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From the collection of the 

y „ n 
V 2 m 

o Prelinger 

b t " w P c 

San Francisco, California 


This book did not hatch all by itself. The author 
wishes to thank the following ornithologists for their 
assistance in checking the nnanuscript for scientific 
accuracy, and for their helpful suggestions: Professor 
V. C. Wynne-Edwards, Chairman, Departnnent of 
Zoology, Aberdeen University, Aberdeen, Scotland; 
Professor J. W. Stock, Director of The Museum, 
Michigan State College, East Lansing, Michigan; 
Dean Amadon, Ph.D., Associate Curator, Depart- 
ment of Birds, The American Museum of Natural 
History, New York City. Thanks also to Mrs. L. M. 
Terrill of the Redpath Library, McGill University, 
Montreal, and the librarians of the Detroit Public 
Library, Detroit, Michigan, for their generous assist- 
ance; and to Margaret Gossett, who also brooded. 

Printed in the U.S.A. by W. S. Konecky Associates 






author and illustrator of THE FIRST BOOK OF BUGS 



Copyright 1951 by Margaret Williamson 

^;- ^> f '^ 



A bird could never be mistaken for a dog or a lizard or a 
butterfly. A bird is simply a bird. Although there are many kinds 
of birds, they look and behave so much alike you can always tell 
them from other animals. 

You might think a bird is different because it flies. But some 
birds— penguins and ostriches, for example— cannot fly at all. And 
some other animals can. Bats and insects do. 

So, although flying is important to most birds, there are two 
more important things that really make a bird a bird. 

First, all birds live in a hurry. Everything about a bird is busy 
and quick. Even when it stops to rest or sleep, it breathes faster 
than any other animal on earth. Also, its heart beats faster. Our 
own hearts beat about eighty times a minute. But a canary's heart 
beats one thousand times a minute. When you hold a bird in your 
hands, you can feel its heart pumping faster than you can count. 



Birds are busy— summer 




A bird feels very warm, too. Its tem- 
perature is higher than that of any other % 
creature in the world. If you had a tem- ^'^ 
perature of io6 degrees, it would mean 
that you were very sick. But most birds 
feel bright and chirpy with tempera- 
tures of 1 06 degrees— and some have 
even higher temperatures. 

With such quick breathing and such warm bodies and such 
strong hearts beating so quickly, it's no wonder birds are lively. 

To keep the warmth of their bodies from going off into the air, 
birds have feathers. That is the second important way to tell a bird 
from any other animal. All birds have feathers. They are the only 
animals that do. 

The color and shape of birds' feathers help us to tell one kind 
of bird from another. However, this book is about more than tell- 
ing birds apart. It is about all the many things that make a bird a 
bird and all the fascinating ways birds have of living their own 
special kinds of lives. 


Every bird has three main kinds of feathers: contour feathers 
that cover most of its body; an undercoat of soft, downy feathers; 
and a few hair-like feathers called "filoplumes.' 





SHAFT. Stiff and solid except for the 
hollow calamus, which fits into the 
bird's skin. 

VANE. Looks like thin silky material 
lined with fine grooves. Really, it is 
made of two fringes of barbs, one grow- 
ing out from each side of the shaft. Each 
barb branches into two rows of tiny 
branchlets. Hooks and notches on the 
branchlets fit together and lock each 
barb to its neighbors. It is as if the barbs 
were all zippered together to make a 
covering without holes. 
AFTERSHAFT. A tiny duplicate of the 
main feather. Some birds don't have 

CALAMUS. The hollow part of the shaft. 
The calamus fits into the bird's skin 

The big contour feathers in a bird's 
wings are called flight feathers. Their 
barbs are especially well zippered to- 
gether, making the feathers stiff and 
firm so that they act as a sail when they 
strike the air. 


; J' 


ostrich plume 

Some birds have contour feathers called plumes, for "show." 
An ostrich plume is soft and fluffy. It has long barbs and branch- 
lets which are not zippered together. An egret plume is long and 
filmy. It has a long shaft with unzippered barbs. 

Beneath the contour feathers on most birds there is a warm 
undercoat of soft fluffy feathers called "down." These do not 
have long stiff shafts. The barbs branch from the calamus like 
hairs from a paintbrush, and there are no hooks or notches to zip 
the barbs together. 

Water birds, like ducks and geese, have especially thick coats 
of down feathers. These are like warm underwear, protecting 
birds from the cold water. The first feathers that most birds have 
are also down feathers. They are like the soft fluff of baby chicks. 

Besides down and contour feathers, there are the long, hair-like 
feathers called filoplumes. No one really knows what these are for. 

There are also some short black prickles, particularly on the 
birds' wings. These are called "pinfeathers," but they aren't a dif- 
ferent kind of feather. They are new feathers pushing out from / 
the birds' skin. The black prickles are hard coverings which pro- filoplume 
tect the delicate new feathers until they are strong. Then the 
coverings split and peel off, and the barbs of the feathers unfold. 

«■*•■ ' 

pinfeather pinfeather unfolding 

down feather 

The Eastern towhee loves 
brushy places and is found 
over the eastern part of 
the United States and 
southern Canada. It sings 
its own name, "tow-hee." 

The golden-crowned king- 
let breeds in Canada and 
at high altitudes in the 
United States. Its nest is 
often in an evergreen tree. 



The cedar waxwing gets 
part of its name from the 
red tips on its wing feath- 
ers which look like drops 
of red sealing wax. It loves 
to eat cherries. 


over most of 

The yellow warbler likes 
open country with plenty 
of trees and bushes nearby 
where it can look for in- 
sects on the leaves and 


The rose-breasted gros- 
beak is a summer resident 
in woods and orchards of 
eastern North America. In 
fall, the male becomes 
somewhat streaked, a little 
like the female. 

The chickadee sings 
"chick-a-dee-dee" as it 
looks for seeds and insects 
about trees. It is often seen 
around our houses in 


The screech owl comes in 
two colors. It may be spot- 
ted or streaked in rusty 
red or grayish brown. It 
cries "Oo-oo-oo" at night, 
and sounds very sad. 

The redstart is easy to see 
darting through the green 
trees. The female is olive 
green where the male is 
black, and yellow where 
he is red. 



The junco, or "snowbird," 
visits our woods and back- 
yards in winter. In sum- 
mer, it prefers to live in 
Canada because it likes 
cool weather. 

North America 

The downy woodpecker is 
found in our woods and 
also about our dooryards, 
winter and summer. Only 
the male wears the bright 
red patch on his head. 

The white-breasted nut- 
hatch often walks down a 
tree headfirst, looking for 
its dinner. It stays the year 
round, even in the cold 
snowy North. 

The brown creeper creeps 
spirally up a tree, looking 
for insects and their eggs 
and larvae. It is seen most- 
ly in cold weather. 



wiping bill 


If you rub a contour feather up and down roughly the barbs 
separate and become tangled. The hooks have to be helped back 
into place. That is just what a bird does when it sits on a branch 
and combs its feathers with its beak after the wind has ruffled them. 
This is called "preening." 

Most birds have a large oil gland at the base of their tails. They 
preen their feathers by combing the oil through them with their 
bills. Some scientists think that this keeps the feathers waterproof. 
That would explain why "water runs off a duck's back." 

