The Burgess Birds in Detail

Our Family’s Time in The Burgess Bird Book – all the birds!

Burgess Bird Book

We began our time in a Cycle 2 of A Gentle Feast this week and started a new nature study book that you know we are excited about… The Burgess Bird Book. Thornton W. Burgess is so good at capturing the animal life of the forest through his characters. In The Burgess Bird Book, Peter […]

Jenny Wren

We started The Burgess Bird Book this past week with Jenny Wren. Jenny is a common House Wren. I have to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever identified a Wren before, even though they are common over most of the Western Hemisphere. As we read the book and learned more about Wrens, we realized […]

Bully, The House Sparrow

I almost titled this blog post “Bully,” but I realized that may be a bit misleading. What an interesting name for Burgess to name the little house sparrows that we see so often. If you look at a range map for the House Sparrow, you’ll see that they reside in 49 of the 50 states […]

Little Friend

Little Friend is a Song Sparrow in the Burgess Bird Book. He is a little sparrow characterized as the opposite of Bully, hence his name is “Little Friend.” The Cornell Lab notes that, “it’s one of the first species you should suspect if you see a streaky sparrow in an open, shrubby, or wet area. […]


Meet the White-throated Sparrow, a bird who loves the North, but can be found almost all over the North American continent. Of whom Jenny Wren mentions, “he is one of the largest of the tribe (of Sparrows) and has such a lovely white throat. He really is handsome with his black and white cap and […]


Scratcher is a Fox Sparrow, known for his round body and rust brown coloring. Peter Rabbit remarks that: “(t)he only thing I’ve against him is the color of his coat. It reminds me of Reddy Fox, and I don’t like anything that reminds me of that fellow.” The Burgess Bird Book, Living Books Press Edition, […]

Chipping Sparrow

One of the smallest of the sparrow family, Chippy, has a rufous cap. If you love nature study, you may come across the word “rufous” often because so many animals are labeled by this descriptive term. Rufous means reddish brown in color. It can be a really helpful descriptor to keep in mind when you […]

Dotty, The Tree Sparrow

In Chapter 4 of The Burgess Bird Book, Peter explains to Johnny Chuck, who sleeps all winter, that Dotty is a Tree Sparrow who takes Chippy’s place when Chippy flies south for the Winter. Then when Chippy flies north, Dotty goes even more north (p. 19, The Burgess Bird Book, Living Books Press). What’s confusing […]

Sweetvoice, The Vesper Sparrow

Our final sparrow is Sweetvoice, the Vesper Sparrow. The name that Burgess gave this bird, Sweetvoice, and even Vesper have labeled this Sparrow perfectly and here’s why: Vesper Sparrows sing a sweet tinkling song during the day and well into the evening hours—the twilight of vespers, prompting its name… a sweet series of musical slurs […]

The Eastern Bluebird: Winsome

When we first moved to Illinois, one of our closest preserves was the Reed Turner Woodland in Long Grove. Small but diverse, this woodland is comprised of multiple ecosystems and the perfect place to take young children wanting to explore nature. It has become one of our favorite places to explore throughout the seasons and […]

Welcome Robin

I have been excited to write about Welcome Robin for awhile now. In part because Robins have been a part of our bird journey since we arrived in the US as a family in May of 2020. They were the birds that we loved to watch and that we learned about first when we were […]

The Eastern Phoebe, Dear Me

The Eastern Pheobe’s name comes from it’s call- “Phoebe”. Thornton W. Burgess named the Phoebe in his book “Dear Me” because he described it’s called as “Dear me! Dear Me! Dear Me!” Which one do you think fits the Phoebe’s call: The Eastern Phoebe is a Flycatcher, which include a number of birds that feed […]

Chebec, the Least Flycatcher

You can see above all the things we learned about Chebec this term. Chebec… I really like the name that Burgess gave this bird. Since he named it after it’s call, I had to hear for myself: Burgess identifies this call as a repeated use of it’s name, “Chebec, chebec” and so does! Last […]

Scrapper, the Eastern Kingbird

Tough name, right? Scrapper is the Eastern Kingbird in Thornton W. Burgess’ “Burgess Bird Book.” So why is the Kingbird called Scrapper? It seems that they are always looking for a fight with bigger birds who try to prey on smaller birds. Hear how Burgess describes this fellow: A white-throated, white-breasted bird, having a black […]

