Peter Learns Something He Hadn’t Guessed – Chapter 5

Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) ©WikiC

Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) ©WikiC

Peter Learns Something He Hadn’t Guessed

The Bluebird and the Robin

The Burgess Bird Book For Children


Listen to the story read.

CHAPTER 5. Peter Learns Something He Hadn’t Guessed.

Running over to the Old Orchard very early in the morning for a little gossip with Jenny Wren and his other friends there had become a regular thing with Peter Rabbit. He was learning a great many things, and some of them were most surprising.

Now two of Peter’s oldest and best friends in the Old Orchard were Winsome Bluebird and Welcome Robin. Every spring they arrived pretty nearly together, though Winsome Bluebird usually was a few days ahead of Welcome Robin. This year Winsome had arrived while the snow still lingered in patches. He was, as he always is, the herald of sweet Mistress Spring. And when Peter had heard for the first time Winsome’s soft, sweet whistle, which seemed to come from nowhere in particular and from everywhere in general, he had kicked up his long hind legs from pure joy. Then, when a few days later he had heard Welcome Robin’s joyous message of “Cheer-up! Cheer-up! Cheer-up! Cheer-up! Cheer!” from the tiptop of a tall tree, he had known that Mistress Spring really had arrived.

Robin Eating by Jim Fenton

Robin Eating by Jim Fenton

Peter loves Winsome Bluebird and Welcome Robin, just as everybody else does, and he had known them so long and so well that he thought he knew all there was to know about them. He would have been very indignant had anybody told him he didn’t.

“Those cousins don’t look much alike, do they?” remarked Jenny Wren, as she poked her head out of her house to gossip with Peter.

“What cousins?” demanded Peter, staring very hard in the direction in which Jenny Wren was looking.

“Those two sitting on the fence over there. Where are your eyes, Peter?” replied Jenny rather sharply.

Peter stared harder than ever. On one post sat Winsome Bluebird, and on another post sat Welcome Robin. “I don’t see anybody but Winsome and Welcome, and they are not even related,” replied Peter with a little puzzled frown.

“Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut, Peter!” exclaimed Jenny Wren. “Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut! Who told you any such nonsense as that? Of course they are related. They are cousins. I thought everybody knew that. They belong to the same family that Melody the Thrush and all the other Thrushes belong to. That makes them all cousins.”

“What?” exclaimed Peter, looking as if he didn’t believe a word of what Jenny Wren had said. Jenny repeated, and still Peter looked doubtful.

Then Jenny lost her temper, a thing she does very easily. “If you don’t believe me, go ask one of them,” she snapped, and disappeared inside her house, where Peter could hear her scolding away to herself.

The more he thought of it, the more this struck Peter as good advice. So he hopped over to the foot of the fence post on which Winsome Bluebird was sitting. “Jenny Wren says that you and Welcome Robin are cousins. She doesn’t know what she is talking about, does she?” asked Peter.

Winsome chuckled. It was a soft, gentle chuckle. “Yes,” said he, nodding his head, “we are. You can trust that little busybody to know what she is talking about, every time. I sometimes think she knows more about other people’s affairs than about her own. Welcome and I may not look much alike, but we are cousins just the same. Don’t you think Welcome is looking unusually fine this spring?”

“Not a bit finer than you are yourself, Winsome,” replied Peter politely. “I just love that sky-blue coat of yours. What is the reason that Mrs. Bluebird doesn’t wear as bright a coat as you do?”

“Go ask Jenny Wren,” chuckled Winsome Bluebird, and before Peter could say another word he flew over to the roof of Farmer Brown’s house.

Back scampered Peter to tell Jenny Wren that he was sorry he had doubted her and that he never would again. Then he begged Jenny to tell him why it was that Mrs. Bluebird was not as brightly dressed as was Winsome.

“Mrs. Bluebird, like most mothers, is altogether too busy to spend much time taking care of her clothes; and fine clothes need a lot of care,” replied Jenny. “Besides, when Winsome is about he attracts all the attention and that gives her a chance to slip in and out of her nest without being noticed. I don’t believe you know, Peter Rabbit, where Winsome’s nest is.”

Peter had to admit that he didn’t, although he had tried his best to find out by watching Winsome. “I think it’s over in that little house put up by Farmer Brown’s boy,” he ventured. “I saw both Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird go in it when they first came, and I’ve seen Winsome around it a great deal since, so I guess it is there.”