Birds are very fussy about keeping their feathers clean and tidy. 
Besides preening, some often take baths. They love to splash in the 

water, even in wintertime. They send 
splashes high in the air to make them- 
selves a shower. Some birds prefer dry 
cleaning to a wet shampoo. They 
squirm and flutter in the dust. This 
probably helps keep them free of lice. 






Feathers wear out just as clothes do. 
When they break and fray, the old 
feathers are pushed out by new ones 
that grow under them. This feather- 
changing is called molting. Most birds 
molt once a year, usually in late summer 
or early fall. Some kinds of birds take 
only a few weeks to do this. Other kinds 
take several months. 

Among flying birds, two wing or tail 
feathers usually drop out at a time— one 
on either side of the bird. A second pair 
falls when the pair before it is almost 
grown in. In this way, birds keep 
enough feathers to fly about and catch their food and dodge their 
enemies. Penguins, though, lose their feathers in handfuls at a time. 
So do ducks and geese, and they have to hide until they can fly 
again. As they are swimming birds, they manage to catch food 
even though they have lost their flying feathers. 

Some kinds of birds molt twice: once in the fall and once in the 
spring. In spring, they do not usually lose their wing and tail 
feathers, but they grow new and brightly colored contour feathers. 

king penguin molting 



bathing and shaking off 

13 ik^" 


:^'* ^''> ^ 


^k.,|>U- «v^. 



the male scarlet 
tanager molts 
twice a 

irlet ^^Km 

summer a*^^ wmter 


Some birds' feathers are colored so that they act as a camouflage 
in escaping from enemies. They may be spotted with patches of 
color that match the dead grass or earth or old leaves or sand or 
pebbles where the birds live. Birds who live where there are no 
trees or cliffs in which to hide from faster and stronger enemies 
are likely to have camouflage coloring. Females and young birds, 
who need the most protection, often match their hiding places 
more than males do. 

When it rains, a bird's oiled and zippered feathers make a good 
raincoat. When it is cold, a bird fluffs out its feathers, holding a 
layer of warm air next to its skin. When it is hot, a bird can't take 
its feathers off, but it can flatten them into a very thin layer. 


A bird's body is as streamlined as an airplane, so that it slips 
easily through the air. Even its feathers point smoothly back from 
head to tail. A bird has big strong breast muscles that work its 
wings, which are also streamlined. 

Though it is very strong, a bird is lightly built. Its wings are 
made mostly of light feathers that overlap one another. There are 
only a few bones along the wings' front edges, and some of them 
are hollow and filled with air. So are many of the other bones in 
a bird's body. Besides, a bird has inside itself several sacs connected 
with its lungs. These are filled with air, like balloons. A bird is 
much lighter than it would be if all these air spaces were filled with 
miiscle or fat. 


Air sacs are useful in other ways. 
Birds can't perspire as people and ani- 
mals do, so the fresh air in the air sacs 
cools them inside and keeps them from 
getting overheated when they fly very 
fast. Water birds use their air sacs as 
storehouses for air when they dive un- 
derwater. And flying birds cannot lose coverts 
their breath because with each flap their 
strong flying muscles also help pump 
stale air out of their lungs and air sacs. 
The faster a bird flies, the faster its 
muscles work, the faster it pumps air, 
and the easier it breathes. 

birds are streamlined 

primary flight feathers 



When a bird flies, it flaps its wings up 
and down. A flap is like a jump, using 
wings instead of legs to jump with, and 
air instead of ground to jump upon. 
Pushing down on the air with its wings 
lifts a bird up and keeps it in the air. 

A long-legged bird has an advantage 
on the take-off. It just springs into the 
air and folds its legs up. There is then 
enough room beneath its wings for a 
downward flap. A short-legged bird has 

15 this diagram is just to sfibw 

how a bird's five pairs of 
air sacs are connected to its 
lungs and air-filled bones 

only this much of 
wing is bone 

wing can be folded 
neatly when bird rests 

windpipe ^ 



to spring higher into the air or dive down from a branch of a tree 
in order to give its wings room for the first flap. Most water birds 
have to paddle and kick along the water for quite a way before 
they take off. Some ducks shoot themselves into the air by a pow- 
erful sudden push with their wings against the water. 

If you hold your hand outside a car window as you ride along, 
so that it is tilted up slightly in the direction you are going, the air 
will push your hand upward. As a bird flaps along, its wings are 
tilted in just the same way. The front edges of the wings are up 

and the feather edges behind are down. 
The air pushing up, and the tilt of the 
wings help to keep a bird in the air. 



canvasbacks running 
on water to take off 

gannet plunging from 
cliff to take off 

I / 

Flapping its wings moves a bird forward. Both wings move up 
or down at the same time. At the start of a flap, the wings are up 
above the bird's back. On the downstroke, the wings move for- 
ward, then downward and backward. The wings push the air be- 
hind them. This shoves the bird ahead. On the upstroke, the wings 
move upward and backward to get ready for the next flap down. 
The faster a bird flaps, the faster it moves along. 

To land, a bird twists its wings forward, with the underside 
facing front. They push against the air and act as a brake. A bird 
sometimes uses its tail as an extra brake by pushing it down and 
spreading it out fanwise. 

To turn, a bird tilts its body and drags one wing in the direc- 
tion it wants to go. Sometimes it steers using its tail as a rudder. 





,,v^ .- 

mallards landing 

herring gulls gliding 


V', "N 

Sometimes a bird glides, perhaps to 
rest its wings. As it glides, it drops lower 
and lower or goes slower and slower 
till finally it has to start flapping again 
to stay up in the air. 

Some birds rise higher and higher in 
the sky on motionless, outstretched 
wings. This is called soaring. In the sky 
are warm, light air currents, rising 
through the heavier, colder air around 
them. To soar, birds let this warm ris- 
ing air push against the underside of 
their wings and they travel up with it. 
Birds with big wings, like eagles and 
vultures, are the best soarers. 

The shape of a bird's wings tells a lot 
about its habits. Swifts and swallows, 
who chase insects in the sky, have fairly 
long, pointed wings which are best in 
flying fast for a long time. They are 
also good for stopping and starting sud- 
denly and for twisting and turning 

Birds like ruffed grouse, that live in 

steep bank 
for fast turn 

tail to turn 

barn swallow 

ruffed grouse 




the woods where there is not much open 
space for flying, have short, broad, 
rounded wings. These birds fly very 
quickly for a short way, but they soon 
get tired. 

Hummingbirds are like hehcopters. 
With their tiny wings they buzz in and 
out and around flowers, sometimes hov- 
ering in one spot, sometimes flying 
backward instead of forward. 


To keep in good condition for flying, 
birds have to rest. They sleep at night, 
for most of them cannot see well 
enough in the dark to move about. Owls 
are different. They see best at night, so 
they sleep by day. 

Many birds sleep standing on their 
feet with their heads buried in the 
feather pillows of their shoulders, and 
their bills tucked into their wing 
feathers. Usually they find a hiding 
place where enemies can't find them. 

bobwhites sleeping 

(after R. B. Horsfall— courtesy 
National Audubon Society) 

birds roosting 

Ducks and swans often spend the 

night bobbing about on the water. A 

bobwhite and its family sleep together 

in a circle on the ground. Each one 

faces out, then if danger comes, the 

whole flock can scatter in many 


When the weather is cold some birds sleep in holes in the ground 

or in trees or in dead leaves. Some even snuggle under snowbanks. 

