though in every other way 
they seem to be the same. 

The magpie is a social bird. Even in nesting 
time he likes plenty of neighbors. A party of 



them will settle in a little grove and build several 
nests in it. The nests of this bird are the 
queerest bird homes you ever saw. They look 
like big covered baskets. They are half the size 
of a bushel basket, and made of sticks outside. 
There is an opening on each side for the bird to 
go in and out. Those I have seen were in the 
tops of low trees. 

The beautiful tail of the magpie seems to be a 
great care to him. When he flies, — as I said, — 
he spreads it wide and makes a great show with 
it. When he is going about on a tree, he jerks 
and twitches it all the time. No doubt every 
jerk means something, if we could only under- 
stand. When on the ground, he holds the pre- 
cious tail up carefully, so that it shall not touch 
the earth. He is a very dignified bird when 
walking about in this way, looking for the grubs, 
grasshoppers, crickets, and other creatures on 
which he feeds. But sometimes he has no dig- 
nity at all. He scolds, and screams, and acts 
like a bad child. He is n't particular about his 
food. He will eat almost anything, even scraps 
from a kitchen. 

Major Bendire tells a comical story of the 
cunning of some magpie& in getting food away 
from a dog. The dog carried his bone with 
some meat on it to the lawn in front of the 


major's tent, and lay down to enjoy it, dog-fash- 
ion. In a minute or two, a little party of six 
magpies came around, probably hoping to be 
invited to dinner. The dog did not take the 
hint, but went on gnawing. 

Then the birds seemed to consider, and after 
a few minutes they placed themselves around the 
dog. One stood right in front of his nose about 
two feet away. Another one took his place close 
to the dog's tail, while two stood on each side. 

When all the birds were ready, the one by the 
tail gave it a sharp peck. No dog could stand 
that insult. The victim forgot his bone, wheeled 
around, and dashed after that bird. He did not 
catch him with the first grab, and the wily bird 
fluttered away. He did not go fast enough to 
show the dog he could not catch him, but he 
led him on and kept him eager to get at him as 
long as he could. 

But what happened to the dog's dinner all 
this time ? Of course you have guessed that the 
instant the dog left, the five hungry magpies 
pounced upon the bone. They did n't mind eat- 
ing at the second table. They knew their time 
was short, and they made good use of it. I 'm 
afraid they "gobbled." 

When the dog saw that he could n't catch the 
magpie, he thought of his dinner, and came 


back. The birds stepped one side, and he took 
his place again. 

Of course the birds were not half satisfied, and 
besides, one of them had not had even a taste. 
So they made ready to play the little trick again. 
Now see their fair play with one another ! The 
bird who had coaxed the dog away had his 
turn at the head of the table, while another 
one did the teasing. They repeated this several 
times, and each time a different bird led the dog 

The major was a trained observer, and he 
could tell the birds apart. One had a longer 
tail, another had a broken feather, and another 
was smaller. So he could easily see that each 
time a different bird had the best chance. He 
was sure they had planned the whole thing out. 

I once had a chance to study the ways of 
some magpies. The birds were busy in their 
nests, and I was well hidden and quiet, so they 
did not see me. I heard much soft, gentle talk 
from them, and at last a sweet song. I was 
much surprised at this, and hoped to know a 
good deal more about them, but the next time 
I called on them, they saw me. Such a row as 
they made ! They flew around my head, shout- 
ing and screaming at me, till I was glad to get 
out of the grove. I could not blame the birds, 


for magpies are much prized as cage-birds. 
They readily learn to talk, and are intelligent 
and interesting pets, so that the nests are robbed 
all the time. Of course they are ready to fight 
for their little oneSo 



(Alaudidce) ^ 

There are a good many kinds of larks in the 
■world, but only one comes to us, the Horned 
Lark, or shore lark. He differs a little in color 
in the various places he is found over our broad 
country, but not enough to call him another 

In places where there is a great deal of rain, 
birds take on a slightly different shade from their 
brothers who live in dry places. So there are 
several varieties of the horned lark. But dress 
is n't everything, and, after all, he is the same 
bird in habits and manners wherever we find 
him in the United States. He is streaked brown 
on the back, and white below, with yellow throat 
and black and white markings. 

The way you may always know a Prairie 
Horned Lark, of whom I will speak, is by the 

' See Appendix, 17. 


pretty Kttle tufts of feathers that stand up on 
his head Hke horns, and the very long nail on 
his hind toe. 

Another way you may know this bird is that 
he lives on the ground, and never perches in a 
tree. Sometimes he gets up on a fence to sing, 
but he likes best to run along the road, or in a 
field, and he never — never hops. The place to 
look for him is a field or pasture, or on a country 

When insects are abroad, he eats the more 
dainty small ones, young grasshoppers and lo- 
custs before they get big and tough, small 
beetles and larvae ; and baby larks are fed on 
them. But he does n't starve when they are 
gone ; he is fond of seeds of weeds and grasses. 

The nest of the horned lark is on the ground, 
and the little mother is very clever in hiding it, 
and not showing people where it is. Many birds, 
you know, will stay on the nest till one almost 
steps on them, and then fly up with a great fuss, 
thus telling their secret. When the wise Httle 
lark sees one coming, she quietly slips off her 
nest. Then she crouches to the ground, and 
creeps away. When she thinks she is far enough, 
she rises to her full height, and begins to eat, or 
to walk around as if she had nothing on her 
mind, and there were no such thins: as a nest 



anywhere about. No matter how long one may 
stay there hoping to find the nest, she will not 
go back, not even to see if it is safe, so long as 
any one is near. If all birds were so wily, there 
would be fewer nests robbed, and we should 
have more birds. 

The little home so carefully guarded is well 
made. The bird scratches out a little hollow 
and lines it with grass or thistledown, that is, 
if she can't get what she likes best. Her choice 
is for nice soft mullein leaves, which she pulls to 
pieces. These, you know, are thick and smooth, 
and must make a warm, dry bed for the little 

The brave little mother nests so early that she 
is often caught in a snowstorm. Nests have 
been found with the bird on them, when the 
snow had to be brushed away to get at her, 
actually sitting under the snow. 

When the young larks can run about, and be- 
fore they can fly, the father takes them in charge. 
Then the mother sits again, and hatches out 
another brood. 

The horned lark sings on the wing, as does 
the skylark of Europe that we 've heard so much 
about. It is supposed that he cannot equal that 
famous bird, but so few have heard him, it is 
hardly safe to say so. I once heard a horned 


lark sing. He ran across the road in front of 
the carriage, flew to a fence, and gave an ex- 
quisite Httle song. If it had come down to us 
while the singer was soaring about over our 
heads, I think few bird songs could have ex- 
celled it. 

The feather tufts which are called horns stand 
up when the bird is excited. Usually they lie 
back nearly flat on the head. 

In the picture you can see one of these birds 
in his usual attitude, walking. 



{TyrannidoB) ^ 

Larks may be scarce, but we have plenty of 
flycatchers, and they all look very much alike. 
They are mostly in dull colors, and they have a 
way of raising the head feathers which gives 
them a little crest. Then they have rather thick 
necks, and they sit up very straight on the perch. 

They catch Hving flies, as you see by the 
name, and they have their own way of doing it. 
No flycatcher ever scrambles around like a fussy 
little warbler, snatching a fly here and there. 
Far from it ! It is a dignified family, and none 
of them ever seems to be in a hurry. 

The true flycatcher way to get a dinner is to 
sit still and wait. The very babies in the nest 
are patient little fellows. They never make half 
the row over their dinner that young robins do. 
They could give lessons in table manners to some 
young folks I have seen. And waiting seems to 

•• See Appendix, 18. 


be a good way, for nobody is better fed than a 

On his perch the waiting bird sits perfectly 
still, but keeps a sharp lookout all around him. 
When a fly or other insect comes near that he 
thinks he wiU like, he dashes out and catches it 
as it flies. Then he goes back to his perch and 
waits for another. 

Some of the family have the habit of singing 
as they wait. The wood pewee drawls out his 
sweet " pee-u-ee," the phoebe sings his sharp 
" phoe-be " by the hour, and the least flycatcher 
snaps out his " chebec " till we are tired of hear- 
ing' him. 

Flycatchers are classed among birds who do 
not sing, but several of them do sing, — not 
loud, like a robin, but low, quiet songs to the 
mate or the nestlings. 

One of the best known of the flycatchers all 
over the country is the Kingbird. He is a little 
smaller than a robin, and all in brownish black, 
with white breast. He has also white tips to his 
tail feathers, which look very fine when he 
spreads it out wide in flying. 

Among the head feathers of the kingbird is a 
small spot of orange color. This is called in the 
books a " concealed patch " because it is seldom 
seen, it is so hidden by the dark feathers. 


This bird does much good by eating many 
insects. It is often said that he eats bees. But 
a curious thing has been found out about this 
habit. It seems he has a choice in bees. He is 
fond of the drones which make no honey, and so 
are not useful in a hive. He will hunt drones all 
day, but he is shy of a honey bee. Do you know 
why? The bird has not told us, but we can 
guess that it is because the honey bee is armed 
with a sting, and can make it very uncomfortable 
for any bird who catches her. 

There is another reason too why the bird may 
prefer the drone. The honey bee usually flies 
low, where the flowers are, while the drone is n't 
after flowers and flies higher in the air. The 
kingbird sits higher than the honey bee flies, 
and the drones are the ones that come near him. 

Another insect that the kingbird is fond of is 
the robber fly, which destroys hundreds of honey 
bees. That should make every bee-keeper his 

These things have been found out in the way 
I told you, by shooting the birds to see what they 
had been eating. 

Mr. Bryant, who knows birds well, tells of a 
bee-keeper in California who saw a great many 
kingbirds among his bees. Of course he thought 
they were eating them, and he killed one hun- 


dred of them. On looking into their stomachs 
to see i£ they had eaten honey bees, he found 
them filled with drones. They had been working 
for him all the time, for every bee-keeper likes to 
have drones killed. 

It has been said that the kingbird is annoying 
to other birds, and he is called a tyrant. I 
wanted to know if this was true. I did not go to 
books to find out, for many people — as I have 
told you — do not study for themselves, but 
repeat what some one else has said. The way I 
took to find out was to notice the ways of every 
kingbird I could see. For many years I have 
watched them hours at a time, for weeks to- 
gether. I spend every summer among the birds, 
and almost everywhere I go I find kingbirds. 

In this way I have found out that the king- 
bird is one of the most peaceable of birds. He 
drives strangers away from the tree where his 
nest is, and so does every other bird. The crow 
he seems to consider his enemy, and often flies 
after him, but excepting that, I have never 
seen a kingbird disturb any bird who was mind- 
ing his own business. He is not half so much 
of a tyrant as the robin or the hummingbird. 

The kingbird is quiet and devoted to his 
family. He seems never to tire of catching in- 
sects. While young ones are in the nest, he may 


usually be seen from morning till night, sitting 
very straight upon a low perch, looking for flies 
of many kinds. 

T/et me tell you a little story of a kingbird 
•which I can assure you is true, for a gentleman 
whose word may be relied upon saw it near 
enough to be perfectly sure of the facts. 

A big bird, he did not notice what kind, was 
flying o£E with a nestling robin in his claws. All 
at once a kingbird flew at him so fiercely that 
he had to drop the young one to defend him- 
self. The youngster could not fly, and of course 
began to fall. When the kingbird saw that, he 
left the thief and flew under the little bird. He 
held it up on his back, and flew carefully to the 
ground, where it slipped ofE safely. 

When a kingbird has been tamed and kept in 
a house, he has been found to be a very knowing 
fellow. One that I heard of saw that the people 
were friendly, and he lost all fear of them. His 
greatest pleasure seemed to be to keep warm. He 
would cuddle up to a lighted lamp, and dearly 
liked to crawl under the bedclothes. This pet 
was quiet and dignified, never a chatterbox. The 
only sounds he made were a few low notes like 
thanks, when he was fed. 

