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Stories of Birds
by Lenore Elizabeth Mulets
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Then up she went through the chimney, Never speaking a word, And out of the top flew a woodpecker, For she was changed to a bird.

She had a scarlet cap on her head, And that was left the same, But all the rest of her clothes were burned Black as a coal in the flame.

And every country schoolboy Has seen her in the wood; Where she lives in the trees till this very day, Boring and boring for food.

And this is the lesson she teaches: Live not for yourself alone, Lest the needs you will not pity Shall one day be your own.

Give plenty of what is given you, Listen to pity's call; Don't think the little you give is great, And the much you get is small.

Now, my little boy, remember that, And try to be kind and good, When you see the woodpecker's sooty dress, And see her scarlet hood.

You mayn't be changed to a bird, though you live As selfishly as you can; But you will be changed to a smaller thing— A mean and a selfish man.

—Phoebe Cary.



[1] Used by permission of and special arrangement with Houghton, Mifflin & Co.



ALL ABOUT THE WOODPECKER

SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS

Comes north in May—often stays all winter—most commonly seen in the fall.

Song—shrill, lively call resembling the voice of the tree-frog.

Male and female have crimson head and neck—upper parts black with white marking—white band across wings—most conspicuous when bird is in flight.

Lower parts white—bill wedge-shaped, strong, and sharp—tail strong and stiff, used as a brace when clinging to a tree-trunk and tapping with bill—toes arranged two in front and two behind for better support in clinging to tree trunks, etc.

Young birds resemble the parents, except that in colour they are a mottled gray.

Food is largely fruit—green corn, nuts, and larval insects procured from tree-trunks.—Sometimes stores away nuts, etc.

Place chosen for nest is usually a rotting tree, which is easier to bore.—Hollow from fifteen to eighteen inches deep.—Eggs pure white, generally six in number.



THE LARK



IN THE MEADOW

If Jack's big black dog, Nero, had not chanced to snatch Phyllis's rag doll by the head and run away with it this story would have never been written.

You see, Nero bounded straight across the meadow and Phyllis, fearing that she would lose the doll, ran shrieking after him.

Nero was only playing, and soon dropped the doll and ran off. Phyllis regained her property and started to return, when a bird rose from the grass at her feet with a queer whirring sound.

Phyllis looked up at the bird and then down to the spot from which it had flown.

In another moment she would have stepped in the nest. This meadow lark's nest was unlike any other Phyllis had found. Indeed, it could scarcely be called a nest at all.

But when she looked at it Phyllis thought what a wise little bird the meadow lark must be to choose such a place for the nest.

Had Phyllis not chanced upon it in just the way she did she might have looked all day long and not discovered it.

The nest was flat upon the ground. Around it and over it arched the tall meadow grasses. The nest itself was made of grass—it seemed to Phyllis that it was made in a somewhat careless manner, and that the eggs might easily roll out upon the ground.

There were four beautiful oval eggs in the nest—the largest birds' eggs Phyllis had as yet discovered. They were over an inch long, and were of a beautiful rosy white colour, speckled closely with reddish brown spots.

As Phyllis sat very still, the mother bird crept softly back to her home. She carefully settled herself on the grassy nest and with her bill tenderly tucked the eggs under her soft feathers.

"How careful you are!" exclaimed Phyllis. "No fear of your breaking the eggs."

The brown bird rose up quickly in fright and looked uncertainly toward the fence. Phyllis thought to see her whirr off again.

"Oh, don't go," she cried. "I will not harm you! Truly I will not disturb you!"

The meadow lark looked again toward the fence, and then settled herself once more over her precious eggs.

"Why do you look toward the fence so often?" asked Phyllis.

"Do you not see that bird perched upon the fence?" asked the meadow lark.

"Yes," Phyllis answered, "what is he doing there?"

"He is our sentinel," said the meadow lark. "He is on the lookout for danger. When he gives the alarm, the rest of the flock know there is danger near.

"When we hear the sentinel's alarm we are off in an instant. We fly high into the air. Did you not notice how I hovered near the grass-tops for a moment and then rose high into the air?"

"Yes," answered Phyllis, "and I knew that you were a lark because of that whirring sound you made when flying."

"Ah, but I am not really a lark at all," said the bird. "I am called the meadow lark, but in truth I belong to the blackbird family. The red-winged blackbird is an own cousin of mine. So also is the oriole, who builds a queer hanging nest in the tree-tops.

"The oriole is very proud of her woven nest, but I should consider it a dangerous place for bird babies. My little ones will never be hurt by falling from their nest.

"Neither can I imagine how any bird can dare to build in such an open place.

"My home is hidden here amid the grasses. Sometimes we find places like this, where the grass blades naturally arch over and hide the nest.

"Sometimes we weave a sort of arch over the nest with the downy, fine fibres from the grass leaves.

"Did you notice the little lane down which I returned to my tiny home?"

"No," said Phyllis, "I thought you just came through the grasses by the easiest way."

"If you will look closely," said the meadow lark, pecking away at her own brown feathers, "if you look very, very closely, you will see the tiny path which leads directly to my door."

