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The Kingfisheror Halcyon Bird With The Water Watchman
The Halcyon Birds
Robin Redbreast Merry Robin Redbreast
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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