Stories of Birds
by Lenore Elizabeth Mulets
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[Frontispiece: "He came quite close and stared at the little girl" (missing from book)]



Lenore Elizabeth Mulets

Illustrated by

Sophie Schneider

"When our babe he goeth walking in his garden Around his tinkling feet the sunbeams play; The posies they are good to him And bow them as they should to him As he fareth upon his kingly way: The birdlings of the wood to him Make music, gentle music, all the day When our babe he goeth walking in his garden."

—Eugene Field.

Boston: L. C. Page and Company


Copyright, 1903



All rights reserved

Made in U.S.A.

New Edition, April, 1925




Where can you find a lad who does not treasure among his secrets the nesting-place of some pair of birds? Where can you find a child who does not watch for the first robin of spring-time? Where can you find one who does not know when the wild ducks in the wedge-shaped flocks fly southward?

This little book of "Bird Stories" is written both for the children who already know our common birds, and for those who may know them if they choose.

For those children who know, the book is a verification of their own facts, with an addition of stories, poems, and songs to make facts beautiful; for the children who do not know, the book is a simple set of facts placed before them for verification and entertainment.

To all, may the knowledge obtained be a pleasure and a delight.



The Chickadee In the Snow Twenty Little Chickadees The Snowbird's Song How the Birds Got Their Feathers Chilly Little Chickadees All About the Chickadee

Robin Redbreast Merry Robin Redbreast The Robin's Red Breast Which Was the Wiser? All About the Robin

The Swallow Under the Eaves The Swallows All About the Barn Swallow

The Hawk and the Raven From the Barnyard Fence The First Hawk Origin of the Raven and the Macaw All About the Chicken-Hawk All About the Raven

The Kingfisher With the Water Watchman The Halcyon Birds All About the Kingfisher

The Red-Headed Woodpecker In Cap of Red A Legend of the Northland All About the Woodpecker

The Lark In the Meadow The Song of the Merry Lark Saved by a Lark All About the Meadow Lark

The Owl A Good-Night The Owl (Tennyson) The Owl Girl The Owl and the Raven The Owl (Shakespeare) All About the Barred or Hoot Owl

The Bobolink A Summer Song Robert of Lincoln All About the Bobolink or Rice-Bird

The Sea-Doves and the Great Blue Heron Beside the Sea Sea-Pigeons The Sandpiper The Circling of Cranes All About the Great Blue Heron or Blue Crane All About the Sea-Dove


"He came quite close and stared at the little girl" (see page 4) . . . . . . Frontispiece

"By this time the robin was on the ground"

"'No robin or chickadee could build such nests as the swallow'"

"On a branch sat a bird. He was considerably larger than a robin"

"The owl only blinked his great eyes"

"'She is sitting on a nestful of light blue eggs'"




It was a bright, wintry day. The frost jewels sparkled on the snow. The winds blew cutting cold from the north.

Phyllis, in her scarlet coat and cap, and long, warm leggings, waded in the deepest drifts she could find.

Out by the garden fence was the greatest drift. After floundering through it, Phyllis climbed up and perched on the top rail of the fence.

She sat quite still, for she was almost breathless after her struggle in the snow.

Suddenly, just over her head, Phyllis heard a whistle. She started so that she almost fell from the fence.

Again came the whistle, clear, sweet, and long drawn out. Phyllis looked up, and there on the branch of the elm-tree sat a cheery little bird.

With a third whistle he flew down to the fence and perched beside Phyllis.

He came quite close and stared at the little girl in a gay, curious manner, as though he might be looking for a playfellow.

"Who are you?" asked Phyllis, looking like a great red bird as she perched on the fence.

"Chick-a-dee! Chick-a-dee! Chick-a-dee-dee-dee!" twittered the little fellow. It seemed to Phyllis that he laughed because she did not know him.

"Oh, to be sure," said she. "How stupid of me not to remember. I have met you a hundred times.

"I should have remembered your black head and throat. The sides of your head and neck are white. Your breasts and sides are light yellow. Your tail and wings are of a much darker shade, and how daintily they are edged with white!"

The chickadee fluttered about for a moment, and noticing the friendliness in Phyllis's tones he perched a little closer to her side.

"I do not believe you noticed the large white feathers in my shoulders," he said. "You may always know a chickadee by the white markings there."

"I did not notice your white shoulders at first," said Phyllis, "but I saw at once what fine downy feathers you have. They are beautifully soft. Do they make a warm winter dress? How do you chance to be here in the winter-time?

"I think it is time you were in the South, Mr. Chickadee! Did your family leave you behind?"

"No, indeed," replied Mr. Chickadee. "No, indeed, Phyllis! My entire family are wintering here in the North. We never go South for the winter.

"We are quite happy to remain here at home, and to come out on sunshiny days and whistle and sing and be happy.

"Only half an hour ago some boys went coasting down that hill. I whistled at them but they did not hear me.

"Soon they came up the hill, drawing their sleds behind them. I whistled again and called my name.

"'Why, hello,' cried a boy in a blue reefer and a blue stocking cap. 'Hello, chickadee, you're a jolly little fellow! We call you our fair weather friend because you sing so cheerily on these clear frosty days.'

"'Oho!' laughed another boy, who had a big scratch on his nose, 'I saw a chickadee flying about among the fir-trees on that very stormy day last week. He sang just as cheerily through the storm.' Then the boy whistled back to me and called my name."

"That was my brother Jack," laughed Phyllis. "He got that scratch while out coasting. He told me that he saw you on that stormy day. He loves the winter quite as well as you do. You should hear him sing and whistle when the snow falls for coasting. You should hear him shout when the cold skating days come. He says that Jack Frost is a fellow's best friend."

"Indeed," said the jolly little chickadee, blinking his eyes in a funny way, "my brothers say the very same thing!"

"But how do you find anything to eat in the winter-time?" Phyllis asked. "The insects and worms have long been dead. What did you have for breakfast this morning?"

"We had eggs and—"

"Eggs?" cried Phyllis, not waiting for the bird to finish. "You had eggs?"

"Yes, moth's eggs," said the bird. "The moths leave their eggs about in all sorts of places. We chickadees know where to find them!"

"Are they—good?" asked Phyllis.

"Delicious!" replied the chickadee. "I think I have eaten more than a million insects' eggs in my life. I shall never tire of them."

"Where do you sleep?" Phyllis asked.

"In the fir-trees, to be sure," was the reply. "It is quite warm in there, among the many branches, and as soon as we waken we can get our breakfasts. There are all sorts of eggs and sleeping insects among the fir branches."

Phyllis looked from her own thick red leggings to the chickadee's light blue legs.

"Don't your feet get very cold?" she asked. "You surely need some leggings."

The chickadee chirruped and twittered and fluttered until Phyllis suddenly saw that he was laughing at her.

"I don't know what cold feet are!" he said. "I'm glad no one gave me red leggings for Christmas."

"What did you get for Christmas?"

"A wonderfully fine dinner spread on a white snow table-cloth under the cherry-tree!" replied the bird.

"Oh, did you come to my bird feast?" cried the little girl. "I spread crumbs and bird seed for you. Jack wanted to hang a meat bone in the cedar-tree. He said that you would like it better. Indeed, I believe he did hang one there. Did you ever see it?"

"Oh, yes, Phyllis, many a day have we pecked away at that meat bone. It was really very good."

"Jack read in a book that you were fond of pecking at meat bones. He will be glad to know that it is true!"

"Thank him for us," said the chickadee. "You were kind to remember us!"

"Ah," said Phyllis, "but it was kind of you to remain behind to cheer us when all the other birds have gone to warmer lands.

"But, chickadee, though you are so cheery and gay in winter, are you not really happier in the summer-time?"

"Oh, we are so busy in summer," the chickadee replied. "Last May I travelled miles and miles looking for a vacant house."

"Looking for a vacant house?" cried Phyllis, with wide brown eyes.

"For housekeeping," said the chickadee. "You see my mate and I had never kept house before. She was very anxious to find a most suitable place.

"My wife said a woodpecker's nest was the very place, but I rather preferred a squirrel's hole.

"For a long time we could find neither to suit us. But at length I heard Mrs. Chickadee calling loudly. I flew to her side at once.

"'What is it?' I cried.

"'Look!' cried Mrs. Chickadee, pointing with her bill and flapping her wings with joy.

"Through the thick of the woods ran a gray old rail fence. Woodbine and wild hop vines wellnigh covered it. The posts were gray where they were not moss-covered.

"In one of these gray-green posts was a hole where a pair of woodpeckers had once built their nest.

"'This is the very place for us!' cried Mrs. Chickadee. 'It could not be better though we hollowed it out for ourselves.'"

"Could you?" asked Phyllis, looking at the bird's little short black bill.

"If need be, we could, indeed," replied the chickadee. "But we would far rather find a knot-hole, or a squirrel's or woodpecker's deserted nest.