Phyllis leaned down and peered very curiously among the grass stems. Sure enough, there was a tiny winding path, almost hidden from sight. It led directly to the meadow lark's nest.

"You are a very wonderful little bird," she cried.

"I shall have some very wonderful babies one of these fine days," said the meadow lark, proudly.

"How safely they will be hidden from danger," said Phyllis.

"Well," said the mother bird, shaking her head, sadly, "I am very sure that I build in a safer manner than my cousins. But, alas, even meadow larks are not free from danger."

"I might have stepped on your nest?" said Phyllis.

"Yes," said the bird, "but what makes me fear most are the field-mice and the snakes. They make great havoc in our nests when they discover them. Many a tiny fledgling has been swallowed by a great creeping, crawling snake. Many a beautiful egg has been eaten by the hungry little field-mice."

"I hope no harm will come to your little home," said Phyllis. "I notice one thing which you have for a protection from harm."

"What is that?" asked the meadow lark.

"It is your colour."

The meadow lark raised her head in gentle surprise.

"And what has my colour to do with my danger?" she asked.

"Why," said the little girl, feeling wondrous wise, "do you not see that the browns of your feathery dress are the same colours as the grass stems and the stubble amid which you brood and feed?"

"Why, so it is," said the meadow lark. "My back is brown, edged with brownish white. That is like the grass stems. I am streaked with black and brown and cream colours. That is like the blades of grass.

"My throat and breast are yellow like the stubble amid which I feed. You are wonderfully wise, Miss Phyllis."

"What a beautiful black crescent you have upon your breast," said Phyllis. "It was almost the first thing I noticed when I met you."

"Did you observe the dark brown lines on my head? They seem to cross my eyes."

"I think you are quite beautiful," said Phyllis.

"Ah, but you should see my mate," said the meadow lark. "He is much more beautiful than I. My feathers seem pale and faded when I walk beside him. When fall comes, however, my own colours will brighten."

"On what shall you feed your little ones?"

"When I tell you, you will see again that I am wise in choosing this place for a nest.

"My babies need never grow hungry, for the grass seeds are always falling. The beetles and worms and ants are always walking by. The moths and the butterflies are for ever laying their eggs in all sorts of convenient places. You remember how their eggs do not hatch out into butterflies and moths at once. They are just ugly little worms called grubs."

"Yes," said Phyllis, "I remember."

The meadow lark carefully tucked an egg farther under her soft brown feathers.

"I am glad," she said, "that my eggs do not hatch out as grubs. Perhaps if they did, I should care no more for my babies than the butterfly does for hers. I am told that she does not even know her own children."

"You are quite right," said Phyllis. "She herself told me so."

The meadow lark gave a low whistle and nervously flitted her tail, showing the white feathers with which it was edged.

"It has been some time since I have heard your clear, sweet whistle," said Phyllis. "I thought you must have left our meadow. You have a most beautiful voice."

"Oh, no, we shall not soon leave your meadow, Phyllis. In the autumn we may join a party of larks and take our family to the marshes for awhile, but we shall return. Meadow larks do sometimes go south for the winter, but usually they live their lives in their home meadows."

"Then you will sing for me again?" asked the little girl.

"Oh, with pleasure," said the meadow lark.

"You remember how we used to sing in the spring? Just now our thoughts are so taken up with our nesting that we have little time for song. But later, when the little ones are able to care for themselves, I shall gladly whistle to you once more."

"I shall listen for you," said Phyllis. "Just now I must go, for I hear my mother's voice. Good-bye, meadow lark!"

And the meadow lark from her nest whistled a low good-bye.



THE SONG OF THE MERRY LARK[1]

Once there was an old gray pussy, and she went down into the meadow, where she saw a merry lark flying among the tall reeds; and pussy said, "Where are you going, little lark?"

And the merry lark answered, "I am going to the king to sing him a song this fine May morning."

And pussy said, "Come here, little lark, and I'll let you see a pretty ring round my neck."

But the lark said, "No, no, gray pussy; no, no! You worried the little mouse, but you shall not worry me."

Then the lark flew away till he came to a high oak-tree, and there he saw a gray, greedy hawk sitting. And the gray, greedy hawk said, "Where are you going, pretty lark?"

And the lark answered, "I am going to the king, to sing him a song this fine May morning."

And the gray, greedy hawk said, "Come here, little lark, and I'll let you see a pretty feather in my wing."

But the merry lark said, "No, no, gray, greedy hawk, no, no! You pecked at the little linnet, but you shall not peck at me."

Then the lark flew away till he came to the side of a rock, and there he saw a sly fox sitting. And the sly fox said, "Where are you going, sweet lark?"

And the lark answered, "I am going to the king, to sing him a song this fine May morning."

And the sly fox said, "Come, little lark, and I'll let you see a pretty white spot on the tip of my tail."

But the lark said, "No, no, sly fox; no, no! You worried the little lamb, but you shall not worry me."

Then the merry lark flew away till he came to the garden of the king; and there he sat among the red clover blossoms and sang his sweetest song.

And the king said to the queen, "What shall we do for this little lark who has sung so sweet a song to us?"

