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Feather That Nest

A Children's Nature Story by Christopher L. Cudworth

Feather That Nest

It was spring in the woods. Birds of every kind were gathering materials to build their nests.
A pair of robins sat together in a large green maple tree near a bubbling stream.

“It is time to build our nest,” Mrs. Robin said. “I will gather mud. You must gather grass and twigs. Together we will build the perfect home to lay our eggs and raise our babies.”

Mr. Robin was excited as he looked around the maple tree. To the north was a wide green field. To the east was a tall hill covered with rocks and stones. To the south was a lake where the bubbling stream ended. To the west was a wide marsh dotted with willows. “This is the perfect home,” the robin said to himself. “It has everything we need to raise our babies.”

There was only one problem. Mr. Robin didn’t particularly like making nests. There were so many other things he’d rather do instead, like catching worms in the soft dirt, singing songs on a high perch in the warm sun or flying about in the cool breeze. “Those are the things I like to do best!” he told himself. Plucking grass to build nests was not so much fun.

Mrs. Robin knew how to help Mr. Robin get down to business. “Find some stiff grass and thin twigs first,” she told him. “Those will help us build a strong nest. Then find softer grass for the inside of the nest. That is where I’ll lay our bright blue eggs!”

Mr. Robin went off in search of thin twigs and stiff grass. But on his way to the wide green field north of the woods he spied something dark and beautiful under a big tree next to the bubbling brook. “Why, it’s a wood duck feather!” he exclaimed. The feather was shiny, blue and black with a bright white tip. “It’s no wonder the wood duck loses feathers when they make their nest in such a small hole high up in a tall tree,” Mr. Robin chuckled. “I’ll never figure out why some birds have such funny habits.” Mr. Robin took the feather in his beak and flew home to add it to Mrs. Robin’s nest.

But Mrs. Robin was not at home. She was busy flying back and forth to the bubbling stream gathering mud for the base of her nest. Mr. Robin waited to see if she would return, then remembered he should be off gathering grass and twigs. So he stuck the wood duck feather in the mud of the nest like a little flag and flew off to gather grass and twigs like a good father robin should.

When Mrs. Robin arrived back at the nest a few minutes later she thought: “How odd! Why is a wood duck feather sticking up out of my brand new nest?” But the mud she’d gathered was drying quickly, so she placed it on her nest and flew off to gather some more.

The next place Mr. Robin went looking for grass and twigs was the edge of the marsh. There he found a perfectly white feather, light and delicate, spinning little circles on the water. Mr. Robin plucked the white feather up in his beak and flew back to his nest in the maple tree. But again Mrs. Robin was not home, so he put the white feather next to the blue and black wood duck feather and flew off again to find grass and twigs like Mrs. Robin told him to do.

There seemed to be feathers everywhere Mr. Robin went that day. He found a red cardinal feather in a honeysuckle bush and yellow goldfinch feathers on an old thistle plant. There was an orange oriole feather under a tall cottonwood tree and a soft brown owl feather beneath an old oak tree. Mr. Robin found so many feathers in the woods and fields that he began to wonder if the birds of the forests and fields were falling apart! But all birds lose feathers now and then, he told himself. Mr. Robin was simply an expert at finding them.

Poor Mrs. Robin couldn’t believe her eyes when she got back to her nest. It was nothing but feathers! “Where are the grass and twigs I asked Mr. Robin to gather!” she complained. She decided to hide in the top of the maple tree and wait for Mr. Robin to return.

But as she waited, something surprising happened. A pair of beautiful brown thrashers stopped to look at her nest. Then a flock of chickadees came by to giggle and stare followed by a family of twittering purple finches and a band of sullen gray catbirds who pointed at the nest and “mewed” under their breath. Finally a set of mockingbirds arrived and began to imitate the songs of every bird whose feathers were in the nest.

But suddenly all the birds vanished. Mrs. Robin crouched low on her branch and wondered what scared them off. Then she saw a sleek gray hawk flying through the forest. It swerved toward the nest and snatched a feather from the nest in his strong yellow feet.

“That’s it!” Mrs. Robin told herself. “This nest may be beautiful, but it is no place to raise my babies!”

That’s when Mr. Robin arrived with a pheasant feather so long he could hardly even fly. Mrs. Robin watched as Mr. Robin placed the pheasant feather across her nest and turned to fly away.

“Just one minute!” she chirped from the top of the tree. Mr. Robin gave a little jump of surprise.

“Where have you been?” she asked him. “This morning I asked you to gather grass and twigs. “But all you’ve brought us is feathers!”

“I know!” Mr. Robin whistled. “Aren’t they beautiful?!”

“They may be beautiful,” Mrs. Robin admitted. “But everyone in the woods knows where our nest is now. It is no longer safe. We’ll leave this nest for the forest to enjoy, but let’s go build one that no one can see.”

So the two robins flew found another place to build their nest. But it was getting late in the day and the time had come for Mr. Robin to perch high in a tree and sing songs to claim his territory. Mrs. Robin helped herself to a couple worms after a hard days work.

The sun was starting to set as Mr. Robin sang “Chiroleep--Cheeroo--Chiroleep--Cheeroo--Cheerep!”

From his perch he could see the lake to the south where the bubbling stream ended. To the north was a wide green field. To the east was a tall hill covered with rocks and stones. To the west was a wide marsh dotted with willows. “This is the perfect home,” said the father reminded himself. “It has everything we need to raise our babies. But next time I don’t think I’ll feather our nest. ”

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