The nest of the kingbird is usually placed in 
a low tree like the apple-tree. It is made of any- 


thing that comes handy. I have seen one of white 
wool where sheep were kept, and one of gray 
moss on the seashore where it is found in plenty. 

The Western kingbird differs in color from the 
Eastern. He is more gray, with under parts 
bright yellow. He is said to be more social and 
more noisy than the sober Eastern bird. But in 
other respects they are much alike. 

This bird has been called quarrelsome, but 
persons who look closely at birds have said that 
what careless observers have called quarrels are 
really play. For the Western kingbird, the 
Arkansas Kingbird of the books, is a rather 
jolly fellow, says Major Bendire. 

All flycatchers are useful and should be care- 
fully protected, says the same well-informed 

The Wood Pewee is another common fly- 
catcher. He is not generally seen about houses like 
the phcebe, who calls from the peak of the barn. 
He may be found in the orchard or the edge of the 
woods. There he will stand on a fence or low 
branch and sing or call by the hour, every few 
minutes flying out to catch a passing insect. 

This bird is in dark colors, with whitish breast 
and two white wing-bars. His common calJ, is a 


plaintive, long-drawn-out " pee-n-ee " and some- 
times "pee-ay," but he can sing a droll little 
song. One lady who watched a wood pewee 
build her nest heard her sing to herself as she 
worked what sounded hke " 0-wee-wee-wee." 

The nest made by this little mother is very 
pretty. It is most often on a dead limb where 
a branch starts out, making a broad foundation. 
For this reason the bird is called in the South, 
the dead-limb bird. The nests are not all alike. 
I have seen many closely covered with lichen, 
and some made of gray moss so thin that the 
eggs could be seen through it. Whatever it is 
made of, it is low and flat like a saucer, and so 
much like the branch it is on that it is not easy 
to see. 

Like other bird mothers, the wood pewee is 
devoted to her nestlings. She will shield them 
from the rain by sitting close on the nest and 
making an umbrella of herself. And when the 
sun comes down very hot on them, she has been 
seen to perch on the edge of the nest and spread 
her wings to act as a shade for them. It is 
pretty to see this bird with her little family when 
they have left the nest and are being taught to 
take care of themselves. She makes many sweet 
little noises which sound like talk, or a sort of 


The Western Wood Pbweb looks like his 
Eastern brother, but he is a very different bird. 
His dress is about the same, and he catches his 
flies in pewee fashion, but his voice is not in 
the least like that we hear on the Atlantic side 
of the country. 

The Eastern wood pewee has a low, sweet 
voice, of which one cannot get tired. But the 
bird of the West has loud, harsh notes, so dis- 
mal in tone that they are painful to listen to. 
His song is almost the only really unpleasant 
bird song I know. 

The nest of this bird is a rather deep cup sad- 
dled on to a large limb. When it is in a cotton- 
wood grove, it is covered with the sticky white 
cotton from the trees. It is very pretty when 
fresh, but it soon gets soiled, and then it is not 
nice to look at or to handle. 




This is an American family, and no country in 
the world can show a more beautiful one. There 
are more than four hundred species, and some of 
them hardly bigger than a bee. All of these 
birds have brilliant colors that are called metal- 
lic. That is, they glitter like metal, and they 
show different colors when they are turned dif- 
ferent ways. 

All hummingbirds fly very swiftly. You know 
how they go, — not straight like most birds, but 
darting one way and another so quickly they can 
hardly be seen. As they fly, their wings move 
so fast they look almost like little clouds, and we 
hear the low noise we call humming. 

Hummingbirds eat nothing but tiny insects, 
and the honey of flowers, which they suck up 
through their long bill. They take their food 
without alighting, for they can hold themselves 

1 See Appendix, 19. , 


still before a flower, with the wonderful wings, 
as long as they choose. 

The bill of a hummingbird is much longer 
than his head. It is something like a pair of 
tubes through which he can draw up the sweet 
juices he likes. The tongue is long too, and it 
can be pushed out far beyond the end of the 
bill. It looks like a stiff white thread. 

We have in the Eastern States but one species, 
the ruby-throat, but there are several in Califor- 

No bird is more charming than our common 
Ruby-throated Hummingbird. He is most 
often seen flitting about among the flowers. 
But now and then one may catch him sitting 
demurely on a dead twig, dressing his tiny 

This bird is all in green, with a brilliant ruby- 
colored throat, which looks like a gem as he 
darts about. His mate is in green also, but her 
throat is white. 

You would not think this pretty midget could 
be a fighter, but he is. When a hummingbird 
finds a vine full of sweet blossoms, or a bed of 
bright nasturtiums, or any good place to feed in, 
he claims the whole of it for himself. He tries to 
drive away every other hummingbird who comes 


near it. Sometimes two of them will carry on a 
quarrel over a honeysuckle vine for days. 

The hummingbird is the most pugnacious bird 
in America. If he were as big as a crow, he 
would be a terror to man and be^st, for he is 
afraid of nothing. This spirited mite of a bird 
will even attack an eagle, who is big enough to 
eat him at a mouthful. He beats him too, for 
he comes down on top of his head, where the big, 
clumsy fellow cannot get at him. There he pecks 
and pulls out feathers till the eagle is glad to get 
out of his clutches. 

A hummingbird's nest is one of the prettiest 
things in the world. It is not much bigger than 
a walnut, and is made of soft plant down, usually 
of a yellowish gray color. 

Perhaps you don't see how plant down can be 
made to keep in shape, without twigs or grasses 
to hold it. If you could see the bird make it, 
you would understand at once. She brings her 
stuff in small mouthfuls, and works it into a 
solid mass by strong efforts with beak and feet. 
She pokes and prods each tiny bunch as she 
brings it, till she makes it all hold together. It 
is a sort of felt. 

Then the little worker covers the outside with 
bits of lichen picked off the trees, and held on, 
it is said, by cobwebs. This makes the nest look 


exactly like the branch it is on. So it is very 
hard to see. 

It takes a hummingbird several days of hard 
work to make a nest, because she can bring only 
a little at a time. She does it alone too ; her 
mate has not been seen to help her at all. 

I think the male ruby-throat does not help in 
the nest-building because the little mother will not 
let him. She knows just how the cradle is to be 
made, and she does n't want him to bother her. 
She likes to have her nest to herself just as she 
likes to have her honeysuckle to herself. I don't 
say positively that is the reason, you know ; I 
only guess it is. 

After the nest is made, and two eggs about as 
big as small beans are laid, the hummingbird 
begins to sit. When the nestlings come out of 
the egg, they are about the size of honey bees, 
with bills no larger than the head of a common 
pin. Twenty-one days they stay in the nest and 
are fed by their hard-working little mother. 

When the twins get their feathers, and their 
bills are growing longer and longer, they sit up 
across the top of the nest, side by side. Then 
they are very pretty, and not at all afraid of 
people. They will let one gently stroke their 
backs. They will even answer in a soft murmur 
one who talks to them. 


Hummingbirds are never so afraid of people 
as other birds. They are easily tamed. But 
they should never be caged, for they will not 
live long in a house. They need food that we 
cannot give them. 

A man had a hummingbird whom he kept 
alive a long time by letting him go free when he 
seemed to need change of food. He would fly 
off, but always came back. After the bird got 
to be very tame, the man brought two young 
hummingbirds and put them in the cage with 
him. He did not notice them much till they 
began to droop. Then the man opened the 
door to let them out. 

At once the elder bird took the little ones in 
charge, and coaxed them to fly out with him. He 
led them to a place where he had found the tiny 
spiders these birds like, and showed them how to 
get what they wanted. They all ate their fill 
and then came back to the house, where they 
were well contented to be. 

The way the mother hummingbird feeds her 
babies is curious. When she comes with food, 
she alights on the edge of the nest, and pulls a 
little one up so that she can get at it. Then she 
runs her long, slim bill down its throat, and 
pokes the food in with little jerks. It looks as 
if it would kill the youngster, but he seems to 


like it. Anyway, he grows very fast, and — > 
as I said — in three weeks he is beautifully 
feathered, with a bill as long as his mother's, 
and ready to fly. 

A lady who had two young hummingbirds 
told me that they slept so soundly they were like 
dead birds. One could take them up and carry 
them about, and they would not wake. In cold 
weather she often wrapped one up in a piece of 
flannel and laid him in a soft, warm place, and 
he never stirred till morning. 

The way she got this pair of birds was inter- 
esting. She was walking in the woods and broke 
a dead branch from a tree, to use for something. 
On turning it over she saw a nest, and strange 
to say two little birds in it. She had been hold- 
ing it upside down, but they had held on so 
tightly that they did not fall out. 

The lady did not know what to do. She did 
not want baby hummingbirds, but she could n't 
put the branch back, and she was afraid their 
mother would not find them if she left them. So 
she took them home. She had no trouble to 
feed them, and they lived with her six weeks, 
and died by accident at last. 

It is thought that the male ruby-throat does 
not come to the nest at all, but he must have 
some way of knowing how things are going on. 


At Mrs. Wright's summer home a mother hum- 
mingbird was killed in a hailstorm, while young 
were in the nest. At once the father, or at least 
a male bird, came and fed and took care of the 
nestlings till they flew. 

In California one of the most common of this 
family is Anna's Hummingbird. He is green, 
with a throat and crown of changeable colors, 
lilac and red. 

The nest of this bird is usually, like the ruby- 
throat's, of plant down covered with lichens. But 
some have been found made of the blossoms of 
the eucalyptus, or gum-tree. This bird is as 
easily tamed as the ruby-throat, and seems to act 
a good deal like him. 

Mrs. Grinnell found a nest in her yard in Cali- 
fornia. The mother allowed herself to be pho- 
tographed in many positions. The young ones 
were never afraid, and did not mind the camera 
in the least. Hummingbirds never seem to have 
any fear of people. 



{Micropodidce) ^ 

Swifts are curious birds, with strange habits. 
The one we know by sight in the East is the 
chimney swift. Most like him in the West is 
Vaux's swift. His ways are like the common 
chimney swift's, and his looks nearly the same. 

The Chimney Swift is often called the 
chimney swallow, but it is very easy to tell one 
from a swallow. One way is, that when a swift 
is flying about over our heads, he looks as if 
he had no tail. The tail is very short, not half 
so long as the wing. He looks more like a bat 
than a bird. 

Then the swift flies in a different way. A 
swallow soars a good deal, that is, moves without 
beating the wings, a sort of gliding through the 
air. But a swift beats the wings much more fre- 
quently. A swallow will often alight on a tele- 

* See Appendix, 20. 


graph-wire or a roof. A swift is said never to 
alight except to sleep. 

This bird is so much at home on wing that he 
even gets the twigs to make the nest while flying. 
These twigs are the smallest ones on the ends of 
dead branches, and are easily snapped off. The 
bird flies at them, snatches one in beak or feet, 
breaks it off, and goes right on, without stopping. 

When he gets his twig, he carries it to a dark, 
sooty cliimney. A queer place for a home, surely. 
They used to choose a hollow tree or a cave to 
live in, and that seems much nicer. But chimneys 
are now more plentiful than hollow trees. And 
besides, they are nearer the bird's food. So 
chimney homes are now the fashion in the swift 

To make a swift nest, the twigs are glued to the 
chimney in the shape of a little bracket. The 
glue is the saliva of the bird, which is gummy, 
and gets hard as it dries, and looks like isinglass. 

The mouth of a chimney swift is very odd. You 
have heard of " stretching a mouth from ear to 
ear." That's just what the swift does every time 
he opens his. It needs to be big, for he gathers 
up his food in it. While he is flying around in 
the air, he is busy catching tiny flying creatures, 
such as flies and beetles, and thus keeping the 
air clear for us. 