And the queen said to the king, "I think we must have some May-day games for the little lark, and invite robin redbreast to sing with him."

So the gay robin redbreast came and sang with the lark.

And the king and the queen and all the fine lords and ladies danced and made merry while the little birds sang.

And after that the lark flew away home to his own green meadow, where the old gray pussy-cat still lived among the tall reeds.



[1] Permission of American Book Company.



SAVED BY A LARK[1]

Little Helen was four years old. She lived in the country in a white house with green window blinds. The house stood in a large yard, and had pretty flowers in front of it and a row of big maple-trees on each side.

Behind the house was an orchard, where the birds liked to build their nests and sing their sweet songs. Helen had a swing between two large apple-trees which stood a little way from the back door. She could swing ever so high, and could almost touch the green apples on one of the branches.

Back of the orchard and garden stood three big red barns. These barns were full of wonders for Helen. She was always glad to go into them with her father, and see the piles of corn and wheat, the plows and wagons, and the many other things that were there.

One morning in the harvest-time Helen was standing alone upon the door-step. The sun shone bright; the robins were singing in the apple-trees; the grasshoppers were chirping in the lane; but Helen heard only the sound of the far-off reaper, as it came to her through the soft morning air. She knew that her father was with the reaper.

Don't you know what a reaper is? It is that with which the farmer cuts his grain when it is ripe. It is drawn by horses, and it cuts down the grain stalks with many sharp knives, which move back and forth very fast.

"I think I will go out to the field and help father," said Helen to herself.

In another moment the little feet were turned toward the harvest field.

Across the orchard and down the lane she went, carrying her sunbonnet in her hand and talking to the grasshoppers, which would somehow get in her way.

But when at last she came to the field, she saw the men and the reaper far away toward the other side.

Helen kept on across the field, for she thought that she would soon catch up with the men. But it did not take long for the little feet to grow very tired.

Then she sat down on a sheaf of wheat and looked around her, wishing that her father would come.

Just in front of her the tall yellow grain was still standing. Helen wondered why her father had not cut it down.

As she was looking, a lark flew out from among the grain singing a rich, clear song. The little child clapped her hands for joy. Then she jumped from her seat and ran toward the place from which the bird had flown.

"There is a nest in there, and I am going to find it," said Helen to herself. She parted the tall yellow wheat-stalks to right and left, and went forward, looking all about her with her bright, sharp eyes. She did not have to go very far, for right before her was the nest, sure enough, and in it were three little birds.

Was there ever anything so cunning as those little heads, with their tiny bills wide open! It was such a pretty place for a nest, too. Helen clapped her hands again, she was so happy.

Then she sat down by the nest, but she did not touch the birdies. It was like being in a golden forest, for the grain was high above her head.

Soon her eyes began to feel heavy, for she was very tired after her long walk. She sat down, with her head upon her arm, and in a short time was fast asleep.

On came the horses, drawing the great reaper with its sharp cutting knives. Helen's father was driving, and they were coming right toward the spot where the little child was lying!

Oh, Helen, little does your father think that you are hidden there in the tall grain!

What was it that made the farmer check his horses all at once? Did something tell him that his dear baby was in danger?

Oh, no! he thought that she was safe at home with her mother. But he was a good man with a kind heart, and he saw something that made him stop.

The lark was flying wildly about over the grain that was in front of the reaper. She seemed to say, "Stop! stop!" The farmer thought that he knew what she meant, and he was too kind-hearted to harm a bird's nest. So he said to one of the men, "Here, Tom, come and hold the horses. There must be a nest somewhere among this grain. I will walk in and look for it."

What a cry the men heard when he found little Helen fast asleep by the lark's nest! How his heart almost stood still when he thought of the danger that she had been in! He caught her up in his arms and covered her face with kisses. "Oh, my darling!" he said, "it was the lark that saved you!"

Yes, it was the lark, and his own kind heart, that had saved her. Helen was carried home in her father's strong arms. She could not understand what made the tears run down his cheeks.

It was some time before the men could go on with their work. They left the grain standing around the lark's nest, to thank her, as they said, for saving little Helen.

As they stood looking at the little birds in the nest, one of the men, with big tears in his eyes, said, "God bless the birds! Come away, boys, and let the little mother feed her babies."



[1] Permission of American Book Company.



ALL ABOUT THE MEADOW LARK

SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS

Usually resident—sometimes goes south in late October, returning in April.

Song—a very beautiful sweet, clear whistle—heard in the early spring and in the autumn—usually quite silent during brooding season.

Female much paler in colour than male. General colour brown streaked with brown and black and cream—breast and throat yellow—conspicuous black crescent on breast—brown streak on head appearing to run through the eyes—tail feathers edged with white, which is seen most plainly when bird is in flight.

Food—seeds, insects, larval insects, also swallows gravel to aid in digestion.

Nest made of grasses—built on the ground amid tall grass or grain—usually quite skilfully hidden and arched or roofed over in a very ingenious way.

Eggs—four in number—about an inch and an eighth in length, a pure white, speckled with brown.

Greatest danger from snakes and field-mice.

Meadow lark is not really a lark, but belongs to the blackbird family.



