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The Halcyon Birds
The Hawk And The Raven From The Barnyard Fence
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
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