The tail of this bird is another queer thing. 
It has no soft feathery tips like most birds' tails. 
It ends in sharp spines, like needles. These are 
most useful to brace him against the rough chim- 
ney where he sleeps. These spines are really the 
stiff shafts or stems of the feathers, sticking out 
beyond the plumey part. 

The chimney swift hangs himself up to sleep. 
He fastens his sharp claws into the rough bricks, 
and props himself firmly with his spiny tail. 
Even when the young swift is but two weeks old, 
he crawls out of the nest and hangs himself up 
under it. He seems to like that for a change 
from forever lying in a narrow bracket. 

Chimney swifts are social birds. They can't 
bear to be alone. They are almost always seen 
flying about in small parties, and calling to each 
other as they go, a strange, chattering cry. 
They are of a sooty color suitable to their sooty 
home, and the pair are alike. Vaux's swift is a 
little smaller and paler than the common chimney 

The young swift is longer in his nursery than 
any bird of his size in the United States. He 
is four weeks old before he ventures out of his 
grimy home, though before that he will come 
up to the door to be fed. 

A late writer in a newspaper tells a Httle story 


showing the affection of a chimney swift for her 
little one. The writer had watched all summer 
a party of swifts who hved in one of his chimneys. 
A month or more after he supposed that all had 
flown away to the South heyond our southern 
boundary, where they spend the winter, he heard 
the twittering of one in the chimney. He took 
out the fireboard and found there a young bird. 
He was full grown and able to fly, but he was 
fastened by a horsehair to the nest. This had 
been pulled off by his weight, and lay on the 
hearth, holding him prisoner. 

The little fellow seemed to know he was to be 
helped, for he lay still while the man looked to 
see what was the matter. His mother soon came 
into the chimney with food. She took her place 
beside the man and waited, while he cut the 
strong hair and set the nestling free. 

Then the old bird went to work to teach him 
to fly. It was an hour or more before he learned 
to use his wings. As soon as he did, the two 
started off on their lonely journey to the far 
South, to join their friends who had been gone 
so long. How I wish we could know that they 
reached them. 

Insects were about gone when this happened, 
and this swift mother would have died if she had 
stayed, but she would not leave her little one 
to starve. 


It is a beautiful thing to see a large flock of 
swifts go to bed. If they all rushed in pell-mell, 
they might hurt one another. They begin by 
flying around high above the chimney in great 
circles. As they go around they sink lower, and 
the circles get smaller till it looks like an im- 
mense whirling funnel. When the birds form- 
ing the lower part of the funnel reach the top of 
the chimney, they plunge in. So in a short time 
the whole flock is in and no one hurt. 



{Caprimulgidce) * 

These are queer-looking birds, having their 
front toes tied together by a kind of webbing, 
and almost no hind toe at all. The mouth, too, 
is almost as odd as the toes. It has a short beak, 
but is very wide, and it opens from ear to ear 
like the swift's. The plumage is so soft that the 
birds can fly without making the least sound. 

The two most common goatsuckers are the 
whip-poor-will and the nighthawk. They are 
both as large as a robin, and stouter. They are 
dressed in dull brown, and black and white, mot- 
tled all over. If you just glanced at the two, 
you might think them alike. But they are not 
marked ^.like, and all their ways are so different 
that there is no trouble in telhng them apart. 

The Whip-poob-will has broad white tail- 
marks, with stripes on the back, and a narrow 

> See Appendix, 21. 


white band across the breast. He comes out only 
in the evening, and he flies low, without making 
a sound. He rests lengthwise of a log or fence, 
not across it as most birds do. His feet are too 
short to clasp a perch. 

On his log or fence the whip-poor-will sits and 
sings while he waits for his supper. You all 
know his song, his lively " whip-poor-will " over 
and over many times. It is a delightful evening 
sound, which I love to hear. It is said that his 
notes have been counted, and he has been found 
to repeat them several hundred times without 

When moths or other creatures which fly in 
the night come along, he catches them in his 
big mouth. But he is not obliged always to wait. 
Sometimes he flies near the ground like a shadow, 
looking for prey, and he often hops awkwardly 
along the road, for the same purpose. He picks 
up straggling insects, and in the West locusts. 

The whip-poor-will mother makes no nest. 
She finds a little hollow in the ground, among 
leaves or near bushes in the woods, and that's 
good enough for her nestlings. She lays two 
eggs, speckled and mottled so that they look like 
the ground and leaves around them. She looks 
almost the same herself. You might walk close 
to her and not see her. 


When young whip-poor-wills come out of the 
egg, they are dressed in speckled gray down. 
They cuddle down quietly by their mother, and 
the whole family is hard to see. When their 
eyes are shut, they look almost exactly like the 
earth and leaves among which they lie. 

If a whip-poor-will nest is disturbed, the 
mother will pretend to be badly hurt. She will 
tumble about on the ground and cry like the 
whine of a young puppy, trying to coax away 
the one she fears. If she is too much alarmed, 
she will clasp her young one between her feet 
and fly away with it. 

Instead of the common whip-poor-will of the 
Northern and Middle States, the South has the 
Chuck-will's-widow, who is somewhat larger. 
The West has the Pook-will, or the Nuttall's 
Whip-poor-will, who is rather smaller and 
paler than either. The habits of all are about 
the same. They are called solitary birds. That 
is, they are not found in parties like swallows or 
crows. They do not sing or call when flying. 

These birds are hard to watch because they 
come out in the dark, and can then see so much 
better than we can. So we know little about 
their ways. 


The Nighthawk's looks, and all his ways, are 
different. He wears the same colors that the 
whip-poor-will does, but they are arranged in an- 
other way. They are put in bars running across 
the back and tail, and there is a great deal of 
white on his upper breast. On the wing is a 
large white spot that looks like a hole across it, 
when you see him flying away up in the air. 
You can always know him by this. 

Then he does not act like the whip-poor-will. 
He is a high flyer, sailing about over our heads 
in the afternoon or evening. He is not silent 
on the wing. Now and then he gives a strange 
sharp cry like " peent." He is busy catching 
flies and mosquitoes as he goes. Sometimes you 
will see him dive head first toward the earth as 
if he would dash himself against it, At the 
same time he makes a loud sound, like blowing 
into the bunghole of an empty barrel. But be- 
fore he touches, he turns and skims along just 
above the ground. 

The mother nighthawk, like the whip-poor- 
will, makes no nest. She chooses a sunny spot 
in a pasture or on a hillside to put her eggs. 
Sometimes in the cities, where flies and other 
things to eat are so plentiful, she takes a flat 
house-roof for her nursery. Many pairs of down- 

/*"*'% ( 1 



covered baby nighthawks are brought up over 
our heads, and we do not know it. 

The family name of Goatsuckers was given 
to the birds from the foolish notion that they 
took mUk from the goats. By watching them, 
it has been found that when they are so busy 
around the goats or cattle, they are really catch- 
ing the insects which torment them. So they 
are doing a kindness to the beasts, instead of an 



{Picidce) ^ 

You may generally know a woodpecker the 
moment you see him on a tree. He will — if 
he follows woodpecker fashions — be clinging to 
the trunk, or a big branch, propped up by his 
stiff tail, and not perched crosswise like most 
other birds. 

There are a good many of this family in the 
world. We have twenty-four species in North 
America. They differ from other birds in two 
or three ways. First their toes are always in 
pairs, two turned forward and two turned back- 
ward, except in one genus, which has but three 
toes. So they can hold on better than anybody 

Then again the tails of woodpeckers are not 
like most birds' tails. They are strong and stiff, 
so that they can be used as props to hold the 
bird in the queer position he likes so well. 

^ See Appendix, 22. 


Oddest of all are the woodpecker tongues. 
They are round, worm-shaped it is called, and ex- 
cept in the genus of sapsuckers, very long. They 
can be pushed out far beyond the end of the beak. 
That is so that they can reach into a deep hole 
for the insects they eat. They have little barbs ot 
sharp points on the tip, to catch their prey, and 
they are sticky besides. The tongue of the sap- 
sucker has a brush at the end and is not barbed. 

One of the most notable things about a wood- 
pecker is his bill, which he uses as a drill and 
also to drum with. 

Woodpeckers are made to take care of the 
large limbs and trunks of trees, to get out from 
under the bark the grubs which would kill them. 
They are perfectly fitted for the work. 

As you learn more about birds and beasts, you 
will see that every one is exactly fitted for his 
work in life. A worm is as well fitted to be a 
worm as a bird is to be a bird. How this came 
to be so has long been a study of the wise men, 
and they have not found out all about it yet. 

The largest of this family that is common is 
the Golden-winged Woodpecker, or Flicker. 
He is as large as a pigeon. In the Eastern States 
is the golden-wing, in the West and California 
the red-shafted, who differs merely in the dress. 


The gold-winged woodpecker has a bi-own 
back with black bars, and a light breast with 
heavy black spots. His wings and tail are yellow 
on the inside. He has a bright red collar on the 
back of his neck, a heavy black crescent on his 
breast, and black cheek patches or bars running 
down from the corners of his mouth. 

The Red-shafted Flicker has red cheek 
patches instead of black, and omits the red collar 
altogether. His breast is a little grayer, and the 
wing and tail linings are scarlet. Both flickers 
have large white spots on the back, above the 
tail, which show very plainly when they fly. 

These two varieties of the flicker are found 
from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Their ways of 
living are the same, and what is said of one will 
do as well for the other. 

A flicker hangs himself up to sleep. He takes 
a good hold of a tree trunk, or upright limb, 
with his grapnel-shaped toes, presses his stiff tail 
against the bark, and hangs there all night. 
When he flies, he g'oes in great waves, as if he 
were galloping through the air. 

The nest of this woodpecker is a snug little 
room in a tree trunk, or sometimes a telegraph- 
pole. He usually selects a tree that is dead, or 
partly so, but sometimes he takes a solid one. 
The little room is cut out by the strong, sharp 


beaks of the pair. The door of this home is just 
a round hole rather high up on the trunk. A pas- 
sage is cut straight in for a little way and then 
turns down, and there the room is made. It has 
to be of pretty good size, for the bird is fond of 
a large family. Five or six and occasionally 
more young flickers have been found in a nest. 

Fashions change in the bird world as well as 
in the human. Woodpeckers more than any 
others are changing their habits, and improving 
their condition. They have found an easier way 
to get a home than to chisel it out of wood. 
Nowadays woodpeckers often cut a hole through 
a board which admits them into a garret, a church 
tower, or the walls of an unused building, and 
make the nest there. Thus they save themselves 
much labor. One even cut out a home in a 

These birds have changed too, it is said, in 
their notions about eating. They do not think 
it necessary to dig out every mouthful from 
under tree bark. The flicker feeds on the 
ground. He eats many insects, but mostly ants. 
When insects are scarce, he eats many wild 
berries — dogwood, black alder, poke-berries, 
and others — and the seeds of weeds. 

Young woodpeckers in the nest are fed mostly 
upon insects. When they get big enough to climb 


up to the door of their snug home, they stick their 
heads out and call for something to eat. Then 
one can hardly pass through the woods without 
hearing them, for they have good loud voices. 
And of course they are always hungry. 

The way they are fed is by regurgitation. 
That is, the old bird swallows the food she gets, 
and when she wants to feed, she jerks it up 
again. She thrusts her bill far down the little 
one's throat, as I told you the hummingbird 
does. Then she gives three or four pokes as if 
she were hammering it down. A young flicker 
does not seem to know how to swallow. A lady 
once picked up a nestling who was hurt, and to 
get him to eat anything she had to poke it down 
his throat herself. 

The gold-winged woodpecker is a lively bird, 
most interesting to know. He makes so many 
strange noises that I can't tell you half of them, 
and his ways are as queer as his notes. He does 
not sing much, but he is a great drummer. 
When he finds a tin roof, or eaves gutter that 
pleases him, he will drum on it till he drives the 
family nearly crazy. He seems particularly to 
delight in waking them all up in the morning. 