“So you guess it is there!” mimicked Jenny Wren. “Well, your guess is quite wrong, Peter; quite wrong. As a matter of fact, it is in one of those old fence posts. But just which one I am not going to tell you. I will leave that for you to find out. Mrs. Bluebird certainly shows good sense. She knows a good house when she sees it. The hole in that post is one of the best holes anywhere around here. If I had arrived here early enough I would have taken it myself. But Mrs. Bluebird already had her nest built in it and four eggs there, so there was nothing for me to do but come here. Just between you and me, Peter, I think the Bluebirds show more sense in nest building than do their cousins the Robins. There is nothing like a house with stout walls and a doorway just big enough to get in and out of comfortably.”

Peter nodded quite as if he understood all about the advantages of a house with walls. “That reminds me,” said he. “The other day I saw Welcome Robin getting mud and carrying it away. Pretty soon he was joined by Mrs. Robin, and she did the same thing. They kept it up till I got tired of watching them. What were they doing with that mud?”

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) in nest by Ray

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) in nest by Ray

“Building their nest, of course, stupid,” retorted Jenny. “Welcome Robin, with that black head, beautiful russet breast, black and white throat and yellow bill, not to mention the proud way in which he carries himself, certainly is a handsome fellow, and Mrs. Robin is only a little less handsome. How they can be content to build the kind of home they do is more than I can understand. People think that Mr. Wren and I use a lot of trash in our nest. Perhaps we do, but I can tell you one thing, and that is it is clean trash. It is just sticks and clean straws, and before I lay my eggs I see to it that my nest is lined with feathers. More than this, there isn’t any cleaner housekeeper than I am, if I do say it.

“Welcome Robin is a fine looker and a fine singer, and everybody loves him. But when it comes to housekeeping, he and Mrs. Robin are just plain dirty. They make the foundation of their nest of mud,—plain, common, ordinary mud. They cover this with dead grass, and sometimes there is mighty little of this over the inside walls of mud. I know because I’ve seen the inside of their nest often. Anybody with any eyes at all can find their nest. More than once I’ve known them to have their nest washed away in a heavy rain, or have it blown down in a high wind. Nothing like that ever happens to Winsome Bluebird or to me.”

Jenny disappeared inside her house, and Peter waited for her to come out again. Welcome Robin flew down on the ground, ran a few steps, and then stood still with his head on one side as if listening. Then he reached down and tugged at something, and presently out of the ground came a long, wriggling angleworm. Welcome gulped it down and ran on a few steps, then once more paused to listen. This time he turned and ran three or four steps to the right, where he pulled another worm out of the ground.

“He acts as if he heard those worms in the ground,” said Peter, speaking aloud without thinking.

“He does,” said Jenny Wren, poking her head out of her doorway just as Peter spoke. “How do you suppose he would find them when they are in the ground if he didn’t hear them?”

“Can you hear them?” asked Peter.

“I’ve never tried, and I don’t intend to waste my time trying,” retorted Jenny. “Welcome Robin may enjoy eating them, but for my part I want something smaller and daintier, young grasshoppers, tender young beetles, small caterpillars, bugs and spiders.”

Peter had to turn his head aside to hide the wry face he just had to make at the mention of such things as food. “Is that all Welcome Robin eats?” he asked innocently.

“I should say not,” laughed Jenny. “He eats a lot of other kinds of worms, and he just dearly loves fruit like strawberries and cherries and all sorts of small berries. Well, I can’t stop here talking any longer. I’m going to tell you a secret, Peter, if you’ll promise not to tell.”

Of course Peter promised, and Jenny leaned so far down that Peter wondered how she could keep from falling as she whispered, “I’ve got seven eggs in my nest, so if you don’t see much of me for the next week or more, you’ll know why. I’ve just got to sit on those eggs and keep them warm.”



  1. What bird family do the Bluebird and Robin belong to?
  2. Why is it good that Mrs. Bluebird isn’t brightly dressed?
  3. When the Robin runs and then stops, what is he doing? What might he find to eat?
  4. What colors are the Robin’s head, breast, throat and bill?
  5. What does the Robin’s song sound like?
  6. Should we have an attitude like the Robin’s Song?

“Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. (James 5:13 NASB)

“A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken. (Proverbs 15:13 NASB)

“Even the stork in the sky Knows her seasons; And the turtledove and the swift and the thrush Observe the time of their migration; But My people do not know The ordinance of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 NASB)




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


  Next Chapter – An Old Friend In a New Home








Green-billed Toucan (Ramphastos dicolorus) ©WikiC

Wordless Toucan



  Wordless Toucan



Birds Vol 1 #2 – The American Robin

American Robin for Birds Illustrated by Color Photography

American Robin for Birds Illustrated by Color Photography

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

Vol 1. February, 1897 No. 2



The Bird of the Morning.