Cresty, a Lover of Snake Skin

The Great Crested Flycatcher. I love the way that allaboutbirds describes this bird: “A large, assertive flycatcher with reddish-brown accents and a lemon-yellow belly is a common bird of Eastern woodlands. Its habit of hunting high in the canopy means it’s not particularly conspicuous – until you learn its very distinctive call, an emphatic rising […]

Eastern Wood-Pewee

“A little bit bigger than his cousin, Chebec, but looked very much like him,” Peter thought about Pewee, the Eastern Wood-Pewee. He loves to repeat his name. “Pee-wee! Pee-wee!” Give him a listen: Pewee is called the Wood-Pewee because you’ll most often find him in the forest. highlights that “when several flycatcher species live […]

The American Woodcock, Longbill

Here we come to a beloved chapter in the Burgess Bird Book, chapter 9. We fell in love with Longbill, who’s Writing Page you can see above, very quickly and I’ll tell you why… You’ll have to tell me yourself if you can resist his irresistible moves when you see them here: This rocking back […]

Teeter, The Spotted Sandpiper

While reading The Burgess Bird Book, I realized very quickly that I have a soft spot for small birds with long legs. I could watch them for hours. When we lived in Dubai, my husband and I loved to spot Plovers, watching as they circled and diverted our attention, protecting their young. You may not […]


Growing up in Texas, I had no idea about Red-winged Blackbirds, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. It wasn’t until I moved to Illinois that I saw one for the first time. They are so prevalent around us and I have a few stories to tell about them because of their habits and characteristics. […]

Yellow Wing, the Northern Flicker

What comes after Red Wing in The Burgess Bird Book? Yellow Wing of course! Yellow Wing is a Northern Flicker, an absolutely beautiful bird. Thornton W. Burgess describes him like this: The sides and throat were a soft reddish-tan and on each side at the beginning of the bill was a black patch. The top […]

Downy and Hairy

When we started The Burgess Bird Book, I just couldn’t wait to get to Chapter 11, Drummers and Carpenters. I knew that’s where Peter Rabbit would learn the difference between a Hairy Woodpecker and a Downy Woodpecker. I fought the temptation and was able to wait patiently for the day when we would read it […]

Redhead, the Red-headed Woodpecker

Our last Burgess Woodpecker is the Red-headed Woodpecker, a striking bird dressed in deep red, white and black. This is a good time to ask and answer the question, why do woodpeckers drum on wood? When I was growing up I believed that the reason was limited to their search for food, insects living in […]

Sally Sly, the Brown-headed Cowbird

Spring Forward, a Pleasure to Hear Springing forward isn’t always the easiest or nicest of events on the calendar, but one thing I really enjoyed this morning is that I was able to hear the birds wake with the dawn and chorus their calls to each other again. I sat reading on the couch in […]

Goldy, the Baltimore Oriole

Now on to a bird that causes a lot of excitement in the Spring. Who is a cousin of Sally Sly the Brown-headed Cowbird, but who is a lot more popular: Goldy, the Baltimore Oriole. Baltimore Orioles are members of the Blackbird family, but they certainly contain more vibrant colors than others in their family. […]

Weaver, the Orchard Oriole

Baltimore Oriole you’ve probably heard of before, but Orchard Oriole? Maybe not. The Orchard Oriole exchanges the beautiful orange of his Baltimore cousin with a chestnut brown. The females are very different from the males, wearing yellow and green feathers. Here is a video of what an Immature Male looks like, much more like the […]

Bubbling Bob, the Bobolink

What a fun sentence full of alliteration: Today our Burgess bird is Bubbling Bob the Bobolink! Writing that this morning is a great start to the day. Bobolinks… ever heard of them? Unfortunately, this is a bird that is getting harder to find. If you are hoping to ever spot one you should look in […]

Bob White, the Northern Bobwhite

This Spring, I took a break from posting in order to observe and enjoy the Spring Migration. It has been absolutely amazing to meet the different birds that pass through our area on their way North. Some of the highlights of the Spring Migration this year were seeing: Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, SOOOO many Warblers enjoying the […]

Carol, the Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlarks are very common in the prairie grasslands around where I live. Have I seen one? No, not yet, but it is my goal to see one out in the field. How often do you go to a particular ecosystem in order to see a particular bird? Most often, I don’t organize our outings […]