He can sing, too. I have heard a flicker sing 
a droll Httle song, not very loud, swinging his 
body from side to side as he did it. 


Another thing this bird can do is dance. Two 
flickers ■will stand opposite one another and take 
funny little steps, forward and back, and side- 
ways. Then they will touch their bills together 
and go through several graceful figures. This 
has been seen several times by persons whose 
truthfulness can be relied upon. 

The Eed-headed Woodpecker is another 
common one of the family, especially in the Mid- 
dle States. He is a little smaller than the flicker. 
No one can mistake this bird, he is so plainly 
marked. His whole head is bright red. The 
rest of him is black, or bluish black, with a large 
mass of white on the body and wings. 

This woodpecker, too, has partly given up 
getting food from under the bark. He takes a 
good deal on the wing, like a flycatcher. Some- 
times he goes to the ground for a large insect like 
a cricket or grasshopper, and he is fond of nuts, 
especially the little three-cornered beech-nut. 

The red-head is beginning to store food for 
winter use, for most woodpeckers do not migrate. 
When beech-nuts are ripe, he gets great quanti- 
ties of them, and packs them away in queer 
places, where he can find them when he wants 

Some of his nuts the red-head puts in cavities 


in trees, others in knot-holes or under bark that 
is loose. Many he fits into cracks in the bark, 
and hammers in tight. He has been known to 
fill the cracks in a gate-post, and in railroad ties, 
and even to poke his nuts between the shingles 
on a roof. Any place where he can wedge a 
nut in he seems to think is a good one. 

A woodpecker can eat almost anything. Be- 
sides insects and nuts, he likes wUd berries o£ all 
kinds — dogwood, cedar, and others that he 
finds in the woods. 

The nest of the red-headed woodpecker is 
usually cut out in the dead top or limb of a 
tree. In prairie lands, where trees are scarce, he 
contents himself with telegraph-poles and fence- 

This bird is rather a dainty feeder. He does 
not swallow his food wherever he finds it, as 
many birds do. He likes a regular dining-table. 
So he takes it to some place on top of a fence- 
post or an old stump, where he has found or 
made a little hollow. There he puts his nut or 
acorn, picks it to pieces, and eats it in bits. 

The young red-head is a good deal like his 
father, only his head is brown instead of red. 
A queer thing happened to a baby red-head in 
Indiana one summer. He was found on the 
ground, hopping about in a pitiful way, unable 



to fly. The parents and others of the ■wood- 
pecker tribe were flying about him, much 
troubled, and trying to help him. But this 
young one had been hurt, or was not yet strong 
enough to get about. He acted as if he were 
half paralyzed, and he was wholly helpless. 
Once while the little bird was hobbling about 
and calling for something to eat, and no one 
was there to feed him, a robin happened to 
notice him. He took pity on the hungry baby, 
and brought him a nice worm, which he took 
very gladly. 

But still more strange was the way the family 
cat acted toward the little stranger. When she 
saw him on the ground, she started for him. 
No doubt she meant to catch him, for she was 
a great bird hunter. When she got almost up 
to the little fellow, she seemed suddenly to 
notice that he was a baby, and helpless. At 
once her manner changed. She went up to 
him, and actually played with him in the gentlest 
way, not hurting him in the least. She did this 
several times before the bird got strong enough 
to fly. This is a true story. 

The Califobnian Woodpecker takes the 
place of the red-head in California. He is most 
interesting because of one habit which gives him 


the common name of " carpenter woodpecker." 
This habit is of storing sweet acorns for winter 

Other birds store acorns, but this bird has 
found out a new way. He drills a hole in the 
bark of a tree for each acorn by itself. It is 
generally a soft pine or cedar, and sometimes 
thousands of acorns are put in one tree. Often 
a trunk will be filled from near the ground up 
forty feet. The acorns are driven in point first, 
and so tightly that they have to be cut out with 
a knife. When a tree is filled, it is carefully 
guarded till they are needed. 

Many people think they lay up these acorns 
for the worms that sometimes come into them. 
But Mr. John Muir, who lives right there, and 
knows them as well as anybody in the world, 
says the birds eat the sound acorns themselves. 
Sometimes, when food is scarce, Indians go to 
these trees and steal the poor birds' store. They 
have to chop the acorns out with hatchets. They 
often take a bushel from one tree. 

These birds are more social than most wood- 
peckers. Often a party of them will be seen to- 
gether. In his flight and his ways of eating this 
bird is like the red-headed woodpecker. Like 
him also, he is fond of clinging to a dead limb, 
and drumming, hours at a time. 


But in looks the Californian and the red-headed 
woodpeckers are very different. The Western 
bird has only a cap of bright red. His back is 
glossy blue-black, and he has the same color on 
the breast. His other under parts are white, and 
he has a white patch on the wings, and another 
just above the tail. 

The smallest of our woodpeckers is the Downy 
Woodpecker, who is not much bigger than an 
English sparrow. The picture shows two of 
these birds. In "The First Book of Birds" 
there is a picture of a flicker at his nest-hole. 



(Alcedinidce) ■^ 

Most of the Kingfisher family belong to the 
tropics, but we have one who is found all over 
the United States. This is the Belted King- 

The belted kingfisher is large and rather 
chunky. He is dark blue above and white be- 
low, with a bluish band across the breast. He 
has a fine crest and a big head, and he sits up 
straight as a hawk. 

The tail of the kingfisher is short, and square 
at the end. His plumage is thick and oily, so 
that it does not hold wet. This is very impor- 
tant to him in the way he gets his food, for he 
is an expert fisherman. He lives alone, or with 
his mate, near the water, — a lake, or pond, or 
small stream. 

This bird's way of getting fish is to dive for 
them. You may have seen him splash into the 

1 See Appendix, 23. 



water out of sight, and in a moment come up 
with a small fish in his beak. Then he goes 
back to his perch and beats the fish to death, 
before he swallows it. He swallows it whole and 
head first, because the fins might stick in his 
throat if he took it tail first. After a while he 
throws up a little ball of the bones, scales, and 
skin of the fish he has eaten. It is said that the 
kingfisher can take a very large fish. One was 
shot who had swallowed a fish so long that the 
tail stuck out of his mouth, and could not get 

The nest of the kingfisher is in the bank of a 
river or lake. The birds first cut a passage or 
hallway. Sometimes this is only four feet long, 
and straight. But when stones or roots are in 
the way, it will be much longer and have many 
turns. At the end of this passage is the king- 
fisher nursery. This is a round room nearly a 
foot across, with a roof rounded up over it. It 
is a Httle higher than the passageway so that 
water will not run into it. 

Sometimes it takes the birds two or three weeks 
to make one of these nests, as we might expect 
when we think they have only beaks and feet to 
work with. Usually it does not take so long. 
If the pair are not disturbed, they will use the 
same nest year after year. Sometimes the bed 


for the nestlings is of dry grass. One was found 
in which the bed was entirely of the bones and 
scales of fish. 

Mr. Baily has told us about a family of king- 
fisher little folk whom he studied and photo- 
graphed. He dug down to the nest from above, 
and was careful not to hurt them and to put 
them back safely. First Mr. Baily took a pic- 
ture of them when two days old. They were 
queer-looking objects, with eyes not open, and 
not a feather to their backs. They were not so 
young but that they had one notion in their 
little round heads. That was to cuddle up close 
together. They were not used to much room in 
their dark cradle. 

When Mr. Baily laid them out on the ground, 
they at once crawled up together and made 
themselves into a sort of ball. They put their 
bare wings and their bills over one another, and 
held on so that one could not be moved without 
the others. After they had sat for their picture 
they were carefully put back, and the nest was 
covered up again. 

When the nestlings were nine days old, the 
nest was opened again, and another picture 
taken. The little ones had grown a good deal in 
these few days. Their eyes were open, and they 
were fast getting their feather coats on. But 


they were just as fond of being close together as 

After this the birds were left in their home 
till they were twenty-three days old, and it 
seemed about time for them to come out. When 
the nest was opened this time, it was found that 
the family had moved. The old room was filled 
up with earth, and a new one made farther up. 
No doubt the old birds thought the man too 
curious about their babies. The young birds 
were ready to fly, and two of them did take to 
their wings when they came to dayhght. 

There is a very old fable about the kingfisher, 
who was called the halcyon. It is told in the 
first book that was ever written about birds (so far 
as I know). The author was Aristotle, a Greek 
who lived three hundred years before Christ. The 
story is, that the bird builds a nest that floats 
on the sea, and for seven days before and seven 
days after the shortest winter day, the sea stays 
calm, so that the nest may not be hurt. During 
the first seven days she builds her nest, and in 
the second seven she hatches out the young. 
These fourteen days were called halycon days. 
You may find more about this curious story in 
the encyclopaedias. 



{Cuoulidoe) ^ 

Most of the cuckoo family live in a hotter 
climate than ours, hut we have a few of them. 
They are beautiful birds, with some peculiar 

Cuckoos are rather slim in form, with very long 
tails, and bills a little curved. Their toes are 
divided like woodpeckers' toes, two turned for- 
ward and two back. In the Eastern States we have 
but two, the yellow-billed and the black-billed. 
Best known in the East is the Yellow-billed 
Cuckoo, and in California the Western Yellow- 
billed, or California, Cuckoo. 

This bird has several names. In some places 
he is called the rain crow, and in Other places the 
wood pigeon ; but of course he is neither a 
crow nor a pigeon. He is a graceful bird, with 
plumage like satin. He is a soft brown above 
and white below, but he is so shy that he is not 

' See Appendix, 24. 



SO often seen as heard. His call or song is a 
loud, yet not harsh " kuk-kuk-kuk " many times 
repeated. Sometimes it begins slow and grows 
faster till the notes run into each other, and then 
grows slow again, ending in a sort of " cow-cow- 
cow ; " but it does not always do so. 

The cuckoo does not manage her nursery 
affairs as other birds do. Most birds lay an egg 
a day, or every other day, so that they hatch 
about the same time ; but this bird does n't 
mind if several days come between. Thus it 
happens that one or more little cuckoos hatch out 
before the rest are ready, and it is common to 
find httle ones of several ages in the same nest. 
There may be one nearly grown, another just 
beginning to get feathers, and a third one not 
yet out of the egg. 

There is another droll thing that may be found 
in a cuckoo's nest. When the feathers begin to 
grow out on young birds, they come wrapped in 
little sheaths. In most cases these sheaths burst 
open and the feathers show, when they are a 
little way out. But in this family it is different. 
The sheath does not open, says Mr. Dugmore, till 
the feathers have grown their full length. Till 
that happens, the youngster looks as if he were 
stuck all over with white pins on his black body. 

You have heard, or read, that the cuckoo 


lays eggs in other birds' nests, and leaves her 
young to be brought up by others. Do not for- 
get that the bird who does that is the European 
cuckoo — not ours. Our cuckoos build nests, 
though very poor ones, sometimes hardly more 
than a platform of sticks. 

This bird is useful to us, for he eats some of 
our most troublesome insects, — such as tent 
caterpillars, which few birds like to eat because 
they are so hairy, and other insects with spines 
that are poisonous, and so generally avoided. 

The cuckoo is graceful in flight. He goes 
swiftly, without noise, and seems to glide through 
the thickest foliage with ease. 

I once found a young bird tumbling about on 
the ground. He was trying to fly, but was not 
able to go much more than a foot at a time. 
He was giving strange calls, which were an- 
SAivered from the woods beside the road by a low 
tapping sound. I thought of course the little 
one was a woodpecker and his mother was doing 
the knocking. It was so dark I could not see 
him well. After some trouble I caught him and 
was going to take a good look at him to see who 
he was before I let him go. As I grasped him 
he gave a shriek, and out from the thick trees 
popped a cuckoo. She alighted on a low branch 
outside and gave such a cry of distress that I 


knew at once it was her baby I held in my 

I suppose the poor mother thought I wanted 
to carry the youngster off. I could n't bear 
to have a bird think that for a minute ; so I 
opened my hands and away he went, half flying, 
half scrambling up the road, while the mother 
slipped back into the woods. In a moment she 
began again her hollow-sounding calls, which I 
had thought were woodpecker tappings. 



