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CITIZEN BIRD

Scenes from Bird-Life in Plain English for Beginners

BY

MABEL OSGOOD WRIGHT AND ELLIOTT COUES

With One Hundred and Eleven Illustrations by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

1897






[Illustration: Long-eared owl.]




TO ALL BOYS AND GIRLS
WHO LOVE BIRDS
AND WISH TO PROTECT THEM

THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED
BY THE AUTHORS




_SCENE_:
THE ORCHARD FARM.

_TIME_:
FROM SPRING TO AUTUMN.

_CHARACTERS_:
DR. ROY HUNTER, a naturalist.
OLIVE, the Doctor's daughter.
NAT and DODO, the Doctor's nephew and niece.
RAP, a country boy.
MAMMY BUN, an old colored nurse.
OLAF, a fisherman.




TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER I
OVERTURE BY THE BIRDS

CHAPTER II
THE DOCTOR'S WONDER ROOM

CHAPTER III
A SPARROW SETTLES THE QUESTION

CHAPTER IV
THE BUILDING OF A BIRD

CHAPTER V
CITIZEN BIRD

CHAPTER VI
THE BIRD AS A TRAVELLER

CHAPTER VII
THE BIRD'S NEST

CHAPTER VIII
BEGINNING OF THE BIRD STORIES

CHAPTER IX
A SILVER-TONGUED FAMILY
Bluebird--Robin--Wood Thrush--Wilson's Thrush--Hermit
Thrush--Olive-backed Thrush.

CHAPTER X
PEEPERS AND CREEPERS
Golden-crowned Kinglet--White-breasted
Nuthatch--Chickadee--Brown Creeper.

CHAPTER XI
MOCKERS AND SCOLDERS
Sage Thrasher--Mockingbird--Catbird--Brown
Thrasher--Rock Wren--House Wren--Long-billed Marsh Wren.

CHAPTER XII
WOODLAND WARBLERS
Black-and-white Warbler--Yellow Warbler--Yellow-rumped
Warbler--Ovenbird--Maryland Yellow-throat--Yellow-breasted
Chat--American Redstart.

CHAPTER XIII
AROUND THE OLD BARN
Red-eyed Vireo--Great Northern Shrike--Cedar Waxwing.

CHAPTER XIV
THE SWALLOWS
Purple Martin--Barn Swallow--Tree Swallow--Bank
Swallow.

CHAPTER XV
A BRILLIANT PAIR
Scarlet Tanager--Louisiana Tanager.

CHAPTER XVI
A TRIBE OF WEED WARRIORS
Pine Grosbeak--American Crossbill--American
Goldfinch--Snowflake--Vesper Sparrow--White-throated
Sparrow--Chipping Sparrow--Slate-colored Junco--Song
Sparrow--Towhee--Cardinal--Rose-breasted Grosbeak--Indigo
Bird.

CHAPTER XVII
A MIDSUMMER EXCURSION
Bobolink--Orchard Oriole--Baltimore
Oriole--Cowbird--Red-winged Blackbird--Purple
Grackle--Meadowlark.

CHAPTER XVIII
CROWS AND THEIR COUSINS
American Crow--Blue Jay.

CHAPTER XIX
A FEATHERED FISHERMAN
The Osprey.

CHAPTER XX
SOME SKY SWEEPERS
Kingbird--Phoebe--Wood Pewee.

CHAPTER XXI
HUMMERS AND CHIMNEY SWEEPS
Ruby-throated Hummingbird--Chimney Swift.

CHAPTER XXII
TWO WINGED MYSTERIES
Nighthawk--Whip-poor-will.

CHAPTER XXIII
A LAUGHING FAMILY
Downy Woodpecker--Red-headed
Woodpecker--Flicker--Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

CHAPTER XXIV
TWO ODD FELLOWS
Kingfisher--Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

CHAPTER XXV
CANNIBALS IN COURT
Bald Eagle--Golden Eagle--Screech Owl--Long-eared
Owl--Snowy Owl--Great Horned Owl--Marsh Hawk--Sharp-shinned
Hawk--Red-shouldered Hawk--Sparrow Hawk.

CHAPTER XXVI
A COOING PAIR
Passenger Pigeon--Mourning Dove.

CHAPTER XXVII
THREE FAMOUS GAME BIRDS
Bob White--Ruffled Grouse--Woodcock.

CHAPTER XXVIII
ON THE SHORE
A Long-necked Family: Black-crowned Night Heron--American
Bittern--A Bonnet Martyr and a Blue Giant--Snowy
Egret--Great Blue Heron.

CHAPTER XXIX
UP THE RIVER
Turnstone--Golden Plover--Wilson's Snipe--Spotted
Sandpiper--Least Sandpiper--Virginia Rail.

CHAPTER XXX
DUCKS AND DRAKES
Wood Duck--Black Duck--Mallard--Pintail--Green-winged
Teal--Blue-winged Teal--Redhead--Old Squaw--Hooded Merganser.

CHAPTER XXXI
GULLS AND TERNS AT HOME
Canada Goose--American Herring Gull--Common
Tern--Loon--Pied-billed Grebe.