"When we had decided on the spot," the bird went on, "we at once began lining the nest. We carried fine grasses and soft feathers. We found mosses and rabbits' fur to make it soft.

"Those were indeed happy days for us. They were also exciting days. We were very careful to let no one know what we were about.

"Once, as I flew home with a bit of moss, I saw a boy lying on the grass not far from our fence-post. It would never do to let him know our secret. Boys are not to be trusted.

"I perched upon the fence and pretended that I had never a thought of nest building.

"In a moment Mrs. Chickadee came flying home with a soft, downy feather. When I called out warningly she at once flew to me.

"Then the boy called softly to his little sister.

"'Come quick,' he said, 'if you want to watch these birds build their nest.'

"A little dark-eyed girl crept up beside the boy. We scarcely knew what to do. Soon a bright idea occurred to me. I began to sing my very best. I also performed my most wonderful tricks. I whirled round and round. I darted between the rails. I spun about.

"The children became so interested in my performance that they forgot to watch Mrs. Chickadee. When they were not looking her way, she flew to the nest and arranged the feather.

"When she returned she took my place on the fence. Now my wife and I look very much alike, and though she cannot perform quite as nimbly as I, the children did not know when we changed places.

"While the children watched her I flew to the nest with my bit of moss.

"'What a pity!' said the little girl, as we flew away laughing to ourselves. 'They stopped to play and they lost the bits of moss and feathers with which they meant to make their nest!'

"'Chick-a-dee! Chick-a-dee! Chick-a-dee!' called back my wife happily."

All this time Phyllis's eyes were growing rounder and bigger.

"Why," said she, "I never knew there was but one bird performing on the fence. I thought the other flew away!"

"That was because Mrs. Chickadee and I look so much alike," replied Mr. Chickadee.

"But we did find your nest a few days later," said Phyllis. "In it were six small white eggs covered with tiny red specks. We went to look at the nest every day until the eggs hatched. Then we went several times a day until the baby birds learned to fly and left the nest empty.

"But you did not disturb us," said the chickadee, "though we were dreadfully frightened at first."

At that moment a great soft snowball went plump! against Phyllis's red cap.

"Jack!" she cried, scrambling off the fence and running after the boy with the scratch on his nose. "Jack, take me for a ride on your sled!"

Then she looked back. The chickadee now sat in the tree-top.

"Tell Mrs. Chickadee," called Phyllis, "that I shall spread some more crumbs and seeds on the white table-cloth this afternoon. We'll hang another bone in the cedar-tree, too!"

"Chick-a-dee-dee-dee!" cried the little bird in a flutter of delight.


Twenty little chickadees, Sitting in a row; Twenty pairs of naked feet Buried in the snow. I should think you'd fly away Where the weather's warm, Then you wouldn't have to be Out there in the storm.

Sorry little chickadees, Don't you know the way? Can't you find the road to go Where 'tis always May? Robins all have found it out, Wrens and bluebirds too, Don't you wish you'd thought to ask Ere away they flew?


The ground was all covered with snow, one day, And two little sisters were busy at play— A snowbird was sitting close by on a tree, And merrily singing his chick-a-de-dee!

He had not been singing that tune very long, When Emily heard him, so loud was his song. "Oh, sister, look out of the window!" said she, "Here's a dear little bird, singing chick-a-de-dee!

"Poor fellow! he walks in the snow and the sleet And has neither stockings nor shoes on his feet, I wonder what makes him so full of his glee, And why he keeps singing, his chick-a-de-dee.

"If I were a barefooted snowbird, I know, I would not stay out in the cold and the snow. I pity him so! Oh, how cold he must be, And yet he keeps singing his chick-a-de-dee.

"Oh, mother, do get him some stockings and shoes, And a nice little frock, and a hat, let him choose. I wish he'd come into the parlour, and see How warm we would make him, poor chick-a-de-dee!"

The bird had flown down for some sweet crumbs of bread, And heard every word little Emily said. "How funny I'd look in that costume!" thought he, And he laughed, as he warbled his chick-a-de-dee.

"I am grateful," said he, "for the wish you express, But I have no occasion for such a fine dress. I'd rather remain with my little limbs free, Than to hobble about singing chick-a-de-dee.

"There is One, my dear child, though I cannot tell who, Has clothed me already, and warm enough, too. Good morning! Oh, who are so happy as we?" And away he flew, singing his chick-a-de-dee.

[1] From "The Second Reader—of the Rational Method In Reading."



That evening, as the family sat beside the hearth, Phyllis thought of the brave little chickadees out in the fir-trees.

"I wonder if they are really warm enough," she said. "Do feathers make a warm dress, mother? Why do birds have feathers instead of fur?"

"I have heard the story that the Indians tell of how the birds got their feathers," said mother. "Bring your chairs closer and I will tell the story to you."

So the children drew their chairs up into the firelight, and listened to this little Indian story:

"Once some little Indian children," began the mother, "gathered about the fire inside their deerskin wigwam and begged their mother for a story.

"Each little Indian was wrapped in a bright coloured blanket. Each little Indian wore long turkey buzzard feathers in his hair.

"The Indian mother looked at her baby braves proudly. She thought of the time when each of the children was a tiny papoose and swung in a deerskin cradle like a bird in its nest.

"'There was a time,' said the Indian squaw, 'when the birds had no feathers.

"'Being naked, they remained hidden among the leaves. Being ashamed they were silent, and no bird-note sweetened the stillness of the forest.

"'At last with faint chirpings the mother birds prayed the Great Spirit for blankets in which to wrap their little ones.

"'Then the Great Spirit, seeing their sorry plight, sent a messenger to the birds, who told them that even now coverings were ready for every bird.

"'The messenger said that hereafter each family of birds should dress in uniform, so that the forest people, seeing a bird, might know at once, by its dress, to what bird family it belonged.

"'But alas! the messenger also said that the uniforms were a great way off. He himself could not bring them to the forest. The birds must choose one who was strong of wing and able to endure great hardships, to go back with him and bring the uniforms home.

"'The poor featherless birds looked about for one who was brave and fearless and untiring. A council was held to induce some bird to go on this long journey.

"'But one and all pleaded some excuse. Some must remain to care for the babes still in the nest. Some were too old to undertake the journey. Some were too young to find the way.

"'Some had been ill and were still too weak to travel. Indeed, the birds seemed to be in as sad a plight as before.

"'At last there stepped forth a bird, who, truth to tell, was not a general favourite among his fellows. His name was turkey buzzard.

"'The bird agreed to undertake the long journey and bring back the feathery uniforms, if he could choose the most beautiful coat of feathers for himself and his family for ever.

"'To this the other birds consented, and the featherless turkey buzzard flew away.

"'It was indeed a long and a dangerous journey. Sometimes the poor bird nearly dropped from weariness and hunger. Sometimes, so hungry was he, that he was forced to make a meal off from some dead animal which lay in the way. Indeed so often did he do this that in time he came to like this food.

"'It came to pass, after many days, that the turkey buzzard, being directed by the Great Spirit, found the feathery uniforms.

"'He at once began to look them over. He intended to choose the most beautiful coat of feathers for himself and his family.

"'Soon he found a suit of most gorgeous colours. He tried it on, and looked at his own reflection in the water. The dress was very beautiful. Well pleased with himself and his dress the turkey buzzard gathered up the remaining uniforms and started for home.

"'But alas! the new dress, although so beautiful, did not fit comfortably. The poor bird found that he could not fly well in his new dress. He tried another and still another bright coloured dress, but in none of them was he comfortable.

"'At length, quite discouraged, he slipped into a quiet, dark uniform. Although this suit was the least beautiful it fitted comfortably and gracefully. In it the turkey buzzard flew away home, and in such uniform have his family ever since been content to dress.

"'The turkey buzzards are quite willing to leave the more gorgeous dresses for those birds who cannot fly so far nor so gracefully as they.'"


Chilly little chickadees, Sitting in a row, Chilly little chickadees, Buried in the snow, Don't you find it very cold For your little feet? Don't you find it hard to get Anything to eat?

Hungry little chickadees, Would you like some bread? I will give you all you want, Or some seed, instead, Anything you like to eat I will give you free, Every morning, every night, If you come to me.

Jolly little chickadees, Have you had enough? Don't forget to come again When the weather's rough. Bye, bye, happy little birds! Off the wee things swarm, Plying through the driving snow, Singing in the storm.

[1] From "Songs and Games for Little Ones," by permission of Oliver Ditson Company, owners of the copyright.



Does not go south in winter.

Song—two or three clear long whistles and the chirping of his own name, "chickadee."

A gay, curious little bird.

Black head and throat—sides of head and neck white—breast grayish buff—wings and tail darker shade edged with white—larger feathers of shoulders white.