(Bubonidce) ^ 

Owls differ from all other birds in having eyes 
that look forward Hke ours. They have also a 
broad face, which is made to look even wider by 
the feathers which stand out around the eyes. 

Owls cannot turn their eyes in the sockets, so 
they have to turn the whole head to see to one 
side. Many of them have tufts of feathers like 
horns, which they can stand up or lay down as 
they choose. These are called horned owls. An 
owl's legs are covered with feathers, sometimes 
down to the toes. The whole plumage of this 
bird is soft and fluffy, so that he can fly with- 
out making any noise. This is important to him, 
for he lives mostly on mice, and he never could 
catch one if he made much noise getting about. 

The owl's mate looks like him, and — what 
is unusual among birds — she is larger than he. 
Because they come out in the evening, when we 

^ See Appendix, 25. 


cannot see them well, we know very little of their 
ways. They are more often heard than seen. 
Their voices are generally mournful, but that is 
no reason why they should be feared. 

All birds have control over some of their 
feathers, that is, they can make them stand 
up or lie down as they choose. But owls have 
more than any other bird. An owl can alter his 
shape or size so that he will look like another 

Mr. BoUes says that a large owl can change 
from a mass of bristling feathers a yard wide, to 
a slim, sleek brown post only a few inches wide. 
When he does this, one cannot see him, though 
he may be in plain sight. His colors blend with 
a tree trunk, or stump, and he can stand without 
stirring for an hour, and likes to do it. 

Mr. BoUes had owls in the house, and watched 
them closely. He has told us some curious 
things about their ways. He says that when one 
steps daintily across the floor, his feathers tuck 
themselves up as a lady holds up her gown. 

This moving of the feathers sometimes looks 
very droll. When eating, the feathers around 
the mouth, which might get soiled, draw back 
out of the way. And when an owl wants to hide 
his food, he stands over it, and the feathers 
droop down like a curtain to screen it from view. 


When Mrs. BoUes wanted to sketch an owl, he 
kept changing his shape all the time, though he 
did not seem to move at all. 

Another man who had a pet owl says that the 
bird would stand before him and throw back his 
breast feathers each side, just as a man throws 
open his coat. 

The owlets come out of the egg dressed in soft, 
fluffy down. In some of the family it is gray, 
in others it is snowy white. They are carefully 
fed and reared by their loving parents. 

A funny story is told by a man who wanted to 
see what was in an owl's nest. He lifted the 
mother bird out, and to his surprise the whole 
family came out with her. She held on to one 
little one, and each one held on to the next, and 
so he had the whole owl family in a cluster, like 
a bunch of grapes. 

The Screech Owl is the best known of this 
family. He is found, under slightly different 
forms, all over our country. In Florida he is 
smaller and darker than in the Middle States. In 
California he is larger and grayer, and in the 
Rocky Mountains somewhat lighter. But he acts 
in about the same way, wherever he lives. 

In the East the screech owl is found in two 
colors. Some have reddish feathers, others have 


gray. The wise men have not yet found any 
reason for this difference. 

The screech owl is badly named, for his song 
is not a screech. It is a sort of trembhng sound, 
and in some places he is called the " shivering 
owl," which is a much better name for him than 
screech owl. If one does not know who makes 
it, it is rather a weird song in the dark ; but if 
one knows the pretty gray bird, it is sweet and 

The bird comes out before it is quite pitch 
dark. He may often be seen against the sky, 
standing on a branch, bowing and swaying back 
and forth, while he utters strange notes of many 
kinds. He has plenty to say for himself. But 
you must keep as still as a mouse if you want to 
see him. If he can see to catch a mouse in the 
dark, you may be sure he can see you. 

Generally the screech owl makes a nest in a 
hollow tree or a deserted woodpecker nest, and 
comes out only at night. What he likes best to 
eat is mice, and mice too come out at night. 
The way he eats is curious, as I told you in 
" The First Book of Birds." 

A few years ago a screech owl went through 
a broken window into the attic of a house in New 
Jersey, and lived there all winter. The family 
were bird-lovers, so they let her stay. She liked 


it SO well that the next spring she made her nest 
there and hatched out three little owls. The lit- 
tle ones were not at all afraid of people, and a son 
of the family made many photographs of them. 

After the owlets were grown, the whole family 
disappeared, and lived out of doors the rest of 
the summer. But when cold weather came, th^- 
old birds came back and stayed all winter again. 
They have made their home in that attic, and 
reared a brood every spring since. They are al- 
ways very social among themselves. They talk 
and sing, and make many sorts of noises. 

One of the queerest of the owl family is the 
little Burrowing Owl of the West. The Flor- 
ida Burrowing Owl, found in Florida, differs only 
a little from the Western bird. The burrowing 
owl is a comical-looking fellow, only about as 
large as a robin. He has very long legs for an 
owl, and is dressed in grayish brown. 

This bird is said to have very polite manners. 
In some places he is called the "■ how-do-you-do 
owl." He is always bowing, and turning from 
side to side, and seems to be greeting you as you 
come near him. 

The burrowing owl likes a comfortable home 
underground, out of the way of eneipies. In 
the West, where he Uves, prairie dogs are plenti- 


ful, and they are always digging out passages 
and rooms, more than they can use. So the 
owl has no trouble in finding empty quarters to 
live in. 

But in California, and places where are none 
of the digging dogs, the little owl rooms with 
some of the ground squirrels that burrow there. 
He must have an underground home in that land 
where trees are scarce, and he has no fancy for 
digging. Even if he wanted to dig, hig feet are 
not fitted for it like the feet of the little beasts. 

The burrowing owl has no trouble in taking a 
house where he finds one to suit him, for he 's 
a savage little fellow. He can kill squirrels and 
prairie dogs much bigger than himself, and even 
rattlesnakes, which take lodgings in the prairie 
dog houses also. He feeds upon all these crea- 
tures. He eats also crickets, scorpions, and many 
troublesome insects. This makes him valuable 
to farmers, for nearly all these creatures destroy 
his crops. 

Remember, too, that birds have great appetites; 
as I have told you, they eat more than their own 
weight every day. In that way they dispose of 
enormous numbers of pests. It almost seems as 
if a bird were a sort of eating machine, made on 
purpose to work for us. We should never forget 


This bird, like most others, makes many dif- 
ferent sounds. His song is a soft " coo-oo," 
something like that of a mourning dove. When 
a stranger comes to his home and he is there, he 
gives a rattle which sounds like a rattlesnake. 
This scares people, and perhaps animals, away, 
for no one wants to meet a rattlesnake in a dark 
hole. I wonder if the bird learned this trick 
living in the same house with the snake. 

The department of Agriculture has proved 
owls to be among the most useful of birds. Their 
food is almost entirely of hurtful creatures, and 
they come out at night when other birds are 
asleep and are ready to hunt the pests which do 
the same. 



(^Strigidoe) ^ 

Tms is a small family of which we have but 
one member in America, the American Barn 
Owl. He is found all over the country, as far 
north as southern New England, but he is one of 
the shyest of birds. He comes out only at night, 
and hides so well in the day that he is not often 
seen, even where he is common. So very little 
is known of his ways. 

When he does happen to come out, and any 
one sees him, a great deal is said about him. 
For he is a very odd-looking fellow indeed. He 
is all in gray and white, clouded and speckled 
and barred, and his face is the strangest of bird 
faces. It is three-cornered, and looks more like 
a monkey's than a bird's. If he shows this face 
in the daylight, he is generally caught or shot, 
and the newspapers make a great fuss about him. 
Some one says he looks like a toothless little old 
woman, with a hooked nose. 

1 See Appendix, 26. 


Happily for the barn owl, he does not often 
come out. He loves quiet more than anything. 
He seeks a hidden, safe place, not only for a nest, 
but to spend his days in. He is almost the only 
bird who may be said to live in a home. 

When house hunting, this bird will take a snug 
cavity in a tree, or an empty building. He does 
not despise an old mining shaft, or a burrow in 
the ground. He delights in a church steeple or 
a barn. Almost any place that is quiet and out 
of sight of the world will suit him. 

All day the barn owl stays at home. But in 
the evening he comes out for his dinner, and 
then there is havoc among the small animals. 
Rats, ground squirrels, mice, bats, small snakes, 
grasshoppers, and almost anything else that is 
eatable are welcome to him. He should be pro- 
tected because he is so useful. 

This bird is an amiable fellow too. He has 
been known to live pleasantly in a church tower 
with pigeons, whom he could easily kill to eat if 
he wished. He is a hearty eater himself, besides 
feeding a family of five or six little fuzzy white 
owlets great quantities of food. 

One of these owls has lived for years in a 
tower of the Smithsonian Institution in Wash- 
ington. In the Zoological Collection of that city, 
there was, not long ago, another of the family 


alive. Wishing to have more of them in the 
Zoo, some one watched the nest of the tower 
bird. When her little family of seven was about 
ready to fly, he took them away, and gave them 
to their caged relative. She promptly adopted the 
whole party, and reared them with the greatest 
care. No doubt she was glad to have something 
to do. Life in a cage must be very tiresome for 
wild birds and beasts. 

Mr. Eeed of Philadelphia has told us how a 
pet barn owl threw up the castings. These, you 
know, are the bones and skin of mice and other 
creatures which are thrown up awhile after eat- 
ing. He would bow his head and shake it very 
hard. Then raise it and jerk out the little ball. 

This bird was very tame. The place where 
he liked best to sit was on the arm or shoulder 
of his master. If the man wanted to do any- 
thing except play with him, he had to get a 
stufEed bird to amuse the living one. It was 
like a doll for a baby girl. When the owl was 
not perfectly comfortable, he kept up a constant 
cry, so his master had to keep him well enter- 
tained and fed. 

The note of the barn owl is a wild screech. 
One is sometimes heard making this sound, but 
he is never heard flying, for, like other owls, he 
is dressed in soft feathers that make no rustle. 



{Falconidce) ^ 

This is a family of birds of prey. That is. 
birds who live entirely on living animals, which 
they hunt and catch for themselves. Owls are 
also birds of prey, but they do their hunting by 
night, while this family work by day. 

Like all birds, hawks are well fitted for what 
they have to d^. They have long wings, so that 
they can fly swiftly and long at a time, to follow 
up the prey. They have sharp, curved claws, 
made for grasping and holding things. Their 
hooked beak is the best kind for cutting and 
tearing meat. 

Most of these birds work for us the whole 
time, as do the owls. For they eat the same de" 
structive animals, and they eat an enormous 
number. Yet we have a foolish prejudice against 
them, because two or three of them sometimes 
take poultry and game birds. Even when these 
* See Appendix, 27. 



birds do take our poultry and game birds, some 
good is done. For they naturally catch the weak 
ones who are not able to get out of their way. 
And it is better for the whole race of these birds 
that the weak ones should not live. It leaves 
the rest stronger, and better able to make their 
way in the world. 

This family is found all over the world. It 
includes birds of all sizes, from one as small as a 
sparrow to one who spreads his wings ten feet. 
In our country we have neither the smallest nor 
the largest. Of those you are likely to see, the 
least is the American Sparrow Hawk, who is not 
much larger than a robin, and the greatest is the 
Bald Eagle, who is sometimes a yard from the 
tip of his beak to the end of his tail. 

Hawks have wonderful eyes like a telescope 
and microscope in one, as I have told you in 
" The First Book of Birds." In eating without 
knife and fork, they often swallow food whole 
and throw up castings like the owls. 

