Among the Meadow People by Clara Dillingham Pierson
The Robins Build a Nest
HEN Mr. and Mrs. Robin built in the spring, they were not
quite agreed as to where the nest should be. Mr. Robin was a
very decided bird, and had made up his mind that the lowest
crotch of a maple tree would be the best place. He even went
so far as to take three billfuls of mud there, and stick in
two blades of dry grass. Mrs. Robin wanted it on the end of
the second rail from the top of the split-rail fence. She
said it was high enough from the ground to be safe and dry,
and not so high that a little bird falling out of it would
hurt himself very much. Then, too, the top rail was broad at
the end and would keep the rain off so well.
"And the nest will be just the color of the rails," said
she, "so that even a Red Squirrel could hardly see it." She
disliked Red Squirrels, and she had reason to, for she had
been married before, and if it had not been for a
Red Squirrel, she might already have had children as large as
"I say that the tree is the place for it," said Mr. Robin,
"and I wear the brightest breast feathers." He said this
because in bird families the one who wears the brightest
breast feathers thinks he has the right to decide things.
Mrs. Robin was wise enough not to answer back when he spoke
in this way. She only shook her feathers, took ten quick
running steps, tilted her body forward, looked hard at the
ground, and pulled out something for supper. After that she
fluttered around the maple tree crotch as though she had
never thought of any other place. Mr. Robin wished
not been quite so decided, or reminded her of his breast
feathers. "After all," thought he, "I don't know but the
fence-rail would have done." He thought this, but
he didn't say it.
It is not always easy for a Robin to give up and let
one with dull breast feathers know that he thinks himself
That night they perched in the maple tree and slept with
their heads under their wings. Long before the sun was in
sight, when the first beams were just touching the tops of
the forest trees, they awakened, bright-eyed and rested,
preened their feathers, sang their morning song, "Cheerily,
cheerily, cheer-up," and flew off to find food. After
breakfast they began to work on the nest. Mrs. Robin stopped
often to look and peck at the bark. "It will take a great
deal of mud," said she, "to fill in that deep crotch until
we reach a place wide enough for the nest."
At another time she said: "My dear, I am afraid that the dry
grass you are bringing is too light-colored. It shows very
plainly against the maple bark. Can't you find some that is
Mr. Robin hunted and hunted, but could find nothing which
was darker. As he flew past the fence, he noticed that it
was almost the color of the grass in his bill.
After a while, soft gray clouds began to cover the sky. "I
wonder," said Mrs. Robin, "if it will rain before we get
this done. The mud is soft enough now to work well, and this
place is so open that the rain might easily wash away all
that we have done."
It did rain, however, and very soon. The great drops came
down so hard that one could only think of pebbles falling.
Mr. and Mrs. Robin oiled their feathers as quickly as they
could, taking the oil from their back pockets and putting it
onto their feathers with their bills. This made the finest
kind of waterproof and was not at all heavy to wear. When
the rain was over they shook themselves and looked at their
"I believe," said Mrs. Robin to her husband, "that you are
right in saying that we might better give up this place and
begin over again somewhere else."
Now Mr. Robin could not remember having said that he thought
anything of the sort, and he looked very sharply at his
wife, and cocked his black head on one side until all the
black and white streaks on his throat showed. She did not
seem to know that he was watching her as she hopped around
the partly built nest, poking it here and pushing it there,
and trying her hardest to make it look right. He thought she
would say something, but she didn't. Then he knew he must
speak first. He flirted his tail and tipped his head and
drew some of his
brown wing-feathers through his bill. Then
he held himself very straight and tall, and said, "Well, if
you do agree with me, I think you might much better stop
working here and begin in another place."
"It seems almost too bad," said she. "Of course there are
other places, but—"
By this time Mr. Robin knew exactly what to do. "Plenty of
them," said he. "Now don't fuss any longer with this. That
place on the rail fence is an excellent one. I wonder that
no other birds have taken it." As he spoke he flew ahead to
the very spot which Mrs. Robin had first chosen.
She was a very wise bird, and knew far too much to say, "I
told you so." Saying that, you know, always makes things go
wrong. She looked at the rail fence, ran along the top of
it, toeing in prettily as she ran, looked around in a
surprised way, and said. "Oh, that place?"
"Yes, Mrs. Robin," said her husband, "that place.
Do you see
anything wrong about it?"
"No-o," she said. "I think I could make it do."
Before long another nest was half built, and Mrs. Robin was
working away in the happiest manner possible, stopping every
little while to sing her afternoon song: "Do you think what
you do? Do you think what you do? Do you thi-ink?"
Mr. Robin was also at work, and such billfuls of mud, such
fine little twigs, and such big wisps of dry grass as went
into that home! Once Mr. Robin was gone a long time, and
when he came back he had a beautiful piece of white cotton
string dangling from his beak. That they put on the
outside. "Not that we care to show off," said they, "but
somehow that seemed to be the best place to put it."
Mr. Robin was very proud of his nest and of his wife. He
never went far away
if he could help it. Once she heard him
tell Mr. Goldfinch that,
"Mrs. Robin was very sweet about
building where he chose, and that even after he insisted on
changing places from the tree to the fence she was perfectly
"Yes," said Mrs. Robin to Mrs. Goldfinch, "I was perfectly
good-natured." Then she gave a happy, chirpy little laugh,
and Mrs. Goldfinch laughed, too. They were perfectly
contented birds, even if they didn't wear the brightest
breast feathers or insist on having their own way. And
Mrs. Robin had been married before.