Only a few birds, like owls and martins and pigeons, ever sleep 

in their nest, except when they are brooding eggs. 


Most birds are small creatures with few weapons to defend 
themselves. But they fly and move so quickly that most of them 
can outwit enemies many times their size. 

To move quickly, a bird must be able to see well. A bird can 
use its eyes as a telescope one minute and as a microscope the next. 
Most birds have eyes on the sides of their heads so that they can 
see things on both sides at once, but not in front. When they look 
at anything close up and straight in front of them, they have to 

cock their heads to one side. 

Owls, who prey on smaller birds and 
animals, have eyes in the front of their 
heads. They can't move their eyeballs 
so, to watch something moving, they 
"fix" their eyes on it and twist their 

an owl sees the same 
thing with both eyes- 
just as we do 


a bird with eyes 
on the sides of 
its head sees 
different things 
with each eye 


it has to cock its 

head to see close 

up in front 

A bird has three eyehds. Two are much like ours, but the third 
one is transparent, and it moves across from side to side when a 
bird winks. That third eyehd wipes dust specks off, much as a 
windshield wiper does on a car. Scientists think it may also be 
drawn across the eye when a bird is flying, as protection against 
the wind. 

A bird's ears are as keen as its eyes. Birds' ears are round holes 
opening on either side of their heads and surrounded by arrange- 
ments of feathers which help catch sound waves and steer them 
into the ears. 


Though all birds have feathers, and though most of them are 
built for flying, still, birds are all shapes and sizes. They have a 
great variety of wings and feet and beaks, and all colors of feathers. 
For each kind of bird is fitted to live its own kind of life in the 
place it likes to live best. 

Birds live in all sorts of places, so no two kinds of birds look 
exactly alike, though they all have the same parts. 

the third eyehd f, '^j^'""''" 

being drawn /^ W 




hen's ear 


The osprey, or "fish hawk," is found over rivers and 
lakes through most of North America. It dives, feet 
foremost, for the fish it likes to eat. 

The belted kingfisher can be found along lakes and 
rivers, ponds and streams, throughout North Amer- 
ica. The male does not have the extra chestnut band 
across his breast. 

The red-winged blackbird usually builds its nest in 
the reeds of a marsh or swamp. The female is a 
dusty brown with a striped breast. It is found over 
most of North America. 

The green heron may be found almost anywhere 
there is water in North America, 

bald eagle 


The herring gull is the most common gull of our lakes and rivers and ocean shores. 

The bald eagle, the national bird of the United States, stays close to lakes, rivers and 
ocean shores looking for dead fish to eat. 

The Canada goose is the "honking" goose. It mi- 
grates in flocks, in V-shaped formations, in the fall. 

The American merganser is a duck with a saw- 
toothed bill for catching slippery fish. The male has 
a greenish-black head and looks quite different from 
the female. 

The spotted sandpiper lives along ocean beaches 
and lake shores and is the best-known sandpiper in 
North America. It teeters when standing still. 

-WBfe^ spotted 
- '^■::;iy., sandpiper 


duck— paddle- 
like foot for 

ostrich— hooflike 
foot for running 


birds stand 
on their toes 


All birds have two feet. 

Most birds use their feet to walk or hop or run. Others swim 
or climb or perch, too. Each bird has feet shaped best for the job 
they have to do. 

Almost all birds have four toes on each foot. While they may 
look delicate, they are really very strong. They are long and wiry, 
and spread out. This gives them a good grip, and helps the bird to 
spring into the air suddenly, too. 

The bones in a bird's legs are much like ours, but they are 
stretched out. What some people think is a bird's leg is really its 
anklebone, and what they think is its knee bent backward is really 
its heel. This springy kind of foot makes spraining an ankle im- 
possible, and helps a bird land in a hurry and balance safely. 

Swimming birds like ducks and geese 
have webbed feet which they use as 

Birds like sparrows and starlings and 
warblers, that spend much time in trees, 
have feet each with three toes in front 

stretched tight 

many perching birds' 
legs work this way 



hawk— catching, 
holding foot 

ptarmigan— snowshoe foot 

crow— walking, 
perching, scratching 

climbing foot 

and one long one behind, for perching on branches. These birds 
can sleep perched on a twig without any danger of falling off. 
Each toe is connected with a cord that passes up inside its leg and 
over a kind of pulley at the joints. When the bird stands up, the 
cords are loose and its toes are free. When it bends its legs, the 
cords stretch tight and its toes curl around the branch. 

Parrots and woodpeckers, that climb trees, have four toes all the 
same size, two in front and two behind on each foot. Their toes 
end in sharp claws that dig into the rough bark of tree trunks. 

Ostriches cannot fly away from their enemies, but they can 
run as fast as horses. They have just two big, thick toes on each 
foot. Their feet are almost like hoofs. 


Birds, like other animals, eat food as fuel to keep their living 
engines going. Birds need a great deal of food. They spend much 
of their lives looking for things to eat. 

Many birds are vegetarians. They eat only fruit and seeds or 
leaves or buds. 


sucking nectar 


barn owl with mouse 

Other birds are meat-eaters. Great 
horned owls eat small birds and small 
animals like mice and rabbits. Swifts 
and swallows eat flying insects. Some 
other birds eat beetles and ants or juicy 
grubs and worms. Most hawks prey on 
small birds, reptiles, and other small ani- 
mals. And there are birds, like penguins 
and pelicans and cormorants, who fish 
for a living. 

Some birds eat both meat and vege- 
tables. Still others have changed their 
habits since they have been living near 
people. They eat left-over scraps and 
garbage. Sea gulls will even follow a 
ship for many miles just to live on the 
rubbish thrown overboard from a ship's 


Birds have no teeth. They eat their 
food whole, or in large pieces. Instead 
of teeth, a bird has a hard, horny beak. 
Its shape helps the bird catch and eat 
the kind of food it likes. Beaks do the 
work of many tools. 

crows eating corn 26 

bill of finch 

knife and fork 
bill of hawk 

■^/^ ' J 

wrench bill 
of crossbill 

sieve bill of merganser spear bill of heron X 

Birds like finches, who eat seeds and berries, have short, thick, 
pointed beaks that make good nutcrackers. A crossbill eats seeds, 
too, but from pine cones, and it has to twist the cone scales off to 
get them. Its bill is shaped to make a good crowbar or wrench. 

A hummingbird uses its long, pointed beak as a probe to go 
deep inside flowers. It uses its long, tubular tongue as a straw to 
suck up the nectar. 

Some woodpeckers use their long, pointed bills as chisels to get 
at the grubs which bore into trees. They have long, rough, sticky 
tongues to reach way into a grub's tunnel and rake it out. 

Swifts and whippoorwills have tiny beaks but huge, gaping 
mouths which they keep wide open like bags, as they dash around 
the sky, catching insects. 

Many ducks have broad, flat bills with fringed edges. They 
make good sieves. Their tongues are fringed, too. These ducks 
strain small animals and plants out of the mud and water as they 
swim along or as they tip or dive underwater to get food. 

catching flies 

a brown 
pelican dives 
for its fish 

Hawks and falcons and eagles have 
sharp, hooked bills. They use them as 
knives and forks to tear their prey to 
pieces after they have caught and held 
it in their long, strong claws. 