In catching their prey these birds use their 
feet instead of their beaks. Even those who 
hunt grasshoppers and crickets seize them in 
their claws. Their feet are quite as useful as 
hands. In them they carry material for the nest 
as well as food for the little ones. The claws 
are powerful weapons of war, too. A hawk 


who is ready to fight throws himself on his back 
and presents his claws to the enemy. Few peo- 
ple would like to be grappled by those terrible 

Hawks and eagles have wonderful wing power. 
Some of them can stay far up in the air an hour 
at a time. They go up in great circles with 
wings held stiffly out and not beating, till out 
of sight. Men have not yet been able to see 
quite how it is done. It is probably by using 
the wings as sailors use their sails, and making 
the wind carry them. 

The one of this family I shall tell you about 
is the Fish Hawk, or American Osprey, be- 
cause he is found all over the United States. 
He is one of those which you will be most likely 
to see, and want to know about. 

The osprey is a large bird, about two feet 
long. He is dressed in chocolate brown, with 
white breast and white tips to many of his 
feathers. His head feathers are long, and lie 
back on his neck, giving a peculiar shape to the 
head, by which you may know him at once. 
These feathers too are white, so that as he flies 
over he looks as if he were bald. He has feet 
marvelously fitted to hold slippery fish. The 
talons are sharp, and the toes long, and rough 


on the under side, so that nothing can get away 
from them. 

The fish hawk is a social bird and fond of his 
home. Though he migrates, he comes back to 
the old place, year after year. He likes the top 
of a stout tree to build in. It needs to be stout, 
for he makes' a very big nest, and adds to it every 
season. It generally kills the tree, if it is not 
dead when he begins. If there are no trees to 
be had, or if there are too many birds for the 
trees at hand, some of them will nest on the 
ground, for they like to keep near their friends. 
The nest is made of sticks and all the rubbish 
the birds can collect. Such things are found as 
an old broom, a boy's sail-boat, a rag doll, and 
others as absurd. 

The young fish hawk is a pretty little fellow 
in white down. He is three or four weeks in 
the egg, and a long time in the nest, and is help- 
less a good deal longer. He is fed on fish like 
his parents. For this bird deserves his name ; he 
is a fisherman, and always takes his food from 
the water. Fortunately he usually selects the 
poorer kinds of fish, which men do not care to 
eat, and so he is not called an enemy by the 

But the hard-working osprey has an enemy, 
who makes it his business to rob him. The way 


the fish hawk gets his food is to dive for it. He 
hovers over the water t^l he sees a fish near the 
surface that suits him. Then he closes his wings 
and dives like a shot. He plunges in often 
over his head, and seizes the fish in his claws 
or talons. Then he rises, and shaking off the 
water flies toward his family, with their dinner. 

But then appears the robber, the bald eagle, 
I 'm sorry to say, who prefers stealing his food 
to hunting for himself. He rushes furiously at 
the fish hawk, who is obliged to drop his load to 
defend himself. Then the eagle seizes it, often 
before it reaches the ground, and flies off, while 
the osprey goes back to his fishing. 

But the osprey is learning something, like the 
rest of the birds. On the shore of New Jersey 
there is a place where men fish with great nets, 
and bring in hundreds of fish every day. The 
birds have noted how much better men are at 
their trade of fishing than they are. So they 
have thought out an easier way to get food than 
to dive for it. Perhaps they got the hint from 
the eagle. 

Wherever the fish hawks got the idea, it is 
now the common custom for them to sit on the 
poles that hold the net and wait. When it is 
drawn up filled with flopping fish, each bird dives 
down and secures one for himself. And he takes 


time to choose, too. I£ there is one of a kind he 
particularly likes, he goes for that one. 

Fish hawks, like other birds, are very fond of 
their little ones. A gentleman who had been 
traveling in the West told me this little story. 
He, with a party who were wandering over a 
wild part of the country, accidentally set fire to 
a bit of woods on the shore of Lake Superior. 
On one of the trees was a fish hawk's nest with 
young birds. As soon as the smoke began to 
spread, the old birds grew uneasy, and circled 
about their tree, going often to the nest. 

The men who had done the mischief, and 
who had then taken to their boat, were noting 
the spread of the fire. They watched the birds 
to see what they would do. When the fire at 
last reached their tree, the loving parents turned 
with one accord, plunged down into the nest, 
and all perished together. They could easily 
have saved themselves, but they could not desert 
their nestlings. 


(CathartidcB) ^ 

This is one of the most useful of bird families. 
But it is not very pleasant to meet, for the work 
it has to do makes it rather repulsive to us. 

The vultures are scavengers. They dispose of 
vast quantities of carrion and other • offensive 
matter. In doing this they make it possible for 
people to live in places where they could not live 
without the service of these birds. 

The common vulture in the United States is 
the Turkey Vulture, or Turkey Buzzard. 
He is a large bird, with head and neck bare of 
feathers. In shape and size he is a good deal 
like a turkey. He is a familiar bird all over 
the country, except in New England and other 
northern parts, and is usually seen soaring about 
in the air, looking for food. Beautiful and 
graceful he looks away up against the sky. He 

* See Appendix, 28. 


sails around as if he weighed nothing, with wing 
feathers spread at the tip like fingers. But he is 
not so pretty when he comes to the ground, for 
he is very clumsy and awkward in getting about. 

The turkey buzzard nests almost anywhere ; 
he is not at all particular — on the ground, in a 
hollow stump, or tree. The young are comfort- 
ably dressed in white down, but they are not 
pretty. They are as awkward as their parents, 
and have a way of hanging their heads as if 
they were ashamed of themselves. That is not 
the reason, however; their work is something 
we could not do without. It is because they are 
too weak to hold themselves up. 

I once saw a funny sight. A party of eighteen 
or twenty great buzzards had come to the ground 
to get their dinner. They were all very busily 
engaged just the other side of a fence, so that I 
could not see them at their feast. 

Suddenly a mockingbird that I was watching 
flew over and alighted on the fence. He stood 
there a minute, looking sharply down at them, 
and flirting his tail in a saucy way. All at once, 
to my great surprise, he gave a loud cry and 
flung himself down right among the great birds. 

I was frightened. I thought one peck from 
one of their strong beaks would kill the little 
fellow. But instead of that, the whole party of 


buzzards flew up in a panic, as if they were 
afraid of him. Then the mockingbird, who 
looked like a midget beside them, hopped back 
upon the fence, and burst into a loud song of 
victory. He knew the turkey buzzard better 
than I did. No one likes to get very near this 
bird, so very little is known about his ways. 



Note. — These characters, though correct, are untechnically given, and 
are such as may be observed on the " bird in the 6wsA," while the added hints 
on habits, etc., will be found helpful in identification. 

1. Turdidee : Thkushks. 

Medium size ; bill shorter than head, straight or nearly 
so ; bristles (hair-Uke feathers) at corner of mouth ; wings 
rather pointed, and longer than tail ; tail-feathers wider 
towards the end, the whole somewhat fan-shaped. Young 
in first feathers speckled and streaked, very different from 
the adults. Sexes nearly ahke (except robin, varied 
thrush, and bluebird). (Ridgway.) 

Food : insects, earthworms, and sometimes fruit. 

These birds are all singers and build rude nests. Found 
usually on the lower part of trees in the woods (except 
robin and bluebird) or on the ground, where they get 
most of their food. 

2. Sylviidse ; Kinglets and Gnatcatchees. 

This family is divided into two subfamilies. 

Kinglets : Very small ; bUl slender, much shorter than 
head, straight to near tip, then slightly curved ; bristles at 
corner of mouth ; wings longer than tail ; tail slightly 
forked, feathers pointed ; legs long ; claws much curved. 
Young without markings on head. (Ridgway.) 

Food : insects. 


Very small, active, musical birds, usually found flitting 
about in trees. 

Gnatcatchbes : Very small and slim ; biU slender and 
short, nearly as long as head, notcbed at tip ; bristles at 
corner of mouth ; wings shorter than tail and rounded ; 
tail long and moderately graduated, feathers rounded; 
legs rather long ; toes small. (Ridgway.) 

Active, beautiful nest builders, found in the tops of 
trees. Insectivorous. 

3. ParidsB : Nuthatches, Titmice, etc. 

This family is divided into three subfamilies. 

Nuthatches : Smaller than English sparrow ; bUl 
sharp, pointed, higher than wide, about as long as head ; 
bristles over nostrils ; wings pointed ; tail very short, 
nearly even, feathers soft ; legs stout. (Ridgway.) 

Parents nearly aUke ; food, insects. 

Found on the trunks and large limbs of trees. 

Titmice : Usually smaller than English sparrow ; 
bill stout, conical, shorter than head ; nasal feathers 
turned forward ; tail longer than vring. (Ridgway.) 

Food : insects. Parents ahke, and young the same. 
No noticeable change of plumage with season. 

"Wren-Tits and Bush-Tits : Very small ; bill short and 
conical ; tail rounded. Sexes alike. 

4. Certhiidse : Ceeepbes. 

Smaller than English sparrow ; biU slender and curved 
downward ; wings rather pointed, long as tail ; tail gradu- 
ated, stiff, with long, sharp-pointed feathers ; claws long 
and strongly curved. (Ridgway.) 

Food : insects. Sexes alike, and young the same. 
Found circling tree trunks. 


5. Troglodytidse : "Wkens and Mocking Thrushes. 

This family is divided into two subfamilies. 

Weens : Smaller than English sparrow ; bill slender, 
sometimes long and arched ; no bristles at corner of 
mouth; wings rounded; tail usually held up. (Ridg- 

Parents and young alike. Food : insects. Singers. 
Found near the ground. 

Mocking Thrushes : Larger than English sparrow ; 
bill slender, mostly rather long ; bristles at corner of 
mouth ; wings rounded ; tail longer than wings ; appear 
like thrushes ; fine singers. (Ridgway.) 

Sexes nearly alike. Food, insects and fruit. Some 
of them found in bushy borders of woods, some about 
gardens and houses, and others in various places. 

6. CinclidsB : Dippers. 

Larger than English sparrow ; bill slender, shorter 
than head ; wings short, stiff and rounded ; tail shorter 
than wings, soft and square ; claws strongly curved ; 
plumage soft and compact ; body stout, thickset. Sexes 
alike. (Coues.) 

Food : water insects and larvae. Found in and about 
the brooks of the Rocky Mountains and other mountains 
of the West. 

7. Motacillidse : Wagtails and Pipits. 

Larger than English sparrow ; biU slender, cone 
shaped, nearly as high as wide, at base ; short bristles at 
corner of mouth ; wings rather long and pointed ; tail 
narrow and slightly forked ; legs rather long ; hind claw 
very long, sharp and slightly curved. (Ridgway.) 

Sexes alike. Food : insects. Found on the ground, 
where they walk, and wag their tails. 


8. Mniotiltidse : Wakblebs. 

It is almost impossible to characterize this family, there 
are so many varieties. With few exceptions they are 
very small and beautifully colored birds, sexes unlike, and 
changes of plumage with age and season. Some are 
found in the tops of trees, some on bushes, and some on 
the ground. Food : insects. (Coues.) 

9. Vireonidse : Vireos. 

Generally smaller than an English sparrow, and more 
slender ; biU notched in both mandibles ; tail rather 
short, nearly even, of narrow feathers ; front toes more 
or less united. (Ridgway.) 

Food : insects. Constant singers. Sexes alike and 
young the same, without spots or streaks. Some found 
in trees in the woods, and others about towns where 
English sparrows are not too numerous. 

10. Laniidse : Sheikes. 

Larger than an English sparrow; biU powerful, tip 
hooked and notched ; wings short, rounded ; tail long and 
much graduated. (Ridgway.) 

Food : insects, smaU mammals, and sometimes birds. 
Sexes alike, and young the same. Found on outside of 
low trees, fences, telegraph wires, and peaks of roofs. 

11. Ampelidse : Waxwings, etc. 

Somewhat larger than an English sparrow ; bill short, 
broad and rather flat ; head with pointed crest ; wings 
long and pointed ; tail short, narrow, even ; legs of mod- 
erate length. (Ridgway.) 