CHAPTER XXXII
CHORUS BY THE BIRDS

CHAPTER XXXIII
PROCESSION OF BIRD FAMILIES

INDEX




CHAPTER I


OVERTURE BY THE BIRDS

"We would have you to wit, that on eggs though we sit,
And are spiked on the spit, and are baked in a pan;
Birds are older by far than your ancestors are,
And made love and made war, ere the making of man!"

(_Andrew Lang_.)



A party of Swallows perched on the telegraph wires beside the highway
where it passed Orchard Farm. They were resting after a breakfast of
insects, which they had caught on the wing, after the custom of their
family. As it was only the first of May they had plenty of time before
nest-building, and so were having a little neighborly chat.

If you had glanced at these birds carelessly, you might have thought
they were all of one kind; but they were not. The smallest was the Bank
Swallow, a sober-hued little fellow, with a short, sharp-pointed tail,
his back feathers looking like a dusty brown cloak, fastened in front by
a neck-band between his light throat and breast.

Next to him perched the Barn Swallow, a bit larger, with a tail like an
open pair of glistening scissors and his face and throat a beautiful
ruddy buff. There were so many glints of color on his steel-blue back
and wings, as he spread them in the sun, that it seemed as if in some of
his nights he must have collided with a great soap-bubble, which left
its shifting hues upon him as it burst.

This Barn Swallow was very much worried about something, and talked so
fast to his friend the Tree Swallow, that his words sounded like
twitters and giggles; but you would know they were words, if you could
only understand them.

The Tree Swallow wore a greenish-black cloak and a spotless white vest.
He was trying to be polite and listen to the Barn Swallow as well as to
the Purple Martin (the biggest Swallow of all), who was a little further
along on the wire; but as they both spoke at once, he found it a
difficult matter.

"We shall all be turned out, I know," complained the Barn Swallow, "and
after we have as good as owned Orchard Farm these three years, it is too
bad. Those meddlesome House People have put two new pieces of glass in
the hayloft window, and how shall I ever get in to build my nest?"

"They may leave the window open," said the Bank Swallow soothingly, for
he had a cheerful disposition; "I have noticed that hayloft windows are
usually left open in warm weather."

"Yes, they may leave it open, and then shut it some day after I have
gone in," snapped Barney, darting off the perch to catch a fly, and
grasping the wire so violently on his return, that the other birds
fluttered and almost lost their footing. "What is all this trouble
about?" asked the Martin in his soft rich voice. "I live ten miles
further up country, and only pass here twice a year, so that I do not
know the latest news. Why must you leave the farm? It seems to be a
charming place for Bird People. I see a little box under the barn eaves
that would make me a fine house."

"It _is_ a delightful place for us," replied the Barn Swallow; "but now
the House People who own the farm are coming back to live here
themselves, and everything is turned topsy-turvy. They should have asked
us if we were willing for them to come. Bird People are of a _much_
older race than House People anyway; it says so in their books, for I
heard Rap, the lame boy down by the mill, reading about it one day when
he was sitting by the river."

All the other birds laughed merrily at this, and the Martin said, "Don't
be greedy, Brother Barney; those people are quite welcome to their barns
and houses, if they will only let us build in their trees. Bird People
own the whole sky and some of our race dive in the sea and swim in the
rivers where no House People can follow us."

"You may say what you please," chattered poor unhappy Barney,
"everything is awry. The Wrens always built behind the window-blinds,
and now these blinds are flung wide open. The Song Sparrow nested in the
long grass under the lilac bushes, but now it is all cut short; and they
have trimmed away the nice mossy branches in the orchard where hundreds
of the brothers built. Besides this, the Bluebird made his nest in a
hole in the top of the old gate post, and what have those people done
but put up a new post with _no hole in it_!"

"Dear! dear! Think of it, _think_ of it!" sang the Bluebird softly,
taking his place on the wire with the others.

"What if these people should bring children with them," continued
Barney, who had not finished airing his grievances--"little BOYS and
CATS! Children who might climb up to our nests and steal our eggs, boys
with _guns_ perhaps, and striped cats which no one can see, with feet
that make no sound, and _such_ claws and teeth--it makes me shiver to
think of it." And all the birds shook so that the wire quivered and the
Bank Swallow fell off, or would have fallen, if he had not spread his
wings and saved himself.

The Martin had nothing to say to this, but the little Bank Swallow,
though somewhat shaken up, whispered, "There _may_ be children who do
not rob nests, and other boys like Rap, who would never shoot us. Cats
are always sad things for birds, but these House People may not keep
any!" And then he moved down a wire or two, frightened at having given
his opinion.

At that moment a Chimney Swift joined the group. This Swift, who nests
in chimneys, is the sooty-colored bird that flies and feeds on the wing
like a Swallow, and when he is in the air looks like a big spruce cone
with wings. He was followed by a Catbird, who had been in a honeysuckle,
by one of the farmhouse windows, and peeped inside out of curiosity.
Both were excited and evidently bubbling over with news, which half the
birds of the orchard were following them to hear.



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