Yes, my dear readers, I am the bird of the morning. Very few of you rise early enough to hear my first song. By the time you are awake our little ones have had their breakfast, Mrs. Robin and I have had our morning bath and we are all ready to greet you with our morning song.

I wonder if any of you have seen our nest and can tell the color of the eggs that Mrs. Robin lays. Some time I will let you peep into the nest and see them, but of course you will not touch them.

I wonder, too, if you know any of my cousins—the Mocking bird, the Cat-bird or the Brown Thrush—I think I shall ask them to have their pictures taken soon and talk to you about our happy times.

Did you ever see one of my cousins on the ground? I don’t believe you can tell how I move about. Some of you may say I run, and some of you may say I hop, and others of you may say I do both. Well, I’ll tell you how to find out. Just watch me and see. My little friends up north won’t be able to see me though until next month, as I do not dare leave the warm south until Jack Frost leaves the ground so I can find worms to eat.

I shall be about the first bird to visit you next month and I want you to watch for me. When I do come it will be to stay a long time, for I shall be the last to leave you. Just think, the first to come and last to leave. Don’t you think we ought to be great friends? Let us get better acquainted when next we meet. Your friend,

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) Eggs and 1 hatchling ©©SenzEnina

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) Eggs and 1 hatchling ©©SenzEnina

How do the robins build their nest?
Robin Red Breast told me,
First a wisp of yellow hay
In a pretty round they lay;
Then some shreds of downy floss,
Feathers too, and bits of moss,
Woven with a sweet, sweet song,
This way, that way, and across:
That’s what Robin told me.

Where do the robins hide their nest?
Robin Red Breast told me,
Up among the leaves so deep,
Where the sunbeams rarely creep,
Long before the winds are cold,
Long before the leaves are gold
Bright-eyed stars will peep and see
Baby Robins—one, two, three:
That’s what Robin told me.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  by Raymond Barlow

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) by Raymond Barlow


“Come, sweetest of the feathered throng.”




UR American Robin must not be confounded with the English Robin Redbreast, although both bear the same name. It is the latter bird in whose praise so much has been written in fable and song. The American Robin belongs to the Thrush family; the Mocking bird, Cat-bird and Brown Thrush, or Thrasher, being other familiar children. In this family, bird organization reaches its highest development. This bird is larger than his English cousin the Redbreast and many think has a finer note than any other of the Thrush family.

The Robin courts the society of man, following close upon the plow and the spade and often becoming quite tame and domestic. It feeds for a month or two on strawberries and cherries, but generally on worms and insects picked out of the ground. It destroys the larvae of many insects in the soil and is a positive blessing to man, designed by the Creator for ornament and pleasure, and use in protecting vegetation. John Burroughs, the bird lover, says it is the most native and democratic of our birds.

It is widely diffused over the country, migrating to milder climates in the Winter. We have heard him in the early dawn on Nantucket Island welcoming the coming day, in the valleys of the Great and the little Miami, in the parks of Chicago, and on the plains of Kansas, his song ever cheering and friendly. It is one of the earliest heralds of Spring, coming as early as March or April, and is one of the latest birds to leave us in Autumn. Its song is a welcome prelude to the general concert of Summer.

“When Robin Redbreast sings,
We think on budding Springs.”

The Robin is not one of our most charming songsters, yet its carol is sweet, hearty and melodious. Its principal song is in the morning before sunrise, when it mounts the top of some tall tree, and with its wonderful power of song, announces the coming of day. When educated, it imitates the sounds of various birds, and even sings tunes. It must be amusing to hear it pipe out so solemn a strain as Old Hundred.

American Robin’s Song from xeno.canto by Mike Nelson

It has no remarkable habits. It shows considerable courage and anxiety for its young, and is a pattern of propriety when keeping house and concerned with the care of its offspring. Two broods are often reared out of the same nest. In the Fall these birds become restless and wandering, often congregating in large flocks, when, being quite fat, they are much esteemed as food.

The Robin’s nest is sometimes built in a corner of the porch, but oftener it is saddled on the horizontal limb of an orchard tree. It is so large and poorly concealed that any boy can find it, yet it is seldom molested. The Robin is not a skillful architect. The masonry of its nest is rough and the material coarse, being composed largely of leaves or old grass, cemented with mud. The eggs number four to six and are greenish blue in color.

