The first birds I saw were the rugged and noisy English sparrows, written down in most bird books as "pests," but I confess I could not resist giving them a crumb or two, for they appeal to my sympathies much as the plucky little gamin newsboys of the streets do, and then, too, I have learned that their loud chatter and rush for food attract more desirable acquaintances. I soon heard the sharp, shrill peep of the white-throated sparrows, and listened to their scratching "with both feet" under the bushes. Now and then one would try his throat with his full song, two sweet whistles followed by very plain calls for "Peabody, peabody, peabody." They are called the peabody bird by many. There is no mistaking this beautiful sparrow. Among a bunch of his noisy English neighbors the rich brown of his feathers is easily seen, and the three white stripes on his head and the white patch on the throat attract your eye at once. In a group of thirty or forty whitethroats that were feeding on my bird seed I noticed also two plump song sparrows. They are brovm, too, but smaller than the whitethroats, and their breasts are streaked with dark-brown stripes, with a spot right in the center. This is the sparrow that makes music for us from very early spring until late in the autumn. I have heard them in February, with the snow yet on the ground, perched on the tip of some bush and singing away with a joyfulness that made everything take on a more cheerful look. While I was watching the whitethroats I heard the jolly little song that I especially hoped for, and very soon had a near view of wee Mr. Chickadee himself, with his jet-black head, throat, and chin, and gray cheeks. He, in company with several of his friends, came down to feed at once, and hopped about my feet and a near-by bench to pick up the bits of peanut I had dropped for his benefit. The chickadees are always "chummy" little birds, and seem to have found their human acquaintances in general pretty good sort of people. After a time I put some peanut crumbs in my hand and held it out invitingly. The chickadees would alight on the tree over my head, sing their song, look down inquiringly, and then fly off, apparently interested in searching for some important business they had overlooked on the bark of another tree. Gradually, however, one became more familiar and finally lighted on my hand with entire confidence, selected the largest piece of peanut to be had, and flew away to eat it. He held the bit between both feet on a bench, and leaned forward and pecked away until it disappeared. Occasionally he would hold a small piece in one foot only. One little fellow stopped to sing me his Chick-a-dee-dee-dee, as he perched on my little finger, before selecting his morsel. They followed me about the paths, and wherever I stopped there were sure to be several chicka-
Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/383
WINTER BIRDS IN A CITY PARK.