Herons wade out in shallow water on 
their long legs. They have long, pointed 
bills that they use as spears to stab the 
fish that swim by, or the frogs that jump 
too near. 

A kingfisher perches on a lookout 
bough over a stream. At the sight of a 
fish, it plunges into the water and comes 
up with the fish held crosswise in its bill. 
Then it tosses the fish into the air and 
swallows it head first. 
Pelicans have long bills with huge, elastic pouches in their bot- 
tom halves. A brown pelican uses its pouch as a dip net to capture 
fish when it dives into the sea. The great white pelican uses the 
pouch to scoop up fish as it swims along 
the surface of the water. 

Penguins and cormorants chase fish 
by swimming after them underwater. 
Penguins "fly" underwater, using their 
wings as paddles. Cormorants swim by 
using their wings and webbed feet. 


a penguin "flies" 

underwater, chasing fish 

(after L. R. Brightwell) 

food pipe— "gullet" 

first part stomach 


Even though birds bolt their food 
without chewing it, they probably don't 
feel uncomfortable. They have their 
own way of taking care of food. 

When a bird swallows, the food 
passes down a long, elastic tube called a 

"gullet," which is inside the bird's neck. The bottom of the gullet 
is often widened into a bag called a "crop." The food may stay 
there for hours to be softened or stored. 

When it is ready, it passes into the bird's stomach. One part of 
the stomach pours juices over it, for digesting it. The other part is 
the gizzard, which is lined with tough skin, and has strong wall 
muscles for grinding the food to pieces. 

A bird that eats hard seeds and grain always swallows small peb- 
bles or pieces of shell, too. As the muscles force the inside walls of 
the gizzard together, the pebbles rub against the grain and grind it 
up. Of course, the pebbles and pieces of shell rub against each 
other, too, and gradually wear down so small that the bird gets 
rid of them along with the waste material from its food. That is 
why the bird has to swallow more pebbles every day or two. 

Birds like owls and kingfishers, that eat their prey whole, cough 
up little balls of bones and skin and fur or scales when their meal 
is over. These are called pellets and they tell naturalists what the 
birds had for their last meal. 


pellet of a barn owl 
showing skull, fur, 
bones of mice 

(life size) 







Even though birds have a big brain for their size, and sharp eyes 
and ears to help them, they cannot figure things out by themselves 
as people do. A bird works mostly by instinct. That means it is 
born knou^ing how to do things it has never done before. It knows 
how to build its first nest and how to fly and how to sing, though 
sometimes it does better after it practices a bit. A bird has an in- 
stinct for almost everything it does. 


Not all birds can sing songs, but almost all birds are able to tell 
things to one another. Most bird language is made up of simple 
signals for special occasions, just as we say "Hello" to greet some- 
one, or "Oh" in surprise. A factory whistle means "Hurry up," 
and a motor horn means "Look out." Bird calls are Uke them, for 
they are short and clear and loud. They are meant to be heard, and 
often have to be acted upon quickly. Sometimes birds repeat them 
over and over again. 

Some of the bird calls we know best are the "caw" of the crow, 
the "quack" of the duck, and the "coo" of the pigeon. 

Mother birds have a special language for their young. A mother 
hen has a call to warn her chicks of danger, and to get them to 
follow her. She has another special clucking sound to coax the 
chicks to cuddle under her wings when it rains. 

Young birds, too, have special peeps to catch their mother's 
attention if they want food or if they lose sight of her. 




Grown-up birds recognize their 
mates by their voices, just as we do our 
friends and family, without having to 
see them. 

When birds fly together in flocks, 
they have "travel talk" for calling to 
one another. Geese honk back and forth 
when they are flying south. Starlings 
also have "let's come together" signals. 
They can be very noisy, finding one an- 
other and getting settled for the night. 

Some birds are more talkative than 
others. A few birds never say anything 
at all. Storks don't, but they make a 
noise by clattering their beaks together 
when they meet. 

Many perching birds, like robins and 
orioles and warblers, can sing songs as 
well as make noises and calls. They sing 
mostly in the spring. 

Usually male birds, or cocks, do 
most of the singing. Females have only 
soft little notes to talk to their mates. 

Most birds sing the same song every 
time, but the mockingbird is continually 
making up new ones. He is a mimic. 

the brown 
thrasher sits 
on a high perch 
and sings most 
everything twice 

the killdeer calls 
its own name 


the eastern 
meadowlark has 
a clear whistle 
for a songr 

terns screammg at one 


He can imitate the quack of a duck 
jj or the pop of a cork or the squeak of a 

wheelbarrow or countless other things. 
Then he can take any of these sounds 
and make them into music. He can give 
the alarm call of a hen and fool the 
chicks, who scuttle beneath their 
mother for safety. Besides that, he has 
V a fine song of his own which he sings 
^ by the hour in the moonlight. 
Some of our finest wild bird musicians are the thrushes. Their 
notes are fine and high, and their songs are beautiful. 

Birds have a music box called a "syrinx" at the bottom of their 
windpipes. The music box has several elastic membranes that are 
stretched or loosened by muscles. The membranes vibrate and 
make sounds when the air rushes past. A bird does not shape the 
sounds with its mouth, but with the muscles in its music box. Birds 
that have real songs have more complicated music boxes with more 
muscles than birds that have only calls. 
A few birds have quite different ways 
of making noises. An emu has big 
pouches like balloons in its neck. It fills 
them with air, then empties them, to 
make a big noise. A woodpecker drums 
with its beak on a tin roof or drainpipe 
or dry limb. 

The mockingbird can give the alarm call of a hen 

(after L. R. Brightwell) 

hermit thrush 


Springtime is birdtime in North 
America. Many birds go south for the 
winter. Then, as the days grow longer 
and warmer, they return by thousands. 

The males usually come first. Now they have their brightest 
feathers and are singing their most beautiful songs. Each finds a 
likely spot for building a nest— safe as possible from the weather 
and from enemies, and with enough land around it so that there 
will be food for a family. This land becomes that bird's own "ter- 
ritory." It may be big— an eagle's is a few square miles in area. Or 
it may be only a few inches around the nest, like that of sea birds 
that nest close together in colonies and fish in the sea. 

Each male shoos away any other male that trespasses on his 
property. They may just fluff out their feathers and rush at one 
another, flapping their wings, or they may fight with spurs on 
their legs or with their beaks. Most of the time a male songbird sits 
in some favorite spot in his territory and sings at the top of his 
lungs, warning everyone to stay away. 

We know, of course, that birds don't think or plan or have 
feelings the way people do. A male bird just has instincts that guide 
him in these strange performances when he seems to be acting 
like a human being. 

His loud singing attracts any female that is looking for a mate. 
When a female, or hen, drops down from the sky into his territory, 
the male bird puts on quite a performance for her. He "shows 
himself off," trying to win her as Kis mate. 




' 1 4 : 




i» I 

Blue jays know that owls are 
their enemies. Finding one in 
the daytime, they tease it un- 
mercifully and may even 
drive it away. The owl never 
fights back till night comes. 



A killdeer plays "hurt bird" 
to lure an enemy away from 
its nest. It limps along, drag- 
ging its wings and screaming 




Many eggs and baby 
birds match their sur- 
roundings so closely 
that they are hidden 
from enemy eyes. 