An observer tells the following story of this domestic favorite:

“For the last three years a Robin has nested on a projecting pillar that supports the front piazza. In the Spring of the first year she built her nest on the top of the pillar—a rude affair—it was probably her first effort. The same season she made her second nest in the forks of an Oak, which took her only a few hours to complete.

“She reared three broods that season; for the third family she returned to the piazza, and repaired the first nest. The following Spring she came again to the piazza, but selected another pillar for the site of her domicile, the construction of which was a decided improvement upon the first. For the next nest she returned to the Oak and raised a second story on the old one of the previous year, but making it much more symmetrical than the one beneath. The present season her first dwelling was as before, erected on a pillar of the piazza—as fine a structure as I ever saw this species build. When this brood was fledged she again repaired to the Oak, and reared a third story on the old domicile, using the moss before mentioned, making a very elaborate affair, and finally finishing up by festooning it with long sprays of moss. This bird and her mate were quite tame. I fed them with whortleberries, which they seemed to relish, and they would come almost to my feet to get them.”

The amount of food which the young robin is capable of absorbing is enormous. A couple of vigorous, half-grown birds have been fed, and in twelve hours devoured ravenously, sixty-eight earth worms, weighing thirty-four pennyweight, or forty-one per cent more than their own weight. A man at this rate should eat about seventy pounds of flesh per day, and drink five or six gallons of water.

The following poem by the good Quaker poet Whittier is sweet because he wrote it, interesting because it recites an old legend which incidentally explains the color of the robin’s breast, and unique because it is one of the few poems about our American bird.


My old Welsh neighbor over the way
Crept slowly out in the sun of spring,
Pushed from her ears the locks of gray,
And listened to hear the robin sing.

Her grandson, playing at marbles, stopped,
And—cruel in sport, as boys will be—
Tossed a stone at the bird, who hopped
From bough to bough in the apple tree.

“Nay!” said the grandmother; “have you not heard,
My poor, bad boy! of the fiery pit,
And how, drop by drop, this merciful bird
Carries the water that quenches it?

“He brings cool dew in his little bill,
And lets it fall on the souls of sin:
You can see the mark on his red breast still
Of fires that scorch as he drops it in.

“My poor Bron rhuddyn! my breast-burned bird,
Singing so sweetly from limb to limb,
Very dear to the heart of Our Lord
Is he who pities the lost like Him.”

“Amen!” I said to the beautiful myth;
“Sing, bird of God, in my heart as well:
Each good thought is a drop wherewith
To cool and lessen the fires of hell.

“Prayers of love like rain-drops fall,
Tears of pity are cooling dew,
And dear to the heart of Our Lord are all
Who suffer like Him in the good they do.”

Lee’s Addition:

Robins have always been special. I suppose it was one of the first birds that I knew by name. Not that I was a birdwatcher back in my youth. Wish I had started back then.

Like the article mentioned, the American Robin is actually in the Turdidae – Thrushes Family of Passerines which has 184 members. There is another family of Robins and they are in the Chats, Old World Flycatchers – Muscicapidae Family which has 297 species. Wikipedia has this to say about these Robins:

European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) by Robert Scanlon

European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) by Robert Scanlon

“The European Robin (Erithacus rubecula), most commonly known in Anglophone Europe simply as the Robin, is a small insectivorous passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family (Turdidae), but is now considered to be an Old World flycatcher (Muscicapidae). Around 12.5–14.0 cm (5.0–5.5 in) in length, the male and female are similar in colouration, with an orange breast and face lined with grey, brown upperparts and a whitish belly. It is found across Europe, east to Western Siberia and south to North Africa; it is sedentary in most of its range except the far north.

The term Robin is also applied to some birds in other families with red or orange breasts. These include the American Robin (Turdus migratorius), which is a thrush, and the Australian red robins of the genus Petroica, members of a family whose relationships are unclear.” They are the Petroicidae – Australasian Robins Family with 46 species.

Scarlet Robin (Petroica boodang) by Ian

Scarlet Robin (Petroica boodang) by Ian

Hope you enjoy seeing the three different “Robin Families.” I am thankful the the Lord let at least three different continents have their very own “Robin.” He told the birds to multiply and fill up the earth. They seemed to have obeyed, were we that obedient.

Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Every animal, every creeping thing, every bird, and whatever creeps on the earth, according to their families, went out of the ark. (Genesis 8:17-19 NKJV)


Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 February 1897 No 2 - Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 February 1897 No 2 – Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited – Introduction

The above article is the first article in the monthly serial for February 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


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Kingfisher

Previous Article – The King Parrot or King Lory

Wordless Birds


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Ads for Desk and Pens - 1897

Ads for Desk and Pens – 1897