An Old Friend In a New Home – Chapter 6

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) by Dan

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) by Dan

An Old Friend In a New Home

The Phoebe and the Least Flycatcher

The Burgess Bird Book For Children

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CHAPTER 6. An Old Friend In a New Home.

Listen to the story read.

Every day brought newcomers to the Old Orchard, and early in the morning there were so many voices to be heard that perhaps it is no wonder if for some time Peter Rabbit failed to miss that of one of his very good friends. Most unexpectedly he was reminded of this as very early one morning he scampered, lipperty-lipperty-lip, across a little bridge over the Laughing Brook.

“Dear me! Dear me! Dear me!” cried rather a plaintive voice. Peter stopped so suddenly that he all but fell heels over head. Sitting on the top of a tall, dead, mullein stalk was a very soberly dressed but rather trim little fellow, a very little larger than Bully the English Sparrow. Above, his coat was of a dull olive-brown, while underneath he was of a grayish-white, with faint tinges of yellow in places. His head was dark, and his bill black. The feathers on his head were lifted just enough to make the tiniest kind of crest. His wings and tail were dusky, little bars of white showing very faintly on his wings, while the outer edges of his tail were distinctly white. He sat with his tail hanging straight down, as if he hadn’t strength enough to hold it up.

Chebec the Least Flycatcher, Dear Me the Phoebe - Burgess Bird Book ©©

Chebec the Least Flycatcher, Dear Me the Phoebe – Burgess Bird Book ©©

“Hello, Dear Me!” cried Peter joyously. “What are you doing way down here? I haven’t seen you since you first arrived, just after Winsome Bluebird got here.” Peter started to say that he had wondered what had become of Dear Me, but checked himself, for Peter is very honest and he realized now that in the excitement of greeting so many friends he hadn’t missed Dear Me at all.

Dear Me the Phoebe did not reply at once, but darted out into the air, and Peter heard a sharp click of that little black bill. Making a short circle, Dear Me alighted on the mullein stalk again.

“Did you catch a fly then?” asked Peter.

“Dear me! Dear me! Of course I did,” was the prompt reply. And with each word there was a jerk of that long hanging tail. Peter almost wondered if in some way Dear Me’s tongue and tail were connected. “I suppose,” said he, “that it is the habit of catching flies and bugs in the air that has given your family the name of Flycatchers.”

Dear Me nodded and almost at once started into the air again. Once more Peter heard the click of that little black bill, then Dear Me was back on his perch. Peter asked again what he was doing down there.

“Mrs. Phoebe and I are living down here,” replied Dear Me. “We’ve made our home down here and we like it very much.”

Peter looked all around, this way, that way, every way, with the funniest expression on his face. He didn’t see anything of Mrs. Phoebe and he didn’t see any place in which he could imagine Mr. and Mrs. Phoebe building a nest. “What are you looking for?” asked Dear Me.

“For Mrs. Phoebe and your home,” declared Peter quite frankly. “I didn’t suppose you and Mrs. Phoebe ever built a nest on the ground, and I don’t see any other place around here for one.”

Dear Me chuckled. “I wouldn’t tell any one but you, Peter,” said he, “but I’ve known you so long that I’m going to let you into a little secret. Mrs. Phoebe and our home are under the very bridge you are sitting on.”

“I don’t believe it!” cried Peter.

But Dear Me knew from the way Peter said it that he really didn’t mean that. “Look and see for yourself,” said Dear Me.

So Peter lay flat on his stomach and tried to stretch his head over the edge of the bridge so as to see under it. But his neck wasn’t long enough, or else he was afraid to lean over as far as he might have. Finally he gave up and at Mr. Phoebe’s suggestion crept down the bank to the very edge of the Laughing Brook. Dear Me darted out to catch another fly, then flew right in under the bridge and alighted on a little ledge of stone just beneath the floor. There, sure enough, was a nest, and Peter could see Mrs. Phoebe’s bill and the top of her head above the edge of it. It was a nest with a foundation of mud covered with moss and lined with feathers.

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) Nest ©WikiC

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) Nest ©WikiC

“That’s perfectly splendid!” cried Peter, as Dear Me resumed his perch on the old mullein stalk. “How did you ever come to think of such a place? And why did you leave the shed up at Farmer Brown’s where you have build your home for the last two or three years?”

“Oh,” replied Dear Me, “we Phoebes always have been fond of building under bridges. You see a place like this is quite safe. Then, too, we like to be near water. Always there are many insects flying around where there is water, so it is an easy matter to get plenty to eat. I left the shed at Farmer Brown’s because that pesky cat up there discovered our nest last year, and we had a dreadful time keeping our babies out of her clutches. She hasn’t found us down here, and she wouldn’t be able to trouble us if she should find us.”

“I suppose,” said Peter, “that as usual you were the first of your family to arrive.”