THE OWL



A GOOD-NIGHT

"Haw-haw! Hoo! hoo!"

Phyllis listened again.

"Haw-haw! Hoo! hoo! Hoo! Hoo!"

"Oh, I see you now!" laughed Phyllis.

The owl moved silently as a shadow and perched very near to the little girl. His great round eyes and his yellow bill gleamed in the starlight.

"I heard you calling!" said Phyllis. "But I could not at first tell just where you were. I looked in a dozen trees before I came to you."

"To-who? To-who-whoo-oo-oo?" questioned the owl.

Phyllis laughed again. The owl blinked wisely.

"I am going home to-morrow," Phyllis said. "I shall start to school next week. Some day, perhaps, I shall be as wise as you, Mr. Owl."

The owl only blinked his great eyes.



"But I'm sure I can never look so wise," she added, politely.

"Hoo-hoo-hoo-oo!" hooted the owl, blinking sleepily.

"If you will not talk with me I shall say good-night to you at once!" said Phyllis.

"To-who? To-who-ooo-oo-oo?"

"To-you! To-you-oo-oo-oo!" called Phyllis, running off laughing.

"Papa," she said, a few moments later. "Papa, the hoot-owl would not talk with me!"

"Wise, wise owl!" said papa, smiling at her over his newspaper.



THE OWL

When cats run home, and light is come And dew is cold upon the ground, And the far-off stream is dumb, And the whirring sail goes round, And the whirring sail goes round, Alone and warming his five wits The white owl in the belfry sits.

—Tennyson.



THE OWL GIRL

Once a very queer little girl lived in a village beside the great Yukon River.

This little girl did not care to play with other children. Indeed, all day long she would sit inside the stone hut and sleep.

But as soon as evening came the little girl would awaken. She would run out to the river-bank to play. She would shout and laugh.

She did not mind the dark. In fact she declared that the sun hurt her eyes and that she could see far better in the dark.

The child's mother said that for all her queerness the little girl was very wise. She knew many things which grown-up people had never heard.

The people of the village shook their heads. They said there was magic in it all, and that some day something strange would surely happen.

So, when at sunset the queer little girl ran shouting to the river, the people of the village watched from the bushes.

And sure enough, something very wonderful did happen!

One evening the little girl with her big shiny eyes ran shouting among the trees which grew beside the river.

She was chasing a little field-mouse, which at last ran tremblingly up the low branch of a tree and hid in the dark.

But the queer little girl, who could see quite well in the dark, jumped to follow the mouse.

Lo, as she jumped, the queer little girl changed into a bird with a long, long beak and great shining eyes!

Now when she saw what had happened to her she was frightened. In her fright she flew back to her mother's stone hut.

But now that she was a bird she did not remember about the doors and windows. She flew wildly against the stone wall of the house.

So rapid was her flight that she struck the wall with great force. Her long bill and her face were quite flattened by the blow.

She forgot her mother's house, and in pain flew again to the trees by the river.

The next night the mother heard the voice of her queer little girl among the leaves calling, "Whoo-whoo-whoo!"

But when she looked she saw only a flat-faced, big-eyed bird who was making a supper of the poor little field-mouse.



THE OWL AND THE RAVEN[1]

Once upon a time the owl and the raven were fast friends.

They lived beside the same stream. They built their nests in a tree side by side. They sang the same songs. They ate the same food. They wore dresses of the same pale gray.

There was nothing that these friends would not do for each other. So great was their friendship that each was always finding ways to surprise and please the other.

At one time the raven was absent for two whole days.

"What can he be doing?" said the owl to herself. "I know he is planning some new surprise for me."

When, on the third day, the raven returned, the owl knew from his contented looks that the present must be unusually fine.

"It is something more than a beetle or a field-mouse this time," she thought. "Now what can I do for him? He is always so kind to me!"

Then the owl began to look about for something to do for her friend the raven.

On the shore near their home tree a huge whale had once been caught and cut up by the Eskimo hunters. Some of the bones still lay upon the sandy beach.

"Oh," said the owl, as she chanced upon these whalebones, "I know the very thing which will please my dear friend the raven!

"I will make for him a pair of beautiful whalebone boots! With them he can walk over the sharp rocks and the icy cliffs in comfort and safety!"

Thereupon the owl sat down in the sand and went to work. It was not long until the boots were finished. They were beautifully smooth and slender and graceful.

"The raven cannot help being pleased," she said, as she carried the boots toward the home tree. "I wonder if he is in!"

As she drew near the owl heard the raven calling her name. Answering loudly, she hurried to the place where he waited. But before the raven saw her she hid the whalebone boots among the grasses, that she might surprise him later.

She found the raven hopping impatiently about and calling loudly.

"Here—here I am!" she cried. "I have been away for but a short time—but you were away for days!"

"Oh, owl, dear," replied the raven, "though I have been absent I have thought only of you!

"See! here is a beautiful new dress which I have made for you!" And the raven spread before his friend a beautiful dress of dappled black and white.

It was made of the softest, most beautiful feathers, lovely enough to delight the heart of any bird.

"Oh, how very beautiful!" cried the owl. "How kind you are to me! How did you ever think of anything so lovely?"