This duck hawk is trying to 
scare its rival away by look- 
ing as big and fierce as it can. 


Cocks fight each other with 
the spurs on their legs, peck- 
ing with their beaks and flap- 
ping their wings, (after L. R. 

Many birds try to 
dodge their enemies. 

A frightened bittern "freez- 
es," with its bill pointed to 
the sky, so that it looks like 
part of the reeds in the marshy 
places where it lives. 

a female tern begs for a fish 


'J .'■'■ 


(after Roland Green) 

Besides singing, a male bird that is showing off in front of a fe- 
male may either twitter or coo or crow, all the while fluttering his 
wings and posing or strutting about with fluffed-up feathers. He 
may skip or jump or turn or bow to the ground in front of her. 
He may even chase her, or he may put on flying exhibitions in the 
air above her. He does all kinds of things that show off his bright- 
est feathers or any special ornaments he may have— for cocks are 
often much more brilliantly colored than hens. 

Turkeys and peacocks spread their tail feathers, pigeons puff 
out their chests, umbrella and frigate birds blow up the big red 
pouches beneath their beaks. Parrots and ostriches collect bright 
things and present them to their hoped-for mates. 

The hens usually act as if they did not notice all this. They may 
just turn their backs and go on eating. If a male has pleased a hen, 



male birds may 
wear special 



bell bird 

■4r- caruncle 



a rooster 
struts and 

penguins courting 

though, she will finally go off with him as his mate. If not, the 
cock bird will try his luck elsewhere. 

Among some birds, the males and females look very much alike. 
Then they usually show off to each other. Cranes bow and dance 
and skip and hop together. Terns pass a fish back and forth to one 
another. Great crested grebes come face to face, and shake their 
heads back and forth. Sometimes they separate and dive, coming 
up with bits of waterweed in their beaks, to offer to one another. 

Most birds stay with their mates for a month or six weeks while 
they are bringing up their young. Then they may find new mates 
for the next brood. Others may stay together to raise the two or 
three broods often hatched in one summer. 

Many birds, especially those that don't go south for the winter, 
pair for life. 

a herring gull presents his 
mate with a sea shell 




Cranes dance together. 
They hop and bow and 
skip, (after L.R. Bright- 

The male marsh hawk puts 
on flying exhibitions for an 
admiring female. 

At dawn, male prairie chickens hold tournaments. 
They blow up their orange neck sacs, make loud 
booming noises, and fight one another. 

I. % 


'# * 


The male man-of-war 
bird blows up the big 
red pouch in his neck 
to impress the females. 

A cormorant opens its mouth 
wide to show off the bright 
yellow lining inside. 


The turkey gobbler fluffs up 
his feathers, spreads his tail, 
swells his head ornaments, rat- 
tles his wing quills, struts and 
gobbles to attract attention. 

red-eyed vireos 
building their nest 

I St day— the foundation 

2nd, 3rd days— shaping it 

4th day- 
adding the 
lining— finished 


As soon as two birds have paired off, 
they start to build their nest. Each kind 
of bird has its own kind of nest, and 
each kind of nest is in its own special 
spot. A bird knows by instinct just how 
and where to build its nest. 

Robins mate and start building their 
nests as early as April, but May and 
June are the biggest nest-building 
months. It takes some birds about two 
weeks to collect their material and build 
their nests. Others, who work without 
|f stopping till they are finished, may take 
only a few days. Usually the female bird 
does the building, but sometimes the 
male bird gathers nesting materials and 
brings them to her. Other times he just 

There are all kinds of nests made in 
all kinds of ways. One of the simplest 
nests is just a scrape in the ground. It 
may or may not be lined with pebbles. 
A killdeer lays its eggs in this kind of 
nest. ^^^ si^-^ I 

W 7th to nth day 
four eggs laid 


A kingfisher burrows a long tunnel 
in a river bank and makes a room at the 
back where it lays its eggs. A screech 
owl saves itself trouble by finding an 
old hole in a tree trunk. A woodpecker 
often hacks its own hole in a dead tree. 
Some of the chips make a bed for the 
eggs, and the opening is just big enough 
for the birds to get through. 

Many other birds build their nests of 
grasses or lichens or twigs or mud. The 
nests may be built on the ground, where 
they are usually well hidden, or they 

may be up in bushes or in trees or in 

barns or about houses, where they are 

harder to reach. 

A song sparrow, like many other 

birds, often builds her cup-shaped nest 

of dead grasses, hidden beneath a clump 

of grass in a field. 



eagle's nest 

song sparrow s nest 

Baltimore orioles 

A Baltimore oriole weaves a swing- 
ing cradle of long grasses, plant fibers, 
hair, and strings, hanging from the twigs 
of a tree. While the oriole builds, she 
may work outside, clinging upside 
down, or most often, inside, pushing 
and pulling and stitching. 

Father and ' mother barn swallow 
work together on the nest they build 
on rafters in a barn. It is made of 




^ / 



mouthfuls of mud, stuck together and 
strengthened with straws. Often it is 
lined with chicken feathers and grass. 
Most birds build a new nest every 
year. Some even build two or three a 
summer, one for each family they raise. 
Others repair their old ones and use 
them over again for a second brood. 
Eagles use the same nest year after year. 
Sometimes it may weigh over a ton. 


' \ red-headed 
4 woodpecker 

barn \ swallows ' 

Some sea birds, like the murres, don't bother to make any nest. 
They lay their eggs high up on a narrow, rocky shelf, where they 
are well out of reach of intruders. 


Young birds hatch from eggs that are laid by the mother bird 
in her nest. 

All female birds lay eggs, usually during the spring and summer. 
Eggs inside a bird's body start out looking like a bunch of yellow 
grapes. Each "grape" is the beginning 
of an egg. It is a tiny cell surrounded by 
yellow yolk. When one of these 
"grapes" swells to a certain size, it 
breaks away from the others and enters 
the funnel-shaped end of a long tube. 
The other end of the tube opens on the 
outside, beneath the bird's tail. 


yolk breaks away and enters tube 

egg white added 

1 thin skin added 

hard shell added 

egg factory 
or "ovary" 

an egg 
may be 



tgg shell painted 

The tube is more than just a passageway to the outside. It helps 
build the tgg. First, the tube walls ooze out egg white, which is 
wrapped around the slowly revolving yolk. A little farther down 
the tube, material for the thin skin that goes on top of the white 
is squeezed on. After that, the walls pour a chalky substance 
around it. This hardens into the eggshell. And, last of all, the egg 
is painted by a liquid that comes from the tube walls— different 
colors for different birds. When the egg reaches the end of the 
tube, it is ready to be laid. 

Birds' eggs are all sizes and shapes and colors. Bigger birds 
usually have bigger eggs. An ostrich egg is the largest. It will hold 
about eighteen hen's eggs. A hummingbird's egg is the tiniest- 
only as big as a bean. 

Many eggs are oval-shaped like a hen's. But there are many other 
shapes, too. Owls lay eggs almost as round as golf balls. Alurres 
lay pear-shaped eggs, which can't roll off their rocky ledges. Try 
rolling a pear, to see for yourself how it rolls in a circle. 



or pointed 
at both ends 

Some eggs are white. Most eggs are colors that match the ground 
and sky and leaves best— light tones of brown or blue or green or 
gray. They may be one plain color or they may be spotted or 
speckled or streaked. 