“Certainly. Of course,” replied Dear Me. “We always are the first. Mrs. Phoebe and I don’t go as far south in winter as the other members of the family do. They go clear down into the Tropics, but we manage to pick up a pretty good living without going as far as that. So we get back here before the rest of them, and usually have begun housekeeping by the time they arrive. My cousin, Chebec the Least Flycatcher, should be here by this time. Haven’t you heard anything of him up in the Old Orchard?”

“No,” replied Peter, “but to tell the truth I haven’t looked for him. I’m on my way to the Old Orchard now, and I certainly shall keep my ears and eyes open for Chebec. I’ll tell you if I find him. Good-by.”

“Dear me! Dear me! Good-by Peter. Dear me!” replied Mr. Phoebe as Peter started off for the Old Orchard.

Perhaps it was because Peter was thinking of him that almost the first voice he heard when he reached the Old Orchard was that of Chebec, repeating his own name over and over as if he loved the sound of it. It didn’t take Peter long to find him. He was sitting out on the up of one of the upper branches of an apple-tree where he could watch for flies and other winged insects. He looked so much like Mr. Phoebe, save that he was smaller, that any one would have know they were cousins. “Chebec! Chebec! Chebec!” he repeated over and over, and with every note jerked his tail. Now and then he would dart out into the air and snap up something so small that Peter, looking up from the ground, couldn’t see it at all.

Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus) by Raymond Barlow

Least Flycatcher (Empidonax minimus) by Raymond Barlow

“Hello, Chebec!” cried Peter. “I’m glad to see you back again. Are you going to build in the Old Orchard this year?”

“Of course I am,” replied Chebec promptly. “Mrs. Chebec and I have built here for the last two or three years, and we wouldn’t think of going anywhere else. Mrs. Chebec is looking for a place now. I suppose I ought to be helping her, but I learned a long time ago, Peter Rabbit, that in matters of this kind it is just as well not to have any opinion at all. When Mrs. Chebec has picked out just the place she wants, I’ll help her build the nest. It certainly is good to be back here in the Old Orchard and planning a home once more. We’ve made a terribly long journey, and I for one am glad it’s over.”

“I just saw your cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Phoebe, and they already have a nest and eggs,” said Peter.

“The Phoebes are a funny lot,” replied Chebec. “They are the only members of the family that can stand cold weather. What pleasure they get out of it I don’t understand. They are queer anyway, for they never build their nests in trees as the rest of us do.”

“Are you the smallest in the family?” asked Peter, for it had suddenly struck him that Chebec was a very little fellow indeed.

Chebec nodded. “I’m the smallest,” said he. “That’s why they call me Least Flycatcher. I may be least in size, but I can tell you one thing, Peter Rabbit, and that is that I can catch just as many bugs and flies as any of them.” Suiting action to the word, he darted out into the air. His little bill snapped and with a quick turn he was back on his former perch, jerking his tail and uttering his sharp little cry of, “Chebec! Chebec! Chebec!” until Peter began to wonder which he was the most fond of, catching flies, or the sound of his own voice.

Presently they both heard Mrs. Chebec calling from somewhere in the middle of the Old Orchard. “Excuse me, Peter,” said Chebec, “I must go at once. Mrs. Chebec says she has found just the place for our nest, and now we’ve got a busy time ahead of us. We are very particular how we build a nest.”

“Do you start it with mud the way Welcome Robin and your cousins, the Phoebes, do?” asked Peter.

“Mud!” cried Chebec scornfully. “Mud! I should say not! I would have you understand, Peter, that we are very particular about what we use in our nest. We use only the finest of rootlets, strips of soft bark, fibers of plants, the brown cotton that grows on ferns, and perhaps a little hair when we can find it. We make a dainty nest, if I do say it, and we fasten it securely in the fork made by two or three upright little branches. Now I must go because Mrs. Chebec is getting impatient. Come see me when I’m not so busy Peter.”


Lee’s Addition:

The family that the Phoebe and the Least Flycatcher belong to is the Tyrant Flycatchers – Tyrannidae Family. It is a very large family, but most do not live here in North America.

How does the story describe Dear Me the Phoebe?

  • What does he like to eat?
  • Where is his nest?
  • What is the nest made out of?
  • Why did he get back before the others in his family?

The Least Flycatcher is called Chebec. Do you know why?

  • Why did he get back later than Dear Me?
  • How is Chebec’s nest different from Dear Me’s?
  • Chebec is the largest or smallest member of the Flycatcher family?

 

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The birds of the air have their resting-places by them (trees), and make their song among the branches. (Psalms 104:12 BBE)

Links:

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Links:

Bully the English Sparrow, Chippy the Chipping Sparrow - Burgess Bird Book ©©

 

  Next Chapter (The Watchman of the Old Orchard.)

 

Burgess-Bird-Book-for-Children

 

 

  Burgess-Bird-Book-for-Children

 

 

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Vol. 2, No. 3 – The Phoebe

The Phoebe or Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

The Phoebe or Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

From col. J. G. Parker. Jr. Copyrighted by
Nature Study Pub. Co., 1897, Chicago.