The raven smiled, well pleased with himself.

"Try it on," he said. "I am sure it will become you. I am certain that when you see how lovely you look, you will never again wish to wear anything but black and white."

Quickly the owl slipped from her old gray dress into the splendid new one. Gently she fluttered about and ruffled the soft black and white feathers.

"Where did you get them?" she said, circling about and looking at her tail for the twentieth time.

"Sit down," commanded the raven, "and I will tell you!" So the owl settled down on the branch beside the raven.

"I found the feathers on that steep, rocky cliff beside the sea," he said. "The stones were sharp and the winds were wearying, but at last I finished the dress just as I planned.

"I am glad that you are pleased. I am very tired now, and must sit still and rest."

So delighted was the owl that for a moment she had forgotten the whalebone boots. Now as she looked at the raven she saw that in scratching about for the feathers he had broken one of his pink toes.

With a little cry of pity she flew to the grasses where the boots were hidden. Quickly she snatched them up and flew back to the poor tired raven.

"Here," she cried, "here!—I thought of you while you were away. Now you shall put your tired feet into these strong whale-bone boots. The stones and the ice cannot hurt you again."

"Oh, oh!" croaked the raven. "They are the very things for which I have been longing!"

"Put them on! Put them on!" cried the owl. "See how they will rest you! They will make you feel quite young again!"

The raven slipped his tired feet into the whalebone boots. Straight away the old tired ache left him. He hopped gaily about and croaked cheerfully.

"How graceful!" he said. "How perfectly they fit! How comfortable."

"Now I shall make a coat for you," said the owl. "It shall be pure white. The feathers shall be the shiniest and the loveliest that I can find!"

By and bye the raven's white coat was ready to be fitted.

"Come," commanded the owl. "Come and stand still while I fit your coat."

The raven came, but so delighted was he with the whalebone boots that he could not stand still. As the owl worked over him he kept hopping and dancing about.

"Stand still!" cried the owl. "I can do nothing with you hopping about so. I shall stick the pin-feathers into you!"

For an instant the raven stood still, looking down at the boots. Then he jumped so suddenly that the owl dropped a whole clawful of the soft white feathers with which she was finishing the neck.

Then the owl grew very angry.

"Stand still!" she hooted. "If you jump another time I will throw the oil from the lamp on you!"'

Now the lamp was filled with whale-oil. In it wicks of moss and twisted grass had been burned. With time and many wicks the oil had become as black as soot.

The raven looked at the black, sooty oil and then at his new white coat. He really stood still for as much as two minutes.

Just as the owl was trying to decide whether or not the coat should be longer, to cover the tops of the new boots, the raven caught sight of his own reflection in the clear water below.

So pleased was he with his appearance that he flapped his wings, and jumped up and down.

The loose white feathers flew in every direction. The pin-feathers dropped to the ground. The angry owl gasped for breath.

Then in a rage she seized the lamp. She flung it at the raven. Alas, for the poor fellow! The oil struck him full on the head. It ran down before. It ran down behind! There was not a dry feather on him!

"Quag! Quag!" croaked he, the oil dripping down on all sides. "Quag! Quag! I shall never speak to you again!"

"No," cried the owl. "Do not speak to me again. I would not have such a sooty friend as you!" and she flew far away.



[1] Adapted from Ethnological Bureau Report.



THE OWL

When icicles hang by the wall, And Dick the shepherd blows his nail, And Tom bears logs into the hall, And milk comes frozen home in pail; When blood is nipped and ways be foul, Then nightly sings the staring owl, "Tu-who! Tu-whit! tu-who!" a merry note, While greasy Jean doth clean the pot.

—"Love's Labour's Lost," Shakespeare.



ALL ABOUT THE BARRED OR HOOT OWL

SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS

Notes—deep-toned, startling hoot.

Heard most frequently at nesting time.

Upper parts brown, marked with white—face gray, mottled with black, wings and tail barred with brown, eyes blue black, bill yellow, under parts buff marked with darker, legs and feet feathered, bill and claws dark, hooked, strong.

Feeds on chicken, mice, etc.

Usually take an old crow's or woodpecker's nest for their own use—rarely make nests for themselves. Nest very early in the season, young being sometimes ready to fly early in March.



THE BOBOLINK



A SUMMER SONG

He sat upon the tallest bending grass stalk. He paid not the slightest attention to Phyllis. He just swung lightly with the June breezes, and sang his little heart out.

Such a careless, joyous, jingling song Phyllis had never before heard. It seemed just a bubbling-over of happiness and gladness.

And such a common-looking little fellow to have such a wonderful voice! He was but a little larger than a sparrow.

His plumage was mostly black. His wings and tail were edged with pale yellow, and there were splashes of white in places on his body. There was a light yellow spot on the back of his neck.

"You seem filled with gladness," said Phyllis.

The little bird stared at her for a moment. Then he nodded his head, and quivered his small wings. He opened his mouth again and warbled out the jolliest, sweetest tune that bird throat ever sang.

"How very beautiful!" cried Phyllis. "What a world of happiness you send out in that song!"