Food : insects and fruit. Sexes usually alike. Found 
in trees in woods and in shade and orchard trees. 


12. Hirundinidse : Swallows. 

About tlie size of an English sparrow ; bill short, flat, 
and very broad at the head ; mouth opens back nearly to 
the eyes ; wings long and scythe shaped ; tail forked ; 
legs short ; feet weak ; plumage compact and usually 
lustrous. (Ridgway.) 

Food : insects. Sexes usually alike, and young a 
little different. Found in flocks, in the air, on roofs or 
fences or telegraph wires, sometimes on trees. 

13. Tanagridae : Tanagees. 

Larger than an English sparrow ; biU conical, notched^ 
bristles ; wings longer than tail ; tail of moderate length, 
somewhat notched ; legs rather short. (Ridgway.) 

Food : insects. Sexes unlike. Found on trees in the 

14. Pringillidee : Finches. 

Mostly about the size of an English sparrow, some 
smaller, some larger ; bill short, high, and strong, turned 
down at the back corner ; wings and tail variable. 

Seed and insect eaters. Found everywhere — on trees, 
bushes, on ground, in woods, fields, and about houses. 

15. loteridsB : Blackbirds, Orioles, etc. 

Larger than an English sparrow ; biU straight or 
gently curved ; mouth turned down at corners ; tail 
rather long and rounded ; legs rather short. Includes 
birds of very different habits. (Ridgway.) 

Food : seeds and insects. Sexes generally unlike. 
Found everywhere, on trees, in marshes, in woods. 
Many gregarious, found in flocks, some except in nesting 
season, and others all the year round. 


16. Corvidse : Cbows and Jays. 

Larger than a robin. There are two subfamilies. 

Ceows : Bill longer than head ; wings long and 
pointed ; tail rather short and even. 

Jays : Bill shorter than head ; wings short and 
rounded. (Ridgway.) 

Food : almost everything — seeds, fruit, sometimes 
eggs and young birds. Found in woody places. 

17. Alaudidee : Laeks. 

Larger than an English sparrow ; biU short, conical, 
frontal feathers extend along the side ; wings pointed ; 
claw on hind toe very long and nearly straight. (Ridg- 

Food : insects. Sexes nearly alike. Found on ground 
in fields and roads. 

18. Tyrannidae : Flycatchees. 

Mostly larger than an English sparrow ; bill broad, 
flattened, curved downward at end, and notched at tip ; 
bristles along the gape ; wings and tail variable. (Ridg- 

Entirely insectivorous. Found in woods and fields and 
about houses. 

19. Trochilidee : Hummingbieds. 

Our smallest birds ; bill slender, sharp, and straight, 
usually longer than head ; wings long and pointed ; legs 
short ; feet small and weak ; claws curved and sharp. 

Food : tiny insects and the honey of flowers. Sexes 
unhke. Found about flowers. 

20. MicropodidsB : Svtifts. 

About the size of an English sparrow ; bill very small, 


triangular, much broader than high, without bristles ; 
wings long and pointed ; legs short ; feet weak ; taU very- 
short, ending in stiff spines; plumage compact. (Ridg- 

Food : entirely insects. Sexes aUke. Found in the air 
or inside chimneys or hollow trees. 

21. Caprimulgidse : Goatsuokeks. 

Larger than a robin ; bill very short ; gape enormously 
long and wide ; mouth open to behind the eyes ; wings 
long ; plumage soft. (Ridgway.) 

Food : insects. Sexes nearly alike. One species 
found in the edge of woods, and another species about 

22. Pioidee : Woodpeckers. 

Larger than an Enghsh sparrow ; biU usually straight, 
pointed or chisel-shaped at tip; tongue extensile and 
except in one species barbed at point ; tail stiff and 
feathers pointed at tip for a prop ; toes, except in three- 
toed species, two forward and two backward for climbing. 

Insectivorous. Sexes unlike. Found on trees (except 
one species) in woods or orchards. 

23. Aloedinidse : Kingfishers. 

Usually larger than a robin ; biU long and straight ; 
tongue small ; head large, crested ; wings short ; legs 
small ; outer and middle toe united half their length. 

Food : fishes. Sexes slightly unlike. Found by water. 

24. Cuculidse : Cuckoos. 

Larger than a robin ; biU narrow and high, rather long 


and curved downward ; wings long ; tail long, soft, and 
rounded ; toes in pairs. (Ridgway.) 

Insectivorous. Sexes alike. Found on trees. 

25. Bubonidse : Owls. 

Mostly larger than a robin, a few smaller ; bill hooked ; 
eyes directed forward and surrounded by radiating fea- 
thers ; plumage soft and lax ; feathers beside forehead 
often stand up like ear tufts ; legs usually feathered ; 
feet sometimes feathered. (Ridgway.) 

Sexes aKke. Flesh eaters. Usually nocturnal. Most 
species found in holes in trees or old buildings. 

26. Strigidse : Barn Owls. 

Much larger than a robin ; bill hooked ; eyes very 
small ; triangular-shaped eye disk ; tail emarginate ; claws 
sharp and strong ; very downy plumage. (Ridgway). 

Food : mice and other small mammals. Sexes alike. 
Exclusively nocturnal. Found in barns and deserted 

27. Falconidse : Hawks and Eagles. 

(There are several subfamiilies.) 

Mostly very large birds ; bill strongly hooked ; eyes 
directed sideways ; eyelids with lashes ; toes never fea- 
thered. (Ridgway.) 

Carnivorous and insectivorous. Sexes usually, alike, 
but female larger. 

28. CatliartidsB : Amebicas: Vultures. 

Large as a turkey, one species much larger ; whole 
head and sometimes neck bare of feathers ; eyes promi- 
nent ; tail rounded. (Ridgway.) 

Food : carrion. Found sailing about in the air. 



References to the First Book are indicated by i ; those to the 
Second Book by 2. 

Affections, i, 78-82. 
Air-sacs, I, 92, 94. 
Alaudidse, 2, 131, 202. 
Alcedinidse, 2, 170, 203. 
Ampelidae, 2, 63, 200. 
Arriral in spring, I, 3, 4. 
Attraction and Protection of 

Birds, I, 131-135. 
Audubon, John James, I, 60. 
Auks, I, 110. 

Barn Owl Family, 2, 185, 204. 

Beak, I, 95-97. 

Blackbird, Brewer's, 2, 113. 

Blackbird, Crow, i, 72; 2, 110. 

Blackbird, Red-winged, 2, 94; 
portrait, 2, 94. 

Blackbird Family, 2, 94, 201. 

Blackbirds, i, 3, 126, 129. 

Bluebird, arrival, i, 3; getting 
food for young, 17; teaching 
young to fly, 37, 38; feeding, 
50; 2, 5; portrait, I, 38. 

Bobolink, nest of, I, 9; one of the 
first birds to stop singing in 
summer, 47; the fall migration, 
61, 62. 

Bob- white (quail), i, 44, 59. 

Body, shape of, i, 91. 

Bolles, Frank, his pet owl, 1, 101, 
116; his story of a heron, 103, 

Bones, i, 92, 94. 
Books about birds, I, 142-144. 
Brooding, i, 13-16. 
Bubonidse, 2, 178, 204. 
Bunting, Towhee, or Chewink, i, 

76, 77; 2, 84; portrait, i, 76. 
Bush-Tits, 2, 198. 
Butcher-birds, 2, 59. 
Buzzard, Turkey, i, 50, 51; 2, 


Canary, i, 20, 57, 81. 

Caprimulgidae, 2, 155, 203. 

Cardinal, i, 69, 132; 2, 88; por- 
trait, 2, 90. 

Catbird, food of, i, 49, 126; jerk- 
ing the tail, 113; 2, 37, 125; 
portrait, 2, 36. 

Cathartidse, 2, 194, 204. 

Cave - dwelling Family, 2, 30, 

Cedar-bird, feeding young, i, 19; 
story of affection for young, 
78; usefulness to man, 126, 129; 
2, 63; portrait, i, 126. 

Certhiidse, 2, 27, 198. 

Chat, Long-tailed, 2, 53. 

Chat, Yellow-breasted, 2, 52; 
portrait, 2, 52. 

Chewink, i, 76, 77; 2, 84; por- 
trait, I, 76. 

Chickadee, defending eggs, i, 11, 



12; getting food for young, 18; 
as an eater of insects' eggs, 68, 
126; affection for young, 78; 
2, 22; portrait, 2, 22. 

Chickadee, Mountain, 2, 22. 

Chickadees, 2, 22. 

Chuck-will's-widow, 2, 157. 

Cinclidfe, 2, 42, 199. 

Color in feathers, i, 120. See also 

Cormorant, I, 94. 

Corvidse, 2, 117, 202. 

Cowbird, 2, 51, 98. 

Creeper, Brown, 2, 27; portrait, 

Creeper Family, 2, 27, 198. 

Creepers, 2, 19. 

Crop, I, 93. 

Crossbill, American or Red, 2, 

Crossbill, White-winged, 2, 92. 

Crossbills, i, 97; 2, 91. 

Crow, American, punishing a 
young one, I, 37; sleeping in 
flocks, 59, 60; story of an affec- 
tionate, 80; usefulness to men, 
126; 2, 40, 117. 

Crow Family, 2, 117, 202. 

Cuckoo, Black-billed, 2, 174. 

Cuckoo, California, 2, 174. 

Cuckoo, Yellow-billed, 2, 174; 
portrait, 2, 174. 

Cuckoo Family, 2, 174, 203. 

Cuculidas, 2, 174, 203. 

Dipper, American, 2, 42; portrait, 

2, 42, 
Dipper Family, 2, 42, 199. 
Down, the first plumage, I, 15, 

21, 22, 115. 
Ducks, I, 97, 115. 

Eagle, Bald, 2, 189, 192. 

Ears, I, 102-104. 

Eggs, beauty of, l, 11; the moth- 
er's care, 11, 12; incubation 
and hatching of, 13-15. 

Eyes, 1, 100-102. 

Falconidse, 2, 188, 204. 

Feathers, first appearance on the 
young bird, I, 22; of the wing, 
109-111; of the tail, 112, 113 
the various kinds of, 114, 115 
expression of emotions by, 116 
the birds' care of, 116, 117. 
See also Plumage. 

Feet, 1, 92, 105-108. 

Finches, 2, 82, 201. 

Fish, birds and dead, i, 86, 87. 

Flicker, method of feeding young, 
I, 18; food of, 85, 127; color 
markings, 121; 2, 161; por- 
trait, I, 86. 

Flicker, Red-shafted, 2, 161, 162. 

Flycatcher, Least, 2, 136. 

Flycatcher, Shining Crested, 2, 

Flycatching Family, 2, 135, 202. 

Flying, I, 93. 

Food, 1, 48-55; in winter, 67-69, 
134; in its relation to the wel- 
fare of man, 125-130. 

Frigate-bird, I, 110. 

Fringillidse, 2, 80, 201. 

Geese, i, 98, 99. 
Gizzard, i, 93. 

Gnatcatcher, Blue-gray, 2, 16. 
Gnatcatchers, 2, 198. 
Goatsucker Family, 2, 155, 203. 
Goldfinch, American, 1, 14; story 
of canary and, 20; change of 



color, 26; food, 54; flocking, 71; 

2, 82; portrait, i, 26. 
Goldfinch, European, I, 79. 
Goldfinch, Willow, 2, 84. 
Grackle, Bronzed, 2, 112. 
Grackle, Purple, 2, 112. 
Grackles, 2, 110. 
Grosbeak, Black-headed, 2, 88. 
Grosbeak, Cardinal, i, 69, 132; 

2, 88; portrait, 2, 90. 
Grosbeak, Rose-breasted, 2, 86; 

portrait, 2, 86. 
Grosbeaks, 2, 86. 
Grouse, i, 58, 59, 110. 
Grouse, Ruffed, i, 111. 
Gullet, I, 93. 
Gulls, I, 101. 