Food—seeds and dormant insects or larval eggs.—Valuable as an insect destroyer.

Builds in hollow places—usually deserted woodpeckers' or squirrels' nests—sometimes hollows place for itself.

Six white eggs speckled with red—young birds, male and female much alike in colouring.



"Robin, robin redbreast, Singing on the bough, Come and get your breakfast, We will feed you now. Robin likes the golden grain, Nods his head and sings again: 'Chirping, chirping cheerily, Here I come so merrily, Thank you, children dear!'"

Thus sang Phyllis one morning during the second week in March.

In the topmost bough of the old apple-tree sat Robin Redbreast, looking altogether doubtful as to whether he liked the little girl's song.

But when he saw the grains of wheat which the child was scattering on the ground for his breakfast, he thought better of his doubt.

He hopped lower on the branches. He turned his little head on one side and looked at Phyllis in a very friendly fashion.

"Come on down!" Phyllis begged. "I am so glad that you have returned. I am so glad that you came to this very apple-tree and sang so strong and loud and clear!"

"Chirp! Chirp!" and the robin hopped again nearer.

"You see," Phyllis went on, in her coaxing little voice, "my brother Jack, being a boy, said he would be the one to see the first robin this year.

"But I made up my mind that if watchful eyes and careful ears could help a little girl, I would get ahead of Jack.

"Sure enough, the first thing I heard this morning was your sweet song. When did you arrive? Aren't you rather early?"

By this time the robin was on the ground, pecking away at the grain. As he ate his breakfast he told his story.

"I have been south all winter long," he said. "It is very lovely in the southland. Food is plenty, the days are long, and the sunshine is golden, bright, and warm.

"But as soon as the spring days came I grew restless. I knew the snow was beginning to melt and the grass to grow green in my old home country. I wanted to start north at once.

"I spoke to my little mate about it, and found her to be as homesick as I. So we flew north a little earlier than usual this year, and arrived ahead of the others. We are now quite anxious to get to housekeeping, and are already looking for a suitable place for a nest."

"If you will build near us," said Phyllis, "I will help you care for your little ones. I will give you all the crumbs that you can eat."

"Oh! oh!" chirped the robin; "you are very kind, Phyllis, but I hardly think you would know how to feed bird babies.

"You see our babies are so fond of bugs and worms and all sorts of insects, that they do not care for crumbs when they can have nice fat worms.

"We sometimes feed berries and cherries to our babies. We older birds often eat fruit, but really we like worms and bugs better."

"The robins ate all the cherries from the top of our cherry-tree last year," said Phyllis.

"Yes, we did eat some of your cherries," admitted the robin. "They were very sweet and juicy.

"There are people who say that we robins are a nuisance, and that we destroy so much fruit that they wish we would never come near them. The fact is, we do more good than harm to your orchards and berry patches. Just think how many insects we destroy! If it were not for us I think much more fruit would be destroyed by insects. And worms and caterpillars would be crawling everywhere.

"A robin is a very greedy fellow. He eats nearly all the time. I could not begin to tell you how many insects I have eaten during my life.

"There are cutworms, too, which live underground. During the night they come out for food. We robins are early risers, and often catch the slow worms before they can get back to their underground homes."

"Ah," laughed Phyllis, "that must be the reason that we say that the early bird catches the worm."

"When our babies come," said the robin, "we are very busy, indeed. Those young mouths seem always to be open, begging for more food.

"My mother says that when I was a baby robin she was kept busy all day long.

"There were four baby birds in the nest. I myself ate about seventy worms in a day. My brother and sisters had as good appetites as I."

"Will you build here in the apple-tree?" asked Phyllis. "I should so like to watch you. Besides, there is a garden just beneath with millions of bugs and insects there."

"Oh, yes," replied the robin. "We shall surely build there. You will find that robins like to build near your home. We have a very friendly feeling towards people. That is the reason that we hop about your lawn so much and that we waken you by singing near your window in the early morning."

"I have heard that robins are not very good nest-builders," said Phyllis. "I was told that a great number of robins' nests were blown down by every hard storm."

"More are destroyed than I like to think about," said the robin. "But my father and mother raised three families of birds in their nest last season.

"Early in the spring they were very busy about their nest-building. First they brought sticks, straw, weeds, and roots. With these they laid the foundation in what seemed a very careless fashion, among the boughs.

"Then here on this foundation they wove the round nest of straws and weeds. They plastered it with mud. They lined it with soft grasses and moss.

"In this nest my mother laid four beautiful greenish-blue eggs. From the first egg that cracked open I crept out. From the three other eggs came my brother and sisters.

"We were not handsome babies. I don't believe bird babies ever are beautiful at first. We had no feathers, and our mouths were so big and yellow.

"We were always hungry, for we were growing very fast. Our mouths flew open at every little noise. We thought every sound was the flutter of our parents' wings. They always brought such fine food for us."

The robin pecked away at his breakfast for some time before he spoke again. Then he again took up the story of his life.

"How well I remember being taught to fly," he said. "How our mother coaxed us to try our wings. How timid and feeble we were One of my sisters fell to the ground and a great gray cat caught her.

"Our wings were very weak then and our feathers were still short. I then had no beautiful red breast. It was just a rusty looking white spotted with black.

"My mother's breast was not so red as my father's. She was of a paler colour and she sang much less than he. She was a very happy little mother, however, and she chirped very sweetly to her babies.

"After we flew from the nest, and were able to look out for ourselves, my mother laid four more greenish-blue eggs in the same nest. By and bye four more young robins were chirping about in the garden.

"Quite late in the season my parents were again nesting. But it was rather unfortunate that they did so. A great storm came up and a branch broke from the tree and destroyed the four blue eggs.

"It was shortly after this mishap that the robins flew south for the winter.

"My brother, who was always a brave, cheery fellow, thought he would rather stay here. I wonder how he fared. I have not yet seen him."

"I have not seen him lately, but he was here during the winter," said Phyllis. "I dare say you will find him soon."

"Well," said the robin, picking up the last grain of wheat, "I thank you, Phyllis, for this fine breakfast.

"I will only say 'good morning.' I think you will see me again. Perhaps I will show you where we build our nest."

"I am grateful to you," replied Phyllis. "You see the cherry-tree grows beside Jack's window. You might have sung your morning song there."


It was very cold in the north country. The ice was thick and the snow was deep.

The seal and the white bear were happy. They liked the ice, the snow, and the cutting north wind, for their fur was thick and warm.

One night the great white bear climbed to the top of an immense iceberg. He looked far across the country. The fields of snow and the beautiful northern lights made the night almost as light as day.

The white bear saw no living thing save a few fur-clad animals and a little gray robin chirping cheerily as it picked away at an old bone.

Again the white bear looked down. Almost at the foot of the iceberg crouched a hunter and his little son. Between the two a tiny fire was blazing.

When the white bear saw the hunter and the boy guarding the fire he growled terribly. He leaped across from one iceberg to another. He went into his icy cave still growling.

"It is the only fire in the whole north country," growled the white bear to himself. "If I could only put out that fire the land of ice and snow would be mine.

"Neither the hunter nor the hunter's son could live, without fire. I will watch my chance. Perhaps some day I shall be so lucky as to put the fire out."

Now the Eskimo night is weeks long. All through the long night the hunter kept the fire. All through the long night the white bear crouched near and growled deeply.

At length the hunter fell ill. The brave little boy kept the fire burning. He also cared for his sick father.

The white bear crept closer now, and growled more loudly.

He longed to jump on the fire with his wet feet and tramp it out. But he dared not. The boy's bright eyes watched faithfully. The hunter's arrows were deadly, and the boy's aim was true.

But by and bye the boy could endure the long watch no longer. His head drooped. His eyes closed. He slept.

The white bear's growl sounded like a hideous laugh. The little gray robin twittered loudly in warning. But the poor tired little fellow heard neither the white bear's growl nor the gray robin's twitter.

Then the white bear ran swiftly to the fire. He tramped upon it with his cold wet feet. He rolled upon it with his cold wet fur. The cheerful blaze died out.

When he arose the white bear saw only a little pile of gray ashes. He laughed so loudly that the boy awoke and snatched up his bow and arrows.

But the white bear ran away to his cave, still growling laughingly. He knew that no human being could live in that cruelly cold north country without fire.

Now when the white bear was gone, the little gray robin hopped near. Her chirp was quite sad. She, too, saw nothing but a little heap of ashes as gray as her own feathers.

She hopped nearer. She scratched among the ashes with her cold little claws. She looked eagerly at each cinder with her sharp little eyes. She found—a tiny live coal.

It was only the tiniest spark! The least flake of the fast-falling snow would put it out!

The little gray robin hovered over it that the cold wind might not reach the spark. She fanned it softly with her wings for a long, long time.

The gray robin hovered so close that the coal touched her gray breast. As she fanned it glowed larger and redder. Her breast was scorched quite red, as the coal grew.