Skimmer, the Tree Swallow

Skimmer is our next Burgess Bird in detail and he is a beautiful iridescent bird with blueish-green on his back and white on his stomach. We know exactly where to venture in order to see Tree Swallows. We go to the Deer Grove Preserve in our community where there are some open swampy areas. We […]

Sooty, the Chimney Swift

So, the big question is…. Is a Chimney Swift a swallow? Even Peter thinks that Sooty, the Chimney Swift, is a swallow, but he isn’t! Burgess lets Jenny Wren answers our question, “He hasn’t any one nearer than some sort of second cousins, Boomer the Nighthawk, Whippoorwill, and Hummer the Hummingbird” (Burgess Bird Book, Living […]

Twitter the Purple Martin

As the largest of the Swallow family, Purple Martins are very social birds. Take it from Skimmer the Tree Swallow who explains to Johnny Chuck: “I like a home by myself, such as I’ve got here, but Twitter loves company. He likes to live in an apartment house with a lot of his own kind. […]

Forktail, the Barn Swallow

Barn Swallows are one of my favorite birds to watch as they fly over fields catching insects and really perform remarkable aerial acrobatics in the process. It always calming to watch and enjoy their flight for food. Often, you will find Barn Swallows far away from any barns, which are a common place for them […]

Blacky, the American Crow

“Caw, caw, caw” is a ringing call that many people would recognize by sound. Crows are large birds and very intelligent. Allaboutbirds mentions: “Crows sometimes make and use tools. Examples include a captive crow using a cup to carry water over to a bowl of dry mash; shaping a piece of wood and then sticking […]

Sammy, the Blue Jay

We live in the midst of many trees and often hear the call “Jay Jay Jay.” I love that this is one call that everyone in my family can identify, from our 2 year old to my husband. You might have heard Sammy in the trees and not realized it before. Listen in on the […]

Teacher, the Ovenbird

I had never even heard about Ovenbirds before we read “The Burgess Bird Book for Children.” Burgess names the Oven Bird in his book Teacher because of the way it mimics his call, “Teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher!” And he explains why he is called the Ovenbird: It is because of the way Mrs. Teacher […]

Redtail, the Red-tailed Hawk

We live in a part of the United States where it so easy to catch a glimpse of this beautiful bird. I actually love the changing of Fall to Winter for this reason. As we travel around in our car during the day I’ll keep my eye on the sky, looking for a large bird […]

Creaker, the Common Grackle

I didn’t know a lot about birds as a kid and they weren’t really on my radar. However, Grackles are a bird that I knew and could identify as they came through our area in droves, gathering noisily together in trees! One really interesting thing that we learned through Cornell Lab’s allaboutbirds is their impact […]

Plunger, the Osprey

Chapter twenty in “The Burgess Bird Book for Children” is certainly a chapter full of magnificent birds. Brilliant at what they do and spectacular to watch, Ospreys are amazing to see up close and personal and if you live near water you may see them often. Here is their signature whistle for you to identify […]

King Eagle, the Bald Eagle

To be honest, it’s hard for me not to picture the Eagle from the various Angry Birds movies when I use the name King Eagle. However in reality these birds are much more majestic and regal than the characterization from those movies. They are also very well known. Cornell Lab’s highlights that “the Bald […]

Longlegs, the Great Blue Heron

Who doesn’t love spotting a Great Blue Heron wading through water on the shallow edge of a lake or pond? It is so calming to see how they hunt for a meal while they are stalking their prey above the water. They move slowly as they search, but when it comes to catching a fish […]

Rattles, the Belted Kingfisher

I hope that by this point in your in-depth walk through “The Burgess Animal Book for Children” you are encouraged. Encouraged especially in reading Burgess’ accounts of North American birds and seeing it line up with the details that Cornell Lab shares about these birds. I, for one, am so grateful that our family found […]

Let’s Meet Around the Spinney

About This:

Our Nature Book this Year is the Burgess Bird Book by Thornton W. Burgess. We love Burgess and his stories and so we tend to linger longer in them than others. This page is dedicated to detailing our discoveries about the North American birds he covers. Check it out and fly with us!

You’ll find our Coloring and Writing Pages for the Burgess Birds here:

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