Hawk, American Sparrow, 2, 

189; portrait, 2, 188. ' 
Hawk, Fish, 2, 190; portrait, 2, 

Hawk and Eagle Family, 2, 188, 

Hawks, food of, i, 52, 53, 126, 

127; asleep, 59; beaks of, 97; 

eyesight of, 101 ; feet of, 106. 
Heligoland, i, 101. 
Heron, Great Blue, 2, 114. 
Herons, food of, i, 53, 127; bills 

of, 97; story of the hearing of a 

heron, 103; 104; usefulness to 

man, 127. 
HirundiuidiE, 2, 69, 201. 
Humming Family, 2, 143, 202. 
Hummingbird, Anna's, 2, 149. 
Hummingbird, Ruby-throated, 

absence of male from nest, i, 

16; method of feeding young, 

18; 2, 144; portrait, 1, 18. 
Hummingbirds, i, 15, 98. 

Icteridse, 2, 94, 201. 
Identification, i, 137-141. 
Indigo-bird, I, 47; portrait, 1, 46. 
Instinct, i, 83. 
Intelligence, i, 83-87. 

Japan, i, 131. 

Jay, Blue, learning to fly, I, 31, 
32; storing food, 54; story of a 
mischievous, 55, 56; usefulness 
to man, 126; 2, 113, 121; por- 
trait, 2, 122. 

Jay, Steller's, 2, 126. 

Jays, 2, 117, 202. 

Kindness of birds to one another, 

1, 74-77. 

Kingbird, I, 14, 129; 2, 113, 136; 
portrait, 2, 136. 

Kingbird, Arkansas, 2, 140. 

Kingfisher, Belted, 2, 170; por- 
trait, 2, 170. 

Kingfisher Family, 2, 170, 203. 

Kingfishers, i, 21, 115. 

Kinglet, Ruby-crowned, 2, 14; 
portrait, 2, 14. 

Kinglet and Gnatcatcher Family, 

2, 14, 197. 

Language, I, 43^7. 
Laniidfe, 2, 59, 200. 
Lark, Desert Horned, portrait, 2, 

Lark, Homed, 2, 131. 
Lark, Old-Field. See Meadowlark. 
Lark, Prairie Horned, 2, 131. 
Lark, Shore, 2, 131. 
Lark PamUy, 2, 131, 202. 
Legs, I, 92, 105, 107, 108. 

Magpie, American, 2, 126; por- 
trait, 2, 126. 



Magpie, Yellow-billed, 2, 126. 
Magpies, 2, 117. 
Martin, Purple, 2, 72. 
Meadowlark, i, 45, 119, 121; 2, 

97, 100; portrait, 2, 100. 
Meadowlark, Western, 2, 102. 
Meadow Starlings, 2, 100. 
Mieropodidse, 2, 150, 202. 
Migration, i, 61-68. 
Mniotiltida;, 2, 49, 200. 
Mocking Thrashes, 2, 34, 199. 
Mockingbird, i, 45; 2, 9, 34, 195. 
Motacillidse, 2, 46, 199. 
Moulting, I, 25, 26, 118. 

Neck, I, 92. 

Nests, situations of, I, 9; materi- 
als of, 9, 10; building of, 10; 
seldom used more than once, 
10, 11. 

Nighthawk, l, 107; 2, 158; por- 
trait, 2, 158. 

Norway, i, 131. 

Nuthatch, European, 2, 21. 

Nuthatch, Red-breasted, 2, 20. 

Nuthatch, Slender-billed, 2, 18. 

Nuthatch, White-breasted, 2, 18; 
portrait, i, 96. 

Nuthatch and Chickadee Fam- 
ily, 2, 18, 198. 

Nuthatches, i, 18, 96, 98. 

Observation, i, 137-141, 145. 

OU, I, 117. 

Oriole, Arizona Hooded, 2, 108. 

Oriole, Baltimore, nest of, i, 9, 
95; 2, 104; portrait, i, 10. 

Oriole, Orchard, 2, 107. 

Orioles, getting food for young, I, 
18; teaching young to fly, 33, 
34; food of, 50; affection for 

young, 78; usefulness to man, 
129; 2, 104. 

Osprey, American, 2, 190; por- 
trait, 2, 192. 

Ostrich, I, 24. 

Ostrich, South American, I, 24. 

Ouzel, Water, 2, 42; portrait, 2, 42. 

Oven-bird, 2, 52. 

Owl, American Barn, 2, 185. 

Owl, Barred, i, 101. 

Owl, Burrowing, 2, 182. 

Owl, Florida Burrowing, 2, 182. 

Owl, Screech, 2, 180; portrait, 
2, 180. 

Owl Family, 2, 178, 204. 

Owls, I, 35; food of, 52, 53, 127; 
ears of, 103; feet of, 106; use- 
fulness to man, 126, 127. 

Paridoe, 2, 18, 198. 

Penguin, i, 72. 

Petrel, I, 110. 

Pewee, Western Wood, 2, 142. 

Pewee, Wood, i, 47; 2, 136, 140. 

Phaiuopepla, 2, 67. 

Phoebe, I, 35; 2, 136. 

Picida;, 2, 160, 203. 

Pigeons, i, 79, 80. 

Pipit, Sprague's, 2, 46; portrait, 
2, 46. 

Pipits, 2, 46, 199. 

Plumage, the nestling, I, 22, 23; 
coloration of, 23, 24, 27, 28; 
moulting, 25, 26, 118; change 
of color without moulting, 26, 
27, 118-120; protective colora- 
tion of, 120, 121; recognition 
marks in, 121, 122. 

Poor-will, 2, 157. 

Protection and attraction of 
birds, 1, 131-135. 



Quail (bob-white), i, 44, 59. 

Redbird, 2, 88. 

Redstart, American, i, 14; por- 
trait, I, 14. 

Regurgitation, i, 18, 19. 

Rhea, i, 24. 

Robin, American, arrival, i, 3, 
10, 15, 17, 18, 21; plumage of 
young, 23, 34; teaching young 
to bathe, 38, 39; notes of, 44, 
45; food of, 49, 126, 127; roost- 
ing in flocks, 60; devotion to 
young, 78; story of the intelli- 
gence of a, 84, 102; usefulness 
to men, 126, 127, 129; 2, 5, 6, 
38, 65, 167; portrait, 2, 60. 

Robin, Western, 2, 6. 

Sapsucker, Yellow-bellied, i, 85. 

Sapsuckers, tail of, i, 113; 2, 

Scavenger Family, 2, 194, 204. 

Shrike, Loggerhead, 2, 59; por- 
trait, 2, 60. 

Shrike Family, 2, 59, 200. 

Shrikes, 1, 126. 

Skylark, Missouri, 2, 46. 

Skylark, Prairie, 2, 46. 

Sleeping, I, 57-60. 

Song, I, 14, 44-47. 

Sparrow, Chipping, I, 54. 

Sparrow, English, learning ca- 
nary's song, I, 46; young fed 
by a wren, 81, 82; harmfulness 
of, 126, 130, 132; 2, 32. 

Sparrow, Song, arrival, i, 3; nest, 
9; individuality in songs, 45, 
47; 2, 81. 

Sparrow, Tree, i, 58, 128. 

Sparrov/, White-throated, i, 54. 

Sparrow and Finch Family, 2, 

80, 201. 
Sparrows, i, 84, 97; 2, 80. 
Starlings, Meadow, 2, 100. 
Stomach, l, 93. 
Strigidae, 2, 185, 204. 
Swallow, Bank, i, 96. 
Swallow, Barn, i, 71, 96; 2, 69; 

portrait, frontispiece. 
Swallow, Chff or Eave, I, 71; 2, 

72, 73. 
Swallow Family, 2, 69, 201. 
Swallows, food of, i, 17, 35, 50; 

flocking, 62, 71 ; story of young, 

75; story showing intelligence, 

85; wings of, 110. 
Swift, Chimney, sleeping, i, 59, 

60; devotion to young, 78; tail 

of, 113; 2, 150. 
Swift, Vaux's, 2, 150, 152. 
Swift Family, 2, 150, 202. 
Sylviidffi, 2, 14, 197. 

Tail, I, 112, 113. 
Tanager, Louisiana, 2, 78. 
Tanager, Scarlet, I, 79; 2, 75; 

portraits, i, 142; 2, 76. 
Tanager, Summer, 2, 78. 
Tanager Family, 2, 75, 201. 
Tanagridse, 2, 75, 201. 
Thrasher, Arizona, 2, 41. 
Thrasher, Brown, i, 113; 2, 40; 

portrait, 112. 
Thrush, Brown. See Thrasher, 

Thrush, Golden-crowned, 2, 52. 
Thrush, Hermit, 2, 11; portrait, 

2, 10. 
Thrush, Western Hermit, 2, 11. 
Thrush, Wood, i, 133. 
Thrush Family, 2, 5, 197. 



Thrushes, Mocking, 2, 34, 199. 

Titlarks, 2, 46. 

Titmice, 2, 22, 198. 

Titmouse, Tufted, 2, 24. 

Tongue, i, 97, 98. 

Towhee, or Chewink, i, 76, 77; 

2, 84; portrait, 1, 76. 
Towhee, Spurred, 2, 84. 
Trochilidie, 2, 143, 202. 
Troglodytidie, 2, 30, 199. 
Turdidae, 2, 5, 197. 
Tyrannidas, 2, 135, 202. 

Usefulness of birds to man, i, 

Veery, i, 47. 

Vireo, Red-eyed, i, 47. 

Vireo, Warbling, 2, 57. 

Vireo, Western Warbling, 2, 67. 

Vireo, Yellow-throated, 2, 66, 57; 
portrait, 2, 56. 

Vireo Family, 2, 65, 200. 

Vireonidae, 2, 55, 200. 

Vulture, Turkey, or Turkey Buz- 
zard, I, 50, 51; 2, 194. 

Vultures, American, 2, 194, 204. 

Wagtail Family, 2, 46, 199. 

Warbler, Black and White, I, 
121; portrait, i, 120. 

Warbler, Yellow, i, 50; 2, 50. 

Warbler Family, 2, 49, 200. 

Warblers, i, 62, 97. 

Water, birds in, i, 94; for drink- 
ing and bathing, 133, 134. 

Water-Thrush, 2, 62. 

Water-Thrush, Louisiana, 2, 52. 

Waxwing, Cedar. See Cedar-bird. 
Waxwing Family, 2, 63, 200. 
Whip-poor-will, i, 107, 121; 2, 

Whip-poor-will, Nuttall's, 2, 167. 
Wings, I, 109-112. 
Winter, birds in, i, 66-69. 
Woodcock, beak of, 96; whistling 

sound of wings. 111. 
Woodpecker, Californian, 2, 167. 
Woodpecker, Downy, I, 60; 2, 

169; portrait, 2, 166. 
Woodpecker, Golden-winged. See 

Woodpecker, Red-headed, I, 85; 

2, 166. 
Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied, i,86. 
Woodpecker Family, 2, 160, 203. 
Woodpeckers, j., 18, 21; teaching 

young to feed itself, 36, 36; 

food of, 60; storing food, 64, 

65; sleeping, 59, 85, 86; beaks 

of, 95; tongues of, 98; 103; 

feet of, 106; tails of, 113; 2, 19.' 
Wren, House, i, 81, 82; 2, 31; 

portrait, i, 80. 
Wren, Western House, 2, 31. 
Wrens, 2, 30, 199. 
Wren-Tits, 2, 198. 

Young birds, hatching of, i, 13- 
15; feeding of, 16-20; first plu- 
mage of, 21-23; learning to fly, 
29-34, 37-39; the mother's 
anxiety about, 30-32; learning 
to feed themselves, 34-36, 39; 
learning to sing, 36; after leav- 
ing the nest, 70-73. 

U . S . A