But the robin did not leave until a fine red flame blazed up.

Then the robin with her poor scorched red breast flew away. She flew wearily, for she was very tired. Now and again she touched the ground.

And wherever the robin's red breast touched the earth a fire was kindled. Soon the whole north country was blazing with tiny fires over which the Eskimos might cook their food and dry their clothes.

The white bear crept far, far back into his cave. He growled fiercely. He knew now that he could never have the north country to himself.

[1] Adapted from Flora J. Cook's "Nature Myths," by permission of A. Flanigan, Chicago.


One morning in the early spring a raven was sitting on one of the branches of an old oak. He felt very ugly and cross, and could only say, "Croak! Croak!"

Soon a little robin, who was looking for a place to build her nest, came, with a merry song, into the same tree. "Good morning to you," she said to the raven.

But the raven made no answer; he only looked at the clouds and croaked something about the cold wind. "I said good morning to you," said the robin, hopping from branch to branch.

"You seem very merry this morning about nothing," croaked the raven.

"Why should I not be merry?" asked the robin. "Spring has come, and everybody should be glad and happy."

"I am not happy," said the raven. "Don't you see those black clouds above us? It is going to snow."

"Very well," answered the robin, "I shall keep on singing till it comes, at any rate. A merry song will not make it any colder."

"You are very silly," croaked the raven.

The robin flew to another tree and kept on singing; but the raven sat still and made himself very unhappy.

"The wind is so cold," he said. "It always blows the wrong way for me."

Very soon the sun came out warm and bright, and the clouds went away. But the raven was as sad as ever.

The grass began to spring up in the meadows. Green leaves and flowers were seen in the woods. Birds and bees flew here and there in the glad sunshine. The raven sat alone on the branch of the old oak.

"It is always too warm or too cold," said he. "To be sure it is quite pleasant just now; but I know that the sun will soon shine hot enough to burn one up. Then to-morrow it will be colder than ever before. I do not see how any one can be so silly as to sing at such a time as this."

Just then the robin came back to the tree, carrying a straw in her mouth.

"Well, my friend," asked she, "where is your snow?"

"Don't say anything," croaked the raven. "It will snow all the harder for this sunshine."

"And snow or shine," said the robin, "you will keep on croaking. For my part, I shall look on the bright side of everything, and have a song for every day in the year."

Which was the wiser, the raven or the robin?

[1] Permission of American Book Company.



One of the first birds to return in the spring—migrates north early in March—sometimes remains during winter—stays north as late as October or November.

Domestic—generally preferring to live near the home of man.

Song—though short and always the same is in tone wonderfully expressive of happiness, love, anger, or fear, as the case may be.

Black head—wings and tail brown—touches of white on throat—entire breast a rusty red.—Female duller and paler in colouring, growing almost as bright as the male in the autumn.

Food—principally insects and worms—does not disdain fruit, berries, cherries, etc., but prefers insect food—a ravenous eater.

Nest—outer layer composed of sticks, coarse grasses, etc., seemingly rather carelessly arranged—on this the rather large round nest is woven with grasses—plastered with mud—lined with softer grasses.

Eggs—greenish blue—four in number—young have black spots on breast—generally two broods reared in a season—sometimes three.



It was the tenth day of April. Phyllis knew the date because it chanced to be her birthday. She was just eight years old.

The sun shone very warm and bright, and the buds were growing big and red on the horse-chestnut-trees.

"I shall go down to the brook to look for pussy-willows this afternoon," said the little girl.

Phyllis was sitting in the window of the barn loft with the sun shining full upon her. All was very quiet and the little girl was half asleep.

Suddenly, with a flash of blue wings and a funny little twitter, a bird darted right across her face. Phyllis sat up straight, and, leaning out of the window, looked up at the eaves.

There she saw the merry twitterer, with several of his companions, who seemed very busy and very talkative.

They darted here and there, they skimmed through the air so swiftly that Phyllis could only catch a gleam of blue. They wheeled and circled and darted. All the time they twittered, twittered, twittered.

"What are they up to?" said Phyllis, leaning farther out and looking more closely.

For an instant one of the birds clung to the eaves and seemed to be pecking away at a bit of mud which was stuck to the eaves.

Phyllis noticed the deeply forked tail of the bird. Its back and wings and tail were steel blue. Its throat and chest were bright chestnut, becoming paler near the back of the body.

"Oh, I know you," laughed Phyllis. "I have no fear of frightening you, for you are a swallow.

"How does it happen that you are so fearless? You are scarcely more afraid of us than our chickens. Why do you build so near our homes? You are even more tame than the robin!"

The swallow twittered in a way which made Phyllis feel that he was laughing at her. He darted so near that had she been quick enough she might have caught him.

"We are not afraid of you!" laughed the swallow, darting close again and then whirling away.

"What a funny bird!" said Phyllis.

In a moment the bird was back with a bit of mud in his mouth. He plastered it up against the rest of the mud under the eaves. Then he flew again near Phyllis.

"I suppose there was a time," said the bird, "when all swallows built their nests on the sides and ledges of caves or cliffs. But that was hundreds of years ago, before men came and made barns with such comfortable places for building.

"To be sure there are swallows to this day who prefer the bank of a brook or the side of a cave for their nesting-place. But we barn swallows like the eaves best."

"You, too, are an early bird," said Phyllis. "Where did you spend the winter?"

There was a great twittering among the returning swallows just then and Phyllis was obliged to wait for a reply. Back came the bird after a moment.

"We went south last October," he said. "Late in September we gathered in great flocks in the marshes.

"For days we stayed there waiting for the entire company to gather. At length on one of the blue October days we flew southward.

"There were hundreds of birds in the flock. We looked like a small cloud, as we skimmed and darted through the air. As we flew, the flock was a half mile long.

"We spent the winter in South America. There are delicious insects there. But for all that we love the north country best.

"By and bye Mother Nature whispered to us. She said that it was nest-building time in the northland. Such a twittering and fluttering there was when this news came.

"That very afternoon we started north. Day after day we flew. We met other great flocks as we travelled, who joined us.

"Day after day we flew northward. We did not stop to eat, but caught our food on the wing.

"Now we lunched on moths and flies. Again we dined on grasshoppers. Any insect foolish enough to trust itself in the air at the time we passed served as food.

"We arrived here only a few days ago. It is not yet very warm, but here under the eaves on the sunny side of the barn it is quite comfortable.

"We are so busy with this nest-building and settling for the summer. You see we swallows do not live alone. There are always flocks of us together.

"We should be lonely if we lived only in pairs. That is the reason that we build a whole little village of nests under your eaves."

"You build very queer nests," said Phyllis. "They are neither like the robin's nor the chickadee's nests."

"No, indeed, no robin or chickadee could build such nests as the swallow. You see we make the soft mud from the brookside into little balls and carry it in our bills. With it we mix straws and grasses. This holds the clay together. When the outer clay wall is finished we line the nest with soft grasses and feathers."

"I notice there are a great many chicken feathers in the barnyard. I shall line my nest with the softest, fluffiest feathers that I can find there.

"By and bye my little mate will sit in the dear clay nest and over four or five or possibly six little eggs."

"I shall never be able to see them," sighed Phyllis. "They are up so high. Tell me about them."

"Oh, my eggs are beautiful," said the swallow. "They are white with just a little rose tint. They are spotted with fine dots of brown and purple, and are about three-quarters of an inch long.

"We shall probably have three broods of birdlings this summer. What a happy, happy time we shall have!"

All this time the swallow was darting and wheeling and circling about Phyllis in a most graceful manner.

"Are you never still?" asked Phyllis, at last. "I do not believe you even stop to eat."

"I do not," said the swallow, darting after a big blue fly. "I eat on the fly." And then he burst into a giggling twitter.

"I catch nearly all my food on the wing. No one can complain—as they do of the robin—of our destroying fruit.

"We do not care for fruit at all. I would rather have a dozen nice fat flies than all the cherries in the world!"

"Well," laughed Phyllis, "I'd rather have a dozen ripe cherries than all the flies in the world!"

"Tastes differ," twittered the swallow.


Once upon a time some Eskimo children were playing in the wet clay by the seashore. They were making tiny toy houses of the clay. These houses they fastened high on the face of the cliff.

The children chattered and laughed. They ran gaily to and fro in their happy play.

The people of the village heard their merry voices. Their busy mother paused with her long bone needle between her fingers. She looked up and smiled at her little ones.

"How happy my children are to-day!" she said, and she hummed a little tune to herself.

"They are very wise children!" said a neighbour. "They say so many wonderful things. Indeed, they seem to know more of some things than even the wise men of the village!"

"Yes, they are quite wonderful," said the mother. "I sometimes listen to their chatter and watch their nimble little fingers, and I wonder who taught them all they know."

