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Agnes Taylor Ketchum

Birds and Their Nests

I T is reported that when the Pigeon first made her appearance upon the earth, the other birds all gathered about her, and offered to teach her how to build a nest.

"If you want to live in the woods," said the Woodpecker, "I will show you an old tree, with a splendid deep hole in it, which I do not want myself. There is also plenty of rotten wood for bedding."

"And those old trees are such close  places—enough to smother  one!" said the Oriole. "I will teach you to hang your nest on the end of an elm branch; weaving together moss, and hair, and twine, till neither wind nor weather can get through. There you can sit, and look at the world, and swing your cradle—or the wind will rock it for you."

"But, after all, there's no place for one's nest like a good sand-bank," said the Sand Marten. "People say  it is dangerous in heavy rains, but I  never was washed away yet.

"It is  dangerous, however," said his cousin, the Chimney Swallow. "I will show you how to go down the tall chimneys, and build there, where the air is always warm. And my nest is made of sticks, which are easy to get; and of glue, which I make myself."

"You never get washed away, I suppose," said the Barn Swallow, "with your sticks and your glue! Depend upon it, Mrs. Pigeon, there's nothing like mud  for building."

"Yes, I like mud, and always use it myself," said the little Phoebe; "but I think, under the cow-shed is more airy and pleasant than under the eaves of that dark barn."

"After all," remarked the Robin, "for all family purposes, give me a good, well-woven nest in the crotch of an apple-tree—the walls of horse-hair, and moss, and twigs, well lined with feathers."

"It's pleasant, too, very pleasant, in my rose-bush," said the Sparrow, "where the rose-leaves drop down on my speckled eggs."

Now the Pigeon, although a very pretty little thing—very polite, too, for she had not ceased bobbing her head to the other birds all the time they were talking—was yet, I am sorry to say, a little conceited. She walked about on her little red feet, turning her head from side to side, and showing the purple and green tints on her neck, and at last she said:

"I am really very much obliged to you all, but I know how."

"What!" cried out all the other birds, "have you been taught?"

"No," said the Pigeon, bobbing her head as before, "but I know how."

The birds were quite silent for a minute (only the Robin whistled), but then they again offered their services.

"Thank you," said the Pigeon, "you are very kind, but I know how." And the birds flew away and left her.

Then the Pigeon began by herself. She tried to make a mud nest; but, because she did not know enough to mix straws with mud, her nest fell to pieces; she tried weaving; but she got her claws and beak entangled in the moss, and very near hung herself with a long horse-hair. Then she flew off to the sand-bank, where was a whole settlement of Martens, but when she tried to dig a hole in the sand, she came near being buried alive.

The Pigeon felt quite discouraged; but she was too proud to ask help of the other birds, and they had no mind to be refused again by a little lady who knew everything. So the Pigeon went off and sat by the barn, moping, and idle, till at last some man took pity on her, and built her a little house of wood.

But there was no neat nest inside—nothing but some loose straw, and there Pigeon laid her white eggs; and to this day she lives in just such a little, dark, close place, or in the woods has a careless little heap of twigs for a nest; and all because she was too proud, or too haughty, or too conceited to learn of others; while the Blackbird sways about merrily on the water reeds, and the Oriole swings on his elm branch, and the Sparrow

"sits at his door in the sun,

Atilt, like a blossom among the leaves."

* * * * * *

We open the pigeon house again,

And set all the happy flatterers free;

They fly over fields and grassy plains,

Delighted with joyous liberty.

And when they come home from their merry flight,

We shut up the house and wish them goodnight.

Goodnight, little pigeons, sweet rest to you,

We're waiting to hear your soft coo, coo.