A NEW INTEREST IS ADDED
The experience of this lady is the experience of all in whom is kindled this
bird enthusiasm. A new interest is added to life; one more resource against
ennui and stagnation. If you have only a city yard with a few sickly trees in
it, you will find great delight in noting the numerous stragglers from the
great army of spring and autumn migrants that find their way there. If you
live in the country, it is as if new eyes and new ears were given you, with a
correspondingly increased capacity for rural enjoyment.
The birds link themselves to your memory of seasons and places, so that A
song, a call, a gleam of color, set going a sequence of delightful
reminiscences in your mind. When a solitary great Carolina wren came one
August day and took up its abode near me and sang and called and warbled as I
had heard it long before on the Potomac, how it brought the old days, the old
scenes back again, and made me for the moment younger by all those years!
A few seasons ago I feared the tribe of bluebirds were on the verge of
extinction from the enormous number of them that perished from cold and hunger
in the South in the winter of '94. For two summers not a blue wing, not a blue
warble. I seemed to miss something kindred and precious from my environment --
the visible embodiment of the tender sky and the wistful soil.
What a loss, I said, to the coming generations of dwellers in the country -- no bluebird in
the spring! What will the farm-boy date from? But the fear was groundless: the
birds are regaining their lost ground; broods of young blue-coats are again
seen drifting from stake to stake or from mullen-stalk to mullen-stalk about
the fields in summer, and our April air will doubtless again be warmed and
thrilled by this lovely harbinger of spring. -- JOHN BURROUGHS, August 19,
Not to have so much as a bowing acquaintance with the birds that nest in our
gardens or under the very eaves of our houses; that haunt our wood-piles; keep
our fruit-trees free from slugs; waken us with their songs, and enliven our
walks along the roadside and through the woods, seems to be, at least, a
breach of etiquette toward some of our most kindly disposed neighbors.
Birds of prey, game and water birds are not included in the book. The
following pages are intended to be nothing more than a familiar introduction
to the birds that live near us. Even in the principal park of a great city
like New York, a bird-lover has found more than one hundred and thirty
species; as many, probably, as could be discovered in the same sized territory
The plan of the book is not a scientific one, if the term scientific is
understood to mean technical and anatomical. The purpose of the writer is to
give, in a popular and accessible form, knowledge which is accurate and
reliable about the life of our common birds.
This knowledge has not been collected from the stuffed carcasses of birds in museums, but gleaned afield.
In a word, these short narrative descriptions treat of the bird's
characteristics of size, color, and flight; its peculiarities of instinct and
temperament; its nest and home life; its choice of food; its songs; and of the
season in which we may expect it to play its part in the great panorama Nature
unfolds with faithful precision year after year.
They are an attempt to make the bird so live before the reader that, when seen out of doors, its
recognition shall be instant and cordial, like that given to a friend.