An eggshell is not as solid as it looks and feels, but is dotted with 
very tiny air holes. Most of the air holes are at one end of the egg. 
They open into an air space between the shell and the skin. This 
is a storehouse of air for the baby bird. You can see this air space 
easily when you break open a hard-boiled egg. 

The tgg yolk is a storehouse of food for the growing bird inside 
the egg. The egg white acts as a watery cushion for the chick to 
lie in, as protection from bumps. It stores extra food, too. A tiny 
clear speck on top of the yolk is the part that grows into a baby 
bird. It is there only if the male and female birds have mated. 

Not all eggs will grow into baby birds. Any egg without that 
tiny living clear speck will always be just an egg. Even an egg with 
a speck inside will not grow into a baby bird by itself. It must be 
kept warm. 


hummingbird's egg 

ostrich's egg 
3 (drawn to scale) 

mother robin brooding 


The female bird is most often the one 
that sits on the eggs, or broods them, 
keeping them warm, particularly if the 
male is brightly colored and likely to at- 
tract the attention of enemies. He may 
help his mate, though, by feeding her 
while she sits. Sometimes the father and mother take turns sitting 
on the nest, and they find their own food when they are off duty. 
Many birds have little ceremonies when it is time to change 
places on the nest. Gannets rub their heads together. Wandering 
albatrosses spread their wings out in greeting. Penguins bow low 
before one another with great dignity. 

While the eggs are being brooded, the baby bird inside each one 
grows bigger and bigger every day. The yolk and the white grow 
smaller and smaller as the chick uses them up, till at last they are all 
gone and the baby bird fills the shell. It is curled up inside with 
its head bent over against its breast— almost like a sleeping bird. 

hard shell 
air space 

clear white speck that 
grows into chick 

5th day 
embryo chick 

blood vessels 
carrying food to 
chick from yolk 

2nd day 
egg has been kept warm 


house wren 


cedar waxwing 

^^^. V 


blue jay herring gull 

Just before it hatches it knocks its beak against the shell. The horny- 
bump on the tip of its beak, called an ''t^^ tooth," scratches and 
scrapes as the bird struggles to get out. First it chips one hole in the 
shell, then another and another and another, till the shell cracks 
right across and the baby bird wiggles out, all wet and tired. After- 
ward, the t^^ tooth falls off. 

Usually, the bigger the bird the longer its tgg takes to hatch. 
A huge emu's tgg takes nine weeks to hatch, but a hummingbird's 


takes only ten days. 

After the chicks have hatched, the 
mother usually drops the broken shells 
far away from the nest. Then there are 
no telltale signs to give away the secret 
of where her nest and young are hidden. 

19th day 
almost all yolk 
gone— feathers 
have grown 

2 1 St day 

to get 

1 1 th day 

white of egg almost 


6 hours later 





a baby pelican "fishes" for its dinner 


Some eggs have more yolk than 
others, so the chicks inside have more 
food and can stay inside the egg longer. 
When they hatch, their eyes are open 
and they have a downy fuzz all over 
their bodies. After drying off, they can .^ 
run about and find food for themselves. 
Their mother only guides and protects 
them. The young of many ground-nest- 
ing birds are like this. 

Most of the tree-nesting birds lay 
tiny eggs with little yolk. Their young ~ 
are naked and blind when they hatch. They can't walk or fly or 
find food, and their parents must do everything for them. 

Newly hatched birds must have lots of food. This is when the 
parents of helpless nestlings have the busiest time of their lives. A 
meal doesn't keep a tiny bird happy for long. The parent birds 
must make many trips, from dawn to sunset, to find enough food 
for their young. 

A naturalist once watched two starlings bring sixteen thousand 
insects to their six children in one season. Another saw a young 

robin eat fourteen feet of earthworms in 
a day. And the parent birds had to search 
for each insect and each worm! 

Parent birds have different ways of 
feeding their young. Perching birds just 
touch the bill of a young bird, and its 


baby killdeer can feed themselves 


mouth opens wide. Usually it is chirping loudly anyway, with its 
mouth open. The mouths of nestlings are brightly colored, often 
orange or yellow, and they may have bright red and blue spots 
which guide their parents to the right place to drop food. 

A nestling is so helpless it can't even take the grubs or insects 
from the parents. They have to ram the food down its throat, and 
if the baby bird doesn't swallow as quick as a wink, they will pull 
the food out and plop it into another open mouth. 

Wrens batter large caterpillars on a branch to soften them be- 
fore feeding them to their young. Swallows snip off the wings of 
flies, and the water rail plucks off a spider's legs, making it easier 
for the young birds to swallow. 

When a bird's food is hard to digest, the parent often partly 
digests it in its own crop or stomach before feeding it to its young. 
For the first few days, a parent pigeon takes a baby pigeon's bill 
in its mouth and pumps into it a creamy liquid called "pigeon's 
milk," made in the walls of the parent's crop. Later, young pigeons 
are fed partly digested food from the parents' crops until they can 
find food for themselves. 

A pelican opens its enormous bill and the young poke their heads 
down to help themselves to the half-digested fish brought up from 
its stomach. 

Fish-eating birds encourage their children to fish for themselves. 
The parents catch fish while the little ones watch. Then they drop 
the fish nearby in the water. Though the fish are dead, the young 
ones still have to pick them up in their beaks before they can eat. 
Swallows are said to do much the same thing, dropping insects 
from a distance as they swoop past, for their young to catch. 


' # 



2 days old- 
eyes closed, 
no feathers 




have "^ 


out and 



Birds that are helpless when they 
hatch stay in the nest until their feathers 
have grown big enough to use for fly- 
ing. This usually takes at least a week or 
two. Most birds that are hatched naked 
stay in their nests for two or three weeks 
-and young albatrosses may be a year 
old before they can fly out to sea. 

All young birds grow "first flying 

feathers." They are the same shape as 

feathers, but often 

their grown-up 

duller in color, or speckled for camou- 
flage. As soon as the young birds have 
their first flying feathers, the old birds 
are anxious to get them out of the nest. V 
They never push them out, but they do 
coax them. And sometimes young birds 
sneak out when the parents are away. 

All birds have the instinct to fly, but 
the parent birds sometimes have to en- 
courage them to make their first flight. 
The older birds may hold a piece of 
food to make the baby stretch its neck 


2 weeks old 

first flight 


blue jay 





(not drawn to scale) 

SO far beyond the nest that it topples over onto a branch. From 
there it will jump, fluttering its wings as it falls, while the old birds 
fly about, calling encouragement. But young birds need lots of 
experience before they can fly well, and during that time their 
parents still help to feed and protect them. 

Water birds are encouraged to take to the water just as perch- 
ing birds are encouraged to fly. A grebe will swim around with 
her young on her back. When she has to dive for food, the fledg- 
lings are dunked at the same time. In that way they get the feel 
of diving. 

As soon as young birds can look after 
themselves, they leave the nest for good. 
A nest is a cradle, not a bed or a house. 
A little later their parents leave them to 
themselves, and then they are really on 
their own. 

with young 


Over northern countries, the four seasons are all different, and 
people and animals and plants change their habits with the seasons. 