"Ah, but I should be happy," warbled the sweet-voiced bobolink. "I have all that bird heart can wish!"

"Tell me—" said Phyllis.

"I at last have won my wife," sang the bobolink. "At this very moment, in this very field, she is sitting on a nestful of light blue eggs."



"Listen, Phyllis, and I will tell you all about it.

"It was about the middle of May when my brothers and I started north. All winter long we had wandered through the rice-fields of the South.

"We were not happy there. We feared for our lives. There we are not called bobolinks and the people of the South never listen for our songs.

"In fact we seldom sing when we are in the South. The hunters call us 'rice-birds' or 'reed-birds.' With their terrible guns they hunt us early and late.

"It was no wonder, then, that we were so glad to return to the North. It was a long journey, but we did not tire. In fact we travelled mostly at night. During the day we feasted in the fields or at grain stacks.

"For a few days we flew about here, and sang out our names to every passer-by.

"Just ten days after our arrival something very wonderful happened. Our sisters and wives and sweethearts came with fluttering wings and sweet, quiet ways.

"On that very day I met the lovely bird who now broods so gently over our eggs.

"She seemed to me the most beautiful bobolink that ever was. Early and late I sang to her. My most beautiful songs seemed not half good enough for so lovely a bird.

"I, alas, was not the only bobolink who admired her. My own brother was quite as delighted with her. He, too, sang to her.

"Sometimes we sat in the same tree, each of us singing our hearts out to the shy little creature whom we both loved.

"I am sorry to say we did more than sing for the demure little bird. We fought for her. We quarrelled fiercely. But at last it was I who won her, and my brother found for himself another wife."

"I wish I could find your nest," said Phyllis.

"It is in this field," said the bobolink. "It is near the brook, and every morning we both fly down there for a refreshing bath.

"I have told you all this, and yet, Phyllis, I venture to say that you might hunt all day among the grasses and not find my nest. For the leaves and the grasses bend over and about the nest where my little mate sits.

"Should I call to her she would come to me. You perhaps would run to the spot where she rose from the grass. But you would not find the nest.

"My wife in her quiet brown dress is too wise for that. She never flies up directly from the nest. She runs a distance among the grass stems and then starts up from the grasses.

"There are five eggs in the nest, light blue with spots of blackish brown.

"When they are hatched, you will hear very little music from me. I shall put on a quiet dress, much like the one which my mate now wears, and will work early and late bringing food to my babies.

"They shall have the very choicest grains and bugs and grasshoppers. There will soon be no time for singing."

"But when the little ones are grown—" said Phyllis.

"Oh, yes, then I will sing again for you. But listen, Phyllis!"

Phyllis heard a sweet little "Chink! Chink! Chink!"

"My little mate is calling," gurgled the bobolink, flying away and leaving the grass-top swaying wildly.



ROBERT OF LINCOLN

Merrily swinging on brier and weed, Near to the nest of his little dame, Over the mountainside or mead, Robert of Lincoln is telling his name. "Bobolink, bob-o'-link, Spink, spank, spink; Snug and safe is that nest of ours, Hidden among the summer flowers, Chee, chee, chee!"

Robert of Lincoln is gaily drest, Wearing a bright black wedding-coat, White are his shoulders and white his crest. Hear him call in his merry note: "Bobolink, bob-o'-link, Spink, spank, spink; Look what a nice new coat is mine, Sure there was never a bird so fine! Chee, chee, chee!"

Robert of Lincoln's Quaker wife, Pretty and quiet in plain brown wings, Passing at home a patient life, Broods in the grass while her husband sings: "Bobolink, bob-o-link, Spink, spank, spink; Brood, kind creature, you need not fear Thieves and robbers while I am here! Chee, chee, chee!"

—Bryant.



ALL ABOUT THE BOBOLINK OR RICEBIRD

SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS

Male arrives north middle of May.—Female comes some ten or twelve days later—travel generally by night and in flocks.—Flies south from August to October.

Song is most musical and sweet, expressing joy and careless happiness—the song of the female is but a short, sweet "Chink, chink."—While the young are being cared for, the male does not sing as he does earlier in the season, but takes up the plaintive "chink" of his mate.

Male in spring is black with pale yellow markings on back and wings and tail. Yellow spot on back of neck—a patch of white on breast and other white markings.

Female pale yellow beneath—upper parts generally brown—two dark stripes on top of the head. In autumn plumage of male resembles female.

Nest of grasses well hidden by thick leaves and stems.—Usually built in clump of grasses and always on the ground and very shallow.

Eggs are pale blue with dark brown spots.—Four or five in number.—Young birds when fully feathered are so alike that in a flock young cannot be distinguished from old.



THE SEA-DOVES

AND THE

GREAT BLUE HERON



BESIDE THE SEA

One hot August day Phyllis went to the seashore to live.

"Such fun," she cried, as the train drew up at the seaside station. "Such fun as I shall have playing in the sand and wading in the water."

It was not half an hour before she was running along the beach beside the cliffs. Her feet were bare, and she wriggled her toes in the sand and splashed into the puddles of water.

Presently she saw a number of little birds running along the beach and flying over the water.