THE PHOEBE

Oft the Phoebe’s cheery notes
Wake the laboring swain;
“Come, come!” say the merry throats,
“Morn is here again.”
Phoebe, Phoebe! let them sing for aye,
Calling him to labor at the break of day.
—C. C. M.

EARLY everywhere in the United States we find this cheerful bird, known as Pewee, Barn Pewee, Bridge Pewee, or Phoebe, or Pewit Flycatcher. “It is one of that charming coterie of the feathered tribe who cheer the abode of man with their presence.” There are few farmyards without a pair of Pewees, who do the farmer much service by lessening the number of flies about the barn, and by calling him to his work in the morning by their cheery notes.

Dr. Brewer says that this species is attracted both to the vicinity of water and to the neighborhood of dwellings, probably for the same reason—the abundance of insects in either situation. They are a familiar, confiding, and gentle bird, attached to localities, and returning to them year after year. Their nests are found in sheltered situations, as under a bridge, a projecting rock, in the porches of houses, etc. They have been known to build on a small shelf in the porch of a dwelling, against the wall of a railroad station, within reach of the passengers, and under a projecting window-sill, in full view of the family, entirely unmoved by the presence of the latter at meal time.

Like all the flycatcher family the Phoebe takes its food mostly flying. Mrs. Wright says that the Pewee in his primitive state haunts dim woods and running water, and that when domesticated he is a great bather, and may be seen in the half-light dashing in and out of the water as he makes trips to and from the nest. After the young are hatched both old and young disport themselves about the water until moulting time. She advises: “Do not let the Phoebes build under the hoods of your windows, for their spongy nests harbor innumerable bird-lice, and under such circumstances your fly-screens will become infested and the house invaded.”

In its native woods the nest is of moss, mud, and grass placed on a rock, near and over running water; but in the vicinity of settlements and villages it is built on a horizontal bridge beam, or on timber supporting a porch or shed. The eggs are pure white, somewhat spotted. The notes, to some ears, are Phoebe, phoebe, pewit, phoebe! to others, of somewhat duller sense of hearing, perhaps, Pewee, pewee, pewee! We confess to a fancy that the latter is the better imitation.

Summary:

PHOEBE.Sayornis phœbe. Other names: “Pewit,” “Pewee.”

Range—Eastern North America; in winter south to Mexico and Cuba.

Nest—Compactly and neatly made of mud and vegetable substances, with lining of grass and feathers.

Eggs—Four or five; pure white, sometimes sparsely spotted with reddish brown dots at larger end.


Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) by Dan

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) by Dan

Lee’s Addition:

I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. (Psalms 50:11 NKJV)

Luckily today, at least here, we can ignore this one remark; “She advises: ‘Do not let the Phoebes build under the hoods of your windows, for their spongy nests harbor innumerable bird-lice, and under such circumstances your fly-screens will become infested and the house invaded.’ ” I am sure back in 1897 that was a problem for them. Isn’t it amazing how times have changed for humans, but the birds are pretty well doing the same nest building and living as before. Not sure of the interchange between the Phoebe and the Pewee. They are in the same family, Tyrannidae – Tyrant Flycatchers, but they are different species.

There are three Phoebes:
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)
Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans)
Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya)

There are 14 Pewees and Wood Pewees:

Greater Pewee (Contopus pertinax)
Dark Pewee (Contopus lugubris)
Smoke-colored Pewee (Contopus fumigatus)
Ochraceous Pewee (Contopus ochraceus)
Western Wood Pewee (Contopus sordidulus)
Eastern Wood Pewee (Contopus virens)
Tropical Pewee (Contopus cinereus)
Tumbes Pewee (Contopus punensis)
White-throated Pewee (Contopus albogularis)
Blackish Pewee (Contopus nigrescens)
Cuban Pewee (Contopus caribaeus)
Hispaniolan Pewee (Contopus hispaniolensis)
Jamaican Pewee (Contopus pallidus)
Lesser Antillean Pewee (Contopus latirostris)

The genus Sayornis is a small group of medium-sized insect-eating birds in the Tyrant flycatcher family Tyrranidae native to North and South America.

They prefer semi-open or open areas. These birds wait on a perch and then catch insects in flight, also sometimes picking them up from the ground. Their nest is an open cup sometimes placed on man-made structures.

They often slowly lower and raise their tails while perched.

This species appears remarkably big-headed, especially if it puffs up the small crest. Its plumage is gray-brown above. It has a white throat, dirty gray breast and buffish underparts which become whiter during the breeding season. Two indistinct buff bars are present on each wing. Its lack of an eye ring and wingbars, and its all dark bill distinguish it from other North American tyrant flycatchers, and it pumps its tail up and down like other phoebes when perching on a branch. The Eastern Phoebe’s call is a sharp chip, and the song, from which it gets its name, is fee-bee. (Wikipedia)
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Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for September 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

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(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

The Previous Article – The House Wren

Gospel Presentation

Links:

Eastern Phoebe

Phoebe (bird) – Wikipedia

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