In late summer or fall, after the parent birds have raised their 
young, they molt their feathers. Then many of them fly south to 
their winter homes, along with the young birds. There they all 
eat and sleep and wander about a bit. They don't mate or build 
nests or lay eggs. When spring comes they return north. Other 
birds, like chickadees and j uncos and some jays and starlings, stay 
north all winter. 

Bird traveling to and from winter and summer homes is called 
"migration." Birds usually travel by the same air highways that 
their parents and great-great-grandparents did. We have learned 
a great deal about birds' amazing travels since someone first thought 
of fastening a small aluminum band around a bird's leg. Each band 
has a number and an address stamped on it. If the bird is captured 
or found dead, the band is returned to that address. There the 
record of that number is looked up, and scientists learn where and 
when the band was put on the bird's leg. By the records kept of 
bird-banding we have discovered where birds go in wintertime 
and what air highways they take. 

But some things not even bird-banding can tell us. What makes 
birds migrate in the first place? How do they know the way? Why 
do they go to the same winter or summer homes each year? 

They couldn't have decided to go south to escape the cold and 
lack of food. Many of them leave their nesting sites before the 
cold comes. They often return in the spring after the snow has 
melted and gone. So they don't know what winter is Hke. 


herring gull 

arctic tern 
Atlantic golden plover 







golden plover (Atlantic) 


scarlet tanager 

black and white warbler 

arctic tern 


Pacific coast route— heavy 
migration from coast up into 

Great Plains-Rocky Mountain route 

Mackenzie Valley-Great Lakes- 
Mississippi Valley route— most 
heavily traveled route 

Atlantic coast route (bobolinks' favorite) 

Atlantic Ocean route (plovers' favorite) 

SUMMER HOMES-northern limit 




The turkey vulture soars in wide circles for 
hours at a time, looking for dead animals 
to feed upon. Though found over much 
of the United States, it prefers the South. 

The red-tailed hawk, found over most of 
North America, also loves open spaces in 
which to soar. It looks for mice— not chick- 
ens, as many farmers think. 

The crow is a bird of American and Ca- 
nadian fields and woods. It is a clever, noisy, 
thieving rascal that likes to steal and hide 
bright things. 


The nighthawk comes out on summer even- 
ings all over North America. It dives and 
whirls over cities and farms and villages, 
catching insects. 

The ruby-throated hummingbird is one of 
the smallest birds in the world. It is found 
only in eastern North America. 

The goldfinch, often called a "wild canary," 
darts about the lawns and gardens of North 
America in flocks— except during nesting 

The starling, brought from Europe, is now 
one of our most familiar city birds. It sings 
and squeaks from a favorite perch. 

The cardinal is usually a year-round resi- 
dent all over the United States. It is easy 
to see, and its loud whistle is easy to hear. 

A few English sparrows were brought to 
America from England in 1850. Now they 
are everywhere— in city and country alike. 

Some scientists think that the amount of Hght, and the length of 
day have much to do with bird migration. This idea does not answer 
all the questions, and scientists are still working on the problem. 

Birds' feathers must be in perfect condition for their long flying 
trip. The young birds molt their first flying feathers, and grow 
their first grown-up ones. Old birds get rid of their worn-out 
feathers and grow new ones. 

A bird's fuel for flying is stored in the layer of fat under its skin. 
Before leaving, birds spend a great deal of time eating and growing 
fat. Some birds stop and eat on their trips, but others have to fly 
many miles over the sea and can't stop for meals. 

Old and young birds gather together in flocks before they start. 
They get in trim for their long journeys by making short trips 
back and forth from their feeding grounds in the daytime to their 
roosts at night. Perhaps you have seen swallows in July or August, 
resting in flocks on telephone wires during these first practice 

"^: . -- - - ^^^ 0m^' ' ^Piv 

*e^ J. -:- 

r i * 


^^ _* 





- ^ . . V^ Each bird leaves for its winter or 

ly V summer home at almost exactly the same 

\^ time each year. Storms on the way may 

r I delay them, or good weather may y 

speed them up, but, if the weather is "^f^ 

\ much the same year after year, birds are 



likely to reach either their winter or summer homes on the very 
same day each year. The diagram on page 5 3 will show you how 
far some of our birds go in winter. 

Some birds travel only by day. Day flyers include many birds 
that gather at night to roost. Among them are robins, crows, swal- 
lows, swifts, and bigger birds like hawks. 
*► Many more birds travel by night than by day, and they find 

their way just as surely as those who fly in the daytime. Night fliers 
are shy, timid birds, like warblers and sparrows and thrushes, that 
are used to the covering of bushes and trees. They wait to travel 
more safely in the cover of night. *" ^ 

The last birds to leave in the fall are usually the first to return 
in the spring. They make short migrations and spend less time ^^-^ 

traveling. In March, the early birds, robins and grackles and red- 
winged blackbirds, arrive in the North. By the middle of May, 
in the northern part of the United States, more birds are on their ^ ^ 

travels than at any other time of year. June brings only stragglers 
—a few late-comers. 

57 V^ 

greater bird of paradise 
( Aru Islands and 
New Guinea) 

largest bird 
in the world 



(India and Ceylon) 

The peacock's long 
train is attached to, and 
hides his real tail. The 
peahen has no train. 


(New Zealand) 

wingless bird 



Not all birds travel safely back and 
forth. No matter how strong birds' 
wings may be, how well they may be 
prepared for their trip, or how short 
their migrating route is, many run into 
storms and die at sea or are beaten down 
to earth. Some of them are gobbled up 
by bigger birds. Many fly against light- 
houses and are killed. Others, flying 
across cities at night, bump into tall 
buildings, or wires. 


Everywhere you go you will see and hear birds. But to really ^: 
make friends with them and know them by name you must stop 
and listen and watch. Then you can see for yourself the things 
they do and the way they live. 

And you will see how valuable they are to us. The insect eaters 
help us get rid of the pests that harm our plants and trees. Owls 
and hawks catch small animals like mice and rats, that are trouble- 
some to farmers. Birds that eat fruits and berries spread seeds in 
getting rid of their waste material. And by watching birds fly and 
glide and soar, and by studying how they are built, aviation ex- 
perts have learned many things about airplane building. 

The best time to go looking for birds is in the early morning, 
at daybreak. Then birds are busiest, and easiest to see. Try to take 
trips regularly all year through, so that you will be sure to see the 
birds migrating north in the spring, building their nests and feeding 



their young in summer, and flying south in the fall. 

By noticing, you will soon find the best spots to see birds. 

Swampy woodlands, places with low scrubby bushes, and edges 
^.%., of brooks are favorite places for birds. But seashores, edges of 

forests; fields, and even city parks and your own back garden will 

have their own special birds. 

If you move quickly, birds will be frightened, so sometimes it 

is best to sit as quietly as a tree stump and let birds come to you. 

Then they will keep on doing things as naturally as if you weren't 

there. Whenever you do move, go slowly, and don't stand out in 

the open where they can see you. 

