When They Come in the Spring
I N the long, cold winter of the New England and Middle States, not many birds are usually seen. In the cities there is always the English sparrow, and in the country, now and then a chickadee, or a woodpecker, or a small flock of goldfinches.
But very early in the spring, long before grass is green, even while snow is on the ground, the birds begin to come.
Some morning a robin will appear, standing up very straight on a fence or tree, showing his bright red breast and black cap, flirting his tail, and looking as if he were glad to be back in his old home.
Then perhaps the same day will come the hoarse chack of a blackbird, and two or three will fly over and alight in a big bare tree, looking, it may be for a good place to build a bird city.
Soon will be heard the sweet little song of the song sparrow or the bluebird, and then we shall know that summer is coming, for these are the first birds of spring.
Day after day, as the snow melts away and the sunshine grows hotter, more birds will come. One day a catbird or two, another day an oriole in black and gold, and another day a pert little wren. So it will go on, till by the time June comes in, all our birds will be back with us, very busy, hopping around in our bushes and trees, making their nests all about, and singing the whole day long.
Almost the first thing every bird thinks of, when he comes to us, is making the nest. For summer is the only time in his life that a bird has a home.
He does not need a house to live in. He cares nothing for a roof to cover him, because when the sun is hot, he has the broad green leaves on the trees to shade him. And when it rains his neat feather coat is like a waterproof that lets the drops run off, leaving him warm and dry under it.
He does not need a dining-room, because he eats wherever he finds his food, and he wants no kitchen, because he prefers his food raw.
He has no use for a bedroom, because he can sleep on any twig; the whole world is his bedroom.
He cares nothing for closets and bureaus, because he has only one suit of clothes at a time, and he washes and dries that without taking it off.
He wants no fire to keep him warm, for when it is too cold he spreads his wings and flies to a warmer place. A bird has really no need of a house,—excepting when he is a baby, before his eyes are open, or his feathers have come, or his wings have grown. While he is blind, naked, and hungry, he must have a warm snug cradle.
So when the bird fathers and mothers come in the spring the first thing they do is to find good places and build nice cradles, for they are very fond of their little ones. They spend the spring and summer in working for them, keeping them warm, feeding them till they are grown up, and then teaching them to fly and to take care of themselves, so that when summer is gone they will be ready to go with the other birds to their winter home.