"Oh," said another woman, "they do not seem so extraordinary to me. In fact, they look to me like little birds, flitting about in their dark dresses."

"They do look like birds!" said the mother, gazing at the children.

"I do believe they are birds," said the neighbour.

"But the voices are my children's voices," said the mother, looking again in wonder.

"And they are still building tiny clay houses on the cliffs!" said the other woman.

"But those toy clay houses are birds' nests," said the neighbour, "and those little figures darting back and forth are no longer children. They have changed to birds!"

"Yes," said the mother, peering from under her hand. "Yes, those are birds building their funny clay nests on the cliffs yonder.

"But the birds have the happy twittering voices of my children. You were right. They were wonderful children!

"Ah, well, my only wish is that they may remain near us. They will cheer us and keep us from becoming lonely!"

"Surely that is a reasonable wish—since they are your own little ones," said the neighbour. "I, too, hope that the little birds will remain near our village!"

And indeed the mother's wish was granted. Even to this day the little swallows do not fear man.

In fact, they still choose to build their nests near the camps of the people. They still fix their tiny toy houses on the faces of the sea cliffs.



Comes north about first or second week in April. Remains until late September or October—builds and travels in flocks or companies—winters in South or Central America.

Song—a constant twitter.

Head and upper parts except forehead steel blue—tail feathers marked with white—forehead and throat clear chestnut colour—chest and lower body paler chestnut.

Food—chiefly insects caught while on the wing.

Nest—built chiefly of mud—chooses under eaves or cavelike places for building—mud mixed with grasses and (one authority also asserts) a sticky saliva from the bird's mouth.

Eggs—white, tinted a delicate rose, and speckled finely with brown and purple.—Two or three broods in a season.



Had not the old hen been such a watchful mother she would never have been able to care for such a big, fluffy family.

Had not Phyllis been such a wide-awake little girl, she would have never heard and seen all that I am about to tell you.

Mother Speckle was scratching patiently in the barnyard. Now and again she gave a loud call and her ten little ones ran wildly for the bug or worm which their mother had found for them.

Phyllis was just coming into the barnyard with a cup of meal for Mother Speckle's family, when a strange cry from the old hen startled her.

Phyllis looked and saw every chick running as fast as its little legs could carry it to the hovering mother wings. Soon every chicken baby was hidden from sight and the chicken mother was clucking less loudly.

"What can be the matter?" cried Phyllis, and then looking up she saw a hawk circling in the air above.

She snatched off her hat and waved it wildly at the hawk. At the same time she shouted as fiercely as she could.

The hawk soared calmly in the air, rising ever higher and higher. The mother hen, calling softly to her babies, led the little ones to the protecting shelter of some low bushes. Then Phyllis sprinkled the meal and soon the chicken hawk was quite forgotten by Mother Speckle and her brood.

But Phyllis still watched eagerly for the hawk. She feared that he would return. But she could now see nothing of him.

On the fence post, not far away, sat a big black raven croaking gravely to himself.

"You are not a lovely bird either," said the little girl, but the raven did not hear her.

When she had crept up very close to the post on which the raven sat, Phyllis again saw the hawk sailing in wide circles nearer and nearer.

"Caw! Caw!" cried the raven, rising in the air, high above the barn. "I, too, can sail about in circles! Caw! Caw! Caw!"

The hawk said nothing, but quietly settled on the fence post. The raven still circled in the air, but ever nearer.

The hawk looked up. The raven wagged his head solemnly and uttered his sad, harsh cry. He shook out his black feathers and sat down again on the post.

"I am called the bird of ill omen," said the raven. "Some people think that I bring bad luck. Others think I eat too much of their corn. No one likes me. No one thinks me beautiful.

"Yet if you will look at my black coat you will see how glossy it is. My back fairly gleams in the sunlight. Sometimes I catch gleams of purple and green on my wings. See how soft and loose are the feathers about my throat. They make a fringe about my neck of which I am somewhat proud.

"I do not harm people, and I surely should not be blamed for my appetite. To be sure, I do eat corn and grain. I also eat grubs, worms, field mice, in fact anything which comes in my way.

"I have a home up in the top of the cedar-tree. My nest is round and firm. It is woven of sticks and grasses and lined with wool which I myself pick from the sheep's back.

"We reline the old nest and repair it beautifully every housecleaning time.

"My babies are good children, but they do not in fact look much like me. Perhaps you might think them better looking than their parents. They are black and white.

"Their mother says that the raven babies will outgrow the white feathers soon. She declares that she and I had once as many white feathers as our babies. It seems hard to believe, but perhaps she is right.

"At any rate, they are my children and I do the best I can for them. To me they are very dear, but I fear they will go through life as unloved as I! Caw! Caw! Caw!"

The chicken-hawk ruffled his brown feathers carelessly. He drew in his breath, making a whistling noise which to Phyllis, hiding so quietly below, sounded quite like escaping steam.

"People do not like me either," said the hawk, shrugging his shoulders. "But for all that I shall not sit and mourn.

"I know that my feathers are handsome. I know that I am a good husband and father. I know that I can sail about in the air as gracefully as any bird in the world.

"I sometimes eat insects, but I wonder, Mr. Raven, at your fondness for corn and grain. You should try some of these small birds which are flying about."

"I fear—" began the raven.

"Fear?" cried the hawk, striking out with his strong curved claws. "I do not know what fear is! Look at my short curved bill! Look at my sharp claws! Look at my long wings, which can carry me so swiftly and so far!

"There is scarcely a bird of the air which does not fear me. They skim out of sight at my approach.

"You should see me pounce upon young ducks. It is great fun. Yesterday I was soaring above the pond, when I saw a whole family of young ducks out for their first swim. Without a sound I dropped down, seized one, and bore it off in my claws. I sat in the tree-top to eat it. It was very tender, but also very small. I decided to have another. This time the young ducks saw me. They dived head first into the water.

"I laughed to myself. I knew that they would soon come up. When in half a minute one appeared, I was quick enough to catch him.

"Later I carried a small chicken home to my nest in the big oak on the hill yonder. My nest is a very simple affair,—just a few crooked sticks. The lining is of leaves and a few pieces of loose bark which we picked up.

"Come and see me sometime, Mr. Raven. I will show my babies to you. They are wonderful birdlings with bright yellow eyes and bluish bills.

"Just now I must be off. I see Mrs. Speckle has ventured out from the bushes again and that little girl with the flapping hat—"

The little girl and the "flapping hat" sprang up from the fence-corner with such a shout that the chicken-hawk circled away into the air and did not return that day.

The raven flew away, crying sadly, "Caw! Caw! Caw!" Mother Speckle went on quietly catching bugs for her downy babies.


During the short Greenland summer the Eskimos live along the seacoast. They put up their strange skin huts and hunt and fish and make merry through the season when the sun shines at midnight.

Now in places along the Greenland coast there are steep high cliffs. Here the birds which fly farther north in summer make their nests.

Often, as the Eskimo sits by his campfire, he hears the half-angry, half-sad cry of "Kea! Kea! Kea!" Looking up then, he often sees a lonely hawk sitting on the highest, most desolate cliff.

The Eskimo father laughs when he hears this cry and sees the lonely bird on the cliff top. Then the little Eskimo children creep nearer to their father with certainty that a new story is in store for them.

"Tell us the story of the hawk!" the Eskimo children cry eagerly.

This then is the story which the Eskimo father tells to his little ones "in their funny furry clothes."

"Long, long ago in a tiny Eskimo village, there lived a strange-looking old woman. Her neck was so short that she really looked as though she had no neck at all and as though her head was set upon her shoulders.

"People laughed when they saw the funny-looking old woman. Some were so unkind as to make fun of her strange appearance.

"This unkindness made the old woman very unhappy.

"By and bye the children of the village went every day to the hut of the old woman to play.

"They teased and tormented her. If she raised the bearskin curtain at the doorway and spoke to them they did not heed her.

"'Short neck! Short neck!' the rude children shouted. Then they stood and laughed at her.

"So it came that the poor old woman grew more and more unhappy. To escape her tormentors she often climbed to the cliff tops and sat on the edges of high rocks where it was difficult to follow.

"Here, safe and quiet, she would sit for hours. Sometimes in her loneliness she raised her arms above her head and cried aloud.

"The people of the tiny Eskimo village often saw the lonely figure on the cliffs. They noticed that the old woman stayed less and less in her little snow hut in the village.

"Then one morning an Eskimo child, looking up, thought she saw the old woman sitting as usual on the rocks. But the child's brother said that he saw only a strange bird with a very short neck.

"At that moment the bird raised its wings and flapped them above its head.

"'Kea! Kea! Kea!' cried the strange new bird. 'Kea! Kea! Kea! who was it called me short neck?'

"'Ah,' said the children's father, looking up from his fishing-nets, 'I think you both were right.'"