One of the best ways to learn about 
birds is by going on trips with other bird 
watchers. If you don't know any, then 
join a bird club in your neighborhood 
or start one yourself. The National Au- 

■ ^ * t dubon Society has Junior Audubon 

Clubs connected to local nature mu- 

,i>fe*r-T f- seums, schools, boy and girl scout 

' troops and camps throughout the 
United States and Canada. If you write 
to the National Audubon Society, i ooo 
Fifth Avenue, New York 28, N. Y., 
or the Audubon Society of Canada, 177 
Jarvis Street, Toronto 2, Canada, they 
will tell you what bird clubs are in your 
neighborhood, or how to go about start- 
ing a Junior Audubon Club yourself. 

9 •^* ^ ■ .,Hi^ 

If you live in a city apartment, where there is not much room for a dog or cat, cage 
birds will make good pets. If you look after them well they will become quite tame. 
Canaries will sing for you, and parrots, parakeets and lovebirds can be trained to talk. 
If you keep a male and female together, you may even be able to raise baby birds. 

POLLY is a Mexican yellow-head parrot. Yellow-head parrots make the best talkers 
among birds. They can be taught to say whole sentences, to sing songs, and to whistle 
tunes. Sometimes they are said to live to be over one hundred years old. 

"Bongo" and his mate 


BONGO and his mate are African lovebirds. When they play they nibble and 
scratch one another's heads. 

RICHARD is a roller canary. Roller canaries make the best singers though other 
kinds of canaries may be prettier. 

NICKEY is an Australian shell parakeet. In Australia he is called a budgereegar. He 
can say in a high voice, "What have you been doing? " "Merry Christmas, everj'body," 
and lots of other things. Parakeets come in many different colors. 



field glasses 

^^ :^^ can be a big 

^' -^j-*3^ help on bird 

'' "*" ^ trips 

In watching birds, a guidebook is a big help. Two good in- 
expensive ones that will fit into your pocket are Birds, by Zim and 
Gabrielson, and How To Knouo The Birds, by R. T. Peterson. 
You can get either of these at any large bookshop. 

Take along a notebook and pencil for making notes and sketches 
of the birds you see. Jot down when and where you see them, 
what they are doing, and what their nests and eggs are like. If you 
keep your notebook from year to year it is fun to check on when 
you saw your first robin the year before, and to compare notes 
with other bird watchers. 


Birds need a quiet place to make a nest and raise a family. They 
need shady trees and bushy shrubs for protection from sun and 
storms and enemies, lots of food and water, and a spot to roost 
and spend the night. If you give them the things they need, you 
can have them nesting and wintering and even stopping over on 
their migration flights right in your backyard. 

Birdhouses you can build yourself will also bring birds to nest 
in your garden. Not all birds like the same kinds of houses. If you 
are going to make some birdhouses which birds will want to live 
in, you might write to the Government Printing Office, Washing- 
ton 25, D. C, and ask them to send you their Conservation 'Bulletin 
No. 14, called Homes for Birds and How to Build Them. It costs 
only ten cents, and it will tell you all you need to know. 


i 1 








In wintertime, especially if you live where it is cold and there is 
snow on the ground, you can bring winter birds close to you by 
keeping a feeding tray outside your window sill in a protected 
place. Just a plain wooden shelf at least a foot square, with a little 
ledge all about to keep the food from blowing off, will do nicely. 

Seed-eating birds, like j uncos and grosbeaks, will eat oatmeal, 
sunflower seeds, cracked wheat and bread crumbs. For the insect 
eaters, you can make a suet-holder of wood or raffia or coarsely 
woven cloth, and tack it to a tree or a window ledge and fill it with 
beef suet, raw meat scraps, peanut butter or doughnut crumbs. 
This kind of food will bring woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, 
creepers and jays to your window sill. Once you start, it is only 
fair of you to set food out every day, for birds get used to finding 
their meals on your shelf. Put fine gravel and a dish of water on the 
shelf, too. 

There is no end to the fun yoii can have with birds, and only 
a bird watcher will ever know the thrill of discovering a rare bird 
for the first time, or the wonder of watching a baby chick picking 
its way out of its shell, or the satisfaction of finding a pair of birds 
nesting in his very own nesting box, or the happy surprise of meet- 
ing old bird friends in a strange new country. 


suet stick- 
suet stuffed in holes 
bored in branch of 
soft wood 



All the starlings in North America are the offspring of only 
one hundred birds brought from Western Europe and released in 
Central Park, New York City, in 1 890 and '91. 

Ostriches do not hide their heads in sand when they are afraid, 
as most people think, but run stupidly in circles. 

Before the days of penholders and nibs, people used a goose 
quill dipped in ink to write letters. 

In China and Japan, cormorants are trained to fish. Tight col- 
lars about their necks keep them from swallowing their catch. 
Instead they are forced to drop their fish into a boat and return 
to the water for more. 

Some plovers and egrets in Africa find their meals inside croco- 
diles' mouths. They eat the flies that buzz about inside or the scraps 
of food they find there. 

After many days at sea, Columbus and his discouraged men saw 
birds flying about their ship. They knew then that land could not 
be far away, so they sailed on— and discovered America 


(Numbers for 

Air sacs 14-15 

Baby birds 48-50 

Banding 52 

Baths 12 

Beaks and bills 26-28 

Bird clubs 61 

Birdhouses ... .64, 66-67 
Birds around the 

world 58-59 

Birds, helpful to man. 60 
Birds of open places 54-55 

Birds, water 22-23 

Birds, woods 10-11 

Bird watching . . . 60-6 1 , 64 
Body temperature. . . 7 

Breathing 6, 15 

Brooding 46-47 

Calls of birds 30-32 

Camouflage coloring 14 
Contour feathers .... 8-9 
Courtship 33,36-37.38-39 

Crop 29 

Digesting food 29 

Down feathers 9 

Ears 21 

Eggs 43-47 

Egg tooth 47 

Eyelids 21 

Eyes 20-2 I 

Feathers 7-9. 12-14 

as protection 14 



full pages of pictures are in 

first flying 50 

kinds of 7-9 

Feet 24-25 

Fighting 33,34-35 

Flying ...14-19 

air sacs 15 

flapping 15-17 

gliding 18 

landing 17 

soaring 18 

taking off 15-16 

young birds' 50-5! 

Food 25-29 

catching 26-28 

digesting 29 

kinds of 25-28 

young birds' 48-49 

Gliding 18 

Growth of birds. . . .50-51 
Guidebooks, bird. ... 64 

Hatching 46-47 

hieortbeat 6 

Homes for birds 64. 66-67 

Instinct 30 

Junior Audubon 

Clubs 6! 

Language of birds. .30-32 
danger signals. ... 30 

songs 3 1-32 

travel talk 31 

bold face type) 

Mating. .33, 36-37.38-39 
Migration . .33, 56-57, 60 

Molting 13 

Nests 40-43 

building 40-43 

kinds of 40-43 

Oil gland 12 

Ornaments 36 

Pellets 29 

Pets, birds OS 62-63 

Pinfeathers 9 

Plumes 9 

Preening 12 

Showing off 

33. 36-37. 38-39 

Sleeping 19-20 

Soaring 18 

Songs 31-32 

Springtime habits 

33. 36^37. 38-39 

Suet holder 65 

Syrinx 32 

Temperature, birds'. . 7 

Territory 33 

Watching birds. 60-6 1, 64 

Water birds 22-23 

Wings 14-19 

Winter habits ..52.56-57 

Woods birds 10-11 

Young birds 48-51