"How swiftly they fly, and how well they dive," she said. "How easily they swim, and they sometimes settle on the waves and rest. I wish they would come nearer!"

"I will tell you about them," said a solemn voice near by. Phyllis stumbled in her surprise and splashed the water into her eyes. When she could see again, a great blue heron was standing near.

"Oh!" cried Phyllis, a bit frightened. "It is strange that I did not see you. Yes, do tell me about the little sea-bird—and about yourself also!"

So the blue heron drew his head down between his shoulders, and, standing on one leg, told Phyllis what he knew of the little sea-doves.

"That little bird with brown back and white breast loves the sea," said the heron. "He is never tired of the blue waves.

"In stormy weather the little sea-dove is most happy, because it is then that the waves are laden with small fish and crabs. During stormy weather the little fisherman grows fat.

"Watch them as they fly. Do you see how they are constantly dipping their bills into the water? That is their way of fishing.

"The sea-doves' nests are among the cliffs. In them they lay just two bluish-white little eggs.

"Sometimes, when the winds are very strong, the sea-doves are blown far inland. Sometimes they find their way back to the sea. But there are other times when they do not return."

"And where is your own nest, O Great Blue Heron?" asked Phyllis, half laughing at the queer, long-legged bird.

"It is over yonder on a rock," said the heron. "There are now four dull blue-green eggs in the nest.

"Soon there will be four ugly, helpless birdlings, who will sit up and cry for food. It will be at least three weeks after they are hatched before they will try to wade out into these flat sea-marshes. I shall have to let no fish escape me, if I do not wish the fledglings to starve."

"You do not think your babies pretty?" asked Phyllis.

"No," said the heron, truthfully, "they are not even so good-looking as other birds' babies. But that I do not mind, for will they not some day be as beautiful as I myself?"

"Yes," said Phyllis, "I have seen your picture many a time. In mother's room is a large screen and on it is your likeness embroidered in silks. The long green grasses are growing about you in the picture. One foot is drawn up and your head is drawn down between your shoulders just as it now is."

"That is the way to rest," said the heron.

"What were you doing here?" Phyllis asked, wading a little closer to the long-legged bird.

"I was fishing," said the great blue heron. "It is the one thing I delight in. From morning till night—"

"My brother Jack—" began Phyllis, but the bird paid no attention.

"I sometimes stand here perfectly still for hours. I wait patiently for the fish or the frogs to appear.

"Then I strike suddenly with my strong, sharp bill. I snap up the fish or frog and give it a knock or two to kill it.

"Then I eat it. If it is a fish I swallow it, head first, so that the scales shall not scratch my throat.

"But see, Phyllis, the sun has set, and I have not yet had my supper. I really must leave you!"

Then the great blue heron rose slowly and silently and circled away over the flat sea-marshes. Barefooted Phyllis scampered back to the little seaside cottage, where a fish supper was awaiting her.



SEA-PIGEONS

It was very early in the spring. The sun rose, stayed for only a moment above the horizon, and then sank again from the sight of Eskimo children.

But already huge icebergs broke from the shore and floated out to sea. Already the icy winds hurried away farther north. Already a few of the bravest birds were returning for the summer season.

It happened that a whole family of Eskimo children ran shouting and laughing along the top of a cliff which overhung the sea.

The older ones cared for the little ones. All were as happy and thoughtless as children could be. In their glee they took off their boots and ran with bare feet.

Now below the cliff on the ice waited some Eskimo hunters. They watched the huge cakes of ice farther out break off and float away. They knew that soon the ice nearer shore would crack and float off in the same manner.

They knew also that when the shore ice cracked the seals would rise and push their noses out of the water for air.

The hunters, therefore, sat for hours upon their three-legged stools, waiting with ever-ready spears.

The children, not seeing the hunters, ran more noisily among the high rocks of the cliff.

At last with a booming sound the ice cracked and spread apart. The water gushed up and spread lightly over the ice. The hunters waited breathlessly.

It was but a moment before the brown nose of a seal appeared. The hunters lifted their spears to strike. But at that instant came a wilder shout from the children and the brown nose of the seal disappeared.

"Oh," cried the hunter, angrily, "I wish the cliff would topple over on those noisy children!"

Hardly were the words spoken when with a great clash the cliff did topple over. As the falling stones rattled about him the hunter heard the shrieks of the children.

Neither the hunters nor the children were ever again seen in the village. But the next day some birds with pink wet feet ran about among the stones at the foot of the cliffs. As they ran they made strange cries which sounded half like children's laughter.

"Listen," say the Eskimo people, when they hear the sea-pigeons cry, "Listen to the voices of the little children who shouted so loud that they frightened away the seals!"

"Look!" cry the Eskimo children, when they see the pink feet of the sea-pigeons, "those are the cold, bare little feet of the Eskimo children who ran and shouted on the cliffs above!"



THE SANDPIPER[1]

Across the narrow beach we flit, One little sandpiper and I; And fast I gather, bit by bit, The scattered driftwood bleached and dry. The wild waves reach their hands for it, The wild wind raves, the tide runs high, As up and down the beach we flit,— One little sandpiper and I.