Long, long ago there were but few Indians on the earth. The world was not as it is now. The earth people did not understand things as they now understand them.

It therefore happened that a beautiful Indian prince came to live with the earth people.

In his hand he carried a plume stick. It was a magic wand and was covered with feathers of beautiful colours.

There were yellow feathers. There were red feathers. There were blue-green feathers. There were black and white and gray feathers.

Fastened to this magic wand were also many strange shells and charms which the earth children did not understand and which the strange prince did not explain fully.

"What is this strange plume stick?" asked the earth children.

"It is the magic wand which tests the hearts of earth children," was the reply.

The earth children wondered, but they did not understand.

"Ah, but show us what you mean!" they cried, eagerly.

"Look!" replied the strange prince.

Then amid the plumes and charms of the magic wand there appeared four round things.

"They are eggs!" cried the earth children. "Two are blue like the sky. Two are red-brown like the dust of our own pleasant earth!"

Then the earth children asked many questions which the strange prince tried patiently to explain.

"Now," said the strange prince, "choose whichever eggs you will. By and bye they will hatch. From them will come birds such as you never before have seen. From each pair of eggs will come a pair of birds."

"You who choose the blue eggs shall follow the birds which come from the blue shells. You and your children and your children's children shall dwell in the land in which these birds nest.

"You who choose the red-brown eggs shall follow the birds which come from the red-brown shells. You and your children and your children's children shall dwell in the land in which these birds nest!"

"But which shall we choose?" cried the eager earth children.

"Nay," said the strange prince, "that I may not tell. But this much you may know:

"From one pair of eggs shall come forth beautiful birds. Their feathers shall be coloured, like the leaves and fruits of summer. They shall nest in the land of everlasting summer-time and plenty.

"They who choose those eggs will follow these birds to the beautiful country of summer-time. The fruits will ripen daily and fall into the hands of the lucky earth children. Their food will come to them without labour and they shall know neither hunger nor cold."

"And what will happen if we choose the other pair of eggs?"

The strange prince shook his head half sadly and smiled on the earth children.

"From the other pair of eggs," he said, "shall come forth birds with black feathers, piebald with white. This pair will nest in a land where you may gain food by labour only.

"Those who follow this pair of birds shall struggle summer and winter. By long days of toil they shall provide food. By long nights of watchfulness they shall keep warmth within their homes."

Then the strange prince ceased speaking. The earth children looked at each other and forgot to speak. Each looked into the eyes of the other and asked a question. Each wished to follow the birds which would lead them to the land of everlasting summer-time and idleness and plenty.

"Which eggs do you choose?" asked the strange prince.

"The blue—the blue!" cried the earth children. Then those who were strongest and quickest pushed forward.

They fought for the blue eggs, and getting them hurried away with gladness.

They buried the blue eggs in the soft loam on the sunny side of the cliff. They sat down to watch when the young birds should hatch.

Now there remained those weaker earth children who had been pushed aside. For them there was no choice. The strange prince gave into their hand the red-brown eggs.

The red-brown eggs were placed amid the soft green grasses by the riverside. The earth children into whose care they were given sat also by the riverside and waited.

Sometimes, as they waited for the hatching of the red-brown eggs, they looked up to the place in the cliff where the stronger ones watched the beautiful blue eggs.

Then the weaker ones sighed and turned to the ugly red-brown eggs amid the grasses.

By and bye, as those on the cliff waited, they heard faint tappings inside the blue shells.

"Ah," they said, "the birds will come soon now. They will lead us to the land of summer-time."

When at length the shells burst and the young birds came out, they looked much as other birds look. They had large mouths and panting sides and tiny featherless bodies. Soon the pin-feathers appeared.

"See!" cried the watchers, "now the beautiful plumage is starting!"

And those by the riverside, hearing the cry, looked up, and looking up they sighed. The red-brown eggs also were cracking open and the young birds coming out of the shells. Soon the earth children must follow their bird leaders. They fed and tended the young birds for still a few days.

Then one morning there were sighs and discontent on the cliff. For the birds which came from the blue shells were feathered and ready for flight. Their colours were black and white! So also is all the bare earth and the new-fallen snow!

It was a pair of ravens, which the stronger earth children followed to the country where winter follows summer and where men work for food. As the earth children laboured, the ravens taunted them with hoarse, laughing cries.

Now those other earth children who watched the red-brown eggs stood up by the riverside and smiled.

From the red-brown eggs had come birds of gorgeous plumage. On the breath of a sweet-scented breeze they were wafted far to southward—to the summer land. And those earth children who followed the beautiful birds still live easily in the land of everlasting summer-time.



Voice—sharp, harsh, discordant cries—queer "whistling" noises.

Upper parts brownish black mixed with white—throat and under tail coverts white—other under parts having darker markings.

Bill—short, curved, and very sharp.

Claws—strong, curved, and very sharp,—middle toe longest.

Wings—long and pointed—made for rapid flight and long journeys.

Female larger than male.

Food—other smaller birds of the air—small ducks and chickens—occasionally larger insects, snakes, etc.

Nest in the fork of a tree—made of crooked sticks and lined with leaves, bark, etc.

Eggs—two to four in number, bluish white, thickly speckled with brown.

Iris in young bird's eyes yellow—turning to reddish brown with maturity.



Three times the size of robin.

Does not migrate, but is usually resident in the place where it can best provide for itself and family.

Is glossy black in colour, with gleams of purple and green above—duller underneath.

Flies in wide circles high above the tree-tops, and utters a weird, uncanny cry, which has given it the name of being a bird of ill omen, and to many people the cry of the raven is deemed a sign of approaching evil.

Nest very compactly built of sticks and grasses and lined with wool from sheep's back. Nest is used year after year, being often relined and made habitable.

Young when first hatched are black and white—they however change to entire black in a very short time.

Food of the raven is varied, apparently anything edible which comes in his way—grain, seeds, grubs, worms, field-mice, fruit, are found on his menu.




"Please, Jack," begged Phyllis.

"Girls always talk," replied Jack.

"I will not say a word to you—indeed I will not."

"Well, if you spoil my fishing—" began Jack.

"And I'll pick thimbleberries for our lunch," said Phyllis, eagerly.

So it happened that a small girl in a great sunbonnet followed a small boy with a still larger straw hat and a fishing-pole and line, out of the back gate and down the lane.

True to her promise, Phyllis said nothing, but trudged along behind Jack with wide open, watchful brown eyes.

By and bye the children came to a pond of shining, clear water. How still everything seemed, how brightly the sun shone!

"Now if you talk you'll scare the fish," said Jack, with an air of great importance.

"I will not talk," Phyllis whispered back, shutting her lips very tightly and sitting down beside her brother with a little sigh.

Jack threw his line—Phyllis watched with awe. They sat for a moment waiting for a "bite."

Then Jack jerked the line up sharply, not so much because he thought he had caught something, as because he hoped he would catch something.

"I don't believe there are any fish here," he grumbled at last.

But Phyllis's bright eyes had caught sight of something and she forgot all about the fishing and her resolve not to speak.

"Look!" she cried, pointing to a fallen tree-trunk which hung over the water.

On a branch sat a bird. He was considerably larger than a robin.

On the top of his head was a tall crest, which reached to the nape of his neck.

His back and the entire upper part of his body was blue. His wings and short tail bore spots and bars of white.

The lower part of his body was white and across his breast ran two bands of blue.

"His bill is longer than his head!" laughed Phyllis. "What a funny big head and what funny little feet! Who is he, Jackie?"

"A kingfisher!" Jack replied.

"What is he doing?" asked Phyllis.

"Fishing," said Jack, shortly.

In a moment Jack spoke again.

"There must be fish here if Mr. Kingfisher is on the lookout. He is a famous old fisherman. He could not live without fish to eat. Did you notice the white spot above each eye?"

Encouraged by the sight of the other fisherman, Jack again cast his line and waited for a bite.

Phyllis watched the bird. Suddenly it seemed to drop from the branch. It dived into the water.

There was a great flutter and splash—a struggle. Then the bird in the blue and white uniform perched again on the old branch.

The children watched eagerly.

In the bird's strong bill was a scaly, glittering fish. It wriggled and flopped helplessly, but could not escape.

The bird held the fish firmly in its strong grasp, raised his head and struck the fish three or four sharp knocks against the branch. Then the fish wriggled no longer.

"He can never swallow that big fellow!" cried Jack, forgetting his own fishing. "I have seen kingfishers swallow minnows alive and whole, but that fish is too large for him to manage!"

The bird, however, seemed to think that he could "manage" it. He started to swallow the fish. When it was half-way down his throat it stuck.

With much sputtering and gagging the bird brought the fish up again. But he must have his dinner, and not in the least discouraged, tried again.

He gagged and writhed. The scales and fins stuck in his throat. Up came the fish again.