Above our heads the sullen clouds Scud black and swift across the sky; Like silent ghosts in misty shrouds Stand out the white lighthouses high. Almost as far as eye can reach I see the close-reefed vessels fly, As fast we flit along the beach,— One little sandpiper and I.

I watch him as he skims along, Uttering his sweet and mournful cry; He starts not at my fitful song, Or flash of fluttering drapery; He has no thought of any wrong; He scans me with a fearless eye. Stanch friends are we, well tried and strong, The little sandpiper and I.

Comrade, where wilt thou be to-night When the loosed storm breaks furiously? My driftwood fire will burn so bright! To what warm shelter canst thou fly? I do not fear for thee, though wroth The tempest rushes through the sky; For are we not God's children both, Thou, little sandpiper, and I?

—Mrs. Thaxter.



[1] Used by permission of and special arrangement with Houghton, Mifflin & Co.



THE CIRCLING OF CRANES

One autumn day ages and ages ago, the cranes were preparing to go south. Cranes always dreaded the cold and flew away to the summer-land at the first glitter of the frost.

The crane leader had a loud, hoarse voice, and he called and called to his flock to hurry. The cranes came from all directions at the call of their leader. The father and mother cranes came. The old cranes came and the young cranes came. Even the babies, whose feathers were scarce grown, came flying at the call of the leader.

All the cranes were happy, for they were going to the summer-land. They were glad to go, for already the frost jewels sparkled on the brown grasses and the cold winds were beginning to blow.

"Come! come!" cried the crane leader, and his voice was hoarse with shouting. "Come! It is full time we were off!"

Young and old spread their wings for flight. They waited a moment for their leader to take his place. As they waited the cranes glanced down to the cold, bare country which they were about to leave.

Thus looking down, the cranes saw a beautiful maiden standing alone at the edge of the village.

"How lovely she is!" said the crane leader. "And how lonely she seems!"

"How thin her dress is!" said another crane.

"See, she is weeping!" cried a third. Just at that moment the maiden looked up and saw the flock of cranes above her.

"Oh," she cried, "you are going to the summer-land. I wish I had wings. I would fly away with you!

"Alas! in this cold, cheerless Northland I shall starve and freeze. I have no home. I have no friends.

"There is no oil in my stone stove! There is no meat in my kettle. What shall I do when the thick snow flies and the winter winds cut like knives?"

The crane leader looked down at the beautiful maiden in pity. The whole flock, young and old, were filled with a wish to help the girl. It was very sad, they said, that one so young and lovely should ever be cold or hungry or unhappy.

"Let us carry the maiden with us to the summer-land!" whispered a young crane.

"Yes, let us take her to the land of ever-lasting summer," begged an old crane.

"There she might gather food from the grain-fields. She might pick berries by the roadside. She might drink from the clear, cool brooks that run to the sea," said the leader.

Following their leader, the whole flock swept down to the earth. They gathered about the lovely, lonely maiden.

They lifted her on their widespread wings and bore her up into the air.

The maiden's long dark hair floated out like a cloud. She smiled happily as the cranes with one voice told her of the summer-land to which they would carry her.

With wings outspread, that she might not fall, the cranes bore the maiden away. Day and night, night and day, they carried her and never seemed to tire.

And the maiden had no fear. She laughed in sheer happiness when they told her again and again of the beautiful country to which they journeyed.

For into that land, the cranes told her, neither cold nor hunger came. They would show her the richest grain-fields. They would tell her where the sweetest berries grew. They would show her wondrous blossoms which grew for her in the distant summer-land.

The beautiful maiden was never again seen in the cold, dreary Northland, for to this day she wanders beside the sweet-voiced streams in the far-off summer-land.

But season by season the cranes, with wide-spread wings and hoarse cries, return to the Northland at nesting-time.

There they remain through the short sunny summer, but when the first snowflakes flutter through the air the cranes prepare to fly away.

And even to this day they circle about on widespread wings as though they again carried the beautiful maiden.

Even to this day the cranes, young and old, shout so loudly the praises of the summer-land that their voices are hoarse and harsh.



ALL ABOUT THE GREAT BLUE HERON OR BLUE CRANE

SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS

Usually resident throughout the year. Lives in marshy, swampy places.

Head and throat white, with long black crest.—Very long neck covered with light gray feathers—darker on chest—back, ashy gray—darker wings—a touch of red on bend of wings and legs.

Long legs, which are black.

Long bill, which is yellow, sharp, and strong.

Food—mostly fish, frogs, and small reptiles. Feeds near sunset.

Nest very simple—sometimes directly on ground or rocks—at other times a rickety platform of sticks.

Eggs blue-green—four in number—young helpless for at least three weeks after hatching.



ALL ABOUT THE SEA-DOVE

SUGGESTIONS FOR FIELD LESSONS

Goes far north in nesting season. Found in Illinois swamps, and as far north as Greenland.

Small bird with entire upper parts almost black—under parts white—wings tipped with white, bill black—feet pale red—toes webbed.

Food obtained from the waves—flies swiftly and dives well—walks on land better than most water-birds.

Lays but two bluish-white eggs.



THE END.

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