Four—five times he struggled to swallow the fish. Five times he failed to succeed. Five times the fish-scales glittered again in the sunlight. Such strange wrigglings and twistings the bird made.

"The poor fellow is having an unhappy time with his lunch," laughed the children.

At the sixth effort the fish was safely landed in the bird's stomach.

With a flash of blue wings he circled through the air. He gave a noisy rattling cry as he alighted on a branch nearer to the children.

Again the bird watched the water intently. Again he dived like a flash. Again he bore a fish to the surface and killed it by striking it against the tree.

But this time the kingfisher did not swallow the fish. He rose with it in his bill and flew gracefully away.

The children watched for some time, but the strange blue bird did not return. Then Jack turned again to his fishing.

"I thought you were to furnish the thimbleberries for lunch," he said.

"So I shall," Phyllis replied, snatching up her basket and starting off in the direction of some bushes which she could see.

So Jack was left to his fishing and Phyllis went berrying.

Sure enough the bushes proved to be loaded with beautiful ripe berries. Soon the little fingers were stained quite purple and the little basket was half filled with berries.

As she started to return to her brother, Phyllis passed along the foot of a high bank. She was singing softly to herself when she heard the rattling cry of the kingfisher quite near.

He gracefully swung into sight on wide-spread wings. He bore another fish in his strong bill.

When he saw Phyllis he stopped short and held himself perfectly still in the air while he looked at her.

At length, deciding that she was harmless, he circled past the little girl and entered a small hole on the face of the bank.

"Why!" said Phyllis. "I wonder why he has gone in there. I shall wait for him to return."

So Phyllis waited until the bird came out. Then she held out her basket of berries.

"Will you have some of my berries?" she said. "I'm sure that your throat must be sore from the scratching of those fish-scales. You had to try so many times before you got it down. Tell me, did this last fish also stick in your throat?"

The kingfisher "chuckled" deep down in his throat.

"I do not eat berries," he said. "I usually eat fish. I sometimes eat large insects or shrimps, but I love to fish."

"So does my brother," said Phyllis, politely, glancing at Jack sitting motionless on a rock in the sunshine.

"Why did you go into that hole to eat?"

The kingfisher chuckled again.

"That is my nest," he said. "My wife is in there. I took the fish to her. She can fish quite as well as I, but our eggs are just hatching and she dare not leave them."

"That a bird's nest?" cried Phyllis. "Who made it?"

"Mrs. Kingfisher and I did," was the reply. "We found this fine steep bank when we came from the south in March.

"I began the nest myself. I held myself still in the air before the bank just as I did when I first noticed you. Then I drove my beak into the soft bank with quick plunges. How the clay rattled and rolled and splashed into the water below!

"It was but a very short time before I had a foothold on the bank. Mrs. Kingfisher and I worked very quickly. Soon we dug ourselves out of sight."

"But how do you dig—"

"Oh, just look at my bill, Phyllis. With it I loosen the earth. With my feet I scratch the dirt out in a perfect shower behind me. Our tunnel is so narrow that we could not turn around in it."

"How deep is it?" asked the little girl, pushing back her big hat and peering in.

The kingfisher did not seem to hear her. He just went on with his story.

"Perhaps a little less than two feet from the outside we made a turn to the right. After that we were obliged to bring the earth out in our beaks.

"Two could not work at once. While I worked at the tunnel Mrs. Kingfisher fished. While she worked, I fished. At last the tunnel was eight feet long.

"'That is a very safe distance,' said Mrs. Kingfisher to me. 'Let us dig no more, but make our nest here at the end of the tunnel.'

"We built a wonderful nest," the bird went on, "a fine prickly nest for our little ones. We did not line it with feathers and moss. We carefully arranged a pile of fish-bones and scales at the farthest end of the tunnel. On these bones and scales my wife laid six white eggs. Already four little baby kingfishers have pecked their way out of the white shells. The others will be out soon.

"I must be off about my fishing. Mrs. Kingfisher and I will both be very busy now catching minnows for those blue babies of ours."

With another chuckle and rattle the kingfisher flew away to his fishing station over the pond.

Phyllis picked up her basket of berries and returned to the spot where Jack still sat patiently holding his pole.

"Oh, Jack—" Phyllis began.

"Sh-h-h-h!" whispered Jack. "You promised not to talk. You'll scare the fish away. Girls always talk."

"I'm sorry," said Phyllis. "How many have you now?"

"None—but I've had a nibble several times. I think they'd bite better if the sun would go under a cloud."

"Let's eat our lunch now," begged Phyllis. "Perhaps there'll be some clouds by the time we finish."

As they ate Phyllis told her brother about the kingfisher's nest and babies. When they finished the sky was as blue as ever.

"These are halcyon days," said Jack, looking very wise.

"Wh-a-a-t—?" said Phyllis, wholly puzzled and half frightened at the new word.

"Well, you see father told me about them the other day when we were fishing in this same place.

"It seems that long ago when people were not very wise, they believed all sorts of queer things. They told strange stories about the things which they did not understand.

"In those days kingfishers were called halcyons. Some said these birds made nests which floated on the sea.

"As long as these eggs or birdlings were in the nest, the people said, the sea would remain smooth and the weather fair.

"Ever since then, when we hear any one speak of 'halcyon days,' we know that they mean pleasant happy days."

"Then," laughed Phyllis, "this has been one of the 'halcyon days' even though you failed to catch any fish."

Then two tired little people trudged home through the river reeds and down the lane.

On their way the blue kingfisher flashed by, chuckling harshly deep down in his throat.


That evening Phyllis opened a new book and on almost the first page she saw something about the halcyon birds.

"Perhaps it is Jack's story," she said. Then she curled herself up on the soft sofa and this is the story she read.

In the beautiful long ago, in the wonderful country of Greece there lived a king, wise and just and peaceful. His people loved him.

The king lived in a marble palace on the top of a low hill. With him lived his wife, the lovely Queen Halcyone.

But though the king was wise and just and good, his heart was sad. There was unrest in the land. Troubles were rife in Greece.

At length one day the king came to the room where Queen Halcyone sat with her maids. They were spinning carefully and happily together.

"My Halcyone—my queen," said the king, "as you know, I am greatly troubled and disturbed. I do not know what is the best thing for me to do. I must seek wise advice from the gods."

Queen Halcyone dropped her distaff and looked in fear at the king.

"I must go," said the king to Halcyone, "on a long journey across the seas. As you know, in the Temple of Apollo there is a wise oracle. To this oracle must I go in search of counsel."

Then the lovely Queen Halcyone's heart was filled with sorrow. She feared that harm might come to the king, whom she loved for his goodness and his kindness.

Halcyone fell on her knees before the king. She begged him to postpone this terrible journey across the seas.

"Indeed," cried she, "there are cruel dangers, O my king! The journey is long and wearisome. Remain at home with me!"

The king smiled pityingly upon his lovely queen. He kissed her gently before he answered.

"It seems to me," he said, sadly, "that there is no other way. I must go."

"Ah, then, I pray, take me also. Let me share the dangers and the weariness."

"You could not—" the king began.

"In truth it would be easier far than to bear the loneliness and dread when you are gone. It would be weary waiting for your return!"

Now the king loved Halcyone. He longed to remain at home with her. But already the boat lay ready for departure—and there was no place for Halcyone.

Already the oarsmen sat at their benches ready to row away. So the king bade Halcyone farewell and stepped on board and quickly pushed off.

With bitter tears Halcyone stood on the bank and watched the king's boat push out from shore.

When it looked but a speck she shaded her eyes with her hand and still watched. But when in the purple distance the tiny speck could no longer be seen, Halcyone turned with a sigh to the marble palace and her maidens.

On and on across the waters the little boat sped. For a time all went well. At night the stars shone. In the morning the sun arose from the blue waters and travelled across a cloudless sky. Gentle winds blew, filling the sails and pushing the little boat quietly on its way.

But one day a change came over the sea. The moaning of the wind was heard. Dark clouds scurried across the sky.

The waves rose high and broke in white crests of foam. The rain poured down. The wind crept up and sprang upon the little boat with fury.

For a time the boat rose and fell with the waves. It pitched and rolled and reeled. Great waves splashed over it, washing the oarsmen overboard.

The masts were torn away. At last the little boat, buried in the trough of the wave, sank beneath the water.

The king and all his crew lay buried deep beneath the deep blue sea.

Weeks passed. Months passed. A year went by.

Queen Halcyone wandered restlessly up and down the shore. With weary eyes she watched the purple distance. But the king did not return.

She prayed to the gods that they would guard and protect the king whom she loved so dearly. She went to the sacred altars of her country, and burned incense there.

When the goddess Juno heard the prayers and saw the tears of the lovely Queen Halcyone, she was sad for her. Juno called to her side the beautiful rainbow messenger, Iris.

"Iris," said Juno, "this night I wish you to go down on your rainbow bridge to the god of dreams.

"Ask him to send to Halcyone a dream which shall tell her of the fate of her husband, the king. It is better that she should know what has befallen him whom she loved than to wander thus in uncertainty."

So Iris, the beautiful messenger, swept down to the god of dreams—and that night Halcyone dreamed that the king came to her and told her his story. He told her how the boat and all therein had long since been buried under the sea.

"Be brave, my Halcyone," said the shade of the dead king. "Be brave and patient, and soon perchance, if the gods will, thou shalt come to me in the land of shades."

When the dream left her, Halcyone sprang from her couch and ran again to the seashore. She stretched out her arms and called aloud to Aeolus, the father of the winds.

"O great father Aeolus," she prayed, "give me wings so large and strong that they will carry me to the spot where the king now lies.

"Hear me, Aeolus! Hear Halcyone, thy child!"

And as she prayed, lo, she rose slowly into the air. The folds of her blue robe enwrapped her.

Halcyone floated out across the sea. Again and again her breast touched the white crest of the waves and left its foam on her throat and on the bosom of her dress.

On and on she sped across the billowy waters. Her wings were firm, strong, untiring.

At last, floating upon the water she spied the form of the king. With a hoarse rattling in her throat she called to him.

With her strong wings outspread, Halcyone hung motionless above the king. Those broken cries came again and again from her throat.

And Juno, looking down from her cloudland home, saw Halcyone kneeling on the waves beside the dead king. She leaned down from her place in the heavens and touched the king's forehead.

Lo! there rose from the water two strong-winged birds in dresses of blue and white.

"Ah," sighed Aeolus, "let us call them the halcyon birds, for the lovely Halcyone, whose love did not fail her.

"Let these birds live ever beside the waters and rear their young in peace and quiet.

"Behold, when Halcyone broods over her little ones I will hold my winds in check. The waters shall be quiet and the sun shall shine merrily.

"And these days of peace and quiet and happiness shall be called 'halcyon days,' for ever."



Comes north in early March—remains until December, often throughout the year.

Song—harsh, discordant, laughing chuckle or rattle—never musical.

Upper parts blue—wings and tail with white markings—lower parts white with two blue bands across breast—bluish tinge on sides—a white spot in front of each eye.—Head large and crested—bill longer than head—feet small.

Food—principally fish which it obtains by diving and kills by striking against a tree if large, or swallows alive if small.—This food supplemented by larger insects, shrimps, etc.

Nest—tunnelled out of bank—six to eight feet deep—at the extreme end of tunnel is the nest made of fish-bones and scales.

Eggs—pure white—four to six in one brood.



Phyllis sat in her own room, rocking her doll to sleep. The window was open and the curtain flapped idly in the breeze.

Presently into the room darted a bird. He was beautifully dressed. His soft gray uniform was spotted and barred with white.

He did not seem in the least alarmed when he found himself in the room with Phyllis. He perched on the window-ledge and did not even glance at the little girl.

In a moment he flew to the ledge above her door. With his strong little bill he began to rap, rap, rap at the wood.

"You act like a woodpecker, but you do not look like one," said Phyllis.

"That shows that you do not know all about woodpeckers," said the gray, downy bird. "I belong to the family of red-headed woodpeckers."

"You?" cried Phyllis, amazed. "But where is your red cap, and where is your white vest, and where is your black coat? You are trying to fool me, my friend."

"My father and mother have crimson heads and necks and throats. They have white breasts. They have black backs and wings and tails. When they fly, the broad white bands on the wings are quite plain to be seen.

"My home nest is that in the trunk of the old oak by the gate."

"It is very queer," said Phyllis. "Perhaps some other bird laid an egg in the woodpeckers' nest by mistake."

The small bird fluttered quite helplessly with laughter.

"Oh, no, Phyllis, I see I have to tell you all about it. I am a woodpecker, surely. But I am quite young yet. It is not a week since I had my first lesson in flying."

"You fly very well for a young bird," said Phyllis.

"Well, my mother is very wise," said the bird.

"She does not think it well for her babies to get out of the nest until they have grown quite large. She says that if we wait until our wings are strong we will not be so apt to fall into danger.

"So I remained inside the nest until I was quite a large, strong bird. Then my parents called me out and taught me to fly.

"Only yesterday I asked my mother why I did not wear a dress and cap like her own.

"She said, 'Wait a little longer, my child. When you are quite grown your cap will be as red as my own. You will look so much like your father and me that those children down there will be unable to tell us apart.'

"It is little wonder that you did not know me for a woodpecker in this simple gray dress. All woodpecker children, however, dress in this quiet fashion at first. I shall be happy when I get my gorgeous red cap."

"Well," said Phyllis, "I am very glad you came to see me. I knew there was a nest in the old oak-tree. I watched your father and mother one whole morning a few weeks ago. I think they chose the oak because of those old dead branches.

"I saw your mother brace herself against the tree with her stiff tail. Then how her wedge-shaped bill rapped and rapped against the wood. For fully twenty minutes she rapped away at the rotten wood. Then she grew tired and your father took her place at the tree-trunk.

"Soon they pecked a hole deep enough to hide them from sight, but their constant rap, rap, rap could still be heard.

"I wondered how deep they made the hole, but it was too high for me to climb to find out."

"Having just come from the nest I can tell you all about it," replied the young woodpecker. "My parents dug down into the soft trunk to a depth of perhaps eighteen inches. At the bottom they hollowed out a large roomy place for the nest. They did not line it with feathers or grasses. Instead of a bed of moss was a little sawdust and the smooth white sides of the oak.

"In this nest my mother laid six pure white eggs. She sat on them and kept them warm until at last six downy birds came out of the shells.

"We were hungry little things. Both our mother and father were kept busy filling our greedy, ever-open mouths.

"And whatever they brought was sure to be very nice. Sometimes it was a cherry or a berry, sometimes a bit of pear or apple.

"But, best of all, were the fat, juicy little grubs which they often brought.

"I asked my father where he got the grubs. He made fun of me and called out to my mother in his shrill, lively way.

"She said that that was a thing which every young woodpecker should find out for himself.

"After that, every time a fat grub was brought to me, I wondered if I should ever be able to find them when I began to shift for myself.

"At last my wings were strong enough and my parents called me out of the nest. I very soon found that the fat grubs lived beneath the bark of my own oak-tree. All I had to do was to strike my bill into the bark and bear off the prize."

"Were you sorry to leave your safe high nest?" asked Phyllis.

"Indeed it was not so safe," said the young woodpecker. "On the day that I left the nest a great black snake crept in. He swallowed my little brothers and sisters.

"My parents were wild with grief. They said that was the thing they always dreaded, that such things often happened in woodpeckers' nests."

"How sad!" said Phyllis. "I should never have thought of snakes!"

"They are our greatest danger," was the reply. "Squirrels sometimes come in and steal the nuts and corn we have stored away, but the snake is the most to be feared."

"So you store away food?" Phyllis asked. "Do you stay here in the winter, then?"

"Oh, yes, we often stay all winter. Have you not seen us flying about among the trees in the winter-time?"

By this time the bird sat on the window-sill.

"Must you go?" asked Phyllis. "Here is a strawberry for you."

"Thanks," said the bird, pecking away at the fruit. "I am just off to the corn-field. My father showed me this morning how to open the husks of the green corn to get at the rich, milky kernels inside."

"When you get your red cap, come back," cried Phyllis, and the young woodpecker's lively cry answered from the corn-field.


Away, away in the Northland, Where the hours of the day are few, And the nights are so long in winter They cannot sleep them through;

Where they harness the swift reindeer To the sledges, when it snows; And the children look like bears' cubs In their funny, furry clothes;

They tell them a curious story— I don't believe 'tis true; And yet you may learn a lesson If I tell the tale to you.

Once, when the good Saint Peter Lived in the world below, And walked about it, preaching, Just as he did, you know,

He came to the door of a cottage, In travelling round the earth, Where a little woman was making cakes And baking them on the hearth;

And being faint with fasting, For the day was almost done, He asked her from her store of cakes To give him a single one.

So she made a very little cake, But as it baking lay, She looked at it, and thought it seemed Too large to give away.

Therefore she kneaded another, And still a smaller one, But it looked, when she turned it over, As large as the first had done.

Then she took a tiny scrap of dough, And rolled and rolled it flat; And baked it as thin as a wafer— But she couldn't part with that.

For she said, "My cakes that seem too small, When I eat them myself, Are yet too large to give away." So she put them on the shelf.

Then the good Saint Peter grew angry, For he was hungry and faint; And surely such a woman Was enough to provoke a saint.

And he said, "You are far too selfish To dwell in a human form, To have both food and shelter, And fire to keep you warm.

"Now, you shall build as the birds do, And shall get your scanty food By boring, and boring, and boring, All day in the hard dry wood."

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